The Lucky Country – part seven: the sickness at the heart of Australian culture

Albert Tucker, The Lucky Country, 1964

‘Bruce Ruxton is right: we should embrace the legends of defeat,’ Richard Glover, The Sydney Morning Herald, 20.04.90

I arrived home to find my partner ashen-faced. The cat was wailing in the kitchen and the kid was clearly upset. The words came gushing out as soon as she saw me: “I don’t know what to do. I just found myself agreeing with Bruce Ruxton.”

Since she had confessed, I thought I could too. A healthy marriage, after all, is based on sharing such dark secrets. “Yep,” I said, “I agree with him too.”

The issue, you understand, wasn’t Asian immigration, gay rights, or whether environmentalists are all dole-bludging hippies. It was Anzac Day.

Ruxton, the Victorian president of the RSL, is currently doing battle with the journalist Phillip Knightley, who has expressed the view that next Wednesday should be Australia’s last Anzac Day.

It is absurd, argues Knightley, that the battle at Gallipoli should provide our key national image of war. Gallipoli, he says, was a defeat; and a defeat in a battle waged for British interests.

Better to celebrate, he says, the taking of Damascus by the Australian Light Horse, or the victorious battle by General Sir John Monash’s troops on the Western Front in the last months of war.

“Monash’s scientific breakthrough tactics,” he says, “were a powerful factor in the German decision to ask for an armistice and  thus a real turning point in history. Yet the Australians who fought on the Western Front appear doomed to live forever in the shadow of Gallipoli”.

But Mr Ruxton replies that these triumphs, along with others, are already marked by Anzac Day, and that traditions, once established, carry their own weight and importance.

But we can take the argument further. Knightley is right: Anzac Day does mark a defeat. But as such it is in keeping with one of the most consistent themes in the Australian legend: the celebration (or at least worldly-wise acknowledgement) of failure.

Any country can make hoopla about its victories. What makes Australia unique is the way it has always preferred to remember the brave-but-defeated, the underdog and the loser.

Consider, for example, some of the subjects of Australia’s successful historical films: Phar Lap, the story of a horse with  international promise who was poisoned; Les Darcy, the story of a boxer with promise who was killed; Breaker Morant, the story of soldier with promise who was shot.

And, of course, Peter Weir’s Gallipoli, the story of fighters of promise who were misled and misused.

Dad and Dave never expanded and made it rich, they just battled on against flood and rain – two steps forward, three steps back. The heroes of Lawson and Paterson were triers more than they were doers; just as the great national bards were humourists rather than battle-balladeers.

Waltzing Matilda, the real national song, is about a tramp who can only find freedom through suicide. The Dog on the Tucker Box comes from a poem reciting the multiple disasters of an accident-prone bullocky.

Oh, to live in a country that makes a national icon of a dog that relieved himself in a bullocky’s food hamper.

But not, it seems, for Knightley.

He wants Australia to follow every other nation: to edit the defeats out of history and concentrate on the victories; to puff itself up and worship the tall poppies.

His Dog on the Tucker Box would be straight from Walt Disney – a heroic pup who saved the bullocky’s life rather than spoilt his dinner.

But I rather like Australia’s curious traditions: I like being part of the land of the rising inflection, where every statement is turned into a question; I like a tradition that sees the grim absurdity of life and embraces legends of defeat with a wry smile.

There are many who have argued against Australia’s traditions: arguing our lack of self confidence has held us back; that we have driven away our talented by rejecting a culture of success.

There  may be some truth in this, and certainly we face continuing battles to wean ourselves from cultural and economic cringes of various kinds.

Of course, we do need to wave the flag and be proud. But my problem remains: how can you be flag-wavingly proud when what you’re proudest of is the lack of a pompous, flag-waving pride?

All in all, it seems to me a perfect symbol. And that’s why Bruce Ruxton –  just this once – is right.

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Former World Bank Staffer Explains How Neoliberalism Is Destroying The World — Desultory Heroics

By Dylan Charles Source: Waking Times More destructive than bombs, money has become the weapon of choice for the global elite, for the hidden hand of finance can plunder and conquer entire nations, assimilate whole cultures, exploit resources and rape the earth while forcing billions into poverty, all with the surprising stealth of pen-strokes and […]

via Former World Bank Staffer Explains How Neoliberalism Is Destroying The World — Desultory Heroics

I highly recommend the speech by Peter Koenig. Note towards the end of it where he kept being interrupted by the person next to him, resulting in Koenig asking ‘Why are you so strict with me when you were not with others who spoke longer than me?’

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The lucky country: part three

Donald Horne, The Lucky Country – Australia in the Sixties, Angus and Robertson, 1965 (first published in 1964)

pp. 32-33 ‘What often perishes altogether – in the bureaucracies of business or of government or in the universities and in such intellectual communities as exist – are originality, insight and sensitivity, the creative sources of human activity. In an imitative country no one has to be creative; the creative person is likely to be confronted with distrust – not perhaps in science or the arts, but almost everywhere else…With their distrust for Australian originality and their ignorance of the world the men who run Australia often have a peculiarly narrow view of ranges of the possible…It is not the people who are stupid but their masters, who cling to power but fail to lead.’

46 ‘The official beliefs of Australians are essentially humanist’

47 ‘Anzac Day (the Australian folk festival)…The beliefs associated with Anzac are more Stoic than Christian.’

56 Horne paraphrased the diary entry of Mrs. Marcel Dekyvere, chairman of the Black and White Ball Committee (in 1964) in response to a sermon titled ‘I Have a Dream’ – ‘We must all keep our dreams, even if sometimes they don’t come true. Don’t you agree?’

Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on 28.08.1963

61 ‘discussion on Australian literature is sometimes better informed in the American universities that have taken it up than in some of the Australian universities.’

76 ‘On 27 December 1941, John Curtin made the single most significant statement ever made by an Australian Prime Minister: “Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America”.’

81 ‘Menzies was more British than the British, always running several years behind London, expressing dreams of Commonwealth that had something of the flavour of progressive discussion in 1908.’

On Australia’s relations with the U.S. Horne wrote ‘Australians are used to being insignificant and relying on the power of others.’

83 ‘it seems likely that Australia could enter into a quite massive relationship with America without generating any politically effective anti-Americanism among ordinary Australians’

Australians are suspicious of all idealism: ‘What’s in it for him?’

I would add that Australians pride themselves on their cynicism, failing to distinguish between what it is – a corrosive poison – and a healthy skepticism.

88 ‘In the past Australia has also displayed the other side of provincialism: the boastfulness and arrogance of the liberated province, parading its very provincialism as if it were homegrown.’

101 ‘Despite its internal democracy, Australia plays an aristocratic role in the society of Asia – rich, self-centred, frivolous, blind…Given the huge area it has to defend, Australia is defenceless against a major power.’

‘There is not very much real feel for Asia (in Australia).’

107 The words ‘White Australia Policy’ were removed from the Labor Party platform in 1965.

112 ‘if Australia is to play a more forceful role in Asia the change must be dramatic enough to impress Asians that it is a change. It would seem a comparatively simple method to enter into migration agreements with Asian countries that might meet any of their own fears and that would set up clear public standards of assimilability – of language, education and working capacity…My own view is that the future holds dramatic possibilities for Australia which may necessarily include racial change, that this is Australia’s ‘destiny’. It is going to happen one way or the other. It is a task that will be undertaken either by Australians, or by someone else.’

120 ‘Of the top hundred Australian firms at least two thirds are overseas controlled.’

121 ‘Not that Australia has ever spent much on research and development anyway…This indifference to research and development goes beyond the question of foreign ownership.’

122 ‘The very idea of clever, expert men thinking up new things to do is one that is repulsive to many Australian businessmen…in such matters Australian businessmen often treat their own countrymen with the scorn that the colonialists used to treat those they exploited: you can’t expect the natives to have ideas.’

125 Horne on the suspicion of Australians to original Australian ideas

130 ‘Several generations of Australians were taught to venerate not lions or eagles or other aggressive symbols of nationalism; they were taught to venerate sheep.’

136 ‘the things modern Australians are really interested in – getting homes, raising their children, going on holidays.’

Horne went on to add: ‘What one does witness in Australia is…”the institutionalisation of mediocrity”…established rhetoricians and ideology makers’

145 Australia took its federal structure from the U.S. – with a House of Representatives, a Senate and a federal court that interpreted a written constitution.

146 In certain senses, Australia is a province of two external powers (the UK and the US).

Still clutching at the skirts of Mother Britannia, Australians, in an Asian sphere, cling to the coat-tails of Uncle Sam – the latter two nations generated from the first. The pervasive shame associated with this Australian servility is the source of the projection known as ‘tall poppy syndrome’ – ‘Because I am on my knees, I will ensure that you are on yours!’

177 ‘if intellectuals wish to walk down the corridors of power in Australia they must leave their intellectuality at home. As in business, to pretend to some stupidity is safest.’

190 Exposing the often repeated excuse – that ‘we are only a small nation’:

Horne, quoting Irving Kristol’s review of the first edition of The Lucky Country, emphasised the importance of leadership that could enable a people to create ‘better than they know’ and of appreciating their creation, without which that people would not only be far poorer in their self-definition but would be blissfully unaware of their poverty. Leadership enables the discernment of a promise and a potentiality that becomes integral to their way of life.

Part three/to be continued…

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The lucky country: part two

Donald Horne, The Lucky Country – Australia in the Sixties, Angus and Robertson, 1965 (first published in 1964)

p.1 ‘The Australian Dream: Innocent happiness’

2 ‘Life assumes meaning in the weekends and on holidays.’

4 ‘Australians are too easy-going to become fanatics and they do not crave great men.’

5 ‘A cult of informality derived from a deep belief in the essential sameness and ordinariness of mankind’

‘Anzac Day is the Festival of the Ordinary Man; Christmas the Festival of Family; New Year the Festival of the Good Time.’

‘the appeal of Anzac Day is as an expression of the commonness of man (even death is a leveller).’

‘Australia is not a country of great political dialogue or intense searching after problems (or recognition of problems that exist).’

6 In 1886, J.A. Froude said of Australians: ‘It is hard to quarrel with men who only wish to be innocently happy.’

Horne wrote that Australia is strongly inimical to ideas.

7 ‘Throughout the world the basis of material prosperity in the future is likely to lie, for the first time in history, with clever, educated people.’ Horne added that in Australia cleverness can be considered un-Australian.

14 ‘Australians love a “battler”, an underdog who is fighting the top dog, although their veneration for him is likely to pass if he comes out from under. At work – among the unambitious – the feeling for underdogs runs very strong.’

18 ‘Australians like people to be ordinary…To be different is considered an affectation.’

18-19 Horne believes that Australians embody ‘a complex of resentments against difference…It is only when a difference stares them in the face that ordinary Australians become truculent; and then only in a personal way.’

26-27 ‘This cynicism beneath purpose feeds our notorious philistinism…the Australian is cynical and self-denigratory towards himself as well as towards the world he sees around him…This deeply inlaid scepticism is a genuine philosophy of life, a national style determining individual and group actions. Its influence can be detected throughout Australian society. It may be the most pervasive single influence operating on Australians.’

‘What they find it difficult to do is to imagine the new for themselves.’

32 ‘The passion for egalitarianism may combine with the passion for scepticism to hide and often frustrate talent.’

‘Much energy is wasted in pretending to be stupid. To appear ordinary, just like everybody else, is sometimes a necessary condition for success in Australia.’

Part two/to be continued…

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Engels on China

Three Gorges Dam, Francis turbine

Three Gorges Dam, Francis turbine

From Comments at The Virtual Politician:

Worth considering: ‘The war in China has given the death-blow to the old China. Isolation has become impossible; the introduction of railways, steam-engines, electricity, and modern large-scale industry has become a necessity, if only for reasons of military defence. But with it the old economic system of small peasant agriculture, where the family also made its industrial products itself, falls to pieces too, and with it the whole old social system which made relatively dense population possible. Millions will be turned out and forced to emigrate; and these millions will find their way even to Europe, and en masse. But as soon as Chinese competition sets in on a mass scale, it will rapidly bring things to a head in your country and over here, and thus the conquest of China by capitalism will at the same time furnish the impulse for the overthrow of capitalism in Europe and America…’

Engels to Friedrich Adolf Sorge in Hoboken; London, November 10, 1894, Marx Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1982, 450-451

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zeroBelief

I am unfamiliar with Engels and Friedrich Adolf Sorge, let alone their designs upon destroying American and European capitalism. Might you expound a bit on that for us?

Thanks!!!

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Hello zeroBelief,

Thank you for your interest. Essentially I quoted Engels not to argue for destruction but for how the world works – that the only absolute is change and that matter (objective reality) is primary to consciousness (that consciousness is the product of objective reality – what one thinks, whatever that may be, is secondary to and derivate of the world). Accepting these two points orients and focuses one’s thought on all subjects.

The one-party state in China, as you know, is demonised in capitalist ideology. Western ‘democracy’ is held up as the highest form of political organisation, the standard. But if there was a vote for anything that threatened their interests, the capitalist class would destroy it.

Look not only at the damage the Democrat/Republican divide is doing in the United States (a division which reflects the decline of their middle class – a global phenomenon – and exemplifies the increasing exposure of the opposed interests of their ruling and working classes), think of the enormous forces – economic and social, that are being impacted on by these divisions.

In China with its population of 1.3 billion (and as Engels foresaw) is taking place rapid economic development, following on the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. With that development, and dialectically informing it, is the equally rapid rise of millions into the middle class.

In the rise of capitalism, the middle class was the agent of individual representation and I believe that this rising middle class in China will put growing pressure for the recognition of the significance of the individual on their one-party state and that the engagement between these two forces (party and middle class) will result in forms of political, economic and social organisation within socialism that will be models for the world, as those in England were previously under capitalism.

I think that these developments, together with the benefits they bring, underscored by the vast size of the Chinese population will force similar and fundamental economic, political and social change on the Western (capitalist) nations. And this is what Engels foresaw in 1894, in outline.

We are witnessing and experiencing the unceasing, contradictory change of dialectics at work.

Regards, Philip

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John Pilger’s film ‘The Coming War on China’

The_Coming_War_On_China

I highly recommend John Pilger’s film ‘The Coming War on China’. The experimentation by the US capitalist class on the Marshall Islanders, initiated by the former’s atomic tests between 1946 and 1958 on Bikini Atoll and the mockery, documented in the film, they made of the Islanders’ suffering, as with the same experimentation the US capitalist class made on the Japanese they bombed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, itself makes the greatest mockery of the unjustified posturing and war crime charges against Bashar al-Assad by their agents and other representatives of Western capital regarding the recent gassing in Syria.

A criticism of Pilger’s documentary: he fails to address (as pointed out by one of his interviewees) the incompatibility and contradiction between the economic and political structures of China and the capitalist West. In particular, the economic (and hence, political) developments within China (of necessity) are and will be the voice of the future while the economic and political structures of the capitalist West, in the violent process of capitalism’s passing, as did feudalism, of the past.

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Welcome to Australia, mate!

Screen Shot 2019-08-27 at 12.15.32 pm

Charlotte Grieve, ‘Behind every number is a student’: survey finds widespread racism in schools’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27.08.19

One in five African students has been threatened by another student and almost half of East Asian students have been called names, according to a survey of 4600 state school pupils across Victoria and NSW.

Racism and religious intolerance remain widespread in Australia’s primary and secondary schools, researchers from Australian National University have found, with discrimination coming from both students and teachers.

Tanzanian Year 11 student Emmanuel Asante was threatened on the grounds of his south Sydney school by another student, who called him a “black monkey” and ordered him to get off the soccer pitch.

“I felt sad and I felt that I wasn’t welcome. I didn’t play soccer again. Never again,” he says now, one year after finishing high school.

Mr Asante became depressed during school, and said that while family and relationship issues were the main causes, “being racist to me added oil to the flames”.

This form of bullying can have serious lifelong consequences, according to lead researcher Associate Professor Naomi Priest, contributing to mental and physical health problems and even undermining future employment opportunities as students become discouraged and disengaged.

“We talk about the numbers of students who experience racism and we look at the percentages. But it’s important to remember that behind every number is a student, a family, a community.”

The researchers found that one third of students had been subjected to racism from other students – from teasing to physical violence – and six in 10 witnessed it. Professor Priest said she was not surprised by the results.

“Schools are a microcosm of wider society,” she said. “We know racism is a major issue in our community, we’re seeing the rise of the far right and white nationalism around the globe.”

Religious intolerance was also found to be rife, with one in four students surveyed reporting they’d been bullied because of their faith.

While only 2.35 per cent of the students surveyed said they were Muslim, more than half of them said they’d been bullied for their faith.

Screen Shot 2019-08-27 at 12.15.58 pm

Throughout her schooling in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, Sundus Ibrahim was bullied for wearing the hijab – other children yanked at her head scarf, asked why she wore it or screamed “I hate you” while pointing at her head.

Ms Ibrahim, who graduated two years ago, describes herself as having a “big personality” but “at school I felt small”.

She tried to brush it off but grew so anxious she now feels afraid when alone in public.

Teachers can also be racist, the students told researchers: one in 10 said their teachers was racist towards them and nearly half said they had seen teachers racially discriminating against other students.

Braybrook VCE student Praise Morris said her friend was barred from her economics class because there were “too many black students” and they would “turn the class into a party”.

The students wrote a letter to the principal complaining about the incident but Ms Morris said the teachers tried to downplay the event, rather than deal with it.

“Instead of just taking ownership of what happened, they said you might have perceived it wrong…It really discourages you from even trying in school. What’s the point of trying to prove something if they already have the perception that I’m going to fail?”

The researchers hope to repeat the survey so they can track changing attitudes in schools.

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Two courageous Australians

Although John Pilger and Julian Assange lack class analysis they are two fine Australians. No aping of the US accent here, no Texan pronunciation of ‘Iraq’ nor beginning every response with ‘So…’.

Principles and no servility, unlike that of their culture and government which can’t wait to abandon Assange to the enraged US capitalist class and their agents (that the ‘Christian’ Prime Minister Morrison said that Assange ‘won’t get any special treatment’ by the Australian government to represent him is an early indicator), just as they did Mamdouh Habib and the token white Taliban David Hicks, even while every other country, including Britain, was demanding the return of their citizens from Guantanamo Bay).

I highly recommend this video.

Watch developments as the Australian government (either Liberal or Labor – note the American spelling – post the upcoming federal election), so big and tough in relation to China (but not too much – as ex-PM Abbott said, ‘fear and greed’ are the drivers in Australia’s myopic relations with China), abandons a fine Australian to his fate.

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Two letters to the editor: on the servility and racism of a fearful nation

Prime-Minister-Harold-Holt-and-President-Johnson

Prime Minister Harold Holt and President Johnson

Two letters to the editor, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27.03.19

Memorial a sham that glorifies wars fought for other countries

I’m looking for a letter which says “don’t extend the Australian War Memorial, demolish it”.

None of the Australian personnel who served, suffered and died in World War I, and subsequent wars, made their sacrifice for Australia.

It was all for the Mother Country, or to keep sweet with the US.

Everybody remembers Menzies saying: “It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that, in consequence of the persistence of Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her, and that, as a result, Australia is also at war”.

Everybody remembers Holt’s “all the way with LBJ”.

Everybody remembers Hasluck pressuring the Americans to request an Australian battalion to join US combat troops in South Vietnam.

I except the 624 regular army and Citizen Military Forces members killed on the Kokoda track while defending Australia against the Japanese.

I also except the tens of thousands of unknown partisans who were hunted and shot down defending their homeland in the bitter guerrilla war fought on Australian soil from 1788 to 1928.

The present war glorification park is a joke.

It is a sham hatched by John Howard and Professor Geoffrey Blainey and about to be brought to fruition by Dr Brendan Nelson.

Kenneth Griffiths, O’Connor

Face up to early conflict

Brendan Nelson (“Indigenous gargoyles to stay at Australian War Memorial”, canberratimes.com.au, June 4, 2015) said the AWM did not have the resources to deal with the armed conflict between Indigenous and white Australians.

However, $350 million was spent on the Anzac Centenary and $485 million allocated for memorial expansion.

There are still no plans to memorialise the Frontier Wars. The director’s argument is surely not sustainable.

The AWM, or the director, have also argued from time to time that war was never declared against Indigenous Australia, nor were the Frontier Wars fought overseas.

Once again these are weak arguments as we never declared war on North Vietnam but we rightly memorialise the conflict.

The AWM seems also to have overlooked that significant armed conflict occurred on Australian soil in Darwin in World War II. This is dealt with appropriately in the galleries.

One can conclude that our past is just too grim and we haven’t matured enough to acknowledge these wars.

But we must.

Germany has been able to face its Nazi past and emerged stronger as it faces the future.

We cannot grow as a nation until we have come to grips with the blood that was spilt in the Frontier Wars; wars that may have taken more Australian lives than World Wars I and II combined, and wars that shaped our nation.

Digby Habel, Cook

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To illustrate the depth of Australian servility to their latest anglophone bully-boy-on-the-block-master, I add a quotation from the Australian War Memorial website which addresses the ‘award’ as a ‘battle honour’ of an American word to the name for the Track on which approximately 625 Australian soldiers died and on which no American soldiers fought (If you search the War Memorial website for ‘Kokoda Track’ up will come links to ‘Kokoda Trail’. Do you think the Americans would re-name any of their trails ‘track’, let alone one on which so many of their citizens had died fighting for their country?):

From: http://www.awm.gov.au/units/event_291.asp

“Kokoda Trail” and “Kokoda Track” have been used interchangeably since the Second World War and the former was adopted by the Battles Nomenclature Committee as the official British Commonwealth battle honour in October 1957.

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Source

Immigration and Racial Prejudice: The Chinese Exclusion Act — A R T L▼R K

On the 15th of March 1879, Thomas Nast’s cartoon, A Matter of Taste, was published. In the cartoon, criticising the support of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Senator James G. Blaine, an active backer of the Act, is shown dining in ‘Kearney’s Senatorial Restaurant’ – a reference to Denis Kearney, the leader of a violent anti-Chinese […]

via Immigration and Racial Prejudice: The Chinese Exclusion Act — A R T L▼R K

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