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Australia Day – Invasion Day : Lessons from The Silk Road

By John Barker

With some trepidation, I’m weighing in on “the Argument” – but why not? This is a slightly different perspective, informed from our recent 3 months on the “Silk Road” from Xi’an – the ancient, former capital of the Chinese Empire, to Istanbul – formerly Constantinople, the former capital of the Ottoman Empire.

Yes – it was “former empires” all the way – built by Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Timur – all the way down through history to Stalin and his Soviet Empire. Just reading Wikipedia on any one of the countries we visited made me dizzy with the names of numerous conquerors, who, sooner or later became the vanquished. History, of course – but perhaps not Wikipedia – is written by the (latest) victors.

That much we know, or know of. But one has to read a bit closer to find that each of the victors, in turn, was not satisfied to just say “might is right – and we are the mightiest”, but had to overlay this obvious, albeit temporary, fact with some litany related to moral, cultural and religious superiority.

Take, for example, Timur, aka “Tamerlane” (c1336 – 1405). Timur, born and based in what is now known as Uzbekistan, conquered Asia from Turkey to central China as well as Northern India. His favourite cities were Samarkand and Bokhara, which he adorned with palaces, mosques, madrassas (universities of their day) and mausoleums whose splendor has been restored for all to behold. They were mainly designed and built by architects and artisans – and then populated by priests, poets and proto-scientists – all of whom were spared from the cities he conquered. He was, by all accounts, a man of letters, as well as a military genius – and responsible for the slaughter of maybe 20 million people who were not part of the afore-mentioned intellectual elite – about 5% of the World’s population at that time. He died in 1405, on his way to China, which he wanted to re-unite with the Genghis Khan empire, to which he saw himself the rightful heir. His grand mausoleum is in Samarkand, where he is considered the national hero. His statue in Tashkent, recently replaced that of Karl Marx.

The story of Timur in is quite different nearby Turkmenistan. He laid waste to its cities and slaughtered its peoples and made off with their best and brightest. Only a few, mainly-unrestored and forlorn ruins stand as mute witness to the terror of those times. To the Turkmen, Timur was – and still is – an invader who destroyed their precious culture. A myriad of other ancient cultures suffered similar fates under Timur, only to rise and fall again over the six centuries since.

In Timur’s case the overlay of moral, cultural and religious superiority is described in Wikipedia:

“Since Timur had a successful career as a conqueror, it was easy to justify his rule as ordained and favored by God since no ordinary man could be a possessor of such good fortune that resistance would be seen as opposing the will of God. Moreover, the Islamic notion that military and political success was the result of Allah’s favor had long been successfully exploited by earlier rulers. Therefore, Timur’s assertions would not have seemed unbelievable to fellow Islamic people.”

… and not just by “ fellow Islamic people”. Invaders and conquerors from ancient times to the modern day have claimed that God was on their side. Of course He was – as every tribe has a god or two, so whoever won a particular battle could rightly make that claim.

Which brings us, dear Reader, to Australia in January 2018. Two-hundred-and-thirty years ago, a group of Christian warriors from England, led by Arthur Phillip, together with several hundred captives (a few of whom turned out to be architects and poets), came to a this land, which had been populated for tens of thousands of years by tribes with poets (but very few architects – whose presence in a tribe apparently confers moral superiority) and warriors, who, as history records, had inferior weapons and battle tactics. Today, there are monuments to the Christian Phillip, but not even architectural ruins of the indigenous inhabitants – just a few remnant images and words of this complex oral-pictorial (but non-literary and non-architectural) culture.

The British invaded and the Aboriginal Peoples were vanquished. A simple – and as I have illustrated – not an historically unusual event. The only difference is that it happened here – not in somewhere else that is far away in time and space. If this event in Australia is exempt from the historical description of a myriad other similar-looking events, then it is unique.

As we travelled the Silk Road, the faces changed, albeit slowly, from clearly-Mongoloid in the predominantly Han Xi’an in China to the clearly Turkich in Istanbul. Between those extremes, the faces portrayed the millennia of pillage, plunder and rape. ‘Twas always thus. Let’s start from this simple fact.


12 comments

  1. Joseph Carli

    Except, John..what you are describing is the result of warring faction between “warrior empires”…I believe the case of a British warrior empire ended with the beheading of Charles the 1st and the firm establishment of The Parliament…and as there was no such “empire” in Australia, the establishment of the colony here was an act of deliberate, unjustified “confiscation of property” with force of arms…completely in contradiction to the “rule of law” that existed in England at the time…which is why so many poor blighters of petty thieves were transported or hung for petty crimes.

  2. townsvilleblog

    Joseph Carli, I salute you. You took the words right out of my mouth (or words to that effect)

  3. jimhaz

    Every entity of the universe is at war with the rest of the universe.

    Gravity ensures that entities with the most mass take over smaller entities.

    Peace only arises for finite periods in areas where competing powers can merge into a form of status via complementary form (including the form of causal distance).

    For example the earth orbiting the sun can remain “in peace” for billions of years due to power equalisation resulting from distance and speed, but at some time that distance will evaporate and the earth will be consumed by the more powerful party.

    A weaker geometrically masculine power can beat a larger geometrically feminine power.

    eg an intellectually weak Trump can beat a soft Democratic Party and complacent population purely by repeatedly stabbing key points OR in terms of Australia a hundred people with advanced weapons (masculine) can take over a poorly defended and unorganised country.

    There was actually quite a deal of peace in Australia’s early years as it did not expand that rapidly. War was never necessary.

    I for one will never say that what occurred in Australia was wrong, and feel no guilt whatsoever – though there were many wrong individual events even within the context of the necessarily harsh mindsets of the time (and far far more wrongs when reviewed retrospectively under the changed more caring and feminised mindsets now that technological development has allowed). Whether white black or whatever, the least useful or the most harmful to the dominant power will always be treated the worst.

  4. Joseph Carli

    You’re overthinking it, Jimhaz…focus..if you smack your thumb with a hammer, all you are aware of is the pain…not a thought of gravity or the universe or where your next nookie is coming from!…just th’ pain! th’ pain!

  5. LOVO

    Terra Nullius, John…..Terra Nullius. Thems weasel words were illegal lies and had nought to do with “warriors” 😤 …the pohms were not conquering warriors…they were criminals that broke their own laws. 😒
    So does that mean that Eddie Mabo was really some sorta warrior? 😜

  6. Peter F

    May 9th: The first sitting of the Australian Parliament, the first sitting in Canberra, the first sitting in the current house. What more do we need?

  7. Mark Needham

    ffs
    Mark Needham

  8. Jack Russell

    The vile empire mindset that establised Australia in the manner that it did is still alive and well. Vietnam and the middle east … in addition to the unrelenting murder and systematic oppression of our First People, from day one. The wrong people were in charge two centuries ago, and still are.

  9. iggy648

    Japan bombed Darwin on 19th February 1942. If Japan had won the war and taken over Australia, would we happily celebrate 19th February as Australia Day?

  10. jimhaz

    [You’re overthinking it, Jimhaz…focus..if you smack your thumb with a hammer, all you are aware of is the pain…not a thought of gravity or the universe or where your next nookie is coming from!…just th’ pain! th’ pain!]

    True enough, but I do question as to how much weight partly irrational emotional responses relating to the past should be given. For so many people their lives are ruined because they cannot get over negative events of their own past (divorces, missed opportunities, social mistakes etc) – why extend this to people who choose to continue to bring a past that occurred well before they even existed, into the present.

    It does not help anyone – it makes young aboriginals angry which leads to disrespect for modern laws, or excuse making for selfish criminal behaviour, and thus the form of unavoidable racism that occurs as a result of fears being demonstrated as being reasonable time and time again.

    Support from well meaning westerners legitimises and spreads anger and there will be unforeseen consequences – which is why some aboriginals who look to the future, have spoken up to say leave Australia Day as it is.

  11. Joseph Carli

    ” It does not help anyone – it makes young aboriginals angry which leads to disrespect for modern laws, or excuse making for selfish criminal behaviour,…”

    Fawlty Towers…: A moping Manuel slopes around the hotel, depressed because Basil has taken away his ” Mongolian Hamster”….Polly decides to cheer him up..:

    “Manuel!…too sad!..no good look too sad!”

    “Che!”

    “Si…no good to be sad….be happy!”

    “Oh…si…okhay…I happy!”………exit a goofy smiling Manuel…problem solved!

    No bullshit, Jim…you just gotta do something about that “cure-all” patent medicine you’re flogging there..

  12. wam

    The only difference it happened 350 years later. The only difference was they were christians the only difference was they lied to themselves to justify their treatment the only difference they are still lying to themselves to justify that Aborigines deserve to be treated as Aborigines are imagined by the whites like tlob, the shock jocks and the rabbott,

    The Aborigines are still unable to be individuals because their cultures, their languages and themselves became invisible ignored because they will die out.

    What do you make of this:
    Climbing Uluru itself is not prohibited however Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people asks visitors to respect their spiritual beliefs and refrain from climbing the monolith. To them is is cultural to respect the wishes of others.
    To us unless there is a law and a copper it is fair game. It is a shame to say there is an Australian culture.

    If that is women to man I suppose we can only hope for the green purple and white.

    joseph carli – this is a recent post on my facebook:
    I have white friends, aboriginal friends, German friends, Slovinean friends , Thai friends, Italian friends, Greek friends, Philippno friends, Polish friends, Malaysian friends, Muslim friends, Scottish friends, Irish friends, English friends, Singaporian, Papua New Guinea friends, American friends- i treat all the same – gee it works well / no bullshit, just respect.
    my answer
    why do your friends get, in order, a G, S, T, I, G, P, P, M, S, PNG, A and you say all are the same. Except the one friend that gets the ‘a’ Not quite equal???Not quite the same??? Works well for you but explains why tomorrow is not fair??

    jimhas
    feel no guilt whatsoever’???
    Why should you when see nothing culturally wrong with instructions to murder Aborigines and display their bodies as a deterrent?

    Clearly not all your kind followed such instructions so the slaughters were ‘wrong individual events’.

    The fact that those murdered were not treated as individuals then and they are still a collective adjective not even a noun much less a proper noun, aboriginals (sic) now whilst europeans when wrong are ‘individual events’

    Take the white thug who bashed and hijacked the car no suggestion of white thuggery just one of your ‘wrong individual events’. But if he were Sudanese??? QED

    Sadly even the spell check will highlight europeans as misspelt but not aborigines

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