By Dr George Venturini
The latest ‘gift’ from ‘The Palace’ arrived, as already noted, with the visit by Prince Harry Battenberg and his wife, formerly Meghan Markle, now rebranded as The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Prince Harry was coming to open and close the Invictus Games, and for a 16-day tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Their visit began on 16 October 2018.
The Duke and the Duchess of Sussex would be hosted ‘in style’, which – translated into the Australian conventional parlance – would mean: spending a lot of money after them.
The couple was ‘put up’ in a luxe rental in the expensive Point Piper neighbourhood with a listing price of $41 million, according to Vogue Australia. Only!
The three-story mansion has incredible views of Sydney’s impressively majestic harbour and its own private wing perfect for the royal newlyweds to have some time alone together. (S. Wax, ‘Inside Prince Harry And Meghan Markle’s $41 Million Australian Rental’).
It is one thing to celebrate the human spirit in the face of great adversity. It is another thing altogether to let the weapons manufacturers who helped causing the loss or disability of soldiers sponsor the celebrations.
The Invictus Games took place in Sydney in October 2018. Injured service personnel from eighteen countries took part. Invictus is Latin: ‘undefeated.’
Who could fail to be impressed by the triumph of spirit over matter?
It is highly inspiring to see the human spirit triumph over mutilations of the human body. Who can fail but be impressed by the fortitude of the participants, who faced life-threatening-and-changing injuries but found within themselves the strength to overcome?
Many could not do it by themselves alone. The Games are also intended to honour the non-belligerent personnel, the surgeons and nurses, and those engaged in painful rehabilitation, in the use and technique necessary to construct prostheses and equipment, and all the carers and family members who look after the invalids.
And for many who participated in the Games, many more could not even attend as spectators, lost in incurable state of mind, or consumed by post traumatic disorder which keeps returning in all its horrible ways: with flashbacks, nightmares or other episodes which often detach them from their loved ones – or anyone, really.
The return to civilian life is often rendered more difficult by bureaucratic stolidity and incomprehension; compensation is often contested, or tardy, or inadequate – or all of it.
Of course, on the prescribed occasions – mainly when remembering the greatest retreat on ‘the-one-day-of-the-year’ – will have some ignorant ‘politicians’ call them ‘heroes’, who suffered ‘in the service of their country’ and make a muck of the whole ceremony. Transplanted Englanders are rather clumsy at rhetoric.
Those words – ‘in the service of their country’ – have a hollow resonance. All the Invictus participants are from recent wars. As for the Australian participants, those who are alive may not know or care that in the major sixteen wars with Australian participation, Australians went in by choice, albeit not knowing why. Only in one of them – the second world war – they went in by necessity.
What most Australians do not know is that the supporters of the Games are American corporations, with profits in the 2017 as indicated:
1) Lockheed Martin, U.S.A., defence revenue, $47,985 million
2) Raytheon Company, U.S.A., defence revenue, $23,573.64 million
4) Northrop Grumman, U.S.A., defence revenue, $21,700.00 million
5) Boeing, U.S.A., defence revenue, $20,561.00 million
6) General Dynamics, defence revenue, $19,587.00 million
No. 3 is occupied by the B.A.E. Systems, with a revenue of US$22,380.04 million.
For completion: there should be reference to another American corporation: Leidos, which came out as No. 12 on the list, and Swedish Saab which was No. 32 on the list. (‘Top 100 for 2018’ (based on 2017 data). Defense News. as at 3 November 2018).
It all amounts to a murderous combine of killers-patrons.
B.A.E. Systems plc is a multinational defence, security, and aerospace corporation headquartered in London and with worldwide operations. Its largest operations are in the United Kingdom and United States, where its BAE Systems Inc. subsidiary is one of the six largest suppliers to the U.S. Department of Defense. Other major markets include Australia, India, and Saudi Arabia, which account for about 20 per cent of BAE’s overall sales. It is the biggest manufacturer in Britain. It is a well-known secret that the Royal Family has a very large interest in the share portfolio.
It is relatively easy for armaments manufacturers to justify to themselves their production: the business of weapon business making is business. There! Slightly more time-consuming is to reconcile their core business with supporting the Invictus Games. Perhaps, that too is business. The organisers-on-the-ground might ask themselves why they allowed such an arrangement. But it is a passing moment, if at all. Business is business.
Consideration by ‘unsophisticated’ persons of the trade in weapons may raise another, dark aspect. What of the injured on our side? What of the terrible injuries inflicted on our ‘enemies’ – even those whom a reasonable person could never conceive as being a threat to Australia: Yemeni children who are killed by bullets manufactured in Australia and sold to Saudi Arabia? Both the T and M of the ATM governments boasted that ‘production’ success.
For the Australian government: no problem. And, of course, the manufacturers may supply both sides of a conflict. And that is business.
Injuries like those that our people bear are, no doubt, being born by others elsewhere – in countries less affluent than Australia, with fewer resources and less sophisticated medical treatments. They may be living lives of torment and utter desolation. Will they be arranging Invictus Games?
Very much like Remembrance Day: 11 November, which has been partly eclipsed by ANZAC Day: 25 April, Invictus Day may become one more day of national war celebration. There may be something more sophisticated than beer and two-up. But all that could be left to the organisers and the arms manufacturers to pay for. One needs not be a ‘thinky’ to see the advantage of it all!
No matter how ‘complete’ their ‘recovery’, the live of Invictus Games’ athletes were changed forever. Looking at them it is more than paradoxical that one can 1) support the games, 2) admire the inner strength of those taking part and 3) regret the fact that they are necessary, and all together. (N. Deane, ‘Prince Harry’s Invictus Games, Brought To You By Arms Dealers, Figuratively And Literally,’ newmatilda.com, 15 October 2018).
“Not everyone involved in warfare emerges unconquered.” poignantly remarked Michelle Fahy in a fine contribution on ‘Invictus Games, glossing over inconvenient truths-the arms trade and the British royals’. Ms. Fahy is on the staff of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War. She wrote:
“Last year, at least 84 veterans killed themselves; that’s twelve more than the number of athletes in Australia’s Invictus squad. In 2002–2014, the rate of suicide was 13 per cent higher among ex-serving men compared with all Australian men. For ex-serving men in the 18-24-year range, the rate was almost twice as high as the national male average in that age range.
A 2018 report by the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia found that veterans are also over-represented amongst the homeless. During the study period more than 1 in 20 of the homeless people interviewed were found to be veterans. The veterans were more likely to be sleeping rough and 43 per cent of them had suffered a serious brain injury or head trauma. Unlike the US where veteran homelessness has received wide attention and a strong policy response, there has been very limited research in this area in Australia.
Given the focus on the ‘wounded warriors’ and their struggle to recover it is surprising to see that the list of corporate sponsors of the Games includes five of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers. The opportunity to sponsor a high-profile event of this nature makes business sense for the corporations concerned [Ms. Fahy named four of the already mentioned American corporations and Saab] and clearly they have no qualms about using it to create the impression of being good corporate citizens. But let’s get real, they’re in the business of profiting from death and destruction, despite the worthy-sounding euphemisms they and others employ to obscure that fact. It amazes me that Prince Harry, ‘the captain of his soul’ [with a reference to the British poet William Ernest Henley who said those words], supported by the leadership of his Foundation, finds it possible to accept the involvement of such sponsors in these Games.
Prince Harry and his relations continue developing their relationships with dubious regimes and corporations of no conscience, and facilitate arms deals between them.”
Ms. Fahy provides some reference:
“In 2010, Prince Andrew criticised the UK’s Serious Fraud Office for its attempts to investigate BAE for secret alleged payments to clinch arms deals (i.e. bribes). Andrew Feinstein, respected anti-corruption campaigner and former South African MP who resigned in protest over BAE bribery allegations, has noted: “The royal family has actively supported Britain’s arms sales, even when corruption and malfeasance has been suspected.”
Prince Charles has visited Saudi Arabia many times. A 2014 visit was immediately followed by an announcement of a multi-billion-pound Typhoon jet deal with the Saudis. Such was the outcry that Prince Charles reportedly said he “no longer wants to promote British arms sales in the Middle East.”
Along with the Saudis, the Queen has developed close ties with the Bahraini royal family despite its known abuses of the Bahraini people. The King of Bahrain sat beside the Queen at the gala event celebrating her 90th birthday. Britain also sells arms to Bahrain.
In March , despite growing condemnation of Saudi Arabia’s role in the war in Yemen, the UK rolled out the reddest of red carpets for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. During his visit he lunched with the Queen, dined with Prince Charles and Prince William, and was entertained by PM Theresa May at her country estate. If this is not a ringing endorsement from the highest level of British society, what is ?
Meanwhile, back in Australia, will any journalist raise with Prince Harry the apparent hypocrisy of hosting an event celebrating the resilience of the human spirit while concurrently accepting sponsorships for that event from companies supplying weapons of war to a regime that is helping create the world’s worst humanitarian disaster? These firms aren’t trying to hide it. Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon are currently seeking new weapons contracts with Saudi Arabia. Would His Royal Highness care to comment?
It is difficult to see how these Invictus Games sponsorships are anything other than ‘business as usual’ in a long history of similar deals of varying scale in which the UK royal family uses its influence and prestige to facilitate arms deals for the benefit of a privileged few, at the expense of the human rights of the many.” (M. Fahy, ‘Invictus Games, glossing over inconvenient truths-the arms trade and the British royals,’ mapw.org.au, 19 October 2018)
No Australian journalist responded to Ms. Fahy’s call.
In the morning of 20 October 2018, the Duke of Sussex attended the Anzac Memorial service in Hyde Park, accompanied by the Duchess. He was paying a tribute to Australia’s war dead.
Prince Harry was wearing ‘Tropical Dress of the Blues and Royals’ and an array of medals. They were: the Pilots’ Wings symbolising his time in the Army Air Corps when Harry was flying Apache helicopters; the Afghanistan Operational Service Medal; the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and the Star of the Grand Cross Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, which represents distinguished personal service to the monarch. By the way, John Falstaff had to wait for Fraser to secure one such for Kerr.
On his left arm Prince Harry was showing the Napoleon’s imperial Eagle of the 105th Regiment of the Line, captured at Waterloo and symbolises honour and pride.
From the right shoulder Prince Harry also wore an aiguillette. Strange that there is no equivalent English word; ‘shoulder cord’ is really quite prosaic. Ah, much more impressive in French. N’est-ce pas?
The gold braid aiguillette shows that Harry is now one of the Queen’s personal Aides-de-Camp. Oops!
Prince Harry, or for that matter, all men – and some women – of ‘the Royal Family’ like to appear in different phantasmagoric uniforms, depending on the occasion, of course.
Just after twenty-year-old (born 15 September 1984), Harry appeared at a party dressed in full German Afrika Korp uniform with Nazi Party swastika on his left arm.
It was probably intended to be a joke, but even if was, it shows the good test and most certainly the strong tutoring in history imparted to young Harry at Court. (The sun, 14 January 2005).
Some European in attendance might have shivered just on recalling what that symbol meant to German-occupied Europe. But that, as the average Australian would say, is history; alternatively, the defence from ignorance would be that s/he was not yet born at the time the swastika crimes were desecrating an entire continent – and that includes good, old England.
Traveller would have been outraged.
After the visit to Hyde Park, Harry and Meghan changed into everyday dressing, took a private vessel from Admiralty House in Kirribilli where they have been staying as a guest of Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, and arrived at the Opera House, where Prince Harry delivered a ‘rousing speech’ to open the Invictus Games.
Because of an earlier drenching rain, the organisers had postponed the ceremony from 7:30pm until 8:30pm, and by the time the bagpipes fired up for the start the weather had cleared.
Thousands gathered to watch 500 competitors from 18 countries – including 72 Australian participants – march through the forecourt, with huge cheers echoing over the famous steps.
The athletes would compete in 12 sports across the week, with the golf and driving challenge – on Sydney’s Cockatoo Island – already started.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived at the venue for a reception ahead of the ceremony, with Prince Harry given a standing ovation as he came on stage officially to open the event.
The Prince, who praised Australia for the welcome he and his wife had received during their stay, said Invictus was about “strength honour and optimism”.
“The Invictus generation is also about showing that being tough means being honest about how you feel inside out,” he said. “Remember, you are competing for one generation – the Invictus Generation … and you are going to put on one hell of a show.”
The Prince, who described the Opera House setting as “the most beautiful backdrop”, also implored the Australian public – and the people of Sydney – to get out and support the competitors.
“Australia, let’s show the world how it’s done.”
The soldier-athletes were always intended to be the true stars but a video featuring ‘volunteers’ such James Kimberley Corden, O.B.E., an English actor, comedian, and television host, Hamish Donald Blake, and Australian comedian and actor Magda Mary Szubanski, A.O., – in character as ‘Sharon’ from Kath and Kim – stole the “one hell of a show.” There were the inevitable token presence of traditional Aboriginal dancers, and performances from Kate Ceberano, Lee Kernaghan and Birds of Tokyo.
The frequent “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” and “Oi, oi, oi” jangled chants made sure that a ‘local’ atmosphere would turn the occasion in the mindless, provincial event – what is ordinarily referred to as a ‘concert’.
What the athletes from other countries – except perhaps the knowing cousins across the Tasman – made of it is not known. (N. Sas, ‘Invictus Games opening ceremony takes over Sydney Harbour after storm delay,’ abc.net.au, 20 October 2018).
Other than that, one could see the occasion as a Harry and Meghan’s Circus Oz in action.
But, then, many Australians see ‘the Royal Family’ as a spectacle, with the main winning feature being plain old continuity – which brings a sense, almost, of immortality due to the fact the royals are essentially professionals at reproducing.
Their job is to look immaculate and appear healthy, be agreeable to the largest number of people, and find a suitable partner with whom to reproduce.
In the Philistine rhetoric of ‘mainstream Australian culture’, the average person born into wealth – who does nothing ‘to deserve’ it or contribute to society in ways which are actually commensurate with their riches – should be the subject of ridicule, even hostility.
S/he is, secretly, the object of admiration. And there is hypocrisy triumphant! That ‘sense of entitlement’, of having not had to work hard for what one gets, goes against some stock ‘standard values’ Australian society secretly holds dear. ‘Values’ like hard work, or better still, ‘having a go’, or being given ‘a fair go’. And that kind of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ empty talking has found its sublimation with the latest of the ATM squad!
The notion of ‘earning your way’ is abandoned in the general treatment of Harry and Meghan. In fact ‘the Royal Family’ represents the exact opposite of that principle. It is based on a system which operates on the rule that being born with ‘royal blood’ warrants a lifetime of obscene wealth, privilege and reverence before one can even talk.
It is La dolce vita for everyone in the circus.
When the headlines in Australia are dominated by the rising cost of living, the housing affordability crisis, slow wage growth and an inquiry into a fundamentally corrupt banking system which has been exploiting ordinary people – alive or dead – for years, the mind boggles at the inability – or is it unwillingness? – to see, think about and solve important society problem. ‘The Monarchy’ is a drug far worse than what is currently available on ‘the market’. (M. Graham, ‘Harry and Meghan’s Circus Oz’, eurekastreet.com.au, 22 October 2018).
As the spectacle continued, Ms. Fahy returned to her subject: “Invictus Games do nothing to remedy government failure properly to care for veterans.”
“Most of us will never know the horrors of combat. Horrors so great that many servicemen and women suffer life-changing injuries, both visible and invisible, while serving their countries, while serving us.” [Emphasis added]
These words imply that the Invictus athletes were wounded fighting wars, but this is not so for all of them. It is hard to say for certain, as the information in the athlete profiles is inconsistent and in many cases lacks key details, but it appears about half of the Australian athletes do fit this description. The remainder were not wounded or made ill by combat, which doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be included but it does raise the question of why organisers chose a slogan and story that don’t encompass all competitors. This is not mere semantics. One consequence of this marketing decision has been that those athletes not injured/ill due to active combat have repeatedly had to justify their presence in the team.”
Adding to the questions, the criteria which determined athlete selection lacks transparency and a number of athlete profiles omit sufficient detail unequivocally to verify the athletes’ eligibility. In at least one case, evidence suggested that the athlete was not injured during a period of military service.
And Ms. Fahy went on: “The responsibility for the ambiguous language, opaque selection process, and inconsistent profiles lies with Games organisers.”
It would not have been difficult for the talented Invictus marketing minds to create an equally powerful slogan encompassing all participants. Nor should it have been onerous to publish their selection criteria and present athlete profiles in a uniform and more specific manner. Indeed the Invictus website contains several examples of detailed documents relating to employees, volunteers, media, and even the general public. Had Games organisers been equally transparent with their marketing material and athlete selection criteria such questions as, “You weren’t injured by war, why are you in the Games?” would not have had to be addressed by the athletes.
Ms. Fahy found another conflict between image and reality.
“ … the Royal presence, ambassadors, celebrity endorsements, Vogue features, chat show spots, abundant media coverage, Cobber the mascot, and Wiggles ditties, all the glitz, creates the impression that something significant is being done for our veterans. However for thousands of veterans the excitement and camaraderie of the Invictus Games is far removed from their grinding daily reality,” she said, and she proceeded to outline some of the problems: One in five Australian Defence Force personnel feels suicidal upon ending service. In its July 2018 submission to a Federal Government inquiry, the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia said that “VVAA advocates dealing with serving members, particularly those with mental health issues, have identified in Defence a lack of empathy, support and understanding of the difficulties being experienced by the serviceman or women and there is at least an impression Defence want the problem individual to ‘go away.’ ”
Chronic problems of homelessness and suicide remain amongst veterans, [Ms. Faby had covered them in her previous piece], yet there remains little reliable data on either issue and little appetite to fund necessary research. In a belated attempt to start addressing the pressing issue of veteran suicide, in August 2016 the Federal Government announced a $3 million, three year suicide prevention trial in the ex-ADF community in Townsville. In May 2017, after a nine month wait, Operation Compass finally commenced.
Unemployment is a major contributor to veteran suicide rates. A 2017 report by WithYouWithMe estimates veteran unemployment to be 30.2 per cent, over five times the national average. Yet the Federal Government allocated just $4 million in this year’s budget for the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program, with a further $4.3 million to come in two years’ time.”
In this clash between believe and reality, as the former Prime Minister Turnbull had said: “We have to go beyond the memorials and the monuments and focus on the men and women, the real challenges they face – ensuring that they are supported.” The will remain fine words, signifying absolutely nothing if one contrasts the slow progress and paltry sums just mentioned with the staggering amount Australia has spent commemorating the centenary of the first world war over $50 million. This vast sum eclipses that spent by every other country, equating to an outlay of A$8,889 for each of the 62,100 Australian deaths in the first world war, compared – for instance – with the United Kingdom’s A$109 per death.” (M. Fahy, ‘Invictus Games do nothing to remedy government failure to properly care for veterns,’ johnmenadue, 26 October 2018).
Such discrepancy can only be explained with the complex of inferiority of people who still suffer from a ‘colonial’ mentality.
Continued Saturday – Terminal adolescents (part 3)
Previous instalment – Terminal adolescents (part 1)
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.email@example.com.
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