The never ending story

Once upon a time, there was a small group of beautiful islands close to the bottom of the world.

These islands were sparsely inhabited by a peaceful people so that when canoes full of strangers arrived at their shores they warmly welcomed the visitors.

Image credit Mighty Campers

However the visitors were a brutal people, eventually turning on their hosts, killing and eating some and taking others as slaves, the only evidence of the original inhabitants were their bloodlines which intermingled with the visitors, and the relics of the earlier inhabitants lying hidden in the bush and gullies and buried on the seashore.

Visitor numbers grew, and their tribes warred among themselves. They constantly fought, took slaves, cannibalised and abandoned unwanted baby girls outside to die.

Some decades later, a very different group of visitors arrived. They were foreigners from further afield and wary, having heard about the hostile welcome given to their countrymen who had passed through on earlier reconnaissance sailing ships.

The new visitors came to settle on the beautiful islands but came armed with muskets that were superior in battle to the native’s club and dagger.

Being able to protect themselves, the visitors established throughout the islands. Some of the natives attacked and killed the settlers and some of the visitors were also cruel, greedy and dishonest and took advantage of the natives.

After some years a small group of native leaders was taken on one of the visitor’s sailing ships to view their advanced civilisation a great distance away and meet the visitor’s queen.

The missionaries who had become established on the little islands beseeched their queen to intervene because they sought peaceful cohabitation between the natives and the visitors. They also recognised that this melting pot had become desperately lawless and both the visitors and the natives required protection from themselves and each other.

Initially, the queen would not commit to ruling the small islands so far away because she was already struggling to establish law and order on a larger island that had already pledged its allegiance to her.

Eventually, though, she offered the natives citizenship of her great land and her protection, if they would swear allegiance to her and accept her rule. The queen also agreed to control the process for the sale of native land which was sometimes not fair to either the buyer or the seller.

An agreement was drafted and signed and the queen duly sent her representative to establish law and order on the unruly little islands. But it was not a peaceful transition.

Not all the natives had signed the agreement and a small number continued to wage war on other natives and settlers alike. The new government punished some by evicting them and confiscating their land.

The new government also struggled with the land transfers which the queen had promised the natives would be done fairly under her rule.

Previously, tribal ownership was communal but the concept of individual ownership was new to the natives. However, they were quick to adapt with some natives of the same tribe recognising the financial advantages of claiming tribal representation meaning different individuals could sell a single piece of land several times over.

There were also unscrupulous buyers who had caused discord among the tribes and buyers from other countries which were not allies of the queen.

Governance was fraught in a culture unfamiliar with individual ownership and a history of tribal warfare and the ensuing changes in occupation.

To further complicate things, the government set up a grievance process to correct historic injustices. This was fraught because land ownership had often changed during the many tribal wars and the grievance process became an opportunity for evicted owners to claim restitution for their loss even though compensation had already been paid to subsequent owners.

The confiscation of land from badly behaved tribes was seen in hindsight as unfair, so this too was wound back through the compensation process, and then wound back again when previous owners of the land were also compensated. Sometimes many times over.

The wisdom of Solomon would have been a boon to the newly formed government of the day as it faced a complicated communal ownership system which was incompatible with the individual ownership model.

Instead, future generations took on a collective mantle of guilt over the injustices perceived by the natives, without any consideration whatsoever of the advantages bestowed on them by the more advanced technologies of the latest visitors to the land.

Over 150 years and two or three generations later a people whose history was passed down by word of mouth is still claiming and reclaiming compensation through the never-ending grievance process played out in court by legal beagles receiving an income for life.

Knowledge of the original inhabitants of the land can still be found in the DNA of the native people and the archaeological remains although access to these has been blocked. Earlier surveys of some remains have been locked away and hidden from view because the natives are afraid that their claim of being the original inhabitants of the land will be refuted and their compensation will cease.

Because the government has been weak in its dealings with the tribes, some natives seized on the opportunity to misconstrue the original agreement with the far away queen. They claimed they had not intentionally given up their sovereignty, or that their tribe had not signed the agreement.

Monies received from compensation claims have not, by and large, improved the lot of the average native. Where large sums of money are involved the fat cats lick the cream off the top leaving everyone else out in the cold.

The natives did not consider what they had received from a system of law and order, medicine, tools, education and all the accoutrements and advantages of several thousand years of European development in just about any field anyone could imagine had any value. And those who had provided these things stupidly kept silent also.

Arguably, more injustices resulted from the grievance process than occurred in the first place. Like an open sore constantly being picked at and not allowed to heal, billions of dollars continue to be poured into an industry with no end.

At some point, a thinking person would question such stupidity, and the wonder is that this has not happened.

Instead, governments have come and gone but despite promises, no one has put an end to this inequitable and very lucrative process and so the story goes on.