Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: You know what ...

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  • Islander, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    May I make a point about the - very loaded word- utu?
    It specifically means "balance" or "balanced transaction".

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Islander,

    That's true, but I doubt the ComPost was being that nuanced. It would be well out of character for them.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Creon Upton, in reply to richard,

    richard,

    You miss the point re freedom of expression. Yes, it is limited under law.

    However, when the chief censor decides not to restrict something controversial, that decision affirms and strengthens the general principle, and deepens our understanding of it, and helps us to grow in our relationship with it. (And of course gives ammunition and perspective to those who oppose it.)

    And I was making an analogy between that phenomenon and the upholding of the rule of law even in a situation where we're most inclined not to care about it -- not an unreasonable analogy I think.

    As for your postulated scenarios re the death in question, well, neither of us will ever know (and I for one don't care) about who had guns and who didn't and who hid behind the tv.

    My point was simply that if you're the US military taking on a house, if you really want to keep the occupants alive, you probably can. And if you're the US military and you really believe in the honour of the rule of law, doing so would be a priority, regardless of who those occupants were.

    And I think it's worth asking the question whether it was a priority?

    And maybe it was, and maybe it was simply unavoidable, like you say, to shoot to kill.

    Who knows.

    But what most people seem to be saying is "Who cares?" It seems to me that we should care -- just a little bit anyway.

    Well, whatever: I've stopped caring myself, so to quote the nearly-indefatigable Simon Grigg: I'm out.

    Cheers.

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2007 • 68 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to richard,

    However the right to free speech is not absolute. It is abridged (for good reason) by strictures on defamation and libel,

    To be a bit pedantic, libel is a subset of defamation. It would be more correct to say “libel and slander” I think. (And no, it ain’t for good reason - “obscenity laws” even less so.)

    …and the famous requirement that you abstain from yelling fire in a crowded theatre.

    That’s not a freedom of speech issue. (And one should always yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre if the theatre is on fire.)

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1165 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steve Parks,

    And one should always yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre if the theatre is on fire.

    What if it's full of Nazis?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    What if it's full of Nazis?

    Heh

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    This site is largely populated by thinking people who basically believe in the fundamentals – rule of law, so forth. It behooves you, I believe, to consider not only that this is a situation where (as is always the case) an exception to the fundamentals should not be made on the basis of convenience or public mood or righteousness or anything else – but also that if we truly believe in what we say then this is the very situation where we should prove that we do.

    Well said Creon.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Islander,

    It specifically means “balance” or “balanced transaction”.

    May I ask a question about that? I've read the definitions online and understand that meaning but I also had the feeling that Utu as a word had nuances beyond what might be viewed as a commercial transaction. I really don't know exactly but seemed to me to be a complex word in actual usage, one that could mean quite different things depending on context. Can someone who actually knows the language explain it to someone who definitely doesn't?

    Oh and +1 for Creon

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Utu definitely means more than "what might be viewed as a commercial transaction" ! If - to use an old piece of my tribe's history - a cloak was was worn by a slave, and that cloak belonged to the highest-ranking chief, the upoko-ariki, then there was a huge slight to that chief's mana that could only be balanced by the slave's death. If the slave had high-ranking relatives (and she did) her death was a slight to them & their mana, which could only be balanced by the death of one of the upoko ariki's relatives...and thus began the infamous Kai-huaka ('eat relatives') feud. Marriage transactions, gifts of land, pounemu - all could return social relationships/'pay' for damaged mana and so bring back harmony. Balance.
    You can see why the word came to be used as 'payment' or 'pay-back' (or in modern times, for money.)
    Warning! 'Utu' has many other root meanings too-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    So, if you were an American imperialist, you could view killing 100,000+ brown people in revenge for 4,000 USians as reasonable, because USians have higher status (in your view) than Iraqis and Afghans.

    Alternatively, as Osama, you could regard making the US spend over a trillion dollars in return for a few thousand bucks worth of flying lessons and a couple of dollars for boxcutters as being an equally balanced transaction. And all the dead people went to paradise, or not, depending on their worthiness.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Islander,

    So Utu means "balance of ..." where the unit being balanced could be a range of things?
    That explains its use to describe wars and revenge since what is described as simple revenge is in reality more about balancing perceived loss. Is that right?
    In your example it is balance of mana/status, but could it also be balance of goods or material things? It is ever used to describe a balanced trade eg between tribes or families? Could it be used to describe a dowry or is that outside the meaning?

    Sorry kind of off topic but it's a word that interests me because it doesn't seem to translate well into english. And because it does seem to be an important word in history.

    And tell me if I stray into offensive areas - happy to bugger off :).

    And Rich, I think if you were trying to apply "Utu" to the killing of OBL then you would have to value the symbol of the twin towers, which could be argued to be worth much more than the lives lost. Not that I think trying to "balance" using death is all that noble a proposition.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Utu means “balance of …” where the unit being balanced could be a range of things?
    That explains its use to describe wars and revenge since what is described as simple revenge is in reality more about balancing perceived loss. Is that right?

    Yes - there is always an element of reciprocity with this kind of utu

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    n your example it is balance of mana/status, but could it also be balance of goods or material things? It is ever used to describe a balanced trade eg between tribes or families? Could it be used to describe a dowry or is that outside the meaning?

    Very much so: one of the extraordinary treasures that are held in the South is a crudely-carved wakahuia that contained
    70 huia feathers (many paired)
    20 bunches of red kaka-feathers,
    wrapped in southern tapa, and covered by a further, finely-plaited wrapper.
    The box & contents are undated but proably would come from the early 1800s – kaka were not in the least uncommon in the South – but huia were found only in the North.Since it was found on the east coast side* (near the Clutha) one could postulate that it was being carried over the Coast…pehea, payment for pounemu?
    But – there are no stories about it, and given the considerable upsets that occurred within Kai Tahu in the 1800s – not to mention the incursions of Te Rauparaha in the 1830s – we’ll probably never know…it is, however, almost certainly a transaction between hapu.
    * It was found by a Pakeha under a rock overhang in 1892, and Mr G Rae promptly donated it to the Otago Museum. I had the wonderful pleasure of viewing it last month at “Mo Tatou.”

    ‘Doweries’ is a leetle fraught: highborn women were sometimes married to seal a peace agreement (Te Tatau Pounemu) & in that circumstance, land rights were frequently given/exchanged.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Islander,

    Thank you, I feel less stupid now :)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I was told, by someone* who was a distant relation but who knew my whakapapa better than I did then, "Asking for information isnt stupid. Not asking when you are ignorant, is stupid."

    *Taua Fan Gillies, who was one of the highborn Ngai Tahu women married into Ngati Toa to stop the hatred & possible utu from Rauparaha's raids south. I still have - hell, I'll be dead before it goes out of my hands!- the kete she made & gave me, when I visited with Irihapeti Ramsden (who was her great-niece.) It keeps my poenemu & whalebone hei safe.

    It's good to be thinking about these things again Bart. Thanks.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

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