When I went through my secondary education at a state-funded C of E Grammar school in the UK, we had a very good general education, which included Art, Biology, Chemistry, English Language, English Literature, French, Geography, History, Latin, Mathematics, Music, Physics and Scripture.
We also, being an all-girls school, spent a year on needlework and a year on Cookery, while my brother, with a similar range of subjects at an all-boys school, did metalwork and woodwork.
Not all of these common subjects were offered from the first of our seven-years study, and by the time we reached the fourth year, we were essentially required to choose between arts and science.
So I dropped history, art and Latin in favour of geography, music, biology and chemistry, while later picking up Physics, Pure and Applied Mathematics as specialist subjects in my last 2 years of study.
If you are familiar with Hogwarts, you will have a fairly good idea of the seven year progress through the UK school system! My school was not a boarding school but its disciplinary system was quite closely based on that applying to the British ‘Public’ schools, as was Hogwarts!
I have always been an avid reader and loved historical novels, so relied on reading for knowledge of the Biblical history of the Jews, novels for the conquests of Alexander, the Julius Caesar and Roman Empire period, the era of the Black Prince, Tudor times, Henry VIII (and
“Divorced, beheaded, died,
Divorced, beheaded, survived.”
to distinguish between Catherine of Aragon, Anne Bullen (Boleyn), Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr), the rise and fall of Napoleon Buonaparte, novelists like Alexandre Dumas for his romantic and historical novels, Georgette Heyer for the Regency period, Charles Dickens, with his quest for justice for the downtrodden, and multiple sources for the background to the European Royals – plus more modern events, through living through WWII and experiencing the Battle of Britain, while my historical knowledge in many parts of the world relies otherwise on myths and legends.
Elizabeth I’s period, of course, was the time leading to the initial colonisation of America, while the Mayflower introduced the Puritans to the eastern states, all fairly contemporaneously with the Spanish and Portuguese invading more southern regions.
So my knowledge of history is sketchy and very personalised, so I am open to being shot down in flames in the conclusions I might draw.
As a dual British/Australian citizen, I confess to being proud of neither country for the legacy of the colonisation and settlement which is attached to their gunship methods.
In the case of the colonising of both America and Australia, but perhaps more so in the case of America, the invading forces relied on their military to keep the peace. A consequence of this has been a much more militaristic approach being adopted by the later law and order forces established in those countries.
People are often amazed to hear that in the UK, the police do not normally carry guns.
I remember an occasion when my youngest child was a baby, and I took him, in a car pram, plus his older brother, aged 4, and sister, then 3, to shop in our local town of Gravesend in Kent.
The weekly market was held in an area used as a car park on all other days, so I parked there, assembled the car pram and wheeled it out into the High Street with the other two children either side.
Or so I thought!
I had travelled a short distance when I realised my daughter was missing!
A frantic look around showed no sign of her so i hastily back-tracked to the entrance to the market place.
To my intense relief, I saw a very tall policeman speaking into a walkie-talkie, while my very small daughter stared up at him!
I had always told the children if they ever got lost or needed help, ask a policeman (they were almost all men in those days!) and there is even an old Music Hall song from before my time “If you want to know the time, ask a policeman!”
Those were the days when a policeman, catching a young lad up to mischief, would take him by the ear, march him home, and leave his parents to discipline him.
My main point being that the duty of the police was seen as protecting the public and they had, in that capacity, the power to caution or arrest, anyone breaking the the law in ways that endangered the public.
It is rare for a police officer in England, Scotland or Wales to carry a firearm. Northern Ireland is an exception, as a consequence of ‘the troubles’.
Clearly, long after the first settlements in the USA, it remained a frontier country, with episodes involving Native Americans encouraging the founders to enshrine the right to carry a gun in the USA Constitution.
So, the whole cultural attitude towards guns mitigates against having the type of police force which is enjoyed in most of the UK.
In fact, here, in the Northern Territory of Australia, the first time I saw a police officer carrying a gun was after Cyclone Tracy, when we had members of State police forces assisting the NT police during a spate of chaos and some lawlessness.
I am well aware of the levels of corruption in the police forces in many states, with Queensland and NSW being the standouts, and Victoria not far behind.
Corruption is not exclusive to the police and it is disturbingly evident in governing bodies, both nationally and locally.
Distinctions between poachers and gamekeepers are notoriously blurred, but the most serious problems arise in the law and order context.
Black Lives Matter is no new issue.
Terra Nullius is no longer accepted, but the contempt with which our First Nations were regarded, lives on in too many white supremacists.
Those original inhabitants lived by very different cultural rules than do the invaders, and their rejection of ownership of land but instead acceptance of having a duty to be a guardian of the tribal lands, as well as their ways of ensuring the land is properly used and protected, should be lessons for us.
In similar ways, the African Americans, mainly descended from slaves brought to the Americas to work in the plantations under frequently inhumane conditions, are still regarded as less than human because of their origins, clearly carried down through generations by the colour of their skins.
The most important quality in many members of the human race is an ability to live in peace with others.
The message of “Do as you would be done by” is not exclusively linked to any religious dogmas.
It is an ethical requirement directed at all of us, whatever our colour, beliefs or clan group.
We live in very troubled times, and they are unnecessarily troubled by mankind’s inhumanity to other members of the human race.
The right to bear arms is a dangerous demand, and the extent to which the ‘if it moves – you shoot’ attitude might have its humorous side, we are yet to have the ability to revive someone who has died.
It is worth noting that there are many outside the police force whose lives are on the line in their course of duty.
Most notably, these include, most recently, the health service staff, whose lives have been at risk as they care for COVID-19 patients, often with inadequate Personal Protection Equipment, with a shortage of rest between shifts and, often, a need to be isolated from their loved ones.
On a regular basis, Ambulance officers and paramedical staff have to deal with people affected by alcohol and other drugs, who often violently attack the staff who are trying to assist them.
Then there are the carers, who deal with people living in their own homes with mental disorders, which do not justify institutionalisation but nevertheless can lead to violent outbursts.
None of these groups would dream of carrying a gun to protect themselves.
If the movement, which is getting into its stride around the world,in opposition to white supremacist attitudes, is to bear fruit – which we earnestly hope it does – the USA needs to take a long hard look at its history of the damage continually done by gun ownership laws.
#Black Lives Matter
I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:
“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”
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