TWO DAYS AGO*, two brothers, Israeli settlers on the occupied West Bank of the River Jordan were murdered by a Palestinian gunman. Hardly news, one might say. Over the past months upwards of 60 Palestinians and more than a dozen Israelis have died in a series of brutal confrontations in the occupied territories.
What elevated this latest incident above the commonplace, however, was the response of the Jewish inhabitants of the settlement from which the murdered brothers came. In the most shocking instance of communal violence since 2000, scores of enraged and armed settlers descended upon the Palestinian village of Zaatara and set it ablaze. Thirty houses and dozens of cars were torched, and at least one Palestinian villager was murdered.
Naturally, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, publicly deplored the violence and urged both sides to refrain from taking the law into their own hands. Within his coalition government (the most right-wing in Israeli history) however, other voices were raised which were very far from being conciliatory. One far-right MP declared that if Palestinians come to murder Israelis, then their homes should burn – “metaphorically-speaking”. No one on either side believed she was speaking metaphorically.
This latest example of political stimulus and response from the troubled land of Israel/Palestine is merely the most shocking demonstration of the process of extremist escalation that is gathering strength all over the planet. Aggrieved minorities, many of them justifiably angry about their treatment at the hands of hostile majorities, move from remonstrance to protest, protest to overt threats and, ultimately, from overt threats to actual violence.
Often, this process of escalation is given added impetus by individuals, organisations, nation states, and even international bodies, expressing their support for these aggrieved minorities. Such moral approbation produces two, often deadly, effects. First, it contributes to the minority’s conviction that their cause is just, rendering their actions – no matter how heinous – morally unassailable. Second, it enrages the “oppressive” majority and inspires them to embark on their own grim journey of escalation.
One aspect, in particular, of this alleged “encouragement” of minority extremism infuriates the majority: the extraordinary double-standard which excuses or (much worse) celebrates the violence of “freedom-fighters”. The majority’s sense of grievance is only intensified when their administrative and/or military responses to extremism are not only condemned, but also presented as the reason for the minority’s “understandable” resort to extreme tactics. Rightly or wrongly, the impression is conveyed to the majority that their values, their institutions, even their lives, are worth less than those of the minority.
The anger generated by this misrepresentation of the majority’s position is often overlooked by those standing in solidarity with the “oppressed” minority. Being in “the wrong”, the majority’s feelings are dismissed as irrelevant by the minority’s defenders. This is a particularly short-sighted response on the part of those who believe themselves to be engaged in bending the arc of history towards justice. It encourages those dismissed as “deplorables” to discount altogether the moral arguments of their detractors as “fake news”.
A particularly moving analysis of this phenomenon was penned by the Chilean socialist and author Ariel Dorfman. Looking back at the conduct of himself and his comrades in the heady days of Salvador Allende’s radically left-wing Popular Unity Coalition Government (1970-73) this is what he wrote:
It was difficult, it would take years to understand that what was so exhilarating to us was menacing to those who felt excluded from our vision of paradise. We evaporated them from meaning, we imagined them away in the future, we offered them no alternative but to join us in our pilgrimage or disappear forever, and that vision fuelled, I believe, the primal fear of the men and women who opposed us … [T]he people we called momios, mummies, because they were so conservative, prehistoric, bygone, passé … [W]e ended up including in that definition millions of Chileans who … were on our side, who should have been with us on our journey to the new land and who, instead, came to fear for their safety and their future.
Those are sentiments which the Pasifika poet, Tusiata Avia, might want to take to heart. Her poetry collection, The Savage Coloniser features a poem entitled “250th anniversary of James Cook’s arrival in New Zealand”. Having celebrated Cook’s murder and cannibalisation, Avia fantasises about doing something similar to those who came after him:
we’re driving round
looking for ya
or white men like you
who might be thieves
yeah, or any of your descendants
or any of your incarnations
cos, you know
We’re gonna F… YOU UP.
Poetic hyperbole? An entirely justifiable symbolic rendering of the colonial experience from the point of view of the colonised? Maybe. It is equally arguable, however, that sentiments such as these, were they to become widely repeated, could very easily cause millions of New Zealanders to “fear for their safety and their future.”
It is worth remembering that it was the momios, those millions of Chileans who lived in “primal fear” of the Left’s programme, who gave General Pinochet the social licence he needed to overthrow Allende and his Popular Unity Coalition. Momios, too, this time wearing military uniforms, who shot him down in Chile’s Presidential Palace.
It is easy to believe that you are on the side of the angels when everybody who matters to you is cheering you on. No doubt the Palestinian gunman who opened-up on those two Israeli settlers as they attempted to get out of their car, which he had just rammed, believed himself to be fighting for his people’s freedom against Zionist colonisation.
But, that is not how the two brothers’ family, friends and neighbours saw it. That’s why they headed for Zaatara with their guns and their cans of petrol. That’s why the Israeli soldiers stood aside and let them pass.
So they could really F… THEM UP.
* Monday, 27 February 2023
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 2 March 2023.
Long bows a drawn here.
Avia's poetry and the play it is being adapted would not be the first to put voice to the streets. The obvious comparison is Anthony Burgess' Clockwork Orange. It is also a component of the beat poetry of the '50s through to the musical poetry of Gil Scott-Heron.
In discussion of colonial history in the Pacific expression of anger still implicit in todays youth should be welcome honesty. If this was the Irish expressing their history or those of the Democratic Republic of Congo or even India, I wonder if we would accept this as genuine artistic expression. Maybe that's the point, denial of that which is closest, when the people of the Pacific tell history from their perspective and express their experience today.
Claire Mabey writing in the Spinoff offers "How to read a poem" as a guide to Avia's piece.
I would add to this, that both history and modernism have to be understood from the views of all parties. Pasifika were not subject to history, but active players in history. Pasifika are not assimilated today, but have their own views and voice. Listening, respecting and understanding may be uncomfortable at first - but that is how true expression often is.
The issue raised is simply more manufactured outrage by the ACT Party and the Platform to incite those that thought they had silenced the indigenous, her book is titled - The Savage Coloniser.
To: The Barron.
My thanks to you TB, for illustrating so eloquently the very problem the post identifies.
That The Spinoff feels it necessary to explain to its readers how to read Avia's poem in a way that doesn't arouse their "primal fears" says it all.
Perhaps this enduring adherence to the double standard explains why Ariel Dorfman is the only socialist writer I have ever encountered with sufficient self-awareness and historical sensitivity to grasp the fatal character of the Left's inability/refusal to understand its opponents' point of view.
Poetry is one thing, but a Political Party website is quite another, Ze Master Race:
It is a known fact that Maori genetic makeup is stronger than others
Taken directly from the Maori Party website under their Sport and Wellbeing Policy section, and captured in a screenshot just in case they develop a sense of shame and delete it.
Same mindset as Tusiata Avia though.
The voice of reason, again, Thanks Chris Trotter.
'Perhaps this enduring adherence to the double standard explains why Ariel Dorfman is the only socialist writer I have ever encountered with sufficient self-awareness and historical sensitivity to grasp the fatal character of the Left's inability/refusal to understand its opponents' point of view.'
WTF is it that lets the left think they have a right. Let alone a point of view worth deliberating. Fatal or otherwise.
You are born free; not equal. If you pinko's refuse to grasp that, then its no wonder you have opponents
Thanks for the clarification Chris.
One of the important areas of understanding in Avia's work is the people quoted is part of the "warrior" section, she has other sections with balanced expression, all from the Polynesian cultural framework.
The warrior voice follows traditional Polynesian ontology. As mana is inherited, so too is breach of mana. Utu requirements, meaning payment, carries through genealogy. Avia assumes the voice of the traditional warrior, she then puts alongside this the balances of this within the same cultural framework.
This is art coming from a specific cultural perspective.
For the sake of perspective in the early 20th century there were 80,000 Jews living in Egypt, today there remains a handful at most. https://www.wsj.com/articles/preserving-the-traces-of-egypts-lost-jews-11549558672
Why is that?
Israel on the other hand allows Muslims to live and work within its borders.
Israel is not perfect but their neighbours are genocidal by comparison.
Loved your post Chris, it encapsulates everything going on right now across the world and here at home. It really does feel that the world is coming to the end of an era and its quite hard to imagine us moving into a new era without a whole lot of existential angst.
Last days of Rome.
Yes Unknown, it really is strange, the end of an era. What the Hell is going on?
A fascinating take from Naomi Wolf, make of it what you will.
Some excerpts: "I could not explain the way the Western world simply switched from being based at least overtly on values of human rights and decency, to values of death, exclusion and hatred, overnight, en masse — without reference to some metaphysical evil that goes above and beyond fallible, blundering human agency. And so decency, human rights, human values, all of which we thought were innate secular Western values – turn out to be values that cannot be protected enduringly without the blessing of what has been in the West, a Judeo-Christian God. They are all being cleared out of our society, and almost no one — certainly very few people who are not people of faith — are standing in the breach as this takes place."
"As such, I do feel that this is with what we are grappling and terrifyingly so. Since 2020 the world, I feel, has been bathed, infused, bombarded even, with intensely powerful energies that are totally unfamiliar to us in this generation, but that may derive from a pre-Christian, pre-solidly-Jewish time, a time when early Judaism was struggling with the seductive and oppressive entities that always sought to seduce the Children of Israel away from the monotheistic truth, the One God."
"And that this — the absence of the protection of our God – the ascendancy of a realm on Earth of us doing it all ourselves; regarding ourselves; worshiping ourselves, whoring after only human works; releasing ourselves from all lawful constraints, embracing all lusts and all obedience to non-divine authorities; rejecting mercy; celebrating all narcissisms; treating children like animals whom we own, treating the family like a battlefield; treating the Churches and Synagogues as marketing platforms — this is, indeed what the realms of pagan darkness; or of Principalities and Powers – look like."
David George, you hit the nail on the head!
I have long been musing on the idea that as religion is removed from being a driving force in our societies we have a vacuum in our social structure which is being replaced with something akin to Sodom and Gomorrah. The worship of the individual, the literally 'anything goes' doctrine - Be true to yourself first and always.
When you raise this as a concept online, many will deride you as a god botherer and talk about the church's many failings. But it's not about religion, it is about the loss of Christian values (possibly other values falling away in other major religions as well) - do unto others, the meek shall inherit the earth, easier for a rich man to go through the eye of a needle, love your neighbour etc and in its place a great big vacuum which is being filled with the detritus of modern life.
We have set science up as God (triumphs over disease, life extension technology, making luxury items available to all) and we have become incompetent in practical terms, isolated (physically and spiritually) and unsafe as a people.
If we take nothing else away from events in the Hawkes Bay, it should be that in the end there is only community and our contribution to it that matters. And community is built through fellowship, tolerance and common good.
Interesting quote David.
While I have some admiration for Naomi Wolf, I do think that the dichotomy of Judeo-Christian and Pagan is a naïve analysis. However, the comments come at an interesting time.
This week Pope Francis posted a holy tweet -
"Social Justice demands that we fight against the causes of poverty: inequality and the lack of labour, land and lodging; against those who deny social and labour rights; and against the culture that leads to taking away the dignity of others."
Seems like applied Christianity expressed through Papal infallibility.
Not to Jordan B Peterson, who tweeted indignantly -
"There is nothing Christian about Social Justice. Redemptive Salvation is a matter of the individual soul."
I attach a commentary by biblical scholar Dan McClellan where he discussed the Christofascist movement and the difference of their spin on Christianity from what is implied in scripture -
and just for fun his earlier take on Peterson's theology -
Brief and to the point, enjoy.
Just checked Naomi Wolf's recent history. I had not realized how submerged in rabbit holes she has become. When I indicated I had some time for her, that was definitely historic.
God help us David, you have a distinct talent for seeking out word salad. First Peterson now this almost meaningless babble. I wonder if she has a degree in sociology. 😁
"The worship of the individual, the literally 'anything goes' doctrine - Be true to yourself first and always."
This is the creed of unregulated capitalism not atheism. The absence of a God does not necessarily mean "anything goes". And in fact the Bible is a distinctly terrible book for learning morals from. And as has been shown, people take their morals to their religion rather than from it most of the time.
1 Corinthians 14:
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.
Try telling that to my mother.
If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church
Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered. Matthew 21:18-22 NIV
Someone lost some valuable property thanks to a temper tantrum.
Romans 13:1-5 (ESV) "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.
Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. "Get out of here, baldy!" they said. "Get out of here, baldy!" He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. 2 Kings 2:23-25 NIV
Seems a bit of an overreaction to being called baldy ... Mind you, I might be tempted. But it would be wrong.
Ephesians 6:5 : Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.
A lot of work has gone into trying to dodge this whole question.😇
Incidentally unknown, which religion you think should be in charge of the country? There are many choices you realise? If Christianity, which of the 40,000+ Christian sects are we going to take our morality from? Because many of them probably don't regard you as a Christian – or any other of the Christians on this site. I was at university with a Christian who made his wife walk three paces behind them everywhere they went. You want that sort? You want the Catholics sort? No abortion, no birth control, salvation by good works rather than faith?
Not to mention that we have evidence now. Heavily religious countries tend to be less peaceful and have more crime than less religious ones. And in the US heavily religious states tend to have really poor results in areas like education and medical care, not to mention higher crime rates. So be careful what you wish for.
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