Jane Austen and the Black Hole. Chapter 1
Introduction - truth, reason, science and history
“...I am rather inclined to suppose him a very respectable Man;...but it also has been declared that he did not kill his two Nephews, which I am inclined to believe true; & if this is the case, it may also be that he did not kill his wife...”
- Jane Austen on Richard III in The History of England (1791) 1
Ultimately this book is impelled by the oft-quoted assertion “Those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.” 2 It addresses excesses of the past that have almost completely disappeared from general history books and from general perception and which are set to recur in the next century for similar reasons of greed and moral torpidity. My argument is about historiography, science and humanity and is specifically concerned with the people of Bengal and their immediate future that threatens to outdo their tragic past in terms of human suffering and loss of life imposed by greedy and morally unresponsive foreigners.
Two centuries of British rule in India were repeatedly accompanied by horrendous human disasters due to callous exploitation by those responsible for their enslaved subjects, the human toll from these events amounting to scores of millions of people.3 The two principal disasters suffered by Bengal were the Great Bengal Famine of 1769-1770 that consumed about 10 million people 4 and the Bengal Famine of 1943-1944 that ultimately swept away as many as 5 million people through starvation and attendant disease in the latter half of World War 2. 5 In between these 2 appalling events Bengal, and indeed India, suffered 2 centuries of famine and merciless exploitation that killed scores of millions and reduced hundreds of millions of people to wretched lives on the edge of the abyss.
Leaving to one side the precise mechanisms involved, the administering authority bears the responsibility for such events. The metropolitan community that would thus rule others has a continuing responsibility to ensure that at the very least such crimes against humanity are recorded, remembered and learned from by all. This has clearly not happened pursuant to the above disasters and this dereliction is indeed the subject of the present work. Holocaust denial of this kind and a continuing global commitment to blind economic expansion have created a crisis in biological sustainability that will resolve itself over the next century.
While the world has ostensibly departed from the era of explicit imperial colonialism, the present “neo-colonial” world order means that the poor and weak are subject to the rich and powerful by other means. An ostensibly free Bengali ryot (peasant farmer) couple and their children today are no less subject to the men of the City of London (now linked with the men of New York, Chicago, Washington and Zurich) than were their counterparts of 230 or indeed of 60 years ago. However the economic power of these latter day First World versions of the East India Company men is not accompanied by any formal or publicly acknowledged responsibility for their subjects. Global warming attendant upon the irresponsibility and greed of the industrial world is likely in the next century to visit upon the people of Bengal a disaster that will dwarf the horrors of their colonial past.6
We live in a global village and the "first world", "northern", "developed" societies are relatively well informed in principle about the present and likely future situation of the debt-ridden, impoverished people of the subject "third world". 7 However such wretched people are in reality of minimal concern to us and their transient invasion of our lives (principally via television) can be dispelled by a flick of a switch. Like the servants and other common folk in the neighbourhoods of an exquisite Jane Austen novel, these people are largely anonymous, ignored and unlamented in the rich tapestry of our elevated, hygienic lives.
Nevertheless barriers to humane sensibility are substantially dispelled by social or familial intimacy. While the West Indies represented a major source of contemporary wealth, its indigenous or slave inhabitants do not intrude into the world of Jane Austen's literary art except for the elegant "half mulatto, chilly and tender" Miss Lambe, made "the most important and precious" of her young ladies' party and indubitably acceptable by her wealth and consequent social position in the unfinished novel Sanditon. 8
The growth of the British Empire in 19th century was inevitably accompanied by increasing racism reflecting ruler-subject power relations and Miss Lambe would not have had the same social acceptability in 1850 - nor indeed in 1950 - as in 1800. Nevertheless post-war migration from former colonial countries, consequent social intercourse and intermarriage and the politically correct ideals of the modern global village have today generally restored normal interpersonal decencies if not a practical sense of collective social responsibility towards vulnerable Third World countries that will be critical in the coming catastrophe.
The present author’s connections
It is useful for the reader to know from what patch of the social and intellectual woods the writer is coming from. To convince the reader that the underlying social responsibility argument of this book does not stem from a "holier than thou" position borne of superior moral and intellectual sensibilities of the writer, I should admit at the outset to having been married to a woman of ultimately Bihari and Bengali origin for over 30 years and we have 3 lively children. Her grandparents were among indentured labourers to the Pacific islands of Fiji from Bihar, Bengal and other parts of India early this century, 9 her paternal grandparents leaving India and crossing the kala pani (the Black Water) on the Ganges in 1913. In the rapid advance characteristic of such colonial societies, my wife's mother, Habiban (daughter of Tez Ali), became a school teacher (and indeed was known in her community of Nausori and Suva as “Teacher”); my wife’s father, Abdul Lateef MBE (son of Kassim and Bedami), became a lawyer, distinguished himself in public life and was a member of a parliamentary delegation that negotiated independence for Fiji from Britain in 1970.10 Of their unusually small family of only 6 children, the 3 sons are lawyers and the 3 daughters are, respectively, a science graduate/teacher-librarian, a secretary and a highly-positioned anthropology PhD working for a major international bank.
Any one of the millions of Bengali victims of past British imperial or mercantile policy is not simply another nameless statistic of the Third World suffering to which we have become innured through the "compassion overload" induced by the daily news. To a significant extent any such victim can be perceived as connected with any Bengali extended family, not so much for the commonplace crime involving the victim's suffering and death at foreign hands so many years ago, but for the present-day, continuing crime of racially- and culturally-selective forgetting.
The continuing white-washing of history is an offence as well as a danger to present-day people of the same ilk and indeed to all of us. In Germany and in France today it is an offence to deny the Jewish Holocaust, the Judeocide of World War 2, there being a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment for this offence in Germany.11 The Bengali Holocaust (first described in these terms by Jog (1944)12 and indeed also by the Manchester Guardian in 1944)13 has been completely forgotten in many standard general histories. One supposes that the deletion from public perception has been sustained by some general acceptance of the notion that somehow Bengalis don't matter. My personal interest in this “holocaust ignoring” derives from a familial involvement in both tragedies.
On my father's side I am descended from a prosperous, substantially “assimilated” Austro-Hungarian Jewish family that had progressively entered the mainstream of Hungarian society in the latter half of the 19th century. 14 My great grandfather Jakab Pollak (Polya) (1844-1897) was a lawyer-economist and utterly dedicated scholar who, incidentally, translated into Hungarian Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations (1776) (a work that draws upon the Great Bengal Famine of 1769-1770 as an example of the failure of economic managers). 15 It appears that access to Jakab Polya’s translation of this “capitalist” classic was restricted to professional economists in communist Hungary. This family made substantial contributions to industry, culture, scholarship and science. Thus my grandfather Jeno (Eugene) Polya (1875-1944/45) was a great surgeon (of Polya/Billroth gastrectomy fame) who performed some 50,000 surgical interventions and published some 500 scientific works.16 His brother, George (Gyorgy) Polya (1887-1985), was a very famous mathematician (most generally known for his classic book How to Solve It ), with an immensely productive career spanning 7 decades in Budapest, Zurich and Stanford University, Palo Alto, California.17 A third brother, Laszlo Polya (1891-1915/16), is presumed to have died as a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian Army on the Eastern Front during the First World War and one can only guess at the contributions he would have made if he had survived. This family was effectively wiped from the face of Europe in World War 2, the survivors (including those who had wisely left before the Holocaust) scattering principally to England, America and Australia.18 My father, John (Janos) Bela Polya, fled to Australia and thence to Tasmania (as far away from the lunacy of Europe as one could go) and distinguished himself as an organic chemist and staunch defender of academic and intellectual decencies.19 My grandmother’s cousin, Dr. Edith Bone (née Hajos), went to England but was arrested in Budapest on returning to Hungary in 1949 as a journalist for the Daily Worker. She escaped during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Her remarkable mind-over-matter survival in solitary confinement in prison is described in Seven Years’ Solitary (1957), a work that, with other such accounts, is a testament to courageous self-possession at the edge of the abyss. 20
The destruction of the Hungarian Jews (and the failure of the world to save this last major surviving body of Jews in German-occupied Europe) 21 is not unconnected with the contemporaneous “Forgotten Holocaust” in Bengal. As we will see, Winston Churchill, as a major wartime leader of Britain and the British Empire, was critically connected in different capacities with both events, a reality not apparent from his famous histories. 22
History is written by the victors
The victor writes history, or more generally stated, the non-vanquished writes history. The Egyptian Pharoah Ramses II (1301-1234 BC) was well held by the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh on the River Orontes in Syria (1296 BC) and was lucky not to have been comprehensively demolished. Ramses II commissioned his servants to render this near-disaster as a great victory for posterity. In his account of the discovery of the Hittite Empire, Narrow Pass, Black Mountain, C.W.Ceram (1955) describes this licence thus:
“Today it is known that these reports inspired by Ramses were shameless falsifications of history. They are the first examples of we have of such rewriting of history.” 23
Tudor recorders of history - no doubt concordant with the wishes of victorious Henry VII and his son Henry VIII - would have it that Richard III had eliminated most of his own important relatives including the 2 young Princes kept in the Tower of London. This was transmuted by Shakespeare into his famous play The Tragedy of King Richard the Third 24 but has been the subject of sensible scepticism as cogently and entertainingly described in The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (1951) and The Trial of Richard III by Drewett and Redhead (1984). 25 Nevertheless Hicks (1992), while accepting the reality of Tudor “demonization” of Richard III, also accepts his responsibility for the disappearance of the Princes. 26 As the quotation at the beginning of this Chapter indicates, young Jane Austen had a healthy scepticism about Richard’s supposed guilt at the age of 16. Nevertheless basic, essential data concerning Kadesh and Richard III has survived - the Battle of Kadesh was fought, but the outcome is arguable; the “little bastards” were murdered in the Tower, but we can debate the culprit.
The bottom line for both scientific and historical scholarship is respect for the basic data. An extraordinary aspect of the history of the famines of Bengal is the elimination of the actuality of these immense tragedies from general and even specific histories and their consequent absence from general current perception. This book explores this Black Hole of British history that has consumed even the most horrendous realities. We are using the term Black Hole in several senses in this book. We are familiar with the astronomical Black Holes that have such a massive concentration of mass that even light (illumination in a physical and metaphorical sense), cannot escape. This nomenclature in turn surely derives from the “historical” Black Hole of Calcutta. This was a tiny room in which 146 British prisoners were supposedly incarcerated overnight on 20-21 June 1756 and from which emerged only 23 survivors. This event has gone into our language and is routinely used daily to represent any situation involving unproductive and irreversible consumption of valuable resources. However, as we will see, the Black Hole and attendant events and people are intimately linked to Jane Austen and her family. Further, this major element of demonizing British Imperial iconography may not even have happened or, if it did, has been immensely exaggerated. 27 The Black Hole in this disquisition represents a number of things: the historical “event”, a very destructive, racially-loaded imperial myth, a metaphor for the extraordinary “ignoring” or “disappearing” of major historical realities by society and its academic elders and the human and biosphere catastrophe if the current crisis in biological sustainability is not resolved satisfactorily in the next few decades.
Jane Austen and historiography
Jane Austen was born in 1775 - 5 years after the apocalyptic semi-depopulation of Bengal, the richest province of the Indian sub-continent, under the remorseless fist of the East India Company. She was born into a family with manifold connections with British imperial expansion and specifically with Bengal. 28 Her life was spent in a fashion not dissimilar to that of the leisure life of civilized, educated people today - a modestly comfortable life of gentle family pleasures, of books, music, art, sociability, tamed nature and conversation. Her exquisite novels, written at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, are like a pool of tranquillity, a moral oasis in a period of horrendous violence and awfulness. 29
One maximal human lifespan of about 125 years from Jane Austen's untimely death in 1817 brings us back in time to the accession of William III and Mary (1689), the beginning of the end of Catholic Highland Scotland and the commencement of a military struggle with France that would conclude with the Battle of Waterloo (1815). 1692 saw the Massacre at Glencoe of Jacobite Highlanders and the major English naval victory over the French at Cap de la Hogue in a conflict that would evolve into one of the first major wars of modern times, the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713). This war was qualitatively different from others in that it involved “modern”, large-scale offensive carnage and generated immense wealth from attendant domestic and foreign activities for its chief administrators, notably Sir Winston Churchill's ancestor John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, and his Paymaster, Jane Austen's relative James Brydges, the first Duke of Chandos and the great-uncle of Jane Austen’s mother. 30 The same span of years forward in time brings us to the commencement of World War 2, the ultimate war to beat all preceding wars in human history in terms of human carnage and commercial profit.
If we go back about 250 years (or 2 maximal human life spans) from the year of Jane Austen’s death, we come to the accession of Queen Elizabeth I of England (1558), the entrenchment of a Protestant establishment and the commencement of an aggressive expansion of England into the greater world of the Americas, Africa and the East Indies. Advance 250 years from 1817 and we come to the late 21st century at which point the global environmental and economic consequences of moral and intellectual unresponsiveness and of thoughtless and aggressive expansion will be all too apparent.
One cannot criticize Jane Austen, the Artist, for the confinement of her art to the gentle and comfortable domesticity of the English Upper Class of circa 1800. Her novels deal with English Home Counties gentlefolk with annual incomes in the range of about 200 to 10,000 pounds and are delicious exercises in conversation and manners concerned with the matching of young men and women consonant with love and future material practicalities. It is not for us to cavill at the fact that the violent ugliness of the real world does not intrude into her world. There is no more room for the wretched, starving masses (British or Bengali) in the art of Jane Austen (1775-1817) than in the Arcadian landscapes of John Constable (1776-1837).31 One notes, however, that the common folk of England had an assured place in the overwhelmingly powerful landscapes of Joseph Turner (1775-1831), a contemporary of Jane Austen and John Constable. 32
Nevertheless Jane Austen was there and her family and connections were intimately involved in the process of preserving and extending the national and international hegemony of her class. The very displacement of her art from the attendant violent realities has provided a paradigm for what can charitably be seen as the remarkable, continuing English capacity for highly informed self-delusion about the world and their place in it. [I hasten to add that my maternal ancestry derives from early settlers to South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria from Cornwall, Devon and Middlesex as well from Gaelic Scotland. Thus a maternal great-great-great grandfather was a game keeper (in Ilesworth near Twickenham, London) whose son went out to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) and there married a woman from Argylleshire in the Scottish Highlands. Other forebears were Devonshire free settlers in Willunga, South Australia. I can thus surely be credited with a licence to be suitably critical of my own lot.]
Self-delusion is not confined to the English - indeed it is asserted that the essential difference between man and beast is not the ability to make tools, use language or to deceive one's fellow creatures but the capacity of man to deceive himself. We all do it, whether we are a Tory academic historian like G.M.Trevelyan erasing Irish or Indian famines from history, 33 a Jewish intellectual facing death in a concentration camp 34 or a starving Bengali woman returning to prostitution with the war-time British Military Labour Corps to preserve the life of herself and her child. 35
Jane Austen herself has posed a germane series of questions that are directly relevant to this problem. In Northanger Abbey the heroine, Miss Catherine Morland, affected by the somewhat Gothic atmosphere of the Tilney family home and the romantic horrors of Mrs Radcliffe's novels, conceives the fantasy that General Tilney (the father of her beloved, Henry Tilney) has done away with the late Mrs Tilney. (Let us remind ourselves that the late Mrs. Tilney is merely one soul as compared to the millions of Bengal, Bihar and Oudh despatched through the rapacity of the East India Company in the eighteenth century alone). Henry reproves Catherine as follows:
"If I understand you rightly, you have formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to -. Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?" 36
Catherine at this point rushes off to her room "with tears of shame".
This present book sets out from the beautiful, decent, articulate and morally sensitive microcosm of Jane Austen's life and art to explore her family and connections, her world and the appalling, continuing holocaust that was British imperialism in India. We will inspect the historical realities and the soldiers, administrators and scholars that contributed to our dim perception of the man-made tragedies of Bengal. In doing so we will nibble at a large literature and discover that not only have the Bengal holocausts and similar events been essentially deleted from generally-perceived history but even the more interesting and entertaining aspects of the lives of Jane Austen and her connections have been similarly rendered fit for polite society.
Science and the Austenizing of history
This “Austenizing” of history deserves to be addressed seriously. It is quite acceptable and legitimate for an artist such as Jane Austen to choose her medium and message just as it is perfectly reasonable for old-fashioned epicureans to delete “religion, sex and politics” from dining table conversation. However in academic scholarship, and ultimately in the areas of perception and policy in the parts and the whole of society, it is important that the basic facts are known. It is only then that we can begin to construct models, hypotheses and theories and to make predictions about matters pertaining to the future of our world. The ugly facts of Imperial Britain in circa 1800 were not relevant to Jane Austen’s literary masterpieces but they are relevant to our understanding of history, human responsiveness and the likelihood of future catastrophes.
An experimental scientist has an advantage over the historian in that he can assess the data, generate an hypothesis and then set out to test the hypothesis experimentally. Indeed Karl Popper defined the scientific process as involving the construction and testing of potentially falsifiable hypotheses - an hypothesis was “scientific” in his perception if it could be experimentally tested. 37 This procedure leads to progressive refinement of scientific models when they are on the right track and points up major problems when there are major missing elements in the collective scientific perception of the systems under study. Such problems can be addressed by the formulation and testing of new hypotheses and are often successfully dealt with through technological advances.
While this sort of scientific advance can be seen to be evolutionary and incremental it is also clear that occasionally “revolutions” occur in our collective perception of reality. 38 Thus one of the classic examples of this sort of change in perception is provided by the Copernican revolution. It is indubitable that the sun rises in the morning, passes across the sky and then sets, to rise in roughly the same position again the following day. Our simple perception of this daily passage may lead us to infer (as did the Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy) that the Sun may orbit the Earth. However the revolutionary perception of Copernicus (and thence Galileo and Kepler) was that a simple model to explain this and a huge body of additional astronomical data involves the Earth revolving on an axis and actually orbiting around the Sun. 39
This example provides a salutory lesson that “self-evident” and “general” perception and inference do not necessarily equate with reality, a proposition that applies not only to experimental science but also to historiography and the “social sciences” such as economics. It is notable that George Soros, the Hungarian Jewish investor, philanthropist and former undergraduate student of Karl Popper at the London School of Economics, has applied a critical “Popperian” approach to dealing with the gap between perception and reality in the marketplace - with evident sustained empirical success that has earned him billions as well as the accolade of being “the world’s greatest investor” and “the world’s greatest philanthropist”. However Soros has also applied such analysis of perception/reality gaps to societies in disequilibrium and in particular to the old Soviet Union that have changed rapidly and catastrophically when the divergence between policy and reality became unsustainable. 40 The same sort of analysis is relevant to the looming conflicts involving expanding human populations, the impact of environmental change on agricultural productivity and sustainability, the dramatic decline in biodiversity and indeed the survival of major elements of the biosphere and of billions of human beings.
Historians have a difficulty in that the data they have is simply the collected flotsam of past eras and past events. Occasionally new technology provides a radical new way of accessing this information store (as seen in modern archaeology). However the historian, unlike the experimental scientist, cannot in general perform experiments to test “Popperian” hypotheses. An historian cannot re-run the Battle of Waterloo in the flesh after the fashion of the fictional re-run by historian Miss Hazlestone in Tom Sharpe’s hilarious Riotous Assembly, in this instance a re-run of the Battle of Isandhlwana involving Zulu and white psychiatric inmates as protagonists.41 However modern computers provide conceivable avenues for “re-running” historical models of such events with the attendant perturbation of particular variables (such as the Prussian General Blucher arriving at Waterloo earlier or later).
Cosmologists and evolutionary biologists have a problem akin to that of historians in that critical events they are concerned with are believed to have taken place literally billions of years ago. It has been possible to perform laboratory experiments demonstrating the formation of amino acids and other key “monomeric” components of living systems from electric discharges through an inferred “pre-biotic” atmosphere of methane (CH4), nitrogen (N2), carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). 42 However no in vitro construction of even the simplest “self-replicating” chemical system has been achieved. Man-made “evolution” through processes akin to Darwinian “natural selection” are readily demonstrable as in plant and animal breeding (through selection of desirable traits) and in molecular biological selection processes in the laboratory. The changes in the distribution of dark and pale moths in Industrial England (the so-called “industrial melanism”) is readily explained in terms of the camouflaging of darker moths in a grimy, sooty environment and their differential selection within a moth population. Nevertheless, while Darwinian evolution in its crude essence is accepted by virtually all biologists, major problems exist with establishing the molecular details of how self-repairing and self-replicating systems (i.e. living organisms) arose and how evolution actually happened. 43
Scientists have an ethical commitment to the “data”- they cannot pick and choose to suit their hypothesis. However scientists can typically get more data, repeat experiments, quantitate reproducibility and apply statistical arguments to their data. Historians have a peculiar responsibility towards the “facts of history” because these “facts” are essentially all the data they have. Of course it may well be that some “facts” are considered to be more important than others but the legitimacy of the licence offered by such value judgements has worn very thin when major catastrophes are ignored by major historians. The basic data should be given and then we can dispute the relevance of the victims to the “big picture” of human experience. Thus the historian G.M. Trevelyan in his History of England (1952) totally ignores the Bengal Famines - and indeed any famine in India - and, while effusive about the marvellous benefits of the imposition of the British Imperial Way, has nothing to say about the “native” recipients of this largesse or the supplanted and perverted cultures. 44
Finally we should return to the predictive value of history either as typically purveyed by our parochial historians or properly dealt with in an ethical and scientific sense. At this point in time there is a fine balance between global population and available food. There are serious predictions of a substantial decline in staple food production in tropical countries next century due to global warming 45 and even optimistic projections predict a doubling global population by the mid-21st century. 46 The populous tropical “Third World” is under dire threat of famine next century. A human disaster of an unthinkable magnitude and awfulness is looming if there is to be a continuation of the view in “First World” countries that such people are irrelevant to the grand sweep of human progress or are otherwise undeserving of human compassion. The biosphere is facing a man-made crisis involving catastrophic decline in biological diversity and an immense threat to biological sustainability as we have known it. 47 And yet it is by and large “business as usual” for the world, the “Asian Tigers” have been progressing in leaps and bounds and there is manifestly insufficient global action now to steer us away from disaster. The lotus eaters prefer to remain unruffled and unmoved:
“O let us shut the future out,
Lest thoughts should poison with the shaft of doubt
The happy now!” 48
This book sets out to describe some of the most horrendous crimes against humanity and how they have been almost completely deleted from general perception by the media, academics and “elders”`of my own “British” culture. It presents the further contention that the world has to come to terms with these past realities in order to vigorously address collapsing biological sustainability. Of course nobody likes doom and gloom and “shame” is one of the most distorting feelings. I am reminded of a cartoon by George Booth (1974): a clergyman is being chased out of a New England church by his enraged flock and the reason is apparent when we see the church noticeboard announcing the title of the sermon: “Are we all prostitutes?” A gem that is also germane to our disquisition is a further cartoon by Booth (1977) showing a tribe of people on a flat plain and one individual asserts “It is so!”. His tribe respond with a plethora of negatives: “No! Hell no!Absolutely not!” until a huge hirsute figure appears clutching the edge of the horizon and declares “It is so!”, whereupon the whole tribe reverts to “Yes! Verily. Without doubt it is so! You damn betcha it is so if he says it is so!” 49
In writing about the horrendous genocide and abuse of humanity in our past, the continuing “holocaust denial” of our culture and the crisis in biological sustainability that threatens our humanity, I am conscious that a modicum of leavening may be required. We all like to read a trenchant literary or other “cultural” critique in the press, our pleasure influenced no doubt by the principle that “there but for the grace of God go I”. I have no criticism to offer of Jane Austen’s literary vehicle per se, this being a matter of choice for the Artist. However, while conceding that some of the most effective historiography is suffused with the Art of Poetry, I nevertheless demand that historians, like scientists, respect the basic data. Thus, among other things, this book is a catalogue of some of the most surprising examples of historical deletion or oversight that I have called “Austenizing”. At the more innocuous end of the historiographical spectrum, we have the Austenizing of the more interesting and indeed scandalous aspects of the lives of Jane Austen’s connections that would appeal to the mischievous and voyeuristic in all of us. At the heavy end of the spectrum, we have what could be described as sustained, widespread “holocaust ignoring” that effectively amounts to massive “holocaust denial” in our culture. We are all familiar with the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust, yet the contemporaneous man-made Bengal Famine has been effectively deleted from general perception - this substantially Muslim Holocaust has become a Forgotten Holocaust.
This “holocaust denial” in our culture has blunted our responsiveness to inhumanity and is part of a more general failure to face up to the present reality that threatens biological sustainability and the lives of billions. However some hope remains if those with power and resources can tunnel through the wall of several centuries of dishonest and racially- and culturally-biased historiography, see the awful carnage that has been so well hidden and give resolution to the post-Holocaust plea: “Never again”.
As outlined in the Preface, major scientific bodies such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 50, the US National Academy of Science 51, the UK Royal Society 52, other national and global scientific bodies, 53 and the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 54 are warning of the dire threats to humanity from unaddressed greenhouse gas pollution, global warming and climate change. Indeed top US climate scientist Dr James Hansen (NASA) says that at the current 385 ppm atmospheric CO2 we have already passed a tipping point and must urgently return to a safe and sustainable 300-350 ppm CO2 to avoid catastrophe for humanity and mass species extinctions. 55 Professor James Lovelock predicts over 6 billion will perish this century due to climate change. 56 Biofuel-, climate change- and globalization-driven food price changes already threaten “billions” according to the UK Chief Scientist Professor John Beddington. 57 Yet climate sceptic Bush America still refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol and it is “business as usual” as the major climate criminal countries, the US, Canada and Australia, continue to pollute and ignore the Climate Emergency and Sustainability Emergency facing Spaceship Earth. 58