Friday, January 1, 2010

Blue Latitudes Ch4

Ethan Beswick


  Reading historical entries, such as those written on Cook’s voyages, are usually controversial to the peoples whom are encountered.  Tales of barbarism and belligerence are often viewed as a baseline from which the “civilized explorers”  elevate the natives from, but rarely do we see the arguments and anger of the natives in such dialogue as we do in this chapter.  We have seldom come upon factual, and unbiased, accounts of the cultures explored, so it is no surprise that Cook was unable to break the mold.  However, the author, while possessing an unusual and rather tiresome style, demonstrated a surprising ability to be impartial, while still being able to present views from both the natives and the Pakeha.  
                Often we have ideas of the Conquistadors and tales of the dominant explorers of the west, yet, while there are references to cannibalism in Cook’s journals, there is no discussion of Cook needing to demonstrate his strength until necessary.  It seems strange to think of anyone demonstrating such resolve when encountering foreign cultures, customs, and peoples; particularly when he is the figure-head for all that is despised by the locals over two centuries after his encounter.  It need be remembered that Cook, as much as Da Gama and Vespucci before him, was simply an errand boy for the crown; a scout, if you will.  However, he was one of the only outsiders for hundreds of years, and if his coming and subsequent returns signaled a change in their society, it does seem only natural that there would be animosity towards him.

Dr. Bunkse, a world renowned Cultural Geographer and UD professor, once told us of three distinct varieties of travelers: the tourist, the adventurer, and the explorer.  I have read of the great explorers, who have come and gone, and I have seen the tourist perpetrate many social taboos, yet I see many more adventurers; these are those who venture off the beaten path to immerse themselves in the culture and to become one with it.
The last is what I am looking for: to be able to say that I not on toured New Zealand, but that I understood what it was all about.  We have only fleeting moments to experience what is before us as there will be much to see and far too little time to do it in.  I know we will not explore, for most rocks have already been turned over, but we have the ability and the responsibility to dive head first into the Maori and Pakeha blend that has been built over the past 230 years.
                To experience their food and learn the meaning behind it, to gain a grasp on their language, and to see not only the beauty that is but also the beauty and tragedy that it arose from are just a few of what I look for over this next month.  It’s a long way to fly and get nothing out of, so I intend to make the most of it.

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