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Saying Farewell to the Fallen With a Haka

Members of New Zealand’s defence force farewell fallen comrades with an emotional haka:

Haka is used throughout New Zealand by many, not only Māori, to demonstrate their collective thoughts. There is a haka for each of the Services, as well as the Defence Force. Units with the NZ Army have their own haka. This video shows the soldiers of 2/1 RNZIR Battalion performing their Unit haka, powerfully acknowledging the lives and feats of their fallen comrades as they come onto the Unit’s parade ground. It is also an emotive farewell for they will leave via the waharoa (the carved entrance way) for the very last time.

Haka –sometimes termed a posture dance could also be described as a chant with actions. There are various forms of haka; some with weapons some without, some have set actions others may be ‘free style.’ Haka is used by Māori (indigenous people of New Zealand) for a myriad of reasons; to challenge or express defiance or contempt, to demonstrate approval or appreciation, to encourage or to discourage, to acknowledge feats and achievements, to welcome, to farewell, as an expression of pride, happiness or sorrow. There is almost no inappropriate occasion for haka; it is an outward display of inner thoughts and emotions. Within the context of an occasion it is abundantly clear which emotion is being expressed.

Having traveled throughout New Zealand (my wife grew up there), I can say that Maori culture is a thing of beauty, and its widespread integration into modern ‘Western’ culture in New Zealand is wonderful to see. Something other countries (including my own) could probably learn from.

Editor
    1. What I most like about this
      What I most like about this video is that is so rawly portrays how societies inculcate violence in their peoples. The ancient Maoris certainly had reason to cultivate ferocity as they were subject to the depredations of other very fierce peoples in the surrounding island chains, but to be carrying this over into modern times is just needlessly sparking violence ad infinitum in a loop that will never be broken until we have the collective character to do so. Violence always begets violence – an old cliche but still a good one. As touching as this farewell to fallen comrades is it is still a celebration of violence in the end, and the young people embroiled in these dramas are essentially self destructive.

          1. Weapons
            These tools for defense, as you choose to call them, are very easy to be misused; as the all-too-recent history of your country keeps showing, on an almost weekly basis by now.

            But tell you what: you should make a deal with the Kiwis. Promise to eradicate American football —in its professional and non-professional form— and they might stop performing their ceremonial Hakas.

            After all, we don’t want to be biased when we condemn the glorification of violence, now do we?

          2. The amounts of money that
            The amounts of money that universities spend on football and other sports is obscene and is it displacing a lot of academic energy, but I do not advocate legislating these sports away, not do I advocate legislating that we quit creating classes of killers via boot camp. All we can really do is advocate personally and by personal example for a world in which violence and violent tribal types of behavior is made to look ridiculous which is what it is. Football is tribal behavior, but at least it doesn’t kill or maim large numbers of innocent people.
            That a class of weapons called guns have been coopted by violent elements is really unfortunate, and I am all for keeping gun purchase within a system of checks, but knives and swords are just as deadly which of course meant that in the days before powder weapons these tools which included the bow and arrow and the spear accounted for millions of deaths in war and skirmish. Rather than get hung up on a system of restriction or culture of use I would rather just advocate for an end to human violence. If that is not attended to it will not matter one whit whether you burn all the guns on earth. History shows us that people can kill each other in droves with pointed sticks.

          3. By the way I was not a
            By the way I was not a singling out the Maori as being unusually warfaring. The haka reminded me of scenes from boot camps the world over.

      1. Query
        [quote=emlong]What I most like about this video is that is so rawly portrays how societies inculcate violence in their peoples.[/quote]

        What did you find violent about the haka?

        1. Not literally violent but
          Not literally violent but symbolically so. I am getting tired of all this violent posturing. It is everywhere now. There are at least 3 TV channels I know of that celebrate guns as destructive toys. The video world is chock full of blood rite stuff and shootemup. The Haka reminds me of more of the same in that it whips people up into a frenzy of violence and implied violent retribution.

          1. Overlay
            [quote=emlong]Not literally violent but symbolically so. I am getting tired of all this violent posturing. It is everywhere now. There are at least 3 TV channels I know of that celebrate guns as destructive toys. The video world is chock full of blood rite stuff and shootemup. The Haka reminds me of more of the same in that it whips people up into a frenzy of violence and implied violent retribution.[/quote]

            I think while there’s a primal/tribal element to it that you’re spot on with, it’s important to understand the nuances of modern Maori culture and not just overlay our own preconceptions. The haka is used often, in a lot of non-violent situations. It is more symbolic of tribal/group unity, and the airing of emotions, and that doesn’t always require either a physical adversary nor does it require violence nor retribution.

            In this case, all I see is a group showing their respect and airing their emotions (grief, pride, anger) via the Haka. In many ways, I would imagine it’s far more healthy to express the various emotions being felt than to repress them as we often do in western societies.

  1. The “Guard”
    I’m sorry if I’m interrupting this discussion, but my interest in and fascination with the character I described in the second comment of this thread hasn’t waned. First thought would be, he’s a guard, the way he’s facing the crowd and all…but one guy (he’s the only one behaving/dressed like that I can spot) would be a joke considering the crowd – apart from the fact that he simply gets submerged in the crowd at some point, and overall it doesn’t seem like an occasion requiring a guard. Then, his camouflage isn’t needed either. In a way, the way he strolls quietly in there, covered in “leaves”, with his gun, almost masked, seems to me as “primal” as the rest of the ritual, so I’m still wondering…is he playing some significant role in it ? I would be very grateful if someone with knowledge of the subject matter could explain this to me…or whether he’s as much of a mystery to anybody else as to me. Thanks ! 😉

    1. Guard
      [quote=CloudWeaver]Then, his camouflage isn’t needed either. In a way, the way he strolls quietly in there, covered in “leaves”, with his gun, almost masked, seems to me as “primal” as the rest of the ritual, so I’m still wondering…is he playing some significant role in it ? I would be very grateful if someone with knowledge of the subject matter could explain this to me…or whether he’s as much of a mystery to anybody else as to me. Thanks ! ;)[/quote]

      That’s a camouflage suit, often worn by snipers and special forces. My guess would be he’s a ceremonial guard.

      1. The Haka is essentially a
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6f3fvUvOiLQ

        The Haka is essentially a tribal war dance. Just because the Haka that initiated this thread happened in the context of a funeral does not excuse it from being what it essentially is – a celebration of violent intimidation. While it may be that these ventings are simply an inescapable aspect of human aggression the conflation of them them with warfare and murdering which is being played up more and more in popular media these days is leading us to a place of great tragedy and human suffering that appears to be getting stronger and more violent and which could once again usher in some new world conflagration.

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