5. Indigenous people

Early in the morning we got a good laugh, although we were all a bit mad over losing our submarine, we spied a small boat under sail and oars, pulling for their lives, as we bore down upon them, we fired round the boat with a rifle, and, lo, about sixteen niggers dived into the “ditch” and although it was miles away from civilisation and foreign at that, one of the nigs shouted “Why you shoot, Sar?” “Me missionaire boat, Sar.” Anyway all hands nearly burst with laughter at the antics of the nigs, we let them get into their boat again and shove off.

In this section the actions and words of the sailors convey to us the attitudes which were prevalent at the time in the meeting of cultures, in particular with indigenous cultures. Policies in Australia included the White Australia Policy and the Pacific Island Labourers Act
attitudes in the population co-exist commonly with colonialist foreign policy. In order to take people's land and make them work it for the purposes of others, an attitude of superiority and rightful domination is helpful. Deprecating forms of address such as "nigger" or "nig" correspond to the "sir" of the subordinated person. Attitudes of national superiority characterised the nationalism at the beginning of the twentieth century and laid the basis for war in the popular will. Struggle for resources was the economic basis for colonialism.
In an authoritarian system such as a war ship, within the rules of a hierarchical society such as Britain, it is not surprising that the sailors, those at the bottom, get some joy from harassing the indigenous people they encounter, someone "below them".
Mistreatment of indigenous people has been common and often brutal in the Pacific, including the mistreatment of black Australians (Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders) as their land and human / cultural rights were expropriated.

Although "in nineteenth-century literature, there are many uses of the word nigger with no intended negative connotation", it is clear in this account that not just the words but the collective actions of the sailors' culture are racist. They would not have done the same thing in Sydney Harbour to a boatload of British men.
A non-racist meeting of cultures would have seen the British sailors amazed at the mobility of the Pacific Islanders powerfully moving across the open ocean far from land under the power of human muscle and wind.

Image 1 Paul Gaugin Tahitian Woman with a Mango via Zeno.org
Image 2 Paul Gaugin Tahitian Woman with Fruit via Zeno.org

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