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The Spike or Victoria University College Review June 1925



The contest for the Joynt Scroll was held at Canterbury College on Monday evening. Christchurch has not yet permitted herself the luxury of a Town Hall, regarding, we understand, the River as a sufficient monument to the munificence of her citizens. This is rather unfortunate, for even if the audience had exhibited the utmost tranquillity, which it didn't, the hall would have left everything to be desired.

The motion was: "That the influence of Euro-American civilisation on Native cultures is to be regretted." Otago and Canterbury affirmed, Victoria and Auckland denied, Professor Shelley filled the chair, Archdeacon Haggitt and Messrs. E. J. Howard, M.P., and A. T. Donnelly judged, and several people sitting near the front of the hall heard fairly considerable portions of a number of speeches.

In the first debate Otago opened with Mr. McClintock, who announced his intention of dealing with general principles. He conversed in an inoffensive monotone regarding the excellence of native cultures, and indicated disapproval of the degradation that followed in the wake of our Christian civilisation; he also examined in some detail the increased mortality amongst the Esquimaux, and gravely doubted whether the Congo atrocities were an unmixed blessing to the natives. Mr. Baume, who was in excellent form and serious mood, allowed that native cultures had sometimes been destroyed, but he was proud to be able to report that something better had invariably been substituted in lieu thereof. Both India and China were reaping to an ever-increasing degree the benefits of contact with the West; freed from their abject dependence on the whims of Nature, the people were surely guiding themselves into a state of greater excellence than they had ever known. Miss Todhunter was Otago's second speaker. She pointed to the declining numbers in some native populations, an excellent point once you concede, as is almost universally and enthusiastically conceded in this age and generation, that a numerous population is to be desired for its own sake. Her "secondly" referred to the ennui that must surely overtake us all, blacks as well as whites, when the way of life has been made easy (she did not refer to the Congo page 21 to illustrate); and, thirdly, she deplored the loss of native art. Her speech was undoubtedly amongst the best half-dozen of the evening. Mr. Campbell, the final speaker, was understood to say that not-with-standing all the removable wrongs that disfigure Western civilisation, and despite the good that is in Eastern cultures, yet the East to-day profits by contact with the West (and vice versa). He did not share the illusion that the primitive savage enjoyed a life of unalloyed bliss. As for the atrocities of the Congo, these belonged to the dead past and were not relevant to the debate. Culturally, he averred, the world was a unity, and contact between its widely different people was as desirable as it was inevitable.

In the second debate, Canterbury versus Auckland, the first speaker (Mr. Haslam, Canterbury), was fortunate in being able to say his piece with hardly any interruption. In carefully-rehearsed and excellently-rounded periods he contrasted the happiness of the native yesterday with his misery to-day; amongst other mishaps, "his ancient aptitudes have atrophied" (no sensation). Auckland's Mr. Black devoted practically the whole of his fifteen minutes to a vindication of the influence of civilisation on the Maori, incidentally scouting the idea that the natives' sole occupation nowadays consists of diving for pennies. Mr Brassington declared that the Maori of the pre-Captain-Cook era was more in harmony with his surroundings than is his dusky descendant in our midst. Mr. Thompson, for Auckland, concluded this debate and the evening's entertainment with what appealed to us as the best speech of the contest. But he, too, confined his attention almost exclusively to the race problem of New Zealand, which, after all, was only a small part of the subject embraced by the motion.

While the judges deliberated, we scanned the list of mighty men whose names are inscribed indelibly on the Scroll of Joynt, and, subject to correction, we calculated that Victoria had annexed the shield in precisely fifty per cent. of the twenty contests, Otago and Canterbury each having four wins, and Auckland two. Further research was unhappily interrupted by the welcome reappearance of the judges, who adjudged Victoria the winner of the twenty-first contest, and Miss Todhunter's the best speech of the evening.