Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Once Were Anarchists

Rabble Rousers and Merry Pranksters: A History of Anarchism in Aotearoa/New Zealand from the mid 1950s to the early 1980s (Katipo Books)

The saying goes: "If you can remember the 60s (or the 70s) then you weren't there".

That's how I felt when I first looked at this book. I know that I was there for some of that stuff, and I was certainly on the edges of a lot of it, but I don't always remember the things I did witness in the way they're represented here.

It's fascinating how under the influence of a few informants, and a unifying theory, what had seemed at the time like a whole patchwork of different efforts and experiences, accidental and deliberate, and inspired by wildly different motives and philosophies, starts to reify - with the benefit of hindsight and anecdote and swayed by individual agendas - into an era definable and monument-like.

Apparently the Queen of England feels that way too when she reads memoirs written about her life and times. Sometimes she scarcely recognises the terrain as described by someone who was standing only yards away from her.

History, herstory, ourstory. Not an exact science.

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