Massey Uni celebrates colonialism and war

Livingstone_main

An example of how academia and the military are united in promoting war and colonialism.

Universities aren’t what they used to be – or supposed to have been. A long time ago, they were supposed to be places of critical thinking and academic freedom, a place where the status quo could be challenged. The wider society considered this a good thing to have, and consequently, universities were publicly funded and students were given allowances to be able to attend.

With the arrival of the neoliberal agenda in the mid 80s, all this changed and today, universities are businesses like any other. They charge ‘market rate’ fees in return for slightly improved career chances for the individual attending. The thinking within academia has changed accordingly. Recently, the academic representation on the board of Victoria University refrained from having their say in the ‘roadmap’ for the university, saying that those are business decisions that should be left to business people. Suum cuique.

Nevertheless, there are always surprises as to how much the thinking has changed. In April, the Massey University Alumni Association will be hosting a series of events to celebrate the life of David Livingstone.

Invitation - David Livingstone
Africa’s Greatest Explorer The Man, the Missionary and the Myth - By Colonel Paul Bayly FRGS

What a headline! Almost every noun a negative: explorer, man, missionary, myth. But it gets better:

You and your guest are invited to join us to hear Colonel Paul Bayly FRGS talk about the life and legacy of Dr David Livingstone. The event will be followed by the launch of his book on the great explorer.

Dr Livingstone covered over 29,000 miles across Southern Africa, and opened up approximately one million square miles of uncharted territory. To this day it is considered one of the toughest series of expeditions ever undertaken. Dr Livingstone was strongly supported by Sir George Grey, Governor of both New Zealand and Cape Colony (South Africa)

Those who thought that this blatant kind of colonial language had disappeared from the modern vocabulary are being proven wrong. Opening up “uncharted territory” - a term that wrongly suggests that the land was also uninhabited - means nothing else but surveying it, carving it up and making it available for Europeans to exploit. Livingstone’s expeditions started the “Scramble for Africa”, the beginning of more than 150 years of misery for people living on a continent that is rich in all kinds of resources. Millions of Africans who live in abject poverty today will be thanking Livingstone.

Opening up uncharted territory also involved building what he called “God’s Highway” - a 1500 mile road that was supposed to bring “Christianity and civilization” to Africa. To be fair, he did also crusade against the slave trade.

But Livingstone’s own claims exemplify his colonial attitude, in which only Europeans and their thinking count. He claimed to have discovered the Victoria Falls in 1855. Discovering usually means being the first human to see something, but not so for Livingstone. The truth is, the local people already had their own name for the falls (which he conveniently ignored) and they led Livingstone to the site. He didn’t discover the falls at all, he gave them an English name.

Of course, opening up uncharted territory is exactly what happened in Aotearoa at the same time, and it is therefore no surprise that Governor Grey supported Livingstone. In Africa and Aotearoa, then and now, it is the combination of profit driven business and military power that moves the colonial project forward. Who could therefore be better suited to writing Livingstone’s biography than a retired NZ colonel, who is a partner in an investment banking company that specialises in mergers and acquisitions. Exactly why Bayly thought it necessary to write yet another book on Livingstone is unclear – a search for the name on amazon yields 4012 hits.

But the links between university, business and the military go even further here. The invite to the book launch finishes with this open threat:

All proceeds from the evening will support the Centenary History Programme - The Centenary History Programme is a partnership between Massey University, the New Zealand Defence Force, The RNZRSA and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage to produce the first definitive written history of New Zealand’s experience of the First World War.

The circle completes - the proceeds of the glorification of colonialism go to a project that glorifies war, funded by the colonial government. This is what academic freedom looks like in the year 2014. I suspect we will see a lot more of it once the “Centenary History Programme” gets in full swing.

Book launch dates:
Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tuesday April 8
The Boatshed Wellington - Wednesday April 9
Te Manawa Palmerston North - Thursday April 10

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able bodied / disabled maaroherohe / hauaa in solidarity and best wishes

Thanks for the observant and insightful journalism

The Indymedia Network

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