Professor Paul Moon
Decades of pronouncements, proposals, plans, policies, and programmes aimed at reviving Te Reo Māori have acted like an accumulation of grime on the edifice of the language. These accretions need to be cleared away, to get a more detailed impression of the state of the language and its prospects for survival – if indeed there are any.
A plea for free speech in our universities might seem about as unnecessary as a demand that all people be treated equally under the law. After all, the Education Act asserts clearly the right of academics to speak as critics and consciences of society – supposedly securing universities as bastions of independent thought and open expression.
There is currently a growing body of literature being produced by scholars in many parts of the world which suggests that traditional cannibalism – of the sort that was practiced by Maori in New Zealand – either never occurred at all, or that if it did, it was done to perform for Europeans, and was not a part of the true culture of those ‘performers’. This sort of historical revisionism seems to elevate the novelty of an academic position above what I have always considered to be the primary object of any historical endeavour: to try to move closer to what Gibbon termed ‘the naked, unblushing truth’ of the past.