Cultural Pie in the Sky – the erosion of Western culture at our own hands

Guest post

I was a bit surprised that Whaleoil has made no comment about Wellington Mayor Justin Lester’s decision – reported over the weekend – to scrap the annual Guy Fawkes Fireworks Display and instead will have a fireworks display at the Matariki celebrations, in July.

“Wellington’s mayor is pulling the plug on the city’s 22-year-old Guy Fawkes festival in favour of the M?ori New Year festival, Matariki.

Mayor Justin Lester said Matariki ought to be a cornerstone celebration, rather than the long-running November tradition, which marked the anniversary of an attempt to blow up British parliament more than 400 years ago.

Wellington’s Sky Show, which is usually held in November, is the largest annual fireworks display put on by a city council in New Zealand.

But from next year, the council will move its annual major fireworks event to the cultural festival in July.” – Stuff

First of all, let me say that I have no problem with fireworks at a Matariki Festival. Or even with a Matariki Festival at all. I might even go along – although, it will be in the middle of winter, which may mean inclement weather. I have no problem with Diwali festivals either – the lights are usually beautiful and colourful, and people seem to have a great time.

I have also enjoyed Chinese New Year celebrations, (the fireworks there are usually very impressive) and I love Dragon Boat festivals, which we have been observing here in New Zealand for most of the last 30 years.

But I don’t understand why we have to scrap the annual Guy Fawkes display in favour of the Matariki event. Why can’t we mark both cultural events? Why does it have to be one or the other?

November is a much nicer time for fireworks after all. Sure, it doesn’t get dark enough until about 8.30, but it is warmer, and the fireworks can be seen from all parts of the Wellington area – we often stop along the Hutt Road to watch them – and they are amazing.

So it saddens me to see that this glorious Wellington spectacle will be no more.

But there is so much more to this.

Why is it – time and time again – that it is the European festival that is discarded?

It is not as if Europeans do not have a long and rich history and culture. And British history – of which Guy Fawkes is a part – is the cornerstone of the developed world. We should be proud of it.
But we are not. Or at least, we are not allowed to be.

I mean no disrespect to anyone, but it is actually me – and all others of European descent – who are being continually disrespected. No one ever seems to think or care, about that. We just go down and down, one more discarded event at a time.

You only have to look at the problems that Auckland University had with its European Society – they had to fold, being branded as a bunch of Nazis – for being what? European? Why is that?
Take a look at some of the quality historical dramas on TV at the moment – Victoria, Outlander, Vikings, The Crown….. Whose history do they recall? And they tend to tell the story honestly – at least, more honestly than many cultures.

That is because European culture is very sophisticated. It can look hard at itself and recognise its mistakes. It can try to address those mistakes and improve. Many countries in the world have benefited hugely from European culture – and, let’s face it, many African countries would be much better off if they had not thrown off ‘the yoke of colonialism’ quite so soon. Or ever. Not a politically correct thing to say, I know – but there is truth in that, nonetheless.

I have no problem living in a multicultural society – actually, I quite like it – but the thing is, of all the Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Pacific Islanders, and people of other races that I know – most of them, who live here, are prepared to embrace European culture as well. Maoris, in particular, enjoy their own celebrations, and all of the European ones – they celebrate Christmas, Easter, New Year, Halloween – and Guy Fawkes. Yes – poor old Guy Fawkes. And most New Zealanders celebrate Waitangi Day – not the disgraceful carry on up North, but many Maoris disavow that too.

Europeans and Maori tend to agree that Waitangi Day festivals could be done differently. And that they could be done better.

So why do I find that all the festivals that I hold dear are disappearing?

We don’t need to lose the Guy Fawkes celebrations. We don’t need to lose Matariki celebrations either – or any others, for that matter. We need to recognise that all cultures have a place in our society – including European ones. Nazis were a part of European culture, yes – but they were a part that lasted no more than a couple of decades, in a response to an unfair war settlement that allowed a lot of social and economic catastrophe – and the corresponding resentment – to take shape.

So what do we do?

Seriously – how do we stop this?

– Christie