The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Climbing a Group Process Ladder

Anyone who gets into community development, social justice or other community work will end up working in groups.  An understanding of group dynamics and group processes can be beneficial.  There are many models that attempt to describe or explain the stages of a group coming together (being born), living together and ending.  One of the earliest, and still useful, is Cog’s Ladder – a model proposed by George O. Charrier (hence the c.o.g.) in 1972 when he was an employee of Proctor and Gamble.

Cog’s Ladder has five stages:
  1. Polite stage
  2. Why We’re Here stage
  3. Power stage
  4. Cooperation stage
  5. Esprit stage
Let’s look at each of these stages briefly.

Polite Stage

This initial stage is marked by cordiality, simplicity, lack of controversy, and (of course) politeness.  It is a time for group members to acquaint themselves with one another, or perhaps to become re-acquainted.  Most individuals in the group are keen to be liked and not cause waves.  Self-disclosure is kept to a minimum and ideas and actions are simple ones.

Why We’re Here Stage

In this stage people begin to leave aside their concerns about being liked to focus more on the purpose of the group.  There can be much discussion about group goals, agendas, and processes.  If a facilitator or leader is not already present, one may emerge at this stage who will set agendas and the topics for meeting and discussion.  It may also be a stage in which cliques begin to form, although often not rigidly so.  On a personal level, it is the stage at which people will begin to feel that they “fit in” and that the group is one they wish to remain part of.  This stage can see some members drift away.

Power Stage

This is the stage that requires patience and tolerance to get through.  It is the stage at which some group members may attempt to convince, or coerce, others into adopting their solution or way ahead.  There are bids for control of leadership of the group, with others forming alliances around the various power-players.  Many may go silent in this stage, wishing to stay out of the power games.  Conflict in the group rises and decisions taken in this stage may not be optimal.  The unity of the group that seemed to be emerging in the earlier stages dissipates and there is little sense of group identity.  For a facilitator of group processes this is possibly the stage at which your knowledge, skills and wisdom will be at their most useful.  Using this model can help a facilitator remain focused, at ease, and not get caught in a “what the hell is going on” merry-go-round.  it is not a time for a facilitator to step in and save a group.  Doing so could well back-fire.   The needs of the group at this stage are wide and include individual and group needs.  Individually, people may be in need of reassurance, acceptance, being heard.  The group may be in need of reframing its purpose, defining its structure, sharing of skills. 

Cooperation Stage

If a group can enter into a problem-solving mindset towards the end of the previous stage then it will be ready and willing to the cooperative stage.  In this stage, the conflicts of the previous stage are seen as opportunities to learn and to improve rather than as win-lose power battles.  A sense of group identity emerges, and leadership begins to be shared.  Solutions and decisions are better developed in this stage.  Solutions posed in the power stage that were initially rejected or resisted, may re-surface in this stage and be creatively explored.  Hallmarks of this stage are greater levels of listening and accepting of differences.  Once a group gets to this stage it is difficult for new members to fit in and be accepted.  To enable new members to fit in a group may need to go back to an earlier stage and repeat those stages.  Induction and/or mentoring practices may be of assistance in enabling new members to join without the need for the group to go back to earlier stages. 

Esprit Stage

The French word esprit means the quality of being lively, vivacious or witty.  Such liveliness certainly captures the sense of this stage well.  It is a stage at which groups feel as if they could do anything – almost take-on-the-world.  Not all groups reach this stage.  In order to get here they usually must pass through the previous four, including the power stage.  Once at this stage, the sense of cohesion is at a peak with contributions from members building on the contributions of others.  Creativity is high and the group often achieves more than it ever expected to.  Loyalty levels are high and the sense of satisfaction and achievement for individual members can be significant.  It is almost impossible for new members to join at this stage without the group having to go back to an earlier stage. 

Do you recognise these stages?  Have you experienced a group, or groups, that have attained the Esprit Stage?  For a facilitator of group processes and understanding of these stages can be useful.  Remember, however, that this is only a model of group process.  It works well – unless it doesn’t.  There will be times when it doesn’t.  That is the magic of human group processes.  None are ever the same, and none can ever be predicted in advance.  Where this model is useful is in allowing us to become comfortable with a process, including during the times of conflict, turmoil and disruption, knowing that we are all on the same journey.


Play with the ideas, and if you find them useful, it may even be worth outlining this model to a newly formed group early in its life so that group members are also more comfortable with the journey.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Questioning Memorials

Someone once said “what we memorise, we memorialise.”  Just five words, yet they summarise an unhelpful approach to our unfolding social development.

When we memorialise something we place it on a pedestal, or put it in a museum, and accord it an unquestioned status.  We place it in a state of reverence, locked away to be looked at and memorialised.  We place it beyond question.

Our memorialisation of war is a classic example.  Look around the countrysides and city squares of most nations and we will see statues, plaques, and other memorials to battles, famous generals, or memorials to the victims of those battles.  Some historical battles will be memorialised and remembered by services or parades.  We memorise – we memorialise.

But, do we question, do we learn, do we seek alternatives to war?  Mostly, the answer is no.

Questioning our past battles is often derided as being disrespectful towards those who fought for our country and our way of life.  Yet, is it not more respectful to acknowledge those who went before, and honour their memory by asking how their sacrifice can be something we can learn from, something we can build on.  It was the 18th century Irish statesman, Edmund Burke, who noted that “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Yes, we must know our history.  If we do not question it then how can we ever learn from it, so that we do not become doomed to repeat it.  The example of war, is only the most glaring of our cultural avoidance of questioning our past.  We must learn, or rediscover, how to question.  Not by forgetting or dishonouring, but by being respectful in our questioning. 

Our culture, however, steers us away from questioning.  Beginning in school, sometimes even earlier, we are told, as children that “kids should be seen and not heard.”  We are told to not ask so many questions, yet it is how we learnt as children.  We asked: why is the sky blue? why does grandpa use a walking stick? how do birds fly? what’s that?  Questions, questions, questions.  By the time of the age of four most children are asking around 300 or more questions each and every day.  School drums that out of us – answers become more important it seems.  If we don’t get the right answers then somehow we are unintelligent, or perhaps lazy. 

Once out of school, our culture doesn’t relent.  Our culture reminds us that our job in life is to toe the line, not question.  How many of us have been told in a work situation, “don’t ask questions, just do the job,” or “that’s not the way we do it round here.”  Follow the rules, don’t ask questions.

It is no wonder then, that when it comes to us attempting to learn from our past, from our history, we don’t seem to be able to do it.  Most of us, by adulthood, have lost the art of questioning.

We need to rediscover the art of questioning.  We need to be asking questions like: is there a better way? can we find alternatives to war? how do we avoid famine and poverty? how do we avoid species loss? how do we ensure a brighter future for the generations to come?

We start with each and every one of us not giving in to a  culture that says memorise this and don’t question it.  Then we move on to our families; we encourage our children to keep questioning.  We don’t stop there though.  We teach the art of questioning, the art of thinking for ourselves.  We teach and expect critical thinking.  We teach and encourage creative thinking.  In everyone!

We stop memorialising.  We start honouring our past so as to build on it.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Happy Birthday Henry David Thoreau

This week (12 July 2017) marks the 200th birthday of Henry David Thoreau.  Thoreau is generally acknowledged as one of the prominent forerunners of the modern day environmental and simplicity movements.  He also influenced many of the great civil disobedience activists such as Tolstoy, Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  The anarchist movement also claims him as an ancestor, although his writings are sometimes a bit ambiguous in this regard.

To acknowledge Thoreau Rainbow Juice decided to interview him on his 200th birthday.  What follows is a (fictional) transcript of that interview, using Thoreau’s own (italicised) words from his many writings.1

Rainbow Juice:  Happy birthday Mr Thoreau.  May I call you Henry?

Henry David Thoreau:  You may, and I thank you for the felicitations.

RJ:  Henry, you have been described as a forerunner of today’s environmental movement.  When you look around at the world today, 200 years after your birth, do you have any observations to make?

HDT:  I do.  Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours, Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the leopard; and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of human on human, – a sort of breeding in and in, which produces at most a merely English nobility, a civilisation destined to have a speedy limit.  I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.  Yet, adults become disconnected.  Girls and boys and young women generally seem glad to be in the woods.  They look in the pond and at the flowers, and improve their time.  Men of business, even farmers, think only of solitude and employment, and of the great distance at which I dwell from something or other; and although they say that they love a ramble in the woods occasionally, it is obvious that they do not.

RJ:  You speak of a civilisation destined to have a speedy limit.  Do you think that limit is closer now than at your time?

HDT: I cannot say whether we are closer to that limit, however, I will say that in Wildness is the preservation of the World.  All good things are wild and free.  There is something in a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the human voice, which by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds me of the cries emitted by wild beasts in their native forests.  It is so much of their wildness that I can understand.  Give me for my friends and neighbours wild people, not tame ones.  I would also say that if a person walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, they are in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if they spend the whole day as a speculator, shearing off these woods and making earth bald before her time, they are esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.  As if a town had no interest in its forests but to cut them down.

RJ:  So, you’re saying that we should calm down, take it easy, enjoy the woods and Nature.  And, in doing so we might discover something about ourselves?

HDT:  Indeed so.  This world is a place of business.  What an infinite bustle!  I am awakened almost every night by the panting of the locomotive.  It disrupts my dreams.  There is no sabbath.  It would be glorious to see mankind at leisure for once.  It is nothing but work, work, work.  I cannot easily buy a blank-book to write thoughts in; they are commonly ruled for dollars and cents.  If I were to offer one piece of advice it would be this: You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.  But lo! people have become the tools of their tools.  We no longer camp as for the night, but have settled down on the earth and forgotten heaven.

RJ:  Thank you.  You mention becoming tools of our tools.  You might have noticed how many people today are hastening around with tools stuck in their ears or their eyes gazing at a tool in the palm of their hands.  And those are just the more blatant examples of our tool-bearing culture.  Is there anything further you would like to say about tools and technology?

HDT:  Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things.  They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at.  Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life?  We are determined to be starved before we are hungry.  Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.  People say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches to-day to save nine tomorrow.  When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality.  By consenting to be deceived by shows, people establish and confirm their daily life of routine and habit everywhere, which still is built on purely illusory foundations.  Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than adults, who fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure.

HDT:  You make it sound so easy.  You seem to be suggesting that we re-discover our childhood innocence and take it easy on ourselves, and in the doing of that we will naturally take it easier on the earth.  What is the essential message you would have for those of us living 200 years after your birth?

HDT:  Simplify, simplify.  I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one’s self on this earth is not a hardship, but a pastime, if we will live simply and wisely.  It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know.  I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. 

RJ:  How do you suggest we begin to forget?

HDT:  First, it is not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.  It is a matter of shifting consciousness.  Once you can do that you will find that by living your beliefs you can turn the world around.

RJ:  Thank you so much Henry.  Thank you so much for spending this time with us on your 200th birthday.

Notes:

1. Some of the works from which Thoreau’s italicised words are taken include:  Walden (1854), Walking (1862), Life Without Principle (1863), Autumnal Tints (1867).  Thoreau wrote many other works for publications and magazines as well as the highly influential Civil Disobedience (1849)

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Devotion to Voting

Every few years we head to the local church hall or community centre.  We get handed a slip of paper and are pointed to a private cubicle in which there are pens with which we can put marks on the paper we’ve just been handed.  We dutifully place our ticks or crosses on the sheet, leave the cubicle and drop the slip of paper into a box with a slit in the top.  Our slip of paper drops into the box and mingles with hundreds of other, similar, slips of paper.  We leave the hall and go back to our homes, our jobs, our families, our lives.

We have just voted.

What have we done in those few minutes that we were inside the polling booth?  Some say we have exercised our power.  Some say we have done our civic duty.  Others claim it as our democratic right.  Still others suggest that it is a waste of time.  Have we achieved what we intend?  And, what really is our intention?

In the western world power was wrested away from the monarchs and landed gentry and placed within the hands of ordinary people in what we call democracy.  And it did what we intended it to do – at least for awhile.  But, can we truly say that democracy fulfils our intentions today?  Take a good long hard look at democracy and we may just find that we have to answer that question with a resounding NO!

No, democracy no longer fulfils the intention of equality.  No, democracy no longer fulfils the intention of fraternity.  No, democracy no longer fulfils the intention of liberty. 

When we vote we are voting not for the wellbeing of all of us, we are voting for power.  We vote for ideologies.  We are voting so that one political party can win, and the others lose.  We are voting for winners and losers.  No longer are we part of “we the people” – we are now caught in the trap of dualistic power plays: National/Labour, Republican/Democrat, Liberal/Conservative, Tories/Whigs.  If we are part of the majority then we come out as the winners.  We shout and rejoice.  If not, we are losers.  What happens to the losers in our current democratic system?  More so, what happens to the minorities who cannot even aspire to being losers?  Often they are completely excluded.

In a winners/losers game what happens to the intention of wellbeing for all?  It is sidelined, and mostly completely ignored.  The winners come to power to implement their agenda.  A big part of that agenda is to gain more power, or at least the chance of more power at the next election.  The best that can be achieved in terms of wellbeing for all under that scenario is short-term decision making.  Decisions are made with the intention of consolidating support from those who are likely to vote for the winners at the next election.  Hardly a scenario for healthy long-term planning and decision-making.

Yet, we remain devoted to voting.

Democracy is No Longer Representative

Our elected representatives have become less and less representative.  Our representatives more and more come from wealthy backgrounds, high status occupations, or from the realms celebrity-hood.  Ominously, our representatives are more and more likely to represent a newly emergent occupation – the career politician.

Yet we continue our devotion to voting.

Democracy should not be considered a static thing.  Democracy can, and should, evolve and change.  Unfortunately, it is presently moving in unhelpful and unhealthy ways.  No longer are we the people exercising our power – we are throwing it away.  No longer are we doing our civic duty - big money and big business are draining democracy of any civics that may have been there.  

What To Do

What then to do in the face of the collapse of representative democracy?  Campaigns to get people out to vote are only going to exacerbate the problem.  People are deserting the voting system in increasing numbers – certainly in the western democracies.  Many would claim this is because of widespread apathy.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  What if the decline in voter turnout is due to dissatisfaction and disgruntlement with politics, politicians and the voting system itself.  There is evidence to suggest this may be the case.

If it is the latter, then what are the next steps for the democratic journey?  This site has previously suggested sortition (the selection of decision-makers by lot) as worthy of consideration.  Previous posts can be see here, here, here, and here.


In the meantime we will need to let go of representative democracy, reject electoral politics, and give up our devotion to voting.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Creating Us (Book Review)

In a world in which the neo-liberal globalising project robs us of our creativity and our souls, a book titled Creating Us is worth checking out.  So it is with Peter Westoby’s latest offering.  The sub-title - community work with soul - suggests that this is a book worth more than checking out – it is a book worth relishing.

For decades, centuries even, community workers and social justice activists have sought a better world.  We have sought that world in the mountains of idealism and the peaks of activism.  Community work has been redolent with visions, goals – an ever upward striving.

Westoby, in this book, encourages us to divert our gaze (at least occasionally) from the mountain tops towards the valleys and dales where soul resides.  He succinctly notes that “soulful energy within community work practice is … oriented towards gravity and earth, thereby implying a depth perspective.” 

Why is it important, or useful, for community workers to descend towards soul?  Westoby offers a number of answers to this question.

Soul allows us to experience life in greater quality.  Much of our socialised life is quantity driven – the need to get results and to make things happen.  Soul, Westoby claims, wants us to let go and “invites an embracing of community work as a responsive dance.”  Perhaps tragically, community workers can become so locked into making things happen that we forget the meaning of what we are doing.  That is what, he says, is what bringing a soulful approach to community work can guard against.

Looking around the world we can see the dominance of ego.  The ego, Westoby suggests, “wants control, domination and an unified story.”  Soul however, is more comfortable with “multiplicity and complexity,” and seeks these out, if we let it.  Increasingly it is becoming obvious that we must recognise and understand the realities of complexity.  Soul allows us to do this.

The reader of this short book (it is only 140 A5 pages long) will not be disappointed by Westoby’s more detailed musings on these and other answers to the question as to the importance or usefulness of soul in community work.

It is foremostly, a book of reflections.  It is a soulful book.  It is a enchanting book.  Westoby colours in theoretical outlines with stories from his own practice and pertinent quotes from soul thinkers – e.g. Rabindranath Tagore, James Hillman, Mary Watkins, and Thomas Moore.  Adding to the colour and poetic quality of the book are ten delightful Leunig cartoons.1

For those of us seeking a soulful approach to community work, social justice advocacy, or anyone desiring a better world, Creating Us is an excellent place to begin that journey, or indeed, be reminded of that journey if one has already begun.

To watch a 13 minute clip of Peter Westoby discussing the concept of soul in community work click here.

Notes:

1. Michael Leunig is an Australian cartoonist known for his wonderful, and sometimes cynical, yet always whimsical, commentaries on life and the human condition.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Two Faces of Empathy

Empathy – the ability to understand and to feel the emotional state of another.  Sounds like a helpful state to be in doesn’t it?  Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t.

Empathy can lead towards healthy states of understanding – except when it doesn’t.  Sometimes it can lead towards aggression and even violence.  “What?” I hear the cries.  “How can empathy lead towards violence?  Surely stepping into the shoes of another leads us to understanding their situation more clearly and hence to trust them as if they were ourselves?”  Yes, I can hear those questions of doubt.  I had them too until I came across some research that suggests that empathy can, indeed, create harm.

The conundrum arises when the person whose shoes we are stepping into is a victim.  With an empathy for that person we can come to identify with them and their pain so much that we want to right the wrong, perhaps even to the point of inflicting violence on the perpetrator.

History abounds with instances of empathy dissolving into righteous anger and violence against perceived perpetrators of oppression, exploitation, or simply disregard of another.  When the invasion of Iraq was being planned, one of the methods used to get support for the invasion was stories of the abuses committed by Saddam Hussein and his sons.  We empathised with the victims and became complicit in the invasion of Iraq as a a result of our empathy.

Our criminal justice systems are awash with this phenomenon.  A young man punches another in a drunken brawl on a Saturday night, the victim sustaining broken teeth and a fractured jaw.  Our empathy for the victim leads us to wanting the offender to be locked up and punished because of the compassion we now have for the victim.

Our compassion in each of these examples leads us to aggression and violence (of varying degrees) towards the perpetrator of the abuse.  The justification for such aggression can be argued back and forth, and I do not intend discussing that here.  What I do want to point to is that our empathy can become so attached to a victim that we may even wish an aggressive response towards someone who is not the perpetrator – even towards someone who is removed from the situation.  This is the research carried out by Anneke Buffone and Michael Poulin and reported in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.1

In their research Buffone and Poulin told experiment participants that two (fictional) strangers were to take a test that if they won would give them a financial reward, whereas the other would receive nothing.  The participants in the study pre-read an essay by one of the two fictional competitors in which they talked about the financial and other hardships they were experiencing.  One half of the participants read an essay in which the concluding remarks were fearful with the fictional person wondering “What if I need to pay for something else I didn’t expect?”  The other half read the same essay except that the concluding remarks were hopeful and claimed “I’m pretty sure things will get better soon.”  The participants then had the opportunity to administer pain (by way of getting the fictional competitor to eat hot sauce) on this person’s competitor, should they wish to do so.  The researchers discovered that participants were likely to administer the ‘hot sauce’ treatment to the competitor of the person experiencing financial hardship – even though that person had no relationship with the other and had nothing to do with the supposed hardship of the other.  The likelihood of the participants administering the ‘hot sauce’ was increased in the case where the essay concluded on a fearful note.

This research suggests that our empathy can lead us towards an aggressive response towards someone unassociated with a victim.  Thus, our compassion for a victim could lead towards creating further victims.  We see this occurring too.  The current anti-Muslim crusade in the wake of terrorist attacks is a highly visible one.  Muslim people are becoming victimised, even though they have nothing to do with the perpetrators of terrorism.

So, what to do about empathy?  The first thing we can do is to understand that everything is connected and that there cannot be a single pathway towards social justice.  Empathy is not a single pathway.  Many centuries before Buffone and Poulin carried out their research the difficulty of working with empathy on its own had been given consideration by Zen Buddhist monks.  Within that practice there is a saying that “For the bird of enlightenment to fly, it must have two wings: the wing of wisdom and the wing of compassion.” 

Acting only from a sense of compassion, fuelled by our empathy, we can easily lose ourselves in aggression, a desire for retribution or even violence.  We need to fly with both wings.  The wing of wisdom allows us to bring a full understanding to events and situations.  Wisdom allows us to see the big picture, to recognise the inter-connections, to appreciate our common humanity.  Yet, wisdom alone can become dispassionate, detached or aloof.  Traditional western thinking separates compassion and wisdom, the former being consigned to emotional states and the latter primarily of an intellectual nature.  Eastern psychology (as exemplified in the Zen saying) recognises that the two “wings” are required to allow us to fly.

When we fly in such a way we do so with grace and purpose.  We fly with greater awareness. 

Notes:

1. Anneke E. K. Buffone, and Michael J. Poulin, Empathy, Target Distress, and Neurohormone Genes Interact to Predict Aggression for Others–Even Without Provocation, in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 2014, Vol. 40(11) 1406–1422

Monday, 12 June 2017

Remembering the Grandfather of Nonviolence

This week I am re-posting a blog that I wrote four years ago.  Four years ago I wrote about the "Grandfather of Nonviolence" and his nonviolent resistance to British colonisation in New Zealand around half a century before Gandhi.  Now (June 2017, almost 136 years later) the government of New Zealand formally apologised to the inhabitants of Parihaka and to the descendants of Te Whiti, Tohu and those that followed them.  For interested readers here is a link to the news item about this historic apology.

Below is the blog I wrote four years ago.

****************************************

Mohandas K Gandhi has often been referred to as the “father of nonviolence.”  Certainly, Gandhi did much to make nonviolence a recognised and moral strategy of conflict and resistance, but he did not invent it.

Te Whiti o Rongomai
Almost half a century before Gandhi on the slopes of Taranaki (one of the highest mountains in New Zealand’s North Island) two Māori leaders, Te Whiti o  Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, were utilising nonviolent resistance methods against British colonisers.

Prelude

During the 1860s New Zealand had witnessed land wars between the colonising Europeans and the indigenous owners, the Māori.  With the Māori largely militarily defeated, the government confiscated large areas of land, including land around Taranaki.

In 1867 Te Whiti and Tohu founded the village of Parihaka on land that had been “confiscated.”  They declared that they would not use weapons to hold onto the land that they had occupied for centuries before the coming of the European.  Initially this action was of no threat to the government as there were too few colonial settlers desiring land.  The village of Parihaka flourished.  Taranaki’s Medical Office visited in 1871 and described the village as having an abundance of food, no disease and that they were “the finest race of men (sic) I have ever seen in New Zealand.”

The Ploughmen

However, during the 1870s Taranaki was experiencing a surge in immigration.  In 1879 surveyors were marking out roads and plots for European settlers.  In May of that year Māori ploughmen began ploughing the fields that were supposedly “owned” by white settlers.  The government responded by arresting the ploughmen, who offered no resistance.  As soon as they were arrested others took their place.  Te Whiti encouraged them to nonviolence by exhorting
“Go put your hands to the plough.  Look not back.  If any come with guns or swords, be not afraid.  If they smite you, smite not in return.  If they rend you, be not discouraged.  Another will take up your good work.”
By August that year, over 200 ploughmen had been arrested.  Fearing that if brought to trial many would be freed the Native Minister (John Bryce) introduced a Bill to Parliament that ensured that the prisoners would be held in custody indefinitely.

The Fencers

1880 saw the government building roads in the area including one that led directly to Parihaka.  These roads were built mainly by unemployed men with the promise of free land.  The Māori response, under Te Whiti’s leadership, was to erect fences across the roads.  Again, as soon as the fences were pulled down, Māori quickly re-erected them.

With the government continuing to sell “confiscated” land in the area, Te Whiti’s followers continued to fence, plough and cultivate the lands paying no heed to survey pegs or notices of sale.

Invasion

By October 1881 the New Zealand Premier (Richard Hall) with the re-imposed Minister of Native Affairs (John Bryce) completed plans to invade Parihaka.

At dawn on 5 November 1881 almost 1,600 armed constabulary and volunteers encircled Parihaka.  Although settler newspapers were claiming that Te Whiti was fortifying and arming Parihaka, the troops were met by “a line of children across the entrance… (who) sat there unmoving… even when a mounted officer galloped up.  There were skipping-parties of girls on the road.”  (first-hand account given by Colonel William Bazire Messenger)

Arriving at the centre of the village the invaders found 2,500 Māori sitting together.  The soldiers were offered food and drink by the Parihaka inhabitants.  Te Whiti and others put up no resistance to their arrest.  Te Whiti was charged, cynically, with “wickedly, maliciously and seditiously contriving and intending to disturb the peace” and held without trial.

Upon his release in 1883 Te Whiti returned to Parihaka and continued to lead nonviolent protest at colonist occupation.  He was arrested and imprisoned again in 1886 for six months.

Parihaka continued as a centre of nonviolent resistance until the death of both Te Whiti and Tohu in 1907.

Epilogue

Between 2001 and 2006 the New Zealand government formally apologised to four of the tribes involved in the resistance.  Redress amounting to millions of dollars was paid out.

Followers of Te Whiti and Tohu continue to meet monthly, proudly wearing the white albatross feathers – Te Whiti’s symbol.

Was Te Whiti o Rongomai the Grandfather of Nonviolence?  Perhaps he was.  There are suggestions that Gandhi was aware of Te Whiti and his teachings, via a couple of Irish journalists who had visited Parihaka and later met with Gandhi.