Friday, January 10, 2003

End of Week Blog

Friday, 10 January 2003

With two blog-free days coming up - although I'll be working on new posts, they're unlikely to go up before Monday - I'm just going to note a couple of interesting news items from yesterday.

The first is that Britain has joined the world's roster of alert but not alarmed nations with the discovery of a home laboratory producing ricin, one of the world's deadliest posions:

While it is 6000 times more toxic than cyanide, ricin is not an effective poison for mass weapons because it has been proved to kill people only when injected or ingested rather than just being sprayed into the open air.

The most famous victim of ricin poisoning was

Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov, who was killed on a London street in 1978 by Bulgarian government agents who apparently jabbed him in the leg with a poison-tipped umbrella.

Prime Minister Tony Blair appealed for people to be (you guessed it) "alert but not alarmed". No doubt the British police are now on the look-out for suspicious umbrella-wielding islamic types.

The Pacific island nation of Nauru is in the middle of a political crisis with the ousting of President Rene Harris after losing a no-confidence vote in the Nauruan parliament. The Australian Government maintains that this has nothing to do with Mr harris' decision to accept thousands of asylum seekers who were originally bound for Australia. They're probably right: Nauru is a caring compassionate nation, much like Australia and there's no reason to suppose that asylum seekers would be any less welcome in Nauru than they are here.

And now, since Gareth Parker at least has noted that the relaxed and comfortable Tugboat History of Australia is going to be a series, it's time to get off-line for a couple of days and work up the next installment. Thanks Gareth. And there's still that John Howard piece that I sort of promised Ken Parish to research.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Bunk is History

Wednesday, 8 January 2002

One of the issues that has arisen in the dispute over hero-historian Keith Windschuttle's assault on the orthodox account of Australian history as a continuing massacre, is the need for a history which emphasises nation-building. Such a history would not be a bad thing: a relaxed, comfortable history may be just what an alert but not alarmed nation needs. It has one other major recommendation: just as Sellars and Yeatman (authors of 1066 And All That) were able to declare an end to English history once the US assumed the mantle of "top nation", Australia's history of nation building has its own logical end, sometime in the 1980s with the widespread acceptance of the idea that the best use for a nation is to get rid of the archaic bits that interfere with the operation of the free market and either sell off or rent out the rest.

Such a history shouldn't be too difficult to write, either. Most of the basic facts are available on the web in one form or another, easily found through the web scholar's favourite tool, the Google search. For the rest, the hero-historian can call on the same intellectual resources as the hero-columnists and hero-bloggers who will argue the truth of his (or her) account of history against the deliberate falsehoods of his more "scholarly" adversaries. So I see no reason why I shouldn't undertake the important task of filling this cultural vacuum, however presumptuous it may seem.

Key Events in Australian History: the Sailing of the First Fleet

May 13, 1787: First Fleet sets sail from Portsmouth.

July 1, 1787: Convict George Michael [no relation] on The Prince of Wales, former pickpocket and amateur accordionist, begins composition of a new ballad to commemorate the voyage, under the working title Tooralie, Ooralie, Addity.

July 3, 1787: After complaints from fellow convicts and members of the ship's crew, Michael's accordion is confiscated and thrown overboard.

July 7, 1787: Midshipman David Beckham [no relation], of The Prince of Wales, reports the possible theft of his comb which he alleges was in the pocket of his pea-jacket when he went below to inspect the convict quarters.

July 8, 1787: After a search of The Prince of Wales' convict quarters, Midshipman Beckham's comb is found in the possession of George Michael, along with several sheets of tissue paper which were not itemised in the ship's manifest.

July 9, 1787: Convict Michael sentenced to 20 lashes at the ship's mashead, sentence to be carried out on the following day.

July 10, 1787: After receiving 20 lashes at the ship's masthead, Convict Michael sentenced to 10 more after calling the officers of The Prince of Wales "a bunch of bleeding philistines". The sentence is carried out immediately.

26 January, 1788: Fleet arrives at Port Jackson. Convict Michael is among the first convicts put ashore, to rousing cheers from his fellow convicts and the ship's crew of The Prince of Wales.

27 January, 1788: At the direction of Captain Arthur Phillip, Master-at-Arms William Hague [no relation] of the Royal Marines makes the following speech to the assembled convicts of the First Fleet:

Right you lazy buggers, there's supposed to be a nation here in 200 years and it's your job to build it. So get off your lazy arses and get cracking.

The great task of building the Australian nation was officially begun.

Monday, January 06, 2003

A Random Thought

Monday, 6 January 2002

Preaching to the choir may not be very effective but it's preferable to pleading with the firing squad.