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WW1 – Empire not democracy

The Editor, The Dominion Post, Wellington

31 July, 2014

Dear Editor:

Did New Zealand go off to WW1 in order to save democracy and freedom?  “But the Germans were not the only imperialists and not the only ones to succumb to paranoia.  The crisis that brought war in 1914 was the fruit of a shared political culture. . . “  This quote from UK historian Christopher Clark from his book “The Sleepwalkers”.  The shared political culture was empire and accompanying colonial expansion.  Regardless of the form of democratic representational (or not) government in the combatant countries their power structures all were of that one imperial mind.  After the war, New Zealand PM Massey declared, not the independence of New Zealand, but rather that it had become an “equal partner” in the British Empire.

The mythology that New Zealand’s entry into the war was about saving democracy persists today.   “Lest we forget” should identify it as an adolescent national mythology and remember that promotion of empire and colonialism was the fundamental mindset at work.  To fail to do so would endanger our ability to confront today’s main challenges of nuclear weapons and climate change, both products of a continuing imperial-like exploitation mentality.

Sincerely,

Richard Keller

published Monday, 4 Aug.

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