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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

An Astonishing Contradiction in the Emotional — Attitude of the Polynesians

An Astonishing Contradiction in the Emotional
Attitude of the Polynesians

(3) Nowhere else in the world will we find such a mixture of methods of feeling as in Polynesia. There is a rude and primitive phase, and there is a somewhat advanced, semi-cultured phase that proclaim two distinct stages of barbarism or half-culture. Every traveller and observer from the earliest times had called attention to the strange contrast in the South Sea Islanders between the hospitable and kindly, if not gentle, ways in times of peace and the fierce cannibalism and the cruel treatment of enemies in times of war. But even in their page 66peaceful intercourse there is something of the same contradiction. The softer and more humane and often romantic side of their character has drawn many a wanderer from European civilisation permanently into their midst, and especially since the advent of Christianity. And yet human sacrifices, even of men from friendly tribes, disappeared not so long ago.

(4) The abolition of slavery is not so distant an historical event amongst the Anglo-Saxon race as to make them feel superior to Polynesian culture. But in the former case, at least in recent times, the slaves were of an alien and lower race, and meant to work in a climate that was not suited to white labour. The Polynesian slaves were on a level with their masters, like those in ancient Greece and Rome, and usually of their own kin. Hence there was a certain humaneness in the relationship. We can see by the legends and stories that master and slave and mistress and slave were often close companions, showing much benevolence on the one hand and much loyalty on the other. And yet the slaves generally supplied the human sacrifices, and all the victims needed at dedications and ceremonies; at the building of a house or pa a slave was often buried alive embracing each of the great posts, a custom not unusual even in Europe up till mediaeval times.