Friday, 30 July 2021 06:55

Is it history or whose story?

Written by  Tim Gilberston
With 90% of NZ's population urban-based, farmers are politically irrelevant. With 90% of NZ's population urban-based, farmers are politically irrelevant.

OPINION: They're about to start teaching New Zealand history in schools.

This is long overdue. As Henry Ford famously said, "History is bunk" - by which he meant interpreting the past is hopelessly compromised by the views and prejudices of the present.

Our new syllabus is no exception. It is shaping up as a reflection of the current fashion that says England/Pakeha bad: Maori/Polynesia good. A more accurate account suggests that history is the constant repetition of the same human faults and frailties in slightly differing form.

For example: Witches. Back in the day, identifying witches was easy. The suspect was thrown in the village pond. If she sank she was innocent. If she floated, she was guilty, dragged out and burnt at the stake - a system not dissimilar to modern problem solving. Good ideas sink without trace while the dross is hauled ashore and enshrined in legislation.

Hate speech is a case in point. It defies explanation or classification. Making it illegal will make no difference because hatred is caused by ignorance and stupidity. The cure is open discussion, reasoned debate and education.

Voltaire said: "I despise you for what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it" which sums it up. He was drowned in the village pond soon afterwards. It would make more sense to pass a law making breathing compulsory. Don't you hate it when bad ideas become law!

Another good idea is to adopt the European model, developed over thousands of years, of planting forests on the poorer land while cultivating or grazing the best country. This idea has also gone to the bottom of the pond in favour of disfiguring the countryside, annihilating rural communities and enriching urban investors and foreign corporates for no long term benefit. Not to mention the California type fire storms that will rage across vast swathes of Aotearoa - as climate change kicks in.

Firearms reform was way overdue well before the mosque massacre. It made sense to create a special license for those needing high powered semi-automatics and take the big guns off everyone else. The new law denies these weapons to everyone - except to gang members who need them to defend themselves against Australian interlopers.

Building flood retention and water storage dams throughout the land is an urgent priority given the increasing incidence of flood and drought. In 1921, the Local Rivers Board minuted the fact that flood retention dams in the hills were essential to control flooding on the plains. A century later, we are still waiting!

Farmers aren't much smarter. Now that 90% of our population is urban, we are politically irrelevant. Our local Fed Farmers branch held their provincial AGM last month. Fifteen farmers out of a potential 500 turned up. Not one mayor, councillor, MP or local dignitary showed his/her face.

Meanwhile, Greenies, Maori and marijuana smokers have all started their own parties with spectacular success. Farming has Groundswell, carrying on the sacred country tradition of complaining bitterly about everything, setting up a committee and then heading home to milk the cows.

A broad-based country coalition party with a few seats in Parliament would transform our prospects overnight. That concept rarely gets its head above water before sinking without a trace. I'm thinking of starting one - if there's nothing on Netflix.

Tim Gilbertson is a central Hawke's Bay farmer.

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