Richard Shaw responds to critics of The Unsettled on Newsroom


Richard Shaw, author of The Unsettled: Small stories of colonisation responds to critics in a piece published by Newsroom:

‘A couple of years ago I learnt that my great-grandfather had been with the Armed Constabulary when it swarmed into Parihaka in 1881, had stayed on as part of an occupying force for four years and, a decade later, had returned to Taranaki to run three small family farms on confiscated land. This new knowledge about old things in my family’s past unsettled me. I started digging, and then writing, and now I’m a couple of books wiser and a lot further into the business of figuring out why that history had been forgotten in my family and what it has to do with me now.

The books – The Forgotten Coast and The Unsettled – have been pretty well reviewed, and the bookshops have been shifting them nicely. The Unsettled has made the best seller lists, which is not an experience I’m used to. People have said affirming things. I feel I’m making a useful contribution.

But the work hasn’t gone down well with everyone. Especially not with those who’ve got in touch to tell me they find my books “appalling drivel and incredibly racist to boot” or to suggest that I “stop howling with virtuous outrage.” Nor with the people who disagree with my take on the whole colonisation thing. It turns out that “our experience is probably the best in the world for both parties”, and that “we should be proud of it – not ashamed and guilt ridden.” Someone else is of the view that “Maori (sic) lives have improved from European invasion whether you admit it or not.”

Some of these folk seem to have taken things quote personally. I am instructed to “stop beating up on the white man for a change.” I am ordered to “stop whipping the country with the same old tired guilty stick that all woke people are wielding at the moment.” I am informed that “I am not prepared to be a second-class citizen in my own country.” And there’s a bloke who tells me he misses “out on employment, grants, and support for being pakeha.” He is thoroughly “sick of the pakeha bashing.”

I’ve heard from people who, I suspect, would not much enjoy my company. “You’re just a useless DICK”, I’ve been told, “filling young people’s heads with garbage to look good to your fellow racists – I bet you can’t even change a car tyre [you] DICK; snowflakes like you are a curse on this country.” Also: “You and the lot you represent aren’t welcome in New Zealand any more – and yes, it IS New Zealand. Not Aoteroa (sic). Get a life, little imp.” Others have been more succinct: “You are despicable” and “You look like a complete plonker” fall into this category.’

Read the rest of the piece here.