1. One liners
2. John Miner, Sean Richardson and Alan Kerns on whether we need an address to the nation
3. Geoff Honour comprehensively responds to the lefties among us and Michael Kelly bites back.
4. Michel Dignand with a tale from another front.
5. Mary Michael Booth contributes an American perspective from an Australian vantage point.
6. David Shanahan on calls for conscription
7. John Wojdylo replies to his critics.
1. ONE LINERS
Marc Pengryffyn, Katoomba, NSW: I’m wondering how long till someone starts calling for conscription. They can call it the ‘Die-for-the-Dole’ scheme.
Mark Chambers: “Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.” – John Stuart Mill. Good to know nothing’s changed in the past 100 years.
2. AN ADDRESS TO THE NATION?
I was deliberately not keeping up with this topic because I couldn’t see the validity of comments on a phoney war. Nobody knows what the USA is doing, nobody knows what is expected of Australia, nobody knows what Australia’s response will be (or can be – Gerard Henderson was spot on today in the Herald).
However, your comments about the absence of any explanation to the nation was absolutely valid. According to his web site, John Howard has addressed the nation on New Year and Christmas, on Commonwealth Day once – and on sending troops to East Timor. His most recent address was on tax reform. http://www.pm.gov.au/news/messages/messages.html
Does he really rate tax reform higher than sending forces into a war? How unexpected this commitment is can be gauged from the issues raised by Gerard Henderson, and from the PM’s speech when he presented the response to the Defence White Paper. http://www.pm.gov.au/news/speeches/2000/speech577.htm
Hey, it was less than ten months ago!
People are increasingly perplexed by Honest John’s lack of leadership in the current crisis. He’s had a lot of reassuring words for the citizens of the USA (dutifully ignored by that country’s media), but none for us. Why would anyone be surprised?
Howard can be accurately described as highly intelligent, cunning, politically astute. But a leader? He’s the opposite – a [poll] follower. As the saying goes, “a bunch of school kids might follow him out of a burning building, but only out of idle curiosity.” As for Beazley, I’m still waiting for him to disprove that “ticker” remark.
I’m sure we can all remember a politician who was in the habit of telling us things we really didn’t want to hear. In those distant days when we thought ourselves impregnable, this was called “arrogance”. Personally, and it may just be my non-snaggy nature, I don’t mind a bit of arrogance in a leader, as long as they’ve got their eyes on the ball (the game being the national interest). Remember the pre-referendum, tabloid poll which identified an unlikely popular preference for First President of the Republic of Australia? Would that it were so!
Come back PJ Keating, I miss you!
Alan Kerns in Cairns, Queensland
You wrote in Why is Howard not addressing us: “I cannot comprehend why the Prime Minister has not given an address to the nation, to tell us why we’re in, what our interests are, our state of readiness, what is expected of us.”
Is a democracy a system where THE LEADER tells the people what our interests are? That sounds like the antithesis of democracy to me.
Could it be that existing political systems could only accurately be described as anti-democratic? I accept that we are lucky in the sense that we live in one of the least anti-democratic states – but let us not accept the dishonest doublespeak that we live in a democracy. I have been a voter for more than 40 years. Not once in that time have I ever been represented at any level of government by a person of my choice to represent my views.
And unless the electoral system changes to allow minority interest groups direct representation in a sovereign parliament, I never will be represented by a person of my choice. In my opinion, this is the main reason for the widespread alienation of Australians from our political system. And the apparent reality that most people don’t seem interested in doing anything about it testifies to the depth of both the ignorance and the apathy of our people.
If the Australian interest is to follow whatever the USA decides to do, hoping that the response will be ‘calm but lethal’, then I declare myself, in deep disgust, to be unAustralian.
3. YOU/US LEFTIES
I’m frankly over being told that George Bush is a terrifying bellicose, opportunistic warmongerer by the same people who chuckled derisively at his complete inadequacy to preside over anything. You can’t have it both ways, so what is it? Otto von Bismarck or Daffy Duck?
He’s certainly no Einstein but he seems able to encompass the notion that the savage, pre-meditated murder of nearly 7,000 people can simply be owned as evil. Without sanctimonious apologia. Man’s inhumanity to man doesn’t offer a rationale for mass slaughter; just a convenient evasion for those who get off on it. I have no sense of him wanting war for the sake of it. Who would?
I’m also a little tired of being lectured about the need to distinguish my fellow Australians, who happen to be Muslim, from people butcherers who clearly aren’t. No matter what perverted religious fantasy they dwell in. I don’t believe for one minute that the vast majority of adult Australians are in any doubt about the fact that physically assaulting people because they might happen to share racial/ethnic/religious backgrounds with terrorists, is always wrong. Morally, ethically and legally.
I’m pretty certain that Australians accept and understand that such acts are vile, and utterly unacceptable. And they don’t need the media to tell them the difference between right and wrong. They are raised from birth to understand that there is no justification for random, disassociated violence against people. A small proportion of people are stupid and hence don’t get it but the criminal law is pretty much unforgiving of stupidity. And so it should be.
But saying no to violence while protecting those who don’t, has always been more problematic. Many people of Irish descent, Australians, Americans, etc, have tacitly supported the IRA – while deploring terrorist violence – because the IRA is portrayed as representing southern, republican, Catholic, legitimate Irishness, unlike their simplistically defined “oppressors.” And I speak from the perspective of Irish-Catholic descent.
This sentimentalist, whiskey-sodden, begorrah and begosh fantasy has been responsible for financing the murderous activities of the IRA – and fuelling the response of their equally revolting “Protestant” adversaries – for generations. Without that “I don’t approve of how you do it, but understand why you do it,” support, the IRA and the Unionist terrorists would evaporate in a trice. Relatively few people become terrorists, but those who do rely totally on the tacit acquiescence – or at least non-opposition – of the populations from which they’re drawn and with whom they identify.
Of course, murdering people in cold blood has nothing whatsoever to do with “Christianity”, under any circumstances and the people who do so can’t under any circumstances be understood in a ‘Christian” context. I’ve nothing but contempt for the view that history (or more usually a carefully constructed version of history) somehow justifies or explains a psychopathic killer blowing human beings to smithereens in Belfast – or New York.
But just as it’s always taken a rare and brave Irish Catholic to stand up and totally disown the IRA and all their evil works or a rare Serbian to disown Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo or Croatia, so it takes a rare Muslim to totally and publicly disown Hezbollah, Hamas and Al-Qaera.
Confining oneself to deploring the results of “freedom-fighters” methods isn’t enough. Nothing excuses September 11. Not history, not socioeconomic inequality, not tribal, religious or ethnic difference. The irony is that the perpetrators and those who offer them protection place themselves outside our common humanity whilst simultaneously working to ensure that they’re protected by our blinkered inability to perceive that.
I’m a little exasperated with the constant refrain about the US needing to take stock of why so many of the world’s people “hate” the US. Take stock maybe, but the world’s people don’t hate the US. At best – and providing green cards aren’t on offer – those interested in doing so can induce hate for a manufactured abstraction called “the US”. Institutionalised hatred is a learned behavior usually offered as camouflage for less obvious agendas. It has to be taught.
And I’ve yet to be convinced that simply sharing our wealth is the answer. Especially when there seems to be no commensurate appetite for sharing our socioethical infrastructure. Perhaps the heavy priority given to economic disparity masks a mass yearning for strong democratic institutions, but……………..
“Sharing” in any broad, socially inclusive sense seems to be the sole preoccupation of woolly-woofter liberal democracy. If there is a single national entity outside the Euro/American/Australasian sphere that has opted for the sort of liberal democratic niceness that we arrogantly assume to be the natural order of things, it’s news to me. Most of the world lives with a social structure that, broadly, gives primacy to the notion of clan over any collective sense of the people and their wellbeing and views the nation state as either the spoils of clan/caste ascendancy or the means of its oppression.
Can anyone recall the last televised shot they saw of teeming masses demanding their fair share of liberal democratic infrastructure? Me neither. (Margo: Indonesians under Suharto? Chinese pre-Tainanmen Square? Burmese post the putch?) Nor can I recall them demanding a standard of journalistic integrity and accountability similar to that of, say, the US. The catalogue of American darkness and blunder in its international dealings is there for the whole world to rightly deplore because no nation has ever devoted itself so single-mindedly to enshrining the principle of free expression.
In contrast, sections of the Pakistani media today suggested that September 11 was a Zionist plot. Proof? No Jews were on the flights. What explains this unusual take? Not “history”. At this point, “history” deserves a break.
Unfortunately, people steeped in the belief that hatemongering is always wrong are inevitably going to be at a disadvantage when confronted by those who perceive that belief to be a convenient and strategic weakness and use it as such. Hence ten years after Saddam Hussein unleashed the dogs of war – and was defeated – he successfully portrays “the US” as the villain. His refusal to comply with US ultimatums, trading on a liberal democratic squeamishness for killing that he doesn’t share, results in UN sanctions. These are in turn blamed for killing “1 million Iraqi babies.” Ergo, terrorism is “justified” against the US.
There is not the faintest shred of evidence to suggest that Saddam feels any more remorse about dead babies, in any quantum, than he does about killing adults. But he’s absolutely right about who does. In Sydney, an anti-war, (i.e anti-US), rally featured posters claiming some sort of moral-basis parity between the Gulf War and September 11. “Gandhi and Mandela demand we turn the other cheek” read another. News to Nelson Mandela no doubt.
“Death to America”, “Holy War”, these aren’t morality-based ethnoreligious precepts taken in with mother’s milk. They’re slogans-as-symbols carefully constructed – and manipulated – by people who consciously and cynically pervert religion for their own ends. Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, bin Laden – all owe far more to the spiritual inspiration provided by Mein Kampf than they do to the Quraan. And to the spin-doctoring skills that provide the moral imprimatur of the exact reverse.
Terrorists always share a vampire-like horror of light being shed upon their real motivations. And an utter contempt for the notion of a shared humanity. To treat with them as if they do might well be the road to a golden future, but it looks more likely to be a pathway back to Munich circa 1938.
Bush Jr has said he will pump $US 30 billion to keep the airline industry flying. He will use Keyensian economic policies to keep the US economy from going into recession. These are policies that the US, through the international instruments like the IMF, WTO and World Bank it controls would never tolerate of other nations. I wonder why there is so much resentment of the US by other countries?
The US will now allow its agencies to assassinate foreigners. It will repeal a ban on the CIA using those involved in human rights violations in its work. Bush Snr has said that the rights enjoyed by Americans do not have to extend to foreigners in the field of covert operations. So the US will use unsavoury people and unsavoury means to defeat terrorism. Something does not make sense. There is a smell of double standards here. I wonder why there is so much resentment of the US by other countries?
The cycle of imperial arrogance followed by payback followed by retaliation continues and Americans continued to be absolutely astonished that not everyone likes them. The US will supply the northern Mujihadeen with weapons and training paid for by guess what? More heroin. I predict now that the anti US terrorists of 2015 will graduate from the class of 2001 of the CIA school of counter terrorism, Campus of Afghanistan in the tradition of Osama Bin Laden.
4. A TALE FROM A FRONT
Michel Dignand in Wagga Wagga, NSW
I know it was a surprise to you, that someone as old as me could have such ‘small l’ liberal ideas. (Michel’s last piece was in Why is Howard not addressing us?)
I spent the Christmas of 1961 in St. Petersburg just across the bay from Tampa, Florida. You’ll notice the appropriateness of the reference, but I’m not going to labour it. I was, actually, the Bo’sun’s Mate on the warship H.M.S. Whirlwind at the time. The only war we were attending was the USA’s war, which went on and on and on, against Cuba. Has it ended yet? No, not yet.
You need to know that we were, surrealistically, tied up on a wall that was literally on the campus of the University of South Florida. We didn’t know that. But on Christmas eve, from no-where, maybe thirty or forty students of the University, mostly young women, came down at sunset and sat on the grassy bank beside our warship, and, very quietly, began to sing Christmas carols for us.
There are two sides to this story: firstly, many of us cried and tried to hide our tears that night, as soft voices made us look into our hearts and wish that we were home with our families; and secondly, very many of us got laid that night, cementing an alliance that had much to do with youth and little to do with education.
Americans are not, you know, evil people. Many of them are stupid, even more of them are uneducated. Most of them are repressed. Ten percent of them are in jail. Very few of them know or care about anything that
relates to anything outside their own county. That’s county, not country. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
But are Australians much different? It would be nice to believe that we were better educated than that. That we lived in a real democracy. That we understood.
And it could have been so; but we voted instead for the barbarians who cut our education budgets and gave the money to the rich. And we voted instead for the barbarians who cut our health budgets and gave that money, too, to the rich. And we cut our legal budgets, worst of all, maybe; and we gave that, too, to the very, very rich. Some of them were lawyers.
You won’t, I know, have missed the point: we cannot continue as we have been. The ONLY way forward is through education. First we must educate ourselves so that Australians start to think, and to think logically: if ‘this’, then logically ‘that’.
Secondly we need to do what we can to educate others. We could start with America.
Thirdly, we need to begin to help others (and there are a vast number of ‘others’) to become educated, to think for themselves.
Imagine, as John Lennon might have said, what might happen then!
5. AN AMERICAN’S VIEW
Mary Michael Booth, an American in NSW
As I have continued to watch the events unfold since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I am saddened to see many countries’ leaders back down on their support of any actions the United States may take. I understand their reluctance. Many are concerned about the global economy. Others are concerned about their already war-riddled countries. Still others are concerned about religious differences. What I don’t understand is how they can distance themselves so quickly. Thousands of people were killed in the attack and they came from at least 60 countries. Are those lives so cheap?
Whatever bin Laden might say to the contrary, the attack on U.S. soil was not aimed at solely the United States. The attack was made against the world. He is putting us all on notice that none of us are safe from his judgment of us. This time, according to bin Laden, it was because the United States dared to step on the holy ground of his native Saudi Arabia. The way I understood it, the Saudi Arabian government deemed it necessary to allow the United States to use their land to help a country that was being overrun by a petty dictator. Perhaps my understanding is incorrect. After all, I only get news from the United States and Australian perspectives.
But I ask you all this: What happens if your country does something that bin Laden doesn’t like? China has stood up and said that while they would not provide troops to any action, bin Laden wouldn’t be allowed sanctuary in their country – bold words from the neighboring Chinese. What happens if bin Laden doesn’t like that response? He’s shown that he has the manpower and financial backing to make a long distance strike. China could be in danger of retaliation even now.
As to the concerns of the global economy, what’s to stop bin Laden from kidnapping executives and other notable public figures for ransom? Will that not affect the economy?
As to concerns about the already war-torn impoverished countries, I have watched war break out in pockets since I was a child. I have watched in horror as “ethnic cleansing” was performed because of one person’s perception of the “perfect race.” I have watched in fear for you as one man after another slaughters his opposition because he believes he has the right to rule. I only know that when the U.S came to your aid as requested, we were criticized for not “minding our own business.” What is to stop bin Laden from preventing the aid of the United States or any other country should you ask? In the future, your countries’ very lives may be at stake.
As to the differences of religious beliefs, I have watched in desolation after each country has fought for religious freedom. The Islamic beliefs are being perverted to meet the designs of a false prophet. What is to stop bin Laden from forcing us all to bend to his might?
If none of this sounds familiar, look back into history. You only have to go back a few decades. A monster arose in the 1930’s and almost had the world under his thumb in less than ten years. If that is the world in which you want to live then I am going to fight you with every fibre of my being. If that is not the world in which you want to live but you cannot get past your religious differences, then perhaps you can provide aid in other ways – such as ensuring no financial aid is available. If you cannot provide military aid because you are a peaceful nation, then perhaps you can help by providing information.
I realize that I am considered privileged because I lived in the United States. I am doubly privileged because I lived amongst the diversity of the people of the world who come to live in the country in which I was born. While we are not perfect in our acceptance of others, we continue to try. While we don’t always agree with each other, we have the right to disagree. While we may not speak the same language, sorrow, concern, support and love are understood in any language.
As I watched all of you and your children put flowers at our embassy sites around the world, I only know that if we do not become a world united against terrorism, there will be no world for our children to inherit.
I see that the National Servicemen’s Association is calling for the “immediate introduction” of conscription to meet our (as yet completely undefined and unrequested) obligations to the “War Against Terrorism”. You’d think an organisation made up of men who were forced to go to war (and most of them to a tragedy like Vietnam) would be the first to demand the complete elimination of conscription under almost any circumstances, wouldn’t you?
But no, not these boyos – just as hazing in boarding schools and the military seems to gain new supporters from it’s previous victims, they just can’t wait to force more young men and women to take up arms against their wills and die on foreign shores. Just to show they’re no wimps on the opposition benches in this time of national crisis Labor MP Roger Price is also claiming we will have to consider conscription or using the Army Reserves.
If this is really a national crisis, a war against pure evil, a real threat to our nation and it’s people, we will have no need of conscripts – the young men and women of Australia will volunteer their lives to protect their country as they always have. If on the other hand they view it as yet another stupid pointless and unwinnable excursion on the far side of the planet that has nothing to do with Australia or Australians then they will quite rightly refuse to have anything to do with it.
Any country that has to force it’s citizens to go to war to defend it against a legitimate threat to it’s survival does not deserve to survive. Any government that forces it’s citizens to sacrifice their lives on the government’s say so certainly does not deserve to survive.
Old soldiers never die, young ones do.
7. THE WOJDYLO DEBATE
John Wojdylo in Germany answers his Webdiary critics
Polly Bush ( see Taking on terrorism: The paths ahead) I want to hear your deepest, uncensored reflections. I want authenticity, I want to know your mind. I want the connections between one sentence and the next in your text to be carefully considered – in no way reckless. I want you to imagine the reason and the milieu in which your interlocutor’s sentences were written. And I want your sentences to be meaningful to you. When I write, you will receive no less.
It’s best to avoid word-game logic, it’s usually too trite to convey anything meaningful, as in:
Polly: I don’t really know what’s been happening on Australian TV,’ (he says) and yet he asserts, ‘the expert discussions on German television have gone way beyond what is possible on Australian TV’. Is it possible that Wojdylo himself is blinded by this fear of not knowing?
No. I don’t have to be aware of what’s currently happening in the media to have an idea of what’s possible in it. We can deduce characteristics of a medium that will still be there when we’re not looking at it. I should have mentioned that I read transcripts of any TV programs I can find (4 Corners, 7:30 Report), but I’m not going to clutter up my prose by listing every possible variation and making my writing invulnerable to every possible objection. The reader must be credited with intelligence.
Actually, I’ve spent decades thinking about Australian culture, probably every day of my life, in one way or another, formulating what I see as its strengths and limitations, once in a while trying to hold up a mirror to my fellow Australians, often learning from them, but at other times trying to alert people to runaway-trains of thought that inevitably lead to the problems they are trying to avoid.
One typical characteristic is people shying away from the mirror, feeling threatened by it, by any negative portrayals of their land. Opposite to the Japanese, say, who generally crave mirrors, maybe too much. This already tells us something about how an Australian sees him or herself, about the Australian character. There are always exceptions, but the exceptions prove the rule.
Another typical reaction is to cite 10 counterexamples to any “characteristic”, and “explain it away” very quickly – without a second of thought . Most people I’ve talked to in many countries don’t do this – they take on board what you say, broaden your understanding by explaining something you didn’t realize before, or just give reasons why it isn’t so.
Or, a variation: mention X as a characteristic of, say, the legal system, and somebody will immediately say that the legal system has nothing to do with the rest of Australia. As if the legal system is hermatically sealed from the rest of the Australian mind, and not a creation of it. We create our society in our image; and the image contains our flaws. Are we permitted to talk about flaws in Australian society?
My legal system example comes from a debate that has been percolating along for about half a decade, led mainly by Evan Whitton. My contribution is the assertion that his observation about Australia’s adversarial system has profound resonances in Australian culture and politics:
Evan Whitton (The Law Report, 24/3/1998): “… it’s the only trade in the world that says the truth doesn’t matter. It’s got an adversary system that obscures the truth; trials are run by lawyers and they don’t have much interest in truth and justice. It’s got a series of rules for concealing evidence from jurors; it puts the innocent in prison and keeps the guilty out; and it’s run by a cartel of lawyers and untrained judges.”
Now, who are the “innocent in prison” in Nauru and Australia? And how did they get there? The society that shapes, and is in turn shaped by, the legal system, has deemed that “there is a definite link between the boatpeople and terrorists”. Our values, our mindset have put them there. Or, more precisely, the isolationalist mindset, together with a dereliction of duty in searching out the truth, has, and this surfaces in various nations in various eras. There’s nothing intrinsically Australian about it; except we have an Australian version of it now, with Australian flavour, and it must be criticized.
What does Whitton mean by “the truth”? He means the kind of unbroken train of logic that I described: “Certainly no long, logical trains of explanation, or simulations. This is one of the traits that, for me, typifies Australia. We shun “getting on the inside” of a situation. Our society, our adversarial legal system (where a logical chain of events is almost never presented), our debates, our conversations, proceed as a series of disconnected snapshots from the “outside”. The surface view. Trains of logic are almost never followed through from beginning to end. We pay for it psychologically. In the absence of logical sense, our imaginations are free to latch onto any horrors that infiltrate our consciousness. I suspect that because of the aesthetic, surface, view so common in Australia, because Australia’s public figures are small people, fear is rampant now in Australia.”
Polly: Wojdylo’s German television example of going “way beyond” is a flight simulation to give the audience an “inside” view of the terrorist attacks, which according to Wojdylo provides “faith in the future”.
Actually, if you reread the text properly, there are two television examples, each consisting in a discussion involving a number of experts and an audience: during one of them, a computer simulation is presented. The simulation “gets in on the inside” of the flight’s last seconds. It’s extremely unpalatable for people who are not used to seeing “interior logic” and using this way of thinking to gain knowledge. Polly agrees. Thanks!
My claim is that the “inside” view – symbolised, and partly constituted, by the simulation – can provide understanding that is much nearer the truth than the “outer” view, when social or political conditions (e.g. racist-charged public atmosphere) preclude any proper formulation of the “outer” view.
Then we know that we’re not confronted anymore by total darkness: note that the terrorist pilot of the aircraft told the passengers, “We’re heading back to the airport” to calm them down. The abyss causes fear; illuminating some of it, quells fear. We have “faith in the future” in the sense that we are in a fit state to face the reality and take the next step. The question is: how do we move forward in fulfilling our responsibilities and without losing our humanity?
Evidence that “fear is rampant now in Australia” begins with the fact of the popularity of Prime Minister Howard’s aggressive stance on boatpeople; the apparent uncritical acceptance of the Government view. I wrote: “We pay for it psychologically. In the absence of logical sense, our imaginations are free to latch onto any horrors that infiltrate our consciousness.” Horrors such as that brought into the public consciousness by the Defence Minister: “there is a definite link between the boatpeople and terrorism.” And 70% of Australians believe him.
The “inside” view, in this case, amounts to imagining the Afghan refugee’s journey from his or her point of view, from beginning to end, in one unbroken train of thought. Just try to account for every step. Incapacity to do this signals a failure of the imagination and/or basic knowledge of the ground-level details. That’s when we try to read more. And it’s good to be able to read newspapers that do not have the same constraints of commercialism and entertainment as Australian newspapers ALWAYS do. The Government’s disjointed and disingenuous story can infiltrate our consciousness at every step of the journey that we are unable to account for. We are open to manipulation if we don’t know the basic, ground-level details. I’m saying, be an individual, think for yourself.
For at least 70% of Australians, the inside view is probably not a normal mode of thinking. It’s just not the done thing in Australia. Australians are not Japanese. Or Germans. They have different traditions of thought. This is why European continental philosophy has an entirely different character to British philosophy. And largely why German newspapers are different to Australian newspapers.
If Australians really were capable of doing – or were bothered to do – that one simple thought experiment – putting themselves in the shoes of an Afghan, and imagining themselves on this journey – then the untruthfulness and cynicism of the Government’s claims would have been immediately exposed. But we don’t have a gut feeling for ground-level details, so we lap up what we’re told.
Below are just two suspicions based on ignorance that evaporate into thin air once you have enough knowledge.
“It is suspicious that so many Afghan refugees arrive without travel documents” – thanks to Australian Broadcasting Tribunal Chairman, David Flint. But civil order is nonexistent in many parts of eastern Afghanistan; and where civil order exists, the Taliban is hardly going to provide the applicant with a passport. People escape using forged passports; but Australia immediately rejects applicants with forged documents – it’s standard procedure. Therefore boatpeople are instructed to ditch their passports.
“They could be carrying disease.” If you’re worried about germ warfare, imagine the length of their journey, and compare that to the usual incubation period of anthrax, botulism, anything you want. They’d be dead if they were infected; or they would have infected others and they’d be dead. Since none of the boatpeople appear to be sick, they must all have been immunised and are therefore all secret terrorists. Whether you fear anthrax or ordinary TB, the Immigration Department has done medical checks and found nothing. So the Immigration Minister’s claim is rubbish, and is nothing more than dangerous, hatred-inciting propaganda.
And so I wrote that unlike Paul Keating, Malcolm Fraser, Ninian Steven, Noel Pearson and a handful of others – all of them Australian – “none of the most powerful figures in Australian politics has the credibility in my eyes, or the ability, to stabilise and give form to the Australian public psyche, to drive away the terrifying creatures of the unknown. They are small people who cannot break out of the provincial paradigm, who do not have the vision or moral strength to inspire a love of what is good, of that which is beyond their immediate self-interest.”
Polly: However the sentence Wojdylo wrote that disturbed me the most was “If I just went on information I see in the Australian media, if I didn’t think about the possibilities at all, then I’d conclude that, in principle, there’s no reason, in this absolute fanatic nihilist mindset, not to murder as many westerners – or collaborating muslims – as possible, using nuclear or biological weapons, to achieve spectacular effect”. Apart from this being a crazy concept…
“This” could mean two things, so I have two replies.
a) It is certainly a crazy concept, being put into practice right now by a dangerous criminal who must be brought to justice – one who does not represent Islam or Afghanistan/Saudi Arabia, but himself. We know Bin Laden’s intention; and we know that he and his followers have the will to carry it out. The ideal army Bin Laden wants is a network of terrorist cells in every city on earth. To what extent he has this already, we don’t know: maybe his network extends to 60 or 70 cities. Maybe 200 cities. We know that he intends using biological weapons. Therefore we know that he intends – he may not succeed, or even attempt it – murdering many, many millions of people. As many as he could, or as many as he needs to. The war Australia is fighting is the following: while our attention is focussed on the Americans in Afghanistan, a gun is being pointed at some of our heads by somebody standing next to us, who otherwise appears completely normal. Whether Bin Laden lives or dies, he! has set in motion a criminal movement that intends to shift the world’s balance of power.
This is the reality. Face it. London already has begun to. London has made huge stockpiles of small-pox and anthrax vaccine. Among other things. I wonder if Australian authorities even care. I have read no newspaper reports about these sorts of preparations in Australia.
Given the gravity of the danger and near certainty of attack somewhere in the world in the not-too-distant future, Australia should immediately begin manufacturing and stockpiling the most neccesary vaccines, ready to export them to countries if or when needed. Facilities should be prepared to produce large amounts of many kinds of vaccine at very short notice.
The problem is, terrorists might use a cocktail of one or 50 different agents – and vaccines exist for only 15 or so. But it’s better to have something in store, than nothing.
b) “This” means: “the Australian media (up to a week or so ago) is not looking in any sensible way at the situation; we cannot use these media reports to think for ourselves, to form our own well-founded opinion or judge the gravity of the situation for ourselves. We understand Bin Laden’s intentions – they are completely dark. But no intelligent analysis is occuring in the Australian media that indicates the limits of the darkness Bin Laden can attain if he is to achieve his goals.” The main purpose of Terror Unlike Movies was to elucidate what these limits might be. A few good articles have appeared in the last week. Some aspects are still obviously missing. These aspects are related to what I’ve already said.
Polly: [it is] insulting to the Australian media and insinuating Australians can’t think for themselves. I just find it laughable that he airs these views in a thought provoking space of the Australian media that is the Webdiary. Wojdylo made some interesting points but his persecution complex …
Laughable? The imminent use of biological weapons and the threat of millions of deaths is not a laughing matter. Persecution complex? Ridiculous. Please think carefully about the text, delve into your memory, your experiences, into everything you know, then start typing.
For example. Didn’t you realize that I could have been speaking from the point of view of the Afghan refugees on Nauru and the asylum seekers imprisoned for years in our detention camps? What is their view of Australian culture, and Australia? 70% of Australians have failed the spot-the-Government-propaganda test – maybe, just maybe, this is an indication of a greater malaise in our community: What might that be? Or maybe you think the current treatment of refugees is an isolated glitch, hermatically sealed from everything else than Australians have done and will do?
You can’t just say, “70% support him, 30% don’t, so don’t lump all Australians together.” Unfortunately, we’re all blighted by the shame of the actions of Howard and the 70%. We will suffer the consequences too. Just as we – you and me – have been volunteered into a war to play a role that our government hasn’t even bothered to explain to us yet. All Australians suffer the consequences and bear moral responsibility for the actions of other Australians.
Do you believe it plausible that a nation can go through a period where it’s obviously lacking in one or another aspect of culture? Or is Australia indeed, as the song goes, “a land of plenty” – and nobody is permitted ever to criticise it? Have you already forgotten the universal ridicule piled on Barry Jones because of one extravagant diagram in an otherwise excellent visionary document? The sort of ridicule that could not happen in a technologically literate counry at the peak of its powers. Can Australians think for themselves? I keep hoping so – but I’ll let you decide.
Tim Dunlop in Canberra (see More on war fever) has a serious problem not only in thinking, but also in reading comprehension. Even Imre Saluszinsky would tell you that when reading a text, you ought not impose your ideal onto it, obliterating what it has to say, but rather draw out the meanings it has to offer and allow them to settle in the palm of your hand.
I am accused of neglecting Tim Dunlop’s Fatwah: He wrote: Let all analysis start at the stillpoint between those two considerations – that this was an unforgivable tragedy, a vile act of the worst sort AND that the US needs to take stock of why it is a target for such an outrage – and therefore, I “can’t really be taken seriously”.
Like medieval thinkers everywhere, Tim insists that every discourse progress according to the Approved Way; namely, first the lamentation, “It was an unforgiveable tragedy, a vile act…”, then an inevitable prostration before the Great Eternal Truth: that Bin Laden was sponsored at some staged by the CIA. No other expression of understanding of the same facts is permitted; no other aspects of God may be gleaned, in particular: in a Heideggerian universe, how does one take the next step, carrying out one’s responsibilities, while preserving one’s humanity?
Tim dismisses Thomas Friedman as a “second-rate apologist for US exceptionalism”, but does not address the the particular text I cited. In it, Friedman advocates helping democracy in Arab nations.
In fact, nothing Tim seems to want is actually excluded by my text; but the order and emphasis was obviously too confusing. Terribly sorry. Next time I’ll write the appropriate bits in CAPITAL LETTERS, so even the most myopic of Mullahs will see them.