Friday 5 April 2019

Shadows Of The Past.

The Past Intrudes Upon The Present: While they continue to ride forth, pausing in their wild career to salute with uplifted arms, and uplifted swords, the Crusaders cheering fans, deep racial memories, born of the bloody excesses of Pakeha New Zealanders’ ancestors, will stir and rise to the surface. The past has a dangerous way of intruding upon the present.

THE DEBATE over re-naming the Crusaders rugby team is being framed as a case of inadvertent cultural insensitivity. According to the team’s administrators, the name was chosen simply because it “represented Canterbury rugby’s crusading spirit”. It was also a name which, way back in 1996, lent itself to all kinds of effective merchandising. Certainly, no harm was ever intended to the Christchurch Muslim community. Which is why, in the context of the recent terrorist atrocity, the team management is casting about for a new name, a new brand, and a new beginning.

So far, so plausible.

But, is it?

It was the Austrian psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, who came up with the idea of the archetype: hugely powerful words and images embodying the primitive urges and longings buried deep in what he called our collective unconscious. Others, less altruistic than Jung, interpreted them as mythic figures emanating from the indestructible recollections of the volk – racial memories.

It is difficult to argue that the crusader knight is not an extremely potent archetype. A racial memory that is very far from being forgotten. Even today, eight centuries after the last crusader kingdom was over-run by the armies of Islam, boys and young men (New Zealand rugby’s most important target market) still thrill to the image of the mounted Christian knight, Christ’s cross emblazoned on shield and surcoat, his flashing sword upraised in defiance of the infidel defilers of Jerusalem – the holy city.

It is an archetype that has shifted shape many times. Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur incorporates and appropriates the crusading ethos – morphing it into the chivalric ideals of the mythic King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. What else is Malory’s Quest for the Holy Grail but a potent sub-plot of the over-arching crusader narrative?

These stories are buried deep in our cultural DNA. “The Crusaders” sounded good to rugby fans because it reminded them of something. Something to do with riding forth against the enemy. Something about fighting for ultimate values. Something about finding on the field of battle more than mere personal glory. It was a name that conjured up something much bigger than a game of footy. Small wonder the team’s management chose it.

They were certainly not the first to have done so. The Romantics of the nineteenth century seized upon the chivalric ideal and its crusading spirit. The Gothic Revival, Sir Walter Scott’s historical novels, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poetry: so utterly incongruous in the grim landscapes of industrial Britain; so wonderfully congruent with the imperialist mission the hugely productive forces of British capitalism made inevitable.

What else could the naked greed of Britain’s imperial quest for new markets be cloaked in except the crusading spirit? What else were the crusades but the first projection of European power beyond its borders since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century?

It was no accident that the French-speaking Franks referred to the crusader states they had set up in what is now Israel, Lebanon and Syria, as Outremer – Overseas. No accident, either, that as Britain extended her reach “overseas”, the founders of colonies, like the Wakefield Settlement of Christchurch, saw themselves as latter-day crusaders, carrying both the cross and the sword to bring light and redemption to a fallen world.

It wasn’t just the British who instinctively reached for the archetype of the crusading knight. The English-speaking peoples were not the only ones who, contemplating conquest and the annihilation of ideological infidels, drew forth this potent symbol from their racial memory.

The black and white crosses that adorned the wings of the Luftwaffe, and the tanks of the Wehrmacht, were modern-day renderings of the heraldic devices of the Teutonic Knights: the Germanic crusading order which, long after the Crusader kingdoms of the Middle East had fallen, did battle with the heathen peoples of Eastern Europe and Russia.

The propagandists of the Nazi Party knew exactly what they were doing when they released a poster depicting Adolf Hitler, the man who was determined to see Germany once again carve out “living space” in the East, as a Teutonic Knight in shining armour carrying a cross into battle – albeit a crooked cross.

Adolf Hitler as Teutonic Knight.

Were the franchise-holders thinking of Nazi propaganda when they chose the name “Crusaders”? Of course not. But 1996 was not that far away in time from 1991, when the armies of the West (supported by their reluctant Arab allies) had gathered on the sands of Arabia, homeland of the Prophet, to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. The word “crusader” was in many Muslim mouths at the time of the First Gulf War: most particularly, in the mouth of a Saudi billionaire’s son: Osama Bin Laden.

US Marines on an Operation Desert Storm training exercise in the Saudi Desert 1991.

No discussion of the Crusades could end without at least a passing reference to the religious military order whose name still echoes in the West more than six hundred years after its last Grand Master died at the stake. (Heaping curses, it is said, on the French king who sent him there.)

“God wills it!” was the battle-cry of the Knights Templar, and to these fanatical soldiers of Christ the Muslim war-leader, Saladin, offered no quarter. It is the Knights Templar that the “crusaders” who ride out at the commencement of the Canterbury franchise’s home fixtures most resemble. (The so-called “Black Knight” who rides out alongside the “Red Knights” is clad in the livery of the Templars’ brother order, the Knights Hospitaller.)

Knights Templar and Hospitaller

Quite what those members of the Christchurch Muslim community who hail from the lands assailed by crusader armies in the eleventh and twelfth centuries make of these displays nobody, prior to the tragedy of 15 March 2019, has ever thought to inquire. Presumably the rugby authorities were entirely ignorant of the fact that the awful deeds of those armies have not been forgotten in the Arab world. Westerners are not the only people in possession of a racial memory.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, however, thought must be given to the crusader archetype. Especially since in figured with such sinister force in the thinking of the Christchurch Shooter. Like his role model, Anders Breivik, the shooter claimed to be acting on the orders of the Knights Templar. Delusional? Only if you fail to grasp the power of archetypes.

While they continue to ride forth, pausing in their wild career, to salute with uplifted arms, and uplifted swords, the Crusaders cheering fans, deep racial memories, born of the bloody excesses of Pakeha New Zealanders’ ancestors, will stir and rise to the surface. The past has a dangerous way of intruding upon the present.

Best not to summon it forth … for a game of footy.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 5 April 2019.


Len Richards said...

Sadly, there is more truth in what you say than anyone who supports the Crusaders or loves rugby will ever admit without some serious soul searching. Good to see that some rugby souls (or their marketing fears) have been activated. Being linked with the slaughter of fifty innocents is not a good look.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Well there's one thing, there haven't been cries from "leftists, liberals, snowflakes – whatever." to do this. It seems to come from some form of internal introspection. Which I must confess I certainly wouldn't have expected. Perhaps I should revise my stereotypes on rugby players. Won't stop the conservatives from moaning mind.

Nick J said...

Hard words required but first a disclaimer. When Super rugby began I objected to the name Crusaders. It really doesn't represent the region...sheep country...the Rams?

So the Crusades were terrible? The past is a different country but yes it has resonance. The Ottomans besieged Vienna in 1683, far more recent than the Crusades. Do you think Europe has forgotten the Ottoman yoke, the threat of Islam over running a millennium and a half of Christian culture? My point is that this is not a one way history of cultural subjugation. Islam actively still utilities the term Jihad.

I'm going to be contentious. In our post Christian post modernist mindset we rush to accommodate other cultures at our own expense, and offer redress for historic misdemeanors. Respect for our own heritage seems low on our priorities. Sound like a RWNJ, or alt-Right extremist? That should demonstrate what we have ceded to the extreme Right through our own disdain for our past.

I'm not for changing names to appease our "guilt" because some Australian psycho chose our patch to do his deed. Shall we go the whole hog and concede the name Christchurch, and all the British suburb names? How about we get rid of those Christian festivals like Christmas and Easter, are they needed in a post religious world?

While we are at it, in our rush to assuage our guilty past and abandon our redundant and now despised religiosity, how about we suggest to the other cultures and religious groups that they too follow our example? I can hear them laughing at our casual abandonment of our common sense and pride.

I'd suggest that the terrible events in Christchurch might have been mightily contributed to by our mass abandonment of our own past.

aj said...

"....that the awful deeds of those armies have not been forgotten in the Arab world"
How many New Zealanders watched 'The Crusades, An Arab Perspective' shown recently on Al Jazeera. Very educational.

"The dramatic story of the Crusades seen through Arab eyes - from the seizing of Jerusalem under Pope Urban II in 1099 to its recapture by Salah ad-Din, Richard the Lionheart’s efforts to regain the city, and the end of the movement two centuries later"

Anonymous said...

No Chris- no, no, no. First of all, the Saracens won the last crusade (having also won the previous one) and ruled over Jerusalem for about 700 years. Secondly, atrocities were committed on both sides. It may be nothing for Christians to be proud of, but the same can be said of the Saracens, of whom our Muslim brothers are descended.

But most of all, we do nobody any favours by trying to either rewrite or deny our history. History is a rich fabric of events, many of which were not perfect, certainly when viewed in modern times, but these events still made us what we are today. Even if our modern society needs improvement, it is still much better than it used to be.

We need to celebrate our history, while acknowledging that we have moved on to a better place because of it. Events in our history have taught us to be better people. We must not forget that.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone ask how the Byzantines felt?

The crusades were one episode in a long religious conflict, which, for once, the Christians didn’t start. But who cares? Why would Muslims care? They won.

John Hurley said...

Evolution dictates human behaviour culture is secondary. Sports teams choose gutsy names which appeal to that base human nature.

The current altruism (virtual signalling goodness) is definitely no a survival strategy

David Stone said...

As I suggested in comment on TDB to this article; that America is conducting a modern day crusade in the East and elsewhere in the world to this day. And recognising how Israel treats it's palestinian hosts, is it wise to encourage immigration from parts of the world where we are a party to destroying their states. Ti immigrate here into sanctuary from the chaos we in our alliance with the US are largely responsible for creating might be asking for trouble. Some will come with gratitude, some will inevitably come with understandable bitter malice as has been demonstrated in Europe and Australia, and some reactionary events like Christchurch are a likely counter reaction.
It might be much better to see that all countries are treated fairly so there is not the incentive to leave home except for sharing contact through tourism and educational opportunities . To promote as much friendly contact as possible but short of permanent citizenship.
Ideologically it might be appealing to allow everyone in but resentment is inevitable irrespective of it's lack of justification. We should deal with humanity as it clearly is rather than the perfection it should be.


Charles W Etherington said...

Let's change the Chiefs too. They were killers. And dump the haka from every sphere of Kiwi life. Actually end rugby. It's violence.

Actually I am ok with dumping the swords and knights. Even the name as a kind gesture. But not if told to do it by new comers or people from outside our three provinces.

No we are doing the right thing to questions these things and see if we should change. That is what is great about our Judeo-Christian / Enlightenment culture and why actually it effectively leads the world. We question, interrogate everything freely and openly. Let people say what they like, then change if appropriate. It is why people from closed societies where they kill you for questioning a fictional view of a prophet or the ideology imposing itself, want to live here.
So we should embrace them but absolutely reserve our right to reject their ideology or religions.

Kat said...

With all this hand wringing The Crusaders may morph into The Redeemers.........

Anonymous said...

You've always been a great reader of history Chris but in this instance you have forgotten to turn to the beginning of the chapter. Palestine had been an essentially peacefully occupied Christian land for well over three centuries. In the 600s the Muslims launched a vicious attack killing thousands of Christians and Jews and continued this slaughter into Mesopotamia, Egypt , North Africa and Spain. All Christian lands. The Crusades can be seen as an egually vicious but justifiable attempt to win some of those Christian lands back.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps if we are so sensitive we need to remove the name of the Crusaders because they brutally invaded Muslim lands 1000 years ago, we should rightly remove the name of the Anzacs who invaded Muslim lands a mere 100 years ago.

greywarbler said...

I see your point NickJ. But it won't wash. Sometimes, after an objective view from the top of the hill, you have to climb down and mix with the seething mass below and find solutions to a roil-up.

We have these good people living here trying to integrate and be both respected and integrated in truth. So let us look at things from their viewpoint and loosen up on the standing staunch against ...whatever would cause us to make change. Lessen the symbolism that rises from Crusaders who went on a holy and unholy quest at the same time. It was the equivalent of the cruise ship tour for men of those days. They were prepared to steal souveniers as well as access the True Cross, the Holy Grail or other symbol they were after.

What we are after is peace for these people who seem a bit better than us in general. They appear to have raised our IQ and EQ by a considerable percentage. (Thinking of Muldoon's digs at the Diggers about NZs going there. They have apparently never got over those nasty words from little cousin.) So these Muslims being here and living happily and safely is to our advantage. There was another group turned into pariahs by scheming turds who wanted to create disharmony and eventually state theft of their assets. Then there was WW2. If good people don't rise up together and watch societal movements like tides, they can grow and flood us all.

I think somebody said we aren't rational, we are emotional, and then we rationalise it. Three letters, big difference.

Trev1 said...

First a confession: I was an avid watcher of the cartoon series "Crusader Rabbit" in the early days of New Zealand TV so I am probably a bigot from the outset. While the rabbit protagonist was a sympathetic character, the Crusades were no doubt a bloody affair. But we should not forget that in the Middle East, Asia Minor and Europe Islam was spread by the sword, obliterating indigenous religions eg Zoroastrianism, and local traditions. Jihad is still actively preached - it is commended for example in the Surah al Baqarah that was apparently the choice of Koranic text for the prayer given in Parliament after the Christchurch atrocity (I'm no Arabist so others may wish to confirm). I think most people in this day and age are heartily sick of religious intolerance, which has seen a resurgence since the end of the Cold War. Perhaps Andrew Little's new hate speech laws will be the tool to ban any religious text that preaches violence against others?

pat said...

Should the name be changed?...probably, though the acceptability will largely depend on what to....we are predominantly reasonable folk here in Canterbury despite the reputation otherwise.

powderburns said...

The inspiration for the first Crusades came from the Holy Wars against the Islamic invaders in Spain. Why do the Spanish get a pass from keyboard intersectional warriors. Why the wish to taint evil upon our culture. What a terrible outlook. I have never understood the will of some of the inheritors of English speaking culture who want to commit seppuku. What are you going to replace it with? A boot on our face? An islamic culture, whose conservatism is extreme? Chaps. Some quote I heard by Obama? about the left constructing a circular firing squad. Cultural roulette.

greywarbler said...

I am sorry that you suffered burns and now appear to have a form of PTSD. Don't worry about readiness for all possible stressors or attacks. In fact, don't listen at all to the news, then you won't know about them. You can't go to every film that is made; world events are like large stage productions. Nobody seems to understand them, so just view from afar and don't let it get to you. That is unless you go to help a group doing something positive for whoever is scapegoat of the month.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"keyboard intersectional warriors"
WTF.... Another meaningless statement – or rather a statement meaning "people I don't like or agree with."

Nick J said...

Grey you are right that we make things work at ground level, one on one. That to me means each party being respectful and secure in their own culture first, and then according the other the same. That means accepting the differences, not sublimating one culture at the expense of the other. That is why I'm in no hurry to change names etc, I'm more keen that we have pride in the different cultures of this land and the show of support and inclusiveness we gave in grief.

David George said...

We don't honour war or it's motivations or it's successes or it's failures, we honour humanity. The immense courage and sacrifice of those, otherwise long forgotten, is what we honour and to honour that spirit is to inspire us to what we could be, what we may have to be. We are called to manifest the highest of human values, the truth, courage and sacrifice, I'm sure that is what goes through our minds when we commemorate the Anzacs. Not the long ago battle that few (even those involved) know the reasons or justifications for.
My ancestor, Hongi Hika, and his warriors laid waste to the settlements of the North Island with appalling loss of life and unimaginable suffering and with little or no justification. A single raid killed more Maori than the entire run of the British/Maori wars with captives enslaved and murdered to add to the atrocities. In the light of that, can we excuse the use of "The Warriors" with it's Maori warrior symbolism or the Barbarians or the Saracens?
When Richie McCaw dives into a tackle we admire, respect and love the man for exhibiting the kind of sacrifice and courage that elevates and honours us as human beings.
There was an interesting interview (by Peter Williams) with a Muslim gentleman who is still recovering in hospital from the Christchurch massacre. He is a strong supporter of the Crusaders rugby team and was emphatic that the name remain. I agree.

Anonymous said...

This whole thing is a bit silly. Every year, children read about Robin Hood, who is based on, if anyone at all, a murderer and a thief. Yet he's now a likeable character, shorn of his crimes and likely historical background. Anyone who suggested that Robin Hood be banned as a glorification of brigandage and criminality would rightly be ridiculed.

In the same way, the Crusades and feudal life in general have been romanticised. Would we have Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones without the age of chivalry (even though it wasn't so chivalrous)? Of course not. Should they be banned because they obfuscate the harsh reality of feudal oppression? Of course not. The Canterbury Crusaders are named after the imaginary heroes of chivalry, not the reality (even if many confuse the two). The Saracens rugby club is named for similar reasons. Those arguing for a ban are very silly people and should not be indulged.

As for people who complain that "crusade" is a culturally offensive term, you will be in the same pot as Osama bin Laden, Anders Breivik, or far-right Serbian nationalists who want to (wrongly) claim that current struggles are part of an ancient and intractable conflict. As the man said: don't believe the hype.

greywarbler said...

Typical nZs. Think hard to find 101 ways of not doing something. When it would show mature and intelligent minds to be prepared to act when it is deemed sensible. Changing from Crusaders would not mean relinquishing our
high-minded standards - because we don't worry too much about them in the ordinary state of things. It's only when we try to get our minds into gear and find the cogs are so rusty that you hear all this squeaking, groaning and rasping. Shove some healing oil to lessen the friction, and change the name.

The Crusaders are actually very alive in our minds - that's why the name was chosen. At present my favourite came up on TS - the Canterbury Lambs, real tongue in cheek stuff. And the little tv toy hand puppet Lambie I think would be a great mascot. Let's have that instead of so many sock puppets we have been enduring.