Australia: internally authoritarian, externally servile

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/australia-the-subimperial-power-/101503728

Assange Is Doing His Most Important Work Yet — Desultory Heroics

By Caitlin Johnstone Source: CaitlinJohnstone.com British Home Secretary Priti Patel has authorized the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to be tried under the Espionage Act in a case which seeks to set a legal precedent for the prosecution of any publisher or journalist, anywhere in the world, who reports inconvenient truths about the US […]

Assange Is Doing His Most Important Work Yet — Desultory Heroics

Hedges: The Execution of Julian Assange — Desultory Heroics

Original illustration by Mr. Fish, “Mind Games.” He committed empire’s greatest sin. He exposed it as a criminal enterprise. He documented its lies, callous disregard for human life, rampant corruption and innumerable war crimes. And empires always kill those who inflict deep and serious wounds. By Chris Hedges Source: ScheerPost Let us name Julian Assange’s […]

Hedges: The Execution of Julian Assange — Desultory Heroics

The art of the deal

North West Cape spy base, Western Australia

In October 2015 those ‘genocidal’,’communist’ Chinese (you know, the same people who were attacked by white miners because of their ability to organise as teams on the gold fields and represented by a Mongolian Octopus pictured in The Bulletin Magazine in 1886), as owners of the Landbridge Group, took out a 99-year lease on Port Darwin for A$506 million – about which the Australian capitalist media has been yapping ever since.

In September 1967 at a ceremony (the video of which used to be on YouTube but appears to have been removed) U.S. ambassador Ed Clark said laughingly to Harold Holt, then Prime Minister of Australia (showing his deep respect for both), ‘I give you one peppercorn rent’ – for what was to become a giant U.S. naval spy base.

Now that’s how to do a deal!

ANZAC – the ideology in overdrive of a servile capitalist class

‘Popular illustration of Anzac troops after the fighting at Gallipoli’ (Wikipedia). Lenin simply and correctly described the first world war as that fought over the re-division of the world into areas of exploitation.

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/strength-of-australian-anti-war-sentiment/13313746

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How an authoritarian culture controls and exploits ‘decency’

What comprises ‘decency’ and what are its costs?

A convict culture

‘Landing of Convicts at Botany Bay’ from Watkin Tench’s ‘A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay’, 1789

The fundamental social structure in Australia today is basically the same as what was disgorged from the first fleet in 1788 and after onto the shores of Botany Bay – the mass and their guards (‘experts’, ‘authorities’, those with power…school prefects…). A scabrous, thoroughly-connected crust of brittle ‘decency’ on a ‘decent’ society, before which the mass is to defer, and willingly defers, unquestioningly.

Before the Puritan colonists embarked for Boston, John Winthrop gave a lecture in which he said that they shall be ‘as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us’ (words aped by Ben Chifley – of the American titled ‘Labor Party’ – near the end of his term as Prime Minister in 1949).

Vision (and its abuses) has always been at the heart of American culture. In a now ever-more deeply fractured country, it is still there in parts, such as NASA.

National vision now lies with the Chinese – they know their time to lead the world is coming, just as the Americans knew their time to lead was near in the nineteenth century.

I heard ex-Prime Minister Keating’s speech writer Don Watson say on Late Night Live some years ago that Captain Arthur Phillip gave a speech when he landed (I don’t know how Watson knew this, since I understand there was no written record of this speech) which included the words ‘Men are not to go into the women’s tents at night’.

Whether Phillip said these words or not, they are entirely plausible, exemplifying the vast gulf between vision (the same vision Jorn Utzon had before he was driven from these shores never to return) and its necessity for a healthy society and authoritarian ‘practicality’.

Australians have shown vision – federation and the Snowy Mountains scheme are examples of it – but, as Donald Horne wrote in his ironically titled The Lucky Country (a title deliberately misunderstood by the bulk of Australians), they are, in general, deeply suspicious of it. It threatens their drive to acquisition, mortgage payments and holidays in Thailand.

Horne exemplified this dichotomous world view between America and Australia when he paraphrased a diary entry by the socialite Mrs. Marcel Dekyvere – chairman of the Black and White Ball Committee (in 1964) in response to Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech in 1963 – ‘We must all keep our dreams, even if sometimes they don’t come true. Don’t you agree?’

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To anyone who reads this post – particularly any Australian – and thinks it unjustified: read this post and view the video with it.

Reply to John

Hi John,

Two points to illustrate the sickness and the degree of sickness at the heart of Australian culture:
i) ‘Australia Day’ is held on Jan. 26. That was the date in 1788 when the British claimed and stole 1/2 the continent from Australia’s indigenous (a crime they have never properly compensated the first Australians for, not even coming to a treaty with them as they did with the Maoris) and, at the same time, established a penal colony with the 1st lot of convicts. When (white) Australians celebrate this date, that is what they celebrate – and the majority (of whites) couldn’t care less – its a fun day.
ii) The Australian de facto national anthem is ‘Waltzing Matilda’. That song ‘celebrates’ prostitution (‘waltzing Matilda’), product placement (Billy Tea), theft, cowardice and suicide. Again, white Ozzies couldn’t care less – its a catchy tune over which they get all teary-eyed (it was sung at the 2000 Olympics). 

To get a better sense of how utterly sick this song is, compare it with the inspiring John Brown’s Body from the US Civil War.

What I am most critical about regarding Australian culture (which, for a number of reasons, I call convict culture) is not only its servility but the degree of it. Australians go out of their way to display it. First to the British, then, after their defeat at Singapore in WW2 by the Japanese (the thought of such military defeat has always terrified white Australians – consider the relentless racist tripe towards the Chinese with which the Australian media is daily awash) to the new dominant white, English-speaking, English derivative power, the US – now in decline. 

I could give you countless examples of this servility, many of which I have posted on over the years on my blog, as well as quoting the thoughts of intelligent and principled Australians on this subject (e.g. Donald Horne who wrote The Lucky Country [too true, cobber – we’re lucky alright!]).

The dominant white Australians still see themselves as a white outpost at the arse-end of the world, with billions – yes, gulp!, billions – of faceless Asians just to the north, just waiting to take ‘our‘ land from us (haven’t I read that before?) and the fear this perception causes is a key driver of their servility.

One day, quite possibly long in the future, when the majority of Australia’s population is non-white Asian in origin, this country will find the confidence to get off its knees and get its own flag and Australia Day – and flush Waltzing Matilda into the sewer where it belongs.

Certainly, visit Australia and the first Australians – they would welcome you and would enlighten you regarding their experience and struggles for justice.

The state of politics in Australia today

Salvador Allende’s last speech, La Moneda Palace, 11.09.73

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Ex- Labor (note the American spelling of the name of Australia’s oldest political party) leader Shorten: ‘We must be an opposition that stands for something. We must be a party of Labor that stands for the real world concerns of working men and women.’

The lucky country – all you could want

Albert Tucker, The Lucky Country, 1964

Ben Groundwater, ‘Australian expats: Some Australians don’t want to come home and I don’t blame them’

Right now, there are still tens of thousands of Australians trying to get home from other countries. These are people based overseas who were told to shelter in place if they felt safe all the way back in March 2020, who have since decided that they would like to come home and yet are still waiting in a never-ending queue to return to Australia.

It’s shocking that they’re having to wait; though, at least to many of us, the idea that they’re trying to get home at least makes sense. Who wouldn’t want to come back to Australia right now? This country has handled the coronavirus pandemic more successfully than almost any other on the planet – at least, if you count success in terms of pure case numbers.

So yes, obviously if you lived in the USA or in the UK, in mainland Europe or in the sub-continent, you would be desperate to return home right now. That’s not news.

What is news, however, and what is far more interesting to me, is that for all the Australians trying to get home right now, there are many, many more who aren’t. Plenty of people have assessed the situation, seen the success Australia has had in controlling case numbers and keeping life relatively normal and still thought: nup. Not for me.

Last week, UK-based Australian journalist Kate Guest wrote a fascinating story in the Guardian about just that, about Australian expats who have elected not to return home during the pandemic, who have decided to stick it out in their new homes in France, in England, in Uganda, in Thailand. They’ve stayed for careers, they’ve stayed for family, and they’ve stayed because they just don’t like a lot of the things that current-day Australia represents, even when it’s largely virus-free.

And I have to say that so much of what was said by those expats rings true to me. I say this, too, as someone who did decide to come home to Australia as soon as the pandemic began, leaving my base in continental Europe, and as someone who – despite fancying myself as some sort of high-flying citizen of the world – does plan to call Australia home for the long-term future.

There’s a lot that I love about this place, and that suits me perfectly. But… Australia is not perfect. And that’s news. It’s also something that’s so much easier to see when you spend some time living in another country.

First problem: the anger that a simple statement like the one above will inevitably provoke. Australians are a brittle bunch, hypersensitive to any criticism, quick to shout down any dissent, quick to tell those who complain that if they don’t like it, they should leave.

We pride ourselves on our freedom of speech here, on the fact you can say anything you want – that is, unless you say the wrong thing, particularly if you’re black or Muslim, and then you will be mercilessly chased down and forced into hiding.

Still, that’s probably only a small part of what is keeping many expats from returning – though Australia’s shift to the political right is mentioned in Guest’s story. There’s talk of climate change in there, and our embarrassing lack of political will to do anything about it, plus our treatment of refugees that much of the rest of the world thinks is appalling.

Those things are important to me. But what’s also important is lifestyle, which, again, Australians tend to think we have the best of with our sun and surf and laidback attitude – but that’s all a matter of perspective.

If you want to live a socially connected life, a life of face-to-face contact with family and friends and even strangers, in a socially connected city with a dynamic culture and a strong sense of history and identity, then I’m sorry, but Australia is probably not for you.

Here we value space over social life, the desire for our personal quarter-acre trumping any chance of having a café and a bar and a few shops on every city block, the sort of places where people can congregate and socialise multiple times daily. Australians cities are designed to sprawl, so we can all have our castles, so we can all dig holes.

Australia isn’t particularly culturally rich. It’s just not. It’s lovely and it’s safe and it’s stable, and it’s the ideal place to have a family and live out your later years. But consider life in Spain, in Italy, in Japan, in India, in Vietnam, in Brazil, and there’s just no comparison.

Culture oozes from the pores of those countries, rites and traditions, festivals and carnivals, music, art, theatre, food that you’re surrounded by at every moment. Australia can’t compete with that.

There’s also the psyche of Australians. We fancy ourselves as devil-may-care larrikins but really we’re slavish rule-followers, meekly accepting draconian laws, grudgingly paying whopping fines for the smallest infractions because we love our safe, orderly society, we like to know what’s going to happen today, we like to be sure everyone will stick to the rules.

There’s a blokey, boofhead culture in Australia that I don’t always love, and that I can see would discourage many expats from coming back. Check out the ads on commercial TV here: Australians are far more comfortable with the beer-drinking everyman than they are with any other characteristic trope.

And yet – here I am. I have the astonishing and unearned privilege of being able to choose where in the world I would like to live, and I’ve chosen Australia.

However, plenty of people have not, even in the worst global crisis to affect many of us in our lifetimes. Still, they stay away. And that, to me, is news.