Thursday, March 9, 2017

Great explorations.

"Le véritable voyage de découverte ne consiste pas à chercher de nouveaux paysages, mais à avoir de nouveaux yeux."

Marcel Proust.


The massive, tortuously carved, ebony sideboard stood against the wall in the dining room.

It's drawers resisted a small child's curiosity.

It was flanked by a pair of lions on pedestals.

I had no idea of these objects' provenance.

To me, they were just family heirlooms.

I would later learn that the furniture was "Anglo-Indian."

Abridged histories...

I pored for hours over the collection of Ladybird histories.

I became well versed in the kings and queens.

I prided myself in my ability to recite lists of monarchs and the six wives of Henry VIII.

I had some difficulty in remembering which ones were beheaded.

Great explorations...

I knew of the great explorations of Cook, Raleigh, Livingstone

Each page of text was accompanied by a colour illustration of the deeds of a great man.

Great swathes of ocean, war, people, and civilisation appear as painted backdrop to each page.

There was Columbus.

I was somehow less interested in him.

Was it that he was Spanish?

Rare women depicted seemed weirdly sacrificial.

Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale.

I found them difficult to fathom.

Unclaimed territory.

I leaf through a Ladybird odyssey of Captain James Cook, "An adventure from history."

"One of the greatest of all the famous sailors who have set out from the shores of England to discover new lands."

I so loved "adventures from history" with their pictures on every other page.

I met Cook as a young boy.

I was left in no doubt of the acuity of his fine moral compass...

Take your telescope now and gaze with Captain Cook towards uncharted waters.

And gaze.

And gaze.

And gaze.

And raise another Union Jack.

And take your hat off.

And your crew cries: 

"Hip hip hooray. Hip hip hooray. Hip hip hooray."

Another page, another discovery.

Take your oars and row to another shore.

Seeing with new eyes.

And we reach this group of islands that...

"no one had seen before.

[I deduce the word native is a synonym of "no one", as "no one had seen" the islands before.]

Then. They bow in awe.

"Nor had the natives ever seen a white man."

A. White. Man.  Is.  Not. A. God!!

No! Not at all!

Cook is

"only a man like themselves."


Be careful now!

Natives are "great thieves" (unlike you, Cook, who wouldn't steal a shilling).

Their friendship is inconstant.


Natives become ungrateful, unfriendly even.

They bash your brains out.

Seeing with new eyes...

"New Zealand’s maritime history has struck rocks with revelations made by a University of Aotearoa professor, Professor Ika Pounamu, during a dinner speech to the Royal New Zealand Sail-Tub Club. The shock was not simply that a university professor would say something forthright about New Zealand’s colonial past to the Royal New Zealand Sail-Tub Club in Auckland on April 8.

The shock was that the professor laid bare the secret mechanisms of empire to a host audience that knew more about knots, sails and navigational signals than the secret meanings behind ‘discovery rituals’ performed by Captain James Cook."

"At the highest point of a small island in Queen Charlotte Sound, located at the top of Te Wai-Pounamu, Captain James Cook cast my ancestors as inferior savages, unworthy of political rights over their bushy and coasty lands. Through his Tahitian navigator and interpreter, Tupaia, Cook actually asked a so-called ‘old Indian man’ if it was alright to erect two wooden poles with flags so that any ships that may pass would know these sailors had been there. Upon raising the Union flag, Cook then had the cheek to claim to take possession of the southern Māoriland in the name of King George III. Cook brazenly toasted with Māori and he gave the ‘old Indian man’ – a Māori chief – the empty wine bottle, to whom he had already given a threepence coin, which was the going rate for purchasing an acre of land off natives throughout the empire, and some spike nails with the King’s arrow cut deep upon them”.

"Captain Cook was a sissily-costumed Masonic puppet, and a sly-as-a-City-of-London-Corporation-bond-trading trickster, who ‘gained consent’ of ‘the natives’ by a deceptive construction upon the circumstances based on the absence of full disclosure”.

I do so love an adventure from history.


  1. History has always been written by the winners and the powerful, at least up until the past few decades when other voices are beginning to shine a different light on deeds of the past. When that page is uncovered it's often uncomfortable to look at what our ancestors did to create the world we live in today, or what was done to ancestors of other people, that created the world they live in.

    I encourage you to visit this hackpad where I posted notes from reading the history of the Peloponnesian War.

    In one section a speaker says "For it has always been the law that the weaker should be subject to the stronger." That was 2400 years ago.

    That is still happening today.

    This article shines a spotlight on that. - America's Long (unaddressed) history of class -

    1. History is indeed a continuous battleground.