Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Australian Citizenship Test – hilarious

August 28, 2011

This is roll around on floor laughing your ass off material, this is…


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Book Review: Beyond White Guilt

August 15, 2011

What a disappointment. I really like Sarah Maddison’s work (well, the Activist Wisdom thing, and stuff about feminism and movements), and so thought her take on what practical reconciliation would look like would be worth pondering. Sorry, but the blurb makes promises the book just doesn’t keep. After a promising start (the intro is good),

Letting go of the idea that we might ever achieve ‘moral’ purity – because history does not allow us this luxury – might be a useful starting point. Once we let go of purity, accept our ‘moral stain’ as US legal scholar David Williams describes it, then guilt may no longer be unbearable. If we accept that we are guilty then we can ask the really difficult questions – about sovereignty, about national identity – without constantly having to defend our honour. Acknowledging our collective guilt can be a useful starting point for the hard work that is still to be done.
Page 20-1

it’s kinda all downhill. What can well-meaning non-Indigenous people DO? Should they be denouncing the Intervention? Who to? Should they be educating themselves? If so, what books and resources does Maddison recommend? Should they be practically involved in grass-roots organisations? If so, which ones, and what kind of behaviours should they NOT be undertaking (Maddison is good on not asking for individual absolution because it’s really tiring to the indigenous folks). What are the pros and cons of Constitutional Recognition? What are the dangers and opportunities ahead in the coming five years?

Instead we get history lessons (and not at the level of detail of say Henry Reynolds) and a certain amount of hand-wringing and theorising. Sarah Maddison is way smarter than this, and I hope she takes another bite at the cherry.

The symbolism of Boat People

April 2, 2011

Les Rosenblatt writes, in Arena 109

In The Gauche Intruder, Jennifer Rutherford is ‘interested in the ways that fantasies of the good provide a camouflage for aggression at both a national and local level: an aggression directed both to an external and an internal Other.’ This aggression in Australia – and its associated guilt – is perhaps being presently displaced onto ‘boat people’…

Rutherford’s book “The Gauche Intruder: Freud, Lacan and the White Australian Fantasy by Jennifer Rutherford was published by Melbourne University Press in 2000” is sympathetically reviewed here.

Canning Stock Route- how the West was won

January 29, 2011

This from wikipedia about the Canning Stock Route

“one of the toughest and most remote tracks in the world. It runs to Halls Creek from Wiluna, both in Western Australia. With a total distance of 1781 km (1113 miles) it is also the longest historic stock route in the world. For the first few hundred kilometres it runs concurrent with the Tanami Track.”

And how did Whitey find out where to dig the wells?

Canning’s party constructed the wells with the forced help of Aboriginal people whose land the route traversed, the Mardu. Canning himself found it difficult to locate desert water sources. In order to gain Mardu assistance in locating water along the route, Canning captured several Mardu men, chained them by the neck, forced them to eat salt, and then waited until they got thirsty enough to lead his party to a native well.

The Sydney Push

January 11, 2011

Okay, I need to know more about the Sydney Push. Will read more than just the wikipedia article I have linked…

Oh, there’s this.

Keith Windschuttle found still fighting culture war on remote tropical island

December 27, 2010

I love the Chaser, what little I know of it. Dominic Knight’s “Comrades” was great fun too.

Anyhow, there’s an inspired piss-take of Keith Windschuttle and the Culture Wars.

Searchers say they have found controversial historian Keith Windschuttle living on a sparsely populated atoll in the Pacific Ocean, apparently unaware that the culture war has been finished for years. While they are yet to contact the scholar directly, his dishevelled form has been spotted in heavy jungle, and rescue parties have found apparent attempts to construct a rudimentary think-tank. Survival experts say his food supplies have run out, and he may be surviving on pure spite.


Has anyone forwarded this to Mackenzie Wark?

Snow business like snow business

December 27, 2010

Well, this is interesting. As well as living up to the whole “turning the rivers inland”…

The Snowy project was in large part created precisely to attract and give meaningful work to migrants. After the war with Japan, Australia had such a fear of Asia that it sought to boost its population with immigration from Europe at almost any cost. Had post-war immigration not occurred in Australia, and had fertility stayed at 1930s – early 1940s levels, Australia’s population today would stand at 7.6 million, after reaching a peak of 7.8 million in 1968. The Snowy scheme was part of the cost of population increase, for it helped prevent social upheaval and resentment by providing work for the new migrants and a noble raison d’etre for their influx.

Page 2 of Quarterly Essay Issue 9
“Beautiful Lies: Population and Environment in Australia”
Tim Flannery

History repeats itself – Vietnam to Wikileaks

December 18, 2010

This useful historical perspective comes via Adelaide Friends of Wikileaks…

“In 1981 Michael Sexton (historian) wrote a book called ‘War for the Asking: Australia’s Vietnam Secrets’ (re-released in 2002 under the name ‘War for the Asking: How Australia Invited Itself to Vietnam’) which revealed the true reasons for Australian involvement in Vietnam ie. that we went to be seen as solid allies of the US under ANZUS ie. so they would stay and protect us from the mainly SE Asian threat – mainly Malaya at the time. Everyone feared another ‘Darwin 1942′ (actually they still do, I spoke to a soldier a while ago who told me he joined to prevent another Darwin 1942, I tried to explain to him what the deal is/was, but I guess military training had done its work in his case ie. he couldn’t even consider the alternatives – ps I study soldiers’ attitudes and behaviour in the Boer and Vietnam Wars but I’m a pacifist).
ANYWAY, Sexton somehow got his hands on classified (under the 30 yr rule) documents about why Menzies REALLY decided to go to Vietnam and it caused a TINY ruckus (ie. was very quickly quietened by the govt). Incidentally, the reasons he documented in the book have since been proven (as of the early 90s when documents started becoming un-classified). Malcolm Fraser (PM at the time) wanted to ‘get him’ but couldn’t, for both legal and public opinion-related reasons.
The reason I mentioned this was because of its obvious parallels with what’s going on now, although Sexton’s activity was very much brushed under the carpet (which was attempted for past Wikileaks revelations).


September 12, 2010

Probably need to watch the film again. And see that dire mini-series “Anzacs”. And watch a production of “One Day in the Year.”

Meanwhile, here’s a cracking quote…

Gallipoli in April has become part of the itinerary of the global stream of young backpackers: not so much the sombre commemoration of the bloody birth of a nation, as a celebration of personal mobility and the assertion of an autonomous individuality not bound by inherited honour codes or encumbered by a sense of debt to the long dead. From the perspective of the Howard Government, this is populist nationalism that has gone ferally off-message….
At Gallipoli, the image has been unhitched from the government’s ends. The coherent national myth is running adrift, like the idea of national belonging itself, unmoored from the nation by the dislocating pressure of neo-liberal globalism. Instead of locating the backpackers as Australians and setting up a feeling of national belonging, the experience of collectivity called out by Gallipoli is channeled into carnival, spectacle and bodily pleasure, more consistent with the market system of world tourism than with the socially conservative version of pilgrimage.
Matthew Ryan “Politics by Other Means”
Page 2 of Arena 88 April-May 2007

And this, from an Arena I didn’t know I had (issue 86, 1989), a review article called “The Heroic Theme in Australian War Writing” by John Murphy

“Drawing his inspiration from Paul Fussell’s brilliant study of British war literature, The Great War and Modern Memory, Gerster asks why, when the dominant response of British writers to the mechanical carnage was to see it as a closure, an exhaustion of an epoch and of a civilization, not to mention the exhaustion of realist/heroic literary forms, in Australia the same carnage was read as affirmation, as celebration of heroic deeds, and as a major fillip for hte heroic literary genre developed in the 1880s. His answer is understandably inconclusive: the experience was rendered as nationalism, as confirmation of racist stereotypes and of ‘the culture’s essential insularity.’