Remembering our mistakes helps us avoid making them again

Parihaka in South Taranaki was invaded on November 5 in 1881. Any commemorations of the day in New Zealand are largely overshadowed by Guy Fawkes night, at which the failure of a plot to blow up the English House of Lords in 1605 was foiled.

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Parihaka in South Taranaki was invaded on November 5 in 1881. Any commemorations of the day in New Zealand are largely overshadowed by Guy Fawkes night, at which the failure of a plot to blow up the English House of Lords in 1605 was foiled.

OPINION: Try this. Challenge yourself to think of November 5 as a day to remember the 1881 invasion of Parihaka rather than the day in 1605 that Guy Fawkes failed to blow up England’s House of Lords.

It’s not easy. 

Quite apart from meaning you’d have to give up fireworks, it might also mean taking real steps to acknowledge a grave injustice on our own soil that is far from being healed 138 years after the wound was inflicted.

Whatever you gain from such a thought experiment there is little chance of it going beyond a thought any time soon.

READ MORE:
* Guy Fawkes is a British celebration which has no place in NZ
* Editorial: Time for a ban, a date change, or both?
* The future of Guy Fawkes may not come with a bang
* Guy Fawkes season ignites anger among Hamiltonians

New Zealanders love letting off fireworks. The reason for doing so on November 5 is largely immaterial. It’s mainly about lighting things that go bang. 

Any attempt to remove such an opportunity from the national calender, even if it is to be replaced with an event of significantly greater relevance to us as Kiwis, will be challenged. Not to defend Guy Fawkes but to defend fireworks.

If anything, moves to force something like Parihaka Day on the country is likely to have the reverse effect and invigorate Guy Fawkes celebrations. It must be a decision we all arrive at in our own way. That’s going to take time. 

Actually Guy Fawkes is already on its way out. Public fireworks displays on the night are increasingly rare and restrictions around their sale mean there’s less bang every year.  

If it carries on this way letting off fireworks on November 5 is something only a minority of people will want to do. 

Which would be appropriate. It would be shame if the day was forgotten completely. It has been part of the country’s culture for at least 179 years and can be great fun.

But we’ve also grown up a lot in since 1840 and while the last two centuries of this country have largely been about one culture’s dominance over another, the future is looking to be more enlightened. 

The future is moving towards one of shared vision, of partnerships. Ultimately that will be better for everyone.  

But acknowledging examples of where that partnership failed in the past is key. It will not only help us develop a culture of trust and understanding, it will help us avoid making the same mistakes again. 

Matt Rilkoff is the Taranaki regional editor for Stuff