As many of you know I am working on a major study of Christendom. To this end, early this morning in the quiet of my library I was writing a summary biography of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes [1588-1679].
Writing during the tumultuous years of the English Civil War, Hobbes is known for his seminal work on political philosophy, particularly his views that government should be ‘absolute’ in order to guarantee collective security and safety. His argument, in part, served as prototype for future totalitarianism viz. the surrender of personal liberties for the greater good of the state.
My morning deliberations on Mr Hobbes were interrupted by a call from my wife working in the adjoining study: “Come and have a look at what those crazies in Western Australia have done now!”
She referred me to a breaking news story in The Australian:
Yet again, by the hands of the Labor Premier of Western Australia, this country’s liberal democratic federation is traduced. Moreover, the lockdown amply illustrates, yet again, a knee-jerk reaction by a government bereft of sound policy and without the mechanisms to deal with a minor emergency. Far more insidiously however, the continual use of lockdowns indicates the natural totalitarian instincts of a certain stripe of politician whose first recourse to a problem is the use of absolute government power to solve it – the very term ‘lockdown’ says it all.
His fellow crypto-totalitarian in Queensland has since gone out in sympathy and will quarantine anyone coming into Queensland from Western Australia.
What nonsense this all is!
There was a time when liberty loving Australians would have turfed both totalitarian-tossers into the parliamentary dunnies. Sadly, what mealy-mouthed and whinging-weaklings we have become. There will be no protest, no civil-disobedience – on the contrary, we will continue to cheer on our totally inept leaders as they continue to traduce our liberty in our vain hope that they know what they are doing - all in the name of keeping us safe!
Perhaps Hobbes understood human nature far better than his critics.
Beginning on May 10, 1933, Nazi-dominated student groups carried out public burnings of books they claimed were “un-German.” The book burnings took place in 34 university towns and cities. Works of prominent Jewish, liberal, and leftist writers ended up in the bonfires. The book burnings stood as a powerful symbol of Nazi intolerance and censorship.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
One would have to be a first-class nit to deny that intellectual intolerance and intellectual absurdity are but two of the defining pillars of contemporary society. For a trip into nonsensicality I take two recent examples to illustrate the parlous state of our belles-lettres. The first is an article in today’s Australian newspaper [13 April] and another is a news story of last month [March 2021].
The Australian today carried an exclusive story headlined: “Elite journal under fire over ‘racism’” and penned by Stephen Rice. It concerns the publication of a peer-reviewed study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology. This study, published last September, points to high levels of violent crime by Sudanese-born youths in Victoria. The publication of this study has however engendered a bitter row amongst the Australian fraternity of criminologists and lawyers, some of whom claim the study to be racist.
The authors of the study are Dr Stephane Shepherd and Benjamin Spivak. Dr Shepherd is a Swinburne University Researcher; a Fulbright scholar, an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, a member of the Eastern Regional Advisory Committee of the Victorian Multicultural Commission and author of dozens of academic papers on race and crime. He is also an African-Australian.
Dr Benjamin Spivak holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and a Ph.D. from Monash University. In his own words: I am a lecturer at the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology. My research interests relate to measurement, causal inference and prediction applied to understanding problems in criminal justice. My research focuses on three areas - legal decision-making, risk assessment and cross-cultural differences in offending and victimization.
Stripped to its essence, the authors’ article posits that higher rates of African-Australian youth imprisonment were most likely because of an increase in violent activity by some members of that group rather than because of police profiling.
Their study found there was a significantly higher rate of “crimes against the person” — such as robbery and assault — by South Sudanese-born youth compared with Australia-born youth. The authors explicitly noted however that “the overwhelming majority of Sudanese-Victorians are law-abiding” and their findings “should prompt concerted efforts to better address specific community needs”.
These conclusions and the study itself have, however, been condemned as being: “racist in terms of its methodological approach” by some academics and activists.
In an emotive and highly unprofessional rant, Melbourne Law School senior fellow (Indigenous programs) Amanda Porter demanded the editors and editorial board of the ANZJC “do something about the racist trollop (sic) that appears on the regular in your not-so academic journal”.
Quite obviously the Shepherd/Spivak study failed the litmus test narrative of progressive public policy. The ‘debate’ will presumably continue in the similar, undignified, un-academic and vitriolic bullying style that we have come to expect from contemporary academia. I hold no expectation for a reasoned outcome.
Moving onto a slightly different perspective of political and cultural narratives is a story that did the rounds of the international media last month. It caught my attention at the time and has given me much food for thought.
To recapitulate, the story in essence is this. Those that watched President Biden’s Inauguration Ceremony might remember a young black school girl reciting a poem. The title of this poem was The Hill We Climb and it was composed by the reader herself, Amanda Gorman. The merits or otherwise of this poem are not the subject of this comment – its international publication is. The details of this farce were kindly provided to me by that ever reliable iconoclastic news agency, Russia Today.
For whatever reason the US publisher, Viking Books, took it into their corporate heads to publish this poem internationally. To produce a Catalan edition they contacted the Barcelona-based publisher Univers, to commission an appropriate translator. Univers commissioned Víctor Obiols, a renowned English-Catalan translator, because they considered him to be the best qualified. Obiols is well-known for translating the works of Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde into Catalan.
However, after Obiols completed the translation, Viking Books contacted Univers and asked them to find a translator: “who is a woman and an activist, preferably of African American origin, instead”.
Speaking to the Agence France Presse news agency, a clearly nonplussed Obiols confirmed: “They did not question my abilities, but they were looking for a different profile, which had to be a woman, young, activist and preferably Black.”
He continued by observing that he was flabbergasted by the US publisher’s stance.
“If I cannot translate a poet because she is a woman, young, Black, an American of the 21st century, neither can I translate Homer because I am not a Greek of the eighth century BC. Or could not have translated Shakespeare because I am not a 16th-century Englishman,” he told the media.
Evidently Obiols is not the first European to be thus discriminated against on equally specious grounds. In Europe that particular ‘debate’ continues.
The immediate issues of concern emanating from these examples of imbecilic nonsense are straightforward. Has contemporary academia totally lost the ability to accept a narrative that deviates from popular fashion? What constitutes the appropriate authority for anyone to write about anything pertaining to another culture?
Given their pedigrees, I am quite certain that Drs Shepherd and Spivak deserve more than the irrational ranting dismissal issued to them by Dr Porter. Moreover, using the yardstick stipulated by Viking, the history of many past and present cultures might never have been documented. What authority, for example, did the early Europeans colonists exercise in writing about their colonised subjects? As ridiculous as this would appear, it is a real question if one extrapolates logically along Viking’s path.
Sadly, all too few appreciate the seriousness of this growing imbecility in the halls of our academy. Most would read the story, tut tut, shake their heads in disbelief and file it away along with the statue toppling stories of last year. Popularly known as ‘Cancel Culture’, this anti-intellectual impetus is, in reality, a pernicious nihilism which represents a serious threat to the fundament of our civilisation.
Thoroughly embedded in our tertiary education system and highly prevalent in our general education system, this post-modernist culture is call to the upcoming leaders of tomorrow to deny the legitimacy of our society. Piece by piece, edifice by edifice, icon by icon, tradition by tradition, line by line our history and our heritage is being dismantled – before our very eyes. And still we sit - inert, memorised and naked in fright to speak out.
How many times do we need to be reminded of the magnificent post-war words of the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller. He was describing the cowardice of German intellectuals and clergy - including his own, despite spending seven years in concentration camps as a dissenter – in facilitating the Nazi rise to power and the subsequent horrors thereafter:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. Pastor Martin Niemöller.
These oft quoted, underappreciated and rarely acted upon lines should serve as a constant call to action to all those who value that which is good about our civilisation – freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of worship and so forth.
These freedoms, that we once took for granted, are under increasing pressure as our supposed ‘liberal progressive’ governments tighten the noose around our necks. On whose authority has this happened? Ours: because we chose not to speak out. We remained silent when we should have defended our birthright.
Literature is, in my view, society’s expression of its soul. The more sophisticated and complex the society is the more sophisticated will its literature be. A free and vibrant society will produce a literature that records, challenges, questions and entertains.
Book burnings were a favourite pastime of the enemies of the open society. Books contain heresies to the authoritarian narrative. Today this metaphorical enthusiasm is manifest in censuring social media – and books. The great political philosopher Sir Karl Popper spent the best part of his lifetime deconstructing the political enemies of the open society. Books, open education and the encouraging of questioning minds were of paramount importance to him.
I have always detested the millenarian left because of their certainty in their cause and their willingness to use coercion to enforce their millenarian ideal. When I started university in 1972 as a young returned soldier I was horrified at the totally closed minds of the Viet Nam Moratorium Peaceniks. I use the term ‘totally’ with deliberation. At that young age they had swallowed in toto a complete world-view that brooked no questions, no dissent, not even a tiniest element of doubt. Such I thought were the enthusiasms of youth.
I confronted my first formal academic variation of this closed-mind-set in my first philosophy tutorial wherein I was insulted by the staff tutor for my military service. Modesty and a touch of embarrassment forebears further details. Suffice it be said that I gained requisite satisfaction.
But this experience had a profound effect on my intellectual development. I learnt, within a few days of my first term, that academia was not all about nuanced study, considered discussion and the proverbial cut and thrust of robust and civilised debate. I realised that I was, to put it bluntly, within the enemy’s walls. I came to determine the distinct difference between having ones ideas challenged and ones weltanschauun tested as opposed to being indoctrinated and threatened. Since those far-away days and several years of formal study later, nothing has disavowed me of my dim view of progressive academia: Scratch a progressive deep enough and you will reveal a totalitarian at heart. Therein is not an individual but a corporate mind and therein a collective responsibility. It’s called passing the buck. Why? The corporate progressive mind holds that the Party, the Cause, the Movement is always right, whatever its machinations, its twists and turns and despite the vileness to which it steeps.
None of this of course is new – critics of dystopic and/or authoritarian politics have been saying this, more elegantly, since the Greeks. However it cannot be said enough. A society that has lost its public discussion, its art and its literature to the ‘Party’ has truly lost its soul. Our dreadful descent into the Abyss can and must be stopped.
….and there was no one left to speak for me.
In my experience the first month of a new year provides a lunatic backdrop for the remainder of the year – this year is certainly no exception.
Setting aside the ongoing tragedy, politics and mismanagement of the pandemic – about which enough has been written – the international community has been witness to some extraordinary events in the United States and some very ‘ordinary’ events in Australia. I offer comment on a select cross-section of these stories which I consider to be outstanding examples of lunacy and/or great sadness.
A Quadrennial of Democratic Debasement
Topping the list is of course the demise of Trump and the spiralling descent of American politics.
Consequent to Donald Trump’s defeat at the polls the United States imploded into a paroxysm of hysterical hypocrisy unmatched in recent memory. Wholehearted stupidities were screamed and enacted by all and sundry. The hyperbole was certainly matched by the spectacle!
In this moment of quiet reflection however I suggest that there is little doubt that the polls were fraught with irregularity – nowhere perhaps to the extent claimed by Trump and his apologists but certainly sufficient I would have thought to attract the interest of any red-blooded reporter or investigative journalist. Sadly for the health of the American polity the mainstream media were disgracefully silent on the matter.
Trump’s wilful refusal to accept defeat sealed his ignominy. This media, who had long abandoned any pretence of objectivity, turned themselves inside out like a pack of dogs attacking the carcass of Trump’s personal and political legacy. The celebrated riot outside the Capitol in Washington provided wonderful images of chaos and mayhem. The Democrats and their media allies promptly branded this a formal Trump inspired ‘insurrection’ conveniently forgetting last year’s numerous riots and civic savagery directly sanctioned and abetted by senior Democrat politicians and public figures. Consequently, these same figures, not satisfied with winning the election, and in vindictive and self-indulgent rage, bayed for Trump’s impeachment, hastily ramrodding the articles thereto through the House of Representatives – as though there were no more pressing matters to occupy their fevered minds.
Trump will now be centre-stage in yet another Grand American Show Trial with national hysteria at levels unseen since the ‘good old days’ of the McCarthyism of the 1950s. Americans quite obviously do love to witness a good kicking when the man is down.
The obvious and manifest hypocrisy surrounding the Trump years hardly needs reciting but, for the record, state it I will. The Trump presidency was marked from the day of his election by the outright and activist denial of a significant sector of the nation. This sector embarked upon a concerted and radical campaign to de-legitimise their president. This sector could not accept Hillary Clinton’s defeat by Trump and effectively undertook the immature position of: ‘we woz robbed’.
Trump’s presidency was truncated by several politically motivated inquiries that revealed nothing particularly untoward; he suffered constant excoriation by the media, academics and commentators; his policies upon which he had been elected met with a constant barrage of legal obstructionism levelled by Democrat judges and the tenure of his presidency was punctuated by violent and continued demonstrations and riots. Even his Inauguration Day was marked by a partial shutdown of Washington due to massive demonstrations aimed specifically ‘against Trump’.
The Democrats, the progressive left and even large numbers of the Republican political elite failed to grasp or accept that he had won the election. Like him or loath him, he was as he was, the elected president of the United States, elected by a clearly identifiable cohort of American politics – a cohort openly disliked and denied by the elites, the intelligentsia and the Democrats. It is hardly surprising that at the end Trump finally went feral.
In my mind the Trump presidency may be described as being a Quadrennial of Democratic Debasement. It was a period that laid bare the poverty of American democracy inasmuch the anti-Trump forces – which I term the progressive populists – refused to accept the verdict of the umpire and squarely derailed the presidency. This was effectively an insurrection by other means.
That such an occurrence could happen in the country that once claimed to be the leader of the free world and bastion of democracy speaks volumes about the quality of its institutions and its political culture.
The incoming Biden administration, aided by a sycophantic, and dare I say, fawning media, working on the assumption that if Trump did it, it must be bad, has within a week already undone much of Trump’s work by President Biden’s executive action. The hypocrisy of Biden’s inauguration call for ‘unity’ cannot be overstated – let alone the moral question of wilful and arbitrary de-Trumpism by executive diktat.
Again all in the name of unity, President Trump – remember that in the United States former Presidents retain the honorific ‘President’ – will be publically excoriated before the Senate and the eyes of the world. Whatever the ‘trumped’ up charges, it will be ugly and unpleasant to watch as Americans drive yet another humiliating nail into the coffin of their democracy. Vindictiveness has no equal to progressive rage.
Joseph Stalin – enjoy.
Not My ABC
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s [ABC] News and Current Affairs Department, that long-standing ‘enemy of the people’ and constant critic of all and everything Australian, distinguished itself this week by formally describing Australia’s national day as ‘Invasion Day’. It did so in sympathy with the 28% minority bubble of progressive populist Australians who share their cultural cringe.
It was an ill-conceived, out of touch and totally arrogant decision. Granted the corporation quickly backtracked, grudgingly and incompletely in the face of overwhelming public wrath, but the damage was done. That the ABC chose to support that 28% of cultural cringers amply demonstrates its cultural and political leanings.
Of late this benighted broadcaster has loudly proclaimed its lack of bias in its services. Utter balderdash. Blind Freddy and his dyslexic monkey would see through this nonsense. The corporation needs a root and branch shake out. Its news and current affairs department, a deeply-embedded and discredited crèche for politically pre-pubescent progressive piss-wits, should be summarily closed down. Why? Because, by any yardstick one cares to apply, this egregious bunch cannot be trusted with the truth.
The pejorative term ‘Invasion Day’ was coined during Australia’s Bicentennial Celebrations in 1988 by a group of aboriginal protestors in Sydney. Since then it has garnered currency amongst the usual crowd of cultural cringers who choose to denigrate any Australian tradition that emanates from the ‘evils’ wrought by British settlement. The irrationality and predictability of the mind-set of this heterogeneous mob would be amusing if it were not so serious.
There is no denying that British settlement caused enormous dislocation to the 500 or so hunter gatherer tribes that inhabited the continent. I have previously written on this subject in some detail wherein I commenced by observing: The story of the then world’s most technologically advanced culture interacting with the world’s most primitive was never going to be easy; …
The reality of the aboriginal situation today is tragically straightforward. So equally is the solution:
This country needs to abandon its quasi-apartheid policy of tokenism and paternalism and accept its Aborigines as true citizens with the full rights and obligations afforded to every other citizen. The Aboriginal community writ large should be fully apprised of the fact that money does not grow on trees and that, like everyone else, they have to earn it. More importantly, Aborigines ought to be taught elementary civics – the difference between right and wrong, that obligations come with rights and, ultimately, that they have to take responsibility for their actions.
A straightforward solution – unnecessarily complicated by lack of political will. Indeed, it would take a brave politician to enunciate such a policy. Notwithstanding, the facts of the matter clearly indicate this direction. Certainly, should such a policy be instituted, it would come as an enormous culture shock - and of course, a high degree of discretionary compassion would need to be exercised. But, for the sake of the simple humanity of our Aboriginal citizens, firmness and fairness, opportunity and equity need to be the order of the day.
Whilst aboriginal history should be taught at schools and aboriginal cultural icons should be appreciated and even embraced by the rest of us as being uniquely Australian, there is no place in the future for continuing feelings of ‘white guilt’, ‘black entitlement’, paternalism and feel good tokenism. Aborigines comprise some 3.3% of the population – by all means provide this minority cohort with every opportunity to progress in the world – but it is racist, insulting and cruel to confine them in the pampered enclaves and geographic ghettoes that are the consequence of land rights, mining royalties and other paternalistic policies. These readily bring to mind images of demented and self-interested anthropologists running around in circles exclaiming: don’t touch them – they’re mine, they’re all mine!
As an extension to the foregoing I received an e.mail this week from a highly reputable organisation that I support. I was so moved with disapprobation that I penned the following, slighted redacted reply – I have for the sake of propriety removed all reference to the identity of this organisation:
I am in receipt of a copy of your e.mail of 23 January inst. Concerning your First Nations Policy Announcement.
In reading same I presume you announced your Board’s endorsement of its ‘First Nations’ Policy last …. at a ceremony held in the forecourt of …….. I note that the occasion included a ‘Smoking Ceremony’.
With the greatest respect, given your explicit statement that: we’ve never excluded supporting indigenous ….. and that your Policy now explicitly states: our commitment to ensuring that we provide care and support to all eligible families in a culturally appropriate manner[.] invites the obvious question - how did you support them previously? Your new policy infers that previously you didn’t treat them in a ‘culturally appropriate manner’. Perhaps you treated them equally in the same manner as you would any other family? Is your new policy now positing a multi-tiered support system with special treatment for aborigines and perhaps select other groups?
Following on from this incongruity, I am disappointed indeed at your organisation’s craven capitulation to the forces of arrogance and political correctness concerning the well-being of our aborigines. Although I am sure your ceremony and policy was well-meant, it was clearly an extension of the patronising national political and cultural trend of insulting anthropological arrogance towards our native peoples, which include inter alia as describing Australian aborigines as ‘First Nations’ and then paying them to perform humiliating stunts, specifically welcome to country and the smoking ceremonies.
The strictly Canadian term ‘First Nations’ is totally inappropriate to describe the pre-European contact Australian aborigines. The upward of 500 disparate hunter and gatherer tribes of the continent can in no legal or anthropological manner be described as a nation[s]. A tribe upward of ten souls is a tribe, a family, a collective a clan and so forth. I remind you that as at the Census of 30 June 2016 there were 798,400 indigenous people in Australia, comprising some 3.3% of the total Australian population. Albeit politically correct to call this miniscule cohort thus, it is not a nation. So let that nonsense be removed from your future public vocabulary.
I might add for your serious consideration that continuing recognition of these tribal peoples as ‘First Nations’ will ineluctably raise insurmountable questions of sovereignty and constitutional legitimacy. Sadly these subtleties of history and consequential law are far beyond the intellectual grasp of our politicians.
I now refer to the smoking ceremony. As you are doubtless aware the origins of the smoking ceremony are lost in the sands of time. Traditionally the smoking ceremony is an ancient aboriginal custom involving smouldering native plants to produce smoke. This pungent smoke is believed to have cleansing properties and the ability to ward off bad spirits. I beg you to do your own research on the matter, but in brief, the modern ‘Welcome to Country’ and ‘Smoking Ceremonies’ bear little or no relation to ancient intent and usage and were only introduced into our culture firstly, in 1973, by the Australian Union of Students at the Aquarius Festival held at Nimbin; secondly by Ernie Dingo and Richard Whalley of the Middar Aboriginal Theatre who claimed to have ‘invented’ the ‘Welcome to Country’ in 1976. Thirdly, the distinction for having ‘invented’ this ceremony is claimed by the aborigine Rhoda Thomas, then head of indigenous programming at the Sydney Opera House, who claims the ceremonies were developed during the 1980s by her and members of the Aboriginal National Theatre Trust which she co-founded.
These ceremonies are not without controversy and critics. I draw your attention to the respected former NT politician and aboriginal activist, Bess Price, who in January 2018, famously described such ceremonies: 'All the "Welcome to Country", all the "Smoking Ceremonies" and all the made up bulls*** rituals about "pay our respects to elders past and present" is just one big lie. 'Shame shame shame.'
I might add that Ms Price’s comments were made in the sadly continuing context of the serious abuse of women and children in aboriginal communities by the men and the very elders we are supposedly venerating.
You should have been advised that these ceremonies have little basis in traditional aboriginal lore – whatever that may be – and that just because our parliament in Canberra chooses to thus debase itself in the name of political correctness there is no reason why a perfectly sane organisation such as yours should follow suit. I also note the timing of your ceremony, the day before Australia Day. Whether your choice of date was unfortunate or deliberate it was certainly ill-timed and adds further hubris to the debate about the 26th of January.
This political correctness concerning our aboriginal community stems from selected ‘white guilt’ about the past; from political mischief and malice and from extremely deep agendas. However, allow me to assure you that, as an immigrant myself, I am proud of my country, of my military service to my country and of my citizenship; I suffer no feelings of guilt about the past – history is as it is; I consider aborigines to be equal citizens to be treated equally and I respect their venerable culture as far as we can discern it. To this end, I resile with great sadness from the insulting, patronising revisionism and Eurocentric tokenism that further debases this culture.
It is my sincere hope that yours, an organisation that has done so much good for the community, is not stumbling down the degenerative path of political correctness, social faddism, revisionism and cultural re-imaging.
…And how’s the Cricket?
A significant irritant of the month pertains to the once innocent and noble game of cricket.
The first recorded cricket match in Australia was held in Sydney in December 1803 and a later report in the Sydney Gazette in January 1804 that suggest the game was well established in the young colony. Thereafter the game became closely linked to Australian culture. In 2003 the venerable and respected Australian Cricket Board changed its moniker to Cricket Australia to flag its fashionable credentials and intent.
Of course the new entity comes with all the politically correct bells and whistles. Its website highlights programmes of inclusion and diversity and specifically parades its ‘Reconciliation Action Plan’. The latter includes the usual guff about acknowledging the ‘First Nations’ and Traditional Custodians, their spiritual connections to the land and so forth. It also includes the sentence: We respectfully acknowledge all Elders past, present and emerging as we continue to cherish shared wisdom and grow with their guidance as we walk together toward a connected Country.
Presumably these are the same elders that are a national disgrace in having caused so much misery amongst the women and children of aboriginal settlements – past and present.
Australia Day has traditionally been the day of Australian cricket. Australia Day cricket is a fixture on the sporting calendar – until this year. In its politically correct wisdom the Grand Panjandrums of this sport came out in support of the aborigines – remember, some 3.3% of the population and, in accordance with the principles of the reconciliation action plan dropped the name Australia Day in all of its marketing material, choosing rather to describe the day as ‘26th of January Cricket’!
Australian sport is becoming totally obsessed by politics. This is an excellent reason for me to ignore the lot. It is also an excellent reason for the federal government to formally disassociate itself with the sports industry – period. Cut off all taxpayer monies supporting and subsidising all sporting activities; close the many and various institutes of sport; cease building sporting stadiums and so forth and to cease providing taxation breaks to sports. This would release considerable taxpayer monies which could be redirected to towards hospitals, scientific and engineering research and sound education.
As to the future of Australian cricket – a gaggle bunch of oafs in coloured pyjamas playing with their balls - I really couldn’t give a toss.
A Hospital Reflection
I spent a few days recently in our local hospital. Not taking well to confinement I took whatever opportunity I could to mount my crutches and hobble out to the very small but quite delightful roof-covered garden reserved for patients. It was never well patronised save for one old broomstick of a man who used it as his private smoking area, despite its prominent no smoking sign.
Early one twilit evening I was leaning on my crutches inspecting a particular tropical plant, the steady wet season rain pattering on the roof and spilling out of its gutters onto the glistening-black roadway – when the door opened and out stepped a late teenage aboriginal youth, complete with baseball cap, peak pulled down over his eyes.
I welcomed him warmly, sympathetic for an indigenous young man desperate to escape his aseptic confines and get in touch with nature and, in part, his cultural roots. He acknowledged my greeting with a grunt, thereafter studiously avoiding my presence, and stood at the railing near the road. From one pocket he pulled out a packet of cigarettes and a lighter and proceeded to smoke. From his other pocket he extracted a new smart phone and spent the next ten minutes staring at its screen pressing buttons. On completion of his cigarette he stubbed it out on the concrete with his left thong and without a word walked back inside – leaving me in a deep brown study.
It struck me that this young lad, in some respect, served as a metaphor for a rapidly increasing cohort of modern aborigines. He showed zilch interest in his surroundings – it may as well have been snowing in the desert for all he knew or probably cared. His interests were totally absorbed by his cigarette and playing with his phone. Doubtless he would return to his bed and continue to play with his phone. His actions were those of any other late teenager.
However, what price the nobility of his connection with the land, his innate affinity with his surroundings and with nature? I would humbly suggest that I possess a deeper, more sincere affinity for the Australian bush-scape than that young chap.
In this age of identity politics, should I therefore identify as being aboriginal – why not? I might pick up a new car and a fancy phone on the gravy-train!
The Last Word - For the Record
Given the paucity of positive comment about Trump I provide one last word about this enigmatic character. Although it is unfashionable to say so, but President Trump can count several worthwhile achievements that should serve to benefit both America and the world, being:
- He overcame the United States’ most intractable foreign policy problem by opening dialogue with North Korea
- He succeeded in driving forward the peace process in the Middle East as evidenced by the recent raft of treaties Israel has signed with its neighbours
- He revived the American economy; encouraged factories to return to America and generated widespread job creation
- He openly confronted the China question bringing the nature of Chinese trade, foreign and imperial-military policy centre-stage of international relations
- He exposed the insular, mean-minded and selfish stupidity that is NATO
- He restored pride and self-belief, for at least four years, in a cohort of Americans who had thitherto been long ignored by the American political elites
- He shook America’s corrupt and self-sustaining political establishment to the core thereby exposing the lie that is contemporary American democracy
Thank you and Goodbye Mr Trump.
Yes I am angry. I am extremely angry at the forthcoming war crime show trials of some Australian troops that served in Afghanistan. This essay is not a considered legal or even moral discourse – those are complicated subjects and the details are not yet at hand. This essay is rather an expression of my disgust at the failure of the chain of command centring at the top.
Why am I angry? For one, that the Chief of Defence Staff, dressed in all the beribboned finery appropriate for a Canberra warrior, should stand in front of the national press and apologise for the actions of the army under his control all the while passing the buck.
I understand that the 465-page Brereton Report details an allegedly toxic culture in Australia’s Special Forces and lists a series of ‘credible’ war crimes committed by same.
My primary questions are: Who was responsible for allowing this culture into the Australian Army? Who were the senior officers, the commanders and the instructors that inculcated this culture in the first place? What were the senior ranking officers, the chiefs of staff doing whilst this culture was spreading?
I can answer this last question myself - they were preoccupied with their own programmes of social engineering to create a politically correct, ideal, case-normative, culturally diverse, egalitarian, homosexual friendly and non-gender specific military – a military well marinated in the sauce of peace, love and happiness. Yet, whilst they so fiddled, at the sharp-end of the organisation they were being paid to administer – remember we’re talking about soldiering - there existed a cohort of supposedly unreconstructed barbarians running amok. Who was in charge?
Why am I angry? Because I have served in the Australian army, in combat and I have witnessed and been subject to some of the vicissitudes consequent to decisions made. I am proud of having once been called ‘Digger’. I am angry because the limp-wristed management of today’s General Staff has effectively tarnished this tradition. I am angry for my younger colleagues that have served, proudly and without blemish, in Afghanistan.
To this end, it is my firm view that the present chief of staff should resign. He should resign for two reasons: Firstly and foremostly, because he is the Chief of Staff and the buck stops with him. Secondly and significantly, he should resign because of his failure to sort this mess out before it entered the public arena.
Further to this, I consider his predecessors should be sanctioned and their medals should be taken away. Following on from this an investigation should be commissioned into the promotion processes and placement of all senior staff officers.
I am angry at a system that has allowed this mud to be thrown around for so long. This matter should have been resolved immediately. It should have been addressed at the first sniff of impropriety. From experience I can testify to the fact that handwritten reports are prepared by the lowest non-commissioned- officer after every operation. These are handed in and passed up the chain of command. They are thoroughly vetted by intelligence and so forth and so on. Today’s reports are enhanced by modern technology, real time reporting through cameras and personal speaker phones. Only a few short years ago the world was treated to real time footage and audio of the killing of Bin Laden.
In this current context it is inconceivable that there was no indication of impropriety at the outset. The officer in charge should have called this out. His superior should have made the inquiries ‘who why when’ at the time, right down the chain. The officer most directly in charge of those particular troops should have been sacked, forthwith. His commander should have been reprimanded and the troops involved should have been advised to pack their bongos, go home never to be heard from or seen again. This is how the matter should have been dealt with.
Instead, because of the sheer stupidity of Australian military and political leaders this country will be international stage centre for a whole new media extravaganza show-trial. This will be ably scripted and supported by the self-loathing national broadcaster and its tribes of sycophantic progressives who pursued the matter in the first place. These show-trails will well and truly overshadow the Breaker Morant controversy – although they cover the same issue.
What is a war crime? This is Pandora’s Box of legal and moral nightmares. Although international law has grappled with the matter for over a century and it has made many determinations on the subject, it remains a highly subjective question. It is not my intent to drive down this road. I shall however make a few pointed observations.
The war in Afghanistan was a war that nobody wanted and nobody really understood. This is hardly surprising given its senseless nature. The Prime Minister and Cabinet who committed this country to that war need severe sanction. There were many that argued against it - I was one of them.
Like every war it had its active ‘secret war’. In this instance the prominent players of the war were those that played the game of secret war. Any investigation into any previous ‘secret wars’ will find equally abhorrent acts from all protagonists - that is the nature of such war. One tries to keep a level of humanity in the conduct of war generally, to keep to some balance, certainty and rules and regulations – the Geneva Conventions are testament to that. But sometimes, humans being as they are, these conventions are overlooked. Regrettably we have to live with those consequences.
To conduct irregular warfare we employ Special Forces – they are called Special Forces for a reason - they do the work that other people are unable, untrained or simply don’t want to do. It is a thankless job, living and operating in the silent, netherworld. To large extent their identity remains secret, they can’t tell anyone what they do, they get very few public kudos and generally they are disavowed by their superiors – especially so when something goes wrong! They get paid well – they are held in high esteem by their fellow servicemen and many get their jollies by getting drunk, being violent and, regrettably, on occasions by being excessive in their zeal. We create such a force - who are we then to blame them?
Let me discuss briefly one aspect of the war-crime debate: the notion of command culpability. The Brereton report largely absolves senior military officers and officials. It found ‘no evidence’ that high ranking officers had knowledge of the alleged ‘unlawful killings’. The blame is squarely placed on the lower level patrol commanders.
What sheer rot! Yet again the Top Brass hides in its comfortable chateaus well behind the trenches and gets away un-besmirched with hands oh-so lily pink. My question: If they didn’t know why didn’t they know?
Contrast the foregoing with one General Tomoyuki Yamashita – the WWII commander of the Japanese Imperial Troops in the South East Asia and Pacific arena. He deservedly earned the sobriquet ‘The Tiger of Malaya’ for his brilliant campaign culminating in the British disgrace that was the Fall of Singapore. In 1945, after the Japanese surrender, Yamashita was arraigned for alleged war crimes committed by his troops in their defence of the Philippines. Although it was accepted that Japanese communications and effective military control had broken down at that late stage of the war, the War Crimes Tribunal nonetheless held him to be accountable. On the 23rd of February 1946 he was hanged.
The Yamashita Standard has now formally entered the lexicon on the international law of war. It is my hope, in the context of the current debate, that this standard is applied to the cringing dogs that call themselves the Australian Chiefs of Staff.
I am angry: I am angry at a report that absolves our High Command of any wrongdoing. Unlike Yamashita who had hundreds of thousands of troops spread across South East Asia and Pacific under his command, these politically correct tools had a miniscule force and a piddly guerrilla war in Afghanistan to run - with modern communications in real time. Yamashita was not only a general that could wipe his arse with these tools, unlike them he was an honourable man. And look was happened to him in February '46.
I look forward to seeing these pathetic, politically correct creatures squirm when the broader ramifications of this matter become fully evident to the public. They chose to throw soldiers under the bus – good – go follow them.
I am also angry at two modern aspects of Australian culture that are directly germane to this debate.
Firstly I refer to Australia’s modern ‘cultural cringe’. The national self-loathing propagated by academic institutions; schools; the national broadcaster; the arts and farts and so on is simply astounding. Australians go berserk about their football teams but will sit by complacently whilst their history, heritage and culture – their very identity - is daily ridiculed, contorted and redesigned before their very eyes.
I have subtitled this essay ‘Show Trial’. It is a show trial in accordance with our cringe inasmuch Australians want all the world to like us and to let the world know that we good moral, empathetic people – to show our politically correct uprightness. Never mind that the rest of world doesn’t discuss the operations of its special forces, we are different. We are stupid Australians. If you consider me to be intemperate, I beg you to follow certain sections of our media that are going to be in joyous rapture over the prospect of Australians being subject to war crime trials. This will provide yet further opportunity to tear down another Australian icon– the Anzac Tradition.
Secondly and related to this I refer to the utterly disgraceful trend amongst our leaders of not accepting the consequences of their actions and decisions. I am angry at these leaders – across the full gamut of society - who refuse to resign because they didn’t recognise the point of principle they just tripped over: they think it perfectly acceptable to just hang in there, tough it out and pass the buck.
If he was that sorry – General Angus Campbell would resign. Given the same circumstances General Yamashita might have disembowelled himself. But unlike Campbell, Yamashita was an honourable man.
On 3 November 2020, the Republican candidate Mr David Andahl was elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives with some 36 percent pf the vote: ironical really, given that Mr Andahl died of complications from Covie-19 the previous month. This embarrassment was blamed on early voting which, beginning weeks before his death resulted in his posthumous election.
I consider this Gothic story as symbolising the sometime vagaries and shortcomings of any electoral system. Every electoral system has its inadequacies. Libraries are stacked with books about the efficacy of varying models of democratic process. What works in one society often appears unusual or inadequate to another. However, in any democracy - by definition - the political process works through discussion, compromise and resolution.
For the United States this has been a robust election. It has been an election perhaps not all about Trump or Biden but about competing views of what America should be. That was a discussion that the United States had to have. Trump’s lasting legacy might well be that he forced the question. Love him or loath him, he shook the country out of its political torpor. He demonstrated that the profession of politics does not belong to the cosy political class and middle class liberal elites. He provided the working classes – the world ‘class’ is used deliberately in this context - with a voice and with hope. He demonstrated to the elites that huge numbers of ordinary American citizens were not happy with the way their country had been run.
Over the past summer months the eruption of the maleficent cancel culture, the thuggery of Antifa and the highly organised and centrally controlled ‘disorganised mayhem’ of the Black Lives Matter group have amply testified to another under-estimated constituency of discontent.
My great concern is that the brouhaha of the election temporarily extinguished the detail of many election promises – explicit or implicit. I am concerned that many of those that voted specifically ‘against’ Trump overlooked the fact that they voted instead for the entire baggage and expectations of the Democrat left. I am also concerned that for many on the left these expectations are not going to be met – as Obama’s election failed to provide a chicken in every oven and a shiny new automobile outside. Thus the cycle of radical complaint will continue.
However, the judges, being the people, have handed down their judgement. It might have been a strained, indeed an unexpected and complex judgement, but judgement it is. Unlike my political opponents of the left four years ago, I respect that judgement. Should he confirmed, I wish Joe Biden and his Vice President well. I wish America well. I shall continue to respect the office of the President of the United States and I shall continue to respect and hold in esteem the great people of that generous country – to whom the world owes so much.