Some thoughts on The Voice

The world sure is a strange place these days. Gaslighting is the order of the day and the perennial question is “are they doing it on purpose?” I made the mistake recently of taking something on face value, a big no-no, and ended up going down an interesting rabbit hole.

This particular rabbit hole involves a referendum to be held in Australia later this year that purports to enshrine a “Voice” for aboriginal Australians in the constitution of the country (it will actually be called The Voice). What exactly will be the nature of this Voice is unclear. The politicians tell us they will sort out the details later, which doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence. It’s kinda like buying a car from a used car salesman sight unseen.

Referendums are fun

I admit, I haven’t been following the debate around the issue very closely and so I decided recently to go and read the document called the Uluru Statement from the Heart which was written by delegates to the same convention which proposed The Voice. The interested reader can view it here.

Naively, I expected a statement from the heart to contain, well, a statement from the heart. Now, I’ve never read a statement from the heart before, so I had no point of reference. But I anticipated some kind of poetic language or, at the very least, the everyday language of real people. Given the subject matter of the issue, perhaps it would even be written in indigenous languages with an English translation.

What I found instead was a document written in mild legalese. It actually contains the words thereto, therefrom and thither. I suspect 99.99% of Australians of any background have never used thither in their life. If they know the word at all, it would only be from their high school readings of Shakespeare. How did such arcane language make it into an indigenous “statement from the heart”? What is really going on here?

It’s probably my background in linguistics, but I did recognise the style of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It belongs to a genre that has a tradition going back centuries. And here is where we go down the rabbit hole because the genre in question is declarations of independence.

Declarations of Independence

The most famous declaration of independence is, of course, the American one written in 1776. But Thomas Jefferson almost certainly took inspiration from the Act of Abjuration which was written in 1581. That document signalled the intention of the provinces of the Netherlands to no longer be under the rule of Philip II of Spain. As with almost all declarations of independence, it was written at the end of a long war.

What marked the Act of Abjuration as unusual, and made it arguably the first exemplar of modern declarations of independence, was that it featured a long preamble outlining the ideological commitments of the newly independent nation. That ideology was inspired by various anti-monarchical ideas that had roots in Calvinism. In the same way, the US Declaration of Independence would later be strongly influenced by the political theory of John Locke. Both documents can only be understood in light of the breakdown of the divine right of kings ushered in by the Reformation. I talked about this issue in detail in a recent post.

The purpose of the preamble was, therefore, to provide an ideological basis for sovereignty that replaced the old divine right of kings. On this basis, a new political structure would be formed. We might call declarations of independence propaganda tools in the old-fashioned, non-pejorative sense of the word since they were designed to unify a group of people behind an idea. Written propaganda was especially suited to protestant nations since literacy rates were high due to the desire to be able to read the bible for oneself. All of this cultural context is necessary to understand why declarations of independence came into being.

The formation of the United States provides a useful case study here because it’s not well remembered that war was not originally waged for independence. In fact, when war broke out in 1775, most colonists were not thinking of independence. Thomas Paine published Common Sense in early 1776 and his book became the lightning rod which sparked the idea of independence. When the Declaration of Independence was written later that year, its purpose was to give coherence to the ideology of the new movement and, just like the Dutch had done earlier, to point out how the monarch they were declaring independence from had failed to fulfil his obligations to the people.

Thus, modern declarations of independence contain three core elements: 1) the ideological basis of the claim to sovereignty; 2) a list of grievances against the old ruler justifying his removal; 3) details of the new political entity which would replace the old.

It’s important to understand that all this is highly context-specific. There may have been declarations of independence in other cultures or throughout history, but the written form which would become the pattern for the modern world originated in post-Reformation Europe with the United States as the poster child for the idea.

Within the context of protestant culture, it can be said that declarations of independence come “from the heart” because of the special place of the bible as the foundational text of that culture. Paine’s Common Sense drew heavily on biblical references as did much of the political propaganda of the time. This mixing of religion and politics was very old. The Magna Carta, for example, was read out in churches across England back in the day. Europeans were used to the idea that written texts could not just be heartfelt but the actual word of God. It was, in some sense, the word of God that the declarers of independence were claiming to have access to. Hence, “all men are endowed by their creator”.

In the aftermath of the war of independence, numerous other declarations of independence were written as various nations were inspired by the US example to throw off the yoke of “tyranny”. Almost all of the South American nations made declarations of independence during the revolutionary period of the early 19th century as they broke free from Spanish and Portuguese rule. The Mexican declaration is of particular interest to the current Australian debate as it contains the concept of a “voice”:

The Mexican Nation, which for three hundred years had neither had its own will, nor free use of its voice, leaves today the oppression in which it has lived.

The document also contains obvious references to the US declaration of independence.

Restored then this part of the North to the exercise of all the rights given by the Author of Nature and recognized as unalienable and sacred by the civilized nations of the Earth, in liberty to constitute itself in the manner which best suits its happiness and through representatives who can manifest its will and plans,

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness granted by the “author of nature”. The other core concept used is that of will and here we see the influence of Enlightenment ideas which proclaimed that the will of the people was paramount and based in natural law which “tyrants” may not supercede.

It was Edmund Burke who saw the problem with all of this early on. In his analysis, even two countries as similar as England and France had divergent enough public institutions and cultural practices that for one country to copy the other as the French attempted to do in the French Revolution would not work.

Edmund Burke

The British model provided inspiration for the US model and it has worked out fine for both of those countries as well as for Australia, New Zealand and Canada which were culturally tied to Britain anyway. Did it work elsewhere? Arguably not. It was a disaster in France and a worse disaster in Germany later on.

Constitutions and declarations of independence are just the tip of the Burkean iceberg. They are predicated on a vast base of shared beliefs and cultural traditions that make the whole thing possible in the first place. In the absence of such a base, they become little more than cargo cults.

New Zealand as Case Study

And this bring us to an example close to home that can shed light on the current Australian debate.

Recall the three elements in a modern declaration of independence: 1) statement of sovereignty (based in ideology); 2) list of grievances against the incumbent; 3) declaration of the new political form which will replace the old.

Some Maori chiefs on the north island of New Zealand made a declaration of independence in 1835. The problem was that there was nobody to declare independence from since New Zealand was not unified as a country and the chiefs themselves were the leaders, at least of their own tribes. So what was really going on?

All 3 of the elements of a declaration of independence were formally present in the document. The chiefs began by claiming sovereignty. The basis of that sovereignty was “mana from the land”.

Step 2 is the list of grievances but the the Maori chiefs’ grievances were not against an incumbent but against their political rivals in the south who were invited to drop their “animosity” and join the northerners.

Then, in the final section which is supposed to outline the new form of government, we see a request to the King of England who is asked to “continue to be the parent of their infant State, and that he will become its Protector from all attempts upon its independence.” The chiefs did not desire independence but protection. So, what was the point in writing a declaration of independence?

The answer to that can be found in an occurrence that happened some years later; namely, the Treaty of Waitangi. International law requires that treaties can be made only by sovereign nations. But New Zealand had not been a unified country with a sovereign government in the form required to make a treaty with the British. Thus, the declaration of independence in this case was in fact used to assert the sovereignty of the Maori chiefs of the north island for the purposes of signing the treaty. That’s why the document makes an explicit request for recognition by the British crown.

Why did the Maori chiefs want to sign a treaty? Here we see some of the major differences which distinguished European contact with the Maori from European contact with indigenous Australians.

Both missionaries and traders had set up relations with the Maori well before both the declaration of independence and the subsequent Treaty of Waitangi. This had allowed cultural and economic exchange to take place resulting in the development of an understanding between the Maori and the pakeha. For example, the Maori had adopted a written script for their language, something they previously did not have. Certain Maori chiefs had even fought alongside the British in battle.

What happened in New Zealand was a more reciprocal arrangement based on trade and the Treaty of Waitangi was there to facilitate and enhance that state of affairs. We shouldn’t sugar coat it, of course. The British were experts at divide and conquer by this time and it seems certain that they were playing exactly that game in New Zealand.

And things didn’t go smoothly after the signing of the treaty. It turned out the Maori understanding of the word “sovereign” differed from the British. As is always the case, things that make sense in theory turn out rather different in practice. A treaty is one thing but the everyday business of government is another. The disagreements about political decision-making eventually ended in armed conflict.

Why none of that happened in Australia is one of those eternal debates for which there is no absolute answer. But we can see some of the reasons in the comparison with New Zealand. There is the obvious problem of size. Australia is geographically far larger than New Zealand. The Maori language was spoken in the whole of New Zealand while Australian aboriginals had about 300 distinct languages at the time of white settlement with many more distinct political groupings. Even if every aboriginal tribe had wanted a treaty with the British, negotiating one at the national level was as good as impossible on logistical, political and linguistic grounds. For that and many other reasons, no treaty was made.

The Voice

And this brings us to the current issue at hand in Australia. What the New Zealand example showed was how formal declarations of independence can be, errr, adapted for other purposes. In that case it was a treaty which at least a segment of the Maori population was in favour of. Alongside the declaration of independence, the Maori also developed a flag and a form of government that could uphold the treaty obligations. We might summarise this formula thusly: declaration of independence + flag + form of government = treaty.

As I noted earlier, the Uluru Statement from the Heart is in the form of a declaration of independence. It meets the 3 critieria.

Firstly, there is a claim to sovereignty: “This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature…” [Note the similarity to the Maori “manna from the land”].

Secondly, there is a list of grievances: “Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet.”

The third element would be a declaration of the new political entity to come into being and that’s exactly what we see: “We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution…”.

Following the Maori example, we have a declaration of independence/sovereignty and a form of governance (The Voice). What we would then need is a flag and that would pave the way for a treaty. By coincidence, the Australian government purchased the aboriginal flag just a few years ago. Does that mean we can expect a treaty? The statement from the heart puts it this way:

“We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations…”

Surely this “agreement-making” is code for treaty.

If the point of all this is to sign a treaty, why not just say so. Why not call the Statement from the Heart a Declaration of Independence, The Voice a sovereign government and the Makarrata Commission a Treaty Commission?

There’s numerous reasons why this can’t happen but the most obvious is that it would be a direct challenge to the existing sovereignty of Australia. So, instead we get all the exact forms of a declaration of sovereignty but we change the names and pretend they are something else. It’s not hard to see why some people are convinced the whole thing is a trick.

Why the need for any of this and why the need for a big bang treaty at the national level at all since there are already numerous local treaties across Australia that have been negotiated with individual aboriginal nations?

Here we come to the final piece of the puzzle.

Equal but Different

In 2007, the UN General Assembly passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). Curiously, only four nations voted No: Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. Then, almost simultaneously, those same countries changed their mind in 2009 and supported the declaration. Canada has subsequently passed a bill through their parliament in 2021 to adopt UNDRIP into Canadian law. It’s pretty clear that The Voice is the Australian version of the same idea.

Have any other nations adopted UNDRIP into law? The answer seems to be no. So why is it that this is an issue only in Anglo countries and why did those same countries seemingly change their position in unison after initial objections? Seems like a very big coincidence to me. Could it be that the Anglo model of governance which achieved hegemony in the post-war years is being targeted directly?

One of the things that model of governance achieved was equality before the law in the 1960s through the civil rights movement. The most famous exponent of that movement was Martin Luther King and the future he envisioned was one of integration of all races within the democratic system of government.

King’s belief was that you started with equality before the law and then you supplemented that with various social programs to address economic inequality since it was previous discrimination which had led to things like high crime rates. As King stated:

If there are lagging standards in the Negro community, and there certainly are, they lag because of segregation and discrimination.  Criminal responses are environmental and not racial. Poverty, ignorance, social isolation, economic deprivation, breed crime whatever the racial group may be and it is a torturous logic to use the tragic results of segregation as an argument for the continuation of it.

If there is any country that should understand that message it should be Australia since the country was established as a penal colony for white European criminals. As my surname suggests, my ancestry is mostly Irish. The Irish were not criminals through choice or because of race. They were criminals because they had been ground under the wheels of British imperialism. Per Dr King, you need to solve the discrimination problem in order to solve the crime problem. That was the idea inherent in the civil rights movement. It could best be summed up by a word that King used a lot – integration.

If democratic integration and equality before the law were the guiding principles of the civil rights movement, what is the guiding principle behind UNDRIP? The second paragraph of UNDRIP states:

Affirming that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such,

It goes on to say that indigenous people should be free to exercise their “right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests… which derive from their political, economic and social structures and from their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies, especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources”.

The whole historical problem with nation states was that there was an underlying assumption that Edmund Burke was prescient enough to understand. That assumption was an indigenous populace with a relatively homogeneous shared interest, social structure, culture, spiritual tradition etc. As we saw earlier, the whole business around declarations of independence was the product of the shared heritage of Protestant Europe. It came out of a specific cultural milieu. When the same idea was transplanted into a different milieu, as in New Zealand, it caused problems due to cultural misunderstandings.

UNDRIP takes the starting assumption of the nation state and applies it to “indigenous people” who are also assumed to be perfectly homogenous in relation to shared interest, social structure etc. It then requires that such a people be free to pursue their shared interest within existing nation states. Viewed this way, UNDRIP aims to create nation states within nation states. We see this idea in the language of the Uluru Statement from the Heart:

They (indigenous children) will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.

Again, isn’t “world” here just a euphemism for “nation”? The Voice will create two “worlds” within Australia: one for the indigenous and one for the rest of us. What this amounts to is the segregation and separation that Dr King railed against. He went so far as to say that “if democracy is to live, segregation must die”. And yet here we are about to reintroduce separation and, in fact, to put it in the constitution of the country.

Which us brings us back to the original question: are “they” doing it on purpose? Depends who you mean by “they”. There is the they which wants a national treaty in Australia and a they which even wants full sovereignty for aboriginal Australians. It has been suggested in the past, for example, to turn the Northern Territory into a separate sovereign nation just for aboriginals.

On the other hand, there are the unelected and unaccountable “experts” who writes things like UNDRIP and the bureaucrats in the Australian government who make their living managing the results. Then there are the politicians who love heroic gestures that will see their names etched in the history books. Finally, there are the smart political operatives who understand how power works and can see that the indigenous question is an easy way to keep the public divided.

Note that this constellation of interests is very similar to the one which brought us corona. There are the unaccountable global institutions (UN, WHO), the opaque globalist NGOs with mysterious funding models who handle the propaganda activities, the government bureaucrats who earn their living from the issue, the egomaniac politicians living out their dreams of exercising power and the vested interests who stand to make significant financial gain.

If The Voice does get up, I expect it will work out about as well as corona. I suspect Dr King was right. You can’t have segregation and democracy. But maybe that’s the whole point. The central problem of democracy was always how to prevent a tyranny of the majority. A little appreciated fact of the Anglo tradition was that it avoided a tyranny of the majority while both France and Germany fell into that trap. In our highly networked society, it’s fair to say our “elites” are more terrified than ever of demagogues and mob rule.

So, perhaps the degradation of democracy is a feature and not a bug of the new proposal. Once upon a time, such matters were handled quietly behind closed doors. Now they are handled by gaslighting, fabrications and outright lies. As I pointed out a couple of posts ago, this politics of division allows the government to leverage the minority rule to their advantage. The “elites” have always had an interest in ensuring that the will of the majority can be subverted where necesary.

14 thoughts on “Some thoughts on The Voice”

  1. Yeah all our Spengler discussions make it pretty easy to identify Faustian lenses and cultural holdovers being applied to ‘indigenous peoples’. If Australia was in any way, shape or form serious about true reconciliation, we would actually propose using indigenous forms of thought and governance, rather than giving western forms of thought and governance a black coat of paint.

    Even Race itself is a western construct, and it doesn’t make much sense through the traditional indigenous worldviews. This is just missionary Calvinism all over again, and the underlying Protestant, Northern European terror that white and black can never mix. A multi racial council of elders from all walks of life being consulted on government decisions would be far more approximate than what is proposed.

    The Catholic empires and nations seemed to have far less qualms about mixing, have you ever thought about why?

  2. Skip – one of the ironies of the Voice debate is that the aboriginals are claiming to have no voice in democracy. But, of course, none of the rest of us have a voice either. The system has always been rigged to protect against mob rule. It would be funny if the government stuffs it up and indigenous Australians end up being the only ones who can get their interests represented in parliament. Then, everybody starts identifying as aboriginal and The Voice becomes kind of like the old plebeian tribunals of Rome.

    Good question about the catholic/protestant distinction in relation to race mixing. It’s not something I’ve thought about but you just have to compare north to south America to see the difference in action.

  3. Yeah it’s always been very silly, what even are indigenous Australians? Under a linguistic interpretation if you’re born here you’re indigenous, so it’s a crap term anyway, but it seems to mean either something racial or something cultural or a bit of both. It makes far more sense to refer to people as Yolngu or Wiradjuri because this actually refers to real place.

    The framing of it has always sort to separate black and white, by shutting out black from everything, but just as importantly making sure that white never sends roots down too deeply and starts becoming black. If you’re a non-indigenous Australian, where are you indigenous to? Where your ancestors came from? Go back even a little way and that is a mind boggling number of different places, and gets absurd.

    Even within countries like Australia the Catholic/Protestant thing shows up. My black ancestors married white Irish settlers, and most of the ‘mixed race’ (so 19th century) people I grew up with and know, their white ancestors are almost always Irish. It seems the Irish were far more comfortable with the whole thing, like the Spanish, French and Portuguese.

    There is a bit of reasoning I’ve read where Northern European phenotypes (light skin, light hair, light eyes) are recessive genes and therefore there is an inherent desire from the men to find women with similar phenotypes so they can identity offspring, but that is very Darwinian and materialist.

  4. I wish a couple of my ancestors had procreated with blacks. I could use the melanin 😛

    Apparently Jacinta Nampijinpa has Irish heritage. The only reason I know that is cos the ABC thought it appropriate to refer to her as part aboriginal-part Celtic. For all our hysteria about Nazis, we now have overt racism in our public debate. Classic Jungian projection.

    Of course, because there’s no way to test for “indigenous” genetically as that would be far too politically incorrect, the definition of “indigenous” is whoever self-identifies as one. That could have very interesting implications moving forward. I was joking about it earlier but we could very well see a rise in the number of people who identify as indigenous, especially if things get harder economically. The could have interesting ramifications.

  5. Ha indeed! I’ve never had an issue with tanning, and really feel for those in Aus who battle with our unforgiving sun. The more oceanic climates of south Vic and Tassy are probably better for your complexion!

    Hmm yeah the unintended consequences could be interesting. If I recall correctly I think a similar thing happened in Mexico. The revolutionary government promoted the Mezito mix as the Mexican ideal, and most Mexicans for the last 100 years state in the census that they have both Spanish and mesoamerican ancestry. A genetic study showed that the level of mixing, while very high compared to many colonial areas, is actually lower than reported and many people who report mezito do not have any genetic heritage from the America’s.

    It’s all silly though as genetic traits start changing and adapting immediately upon arrival in a new geographic area, with even the first generation born showing marked physical differences from their parents (was noted time and time again in colonial Aus), so everyone is technically correct.

  6. Exactly. And what is that if not “manna from the land”. This actually fits well with the Jungian concept of an archetype as an energy field. So, the land itself is an energy field which “pulls” the inhabitants into its influence. This is another aspect of the indigenous issue because the aboriginals are the ones claiming sovereign connection to the land. What are the rest of us claiming sovereign connection from? A set of Enlightenment ideas? And now we get onto the problem of cities. Is it possible to feel a connection to the land living in a big city? I think it is but it’s certainly less “strong” than outside the cities.

  7. Yep and if we are going to define sovereign connection by race then we are smack bang back in the ‘blood and soil’ of the third Reich, becoming exactly what we presume to hate. It also goes against the last few decades of reconciliation work where many elders have been promoting the fact that Australians don’t get to choose whether we are apart of the mythology and connection to the land, by being here we all are, and we all inherit it.

    Im interested to see who is actually behind this declaration because it seems to me to be a classic city/country divide issue, with local Aboriginal people here pretty skeptical of it, with any support coming mainly in the form of land rights problems. As you said it seems to be driven by more suspect unseen hands, and it has been announced from the beginning through the usual propaganda channels.

    Nothing makes me chuckle more when a bunch of NGO types from the city come on out in their missionary zeal and find Aboriginal people that wear cowboy hats, love shooting guns and listen to country music and have a lot in common with what the USA would call right wing. Just goes to show the biggest divide isn’t black and white, it’s urban/rural. A lot of these issues come back to this latter divide.

  8. My understanding is that “indigenous campaigners” were consultants to the UNDRIP process. In other words, city blackfellas with university degrees i.e. “experts”. Reminds me of what happened to the union movement. Once you had union reps with PhDs in economics, the whole thing became a sham.

    It’s noteworthy that practically all the Romantics hated cities with a passion. But a “return to nature” seems to me just an overcompensation in the other direction. Where is the middle ground? Perhaps smaller regional cities with hinterlands. It’s a shame we don’t have many of those in Australia, especially compared to the US.

  9. We do have a few of them in Aus, the problem is that our coastal metropolis’ grew so big so quick from globalisation that they are not at all to scale compared to the rest of the country. In Vic Bendigo and Ballarat in the west and then Albury-Wodonga in the East all sort of fill this role, and then in NSW Wagga and Armidale among others. Queensland has even more as its more decentralised. I tend to go off the regional centres that have universities are those who are filling this ‘regional city’ role, it’s just the scale of our country is all messed up. Melbourne and Sydney should be about a quarter of the size they are.

    It’s the Spenglerian difference between the culture city and the world city. The culture city is still connected to the surrounding countryside both in a economic sense but also in a cultural sense, although it is no longer a village or town. An imperial world city floats above and apart from the rest of the country and has an abusive relationship towards it. The Victorian regional cities still mostly retain the grand federation style architecture that Melbourne used to be so famous for.

  10. Yep. And apparently the plan is to cram as many people into the cities as they can. State governments are even talking of taking control of planning so they can override local councils. There’s been some heated meetings in the inner suburbs over the matter as all the rich Greens and Teal voters don’t want high density housing in their area. Problem is, we’ve already got way too many medium-density McMansions in the outer suburbs. The only thing remotely viable in the future is going to be high-density. “Australian dream”, meet reality.

  11. Hi Simon,

    Thanks for taking the time to elucidate some of the issues here, as well as providing a general background into many of the complexities. Over the years I have spoken with New Zealand friends on the arrangements there in relation to this, and my understanding from those discussions was that: It was nice for some. But then outcomes needn’t yield happiness or fairness.

    In order to get a referendum across the line, the idea has to be sold to the public. So far, I’m not seeing that. Sure, there is a lot of emotional content, but I’m primarily interested in the mechanics of the arrangement. i.e. what are we voting for? The words “trust us, we’ve got this”, does not inspire confidence.

    And what’s wrong with having a test run of whatever this is, and just seeing what happens? We’ve had ATSIC and the NIC, and did they represent all of the many different groups in the wider community?



  12. Chris – hah, that’s a novel idea. Hey, why not test this idea out before enshrining it in the goddam constitution. We all love science and experimentation, right?

  13. Hi Simon,

    🙂 It’s not a bad idea. And exactly, there is a lot of difficulty in amending the constitution for any reason, so if the idea has unintended consequences, then it is super-hard to correct. That’s why there is a constitution, to stop nefarious folks from mucking around with the day to day arrangements. My gut feeling suggests that there are many folks who’d like the opportunity to do so.

    In some ways, the current debate reminds me of the republican referendum all those years ago. Back then, it seemed that a bunch of unelected experts were dictating the outcome for the rest of us. I often wonder whether the sticking point with that thing was when the politicians took control of the head of state to themselves, thus keeping the power out of the publics hands? I could be wrong, but it kind of sounded to me like a job for the boys situation.

    I probably didn’t explain myself very well in relation to the New Zealand experience. What I have been told was that some tribes missed out on being part of that arrangement, whilst some have done very well out of it. But then politics are like that, there are winners and losers. Take for example the recent tax cuts for very high income earners, whilst new start allowance was not increased due to the cost. Cost didn’t seem to be an issue with the tax cuts. Oh well, my brain hurts…



  14. Chris – yup. Constitutions are supposed to avoid worst case scenarios. They are inherently conservative in nature. No coincidence that our “conservative” political party is a shambles these days.

    I don’t know this for sure, but I’d bet money the British were playing the northern Maori against the southerners. Classic divide and conquer. The great Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, moved to Samoa in 1889. He noticed that the European and Americans were doing their usual divide and conquer trick with the Samoan chiefs and, because he had a good relationship with the Samoans, he tried to warn them what was happening. Didn’t work though. Samoa ended up getting partitioned between Germany and the US.

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