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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 6, No. 7. June 9, 1943

This England

This England

What have we to do with these men of England, moving down the centuries from dimmest history? Have we anything in common with this peasant of the Dark Ages, or this workman from half the world away? What do we know of the English—"Pommies," we call them? And England? Some people call it home, and they fall only too often into the error of thinking that by associating themselves with the English they will achieve caste! The average New Zealander only too frequently accepts these things at their face value and England as a land of snobs and servile hangers on.

And moreover, we tend to associate England with a certain caste which, after all (we should know, because we have them here too) are not at all representative of the people as a whole.

New Zealand is not very old—we have little over a century of pakeha history. It was at most a hundred years ago that the pioneer men and women arrived in this new strange country, and they spoke of England as home. However dreary, grim and poverty-stricken their lives may have been, and whatever were the wrongs they had suffered there, they retained an abiding affection for the land of their birth. As pioneers they had to face physical hardship and endure and suffer to build New Zealand as we see it today. This struggle was not new to them. They came from, a fighting stock that had been struggling for their rights—their right to a better England before the Armada was ever sighted. They loved their country not blindly but with discernment, seeing and wishing to correct her faults. England is not a conglomeration of castles, ruins, country houses and picturesque cottages, and her history does not just concern the titled and great.

While the great men of England were immersed in their politics the people of England struggled to live. One of the early leaders of the peasants was the priest John Ball; he denounced the barons for their cruelty and rapaciousness. For a long time he evaded the law and the lords but, finally they took him and he died horribly. But he was not the last—there followed Wat Tyler, who led a revolt of the commons. He was murdered, the revolt was suppressed. "Serfs you were and serfs you are. You shall remain in bondage not such as you have been hitherto subject but incomparably more vile," said the treacherous king. Grindecombe, Wiclif, White, Jack Cade, Jack Kett, Steere—there was no lack of stalwart Englishmen to declare for the freedom and right; and for the barons came the reply of mercenary soldiers, repression and death.

Lilburn, Winstanley, Bunyan—the scene changes; Cromwell gained the peasant support to dispose of Charles and then disposed of his one-time allies; growing too at this time was the demand for freedom of conscience.

"Wilkes and Liberty." cried his electors when the conservative Parliament tried to refuse admittance to a duly elected member; Tom Paine watched the struggle in France and America of the forces of progress. Waterloo had brought peace to Europe, but in England the struggle for life flared anew. The inglorious exploit of the army at Peterloo, the Six Acts and years of repression followed. Then reform—and after disillusionment with this Chartism a movement advocating practically present day Parliamentary democracy, reaching its climax in 1848. "Whenever free speech is attempted to be put down," said William Morris, "It is your bounden duty to resist by every means in your power."

Wherever Englishmen went they took with them this spirit of real democracy—lip service was inadequate, in devotion to their country or their ideals. Nor was their love of their country selfish. They wished their country a better place, perhaps, but not at the expense of its neighbours. Real demotion to one's country—courage to build and fight for the things you treasure most dearly—these are not exclusive demands; they can be shared by any people. We love New Zealand, as the Englishman loves England—not selfishly but with affection and pride in work done—a pride that should prove a bond with, not a barrier to, other nations.

Image by Russell Clark. This block is by kind permission of the artist and "The N.Z. Listener."