Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dark Materials I

Luckily the Ik are not numerous - about two thousand - and those two years reduced their numbers greatly. So I am hopeful that their isolation will remain as complete as in the past, until they die out completely. I am only sorry that so many individuals will have to die, slowly and painfully, until the ned comes to them all. For the individuals one can only feel infinite sorrow at what they have lost; hatred must be reserved for the society they live in, the machine they have constructed to enable them to survive. They have not created it willingly or consciously; it hascreate ditself through their biological need for survival, out of the only materials available, and in the only possible form. It is that survival machine that is the monster... They had a simple choice of living or dying; they had already lost the rest - family, friendship, hope, love - and they made the same choice that most of us, I believe, would make...

There is no goodness left for the Ik, only a full stomach, and that only for those whose stomachs are already full. But if there is no goodness, stop to think, there is no badness, and if their is no love, neither is there any hate. Perhaps that, after all, is progress; but it is also emptiness.
[Colin M Turnbull, The Mountain People, New York 1972 - p285-6]

If we grant, as the evidence says we should, that the Ik were not always as they are, and that they once possessed in full measure those values that we all hold to be basic to humanity, indispensible for both survival and sanity, then what the Ik are telling us is that these qualities are not inherent in humanity at all, they are not a necessary part of human nature.Those values which we cherish so highly and which some use to point to our infinite superiority over other forms animal life may indeed be basic to human society, but not to humanity, and that means that the Ik clearly show that society itself is not indispensible for man's survival, that man is not the social animal he has always thought himself to be, and that he is perfectly capable of associating for purposes of survival without being social. The Ik have successfully abandoned useless appendages, by which I refer to those "basic" qualities such as family, cooperative sociality, belief, love, hope andso forth, for the very good reason that in their context these militated against survival. By showing that man can do without these appendages the Ik show that man can do without society in the sense we mostly mean by th eword (implying those qualities), for they have replaced human society with a mere survival system that does not take human emotion into account...

Note: the title of this post is a fairly obvious reference to the title of a book that I haven't actually read. Naughty me.

Friday, December 16, 2005


PRIME Minister John Howard returned to Australia from the East Asian Summit with a plea for Australians to ignore text messages calling for more riots.

"Don't take any notice of them, be sensible, enjoy the sun, it's Christmas and have a good time and, for heaven's sake, remember you don't achieve any advances in this world through the use of violence, thank you," Mr Howard said.
[Brendan Nicholson, The Age]

He's right you know - what it really takes to achieve advances in this world is a bit of diplomacy by other means.

"(Let's) celebrate the fact that this is still the greatest country in the world in which to live and let nobody tell us otherwise and let's not wallow in self-pity and self-flagellation and self-criticism."

And anyone who is the least bit unhappy, or has difficult personal problems, will be prosecuted, under the Happiness Act (1995 as amended).

"If there are some longer-term lessons to be learnt then the time to reflect on those is not right now," he said. "Maybe there were warning signs around that have been ignored and shouldn't have been ignored."

But with Christmas coming up, we'll ignore them a little longer. With luck we'll get through to the resumption of Parliament without another bucket of shit hitting the fan.

"Some of it is just incredibly bad behaviour fuelled by too much drink … We ought to calm everybody down, deal with the law breakers, support the police."

And the rest, let's be quite clear about this, has nothing to do with the R-word.

"I have a very simple view that this country should welcome people from all around the world, and benefit from that, providing when they come to this country they become Australians. That's my simple philosophy full stop."

What is mine and what it is too. If those foreigners aren't prepared to fit in, well what can they expect. It's the Australian way. Which, I remind you, is not at all racist.


With every man and his dog finding dire predictions from yesteryear on how things were going to go terribly wrong sooner or later, I can't see any good reason not to join in. Here's something some poms wrote 32 years ago:

Once upon a time, long long ago, there lay in a valley far, far away in the mountains, the most contented kingdom the world has ever known.

It was called Happy Valley, and it was ruled over by a wise old King called Otto, and all his subjects flourished and were happy, and there were no discontents or grumblers, because Wise King Otto had had them all put to death along with the Trade Union leaders many years before. and all the good happy folk of Happy Valley sang and danced all day long, and anyone who was for any reason miserable or unhappy or who had any difficult personal problems was prosecuted under the Happiness Act.
(from The Brand New Monty Python Papperbok, Palin et al London 1973)

Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda (1494 - 1573)

Another Great Dickhead of History

In 1518 the Spanish colonists in the Carribean wrote to their King, Charles, asking him to allow more black slaves to make up for the loss of the native population of the Carribean islands, who had been worked to extinction. They were supported by the four Jeronymite priors who governed the islands for Spain and by Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, self-appointed defender of the native Americans. Like any enlightened man of the Sixteenth Century he believed that an African enslaved by Christians was better off than one left in Africa. He was less trusting of his compatriots and co-relionists when it came to the natives of the New World.

Around 1524, Las Casas conceived a development scheme for the north coast of South America. Forty Spanish colonists were to set off with ten African slaves each, to remove the temptation of misusing the Indians. The enterprise was a failure. Most of the settlers were dispersed in the Carribean before they reached the site of the new colony. Those who did arrive were slaughtered by Indians "who had not yet learned to distinguish between good and bad Spaniards" (Thomas).

In 1535, Las Casas wrote to the king saying:

the remedy of the Christians is this, that His Majesty should think it right to send to each of the islands 500 or 600 blacks or whatever other number seems appropriate.

I expect you're wondering why Bartolomé de Las Casas isn't named at the top of this post. After all, he does sound a lot like a dickhead. The answer is simple; while I was doing the research, I found a bigger dickhead, the Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda of the title.

While Bartolomé de Las Casas was advocating the interests of the Indians - admittedly at the expense of the interests of the Africans - a controversy was going on, in Spain, about the treatment of the American Indians. The argument began in 1511 when the Dominican Fray Antonio de Montesinos gave the colonists a serve from his pulpit in Santo Domingo. This set off an argument that culminated in the Valladolid Controversy of 1550 which pitted Bartolomé de Las Casas, apostle of the Indians, in the red corner against our protagonist, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, the colonist's friend, in the Blue corner. In front of a judging panel of 15 notables they debated whether the Indians of the New World were Aristotle's "slaves by nature". Nothing was said about the Africans. The judges awarded the debate to Las Casas. Whether thishad any effect in the real world is questionable.

In the 1550s, when writing his Historia de Las Indias, Las Casas explained that he had realised that it was wrong to replace one form of slavery with another. His book wasn't published for another 350 years.

Special Bonus Dickhead: In the 1570s the subject of African slavery finally did become controversial in Spain and one or two people spoke out against it. On the pro-slavery side, Fray Francisco de la Cruz, a Dominican Friar, told the Inquisition in Lima that an angel had told him:

... the blacks are justly captives by reason of the sins of their forefathers and that becasue of that sin God gave them that colour.


Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Lazy Day Links Post

Evan Jones (no relation to Alan) at Alert and Alarmed has two good posts on deportations and Phil Ruddock.

Samuel McSkimming does a nice job on Alan Jones at catallaxy. A lot of the comments there make the "Sedition Watch" post I was writing, with selected excerpts of David Marr's article in the SMH, look pretty redundant. So instead of all that stuff, here's a bit of the Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995 (as amended last week):

80.2 Sedition
Urging violence within the community
(5) A person commits an offence if:
(a) the person urges a group or groups (whether distinguished by race, religion, nationality or political opinion) to use force or violence against another group or other groups (as so distinguished); and
(b) the use of the force or violence would threaten the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 7 years.
(6) Recklessness applies to the element of the offence under subsection (5) that it is a group or groups that are distinguished by race, religion, nationality or political opinion that the first-mentioned person urges the other person to use force or violence against.

Oh, alright, here's a quote from Marr:

[Jones] assured his audience he "understood" why that famous text message went out and he read it right through again on air: "Come to Cronulla this weekend to take revenge. This Sunday every Aussie in the shire get down to North Cronulla to support the leb and wog bashing day …" ...

When John called on Tuesday to recommend vigilante action - "If the police can't do the job, the next tier is us" - Jones did not dissent. "Yeah. Good on you John." And when he offered a maxim his father had picked up in the war - "Shoot one, the rest will run" - Jones roared with laughter. "No, you don't play Queensberry's rules. Good on you, John."

But before we all start up a hue and cry for Jones (Alan, not Evan) to get seven years for sedition, it might be worth taking a look at his last daily comments on the Today Show. We should also remember that the "new" sedition provisions are merely some old law renovated and both John Howard and Phil Ruddock have made it perfectly clear that the sedition laws won't be enforced. Especially, I suspect, in the case of Alan Jones and 2GBH.

Update: guess who's joined the root-causists:

So does Sunday's riot add up to a simple case of damn-us white racism, or to something far more complex and human? Oh, yes, the rioting was cowardly, vile and disgusting. Pack attacks are, which is why we must not merely condemn, but understand.

To prevent. Best start now. There will be more riots before we spruce up this home of ours and only quiet thinking, not screaming, will help us.

And now for something completely irrelevant:

Don't be too proud of never forgetting a face: It turns out even a humble bumblebee can distinguish and recall different human faces, say researchers who have conducted experiments on the surprisingly canny insects.

Researchers in the UK have found that bumblebees show a remarkable ability to spot the same human face even days after training.

I wonder if it's possible to train them to attack on sight as well?