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Nationhood and the ‘Pure’ Race (part 5)

Conclusion

Intellectual fashions in Social Darwinism and eugenics sought to ‘purify’ and secure a white Australia. The Indigenous population (and what was seen as the hordes of Chinese entering the colony from the 1850s) were perceived as a threat to this ‘purity’. This thesis has reviewed a number of writers who conclude that the ideology of Social Darwinism was to become dominant in the public discourse, and that the ideology shaped the White Australia Policy.

Prior to colonisation, yet amid aggressive imperial expansion, much of the European knowledge of Indigenous people was constructed in their absence. In Australia, as in other colonial frontiers, Europeans imagined the indigenes as the Other and a collective identity was forged through a discourse that set them apart from Europeans. However it is recognised that the discourse of racism does not consist simply in descriptive representations of others. It included a set of hypothetical premises about human kinds (eg the Great Chain of Being and the aforementioned Social Darwinism) and about the differences between them both mental and physical. Such racial ideas went hand in hand with British imperialism and were to be embedded in colonial thought.

It is understood that early in colonisation the succession of British Governments declared Aborigines their subjects, and as British subjects, were entitled to all the rights of protection, as well as the responsibilities afforded by British law. However the rhetoric of the British Government was to become “ineffectual” (Kalantzis, 1998a) in the Australian colony with an opposing and dominant ideology. To the colonial observer Aborigines were certainly not British subjects. They were perceived as something far less superior.

Social Darwinism, based on Darwin’s concept of natural selection (The Origin of Species, published in 1859) provided validation for this perception of inferiority and subsequently for the predicted extinction and destruction of such ‘inferior races’ in the wake of colonial progress. The colonists readily accepted themselves as superior and considered Aborigines far less travelled along the evolutionary path. As such, this thesis has examined the argument that under the pretext of Social Darwinism the extinction of Aborigines was proclaimed and that this became the underlying basis for government policy in the shadows of Federation, and was ultimately justification of a perceived strong and ‘pure’ white state in the young Australian nation.

However the real strength of the idea of inevitable extinction lay not in the empirical evidence but in the theoretical constructs of evolution. Fuelled by this doctrine, the Australian colonists were anxious to maintain ‘white purity’ which was considered to be under threat from the Indigenous population and the growing population of non-Europeans. This perceived threat to the emerging Australian type was an active agent in promoting the discourse of Social Darwinism in popular consciousness. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, it was increasingly to the writing of natural science that Europeans turned to find the most credible and compelling support for their racist suppositions. In this regard, the Aborigine was the victim of an intellectual “hiatus” (Kearney, 1973:12). The task was not to find out whether the Aborigine was inferior to the European, it was instead a task of confirmation. Scientific applications such as craniology and phrenology provided conclusive evidence to the colonial observer that the Aborigines were indeed lowly in terms of evolution.

‘Race’ as a biological issue in the Australian colonies structured class inequality and an ideology justifying the colonial situation. In its most strident form, Australian racism argued that Aborigines and other non-Europeans were not only inferior but would debase the white population. Thus, the opposition to non-white immigration and hostility to the Indigenous residents in the latter half of the nineteenth century, both based exclusively on racial grounds, laid the basis of Australian racism. The popular press in the latter part of the nineteenth century was active in promoting the discourse that the Australian type and Australian society had evolved into something worth protecting. The beliefs, attitudes and values which underpinned the White Australia Policy were such things as Social Darwinism and feelings of racial superiority.

Markus, Pettman, and Evans are among a large group of historians who attest that the need to maintain a British ethnicity was the prime motive for the colonies to federate. Identification as British and as a part of a great empire was obviously a convenient basis upon which to define the identity of Australians at the time of Federation. White (1981:64, 71) argues that this racial element formed the belief in the emergence of the Australian type and the maintenance of racial purity or homogeneity. These racist attitudes and sentiments towards non-Europeans were similar to the already existing racist attitudes towards the Aboriginal people. Unlike the indigenous Australians, who nature had supposedly chosen for extinction, the Chinese threat came not only from the racial conflicts that inspired the doctrine of Social Darwinism, but from a media inspired regime of propaganda.

In summary, this thesis examined that the desire to remain one people without the admixture of other ‘races’ was one of the most powerful forces that impelled the colonists towards Federation and the ‘pure race’ that could be codified. Historians are in no doubt that a central policy of the movement towards Federation was the exclusion of all people considered inferior and unfit for a white country. Federation was the rationale to maintain white superiority and racial homogeneity, and subsequently the first act of the new parliament was the Commonwealth Immigration Restriction Act (1901). Racial discrimination in entry, residence and citizenship provisions were sanctified, and a unified White Australia established. This policy confirmed the racist ideologies based on white supremacy and the dominant perception of Indigenous inferiority and their low evolutionary progress.

 

References

Akmeemana, S; and Dusseldorp, T. (1995), ‘Race discrimination: where to from here?’ in Alternative law journal, Volume 20, Number 5, pp 207-211.

Bird, Greta (1992), editor Racial harassment, Aristoc Press, Melbourne.

Evans, Raymond; Saunders, Kay; and Cronin, Kathryn (1993), Race relations in colonial Queensland: a history of exclusion, exploitation and extermination, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia.

Goldberg, David (1990), editor Anatomy of racism, University of Minnesota Press, Minnesota.

Goodwin, Craufurd (1964), ‘Evolution theory in Australian social thought’ in the Journal of the history of ideas, Volume 25, pp 393-416, in Knowledge, Ideology and Social Science (Level 1) Readings, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Hollinsworth, D. (1998), Race and racism in Australia, 2nd edition, Social Science Press, Katoomba, NSW.

Jupp, James (1991), Immigration, Sydney University Press, NSW.

Kalantzis, Mary (1998a), ‘Reconsidering the meaning of our Commonwealth (part 2)’ on the Women’s constitutional convention website (Online, accessed 9 Apr. 2001). URL:http://www.womensconv.dynamite.com.au/kalantz2.htm

Kearney, G. (1973), editor The psychology of Aboriginal Australians, John Wiley and Sons, Sydney.

Markus, A. (1979), Fear and hatred: purifying Australia and California 1850-1901, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney.

McConnochie, K; Hollinsworth, D; and Pettman, J. (1993), Race and racism in Australia, Social Science Press, Australia.

McGrath, Ann (1995), editor Contested ground: Australian Aborigines under the British crown, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards.

Pettman, Jan (1988), ‘Whose country is it anyway?: cultural politics, racism and the construction of being Australian’, Journal of intercultural studies, Volume 9(1), Pages 1-24, in Race Relations in Australia: Theory and History Readings Part 2, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

White, R. (1981), Inventing Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

Yengoyan, Aram (1999), Racism, cultural diversity and the Australian Aborigine, University of California, Davis.

Link to Part 4

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37 comments

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  1. New England Cocky

    An excellent concluding article Michael. Certainly protection from the ”Yellow Peril” was a major factor in Federation and this policy continued well into the 20th century until exposed as useless by the Japanese sinking the HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of wales after the Poms surrendered at Singapore in 1942.

    Once again I refer you to the excellent discussion in Castles about the difficulty the early English ”lawyers” had imposing English law on Aborigines.

    James Stephen unsuccessfully tested English law claiming sovereignty over Aborigines in about 1828(?) in Hobart in the Mungo Jack murder trial, but the Sydney Supreme Court upheld the English position despite the fact that Jack obviously had no protection form the Crown.

    Remember, it was 1838, 50 years after settlement/invasion, before a European who killed an Aborigine was tried, found guilty and hung after the Myall Creek Massacre where the defence legal costs were paid by the property owner Dangar.

    Furthermore, the station records accessed by Bloomfield in ”Baal Bal-bora the End of the Dancing” demonstrated the number of mass assassinations/executions with genocide intent that occurred in distant country locations. Other authors from other locations confirm that attempted genocide was more common in rural Australia than shown in already published records.

  2. Jack Cade

    I have been a Guardian reader for over half a century, and a subscriber for 5 years. The ‘worlds leading liberal newspaper’.
    This week there was an article about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in which a total of perhaps 120,000 people died, and the comments were awash with tears and regrets snd condemnation. Fair enough. But I commented that the Japanese had slaughtered over 250,000 civilians in Nanjing alone, gleefully, in an unprovoked invasion and that having been to the memorial in Nanjing I had little sympathy for the residents of the Japanese cities.
    The comment was deleted by the moderators.
    I tried again, when another commentator said ‘I felt the vomit rising in my throat when I saw the films of the destruction of the bombs, to which I wrote ‘Go to Nanjing them come back and tell
    me about your vomit rising’.
    Comment deleted by the moderators
    I cancelled my subscription this morning.

  3. Phil Pryor

    Jack is right to complain about living in a difficult and contrary world, but, as we do, we continue to live and observe in it, with the obtuseness, injustices, irrationalities galore. There are people everywhere who may hate, with reason, us, someone, the British, French, Germans, Russians, USA, Spain, China, Japan, etc, for “WHAT THEY HAVE DONE.” None of it can be explained, illustrated, justified, explored, denied FULLY, to the general or particular satisfaction of anyone so as to give eternal rest. I still “hate” the William the Conqueror person and similar savage, greedy, wilful, hunnish types, but, who knows how we might have operated, existed, believed, acted in those times and roles? Anyway.., there as been some friction is this series and among the comments. It has got us somewhere. (hasn’t it?)

  4. tess lawrence

    G’day Michael – congratulations on this fearless and compelling series. It is gut wrenching in so many ways, not the least because it is categorical in the evidence that racism and racist ideology were the foundation stones of Federation and remain so to this very day.

  5. Jack Cade

    But the point I was making – and I was interrupted by visitors before I made the point – is the ‘worlds leading liberal paper’ (my arse!!) would not accept criticism of an ally; 250,000 Chinese slaughtered – by an ‘ally’ – slaughtered is an apt word – for fun (watch the Japanese films that the took – they enjoyed themselves) and tell me YOU don’t feel sick and ashamed. Every day the ABC packs it’s news bulletins with 10 minutes of anti-Chinese propaganda: there is absolutely NO MSM that is not US – oriented.
    The US best interests are not our best interests, as US sales of commodities to China that Morrison jeopardised by dropping Aussie daks for Uncle Sam surely illustrate.

  6. BB

    Excellent Michael, I have learned new things, thanks. Now then, as some others are saying, it would be nice to hear more of your stories, like Mungo Lady, and others where you draw from your own personal lived experience.

    @ Jack Cade.
    You’re not alone cancelling your Guardian sub, I cancelled yrs ago. “Biased deletions”, (censorship IMO), depending on which moderator is on. Also the trend in closing down BTL on so many articles, especially political, only opening comments for a few hrs, etc etc, or only on flim flam crap, cooking, gossip articles etc, was just the final straw for me…
    I read it sometimes, there are good articles, but I grit my teeth with some particular very biased (up themselves) editors.
    I think the Guardian now often losses the plot. Frankly there are so many far better truly Independent places I’d rather be.

    Yep the world over mate, hypocrisy alive and well, sheepole copy cat crying, pots calling kettles black, not interested in reality.

  7. Jack Cade

    According to the TV series ‘Longmire’, a modern Western starring Aussie Robert Taylor as the small- county sheriff with a Cheyenne reservation nearby, US medical practitioners routinely sterilised Native-American girls until the 1980s. Go in for an appendectomy, come out filleted. It’s not hard to see a ‘conservative’ Federal Court reviving such a policy. Uncle Sam loves Muslims, but only in China. You judge a man by the company he keeps…
    US, Israel, Saudi Arabia…Australia

  8. Michael Taylor

    Thank you, everyone, for your kind words.

    NEC, if I were to write this thesis again – in the present day – it would be completely different as in the past twenty years there has been much more written for me to draw upon, and yes, a lot was left out in the thesis because of the required word count and that I strictly had to confine my writings to the topic.

    But at the time I could only work with what was available to me. I was residing in a rural area and didn’t have access to a good library. Not that I had time anyway. I was working full-time when I did my honours degree, as well as private tutoring on behalf of the uni. And back in the 90s we were discouraged from using web sites as references.

    Jack, I wrote to The Guardian a couple of months ago following their publication of an article (about Aboriginal archaeology) that was extremely false, but l received no reply. It amuses me that The Guardian and the ABC often have articles about the latest finds in Aboriginal history yet they were ‘finds’ that we learnt in Aboriginal archaeology in the late 1990s. Oh well, at least they’re reporting on them.

    Phil, oh how history could be if Joe Blow hadn’t have done this or that. Over the years I’ve often been hit with “You’re lucky that we’re a British colony. Imagine what the French or Spanish would have been like if they had colonised us.” Well, they didn’t. The ink on the history pages dried long ago.

    Tess, thank you for the support you have given before I even published Part 1. Your thirst for knowledge has been an inspiration.

  9. Michael Taylor

    Hi, BB. I might just do that. 😀

  10. Harry Lime

    @ Jack Cade,same same with the Guardian,been very noticeable over the last few months,especially anything to do with current Australian politics.I came to the conclusion that the pressure has been put on by Secret Squirrel Morrison’s heavies as we all know he has an abiding aversion to the truth.As far as I’m concerned the Guardian has caved,and I told them when cancelling my subscription.They have some excellent journalists,but it would not surprise to see an exodus.

  11. New England Cocky

    @ Michael Taylor: Do NOT apologise for your work, it will stand on its own merits. There is a huge need to educate the Australian voters about their conveniently overlooked relationship with Aboriginal Australians. The small improvements that have occurred since the NSWTF exposed the squalid conditions at Toumelah Reserve 35 years ago remain inadequate. It is only by exposing this government and political party neglect to the public eye that improvements and social justice will be served for Aboriginals.

  12. Michael Taylor

    Btw, BB, the civilisation at Lake Mungo was there for 25,000 years, before abandoning the area when the lakes dried up 15,000 years ago.

    That’s almost unheard of around the world. A civilisation in the one area from 40,000 years ago to 15,000 years ago!

    But wait, there’s more.

    The skeletal remains indicate that these people were gracile (as with the Chinese) as opposed to the skeletal remains of most other Aborigines which are classified as robust.

  13. Jack Cade

    @Harry Lime

    One of the current lead journos on the Grauniad used to be editor of the Telegraph. I reckon the people who founded the Guardian would not have let a former editor of the Telegraph into the building, let alone onto the pages.
    I started getting annoyed by Murphy’s crush on Turnbull, and then angered by the papers lack of comment on the Assange persecution.
    George Galloway (with whom I don’t always agree but admire his courage and honesty) scoffs at the Guardian now.

  14. Jack Cade

    Michael Taylor
    I think ‘gracile’ is a lovely word.

  15. Michael Taylor

    Indeed it is, Jack. It reminds me of the way Robbie Grey plays footy. So graceful on the field.

  16. Jack Cade

    Michael Taylor

    My 7 year old grandson – named Miles – asked my daughter why she chose that name for him. ‘Because I liked it! Why?’
    ‘Why didn’t you call me Robbie Gray?’

  17. Kate Ahearne

    Hi, Michael,

    Thank goodness you decided to complete the series. It would have been a shame not to be able to read through to the end. I’ve learnt a great deal. Such a lot to think about. Thanks again. Great stuff.

    I did puzzle over this sentence, until it occurred to me that there might be a typo: ‘In its most strident form, Australian racism argued that Aborigines and other non-Europeans were not inferior but would debase the white population.’ Should that read ‘not only’? Or am I missing something?

    Jack Cade,

    I have a big problem with your earliest comment about the 120,000 who died in Hiroshima and Nagasiaki at the hands of the U.S., and the 250,000 who died in Nanjing at the hands of the Japanese: ‘…I had little sympathy for the residents of the Japanese cities.’ Did those 120,000 people deserve to die in that hideous way? Did they deserve it any more than the 250,000 Chinese people you refer to? Frankly, Jack, if your comment to The Guardian was along the same lines as your comment here, I can easily imagine why they might have deleted it.

  18. BB

    Thanks Michael.
    Aye. Interesting that not all Aboriginals are/were robust in stature. But really that is not strange at all. It’s just so typical that certain cultures become stereotypes eh, through the eyes of western white man….. All Abos look like gorillas and live a very primitive life.. Reminds me of an article I read recently, (forget where as I sorta surf around in a eclectic haze), on Neanderthals, who are always depicted as very robust, which was saying that many had quite refined features, and were also of slender (gracile) build. The article was about that collectively homo sapiens, us, have about 20% of Neanderthal DNA in amounts of say different 1% or 2% here and there around the planet. You and I could easily have some in our genetic make up. And so perceptions long held are now changing. Just as in history, stories, understanding of the past become clearer as more knowledge becomes amalgamated world wide. And so too now the history, the stories of the Aboriginals here in Australia becomes clearer, no longer been seen through “white man’s” history books, or is it more exact to say the lack of “history books”, resulting in very distorted bs that so many have been taught. Your series, whilst of course written a while back, are very interesting and are part of joining up the dots.

    Jack,
    I simply detest any and all articles by KM in the Guardian, just biased drivel, if I have a read of the Guardian now, I avoid her crap like the plague. IMO her biased groveling and pathetic excuses for certain politicians is very distasteful to say the least. 👎

  19. Jack Cade

    Kate Ahearne

    I understand what you are saying, but the Japanese people fully supported the Japanese invasion of unsuspecting and non-threatening Chinese people, and what their army did there, just as they apparently supported the invasions and atrocities in the rest of SE- Asia.
    I was expressing my feelings after visiting the Nanjing memorial and viewing the triumphant newsreels – newsreels, note – sent back to Japan, and I am unrepentant.
    As, apparently, was and is, Japan.
    How do you think the average citizen of Baghdad would view the memorial for 9/11?

  20. Roswell

    Kate, thanks for pointing out that error. I’m sure that you are right so I took the liberty to correct it.

    If I was wrong to do, I will find out in due course.

  21. Jack Cade

    To expand on that. I spent my first 10 years playing on bombed sites in Liverpool: I doubt very much that my parents and neighbours would have shed any tears over Dresden, which was probably equal to the Hiroshima/Nagasaki destruction, just done with firebombs and not atomic weapons. I believed the bombings of the two Japanese cities were war crimes – until I saw Nanjing. Rationally, I still do; but I believed what happened in Nanjing – which was new to me and shocked me to the core – was worse, because it was unprovoked and performed face-to -face. My issue with the Guardian was that my second censored post merely said , in response to a post that said that vision of Hiroshima made him or her want to vomit, I said ‘Visit the Nanjing memorial and then tell me about ‘choking on your vomit.’ I didn’t dismiss the atomic bombs, I merely pointed out that another atrocity had occurred but it didn’t suit the narrative because it was only Chinese and we are being tutored to hate and fear them.
    To me, China is guilty of invading other countries by sponsoring and building infrastructure, whereas the USA – actually WE – specialise in destroying their infrastructure and usually the nations with it. Look at the fragmentation of Iraq, Libya. I am not a Sinophile, or an Anyophile. If I love anything it’s justice. But I am sick to death of propaganda Exempli gratia, theThe Guardian articles on the latest corruption scandals are introduced by a photo montage of miscreants, the most prominent of which – in the photo- is Vladimir Putin. But George Galloway alleges that Putin does not actually appear in any of the papers. That may or may not be true, but the casual glancer would conclude that he was a star feature. So what is the point of highlighting him? The Guardian is just an MSM fellow traveller now.
    Xi Jinping isn’t in there, by the way.

  22. leefe

    A good, informative series of articles, Michael. Thank you.

    Jack:
    So all Australians deserve fitting retribution for what our misgovernment has been doing to refugees for so long? After all, they keep getting returned to power, so we must approve of what they’re doing …

    The ordinary Japanese citizen – as much a prisoner of their culture and education system as we are of ours – was not responsible for what the military did in Nanjing (or elsewhere). It is barbaric in the extreme to suggest that all those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki – adults and children alike – were somehow deserving of their fate.

  23. Michael Taylor

    Thank you, Kate/Roswell. It was indeed an error.

  24. Kate Ahearne

    Thanks, Leefe.

    I’ve been sitting here biting my fingernails, and wondering how on earth to articulate my dismay. No need, because you’ve just said what I wanted to say, only better.

  25. Michael Taylor

    Having recently watch a documentary on WW2, apparently there were arguments as to which action would cost the most Japanese and American lives. Given that an invasion could cost anything up to 250,000 Americans lives alone, they eventually determined that two devastating bombs was choice number one whatever the cost to the Japanese.

    What surprised me was that it wasn’t until the early 1970s that the average Joe Blow American actually knew about the bombings. It was hard to believe.

    Harder to believe is that we never learned anything from those mega-destructive bombs. We just kept making them more powerful and more of them.

  26. wam

    Aborigines had advantages in isolation and are attempting to preserve some of them. Language and living culture. Your words have been pretty valuable to me and I thank you for them. The vehement racism, unacknowledged, by my rabbotians reflect your basic premises.
    This ‘new species’ “Study leader Professor Eske Willersley said the study uncovered new evidence of human evolution and evidence of the theory humans left Africa in one wave to give rise to all present-day humans but notably Australian Aborigines, the planet’s most ancient first non-African people….The mystery new species identified through saliva DNA sampling of 83 Aborigines and 25 Papua New Guineans to create the new genetic code, remains unknown. “We don’t know who these people were, but they were a distant relative of Denisovans, and the Papuan/Australian ancestors probably encountered them close to Sahul,” Professor Willersley said.”???
    I got the occasional bashing in the early 50s by trying to explain the difference between the atrocitries of the japanese and the germans both on religious cultural and political grounds.
    Being stupidly stubborn I still maintain the germans were manifestly culpable for their slaughter whilst japan were treating the chinese little different, except in scale?, than europeans. The essence was the WW1 ally of england and the anglicised japanese monarchy was treated as little slant-eyed blackmen in the split of spoils.
    A giant affront and political resentment festered till the opportunity for war arose.
    Little Boy and Fat man were ‘revenge’ attacks on civilians. Arguably. if in 1945 you were told one bomb destroyed hiroshima and killed 80000 instantly, would you be sceptical? There should have been diplomatic contact before nagasaki? The american woman signed the nagasaki visitors’ book, just ahead of me, with the words I consider the heart of americans: “better them than us”
    But I have always been weird and I have the appropriate wandering nose to show for it.

  27. B Sullivan

    On the subject of the Atomic bombing of Japan. We now know that the Japanese were prepared to surrender even before the bombing took place, provided the emperor was spared and that top military commanders were not put on trial for war crimes. The Americans however insisted on unconditional surrender and dropped the bombs anyway. Japan still refused to surrender, so the US agreed to let the emperor remain and pretended that the surrender was unconditional.

    The people that died were civilian subjects of the emperor with no control over their own destiny. The official excuse for killing them that has been echoed down through history is that it was to save American lives. Why only American lives matter is never ever discussed. Never, ever. The US invasion of Afghanistan and the withdrawal twenty years later were for the same excuse, to save American lives.

    On the subject of a civilization at Lake Mungo. To qualify as a civilization there must be a city. A civilization is a culture that builds cities. They don’t have to be very big, they just have to be made of permanently settled buildings while they last rather than temporary camps or villages. Catal Huyuk in Turkey is the oldest known example from around 9 thousand years ago.

    To last 25,000 years a city at Lake Mungo would have to be pretty durable and archeologists would be converging on the site from all corners of the earth to uncover its secrets from the remains even if all that was left was post holes. And of course, a lost civilization at Lake Mungo would cast serious doubt on Aboriginal claims to be the original inhabitants of Australia.

  28. Kate Ahearne

    B Sullivan,

    Your remarks about the atom bombs are appreciated. Thanks for that.

    But I’m having trouble with your definition of ‘civilisation’. I checked with the Oxford Dictionary, which gives several definitions according to context. None of the definitions accords with yours: ‘To qualify as a civilization there must be a city.’

    The closest that the OED seems to come to your assertion is this: ‘The society, culture, and way of life of a particular area.’ No mention of cities.

    I’m wondering where your idea came from.

  29. leefe

    wam:

    I can remember fifteen to twenty years ago, SBS helped produce a set of serial programmes about various aspects of WWII, with a special focus on the European theatre (what a gross word to use for war) and the Holocaust. it included many interviews with survivors, veterans (on both sides), civilians and so on. The interviews with the Germans were telling; where they “didn’t know” it was only because they refused to think about the entirety of the evidence in front of them, refused to consider the full consequences of what was happening. They followed the official narrative because it was easier, or because the bigotry did what it so often does: made them feel superior and thus better about themselves.

    Both my parents were refugees from the aftermath of that war, though they met over here. Polish. My mother’s first fiance went to the front when the German invasion of Poland started. He didn’t come back. She lived out the entire period in what was then eastern Poland, in Lvov. She used to say, quite bluntly and even bitterly, that everyone knew. That you simply could not live in Germany or Austria or Poland and not know.

    And yet … many years later, after raising two children single-handedly, she hooked up with a German bloke around her age. Nice enough person if you like that sort of bluff Teutonic heartiness, and he was pretty good to her. But (there’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?) he was ex-Wehrmacht. And not like the soldiers interviewed in those SBS documentaries, who had litttle but regrets from that time. He was proud of his service, proud of what they did, what they wanted to do, agreed with it all completely His only regret was that they weren’t successful. And slowly he somehow turned my mother into as much of an anti-semite as he was, or maybe just brought it to the surface – she’d told us when we were kids that there had always been a broad streak of anti-semitism in Poland and all the histories agree. And you have to remember that the nazi ideology had Poles and other Slavic people only one step up the ladder from Jews.
    I’ve never understood revenge. You try to stop bad things while they’re happening, and you try to teach the people who did them why they were wrong and not to repeat, but punishment and ‘eye-for-an-eye’ is a mentality that totally escapes me. But forgiveness without remorse is also something I don’t do. When people refuse to admit their behaviour, refuse to admit the damage they’ve done, refuse to admit culpability, refuse to admit they were wrong … how do you overlook that? You’re just enabling and even encouraging them, giving them licence to repeat it all. So how she could look past his ongoing attitudes; it makes me wonder … makes me remember how she always had more anger and bitterness and resentment for the Soviet ‘liberators’ than the Germans …

    I recall one interview from those programmes in particular. A woman, around my mother’s age who, like her, grew up in Lvov and was there when the war started. She said that when news of the invasion came through, behaviour towards Jewish people changed virtually overnight. People who had been clients, customers, friends, colleagues, even lovers, turned their backs and let the latent antti-semitism burst forth. Including my mother and her family? Well, she was always good at wilful blindness. It would have helped her survive that time.

    This is turning into a psychotherapy session. Sorry about that.

  30. Arnd

    B Sullivan:

    To qualify as a civilization there must be a city.

    Apparently, Ghandi, after being given a tour of the City of London, and including its slums, was asked what he thought of Western Civilisation. Apparently, he thought “It would be a good idea”. I concur!

    More recently, on a different forum, the proposal by the Ramsey Centre to fund, and exert control over curriculum and staffing, of a university teaching program in Western Civilisation, came under discussion. I still am quite enamoured of my contribution:

    Now Oi reckon the matter of Western Civilisation, and why despite a few promising starts it hasn’t yet eventuated, is very much a subject worthy of academic enquiry.

    Maybe the uncivilised manner in which the Ramsay Centre throws its weight around and tries to bully its prospective associates into submission could be turned into an instructive object lesson?

  31. Logan

    Interesting, from racism through to the inevitable fall in journalistic standards at The Guardian, through to war atrocities and the burden borne by civilians who have no desire to be involved. Where has this bossy tyrannical death cult come from? If enough people awaken more so to the power of compassion and lay claim to their ability to self-govern without recourse to Daddy govt promising them the world, civilization stands a chance. To buy into ‘might is right’ is based on violence, very Hollywood hero-worship suitable for the immature.
    Socrates led the way, preferring to surrender his life rather than his right to free speech. Who can do that? Mummy media is tearing her hair at the moment trying to shutdown free thinkers and on current projections internet comms will be in shallow provincial backwaters within 2-5 years.
    I watched Logans Run last night, set in 2022 it doesn’t look too-far fetched in 2021. Just in time for changes to our diet, lab-grown meat is now being rolled out worldwide. Get a small herd of chickens is my advice to myself:
    https://animalsaustralia.org/media/in_the_news.php?article=6743211005

  32. wam

    Thanks, Leefe, We are made up from so many things that some people stop seeing and avoid learning. I am just dumb enough to think it impossible for intelligent people to vote LNP. My rabbottians see the green of nature but cannot see the myriad of greens in nature. But in an amazing reverse they can see the myriads of differences between ‘them and us’ but cannot see the humanity of them and us.

  33. Michael Taylor

    B Sullivan, in today’s modern world civilisations certainly do contain cities with a “high level of cultural and technological development” (worldhistory.org), but I find that somewhat ethnocentric.

    The civilisation at Lake Mungo was highly advanced, but those advancements were in social order, agriculture, and in fishing. Sadly, their advancements are not in practice in the modern world.

    It’s a long story.

  34. BB

    It’s a long story Michael, about 20,000+ years eh. That is indeed living in civility with each other.
    I think the modern definition of civilisation quite misleading, as today’s societies lack a lot of civility.
    Modern civilisations would do well to learn from such older civilisations, but I doubt we ever will!
    A city is just, all said and one, bricks and mortar… Without civil people, it becomes a rat race!

    Civility, training in the humanities, but this government is trying to limit folks studying humanities.
    Civility is one of the glues which holds a civilised civilisation together.
    Politics today is anything but civil….!!!

  35. Kate Ahearne

    Thanks, Michael.

    I thought I was all at sea on my lonesome for a while there about B Sullivan’s assertion about civilisation. ‘‘To qualify as a civilization there must be a city.’ I hadn’t noticed your comment come in.

    I do believe that ideas like this feed and promote racism. What’s more, the hierarchical system that puts ‘progress’ at the top of the human tree, robs us of so much opportunity to learn and (begin) to understand the human condition.

    For one thing, ‘progress’ is not necessarily progress at all. The modern industrial societies have brought us to the brink of disaster, with the planet struggling to survive.

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