Arachne: A Literary Journal. No. 1
Anarchism In New Zealand
Anarchism In New Zealand
A fluidity absent from older societies has made New Zealand pecularly receptive to ideas of individual rights and doctrines about the equality and natural goodness of man, and the efficacy of his reason, the hangover from the last few centuries of European thought. When New Zealanders encountered poverty and starvation during the last depression, they were able without much spiritual conflict, to denounce such sufferings on an ethical basis and to demand that the dignity of man be established once and for all.
The Labour Party same into office, the guardians of the people, the preservers of the dignity of labour and of human liberty, the Pacifists, lauding truth and the wisdom of the common man. Internally the half truth that all men are equal spread as the levelling process continued. A nation inheriting the unco-operative independent frontier mind refused to acknowledge superiors within its ranks. The roadman demands to have his wages raised to equal that of the doctor's. The wage question is a subtle unanswerable one but is important because what occurs in the material world is also occurring in the intellectual. The roadman thinks he knows best. The pride of the roadman is little worse than the pride of the doctor. It is when those who think they know best impose their systems that disaster occurs.
The ordinary man now is demanding higher wages. The ethical impulse which swept the Labour Government into power, has been lost, transferred to a material one, and the Labour Party acquiesces because it is afraid of going out of office. It is the tool of the mass mind and the mass mind is still primarily materialistic. The country has beguiled itself with half-truths, and the majority of its citizens fails to recognise that they are half truths. What is the intellectual doing now that the party he has assisted is in power?
The intellectual has become an anarchist. He is aware of the half-truths and acknowledges the fact that the material solution is insufficient. He resents the hypocrisy of the government, and is especially disillusioned by the blindness and stupidity of the people in whom he once believed wisdom rested. He suspects democracy. He believes mankind is too stupid to solve its problems and predicts disaster. He withdraws from the community which he despises, shrugs his shoulders, cracks witticisms at them at morning tea. He accepts the material comforts that the party he once supported has given the country, and concerns himself with his own salvation. Man and society he has discarded.
New Zealand is full of anarchists in one form or another. The formation of anarchists in this country begins early, often before page 9 adolescence. The school is its breeding place. Here the honest child is confronted by peculiar standards of morality to which he can give no support, and is forced to acquiesce with his tongue in his cheek. At secondary school the confict becomes more acute. Here sport is raised above intellectual achievement The Old Boy who has represented New Zealand in cricket or football is feted, the scholar obtaining a doctorate at Cambridge ignored. Adolescents are alert and eager. They recognise early that the prevailing sentiments about loyalty to House, School, Empire, and Christianity are rightly suspect. Over-simplified and vulgar concepts about religion they accept as hypocrisy, and so the isolation is well established by the time the child leaves school. It is a fact that most intellectuals in New Zealand leave school with feelings of inferiority, which is an absurd state of affairs, and a very wasteful one.
The temporary junction of the anarchist and the rest of the community during the depression and the early years of the Labour Government has once more been severed. When the intellectuals come to terms with themselves and the community, much may be done. Until then they are in great danger because they acquiesce to constant levelling, a process assisted by the government; and are in danger of losing their own integrity and liberty of spirit. They are the ones who should be shaping the thought and policy of the country and they are as much responsible if not more so, for whatever happens to New Zealand. Meanwhile the search for some way of closing the rift continues.
The New Zealand intellectual admits the stupidity of the community and toys with the idea of a well-informed aristocracy, but remembering the oppression of the people under previous forms of aristocracy, and unable to find justification for such oppression, is forced to reject the idea. He also reconsiders the Platonic guardian state, but owing to his reluctance to interfere with the liberty of man, and his belief that absolute truth does not exist, he finds totalitarian forms of government unacceptable.
A possible solution suggests itself if we recognise that man's virtue does not lie in the intellectual field. We cannot expect things of him. We should not expect him to be wise or reasonable or good or evil. He is a form striving for expression and he gets bogged on the way. The evil is usually bound up with his struggles to free himself. He is forever tying himself to false gods. Occasionally in his freedom, the goodness, or integrity, or perfection of form, is extraordinary clear. What we can do is to see that he has the freedom to reach this state of grace. Now that the material obstacles have been removed, he is faced with a great many less tangible ones. His chief weapon against these is his honesty which must be encouraged above all else. Never must anyone attempt to possess him. He must be left free. In a wider metaphysical sense, man is an image of the truth, and this is why his complete spiritual development is important. A doctrine of non-possession would be peculiarly well suited to a country which will not admit superiors.