The Colossus That Was Rhodes: Britain's ur-imperialist not only dreamt of constructing a railway from "Cairo to the Cape", but also of expanding the dominion of the Anglo-Saxon powers to encompass the entire planet. A century on, the United States, aided by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, has indeed become the global hegemon. The GCSB spy-base at Waihopai is part of that hegemony.
WHAT DO CECIL JOHN RHODES and the Waihopai Spy Base have in common? The answer is: the maintenance of a world in which the Anglo-Saxon powers continue to play a dominant role. Rhodes, the great nineteenth century British imperialist, could not have imagined the raw technological power which installations like the GCSB’s Waihopai Station have added to the imperial mission, but he would have approved – wholeheartedly.
He would also have felt entirely vindicated by the current disposition of global economic, military and political power. His vision of the future was one in which the might of the British Empire and the United States had become fused in an Anglo-Saxon imperium to which the rest of the world paid homage.
Naturally, Rhodes foresaw the British Empire taking the lead role in this geopolitical drama. In the late nineteenth century, when he was at the summit of his remarkable career, the power of the USA remained veiled. (Although, the exertions of the Civil War, 1861-65, should have alerted Rhodes to America’s prodigious potential.) Even so, his most enduring legacy, the Rhodes Scholarship, was intended to create a special brotherhood of Anglo-Saxon leaders, drawn overwhelmingly from the British Empire and the USA, into whose hands the grand mission of bringing as much of the world as possible under Anglo-Saxon control could be safely reposed.
At the heart of Rhodes’ plan to create a global elite lay Oxford University – among whose dreaming spires the Rhodes Trust’s carefully selected scholars were expected to imbibe that noxious mixture of classical idealism, medieval obscurantism and contemporary chauvinism from which the British Empire had been fashioned.
Just how toxic this amalgam could be may be judged by Rhodes’ own justification for the creation of Anglo-Saxon hegemony:
“I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimens of human beings what an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence, look again at the extra employment a new country added to our dominions gives.”
Rhodes was by no means the only statesman in the British Empire to evince such crude and unabashed racism, and he certainly wasn’t the most peculiar. Not only was New Zealand’s Prime Minister from 1912 to 1925, William Ferguson Massey, a bigoted Orangeman and fervent British imperialist, but he was also a “British Israelite” – a believer in the absurd notion that the inhabitants of the British Isles are descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel and, therefrore, as God’s chosen people, destined to rule the world!
It is one of history’s ironies that when men felt free to believe in and give voice to such ideas, full Anglo-Saxon hegemony remained an imperial dream. A century later, with Anglo-Saxon hegemony an accomplished fact, only the most foolhardy British or American statesman would consider drawing the world’s attention to it.
Just occasionally however, the world’s reminded of the hegemon’s existence – as when our Prime Minister, John Key, spoke openly of the price of membership of “the club”. He was, of course, referring to New Zealand’s participation in the UK-USA (“Five Eyes”) Agreement alongside Canada and Australia. Although, helping the British and Americans to spy on the rest of the world is very far from being the only “service” members of the Anglo-Saxon “club” are required to provide.
Regardless of whether the power contributed is “hard” (military) or “soft” (financial and cultural) members of the Club are expected to keep their subscriptions current. Indeed, it is highly questionable as to whether resignation is even possible. Like the Hotel California, the Anglo-Saxon Club can be a hard place to leave.
Contributing To Anglo-Saxon Hegemony: The Waihopai Spy Base.
And yet, every January an apparently indefatigable group of protesters gather outside the Waihopai Spy Base to demand its closure and New Zealand’s withdrawal from the Five Eyes Agreement. The sub-text of their annual protest, however, is this country’s long association with the sins of Anglo-Saxon imperialism.
The protesters mission is to persuade New Zealanders to disentangle themselves once and for all from Rhodes’ vision: to cease and desist playing even the tiniest role in exerting Anglo-Saxon hegemony.
It’s a big ask. Who resigns voluntarily from the club that rules the world?
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 8 January 2016.