There are times when you run into such a stellar example of something that it really cries out for a more prominent place in history and teaching.
One of the ongoing broken ideas that constantly circulates is the “Pacifist” ideal. Just refuse to fight and everything will be better. I was crippled by well meaning folks (my Mom, mostly, but also some religious sorts) telling me that “fighting is wrong”. And that “turn the other cheek” was the right way to handle things. That, mostly, got me beat up until most of my way through High School when I decided to ‘try the other way’. A “showdown” followed and, well, I didn’t even have to hit one person. Just making it clear that I was “prepared for war” and, in a way, looking forward to some well deserved “pay back” promptly ended things. NEVER to return.
So I’ve kept an eye open when looking at bits of history for other “Pacifist FAIL” stories. Like the Jews of Germany meekly marching to their deaths. Better to die with your fingers sunk into the neck of your tormentor than to go meekly. Like the British prior to W.W.II who were widely disarmed, and pleaded with the USA to send guns. ( Large numbers of private guns were sent over as a stop gap before “Lend Lease” got rolling.)
The consistent story of history is the same: Pacifists die. Sometimes they are enslaved first.
Don’t like that? Well guess what, bunky, reality doesn’t care what you like.
So I’m reading about New Zealand Volcanoes, one thing leads to another, and I’m reading about Chatham Island, and the history, and one thing leads to several more…
The shortest version is under the name of the Chief / Leader who started the Pacifist faction. I’ll put a longer version below it too. But this one is just so direct and clear…
Nunuku-whenua was a Moriori chief and famous sixteenth century pacifist.
The Moriori are a Polynesian people who settled in the then-uninhabited Chatham Islands around the year 1500. Following an inter-tribal conflict, Nunuku-whenua, a prominent Moriori chief of the Hamata tribe, established “Nunuku’s Law”, which forbade war, cannibalism and killing in any form.
The law was strictly abided by, and peace was maintained in the Chathams until the islands were invaded by about 900 Māori from two iwi, the Ngāti Mutunga and the Ngāti Tama, in 1835. The invaders had guns and massacred the Moriori, who gathered urgently for a council at Te Awapātiki. Although youths argued in favour of armed resistance, elders ruled that Nunuku’s Law could not be violated for any reason. The Moriori population, conquered and enslaved, fell from over 1600 in 1835 to less than 100 thirty years later.
Famous all righty. His followers were eaten or enslaved.
Kind of puts it all in a very ‘attainable’ package…
A smaller force, but willing to be violent, killed and ate most of a larger pacifist group, enslaving the remainder. And that is why Israel now says “Never Again”. They learned. And that is why I join Charlton Heston in saying “From my cold dead hands!”.
The longer version of the story comes from an article about this group of people, the Moriori. Sound a bit like Maori to you? It ought to. See, this is a sub-set of the Maori who moved away to establish their pacifist enclave ‘off by themselves’. Time passed, then their “cousins” from North Island “came for lunch”…
Moriori are the indigenous people of the Chatham Islands (Rēkohu in Moriori, Wharekauri in Māori), east of the New Zealand archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. These people lived by a code of non-violence and passive resistance (see Nunuku-whenua), which led to their near-extinction at the hands of Taranaki Māori invaders in the 1830s.
During the early 20th century it was commonly,but erroneously, believed that the Moriori were pre-Māori settlers of New Zealand, linguistically and genetically different from the Māori, and possibly Melanesian. This story, incorporated into Stephenson Percy Smith’s “Great Fleet” hypothesis, was widely believed during the early 20th century. However the hypothesis was not always accepted, see 1904 paper by A. Shand on The Early History of the Morioris.
By the late 20th century the hypothesis that the Moriori were different from the Māori had fallen out of favour amongst archeologists, who believed that the Moriori were Maori who settled on the Chatham Islands in the 16th century. The earlier hypothesis was discredited in the 1960s and 1970s.
The language they speak shows them to be Maori descendants. So what happened 300 years after they arrived on their island?
In 1835 some Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama people, Māori from the Taranaki region of the North Island of New Zealand invaded the Chathams. On 19 November 1835, the Rodney,hijacked a European ship, arrived carrying 500 Maori armed with guns, clubs and axes, followed by another ship with 400 more Maori on 5 December 1835. They proceeded to enslave some Moriori and kill and cannibalise others. “Parties of warriors armed with muskets, clubs and tomahawks, led by their chiefs, walked through Moriori tribal territories and settlements without warning, permission or greeting. If the districts were wanted by the invaders, they curtly informed the inhabitants that their land had been taken and the Moriori living there were now vassals.”
A council of Moriori elders was convened at the settlement called Te Awapatiki. Despite knowing of the Māori predilection for killing and eating the conquered, and despite the admonition by some of the elder chiefs that the principle of Nunuku was not appropriate now, two chiefs — Tapata and Torea — declared that “the law of Nunuku was not a strategy for survival, to be varied as conditions changed; it was a moral imperative.” A Moriori survivor recalled : “[The Maori] commenced to kill us like sheep…. [We] were terrified, fled to the bush, concealed ourselves in holes underground, and in any place to escape our enemies. It was of no avail; we were discovered and killed – men, women and children indiscriminately.” A Maori conqueror explained, “We took possession… in accordance with our customs and we caught all the people. Not one escaped…..” The invaders ritually killed some 10% of the population,a ritual that included staking out women and children on the beach and leaving them to die in great pain over several days. The Maori invaders forbade the speaking of the Moriori language. They forced Moriori to desecrate their sacred sites by urinating and defecating on them. Moiriori wished they had been colonized by the English and had the protection of the Treaty of Waitangi.
After the invasion, Moriori were forbidden to marry Moriori, or to have children with each other. All became slaves of the Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga invaders. Many Moriori women had children by their Maori masters. A small number of Moriori women eventually married either Maori or European men. Some were taken from the Chathams and never returned. Only 101 Moriori out of a population of about 2,000 were left alive by 1862 (Kopel et al., 2003). Although the last Moriori of unmixed ancestry, Tommy Solomon, died in 1933 there are several thousand mixed ancestry Moriori alive today.
That story ought to be taught to every single person who advocates for a Pacifist approach. It is not a unique outcome. It is the fundamental dynamic of predator and prey. The way to prevent it is para bellum.
It really is that simple. If you would have peace, prepare for war. The criminal, the bully, the invading cannibal tribe, the Evil Bastard, those who oppress others by any means and abuse the weak understand one thing. Attack those who are not able to fight back. Never be that person. Never be in that class. Never pursue that strategy of pacifist ideals. It is a dead end. Literally.
I think the basic (root cause) problem is that folks become enamored of what they would like. They want to ‘make a better world’. They forget (or never knew?) that what you like and what you want are not relevant to reality. Polar bears are not nice warm cuddly fur balls, no matter what you want and all it takes is one SOB in the world to kill you (and yours). There’s way more than one SOB in the world. Do I like the militarist / violent / fighting mindset or culture? No, not at all. I am, at the center of my being, fundamentally of the pacifist Buddhist ‘never harm any sentient living being’ sort. But “I learn”. And what I learned is that what I want is of no importance to the world. “Reality just is. -E.M.Smith”. So now I’m a nice fuzzy bunny pacifist who knows how to use a short sword, Uzi, shotgun, and kill with my bare hands. “Don’t mess with the Big Bunny. He bites back.” Every so often somebody doesn’t ‘get the memo’ and has to learn that all over again. Sometimes whole cultures. Sometimes they just all die and are replaced with other people who “get it”.
So avoid the dead end ideas. Learn from history so you don’t have to repeat it. And never ever expect “government” to be the guarantor of your safety. It just cleans up after the mess (at best) or is part of the cause (more often than desired). Not just as in W.W.II Germany and Japan, but throughout history in all ages.
On 19 November 1835, a British mercenary ship carrying 500 Māori armed with guns, clubs and axes arrived, followed by another ship on 5 December 1835 with a further 400 Māori. The Maori came from two tribes, the Tama and Mutunga. They proceeded to massacre the Moriori, who are thought to have numbered about 2,000, cannibalise the dead and enslave the survivors.
Got that? A British mercenary ship. Government sponsorship…
So keep those claws, teeth, spears, swords, arrows, and all nice and sharp and polish your guns and bows. Keep them visible, and a hand on the hilt of your belt knife. Smile politely and offer gifts and share your food; but never surrender your right to self defense and never expect a pacifist ideal to do anything but get you killed. Especially when a government is involved.