Waitangi day in London: what price a cultural inheritance

I’m sorry we upset the British with our antics in London on Waitangi Day. They’re not used to this sort of thing.

The British are known for their abstemious ways with alcohol, and the respectful way they behave on, for example, soccer grounds.

They may be known for their steady drinking at neighbourhood pubs, their homes way from home, where they down pints while eating whatever’s curled up in the warming cabinet, but goodness knows they’d never chunder on Westminster Abbey, or pee outside a pub. They only riot.

What better time could there be than our national holiday to remind us of their gentler introductions to this country?

Alcohol was among those; early descriptions of the carry-on in the Bay of Islands, fuelled by booze, depict a Saturnalia that would astound even us today. And think of the Treaty itself, a pact with Maori made by the British in the name of Queen Victoria, but soon flung somewhere out of sight for rats to gnaw.

Those land-grabbing acts by our founding fathers are with us today in the annual Waitangi Day demonstrations.

There are sour memories, actually, in all Britain’s former colonies, where indigenous people got a raw deal – but why pee on their footpaths? It’s so disrespectful.

I was in London recently. Their great Trafalgar Square was looking tired and tatty, and I noted how many of their memorials and statues had to do with one war or another.

But they also brought us the neighbourly art of curtain- twitching, fine china, the Church of England, Oasis and the Rolling Stones, so we should go easy on them.

Labour leader David Shearer put his finger, metaphorically speaking, on why we should be gentle with each other, too, on our national day, observing that: “Often we don’t realise how lucky we are until we are on our OE or travelling offshore on holiday.”

Few Ngapuhi are able to enjoy that experience, being mired in poverty, but what a nice thought. Read more



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