By Dr George Venturini
6. Comedy without art
“Commedia dell’arte, (Italian: “comedy of the profession[als]”) Italian theatrical form that flourished throughout Europe from the 16th through the 18th century. Outside Italy, the form had its greatest success in France, where it became the Comédie–Italienne. In England, elements from it were naturalized in the harlequinade in pantomime and in the Punch-and-Judy show, a puppet play involving the commedia dell’arte character Punch. The comical Hanswurst, of German folklore, was also a commedia dell’arte character.
The commedia dell’arte was a form of popular theatre that emphasized ensemble acting; its improvisations were set in a firm framework of masks and stock situations, and its plots were frequently borrowed from the classical literary tradition of the commedia erudita, or literary drama. Professional players who specialized in one role developed an unmatched comic acting technique, which contributed to the popularity of the itinerant commedia troupes that travelled throughout Europe. Despite contemporary depictions of scenarios and masks and descriptions of particular presentations, impressions today of what the commedia dell’arte was like are second hand. The art is a lost one, its mood and style irrecoverable.” (‘Written by the Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, commedia dell’arte’, www.britannica.com).
Australia is quite a different place from what was put together by Englanders in 1901.
Australia has grown from a population of estimated 750,000 Indigenous People in 1788, to one of 3,765.000 non-Indigenous in 1901, to one of 23,401,892 people – of whom 649,171 Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders – on census night, 9 August 2016, and estimated 25 million late in the evening of 7 August 2018.
At the 2016 census, 26 per cent of the Australian resident population, or 6,163,667 people, were born overseas. The distribution by place of birth is as follows, and only countries with 50,000 or more are listed hereafter:
Due to several waves of immigration, the European component of the population is declining as a percentage.
The Australian population hit 23,401,892 on census night 2016.
Until the second world war, the vast majority of immigrants came from the British Isles, and a majority of Australians have some British or Irish ancestry. These Australians form an ethnic group known as Anglo-Celtic Australians – an absolutely bloody mis-nomer. Anglo-Celtic may serve the lazy Englanders, but has nothing to do with the truth.
The number of overseas-born Australians coming from England has steadily declined over the years, while one has seen increasing arrivals from China and India, particularly since 2006. In the 2016 Australian census, the most commonly nominated ancestries were: English, 36.1 per cent; Australian, 33.5 per cent; Irish, 11.0 per cent; Scottish, 9.3 per cent; Chinese, 5.6 per cent; Italian, 4.6 per cent; German, 4.5 per cent; Indian, 2.8 per cent; Greek, 1.8 per cent, and Dutch, 1.6 per cent.
At the 2016 census 47.3 per cent of people had both parents born in Australia and 34.4 per cent of people had both parents born overseas. And on this subject one should not dismiss the effect of the recent ‘bleedings’ of parliamentarians, due to their dual subject-ship – citizenship in some, rare cases – and the other which will undoubtedly developed from that insipid, mouldy, thread-bare, moth-eaten piece of paper which is the Constitution of 1901. Consider the little problem that present members of Parliament, who so often mouth about multiculturalism – of which they know little-to-nothing – may have from the ‘new reading’ of sections 42 in relation to section 44.
Now, by s. 42 “Every senator and every member of the House of Representatives shall before taking his seat make and subscribe before the Governor-General, or some person authorised by him, an oath or affirmation of allegiance in the form set forth in the schedule to this Constitution.” And the Schedule offers: “I, A.B., do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen [Elisabeth II], Her heirs and successors according to law. So help me God!” or “I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen [Elisabeth II], Her heirs and successors according to law.” Any republican around?
Section 44 (i) provides that any person who: “is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power;
… shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”
Every consideration about a candidate’s personal faith, political or religious, could cause some problem. Perjury comes to mind. Perhaps, just perhaps, these two provisions are clashing. Queen Elisabeth II – yes, of course, also ‘Queen of Australia’ – could be regarded as a ‘foreign power’ no matter how much the soi-disant ‘Mountbatten’ (actually Battenberg, from the town of Battenberg, Hesse) (Windsors) crowd may try to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the Haus Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, which is an effluent of the Haus Wettin, itself a lair of German counts, dukes, prince-electors and kings who once ruled territories in the present-day German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.
And the more one reads about Buckingham Palace’s interest in Cayman Islands and other tax havens the more one sees the alien.
It seems fair to presume that people who have experienced the questionable ‘blessings’ of imperial or colonial domination – whether of a political or socio-economic nature – would welcome the final liberation from the condition of subject and the opportunity to belong to a republic. There is no magic in that; there are only guarantees which are contained in a truly modern constitution. Anyone heard of Finland, younger than Australia?
The experience of people coming from overseas may be different, but there is no reason to suspect that, in a truly open, informed, participatory society, people born in countries such as China, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Italy, South Africa, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Germany, South Korea, Greece, Hong Kong, United States, Lebanon, Ireland, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Iraq, Thailand, Pakistan, Fiji, Ian, Singapore, Nepal would not appreciate the advantage of a modern, democratic, secular and peaceful republic.
There is still hope that the opportunity could attract even people from Australia, England, New Zealand and Scotland. It would make, at present, a balance of about seven million new-arrivals to seventeen million of mother-country-subjects.
First things first
The title is deliberately offensive, but not of the First Nations – as they later came to be known.
When the English invaders arrived on 26 January 1788 the estimated 750,000 Indigenous People did not exist – official. They were later mistaken as fauna, disposed of with the gun, poisoned with unwanted foreign food, killed when possible, massacred repeatedly, or chained up, rounded up in lagers to be Christianised, catalogued, classified with reference to their colour, blood, size and appearance, registered as objects – and always with the design and hope that they would die out, and when that seemed not the case that they be ‘improved’ in missions, ‘civilised’ so as to appease the succeeding waves of other occupiers, and more recently ‘advised’, consulted – up to a point and to the extent, convenience and comfort of the occupiers, introduced to ‘responsible government’, and in May 2017 once again deceived by the latest manager of the post-colonial show. The ignorant rustic clowns, and some learned but morally deaf leader said that, “No, that was not the way.” The Indigenous People should try again and, for the time being, improve their show. When they debased themselves to propose a double sovereignty – one to the Old Culture and the other to the modern representative of the original invaders – they were not even told thank you for that. What they were told is that their proposed “ ‘voice to Parliament’ was impractical and offensive” to the ‘establish order’; the Westminster System as transplanted in Australia in 1788!
Making the subjects
So, how does that 25-plus per cent of newcomers become Australian? By acquiring ‘Australian values’, that is how. More insidiously, how would a person – an intending visitor or a new resident – go about to apply for a ‘selected visa’?
And what are those ‘values’? Well, the Australian Government decides.
To begin with, “Applicants for a permanent or provisional visa must:
read the Life in Australia book, then sign or accept the Australian values statement.” (Australian Values Statement, immi.homeaffairs.gov.au).
And those ‘values’ include:
- respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual
- equality of men and women
- freedom of religion
- commitment to the rule of law
- parliamentary democracy
- a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play, compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good
- equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background.
These ‘values’ may be expressed in different ways by different people while still maintaining the same meaning. They are not unique to Australia, but have broad community agreement and underpin Australian society and culture. So, anyway, says the Australian Government.
The ‘values’ statement is included with most visa application forms either as a question or as part of the declaration.
So, on the appointed day a newcomer may join a multitude of others – some of them holding a little Australian flag, as a visual symbol of patriotic fervour – and take an oath or make an affirmation similar to the one previously indicated.
Does that include an oath to the Constitution, that horse-and-buggy piece of paper approved by the Imperial Parliament in London and designed to satisfy the interests of the former colonials, skilfully divided from each other in repetitive states and theoretically united in what would better serve a confederal system, born-old and now over one hundred years of age?
As already seen, the text of that document is such that no sentient person would take it seriously as a foundation-pact even for a theatrical troupe.
It is doubtful if a newcomer would fully comprehend the consequences of accepting ‘parliamentary democracy’ as a defining ‘value’, particularly if s/he erroneously were to understand by that ‘one head, one vote, one weight’ in the electoral process purported to set up, arrange and sustain that form of democracy.
Most of those ‘values’, collectively and separately considered, are not worth the time.
The truth telling, it is almost impossible to disagree with Donald Horne, when he wrote: “A large part of Australians’ values are measured in money. Describe our economic life and you describe a large part of our culture.” (Death of the lucky country, Penguin Books, Ringwood, Vic. 1976, at 62-63).
It is hard to believe that in Australia there is ‘freedom of religion’ with or without ‘equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race (that word, again!), religion or ethnic background’ in the light of a clear prejudice from the leaders up-there to the populace out-there – against people of the Muslim faith, for instance, as cultivated by the very Australian Government.
The national identity projected by the government is wrapped up in an egalitarianism which clashes with a growing sense of inequality and the patent danger of a permanent division of the country into two classes.
‘The average Australian’, the ‘mainstream’, ‘middle Australia’ and the over-used ‘fair go for all’ are expressions of a collective illusion cultivated and propagated by public persons and commentators to persuade the plebs that the Australian is a classless society.
The fundamental distinction and chasm between two groups of Australians begins with education. And by that one should understand the liberating force which may draw one out of the lowliest circumstances. So the value of a good start at school is almost incalculable. While most children attend state primary schools, students from high-income families are often already ahead of those whose parents can afford only to send them to a single, subsidised preschool year. By secondary school the natural desire of higher-income families to pay for the-best-schooling-money-can-buy has resulted in a drift to private schools with superior resources and facilities and better teaching conditions. Learning? that is a different, often incidental matter.
It does not matter that the pupil is totally indifferent to the advantage guaranteed by possession of money. Nor does the paying family care, usually because the only distinction of it is the possession of that money.
What matters are the externalities, sublimated in the uniform preferably completed by the boater. Nowadays boaters are rarely seen except at sailing or rowing events, and what average Australian family can afford that luxury? The boater is more suitable for period theatrical and musical performances – barbershop music, for instance – or as part of old-fashioned school uniforms, particularly popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century and still a nostalgic re-evocation of ‘home’ for incurable Englanders.
The wearing of the boater class-ifies a pupil and gives him (mostly it is for boys) a sense of belonging to an exclusive club – the Anglosphere? – with components such as Harrow ‘at home’, or Shore and Knox in Australia, or Maritzburg, Parktown and Wynberg in South Africa. The boater signifies separation and commands respect from the plebs.
Continued Saturday – Comedy without art (part 2)
Previous instalment – Our mate: Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti (part 8)
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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