Jane Austen and the Black Hole. Chapter 17
Antipodean epilogue - the moral dimension of the Lucky Country and the world
“I am afraid,” replied Elinor, “that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.” [Elinor]
“On the contrary, nothing can be stronger proof of it, Elinor; for if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, I should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure.” [Marianne]
- Elinor and Marianne discussing the Marianne’s indiscreet outing with Mr. Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility (1811)1
“Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.”
- Elinor putting up with Robert Ferrars’ conversation in Sense and Sensibility (1811) 2
“We have learned nothing and we have conserved nothing compared to what we might have had. Unhindered we let the most ignorant settler, and the most brutal stockman, shoot, starve, burn, poison, break and destroy the most living record of an ancient world that the later centuries have known ... We killed the tellers, and the genealogies died with them.”
- Dame Mary Gilmore on the destruction of Australian aboriginal society and culture 3
“Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.”
- Dr. Albert Schweitzer, quoted by Rachel Carson (1962) 4
The great Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s pessimistic view quoted above is the central arguable proposition of this final chapter. How can we approach the likelihood of this outcome? How can we put all of humanity on the psychiatrist’s couch? We have already seen how historians can resolutely ignore the most massive human disasters and how humanity in general has an immense capacity for moral and intellectual unresponsiveness. In this final chapter I will approach the problem empirically by adducing the example of my own country, Australia.
Australia has been called the Lucky Country 5 because of a variety of historical, geographic, resource, strategic, institutional and social blessings. In short, the Lucky Country is a well-endowed democracy with a well-educated, prosperous and liberal population cognizant of the dark shadows of its past and the problems of the future. If such an “ideal” First World, high technology society is presently unable or unwilling to come to grips with its substantial contribution to global degradation and with the appalling human disaster that is the continuing lot of its own very small residual aboriginal population, will such a society be able to respond adequately to the approach of the global Bergen-Belsen that may be a mere half century away? And if such a resource-rich society is unable to respond in a proper and timely fashion, how then will the world respond? Let us now briefly explore the origins and social evolution of the Lucky Country. In doing so we must consider past attitudes of “White Australia” to non-Europeans, and to “black” people in particular, from the Jane Austen era of settlement to the present. The degree of retention of racist attitudes will determine the extent to which “lifeboat” Australia and other prosperous countries contribute to humane solutions for the potential catastrophe that is set to devastate the Third World. We have seen that 2 centuries of the British colonial holocaust has been largely deleted from generally accessible history and there is a need for a major change in perception if the world is to withdraw from the edge of the abyss.
The first aboriginal people came to Australia some 60,000 years ago. Waves of expansion by different human cultures are inferred from the discovery and dating of artefacts and skeletal remains throughout the continent. The aboriginal people had a major effect on the biogeography of the continent through the use of fire to regenerate rangelands. Dramatic consequences of this impact were extensive rangelands and an extensive fire-compatible flora. 6 Further consequences of aboriginal activity included the disappearance of certain impressive megafauna such as the diprotodon, the giant cow-sized version of the contemporary herbivorous wombat, and giant versions of the present-day flightless bird, the emu.
While the aboriginal tribes were scattered over a whole continent of 8 million square kilometers and were also separated linguistically by the existence of some hundreds of different languages, there was an extensive, continental communication involving trade that could ultimately reach between tribes located respectively on the Gulf of Carpentaria in the North and those on the shores of the Great Southern Ocean and indeed between northern Australian tribes and islands to the north. 7 The linguistic differences between neighbouring tribes could be overcome by exchanges of particular children who became “interpreters”. 8 An extreme case of isolation was that of the Tasmanian aborigines who were cut off from the Mainland by the rising of the sea occasioned by the end of the last major Ice Age about 15,000 years ago.9
The aboriginal societies did not have large scale agriculture (because of the absence of suitable indigenous plants) but evolved very sophisticated population/food resource management policies that enabled sustainable use and replenishment of natural resources. In this sense the Australian aborigines had found an exquisite solution to the major continuing problem of sustainable longterm human existence thousands of years ago. Men hunted game such as kangaroos, wallabies, possums, emus, flying birds, fish, snakes and goannas. Various weapons were developed to assist this process such as specialized spears, throwing sticks and, of course, the celebrated boomerang that was aerodynamically perfected by particular tribes. Women gathered grubs, and plant material such as fruit, leaves, tubers and seeds.10
An extraordinary aspect of this continental culture was the sophistication with which the aborigines assured sustainability of natural resources. Extensive fish traps were set up on rivers to ensure retention of fish breeding stock. Reserves were set aside as sanctuaries for animal resources to permit replenishment of the countryside with breeding stock after drought or to permit food for periodic large tribal gatherings. Seeds were planted during food gathering and consumption as a matter of course to ensure replenishment of plant resources.11 Gilmore (1934, 1935) describes her own experiences with aborigines as a child in the late 19th century in inland South Eastern Australia and her wonder at the fish traps (fish-balks), the planting of fire-damaged seeds, the seeding of new areas after drought with possums and sophisticated medicine including the use of medicinal plants. 12
The aborigines had a rich and sophisticated oral culture, art, spiritual life and systems of belief and social ritual. Their oral traditions connected them with the deep past of their origins (the Dreamtime), rituals provided “rites of passage” through birth, puberty, marriage and death, corroborees or tribal ceremonial gatherings bound the members of their society and male- and female-specific mysteries and rituals were supervised by the elders, the transmitters of ancient traditions. The stylistically varied rock painting, rock and wood carving and bark painting of these people attest to rich artistic insights and cultural traditions.13
Dame Mary Gilmore (1934, 1935) (of Highland Scottish origins) has provided remarkable accounts of aboriginal culture seen from the perspective of a young settler girl - their ability to count objects (notably large numbers of animals or stars) with great accuracy and speed employing a five-based number system (thus stockmen would ask aborigines and indeed young Mary Gilmore precisely how many animals they had in a mob of hundreds); the handling of complex multivariable patterns (as in tracking, an infant being trained to find a discarded twig or in scores of different “cat’s cradle” hand-worked string games); the remarkable astronomical observations that enabled them to know the precise time of year and to be able to predict dawn and sunset accurately; and their skill in relation to herbal medicine and the importance of aboriginal women for the medical problems of settler women, especially in relation to wounds and child-birth. [Puerperal fever was unknown to aboriginal women of Mary Gilmore’s acquaintance in the 19th century. They would be taken by other women for childbirth well away from the infection sources of their encampment to a specially prepared hut having a floor of carefully-placed leaves elaborating antiseptic oils. My grandfather (a Semmelweiss Medal awardee in 1917) recounts the acute distress of Ignaz Semmelweiss at the postpartum death of women in the best hospitals of Vienna and his eventual discovery that the best hospitals had the best surgeons and hence the greatest chance for infection of such women and their consequent death from puerperal fever. Aborigines used particular plants that burned with a hot blue flame for the successful cauterising of wounds. At a time when major wounds and childbirth were fraught with danger in the best hospitals of Europe, “naked” aborigines were achieving remarkable success.] 14
Invasion and genocide
While the date of European invasion is usually set at January 26 1788, the date of the arrival of the First Fleet under Captain Phillip, the aborigines had been beset by Europeans for over a century before this, especially on the western coast of Australia. Aborigines soon became aware of the vile ways of European sailors and the violence, rape, murder and disease (the “Dampier Disease”) brought by the European ships. After the first settlement the initial process of unorganized, reflex murdering of aborigines (e.g. in response to attacks on livestock) slowly degenerated into systematic extermination conducted with appalling savagery and brutality. 15
Dame Mary Gilmore recalls appalling stories of bestial treatment of aborigines from her own family’s experience in the mid-19th century. Her grandparents provide refuge for 2 aboriginal survivors of the genocide but general community hostility forces them to enable the escape of these survivors to the hills. A young aboriginal girl rushes in and clings to the skirts of Mary Gilmore’s grandmother but to no avail: settlers invade the house and club the girl to death in the doorway. Mary Gilmore’s grandparents are forced out of the district for being “abolitionists” who oppose the genocide. Mary Gilmore recalls hearing an uncle recounting to his fellow stockmen how he has acquired a whip. Riding through the bush he finds the dead body of a 12 year old aboriginal girl tied to a tree by means of the stock whip, her rapist and murderer having forgotten where he left her during the massacre of her tribe. 16 Mary Gilmore recollects an aboriginal woman Flora who was noted for her drawing and singing and then concludes “I never saw Flora again, for soon after the secret unofficial leave for “extermination” came from Sydney. From that time on, the blacks were fugitives.” 17 Mary Gilmore’s eye-witness account of this holocaust is chilling:
“And death was always near; but though always in the mind no one thought very much about it. I least of all. I had seen too much of death: too many acres of dead blacks, slain as a part of life’s necessity, to think that death mattered. At least among men... It was then that men said in fear: “If once the blacks procure arms...” So the poor black had to die.” 18
There are many graphic accounts of the genocide applied to aboriginal people throughout Australia, a process that continued up to the late 1920s.19 There may well be people still alive today whose fathers participated in the last massacres of large numbers of aborigines in the north of Western Australia in 1926. 20 Lines (1991) and others catalogue the ghastly abuses that decorated this holocaust: the beating of children to death; kicking in the heads of largely-buried infants; the chaining of aboriginal women for repeated gratification; a woman raped and hung by the heels and left to die; a woman in a tree stuffs leaves in to the wounds as she is repeatedly shot until she falls dead to the ground; men caught and then freed to run away bleeding to death, their testicles having been severed. 21
The genocide was not simply left to stockmen and the settlers who had seized aboriginal land (the “squatters”). Formal government programs accelerated the process. Thus “Native Police” forces set up in Victoria and Queensland provided for efficient killing that contributed to the decimation of the aboriginal populations in these states, the numbers falling by over 90% in the latter half of the 19th century. In Victoria the Native Police was set up by the Port Phillip administrator Charles La Trobe in 1841. These were involved, in collaboration with settlers, in the systematic murder of aboriginals in Victoria, a process involving poisoning, starving, burning, clubbing and shooting and accompanied by torture and rape. 22 Nevertheless La Trobe raised the ire of the settlers for being insufficiently effectual and subordinate to the governor in Sydney, being sarcastically referred to as “The Second Fiddle”. La Trobe’s life is well-documented and his name has been generously applied to the geography of Victoria and Tasmania.23 It is sad to admit that my own university, arguably Australia’s top “non-medical” university, is named after this administrator who painted watercolours of the depopulated countryside. [One recalls however that Hitler and Churchill both painted landscapes. Frederick the Great was a patron of the arts, a flautist and a composer, for which effeteness he was deeply resented by his father Frederick I, who extracted “protection” money from Jews, had Gypsies in Prussia scourged, branded and expelled and finally had all Gypsies over 18 hanged. Warfare aside, Frederick the Great hated inflicting pain and abolished torture of civilians but nevertheless still demanded the expulsion of poor and unemployed Jews from West Prussia.] 24 La Trobe’s Native Police provided the hard edge to genocide in Victoria. La Trobe University, like other good universities in Australia, is currently threatened by “economic rationalist” social and governmental philistinism that may yet create its obverse, an ebortal institution in which the cutting edge for scholarly discovery is blunted or ripped out.
It is generally asserted that there were about 300,000 aborigines in Australia before the European invasion 25 but others give much higher estimates of as many of 1.5 million. 26 Dame Mary Gilmore estimates several millions. 27 By the turn of the century, through disease and active genocide, the aboriginal population had shrunk catastrophically in the eastern and the southern parts of Australia. The Queensland population had fallen from 200,000 to less than 15,000, the Victorian population from about 20,000 to less than 1,000 and the full-blood Tasmanian population from 6,000-8,000 to zero. By 1938 the population was about 50,000 “full-bloods” and 25,000 “half-castes” in the parlance of the day. 28 The current Australian aboriginal population is about 300,000 [500,000 in 2008] of which perhaps only about 50,000 are “full-blood” aborigines, these latter being largely confined to the remote central desert and northern tropical areas of Australia. 29
Black labour, white labour and “White Australia”
Australia was founded on slave labour of white convicts who endured appalling savagery at places such as Norfolk Island, Botany Bay (New South Wales), Macquarie Habour and Port Arthur (Tasmania), Morton Bay (Queensland) and the Swan River (Western Australia). Transported for offences that were relatively trivial in many cases, the convicts were readily abused, flogged and hanged. Parcelled out to free settlers, convict slave labour provided the raw muscle of the new colonies that had a penal basis. 30 Labour shortages led to limited introduction of Indian labour into New South Wales in the 1840s but already the notion of Australia for white people had crept into public consciousness. 31 With the discovery of gold in New South Wales and Victoria in the mid-19th century came greatly expanded immigration, including a major influx of Chinese from coastal regions of Southern China. This in turn led to anti-Chinese sentiment, riots, entry restrictions, deportations, massacres and “Chinaman hunts” that provided a variation on the hunting down of aborigines associated with the aboriginal genocide. The Chinese influx into goldmining areas was so substantial that Chinese could represent a significant proportion of the male population. 32
While there was a massive process of extermination of aborigines in some regions, for example along major riverways and in coastal areas, aboriginal remnants could survive and supplement their needs through limited employment. 33 The need for tropical workers in the Queensland sugar cane fields led to massive importation of Melanesian slaves (“Kanakas”) from the Western Pacific Islands in the late 19th century. The slaves were badly treated but the greatest impact of the so-called “black-birding” was the transmission of European diseases to Pacific Island communities resulting in an appalling loss of life. 34 Growing hostility to black labour among white workers and their representatives led to cessation of the trade and substantial repatriation. 35 The need for cheap quasi-slave labour for the sugar cane industry in Fiji was met by indentured labourers (5-year slaves) from India who were compelled to slave under the régimes of brutal Australian overseers. 36
Despite the near-extermination of the aborigines, the very presence of other non-Europeans, such as Chinese and Kanakas, exacerbated European racial antagonism that sprang from psycho-sexual fears as well as from the more practical employment and income concerns of white workers. This found expression in all kinds of State, trade union and other organizational restrictions directed against non-Europeans. The industrial concerns of white workers became acute in the 1890s associated with economic recession and saw a final expression in the “unofficial” but very real restrictions on non-European immigration known as the “White Australia Policy”. The rather inexplicit legislative basis for this was passed by the Australian Federal Parliament in 1901. 37
At this point it is useful to have a glimpse of the seething psychoses of the more articulate exponents of racism in young Australia. It is also important to note that this is not a disease of the past. Since the Whitlam Labor Government’s removal of the White Australia Policy (1974) and introduction of laws banning racial discrimination (1975), Australia had 20 years of getting used to the idea that “all men are created equal”. However Australia is now in the hands of “revisionists” and the racial discrimination laws and minimal land rights of indigenous people are under threat in the name of “economic efficiency” and “equal rights for all Australians”. On the global stage, Australian opposition to effective international greenhouse gas controls is set to contribute to the coming holocaust in Bengal and indeed throughout the Third World.
Racism - in their own words
“They are the most degraded of the human race, and never seem to wish to change their habits and manner of life.”
- Reverend Samuel Marsden (1819), the notorious clergyman and merciless flogging magistrate, commenting on Sydney aborigines. 38
“The Native soon saw that in yielding to his natural aggressive impulses he would be opposed to those who were not only his equals in savage cunning and endowment, but his superiors by alliance with the Europeans.”
- Port Phillip Administrator Charles La Trobe (1840s) commenting on the efficacy of the Australian Native Police that he set up in colonial Victoria (1841). 39
“I have the honour to state that there are no aboriginals in my District.”
- The Reverend James Walker, MA, Minister of the Church of England, North Parramatta (1846). 40
“Of the Australian black man we may certainly say that he has to go. That he should perish without unnecessary suffering should be the aim of all who are concerned in the matter.”
- Anthony Trollope (1873). 41
“Whether the Blacks deserve any mercy at the hands of the pioneering squatters is an open question, but that they get none is certain. They are a doomed race, and before many years they will be completely wiped out of the land.”
- Harold Finch-Hatton (1885). 42
“... white kids in Cowra running after us yelling “Nigger, nigger, pull the trigger,”
- Mum Shirl (Colleen Shirley Perry), aboriginal community leader, recalling outback racism while waiting to receive her MBE (Member of the British Empire award) from the Governor of New South Wales (circa 1975). 43
The poetry of “the outback” or “the bush” gives an insight into attitudes to aborigines. Thus in ‘Tis True not Many Years Ago by J.E. Liddle tells a story of times when “The niggers there were all bad then” and ends with the ultimate retribution in which “Many wild nigs were hunted down”. Lex Talionis by Francis Myers tells a tale of murderous retribution by a white boy orphaned by blacks:
“‘Twas to kill and to kill, and in killing pay
His debt to the devils the proper way.
He is dead, God rest him, and all his tracks
Are marked with the bones of the cursed blacks.”
Powell’s Revenge by F.C. Urquart tells a similar story of merciless extermination. However Moneenee (Anonymous) tells a story of self-sacrifice by an aboriginal boy working for a white man tracking other aborigines - the boy dies fetching a doctor for his master’s wife. In The Grave of a Nigger (Anonymous) an aborigine dies saving a white woman and her child from a madly galloping horse. Other more light-hearted poems relate the condition of other “assimilated” aborigines. Thus in Mac’s Half-Caste by E.S. Emerson (“Milky White”), Mac’s half-caste wife is sold to the amorous Englishman Fancy Fred for 40 pounds. However she eventually goes “bush”, he returns home to England and the half-caste returns to her lawful husband (but for how long?) In On the Arrow Track J.H.G. recounts meeting a “nigger family, tramping on the way, The meanest, poorest wretches I had seen in W.A.”. One of the children starts singing what initially appears to be an unusual aboriginal song but which is eventually recognized as “Ta-ra-ra Boom-dee-ay!” (a Music Hall song). 44
“He ... saw no more injustice in preventing the landing of this degraded race, who would not only lower and demoralize, but also endanger the safety of the country, than he saw in stopping the “running “ of a cargo of contraband opium or brandy.”
- Daniel Henry Deniehy, speech to Parliament on restriction of Chinese immigration (1858). 45
“I asked a cove for shearin’ once along the Marthaguy:
“We shear non-union here” says he. “I call it scab,” says I.
I looked along the shearin’ floor before I turned to go -
There was eight or ten dashed Chinamen a-shearin’ in a row ...
It was shift, boys, shift, for there wasn’t the slightest doubt.
It was time to make a shift with the leprosy about.
So I saddled up my horses and I whistled to my dog,
And I left his scabby station at the old jig-jog.”
- A.B. “Banjo” Patterson, A Bushman’s Song (1891). [“Banjo” Patterson is a national hero and had a place on one whole side of the A$10 note.] 46
“There was strife about the Chinamen, who came in days of old
Like a swarm of thieves and loafers when the diggers found the gold ...
What’s the good of holding meetings when you only talk and swear?
Get a move upon the Pig-tails when you’ve got an hour to spare.
It was nine o’clock next morning when the Chows began to swarm
But they weren’t so long in going, for the white men’s blood was warm.”
- Henry Lawson poem Cambaroora Star, written to commemorate the closure of the Boomerang, a Labor journal edited by racist Laborite William Lane (who was to found the Australian socialist Paraguay colony with most definitely non-racist Mary Gilmore and others.) [Henry Lawson is also a national treasure and also had a place on one whole side of the A$10 note.] 47
“The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of an Englishman and the Chinaman.”
- Australia’s first Prime Minister Edmund Barton debating the Commonwealth Immigration Restriction Bill (1901).48
“Beware of the East, O Christian, for the sake of your fairest and best;
It is written, and written, remembered, that the tide of invasion goes west.”
- Henry Lawson poem The Old, Old Story (1913). 49
Re browns and other hues
[He would prefer his daughter] “dead in her coffin than kissing one of them on the mouth or nursing a little coffee-coloured brat that she was mother to. If this is a wicked thing to say, then I am one of the wicked ones, and don’t want to be good either; and I’d pray daily to be kept wicked if I thought there was any chance of my ever getting to think that colour didn’t matter.”
- William Lane, racist labour leader (1892). 50
“Total exclusion of coloured and other undesirable races.”
- Federal Australian Labor Party platform (1900). 51
“If Judas Chamberlain can find a black, or brown or yellow race in Asia or Africa, that has as high a standard of civilisation and intelligence as the whites, that is as progressive as the whites, as brave, as sturdy, as good nation-making material, and that can intermarry with the whites without the mixed progeny showing signs of deterioration, that race is welcome in Australia regardless of colour.”
- An attack by the racist Bulletin on Joseph Chamberlain, British Secretary of State for the Colonies over his rejection of racist Queensland legislation (1901). 52
“We are here upon a continent set apart by the Creator for a Southern empire - for a Southern nation - and it is our duty to preserve this island continent for all eternity to the white race, irrespective of where they may come from.”
- King O’Malley, Federal Parliamentary speech (1901). 53
“Yea, will we steel us to the death to fight -
In such poor means alone avail - whome’er,
Or Asian throng, or island brown, or white
Blood-brother e’en, would cloud our prospect fair,
To guard the future from exotic blight!”
- Bernard O’Dowd (circa 1900). 54
“I see the colour line so drawn
(I see it plain and speak I must),
That our brown masters of the dawn
Might, aye, have fair girls for their lusts.”
- Henry Lawson poem To Be Amused (ca 1910) 55
“For the “money” and “sporting” madness - and here in a land that was white!
You mated a black-man and white-man to stand up before you and fight
And many - God knows how many! - sons of a white man’s son
“Backed the nigger to beat him” - and flocked to see it done ...
You paid and you cheered and you hooted, and this is your need of disgrace;
It was not Burns that was beaten - for a nigger has smacked your face.
Take heed - I am tired of writing - but O my people take heed,
For the time may be near for the mating of the Black and the White to breed.”
- Henry Lawson poem The Great Fight concerning the fight in which white boxer Tommy Burns was beaten by American black boxer Jack Johnson in Sydney, Boxing Day, 1908. 56 [The racists finally got him, but Jack Johnson had the last laugh in addition to his numerous victories. Aware of the sexual element of racism, he was supposedly wont to stuff socks into his boxing shorts to make his largely white male audience think that he had prodigious genitals].
The Bulletin, Australia’s leading magazine for the educated, had a long tradition of racism. Its motto at one period was “Australia for the White Man” and it had a long tradition of racist cartoonists and racist writers. Thus the following in the tradition of the genocidal anti-Semitic canard about Jews drinking the blood of poor little Hugh of Lincoln:
“The Jackal of the world can choose
Disdainfully his prey.
He slinks about your trade, your wars;
His mouth is ripe to drain
The red wine of the conquerors -
The red blood of the slain.”
- A.H. Adams, a writer and editor for the Bulletin from the early 20th century. 57
There was a major media campaign against allowing Jewish refugees from Nazism to enter Australia, as detailed by Cyril Pearl in his account of the Jewish and other refugees sent as “enemy alien” prisoners to Australia from Britain on the Dunera in 1940. Sir Frank Clarke, a Melbourne dignitary, charmingly referred to Jewish refugees as “shrinking, rat-faced men” and another Victorian dignitary and member of the War Cabinet declared “One of the best jobs Adolph Hitler ever did for Germany was when he drove some of these out of his country.” [A leading men’s club and a leading golf club in Melbourne supposedly black-balled Jews and there is certainly a determined, residual anti-Semitic streak in Victorian society that regularly manifests itself, like a wolf from the forest.] Bulletin writers and cartoonists excelled themselves during the thirties in applying Nazi-style stereotypes to Jewish refugees from Nazism. 58
Such attitudes were not just from the Fascist era. Thus at one point in the 19th century Tasmania was excited over a “Hebrew invasion” that in the event turned out to be only a couple of Jewish families coming out from England. The capital, Hobart, has the oldest synagogue in Australia. 59
We will return to Australian racism later to see how things are in this regard as we approach the new millennium and the pressing need for uncluttered, humane and rational responses to humanity’s most extraordinary challenge.
White Australia, Empire and Japan
The latter half of the nineteenth century saw the consolidation of the British conquest of Australia. In addition to the initially convict-based settlements of New South Wales, Van Dieman’s Land and Queensland came the burgeoning of the “free settler” colonies of Victoria and South Australia. An additional penal colony was established on the Swan River in Western Australia. The resolute genocide of the original inhabitants was largely concluded in the southern and eastern states by the end of the century and had been vigorously extended to the Kimberley region of the north of Western Australia and to the Northern Territory. The wealth from western agriculture (and in particular from wool, wheat and meat) and from gold and other mining created a very prosperous society. This prosperity was reflected in magnificent Victorian public buildings, the creation of universities and the expansion of manufacturing industry to meet a plethora of sophisticated hardware needs. 60 McQueen (1971) cites the import of 700,000 pianos into Australia during the nineteenth century at the end of which it had a population of only several millions. 61
Nevertheless with wealth came anxiety. Just as greed for land and fear of properly armed aborigines led to the near total destruction of the indigenous societies, so burgeoning wealth led to possessiveness and xenophobic fear. Chinese were excluded and persecuted to the extent that Victoria had a very substantial Chinese population in the mid-nineteenth century but a negligible Chinese population by 1900. The “black-birding” of Melanesian “Kanaka” slaves was eventually halted and substantial repatriation effected. Racial fears and the economic fears of the Australian Worker (especially after the economic recession of the 1890s) led to State and ultimately Federal racially-oriented legislation. Fear of the Russians led to the construction of key coastal fortifications in south eastern Australia. The dependence on the British Navy (after all, a major reason for the foundation of Australia in the first place) led to enthusiastic flesh and blood support for British military adventures in New Zealand (the Maori Wars), India (during the Indian Mutiny), the Sudan (with Kitchener), China (during the Boxer Rebellion) and in South Africa (the Boer War). 62 The latter conflict was immortalized in a film about the volunteer Australian horseman “Breaker” Morant ( “Edwin Henry Murrant” and thence “Harry Harbord Morant”), a great horse-breaker (and possible “remittance man” of noble birth, exiled by his British family) who married outback station governess Daisy Bates (later famous for her aboriginal researches). Morant was executed by the British for war crimes against the (white, Christian) Boers. 63
The fear of Russian expansion was ameliorated by the rise of Japan as a major military and economic power and the victories of Japan in the Russo-Japanese War at the turn of the century created a well-justified fear of the Japanese in Australia. The psychotic hatred and contempt for Asians and aborigines that expressed itself in riots, Chinaman hunts or casual murder of aborigines was quickly converted into urgent fear with the prospect of such people being armed. The Maori Wars showed what original Antipodeans could do in the possession of equalizers and the naval victories of the Japanese over the Russians produced well-justified fears of Japanese imperial expansion. The rise of the Japanese and their alliance with Britain in the early 20th century had a big impact on the legislative outcomes of Australian racial fears. Thus the inexplicit nature of the legislative basis of the “White Australia Policy” arose from British objections to explicit offence being given to the 90% of the British Empire that was not European and from Japanese objections to being discriminated against or indeed being lumped with “lesser races” from elsewhere in Asia. The alliance with Japan in World War I and the Imperial deployment of huge numbers of Indian soldiers crystallized these fears for Australians. 64
World War I involved massive sacrifice of Australian manhood in the name of the British Empire. Thus as much as 10% of the adult male population of the State of Victoria was killed or wounded in that conflict. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (the Anzacs) distinguished themselves in the futile Gallipoli campaign that has become the key component of national remembrance. 65 [While April 25 1915 marks the beginning of the violent end of one of the oldest civilizations in the world (that of the Anatolian Armenians), in Australia it is remembered as the date of the invasion of the Dardanelles that led to the carnage of Gallipoli. Indeed Anzac Day is our day of national remembrance for those who fell in war. That the invasion contributed to the Armenian Genocide has been a well-kept secret in Australia that is beginning to falter since Australian Armenians have taken to public demonstrations over the matter on Anzac Day in recent years. The extent of the Big Lie can be seen in the award of the Order of Australia to the Genocide-denying “trampler of human rights” Turkish President Turgut Ozal on the occasion of the 75th Anzac Day. The continuing persecution of the very substantial Kurdish population of Turkey today is a further instance of the danger of Austenizing history. Thus with lack of effective global recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the Greek and Kurd Massacres, present Turkish rulers feel that it is “business as usual” in their treatment of the Kurds.] 66
Australians fought in Turkey, Palestine, Flanders and France 67 and then, like their Indian comrades, brought the Spanish influenza back home. This disease caused more global deaths than those occasioned by the worst war the world had yet seen.68 [It is likely that my maternal grandmother and grandfather met as nurse and doctor, respectively, in the context of caring for victims of the influenza epidemic in Melbourne in 1919. My paternal grandfather, the great surgeon Jeno Polya, was awarded a Semmelweiss Medal in 1917 for his immense surgical work during World War I while his brother, the great mathematician George Polya, had to teach in a Swiss gymnasium as a “punishment” for conscientious objection to military service. Their brother Laszlo Polya disappeared on the Eastern Front as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army but who knows what he would have become if he had survived. 69 The great Australian physicist Lawrence Bragg survived service on the Western Front and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915 with his father William Bragg for the development of X-ray crystallography, a technology enabling the determination of the structure of molecules, including very complex molecules such as proteins. 70 80 years later in Melbourne this technology has been the basis for the molecular design of a potent anti-influenza drug that fits precisely into a highly conserved, relatively invariant part of a key influenza virus enzyme. 71]
World War I scarred the Australian consciousness in various ways. While Federation in 1900 provided self-government under the British Crown, the issue of conscription during the War to End All Wars had brought the Irish/English dichotomy of Australian culture to the fore. While the later Cardinal Gilroy of Sydney had served in the Australian Navy, the later Catholic Archbishop Mannix of Melbourne had been arrested by the British as a pro-Irish activist. 72 The post-war independence of Ireland and the orchestration of right-wing Australian-cum-British nationalism would ameliorate these passions. The greatest Australian political novel, Power Without Glory by Frank Hardy, describes the gaining of Establishment, pro-Fascist respectability and mainstream political power by an Irish Catholic entrepreneur-cum-gambling crook in Melbourne. 73 The death and mangling of the War had a huge impact on the families of the dead and of the “Returned Soldiers”. While the War and subsequent economic depression consolidated the Australian “mateship” ethos implicit in Australian democratic socialism it also gave rise to an Australian equivalent of German or Italian veteran fascism. Expressions of the latter came in political violence against socialists 74 that has been transmuted in various works including D.H. Lawrence’s Kangaroo and Peter Carey’s Illywhacker. 75 The most celebrated expression of this thuggery was the disruption of the opening of the Sydney Harbor Bridge (the “Coat-hanger”) in 1932 by sabre-wielding Captain De Groot of the fascist New Guard mounted on a white charger. 76
The cataclysm of World War I is commonly taken as the defining moment of acquisition of Australian nationhood, a message that is repeated annually at thousands of shrines and cenotaphs around the country on Anzac Day. Dame Mary Gilmore, one of the greatest Australians, had a horror of the War and published a book of poems The Passionate Heart conveying this. 77 [She donated the royalties to blind soldiers, recording that “I would have felt like eating blood had I kept them.”] 78 Dame Mary Gilmore wrote thus of the “new” Australia in 1936:
“When all that stuff used to be written during & after the war about Australia’s virgin page I used to stand in wonder. Not two hundred years old & our first hundred years saw the Convict System, the destruction of at least half a million blacks, and in the ‘80’s the thousands of dead black-birded kanaka “slaves”. - and after that the war. A virgin page! The “cat” alone marked it.” 79
The Depression Years in Australia saw up to 25% of the population unemployed and while there was not starvation there was certainly privation and hunger for the poor. The thirties represented the first decade since 1788 in which there was no large-scale killing of aborigines although the appalling process of large-scale forcible removal of aboriginal children from their mothers was to continue apace for a further 3 decades.
The thirties and World War 2 saw a further distancing of Australia from Britain. The dismissal of the Jack Lang Labor Government by the governor of New South Wales at the apparent behest of British bankers underscored our “neo-colonial” position. Labor leaders indulged in domestic and colonial entrepreneurial adventures, a notable example being that of “Red Ted” Theodore, one time Federal Treasurer, former Premier of Queensland and Royal Commission survivor, who founded the Emperor Goldmine in Fiji in cahoots with his media business associate newspaper tycoon Frank Packer and Melbourne businessman and powerbroker John Wren (the John West of Frank Hardy’s Power Without Glory). 80 The conservative side of politics had evident respect for the Nazis in Germany and the Italian Fascists and a celebrated case that says it all was the forced deportation of Czech socialist intellectual Egon Kisch. Having been refused entry to Australia, Kisch broke his leg jumping from the ship taking him away from Melbourne (where he was to address an anti-fascist peace conference). A highly educated and multilingual man, he was unable to pass the “White Australia Policy” “dictation test” given in Gaelic in Sydney. Although the High Court of Australia found that Scottish Gaelic was not a European language under the terms of the Immigration Act “entrance test”, Kisch was eventually deported back to Europe. 81
The War years represented a great divide for Australian-British relations. Conservative Prime Minister Robert Menzies was an admirer of fascism, sold scrap iron to the Japanese and to Nazi Germany (earning himself the sobriquet “Pig Iron Bob”) and argued for peace with the Nazis and common cause against Communism. Thus hostile Lockwood (1987) records a Menzies’ 1938 speech made on returning from a trip including a sojourn in Nazi Germany, several months after the invasion of Austria. In his speech he attacked anti-Fascist Australians who “proclaim their disdain for the governments of Italy or Germany where enthusiasm for service to the State, although it perhaps went too far, could well be emulated in Australia.” Sympathetic Perkins (1968) records pre-war Attorney General Menzies’ attempts to give an optimistic view of Germany but notes that “In some quarters the Attorney General’s statements on Germany were interpreted to mean that he was an admirer of Hitler.” Menzies (1967) in his memoirs makes his support for appeasement quite clear but notably starts his account of his adult life in politics in 1939 (excluding his recent visit to Nazi Germany and his failing to enlist in World War 1 while arguing for conscription of others). 82 As we will have perceived from the treatment of famine in India by British historians, it is what they leave out that is most revealing.
When Japan entered the war, Labor under Curtin took over the government and insisted on bringing Australian troops home from the Middle East to defend Australia. 83 The fall of Singapore, the rapid collapse of the Western colonial empires in Asia, the bombing of Darwin and the inability of Great Britain to defend Australia had a big impact on Australia. Australia irrevocably threw in its lot with the USA and remains firmly - indeed desperately - linked to that Power. The Battle of the Coral Sea (in which the US Navy defeated the Japanese) and the desperate courage of Australian soldiers in New Guinea saved Australia. The Battle of Midway confirmed the inevitability of the victory that immediately followed the nuclear bombing of Japan. For all the cultural impact of the US servicemen in wartime Australia (notably that of black GIs and the feelings reflected in the saying about the “Yanks” as “Overpaid, oversexed and over here”), there was an immense gratitude for the American salvation. 84
Postwar attitudes in Australia - the tale of Arthur Calwell
After the Second World War and the realization of the enormity of the Jewish Holocaust, the entrenched racism in Australian society abated substantially. Nevertheless there was a learning process and some entrenched fears were resistant to change. Substantial unreasoning hatred of Asians has persisted in a significant minority. The recent massive support for blatantly racist anti-Asian sentiment in Australia has been contained and ameliorated in part by fears of economic damage in the areas of Asian tourism to Australia and Australian trade in Asia.
The postwar journey of one Arthur Calwell (1896-1973), a leading Labor Party politician, is instructive. Australia embarked on a major immigration postwar program that literally brought in millions of migrants to feed the labour needs of a burgeoning economy. Until the middle of the 1960s this “populate or perish” immigration was necessarily confined to Europeans because of the “unofficial” dictates of the White Australia Policy. Calwell was the Minister of Immigration in the postwar Labor Government (1945-1949) and his officers scoured the Displaced Persons camps of Europe for suitable migrants. Anecdotal accounts have it that “blond and blue eyed” people were regarded as particularly suitable.migrants in these years immediately following the liberation of the concentration camps. [We have already noted the emigration of a large body of Nazi war criminals to Australia at this time with the assistance of American intelligence.]
Calwell made some appalling assertions in the late 1940s in commenting on the deportation of particular Asians he found undesirable. In relation to the deportation of a Chinese refugee Wong in 1947 Calwell made the following notorious declaration of racial inequality in Federal Parliament:
“There are many Wongs in the Chinese community, but I have to say - and I am sure that the honourable member for Balaclava [T.W. White, Liberal] will not mind me for doing so - that “two Wongs do not make a White.” 85
Defending his attempt to deport an Indonesian woman Mrs Annie O’Keefe and her eight children in 1949, Calwell declared to Parliament:
“We can have a white Australia, we can have a black Australia, but a mongrel Australia is impossible, and I shall not take the first steps to establish the precedents which will allow the floodgates to be opened.” 86
Mrs O’Keefe, the Ambonese widow of a war-time Dutch refugee from the Dutch East Indies and who had married a retired Australian, John O’Keefe, was eventually able to stay after protracted legal action. Not to be outdone, Calwell generated special legislation to enable removal of war-time evacuees such as Mrs O’Keefe and the Filipino American serviceman Lawrence Gamboa, who had married an Australian. Mrs O’Keefe attributed her eventual success in remaining in Australia to the defeat of the Labor Government in 1949.
Major difficulties were placed in the way of Japanese “war brides” of Australian Occupation Forces soldiers being united with their husbands. Attributed to Calwell is the virulent assertion that “We will not let the yellow hordes contaminate our golden shores.”
Calwell defended his assertion as being directed not at Asians in general but to Japanese in particular:
“I said the Japanese women should not be allowed to pollute our shores... I spoke of the Japanese and nobody else... I was expressing the opinion that the Australian people have formed owing to the brutalities of the Japanese army and the attitude of the Japanese people in World War II.” 87
As the British Empire slowly disintegrated under the “winds of change”, attitudes warmed to our newly “equal” citizens of the world. Robert Menzies (1894-1978), the conservative Prime Minister of Australia for 17 years and resolute Empire loyalist, finally actually had to shake hands with a non-European Commonwealth leader. Increasing interactions occurred between Australians and Asians (especially through university students and in particular Asian students brought to Australia under the Colombo Plan tertiary training scheme). The White Australia policy began to be softened in the middle sixties and in 1967 a national referendum determined that aboriginal Australiams were now to be counted in the Census. In 1967 the State of Western Australia ceased the ethnocidal forcible removal of aboriginal children from their mothers [Stolen Generations]. 88 Massive demonstrations were held in Australia against the carnage of the Vietnam War and the vicious racism of South Africa.
Nevertheless the White Australia Policy was to persist until the Whitlam Labor government was elected in 1972. Anecdotal account has it that in the late sixties the Australian diplomatic representatives in the U.S. still demanded colour photographs of intending migrants. [When I had to go down to the Australian Government Immigration Offices in 1966 to obtain a visa for my non-European fiancé to come to Australia they asked me whether she was a prostitute. I wanted the visa stamped so I adopted the pragmatic course of replying politely in the negative rather than satisfying honour.]
Late 1972 saw the election of the Whitlam Labour Government and the end of 22 years of conservative rule. The new government oversaw the cessation of Australian involvement in the mass killing in South East Asia and the start of a new era in European-aboriginal relations in Australia. The Labor Government Minister for Immigration, Al Grassby (of Irish and Italian origin), oversaw the final removal of racial discrimination as applied to immigration i.e. the formal end of the White Australia Policy. Grassby paid the price of vicious anonymous hatred and ultimately political oblivion for his role in this piece of moral spring-cleaning - he lost his seat in the 1974 election after an unprecedented campaign of vilification against him. However as a Government consultant Grassby helped design the 1975 law that outlawed racial discrimination in Australia. In a panegyric for Grassby, Whitlam commented on this achievement: “For the first time the Nation solemnly affirmed it opposition to all forms of racial discrimination and established machinery to deal with it.” 89 [There is currently intense concern that the current conservative government’s “Wik legislation” will over-ride this law in order to rob many aborigines of even minimal rights in relation to their traditional lands.]
Nevertheless, Calwell remained true to his “traditional” position, declaring only a few months before this change of national direction:
“No red-blooded Australian wants to see a chocolate-coloured Australia in the 1980s.” 90
Since it is likely that much racism is linked intimately with matters sexual, it is always so satisfying when sex comes to the aid of the forces of light. Thus it was highly amusing when a prominent supporter of international sporting tours of Apartheid South Africa was arrested in a toilet. In David Williamson’s biting play The Department (1975) some academics are discussing Arthur Calwell’s less than photogenic visage and one tells a (fictional) story of Calwell door-to-door campaigning in Toorak (the richest and “poshest” suburb of Melbourne) :
“...and there was a lad of 15 or so. “You’re Arthur Calwell!” he said. “I’ve got a picture of you hanging in my bedroom.” Arthur was overcome. A Labor supporter in the heart of Toorak. “You’re one of us, “he said. “Not rahly,” said the lad. “Mother put it there to show me what I look like when I masturbate.” 91
Calwell did not live to see the non-Parliamentary ousting of the first Labor government in 22 years by the Queen of England’s representative on November 11 1975 in a process widely believed to have had impetus from America. However the sorts of racial positions Calwell espoused played a significant part in that demise and its subsequent democratic ratification in the election held in December 1975. Key items of evidence for the “unsoundness” of the Whitlam Government in the minds of “traditional” Australians were government dealings with an Asian businessman, Tirath Khemlani, and the fact that a beautiful Eurasian woman, Juni Morosi, had been the private secretary of Dr Jim Cairns, a leading Labor politician who had been compelled to resign his post as Deputy Prime Minister some months before the election. 92
For all this, Calwell was a humanitarian and a committed Christian who had devoted his life to social justice for ordinary people. He attacked the disgraceful treatment of aborigines but could still declaim against a “chocolate coloured Australia”. He supported the entry of Jewish refugees into Australia against ugly opposition and his admiration for the Chinese had led him to learn Mandarin. Calwell’s great contribution to Australia was his initiation and supervision of the massive postwar immigration that has so beneficially transformed “melting-pot Australia”. 93 The paradox of Calwell is indeed that of many Australians today - the coexistence of explicit or subliminal racist attitudes with determined egalitarianism and non-elitism in everything except competitive sport.
The apogee of Australian decency
Australia has had an outstanding record of innovative social decency. It is one of very few countries in the world with a record of continuous democratic administration over the last one and a half centuries (other such countries - allowing for military occupation by invaders in some cases - include the U.K., the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada and the USA). In addition to basic democratic institutions and the rule of law, Australia has had free trade unions, women’s suffrage and free and compulsory education for over a century. Even under postwar conservative governments there was a basic social safety net involving good hospital services, charitable institutions, old-age pensions, disabled pensions and unemployment relief. The notion of a “basic wage” was legislatively determined, the right to strike was an empirical reality and an Arbitration Commission determined industrial “awards” for workers. A real sense of freedom was provided by free speech, a multiplicity of media, access to tertiary education and the social security provided by a relatively benign police and the rule of law.
The country has produced a plethora of outstanding creative people from which we can somewhat arbitrarily single out Charles Conder, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts (“Heidelberg School” impressionist landscape painters) [as I write this I am looking out over the Yarra Valley from one of their vantages on the Heidelberg Heights of Melbourne], William Farrer (wheat breeding), Lawrence Hargraves (first manned flight, 1894), John Flynn and Fred Hollows (outback medicine), Norman Lindsay, William Dobell, Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, Albert Namatjira and Brett Whiteley (painters), Christopher Koch, Peter Carey, Frank Moorehouse, Frank Hardy, Xavier Herbert, Patrick White, Tim Winton, Elizabeth Jolley, Judith Wright and David Williamson (literature), Percy Grainger and Peter Sculthorpe (composers), Nellie Melba and Joan (“our Joan”) Sutherland (singers) and a large body of musicians and experimental scientists. A less arbitrary list of Nobel Prize winners includes William and Lawrence Bragg (X-ray crystallography), Howard Florey (penicillin), John Cornforth (isoprenoid biochemistry) [deaf as George Austen probably was; who knows what forgotten George might have attained in a more sympathetic age?], MacFarlane Burnett (immunology), John Eccles (neurobiology), Patrick White (literature) and Peter Doherty (immunology).94
The brief interlude of the Whitlam Labor Government (1972-1975) was a major period of reform that removed racial discrimination in immigration and other areas, dramatically widened access to tertiary education through abolition of fees, expanded access to legal services and health services (through the Medicare free public health system) and generally widened social access in areas of cultural expression. However behind this bold and fair facade was the ugly reality of the poverty, disease, dispossession and victimization of the aboriginal inhabitants of Australia. Aborigines had been finally recognized as “countable” citizens of their own land by referendum in the late sixties and that period also saw the ending of the outrageous system involving large-scale, forcible removal of aboriginal children from their mothers [for which the 1996-2007 government refused to offer a formal apology]. Aborigines were still dispossessed of their land, subject to wage discrimination and abused by arbitrary authority. Aboriginal housing and health in a prosperous country remained a scandal. The brief Whitlam administration at least publicly recognized the problems and took faltering steps toward their amelioration.
The “New Jerusalem” ushered in by the Whitlam Government had foundations of clay that paradoxically derived from the very strengths of Australian society that relate to egalitarianism, pragmatism, social compromise and consensus. Labor had lost power in 1950 and had remained out of power until 1972 because of a three-way split between the doctrinaire Left that cooperated with Communists at the industrial level, a fiercely anti-Communist Catholic Right (that held the balance of electoral power and in consequence kept the conservatives in power for over 20 years) and a pragmatic Centre-Right. In the end electoral victory in 1972 depended upon a dominant pragmatic Centre-Right, neutralization of the idealistic Left and massive vote-buying through generous social policies.
The contradictions of the Whitlam Government are very relevant to our general “global morality” disquisition. The Labor Government moved against racism and thereby abolished the “unofficial” White Australia policy in a backdoor fashion - a referendum on the matter would have been soundly defeated then as it probably would be now. The right noises about aboriginal rights and welfare were about as effectual as comparable noises at the same time about the nuclear threat, neo-colonialism and the obscenity of Apartheid in South Africa. While Labor stopped our involvement in the concluding carnage in Vietnam it pragmatically indirectly contributed to and accepted the Indonesian invasion of Portuguese East Timor that would lead to the death of as many as 200,000 people out of a total population of 600,000. Despite firm commitment to our participation in the nuclear standoff of the Cold War (principally through key telecommunications and monitoring bases), romantically leftish Labor rhetoric convinced the Americans otherwise. Financial looseness and massive vote-buying finally even made the recipients nervous. The democratically-elected Whitlam Government was finally dismissed by the Queen’s Representative (the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr) on Remembrance Day, 11 November 1975, after a lengthy standoff between the 2 Houses of Federal Parliament (the Senate and the House of Representatives) over the Budget. It is widely speculated that the Americans were involved directly or indirectly in the Dismissal. The conservative electorate democratically endorsed Whitlam’s undemocratic removal a month later. 95
The looseness and indulgence of the reformist Whitlam government was mirrored in the subsequent conservative administration of Malcolm Fraser. Strong on rhetoric and weak on action (albeit in an obverse direction to that of his predecessors), this conservative administration also failed to put the house in order and was thrown out in 1983 in favour of the ultimate Labor pragmatist Bob Hawke. Hawke was a national trade union leader who could gain support from the anti-American Left while simultaneously being one of America’s best friends in Australia. With a huge proportion of the country now recipients of Federal largesse, Hawke Labor felt compelled to continue the spendthrift policies of the previous conservative and Labor administrations as long as money could be raised by taxes, borrowing or “selling the farm”. The increasing gap between perception and reality was papered over by “Lib-Lab”, consensus rhetoric.96 Hawke could weep publicly over the tribulations of his family but failed in the area of the continuing aboriginal health disaster. Hawke wept publicly and responded humanely over the Tianenman Square Massacre but departed from dominant global opinion in recognizing the conquest of East Timor.
Despite the ambivalence and contradictions of Bob Hawke Labor, one is tempted to place the apogee of Australian decency somewhere towards the middle of the eighties when incompetent, racist conservatism had just been electorally rejected together with knee-jerk industrial confrontation; the free public health Medicare system survived to continue providing excellent general access to top medical services; widespread, sensible liberal sentiment had not yet degenerated into shrill political correctness; the universities were having an Indian summer before their intrinsic weakening by Dawkins later in the decade; national debt had not yet blown out to dangerous proportions; environmental activism was blossoming in defence of Australia and the planet; and when Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in Central Australia was returned to its traditional aboriginal owners (11 November 1983). 97 From this point on (with some sparkles of light) it is all downhill.
Decline and fall
The latter half of the eighties degenerated into a destructive spending spree: billions were poured into Canberra and notably into a massive new Parliament House, both enterprises being more appropriate for a country with ten times the population; the binary tertiary education sector was critically damaged by the fusion of Colleges of Advanced Education (essentially teaching-only and vocationally-oriented institutions) with the traditional high-quality research and teaching Universities; massive commercial as well as State and Federal borrowing blew out the national debt, this being compounded by the market collapse of 1987; massive long-term unemployment, and especially youth unemployment, became an entrenched reality of Australian society; massive drought, soil degradation and salination, lowered world commodity prices and high interest rates impacted upon agricultural communities of the “bush”; Australian society restructured radically with an increasingly “American” spectrum from the fabulously rich to bottom line Third World degradation and radical social discrepancies in income, health, education and welfare in urban environments [e.g. Hawke’s unsustainable promise that has entered the national lexicon: “No Australian child will live in poverty by the year 1990”]; environmental damage in relation to forests, rivers, marine preserves and biodiversity has continued apace while decorated with a veneer of rhetorical concern; corporate and governmental implication or involvement in human rights and environmental abuse in our region has expanded - a classic example being Australian environmental violation of Bougainville followed by government support for Papua and New Guinea military intervention in the consequent rebellion that has taken thousands of lives, principally through disease and lack of medical services and supplies.
The Hawke Labor administrations finally degenerated into the last gasp Paul Keating Labor government that was elected by default because the conservatives had been too honest in their bitter economic prescriptions. Led by Keating, an astute, young Labor politician who had left school at 14 (and is now a Visiting Professor at the University of New South Wales), this mob evidently believed their own confident rhetoric to their ultimate cost. One of Keating’s great contributions to public life was his ripping Parliamentary language e.g. re John Hewson (conservative Opposition Leader) “This little flower, this delicate little beauty, this little cream puff, is supposed to be beyond personal criticism ... he was simply like a shiver, looking for a spine to run up”; re Andrew Peacock (sun-lamp tanned, well-groomed, conservative Opposition Leader) “They were not for the show-pony. He wanted to get back in the 747 to hightail it to Washington to check into the cocktail party circuits - that is when he was not standing at the mirror running a little dye through his hair”; re a second political attempt by Andrew Peacock “Does a soufflé rise twice?”; re John Howard, conservative Leader of the Opposition: “He is the greatest job and investment destroyer since the bubonic plague”. As for himself, he was the “world’s greatest treasurer” who could handle “the big picture.” 98
The conservatives learned their lesson well and stormed back in 1996 under John Howard on the basis of an inexplicit “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” platform involving financial reform and a return to the good old politically incorrect days of calling a spade a spade. Australia has now resolutely turned the clock back by about half a century. While not yet having the courage to institute badly needed taxation reforms, the Howard government has commenced a slashing and burning program that is set to cripple the universities, cut ordinary people off from realistic access to the law and to progressively restore the social inequities of 50 years ago in relation to access to health services and good secondary and tertiary education. This mounting inequity will impact differentially on the 40% of the community who have a non-Anglo-Celtic origin and who are proportionally represented by vastly fewer representatives in Australia’s 9 parliaments than were non-Europeans in South Africa before the collapse of Apartheid.
Most importantly, Howard has failed to properly address ugly, resurgent racism in Australia that may have already cost Australia hundreds of millions this year and threatens multi-billion dollar tourism and tertiary export education industries directed at Asian clients. A fish-and-chip shop owner from Ipswich, Pauline Hanson, was disendorsed as the Liberal candidate for the safe Labor seat of Oxley for making disparaging remarks about aboriginal matters. She was returned to Federal Parliament as an independent with a huge majority as were several other similarly opined politicians. Her maiden speech oncerned itself with Asian migrants, aborigines and the desirability of a return to White Australia and provided immense offence both here and in Asia. A key part of her address is as follows:
“I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Between 1984 and 1995, 40 per cent of all migrants into this country were of Asian origin. They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate. Of course, I will be labelled a racist but, if I can invite who I want into my home, then I should have the right to have a say in who comes into my country. A truly multicultural country can never be strong or united. The world is full of failed and tragic examples, ranging from Ireland to Bosnia to Africa and, coming closer to home, Papua New Guinea, America and Great Britain are paying the price. Arthur Calwell was a great Australian and Labor leader, and it is a pity that there are not men of his stature sitting on the Opposition benches today. Arthur Calwell said and I quote: “Japan, India, Burma, Ceylon and every new African nation are fiercely anti-white and anti-one another. Do we want or need any of these people here?” I am one red-blooded Australian who says no and who speaks for 90 per cent of Australians.” 99
With the media stirring the pot for all it was worth, Ms Hanson generated great popular support that only began to wane when the economic implications of giving offence to Asian customers began to strike home. The wittiest responses to Ms Hanson’s offending views were the suggestions that she should not take the national anthem Advance Australia Fair literally and if she wanted to find out what xenophobia means she shouldn’t look under Z.
Of course there is nothing very new in this but Australians had got used to referring to their fellow human beings in a courteous fashion in the dozen years since the “Australian decency apogee” of circa 1985. Indeed in the middle 1980s distinguished historian Geoffrey Blainey had caused great public and academic controversy in relation to his articulate advocacy of less Asian migration and his thoughts on the economic transformation of Australia by European settlement.100 The bottom line in these arguments is of course that Australia is a “multicultural” immigrant country like Canada and the USA and that the original aboriginal societies maintained quite substantial populations in a homeostatic, biologically sustainable fashion..
For all that Australians have a self-image as tolerant people who believe in an equitable deal (a “fair go”), the reality is that a substantial body of Australians are intrinsically racially prejudiced as revealed by polling and other public responses to Ms Hanson. Whatever the courtesies of “politically correct” public utterance, I suspect that retention of “White Australia” would win hands down in a referendum. We have come a long way since we laid down our guns and had a “smoke-oh” after complementing introduced disease and murdering nearly all of the indigenous inhabitants of Southern and Eastern Australia last century. But it is quite apparent that there is still a substantial undercurrent of racism that had merely been driven into the recesses of the national consciousness by the “political correctness” (and indeed prohibitive legislation) of the “small l” liberal 1980s. How will this prosperous society on “lifeboat Australia” respond to global disaster? Since this final part of our disquisition is concerned with the likelihood of effective moral and intellectual responsiveness to the coming food/population disaster, let us digress to briefly reconsider responsiveness to the World War 2 Jewish Holocaust and the contemporaneous man-made Bengal Famine.
Moral responsiveness to the Jewish Holocaust and the Forgotten Holocaust of Bengal
The failure of the world to recognize the extermination of the Jews and Gypsies as it was happening, to permit the persecuted to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe and to take substantive steps to bring the Holocaust to a halt is an awful indictment of the Allies and of global humanity at the time. This appalling failure of humanity is well documented but remains substantially forgotten even though the actuality of the Jewish Holocaust is burnt into global sensibility. The survivors have quite understandably not qualified their appreciation of their liberation and the destruction of Nazism. Indeed Aarons & Loftus (1997) document the pragmatic use of blackmail by Zionists against a corrupted American intelligence system (involved in Nazi collaboration and postwar “rescue” of Nazi money and Nazi war criminals) in order to secure the smuggling of Jews out of postwar Europe and US and Latin American support for the UN vote on the establishment of the State of Israel. 101
Nevertheless the impact of the Holocaust has been quite variable. For those who were present at the liberation of the camps a strange desensitization was manifest as even battle-toughened soldiers subliminally protected themselves from unimaginable horror. Richard Crossman (1945) recorded the consequent relative inaction of the shocked liberators of Dachau:
“How else can one explain that ten days after the liberation no one thinks it strange that there are no trucks to carry the dying to hospital and no proper diet in the hospital? If a town of 32,000 people had been struck by a cyclone, an immense rescue apparatus would be organised. But these 32,000 outcasts are so remote from civilization as we know it that we are content to leave them as they are, improving slightly their living standards.” 102
James Baldwin (1963) provides a chillingly honest view of the Holocaust from the perspective of a black American subject to a remorselessly racist society:
“White people were, and are, astounded by the holocaust in Germany. They did not know that they could act in that way. But I very much doubt whether black people were astounded - at least, in the same way. For my part, the fate of the Jews, and the world’s indifference to it, frightened me very much. I could not but feel, in those sorrowful years, that this human indifference, concerning which I knew so much already, would be my portion on the day that the United States decided to murder its Negroes systematically instead of little by little and catch-as-catch-can.” 103
James Baldwin’s fears were well justified and his testimony provides powerful support for the thesis of this book, namely that unimaginable horror on a gigantic scale will be the inevitable consequence of human indifference to the fate of remote, different and unseen people. It is more than likely that James Baldwin, like the overwhelming majority of people in the world at the time and since, was completely unaware of the man-made famine of Bengal that destroyed as many as 5 million innocent Bengalis (mostly Muslims and children) at the same time as 6 million Jews and half a million Gypsies (Roma) were being just as remorselessly destroyed by their rulers. Those in positions of authority who were aware steadfastly refused to act, notable exceptions being Lord Louis Mountbatten, Lord Wavell and Prime Minister King of Canada. The rest was silence. 104
How will the post-globalisation world respond to comparable events in the future? How will the well-fed of the world respond to the Bergen-Belsen Third World of 2050? Some idea can be gained from the absence of world response to the horrendous famine in China occasioned by the Great Leap Forward in 1959-1962 and which killed as many as about 30 million people - the “global village” was almost completely unaware of what was happening. 105 In contrast, domestic public pressure over a decade in the USA eventually brought the carnage of Vietnam to a halt just as the same rational and humanitarian perceptions contributed to French withdrawal from Indochina and from the bloodbath of Algeria.
With an increasingly global economy and astonishingly quick and pervasive communications, the world is ostensibly more responsive now. The obscenity of war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was permitted to run for several years and take several hundred thousand lives but eventually the moral leadership of the USA won out over the moral cowardice of Western Europe and the guns of the murderers were silenced. However South African Apartheid - like the monstrous Soviet tyranny - evidently succumbed to global economic realities rather than to a global moral unanimity. Nevertheless the imminence and likelihood of the genocide in Ruanda was no doubt quite obvious to a small number of Western experts and yet the world was unable to act decisively. Mass starvation in Sudan and North Korea in recent years has similarly met with inadequate global responses.
Clearly there has to be some enhanced appreciation of humanity, some depth of perception that can overcome an immense “activation energy” barrier to compel requisite effective action. Clearly racism and racial and cultural prejudices can severely blunt such humanitarian thrusts. In addition we know that we respond most deeply to individual horrors but cannot properly comprehend massive disaster. Who knows but that the tragic public murder of the young Sarajevo lovers - one Serbian, one Bosnian Muslim - had a vastly greater impact on the President of the United States or his advisers than the massive statistics on ethnic cleansing?
We will now briefly return to the Antipodes to see how a prosperous, educated, racially diverse, resource-rich country such as Australia can deal with problems that are trivial compared to the coming global food/population problem.
Genocide, ethnocide, ecocide and terracide in Australia
We have already seen how Europeans in Australia destroyed a sophisticated set of aboriginal cultures, wiping out something of the order of a million people and destroying for ever all but about a dozen of several hundred distinct languages. The process was accompanied by racial vilification that continues to this day. It is notable in comparison that even the firm intentions, efficiency and technical sophistication of the Nazis was unable to totally destroy any particular culture or people (although one can argue that Yiddish-speaking Jewish groups were in effect deleted from particular Eastern European national cultures). This process of murder, violence, forced child-removal, dispossession and marginalisation has had a huge effect on the cultural continuity of the survivors in addition to language loss. This process of ethnocide is still continuing. A major aspect of aboriginal survival in Australia today involves differential aboriginal morbidity and mortality. The current statistics are appalling as the following examples will serve to illustrate:
1. Aboriginal infant mortality in Australia is about 24 per 1000 live births as opposed to 8 per 1000 for Australia as a whole and 22 (Canadian Indians), 18 (New Zealand Maoris), 10 (US Indians) and 5 per 1000 in Japan. Contributing factors include poor living conditions, lack of medical services and antenatal care, poor education, alcohol and tobacco abuse, a high incidence of teenage mothers and low infant birth weights. In about 1990 the 0-24 death rate among aborigines was 2 times the national average but among the 15-24 year olds the death rate for both male and female aboriginals was about 4 times the national average. The death rate among 25-54 year old aborigines is about 7 times the national average. The life expectancy for aboriginal males is about 59 years (as opposed to a national male average of about 75 years); the corresponding female figures are 63 for aboriginals as compared to a national average of 81 years. 106
2. Aboriginal women of childbearing age have about 3 children as compared to the national average of about 2. While maternal death in childbirth has fallen nationally since 1970, the incidence for aboriginal women has increased. In 1988 aboriginal maternal death during childbirth represented 30% of all such deaths although aboriginal women represented only 2% of women giving birth each year. 107
3. The incidence of a variety of preventable diseases among aboriginals is appallingly high and this in turn relates to poor living conditions, education and access to medical services. Major health problems relate to poor diet, obesity, diabetes, alcoholism and cardiovascular and other problems associated with smoking and alcohol abuse. Glaucoma and diabetes are major problems with HIV infection a major threat. Only about 30% of aborigines live in cities and 20% live in particularly remote areas. Of the 265,000 aborigines counted in 1991, 40% were under 15 (as opposed to 22% nationally). 108
4. A major problem is differential imprisonment of aboriginals and aboriginal deaths in custody. Aborigines represent 1.6 % of the total population but contribute 12% of the prison population. Despite a Royal Commission into the appalling incidence of aboriginal deaths in custody, the solutions are still being ignored and this utterly avoidable tragedy continues. 109
5. Differential access to educational services results in the following discontinuities: about half the aboriginal population have left school under 15, fewer than 1% have tertiary qualifications and about 5% have never gone to school. 110
6. In social conditions there are immense differences as shown by the 38% unemployment rate of aboriginal males (as opposed to a 9% national average), 65 % of aborigines rent (as opposed to a 26% national incidence) and while aboriginal home ownership is about half the national average, the number of person per dwelling (such as it is) is about double the national average. 111
Many “outback” aborigines are still living in conditions that are among the worst in the world and this in a country that is one of the richest in the world. These obscene, continuing differentials clearly contribute to the appalling differences in morbity and mortality of aborigines. The awful Australian aboriginal living conditions that reduced the great black American singer Paul Robeson to tears nearly 50 years ago remain today. In a very real sense the undeclared War of Occupation is continuing and one wonders when Australia will be brought to the International Court of Justice or indeed to a War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.
There is currently a thoroughly justified national and international horror of evil, psychotic paedophiles (stimulated by the recent Belgian horrors and the continuing European, Asian and Australian “sex tours” of Asia). However there is no recognition of a dominant global culture of greedy, cold-blooded paedophobes - powerful people having a relaxed attitude to the past, present and future suffering and death of millions of children throughout the world as victims of national and corporate economic interests. Whether it is in the man-made famines of Bengal or the man-made continuing abuse of Australian aborigines, a substantial proportion of the suffering is borne by children and one cannot go much further than the New Testament plea of Jesus (Matthew chapter 18, verse 6): “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
The celebrated Australian High Court “Mabo” decision of June 1992 overturned the terra nullius proposition of the first 2 centuries of European invasion by establishing (6 to 1) that the Torres Straits Meriam people had rights to the possession of the Murray Islands on which they had lived from time immemorial. Subsequent Federal legislation has addressed the consequences of this landmark decision to reverse the colonial fiction of terra nullius but current conservative reaction in Australia is set to put the clock back. In particular the Wik people of northern Queensland recently won a High Court case over their fight to regain at least qualified “cultural” access to lands occupied by their forbears for thousands of years. However there has been an immense political reaction to the “Wik decision” and calls for “total extinguishment” of aboriginal residual rights relating to land use of an immense area of Australia leased to miners and pastoralists. This has now been translated into essentially race-specific legislation that curbs and threatens the legitimate land rights of indigenous Australians. It is with forboding that we see that the current Australian Government has recently refused to sign a “human rights” article associated with trade arrangements with the European Union. Residual rights in relation to the lands that they have occupied for millennia is crucial for the cultural survival of the remaining aboriginal societies and the intended continuing dispossession will amount to continuing deliberate ethnocide by White Australia. 112
Successive recent Australian governments have pointed to massive funding of Aboriginal organizations and services as evidence of good intentions. This begs the question of why such unfavourable outcomes obtain. The critical argument that has been applied to British rule in India over several centuries, and indeed of Bengal in 1943-1946, can be equally well applied to continuing European rule of aboriginal Australians - the administering authority is inescapably responsible for the welfare of its subjects. Comparing the appalling state of aboriginal Australia with the ostensibly massive financial expenditure for their benefit is a classic example of inappropriate use of numbers to which our Gadarene economists remain enthusiastically committed. This is simply a matter of comparing “goats with sheep” and the same idiocy dictates that the crucial, “unpaid” labor of several billion people (mostly women) in subsistence economies cannot contribute to official “dollar-based” estimates of social productivity. 113
Not unconnected with the genocide and ethnocide of aborigines is the massive diminution of biological diversity in Australia since the invasion. One third of our remarkable fauna are facing extinction. Of an estimated 22,000 native plants, 10% are facing extinction. There has been a massive invasion of Australia by introduced flora and fauna. Many marsupials have become extinct since European settlement, the most obvious and dramatic (likely) extinction being that of the Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus). The largest mammal currently facing extinction in Australia is the dugong of tropical waters but the current Australian government has recently given the “go-ahead” for commercial development of a highly sensitive area of the Queensland coast that is a major refuge for these rare creatures. Of Australia’s indigenous mammals 10 are extinct, 20 are endangered and 135 are potentially threatened with extinction (including species not sighted for over 50 years). In the words of William Lines (1991) in The Taming of the Great South Land:
“Nowhere else on earth have so few people pauperised such a large proportion of the world’s surface in such a brief period of time. In under 200 years, a natural world millions of years in the making, and an Aboriginal culture of 60,000 years duration, vanished before the voracious, insatiable demands of a foreign invasion.” 114
Massive environmental degradation of the continent of Australia has occurred over the last 200 years. Major outback rivers of the Murray-Darling System are contaminated with the toxic blue-green algae Anabaena (that produces the neurotoxic anatoxin) and Microcystus (that elaborates the hepatotoxic and secondary tumour promoting microcystins). Massive irrigation in the New South Wales Riverina and in Victoria has contributed to this problem and irrigation and tree removal in the same region has led to massive salination. Overstocking has led to areas of vegetation removal on rectilinearly-defined properties that can be discerned from Landsat images from space. [30 years ago I made several trips to the University of Adelaide Botany Department Kurnamore reserve in the arid centre of South Australia. The several square kilometers that had been fenced off from sheep for about 40 years had a richness, lushness and complexity comparable with well-watered coastal areas and was in stark contrast to the salt-bush desert outside the fence having 6 feet of red sand between each salt-bush clump.] The criminal destruction of forests and the associated complex habitats has excoriated the most complex ecosystems of Australia from the tropical rainforests of Queensland to the temperate rainforests of Tasmania. Even the ostensibly ecologically simpler plains have been devastated by the hard hooves of cattle and sheep. Feral creatures such as rabbits, buffalo, dogs, cats, horses and pigs have contributed to animal extinctions and massive environmental damage. 115
Mining has devastated particular regions of which the most dramatic examples are the dead rivers and vegetation-free hills near Queenstown on the west coast of Tasmania that are set in the midst of lush, dense rainforests watered with 180 inches of rainfall per year. As previously mentioned, this destructiveness has been extended to mud and heavy metal pollution of major river systems in New Guinea and ugly coastal degradation on Bougainville that has driven the indigenous Melanesian people to a continuing rebellion that has cost thousands of lives. 116
Given this appalling litany of genocide, ethnocide and ecocide one would have thought that some sensible constraint would be exercised now. The reality is that appalling aboriginal health and welfare differentials are being sustained by government irresponsibility and a major new assault is underway on hard won, minimal aboriginal land rights. Renewed attack on the Australian environment is afoot in a more pragmatic and selfish society. The release of calicivirus-infected rabbits may lead to benign reversal of 2 centuries of damage from the rabbit plague but there are concerns over diminution of effectiveness. For all the vastness of the continent, much of Australia is desert and large areas of the best agricultural land are being degraded through salination, erosion, loss of soil and urbanization. 117 Per capita, Australia is one of the major greenhouse gas producers in the world through massive exports of black coal, use of huge black and brown coal resources for production of electricity, use of oil and gas reserves and massive deforestation. It is remarkable that on his recent visit to Australia, President Clinton was moved to comment unfavourably on Australia’s tardiness in relation to greenhouse gas emission controls. 118
From this quick sketch we can see that Australia, a resource-rich, highly-educated, liberal, democratic and orderly nation with an extraordinarily high standard of living, declines to act in a fashion consistent with global environmental responsibility in relation to greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, it is continuing the 200 year process of environmental degradation and biodiversity destruction. If that were not enough, it is continuing the process of destruction of its indigenous cultures and is a passive witness to massive environmental damage and human rights abuse in a swathe of tropical countries to our north.
An experimental test of the moral responsiveness of White Australia
1995 marked the 50th anniversary of the end of World War 2 and Australian public figures and media repeatedly acknowledged this through an “Australia Remembers” program throughout the year. Since the Bengal Famine represented one of the largest single catastrophes of the War (contributing about 10% of the victims of that conflict and about 90% of total British Empire casualties) and since it had been essentially forgotten, I thought it timely to inform Australia of this in 1995. However a detailed account of that catastrophe 119 sent to politicians, media and others fell largely on deaf ears. It was utterly ignored by mainstream media but was the subject of a speech and tabled in the Senate by Green Senator Chamarette 120. A version was published by the Sydney-based Centre for Comparative Genocide Studies. 121
While Holocaust denial is a criminal offence in Germany, 122 Australia’s mainstream media were unanimous in steadfastly ignoring the Bengal Famine in the year Australia remembered the 50th anniversary of the end of World War 2. Nevertheless in the same year the Australian literary establishment awarded, rewarded and lionized a “Holocaust” novel by a supposedly first generation Ukrainian-Irish Australian woman. Ukrainian participation in the Holocaust was causally linked in this fictional work to alleged Jewish participation in the Ukrainian Famine of the early 1930s. The authoress, “Helen Demidenko”, repeated this as historical fact in an article in The Age (a leading Australian newspaper, published in Melbourne and having a liberal stance). She went further and indeed specified that “Jewish Russian Communists” had murdered members of her family in the Ukraine in the 30s. 123 After “Helen Demidenko” was revealed to be Helen Darville, the daughter of English migrants, The Age steadfastly refused to retract and apologize for her false assertions published opposite their editorial page. They were upheld in their resolution by the Australian Press Council after formal hearing of my complaint. In the year marking the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps the same newspaper steadfastly declined to remember the Forgotten Holocaust of Bengal. However it did publish a “Holocaust” cartoon in very poor taste: Melbourne has a major new casino industry and the cartoon showed subdued civilians guarded by police entering a facsimile of Auschwitz with the gateway sign reading “Gambling Makes Freedom” (rather than “Arbeit Macht Frei”) and with the caption “The Victorian Solution” as a “joke” about the “Final Solution”. 124 Several years later the same newspaper (which has a supportive, Voltairean attitude to the entry of presently-excluded, Holocaust revisionist historian David Irving into Australia), offered the following historical revision of the Bengal Holocaust in its Entertainment section in relation to the screening of Satyajit Ray’s film Distant Thunder: “The Japanese demands for rice during 1943 caused a famine in India, resulting in five million deaths and a hard struggle for survival for millions of others.” 125.
In addition to its historical involvement in the near-complete genocide of Tasmanian and Mainland Australian aborigines and slavery in the Pacific, White Australia has been intimately (if indirectly) connected in various ways with the 200 year holocaust that was British India, the Armenian Genocide, the Bengal Famine, the massacre of Chinese Indonesians, the Cambodian Genocide, the Timorese Genocide and, most recently, the genocide applied to Kurds in Iraq. Like a postnatal psychotic mother who has murdered her child, Australia just does not want to know. As thorough genocidists in our own right, we have a long history as running dogs of the Big Boys and well-founded national insecurity will keep us on track. Our present conservative Prime Minister John Howard indeed has denied that we should feel any guilt about our past: “I sympathize fundamentally with Australians who are insulted when they are told that we have a racist, bigoted past ... but to tell children ... that we’re all part of a a sort of racist, bigoted history is something that Australians reject.” 126 However it is not so much the past as the present and the future we are ultimately concerned about in this disquisition. Will Australia over-ride anti-racist legislation and global sentiment to enable a massive extinguishment of native title over a substantial part of Australia? Will Australia continue to play “dog in the manger” in relation to the commerce-driven ecocide and global warming that threatens the Third World?
For all the mythology of the outspoken egalitarianism of “rough diamond” Australians, the reverse can appear to be the case. It is argued that the poor diction of Australians derives from the same source as the Great Australian Salute i.e. Australians talk with their mouths nearly closed to avoid inadvertently eating flies just as they are forever brushing them away. A more likely hypothesis is that it derives from the Australian horror of expressing moral or intellectual commitment. This spiritual disease is in epidemic proportions in our universities wherein one can now perceive an insidious evolution from the “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach” of Williamson’s The Department 127 to “Those who can, mislead. Those who can’t, blather.” As our universities evolve from “research and teaching institutions” into “ethically fluid deregulated businesses”, so we see the departure from the elegant games of Cornford’s Microcosmographica Academica or a host of delightful academic novels 128 to power debates in which some assert and diminish with abandon (or more exactly, crudely mislead with remorseless regularity) and others are reduced to frozen silence. We have already seen the remarkable lying by omission of British historians over several centuries. However the new style of academia is bringing Australian universities out of a “Truth only zone” into the real world of salesmen, competition, moral ambivalence and deceit as analyzed in Lying by Bok (1978). 129
Alison Lurie has wickedly put her finger on the uncomfortable blather of the English in avoiding the unpleasant, in this instance as upstate New York academic Fred Turner enquires after his estranged love Lady Rosemary Radley in Foreign Affairs:
“His questions about Rosemary are passed over as if unheard, or met with what he is beginning to recognize as the classic waffling manner of the British upper classes when confronted with the insignificant unpleasant.” 130
The Australians, lacking the verbal agility of the English, tend to keep mum in ignoring the undesirable. To be fair to them, one should realize that there can be severe financial penalties for free speech in Australia and there is a long tradition of intellectual suppression and constraint on free speech going back to First Settlement. 131 Thus in Sydney in 1789 John Callaghan was sentenced to 600 lashes and 6 months’ labor in irons for uttering a simple truth that was held by Judge Advocate David Collins to be “an untruth and scandalous falsehood”. 132
If a highly-resourced, highly-educated liberal democracy such as Australia is unable to even minimally constrain its greed and irresponsibility, what hope is there for the rest of the world that in general is overpopulated, under-educated, under-resourced and lacking longstanding democratic traditions and institutions? If fabulously rich Australia cannot deal with relatively minor problems such as preserving biological sustainability, rare ecosystems and the limited biodiversity of an arid continent or providing decent health services and living conditions for a mere three hundred thousand [currently 500,000] indigenous inhabitants, what hope is there for a world crowded with 6 billion mostly impoverished people?
How we can prevent the Apocalypse
The world is facing a catastrophe involving massive continuing loss of biodiversity, 133 irreversible environmental change through global warming, deforestation, desertification, soil degradation and pollution 134 and a looming gap between population needs and available resources of food and water. 135 Clearly in the short term there are steps that can be urgently effected to ameliorate the situation. Thus the world has acted collectively on specific biodiversity issues (such as saving romantically-perceived large creatures such as the whale and the elephant), has banned chlorofluorohydrocarbons (CFCs) (implicated in destruction of the UV-absorbing ozone layer), has largely quarantined Antarctica from human destructiveness (but not from the effects of the ozone hole), exercised some control over nuclear waste and nuclear proliferation and is now (from Kyoto) evidently beginning to get serious about greenhouse gas emission (despite dissent from “greenhouse gas” nations such as Australia). Action, such as it is, has been informed by a large, concerned literature. 136
Clearly there needs to be a radical change in the current global ethos which is still, in effect, that which sent off the European fleets to scour the world for treasure and slaves centuries ago to support Jane Austen’s class. There are major matters crying out for global collective action. Thus the continuing massive assault on the remaining forests of the world and the consequent huge loss in biodiversity should be halted - no more species and ecosystems should be lost. While the developed world consumes a very high proportion of the world’s resources we are facing the transformation of Asian nations with high growth economies into First World countries. However given the evidence of massive environmental damage to date, this development cannot be sustained. The current world evidently cannot support Western Europe, North America, Australasia and Japan without massive environmental damage. Can it seriously contemplate China and India with an American middle class lifestyle? 137
From this it follows that there is a need for some global consensus on acceptable and sustainable environmental load (an immediately useful suggestion would simply be the abolition of the private car). The people of Bengal provide an example of unparallelled economic efficiency that is one possible boundary condition for high density human survival, with Long Island providing another extreme. Between the 2 there is a huge amount of room for sensible global consensus on where we are going. Given evidence for global warming, there must be effective action to limit emissions and provide a new form of enforceable “environmental accounting” or “renewable resource rental” that encompasses the real cost and impact of human activity. The same type of “environmental accounting” or “commercial decency” 138 should apply to industrial pollution, desertification, ecosystem destruction and displacement of high-efficiency subsistence agriculture with low efficiency monoculture cash crops. There must be recognition that “smallholder” agriculture in the Third World is highly efficient and sustainable but, unlike large-scale cash-crop farming, is largely excluded from the “dollar economy”. 139 This has been cogently argued by Marilyn Waring (1988) in relation to “women’s work”, whether in the affluent West or in the economic subsistence that is the highly efficient and tightly focussed process occupying half the people of the world. 140
There is a need for a rational, sustainability-directed economics that rewards efficiency and minimal use of resources and penalizes the reverse. In the parlance of biochemistry and electronics, there has to be “positive feedback” to encourage desirable outcomes and “negative feedback” to constrain undesirable courses. Despite the “New Order” of the United Nations and the post-Cold War Pax Americana, there is still in place a positive feedback mechanism that rewards and encourages wasteful and destructive activity (deforestation, desertification, industrial pollution, irreversible “mining” of biological and other resources, greenhouse gas emission and militarism). There is a complementary negative feedback mechanism that effectively punishes the most efficient and most minimal resource users, the people of the Third World, through largely externally imposed environmental degradation, crushing debt and unaffordable militarism. This utterly misplaced feedback arrangement has to be reversed emphatically. In a very real sense we are victims of our own social evolutionary success. The arrogant urban “winners”, who are increasingly detached from basic biological sustainability realities, are irreversibly destroying whole swathes of the biosphere. The world is manifestly best left in the hands of the humble, low-impact “losers” who have a deep, intimate attachment to the richness of the world. We can draw the same message from St. Matthew, Chapter 5, Verse 5: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
It is already apparent that the world is beginning to appreciate the urgency of our situation and is becoming more responsive. The global action taken over CFCs may now be extended in at least some limited fashion to greenhouse gases. However a key corollary of sensible and comprehensive global action is the need for international accountability and free information flow. The revolution in information technology is rapidly achieving the latter. Some key experimental tests of whether the world has the collective will to enable humanity to get through the next century without catastrophic disaster would be global action (resolutely backed by onerous collective sanctions) on some “smaller”, immediately soluble problems that would meet with general global approbation: e.g. restoration of Aung San Suu Kyi as the democratically elected ruler of Myanmar and indeed similar global insistence on basic human rights throughout the world; effective conventions and mechanisms for the rapid cessation of all military conflict on the planet; international protection of residual “aboriginal” people in countries such as Australia and Brazil; a just, sustainable and quintessentially normal life for Palestinians and other displaced people in their own lands; drastic reduction of Third World debt and an increase in women’s rights, security and education to ameliorate disastrous population increases; resolute support for the highly efficient, sustainable, low cost, multi-faceted, “smallholder” or “village” integrated agriculture and industry that keeps half the world alive; weighted, global financial penalties for murder, genocide, unacceptable “enhanced mortality” gaps, population irresponsibility, ecosystem destruction, extinctions and other damage to the biosphere; a readily addressable computer-based register of all humanity, from those hiding in the jungles to those incarcerated in prison or “refugee camps”, so that no more Ann Franks, Jeno Polyas or Raoul Wallenbergs can simply be “disappeared” from the face of the earth without remorseless international inquiry and penalty that may save them from oblivion.141
While environmentalists call for world government and global action, 142 it must be appreciated that there is a very real downside to globalisation and surrender of uninhibited national “rights” to pollute and otherwise violate the world. There is the notion of “managing” the biosphere, for example, 143 whereas there is an ideal we could aspire to of a world with a much lower population that enables normal global biosphere homeostatic mechanisms to operate. 144 While “global” decision-making is required, there is a very real danger that “global” management will fall into the perverting and malignant hands of major élites, corporations and powerful industrial societies. 145 In the interim, before we arrive at the New Jerusalem, the world should collectively employ the accountancy of Babylon to our noble ends, and apply the “user pays” principle. The humble subsistence villagers that cherish the earth will be rewarded, the Gadarene blasphemers will pay for their derelict stewardship. Unfortunately the forces of darkness are presently firmly in control. However there is at least some hope that a healthy start can be made by ensuring that at least vulnerable “middle ranking” environment-destroying nations (notably those in the Southern Hemisphere such as Brazil and Australia) can be brought to heel by international inspection and the threat of sanctions.
The population nightmare
The fundamental problem the world is facing is catastrophic population increase. 146 The shortfall of food in the food/population equation can be met by cessation of meat eating and and other even more profound lifestyle adjustments that will maximize available resources for food production. However even when such radical adjustments are made their effects will be overcome by further increases in population. It is clear that all kinds of steps have to be taken urgently on both the food and industrial production side and the human consumption side in order to achieve a sustainable solution for the world. No doubt there is a world-wide move in the right direction but the current constraint on population growth is woefully insufficient in many areas and in an overall global sense.
China has acted with great responsibility in this area through the government-proscribed “one child” policy. In contrast, the laissez-faire of India will lead to humanitarian disaster as will religious proscription of birth control. While there is a general observation (most dramatically seen in Scandinavia and also in Kerala) that birth rates are inversely related to female education, 147 this can only make a partial contribution to the urgent need for effective action. It is also clear that childbirth is dangerous in the Third World. Thus in Sierra Leone the pregnancy-related death rate is 1800 per 100,000 births - contributing one seventh of women’s deaths - as opposed to 27 per 100,000 in industrialized countries. A small increase in economic and personal security would decrease the birth rate in poor countries as women (and their partners) perceive a greater likelihood of their children making it to adulthood. 148
It will take a long time before the Juggernaut is slowed to a stop and indeed can be moved in the opposite direction so that the world can return to a more sustainable population of several billion people. Apart from specific conception-related processes to be discussed below, major advances would involve education and a deliberate choice by the rich nations of the world to loosen the economic screws and admit the possibility of increased economic security for the highly efficient, low resource users of the Third World.
While effective government proscription (albeit draconian) can have a major impact on population growth (as in the excellent example of China), other possible anti-fertility mechanisms can be suggested that are more compatible with the “Western” or “American” ethos involving the overriding importance of “rights of the individual”. However in doing so we should keep in mind the ways in which global or local environmental strategies can burden particular groups. Thus Seager (1993) has analyzed how environmental activism in a variety of areas impinges selectively upon women. In relation to biodiversity and animal rights she cites the anti-fur propaganda showing a fur clad female model and the caption “It takes up to 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat. But only one to wear it”; and the fur-clad model (“rich bitch”) and the animal caught in a leg-hold trap (“poor bitch”). In the population control area, the “blame” is typically also applied to women, whereas female literacy, female empowerment and economic security for women are sensible avenues for improvement. 149
Only females bear children and accordingly an effective and conceivably socially solution to contain and reverse population growth would be application of fertility technologies and procedures that change the sex ratio at birth to maximize the proportion of males. This is already occurring in effect in India (where females are an expensive burden in terms of dowry provision) and in China (where the one-baby policy translates for many as a one male baby policy). Of course the methods involved (amniocentesis and female abortion in middle class India and female infanticide in peasant or working class India and China) are gruesome, expensive and ultimately simply murder when postnatal or something that comes conceptually uncomfortably close to murder if circa mid-term. In about 1800 in certain parts of India, an unwanted (typically female) child could be deprived of sustenance, suckled on a nipple painted with poison (usually opium) or put in a sack and thrown into a river. In Bengal, if a formerly childless woman gave birth to children, one could be cast into the Ganges as an offering. 150 Infanticide was practised in Australian aboriginal societies. 151 Thus a new-born child who would clearly not survive the rigours of nomadic existence might be placed just far enough away from the fire in the desert night cold to ensure an endless sleep.
A variety of mechanical and chemical contraceptive devices or procedures are available for both males and females, as is effective chemical abortion. 152 However where childbirth is desired, cheap and reliable, peri-conception sex selection would be a useful technological advance to avoid the awfulness of mid-term abortion and the evil of infanticide and to provide choice for women in the Third World for whom each child birth carries a substantial risk. 153 Thus, for example, Falloux and Talbot (1993) cite the following United Nations assertion: “if all the women who say they do not want more babies could cease to conceive, the number of births would diminish by 27% in Africa ... And the maternal mortality would diminish by half.” 154 Humane, choice-providing, in vitro possibilities can be contemplated such as in vitro fertilization involving biochemically isolated Y-chromosome-carrying spermatozoa or in vitro implantation of XY (male) embryos. However such procedures, while readily perfectable in a research and development sense and a Western context, would be very expensive for the Third World. Achievable low-cost technologies can be readily contemplated e.g. fertilization procedures favouring Y-sperm success and hence a male outcome if that is desired. While potentially much more ethically arguable and difficult to achieve, XX (female)-specific, “morning-after” chemical abortion could be a very cheap option for women wishing to “invest” in a male child.
One has great confidence that such protocols can be readily developed to deal with the human emergency in a fashion that is more acceptable, empowering and effective than at present. Such protocols have the major advantage that they would be applied through individual choice and may well not require government proscription or social pressure to achieve the desired result. However the social consequences of a markedly altered sex ratio are problematical. Botswana has a high female/male ratio (due to men going to South Africa to find work) and as a consequence is apparently a very happy society with minimal social violence or other crimes. One might suppose that the reverse would be true in a society with even a temporary high male/female ratio and that this might yield a violent, pressure-cooker society with a higher predisposition to human rights abuse in all kinds of ways. However this would not be necessarily so and there would be a long lead time before such potential psychopathies and sociopathies might emerge. Thus precisely this type of social engineering in Fiji a century ago resulted in a remarkably peaceful society. My wife’s dadi (paternal grandmother) crossed the kala pani (the Black Water) to Fiji as an indentured labourer (5-year slave) and recalled that there were about 3 men to 1 woman. The British and Australian agents considered this a suitable ratio that maximized economic return with a concession for social and biological realities. The famous Australian journalist John Norton (1858-1916) commented on this from his perspective in 1916:
“The importation of black labor into this country [Australia] having been stopped, it was perhaps only to have been expected that the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. should have gone elsewhere, where it was still open them to purchase human bone and muscle in the cheapest possible market. They consequently established a black colony on one of the Pacific Islands [Fiji], and numbers of Indian coolies were imported to it. The most horrible code of morality was also imported to this ghastly settlement, where the prevailing conditions can only be described as hellish. It is not possible for a black to live there morally in marriage, but one woman is imported for a fixed number of men. Not more women than are physically necessary are brought, but just as few as can be made to do.” 155
Human beings are very adaptable and the Indian slaves made the best of it, although some who could not take the hard labour and beating would go into the jungle and hang themselves. A similar indentured labourer sex ratio was applied in the South African context and a very high male suicide rate was attributed to this factor. 156 Mutual support and collective strength fostered survival in adversity. Hilarious stories are told of groups of women tricking and ambushing an insistent Indian foreman (sirdar) or an importuning Australian overseer and beating or urinating upon their persecutors. Nevertheless Indian women were forced by economic circumstances and social pressure to deal sexually with a multiplicity of men and with Europeans at the gora barak (European men’s barracks). Most importantly this inauspicious social arrangement led to a remarkably peaceful and law-abiding society of great humanity and racial and religious tolerance. Sharing one’s sexual partner with others surely involves a considerable exercise in tolerance and pragmatism as does acceptance of relations with multiple partners. That humane and tolerant ethos persists to this day in Fiji despite radical racial, religious, linguistic and cultural differences in that society that are vastly greater than differences between, for example, Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants. 157
One can envisage a Brave New World in which the sex ratio is temporarily, markedly altered through a combination of intense global pressure for 1 child families, increases in economic security and literacy for Third World people (especially women), a strong temporary bias of both citizenry and governments for male children and the relatively simple and cheap, non-invasive technology to match the predilection Of course women might feel endangered by being substantially outnumbered (albeit for a relatively brief period). One could argue to outraged women that this solution would be temporary and that a necessary corollary would be global consensus on exquisite observance of the rights of women. In this scheme of things women would necessarily be extraordinarily well protected, empowered and socially elevated as a matter of general global convention. No doubt other schemes can be suggested that would have a similar capacity to contain and reverse population growth. However it is likely that effective solutions will involve global governmental constraints on childbirth with effective sanctions or rewards to encourage compliance. The suggestion of a sex ratio change has the merits that it is effective, non-invasive, would comply with governmental and overall individual biases, is “pro-choice” for women and would lessen the need for draconian pressure for absolute compliance. Thus having 2 male children might be very indulgent and anti-social but would not have the potential environmental impact of having 1 female child.
The Jane Austen option
An ameliorating accompaniment to such schemes of humane, global consensus social engineering would be popularization and active encouragement of the “Jane Austen option” in which individual women make the decision to eschew or strictly limit child-bearing and find intellectual, artistic, industrial, social or spiritual avenues for creative fulfilment. Jane Austen, we will recall, changed her mind over Harris Bigg-Wither’s proposal and finally decided in the morning to retract her acceptance and hence a conventional married life with a wealthy husband and no doubt numerous children. Both Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra lost the men with whom they were in love and remained unmarried. Their good friend Martha Lloyd, who lived with them for many years in Southampton and in Chawton, was also childless and was past childbearing age when she married the widowed Francis Austen in 1828. 158
The “Jane Austen option” has much to commend it and we all have friends who have followed this path by accident or design. Jane Austen had the satisfaction of being an Aunt to a large swag of nieces and nephews and escaped the miseries and dangers of child bearing and the responsibilities of child rearing. The last 2 decades of her adult life were spent in the congenial company of her mother, her sister and their dear friend Martha Lloyd. Jane Austen’s exquisite literary work was written (as is this) with absorption but also in the midst of the daily bustle of domestic life. The truth, reason and beauty of her work has made her easily the most popular serious English woman writer and has secured for her an affectionate place in the hearts of millions over 2 centuries.
The “Jane Austen option” is a net for a wider human catch. Generalized, it applies to all of humanity and instructs that modest absorption with truth and beauty is an alternative to the aggression, aggrandisement and obsessive material acquisition that is threatening the very survival of humanity. The Nobel Prize-winning Australian writer Patrick White, in a speech in Melbourne to a packed audience shortly before his death, was caustic in his condemnation of the mindlessly peripatetic. After castigating Australian “kiddults” (rather typical Australian adults who use self-effacing, diminutive “kid’s talk”), he lashed out at the pointlessness of “City to Surf” and “Surf to City” races and “flogging poor camels across the stony desert” (a recent trans-continental competitive event). Why don’t these people stay home, he argued, make themselves a nice meal and curl up with a good book? Patrick White adopted a version of the “Jane Austen option”, living a civilized, highly creative life in the company of his male partner. Indeed in the Braver New World, in which humanity actively seeks to realistically address the crisis of biological sustainability, there will be many versions of the “Jane Austen option” that should be encouraged, ranging from homosexual relations to monastic celibacy. In this light we can see that the psychopathy of homophobia is not merely a threat to homosexual men and women and to a decent society but is also a constraint on sensible, humane, sympathetic approaches to the crisis of sustainability.
The world is facing a catastrophe from the impact of economic activity attendant on continuing population growth. 159 China has responded to the emergency with draconian constraints but its population will continue to increase from the present 1 billion before hopefully plateauing at 1.5 billion in the 21st century. Further, the environmental impact of the currently greatly increased economic activity in countries such as China and India is already immense and there is a huge social pressure for continued economic advance. 160 The warning of Paul Ehrlich (1968) in The Population Bomb is even more urgent 30 years on: “Remember, above all, that more than half the world is in misery now. That alone should be enough to galvanize us into action, regardless of the exact dimensions of the future disaster now staring Homo sapiens in the face.” 161 Suzuki (1990) has cogently stated the problem and the general nature of the solution: “The rapid increase in human numbers at the very time that technological muscle has also leapt ahead has generated the environmental crisis of today. Scientists like Harvard’s Edward Wilson and Stanford’s Paul Ehrlich point out the need for a profound shift in attitude towards the natural world. The change must be a “quasi-religious”` shift in the spiritual value that we place on other organisms.” 162
The exquisitely sustainable, Arcadian world of the Australian and Amazonian aborigines has largely disappeared. The extraordinarily efficient and potentially sustainable solution of Bengal survives as a continuing, dignified lesson for humanity but faces the external threat of man-made global environmental change and the internal threat due to female disempowerment and utterly irresponsible, unchecked population growth. 163 We have now seen the immense man-made human disasters of the British Imperial era and how they have been almost completely removed from general perception by a sustained and continuing tradition of utterly distorted historiography. We must peer outside our hygienic and beautiful Jane Austen worlds and appreciate the seriousness of the crisis facing the world as a whole. Global salvation demands that we now look honestly at the past and resolve with the survivors of the Holocaust: “Never Again”. Practical translation of that resolution half a century from the Apocalypse will require urgent action guided by commitment to truth, reason, open communication and love of humanity.
Our world faces destruction as the Juggernaut lurches towards catastrophe. There is still time for acceptance of the homeostatic wisdom of the Australian aborigines that biological sustainability and the preservation of biodiversity and the richness of the world is our only path. But more than simple rational acceptance is required for our survival - we must love Truth, Reason and Beauty and accept that such appreciation is an end in itself. In the words of the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore: “We have come into this world to accept it, not merely to know it. We may become powerful by knowledge, but we attain fullness by sympathy.” 164 Profound sympathy for the richness of the world will be the salvation of humanity.
2008 Postscript - Epilogue
Ten years on after publication of “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” in 1998, the greed, racism and lying persist and the world is now on the verge of disaster from an immediate global food price crisis that currently threatens billions 165 and a global climate emergency and sustainability emergency that may kill over 6 billion people by the end of this century. 166
It is useful to repeat here the message on the back cover of the 1998 edition:
“Repetition of immense crimes against humanity such as the WW2 Holocaust is made less likely when the responsible society acknowledges the crime, apologizes, makes amends and accepts the injunction “Never again”.
This book is concerned in part with the 2 century holocaust in British India that commenced with the Great Bengal Famine of 1769-1770 (10 million victims), concluded with the WW2 Bengal Famine (4 million victims) and took tens of millions of lives in between.
However these events have been almost completely written out of history and removed from general perception, there has been no apology nor amends made and indeed it is generally accepted that, in the absence of effective global action, these horrors will be repeated on an unimaginably larger scale in the coming century.
This carefully documented “J’accuse” addresses what the author terms the “Austenizing” of history or the deletion of awful realities from historical writing.
While it was legitimate for Jane Austen, the artist, to render her exquisite novels free of the contemporary awfulness in which her connections participated, the Austenizing of British history is a holocaust-denying outrage that threatens humanity.”
Unfortunately the lying continues. In recent years global warming-exacerbated storms have devastated India, Bangladesh, Burma and other mega-delta regions (notably Louisiana). 167 In 2008 legislatively-mandated Biofuel Famine, Biofuel Genocide and climate criminal-imposed Climate Genocide are exacerbating the hunger of billions and the horrendous Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust (16 million annual excess deaths). 168
Since 1998 pollution of the planet with greenhouse gases has remorselessly continued and indeed accelerated (increasing annually by 3.2% in 2000-2005 as compared to 0.8% in 1990-1999). 169 The most recent international Climate Change Conference, that in Bali in December 2007, was sabotaged by the major Anglo-American polluters, the US, Australia and Canada, who opposed any explicit pollution reduction targets. 170 However the latest scientific discoveries point to a situation that is much graver than even the dire predictions of the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. 171
Thus top US climate scientist Dr Hansen and his colleagues say that the world has already reached a “tipping point” in relation to the melting of Arctic sea ice which has declined dramatically in recent years – indeed it may completely disappear in the coming decade. Dr Hansen argues that the current atmospheric CO2 concentration of 385 ppm is too high and that we must return to a safe and sustainable concentration of 300-350 ppm in order to avoid massive damage to the biosphere through Arctic, Antarctic, Greenland and tundra ice melting, huge sea level rises, devastating global warming to temperatures several degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial, ocean acidification, massive loss of ocean and land photosynthetic capacity, huge agricultural productivity decline and massive depopulation. 172 Indeed top UK climate scientist Professor James Lovelock says that over 6 billion people will die this century if climate change is not addressed urgently. 173
However the world is still dominated by a climate criminal, “climate sceptic” US Administration which still refuses to even sign the Kyoto protocol, let alone curb its world-leading greenhouse gas pollution. 2004 data from the US Energy Information Administration reveal that the “annual per capita fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution” in tonnes per head per year was 19.2 tonnes for Australia (40.3 if we include Australia’s world-leading coal exports) as compared to 20 (the US), 20 (Canada), 4.2 (the World), 3.7 (China), 1.0 (India), 0.7 (Pakistan) and 0.25 (Bangladesh). 174
Australia has a new Labor Government which is strong on nice-sounding rhetoric (e.g. the farcical 2008 Australia 2002 Summit) but which does not stand up to close scrutiny in a “politically correct racist” (PC racist) country committed to genocidal Bush-ite war policies and in which Coal is King. As recounted in Chapter 17, 50 years ago Australian Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell stated “two Wongs do not make a White” and yet the above data indicate Australia’s annual per capita CO2 pollution is over 10 times that of China’s i.e. “Ten Wongs do not make a White” (more embarrassing still, if it were actually reported by racist, lying Australian mainstream media, because the current Australian Federal Climate Change Minister is Senator Penny Wong). 175
2008 has seen the emergence of the horror of Biofuel Famine and Biofuel Genocide that is threatening 4 billion malnourished people on Spaceship Earth. Global food prices have soared due to the CO2-polluting biofuel perversion (legislatively mandated by the US, the UK and the EU), oil price rises (due to war and its immense cost), global warming (drought in Australia and the CIS), increasing agricultural cost, “market forces” in a globalized market for food (including meat from grain-fed livestock) and unilateralist, export-ban actions by major rice-exporting countries. 176
We are seeing a re-run of the WW2 Bengal Famine but on possibly a 100-fold greater scale. Rice has doubled in price in just a few months in 2008; major rice-exporting countries have imposed export bans; and the West has legislatively mandated the use of food for transport, just as the Argentinians burned wheat to run their railways during WW2 (Chapters 14 and 15). 177
The post-Holocaust protocol adopted by the Germans after 1945 can be summarized by the acronym C4A (CAAAA) – Cessation of the killing, Acknowledgment of the crime, Apology, Amends and Assertion “never again to anyone”. Unfortunately, the killing continues and extraordinary media censorship in the Western Murdochracies ensures that there is essentially no Acknowledgment of the ongoing genocides on Spaceship Earth. Post-invasion excess deaths in the ongoing Palestinian, Iraqi and Afghan Genocides now total 0.3 million, 2 million and 3-7 million, respectively; Biofuel Genocide is increasing the 16 million annual avoidable deaths due to deprivation; and Climate Genocide, already impacting the World, may kill over 6 billion people by the end of the century. 178
What can decent people do? In short, we are obliged to (a) inform others about man-made atrocities; (b) act ethically in all our dealings with countries, corporations and individuals complicit in such atrocities (e.g. by Sanctions and Boycotts); and (c) act positively to create a safer world. 179
Fundamental to rational risk management from the personal level (e.g. healthy life-style choices) to the global level (e.g. dealing with First World-imposed Biofuel Genocide and Climate Genocide) is a basic protocol successively involving (a) accurate data, (b) scientific analysis and (c) systemic change to minimize risk. 180 Thus in 2007 I published a huge book entitled “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” detailing the horrendous 1950-2005 Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust involving an estimated 1.3 billion excess deaths, a figure consonant with an independent estimate of 0.9 billion 1950-2005 under-5 infant deaths.
The causes of this catastrophe have fundamentally been violence, occupation- or hegemony-related deprivation, deprivation-exacerbated disease and lying. 181 While people are appalled by the egregious violence of man-made atrocities such as the Rwanda Tutsi Genocide, the Balkans War, the Cambodian Genocide and the Darfur Genocide, they have difficulty appreciating the awfulness of the vastly greater non-violent avoidable deaths through deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease.
In “Body Count” as in Chapter 17 above, I offered a variety of simple, cheap solutions based on wonderful examples of some very poor countries such as Cuba which have achieved remarkable success in addressing the fundamental human right of “right to life” through high female literacy, good governance, focussed investment and good primary health care. The same intelligent and humane approaches can effectively deal with the problems of excessive population and demands that have pushed the biosphere to a point of Climate Emergency and Sustainability Emergency. 182 Indeed 10,000 times more solar energy hits the earth each day than man currently uses and we already have highly efficient renewable energy technologies for cheaply and safely harvesting this resource. 183
Fundamental to any rational risk management – as urgently needed today for Spaceship Earth - is accurate data and general reportage. Further, just as we take the advice of top medical specialists very seriously in relation to life-threatening conditions, so sensible risk management demands that we take very seriously the advice of top scientists at the cutting edge of research and the advice of top scientific bodies. Thus the Melbourne-based Yarra Valley Climate Action Group and the Australian climate action group umbrella organization, the Climate Emergency Network, have provided detailed and documented summations of such information from top scientists and top scientific organizations in relation to the Climate Emergency and Sustainability Emergency facing the World. 184 The continuing, entrenched lying in mainstream cultures acutely threatens humanity. History ignored yields history repeated. Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity. Please inform everyone you can.