Thursday, August 16, 2012

First taniwha, now Ruamoko - what next?

Due respect for Maori culture is one thing. Expecting us to swallow primitive superstition is quite another – yet I heard a reporter on Morning Report this morning solemnly relaying a Maori warning that recent volcanic activity on White Island and Mt Tongariro was a sign that Ruamoko, the god of earthquakes and volcanoes, was unhappy about the way the government was proceeding with the partial sale of state assets.
This comes only a couple of weeks after the Maori Council’s lawyer, Felix Geiringer, invoked the Maori belief in taniwha at the Waitangi Tribunal hearing on water rights.

I suppose some people might see it as valid to cite taniwha as symbolic spiritual guardians of the waterways, which is what Geiringer was trying to convey. But then he went further: “People say ‘in this resource is my taniwha, my guardian spirit. He protects me, he protects my water resource. He’s not your taniwha so if you are going to use that resource without my permission, he will do terrible things to you’.”
This invites ridicule. It crosses the line between politically correct genuflection to Maori cultural beliefs – which you could argue, at a stretch, is a legitimate theatrical ploy for a lawyer wanting to wring the most out of an argument before the Waitangi Tribunal – and outright shamanism. I can imagine Geiringer’s late father, a notorious contrarian and iconoclast, snorting with derision.

As if citing taniwha wasn’t bad enough, we’re reduced to an even more abject embrace of stone-age superstition when the state-owned radio network can report, with a straight face, that the Maori god of earthquakes and volcanoes is cutting up rough because he (she?) doesn’t like what the government is doing.
What next? Will we be told that Tangaroa, the sea god, plans to unleash a tsunami that will rise up from Wellington Harbour and destroy the Beehive? Will Radio New Zealand report that John Key is at risk of being hit by a bolt of lightning directed at his head by Tawhirimatea, the weather god? Once we start bowing to atavistic mumbo-jumbo, anything becomes possible.


Jigsaw said...

It's just another step along the way...recall how Helen Clark-at least an agnostic never objected to Maori prayers at every occasion. How such missionary influenced judean-christian ritual came to be part of the 'indigeous' people's culture is beyond reasoning.

Anonymous said...

Great blog Karl. Critiqued (favourably) and re-posted (as below), and taken a step further ("Jesus eats Taniwha) which argues that Maori abandoned their old gods in the late 19thC. and embraced Christianity, so this is a cultural fraud, as you argue. Good on you for raising this interesting cultural spiritual-political issue.

brian_smaller said...

I have just cast a spell that killed all taniwha. If anyone says that a taniwha objects to anything from now on they are making it up. They are all dead.

Bill Forster said...

I heard the same thing on NatRad and I smirked derisively as well. I totally agree, these people are spouting nonsense and it is madness to give unworthy respect to mythology and the fading echoes of primitive world views.

But, and it's a big but, we should be consistent. Stand back and look at the big picture. There is no sensible reason to give the slightest credence to *any* religious belief. Man invented god, it's a stark and obvious truth to anyone who has the courage to seriously examine the issue. So sure, mock Ruamoko. It's nuts. But so are all religions including Judeo-Christian beliefs that so many NZers accept as somehow sensible and rational without so much as a second thought.

Vaughan said...

I don't agree with Bill's view that there is no sensible reason to give the slightest credence to any religious belief.

In my opinion, there are great truths underlying the teachings of the world religions.

We need to distinguish these truths from superstitions.

We don't say that because there have been-- and still are -- inaccurate scientific theories that nobody should give credence to science. The same should be the case with religion.

Bill Forster said...

Vaughan, please let me know a single great truth underlying the teachings of world religions. I am skeptical to say the least.