Tag Archives: Australia

I Wish I Could Understand Australia Better

I am an Australian but I think that makes it harder for me to understand Australia in some ways, especially the weekend’s depressing election results. Perhaps that’s because what I would like to see obscures my view of the reality.

Scott Morrison, a Pentecostal churchgoer who attributed his election victory to a miracle, is once again Australia’s Prime Minister — after winning an election that broke the standard rules of the game. His Liberal-National coalition was meant to be thrashed at the polls after all sorts of not very secret political power plays that saw ugly challenges and changes of party leadership prior to the election.

The good news:

Tony Abbott, ex-Prime Minister, eater of raw onions with skin, Catholic, anti-abortion, a climate change denier who becomes a climate change believer when he sees his support base waning, and back-stabber and leaker-of-dirt-on-colleagues-to-the-press-in-chief, lost his seat and is finally out of Parliament for good.

The bad news:

Peter Dutton, an alt-right type racist and all-round bigot who was the one Abbott and others in the Liberal National coalition hoped would be the new Prime Minister could not be unseated despite massive campaigns from all sorts of movements and notable persons to target him in his electorate.

Following on from the entrenched support for Dutton we have further alt-right type persons, racists, fear-mongerers, — Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer — giving their preferences votes to Scott Morrison’s party and handing him a secure and unexpected sweeping victory in north Queensland. That is despite Pauline Hansons’s party being caught out in a sting operation by Al Jazeera journalists approaching the U.S.’s National Rifle Association for donations and Clive Palmer being such an obviously dishonest jerk going all out to imitate Donald Trump’s worst attributes. (Palmer cheated workers of wages when one of his mining businesses collapsed and promised to “repay” them just on the eve of the election — surely such an obvious con no-one could possibly take him seriously.

But surely racism and fear of job losses as a result of environmental priorities is not the whole story. Those states of mind are always going to be with us.

On the other side, I find myself despairing of public “debates” and interviews. Political leaders now have the art of evading direct answers to questions down to a fine art. Scott Morrison doesn’t use the term “fake news” but he does regularly speak of the “Canberra bubble” to dismiss any serious questions. Same thing, just an Australian branding.

Yet the “serious” interviewers don’t do seriously informative interviews. They play the game of asking questions from the opposing party’s point of view. They don’t stand back and challenge the respective parties from the perspective of the broader public. Interviewing a Liberal politician they challenge them with Labor Party points; and vice versa and so on. It’s all removed from the real world.

Except for the shock-jocks — who play the anti-immigrant and fear cards.

And the shock-jocks and the mainstream interviewers are earning fortunes to do their work of trying to score political points and win audience ratings. And meanwhile both major parties are dancing and dining comfortably with big business and careful not to upset the media giants.

It’s all out of touch with reality — at least the reality of the root drivers of the forces shaping the worlds of most of us.

Democracy and political debates is primarily about media management and media images. And that gives the victory to the cleverest or luckiest and/or richest manipulator.

There’s something ugly happening here and we’re waiting for something positive to return to the play. That’s how it seems to me. I wish I could understand it more clearly.

 

 

Anzac Day, 2019

Lake and Reynold’s book was published in 2010. I wish it weren’t as relevant today, or even moreso, as it was then.

Like the many Australians who are concerned with the homage paid to the Anzac spirit and associated militarisation of our history, we are concerned about the ways in which history is used to define our national heritage and national values. We suggest that Australians might look to alternative national traditions that gave pride of place to equality of opportunity and the pursuit of social justice: the idea of a living wage and sexual and racial equality. In the myth of Anzac, military achievements are exalted above civilian ones; events overseas are given priority over Australian developments; slow and patient nation-building is eclipsed by the bloody drama of battle; action is exalted above contemplation. The key premise of the Anzac legend is that nations and men are made in war. It is an idea that had currency a hundred years ago. Is it not now time for Australia to cast it aside?

Lake, Marilyn, and Henry Reynolds. 2010. What’s Wrong with ANZAC?: The Militarisation of Australian History. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. (p. 185)

Australia’s Lost Narrative and Identity

This is a parochial post. It concerns only my little corner of the world. I have liked to think of myself as an internationalist, one who has surpassed all attachment to the accident of the place of his birth, but in my more honest moments I know I still have a special attachment to Australia, for all its ugliness and outbreaks of inhumanity.

So this post is an outline of a discussion among various prominent persons that I watched on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s free-to-air TV program The Drum last Friday, 29th March 2019. The discussion was initiated by Australian government’s decision to inject massive amounts of money into extending Australia’s War Memorial in our national capital city, Canberra. A key participant in the discussion was Professor Marilyn Lake of the University of Melbourne. I liked just about everything she said. She expressed so very much of what had been bugging the back of my mind for years now — what appears to me as a steadily growing nationalistic focus on war and the warrior as core to Australia’s identity.

Lake spoke of the “excessive militarisation of Australian history” over the last twenty years. Yes. Lake was speaking of the government investment in raising war consciousness among Australians, in museums, in the War Memorial, in the new war centre in France, and even the Department of Veteran Affairs’ supply of study guides for schools! (As Lake suggested, curriculum materials should surely be the responsibility of the education department.) Further, we have seen books and films promoting Australia’s warrior history over that same time.

But only the last 20 years? Certainly 20 years ago we saw Prime Minister Keating push to Australia’s consciousness the historic significance of the Kokoda Track campaign in New Guinea in order to delay the Japanese advance towards our homeland. As a boy I had been impressed by the story of the Kokoda episode but I had never heard it promoted to a place of greater significance, for Australia’s identity, than Gallipoli. The context was the political led push for Australia to become a republic. To break all ties with the British monarchy. But after Keating came Howard and a return to all ties British.

Australian nationalism would seem to be inseparable from war, beginning with Gallipoli. That has certainly been the dominant official message for some decades now. But what might be the alternative?

Here Marilyn Lake reminded me of all those history lessons I had endured in junior high school. I had not fully appreciated them at the time but I have been glad many times since that I had them.

The question Lake was answering was something like “What is the Australian story, the so-called radical social democratic experiment, before World War 1?”

The Australian story, pre-WW1 – the social democratic commitment to the common good. 

A long list of social and political legislation begins in the nineteenth century:

  • Manhood suffrage
  • Secret ballt
  • Eight hour day
  • First legal minimum wage (Victoria, 1896)
  • A basic living wage (the Higgins judgment in 1907)
  • Old age pensions
  • Invalid pensions
  • Maternity allowance

And these things were paid for out of general revenue. One did not have to “put in” to “get out” as one did in places like Britain and Germany.

Justice Higgins said at the time that Australia was torn between two ideals: the common good and private greed. (What has changed? In what direction?)

This was the social democratic commitment to the common good.

Yes, there was an ugly side. All of these historic developments were framed by the White Australia Policy — the official policy that excluded non-whites from migrating to Australia to live.

But notice what was happening within.

Women of all backgrounds, and aboriginals and migrants and even earlier Asian migrants and their descendants all participated in extending that founding vision of democracy to much broader one, not just to white males but to include ALL persons.

Schools would do well, for example, to include in Australia’s history the story of aboriginal activism. How many Australians today even know about the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association formed in the 1920s to push for full citizenship of aboriginals and their land rights.

We need to know the stories of a whole range of people demanding that our nation become more inclusive.

World War 1 —

World War 1, says Marilyn Lake, “broke Australia’s soul”. We know the stats. Out of a population yet not 5 million, 60,000 dead and nearly a half million wounded, gassed or imprisoned. And not the experience of the aboriginals: fought and died alongside whites in the trenches and then when returned to Australia were treated as non-citizens of no account.

Another comparison with the United States

Nearly a month ago I wrote Australia and the United States – Interesting Comparisons

The United States, observes Lake, are devoted to Freedom (e.g. freedom to own guns), but wea  in Australia are more devoted to Fairness, equality of opportunity, — the Civil Rights movement took this Freedom narrative on board. But Australians were demanding equality, not freedom.

Note the American historian Eric Foner.

The alternative story

Though all of this was happening within a “White Australia” it gave a platform for other groups — women, aboriginals, Chinese Australians — to also demand equality or fairness and would become the Australian story of how we sould achieve that ideal of equal citizenship. Women of all backgrounds, and aboriginals and migrants and even earlier Asian migrants and their descendants all participated in extending that founding vision of democracy to much broader one, not just to white males but to include ALL persons.

We need the stories of activism of all these oppressed groups and how they struggled to gain their rights in Australia.

Mention was made of Rebecca Huntley who said that the (relatively recent) global financial crisis precipitated an intensified desire for government to be activist and reformist in the interest of fairness.

Vida Goldstein visited the United States and people from around the world flocked to see this Australian experiment.

Yet how many in Australia know William Cooper‘s story — the only aboriginal to protest Nazi Germany?

Or Pearl Gibbs and Margaret Tucker, aboriginal women who fought for equality?

Vital references:

Australia Fair: Listening to the Nation ((Rebecca Huntley)

Birth of a nation: how Australia empowering women taught the world a lesson

Mapping the massacres of Australia’s colonial frontier

Australia and the United States – Interesting Comparisons

Why are Australians more accepting and trusting of the role of government than Americans?

  • The United States was settled primarily in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by people fleeing from tyrannies;
  • Australia was settled primarily in the nineteenth century in a land much harsher and more difficult to settle than North America — government was needed to provide roads, water, finance, health services, to enable people to move and populate much of the land. Government was viewed more positively than had been the historical attitude in America. Settlers weren’t fleeing to Australia from governments, either. They were being transported by governments and relied on governments services for survival.

I’ve also found Australia at times to be a very controlled country, too tidy and neat and orderly sometimes. Australians pride themselves on the larrakin tradition, the disrespectful and self-reliant “digger” of Gallipoli, that sort of thing, which is seen as originating in the convict past, and many of the convicts were Irish rebels. But there is also a stifling authoritarian and reactionary strain in Australia, led by conservative politicians, churches, wealthy businesses and various clubs like the Returned Services League. And that, I have heard it said, might be seen as traced back to the other sector of our convict days, the guards, soldiers, police, brutal applications of power. It’s that second element that I feel has been depressingly dominant for far too long now, especially since it is led by political figures who want to take us towards the American ways of privatization of what have traditionally been seen as public services, such as health care and education.

What are the voting (government participation) differences?

  • Voting is not compulsory in the United States, or course, and voting takes place on a Tuesday;
  • I think many Australians look askance at both of those practices. By making voting compulsory the poorer and otherwise voiceless sectors will have a say and those seeking election cannot avoid taking their interests into account; that’s a good thing. Also by making it compulsory the otherwise “silent majority” will have their say so that radical partisan movements of either the left or right cannot take over the government by default.
  • It is more democratic to have voting on a Saturday. That’s a holiday or half-day holiday for most people so it is much easier for people to arrange to get out to vote. Sunday would have been better but we have the influence of the churches insisting generations ago that Sunday people should be in church and reading the Bible, not getting mixed up with worldly things.

Such are some interesting (to me) reflections inspired by an interview with historian Judith Brett and comments on a recent Drum program by David Marr. Some of the ideas may be myths, but they make interesting discussion topics — well for some of us anyway.

 

Australia’s Refugee policies: (1) women without male escorts; (2) male sports stars

We learned only this week that in 2014 the Tony Abbott government, in contravention of international obligations, authorized border officials to turn back to Saudi Arabia any Saudi Arabian woman arriving without a male escort and who, under questioning, gave indications that she would seek asylum in Australia. Further details are addressed in an interview with an Amnesty International representative from about 40 minutes into ABC’s The Drum.

If you are male and fled torture in Bahrain and happen to be a famous soccer player everyone right up to the Prime Minister will be calling for your return to Australia. Which is a good thing, of course. But inconsistent application of goodness…., barbaric.

 

Changes

I’ve been bringing myself up to date with the way the world has been changing these past few and more decades, beginning with the 1960s. I am constantly reminded of two quotes, one I heard by Sting quite a few years ago, and another more recently from my mother.

Sting was talking about his boyhood and how everyone listened to the same radio programs, the range of entertainment and recreation and things were more limited but that meant you shared a lot more with everyone in society. He said he thought it was better then. I asked myself if that was just a typical opinion of anyone looking back and thinking things were better in the old days, but I did have to wonder if he was also right.

My aged mother was reflecting on the years of the Second World War and those following, and saying how she remembered society as being less divided than it is today. Obviously, I thought, during total war a nation is going to pull together. And certainly there were serious conflicts afterwards as different sections found their new places with respect to each other afterwards. But I also remember learning at school or soon afterwards how Australia was one of the most egalitarian countries in the world with one of the narrowest gaps between rich and poor. And in the late 60s and 70s there was certainly more hope despite our youthful naivety about what it would take to bring about real change. Perhaps since then we have lost that naivety and come to understand how power works and cannot be so easily changed.

But surely it is true that there is less optimism and less social cohesion today in Australia, and I can only imagine as an outsider from what I hear in the news about America what the divisions are like in the U.S.

One of the truisms Karl Marx pointed out (oh how I must be showing my ancient past to be citing Marx today!) was how the capitalist system produced workers who were alienated from their jobs. Today I notice that businesses and institutions seem to try to make up for that loss by artificially creating communities and personal meaning through human relations programs to offer workers some sort of personal group identity and meaning in their work places. But the alienation, I think, has meanwhile been extended beyond the workplace to the consumer society as a whole. Targeted products, especially via the new technologies, have enabled services and products tailored for ever more fragmented groups.

We’ve come a long way from the days when I could go to school and talk about the latest black and white Batman short that was showing at the local cinema and expect others to know what I was talking about.

I don’t think such changes are the imagined product of wishful nostalgia, either.

 

Australians on the looney NRA fringe

Last night I was mystified listening to Bob Katter, a prominent political figure (of a “minor” party) in my state of Queensland, saying the following on a respectable documentary program:

The program is Four Corners; Katter’s comments come in the introductory minute and again from the ten minute mark.

I want more firearms sold because I want more firearms. I want more people involved in protecting our country.

What? How can giving citizens guns help protect our country? Don’t we have armed forces for that? How can my neighbours and I having guns be an assistance to national defence? Unless we are occupied by enemy troops. But it’s going to be a bit late by then.

So I kept listening for his explanation and it soon followed:

I want my nation to be able to protect itself. We’re a tiny little country, 25 million people. And a lot of those people would owe allegiance to other countries that may well be our enemies in any future confrontation. So, I mean, not only have you got the threat from outside, but increasingly, you’ve got a threat from inside. And it may not just be a threat. They might have a majority in this country in within the next 25 years – if you want to extrapolate the number of people coming in. So you’ve got a threat from within as well as from without.

Could the link between wanting guns and racism be any clearer?

One detail that I found curious and troubling was that as soon as Bob Katter launched into the above words his voice suddenly changed. It moved from matter-of-fact normal into a kind of defensive, victimhood, high-pitched whining.

Guns, racism, victimhood.

Just to end on a totally irrelevant note, I suppose we should not be shocked by anything from the guy who pelted eggs at the Beatles when they arrived at Brisbane airport in 1964: I am the egg man: Katter

 

 

Aboriginal Languages, a Repository of Aboriginal Knowledge

When I come across an article like Aboriginal languages could reveal scientific clues to Australia’s unique past I generally find myself ignoring references to ancient astronauts but clicking down a host of other warrens helping me catch up on tidbits of fascinating insights into aboriginal culture and beliefs that I have missed in the past ten or so years. This one was no different. It led to myths about meteorites and variable stars and another look at the following map of indigenous languages

And that map reminds me of a project I was closely involved with as a metadata and open access repository librarian not very long ago and that I helped get kick started, the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages. Some years back a certain federal government decided that bilingual education in remote aboriginal communities was not a good idea so many text resources in schools that had been painstakingly produced in local indigenous languages were stacked away to gather dust and creepy crawlies or even dumped in bins. In some cases these books were the only written records of the languages in existence. After an academic from Charles Darwin University (CDU) successfully sought funding to rescue as many of these print resources as possible, an irreplaceable resource for both scholarly linguists internationally and local aboriginal communities themselves, the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages (LAAL) was set up and, since I happened to be working at CDU at the time, I found myself with another very worthy task to assist with.

It was a fascinating project. As a metadata librarian one of my main challenges was investigating ways to facilitate open access to languages and even ideational concepts that had no simple point by point correlation with English; yet more … to find optimal ways to facilitate open access to both linguist scholars and local aboriginal communities.

 

 

Trump and Another (Australian) Baby Boomer Drop Kick

When I read . . . .

The thing about Donald Trump is that he was never one of the Cool Guys. He was the schmuck over there across the room who was feeling up women and picking our pockets while we looked the other way. He ran a campaign that said, you know the club they would never invite you into? I’ve been there, and it’s all bullshit, and I’m going to tear it down, the whole stinking meaningless system run by these people who have looked down on you from their suites in Davos and the Renaissance Weekends, the places they kept you out of while they were making decisions about your lives and not listening to anything you had to say.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, Don’t blame yourselves millennials (like you would), boomers created Donald Trump at Salon.

What is it about the hair with these guys?

. . . . I was reminded of Bob Katter, the leader of Australia’s Katter Party — (pro-guns, anti-gay, pro-racist/corrupt/dictatorial state premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen supporter . . . . you get the picture). . . .

He was one of those who threw eggs at the Beatles when they arrived at Brisbane airport in 1964.

Turning Defeats Into Great Mythologies

Recall a few posts ago that I quoted some lines from a BBC/SBS episode The Celts

Professor Alice Roberts: The defeat was total. Boudicca’s entire army was wiped out. According to Tacitus only 400 Romans were killed that day compared with 80,000 Celts. The last great Celtic rebellion was over.

Neil Oliver: We’re told Boudicca survived the battle but poisoned herself shortly after, and with her died any hope of another Celtic uprising and an end to Roman rule in Britannia.

Alice Roberts: Boudicca disappeared from history and entered into national mythology, a martyr to the idea of a free Britain. 

This time I have highlighted a different section.

I was reminded of Australia’s annual observation of Anzac Day that emerged as something of a repeated national funerary ritual for the defeat at Gallipoli. It became a time, however, when Australians would remind themselves how unique they were in that they celebrated a defeat as the beginning of their “nationhood”. A glance at the Wikipedia article falls on a cluster of quotes:

 it has been seen as a key event in forging a sense of national identity.[20]

The Gallipoli campaign was the beginning of true Australian nationhood. . . . the Gallipoli campaign was a defining moment for Australia as a new nation.[21]

This Short History of Australia begins with a blank space on the map and ends with the record of a new name on the map, that of Anzac.[15]

Anzac Day now belongs to the past and during the war all energy was concentrated on the future but the influence of the Gallipoli Campaign upon the national life of Australia and New Zealand has been far too deep to fade… it was on the 25th of April 1915 that the consciousness of nationhood was born.[17]

The popular belief that the Anzacs, through their spirit, forged Australia’s national character, is still today frequently expressed.[18] For example, in 2006 the Governor-General of Australia, Michael Jeffery gave an address in which he said that although the Anzacs lost the campaign they created a lasting identity for Australia:

We are summoned to recall the battle sacrifices of Australian farmers and tally clerks, teachers and labourers and to commemorate outstanding courage and strength of character in the face of sustained adversity… [The campaign] won for us an enduring sense of national identity based on those iconic traits of mateship, courage, compassion and nous.[18]

The Spirit of the ANZAC continues today in times of hardship such as cyclones, floods and bush fires. At those times Australians come together to rescue one another, to ease suffering, to provide food and shelter, to look after one another, and to let the victims of these disasters know they are not alone.[2]

And the worship of a man who dies but whose death is vindicated by an exaltation to heaven and the salvation of those who identified themselves with him.

In other words, it is not so strange to imagine people latching onto a defeat, a death, to create a myth of martyrdom, of a higher victory or salvation as is sometimes suggested. (I’m thinking, of course, of the claim that the crucifixion of Jesus had to be historical because no-one would make up such a “myth”.)

The Greeks developed the genre of tragedy to dramatize that very characteristic of humanity: an exploration of how the death of a hero can be cathartic, a victory of spirit, and not the nihilistic end it might logically seem to be.

Is there is any national or religious history that lacks a glorious martyr? I just looked up the story of the invented national hero William Tell and see that even his death was tied with efforts to save the life of a child. Is it possible to imagine such a hero dying pointlessly in a mundane accident or comfortably of natural causes? We even see the same mythologizing at the personal level. The unbearable pain of the loss of a child often finds relief in taking up a cause to somehow give meaning or purpose to the child’s death.

 

 

Realities behind Australia’s national myths

The things they never taught us in school!

Two works I have read recently have been eye-openers for me.

When visiting Macquarie University (Sydney) a few years ago I was struck by a rather untypical statue on campus:

I could never figure out why or what it was about until I saw a photo of the same on the back cover of a book, Selling Sex: A Hidden History of Prostitution by Raelene Frances. Professor Frances’s opening paragraph explains:

In the pages of this book you will meet many women who have sold sex at some stage of their lives. The first is called simply ‘Joy’. For eighteen months in 1995-97 her larger-than-life figure leant against a red door-frame on the corner of Yurong and Stanley Streets in East Sydney. Being a statue, she is not really a sex worker. Or is she? The story of Joy became something of sensation in the mid-1990s, not just because she was said to be the only statue of a prostitute on display in public anywhere in the world, and not just because she personified the seedier side of Sydney. Surrounding the creation ofjoy was a quite extraordinary mystery. . . . 

The story of Joy, as well as the history of her statue, follows.

The above is just introduction to what particularly “struck” me, something that had never crossed my mind in my sheltered innocence and protective armour of national myths. Australian myth-peddlers and exploiters love to play on our belief in the “hard country” in which we have managed through toughness of character to survive. The “outback” is life-threatening and cannot be tamed, but it presence has been a major factor in the moulding of our “national character”. Tough, resourceful, loyal to mates — traits we associate with the pioneers who settled there to plant cattle stations and with those who worked for them. Writers like Henry Lawson helped to grow the myth.

So it comes something of a . . . surprise, let’s say, to read what apparently enticed men from the city to seek adventure and a financial start there and “build our nation”:

A woman like Japanese prostitute Matsuwe Otana would no doubt have had many European and Chinese customers who were engaged in the pastoral industry, as well as the mines and the ports. Drovers or pastoralists in town on business or for a rest welcomed the services provided by the karayuki-san. More commonly, Europeans took Lheir sexual pleasures closer to the stations on which they worked. Here they had access to a plentiful and cheap, if not always willing, supply of Aboriginal women.

The use of Aboriginal women as ‘stud gins’ is a recurring theme across the northern frontiers, from the late nineteenth century in Western Australia and Queensland, and until the 1920s and 1930s in the Northern Territory. . . . .

In the Northern Territory, too, young Aboriginal women were used as ‘bait’ to attract or hold European men to station jobs. Writer Xavier Herbert maintained that the women had to be there: without available women, men would refuse to work on remote stations.

Oh. Suddenly puts the myth in a different light. Best not tell the children.

Then there’s the Anzac myth. read more »

Pauline Hanson: Please Explain!

hanson
Pauline Hanson

Australia’s Pauline Hanson is something like America’s Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. She brought Australia into notoriety among her Asian neighbours twenty years ago with her maiden speech in Parliament declaring that Australia was in danger of being “swamped” by Asians. She publicly claimed that aboriginal peoples were getting it way too easy (free this and that) while other Australians had to work hard and pay their way. Hanson deplored “political correctness” and accused her critics of trying shut down free speech.

In an early TV interview she looked blankly confused for a moment when asked, “Are you xenophobic?” Her response, “Please explain” made her a laughing stock among many Australians — but not among her enthusiastic supporters.

She has not had an advanced education. Her background was in running a fish-and-chip shop.

The point is that as the more educated and cosmopolitan-minded of the population expressed their disdain for her, and ridiculed her, the stronger her support base grew. Politicians attempted to dismiss her as an embarrassing irrelevance but they were pulled up fast when in Queensland’s state elections her party won a full eleven seats in Parliament the very first time they had competed in an election.

When she was jailed for electoral fraud it looked like the end and we could all move on again. But no. The establishment forces that had essentially “plotted” criminal charges against her were exposed for their dishonesty.

And now she’s back. She won a Senate seat in the recent election. A single seat doesn’t sound much, but the future direction of the present government depends heavily upon winning over “crossbenchers” — that is, independents.

This time she is attacking Islam more than Asians, to “get rid of all the terrorism in our streets”. She also continues to attack big business and multinational corporations and what they are doing to the “ordinary workers” in Australia. She is outraged every time another Chinese millionaire buys up another rural property in Australia.

Her supporters regularly congratulate her, saying “You are saying what we are all thinking!”

Ridicule and loathing is easy. It’s the natural reaction for many. But it doesn’t work. It backfires. Her popularity grows the more she is insulted by representatives and classes whom many Australians believe are out of touch with “reality” and how they really think.

Watching last night’s documentary, Pauline Hanson: Please Explain!, an uneasy awareness came over me that the ignorance and prejudices among many of us is not being seriously addressed. National leadership ought ideally to be engaging with Pauline Hanson’s supporters in community dialogue. I was once involved with one such community effort. We would advertise public meetings with persons able to discuss from the perspective of direct experience various topical or controversial subjects of community concern. I’d love to see such efforts start up everywhere.

I do hope that Donald Trump’s mouth alone will be enough to eventually disillusion and turn away his support base.

But then what’s left? What’s next for his disillusioned supporters?

But one thing I do fear: ridicule, insult, derision have the potential to only make the Hansons and Trumps ever more popular. People really do need to be listened to.

 

Criteria of Authenticity Tested Against the Gallipoli Landing

hp_image_1We’ve just had our Anzac Day ceremonies here. Attendance at the dawn services and veteran marches is growing by the year, they say. This year something new emerged on one of my favorite radio shows, Late Night Live with Phillip Adams — an interview with Hugh Dolan author of 36 Days: The Untold Story of the Anzac Assault, 25 April 1915. The program is headed Dispelling the Gallipoli ANZAC myths. I subsequently watched the related TV program, Gallipoli From Above: The Untold Story. And of course I’ve ordered the book! One more to read, damn it.

There are many facets of the Anzac myth that will continue to be discussed and one of them is the perennial question: Why do Australians celebrate a military defeat as “the moment” that supposedly defined us as “a nation” or cast in bronze what we call our “national identity”?

Commentators are forever discussing the irony of our nation apparently “taking pride” in a military defeat.

How does that jell with what New Testament historians use as criteria of historical authenticity? So we celebrate a defeat. Does this not conform well with the criterion of embarrassment? Nobody would choose to celebrate a defeat unless it really happened, would they? And the story has been sustained by multiple independently attested sources, hasn’t it, over the years. So here we surely see in this event at least two criterion of authenticity found to be entirely validated.

But the Anzac story gets into more detail. The landing itself was a bloodbath. At dawn, under heavy fire. The Australians were victims of British incompetence and were landed at the wrong beach for starters.

No-one would make up a story in which they were the victims of such incompetence and disaster, would they?
Well, 36 Days suggests that that’s exactly what “we” have done now for almost 100 years.

read more »

Atheist and ex-Muslim — an absolutely enjoyable interview with Alom Shaha

From arthwollipot, flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arthwollipot/6796189874/sizes/m/in/photostream/

If you are atheist, a bit worried about Muslims at the same time, like ideas like love and compassion as the glue that holds us together, might respect reading recommendations from A. C. Grayling, are curious about where and why Australians have a different take (at least from North Americans and the British) on atheism and religion in the world — how to be laid back about it all — and basically what atheism means to all of us of whatever religious background and in particular how ex-Muslims handle it all, then do yourself a well-deserved favour and listen to the interview with Alom Shaha on Australia’s national radio program  Big Ideas:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bigideas/monday-19-march-2012/3894112

The ABC blurb is:

Atheist Alom Shaha: Imagine you live in a strict Muslim community. You’re taught not to question your religion. But you don’t actually believe any of it. Your interest lay in the world of science, ideas, and books. This is the world of atheist, Alom Shaha – a Bangladesh born science writer, film maker and teacher, who’s lived in London since he was young boy – who is in conversation with Paul Barclay.

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