The British came – and went (Part 3)

As the last British governor of Hong Kong vacated his post, he reportedly uttered regret that the British had not had enough time to introduce democracy to the island. Through 99 years?

Where democracy involves direct governance by the people – as perhaps in ancient India (refer Nehru), pre-Viking Britain (refer the Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences), early Athens (refer Plato), or even early capitalistic Britain (refer any number of historians) – not every male resident would have been so entitled. I hold to my hope that the good of the people had been the ethos underlying judgements in those places; in reality, the perceived benefit to decision-makers may have been the primary motivation.

Representative government of the modern kind, which purports to give every franchised individual a vote in deciding which political party should rule during a definable period, appears fair. Yet, where voting is not compulsory, those who eventually realise the futility of believing that they contribute to governance will not bother to vote.

In Australia, with compulsory voting, the ‘donkey’ vote can prevail. In more recent decades, many who reach voting age (18) are apparently not registering themselves as voters – reportedly without penalty, in the main. Penalties do apply to those who are on the electoral roll but did not vote.

Western democracy in Australia involves choosing a political party, through voting for the candidate nominated by the ‘poobahs’ of the party. There are no known selection criteria for candidates; and no set qualifications in terms of education plus work experience.  Elected representatives must support their party in federal and state parliaments. Voters are not asked about their needs.

Recently, the Pope appears to be the second object of fealty for both major coalitions. Accountability is only through elections, giving voters a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee (refer ‘Alice through the looking glass’).

No accountability procedures seem to apply to local government. There are no perceivable political loyalties; only personal interest. Rate payers, the voters, are not consulted.

Western democracy did appear to be a benefit for former British colonial territories. However, the vote available to every adult, especially in multi-tribal nations, regrettably subjugates minority tribes – even those who had lived within their own lands. I cite Ceylon, where ancient Hindu Tamil lands became subject to control by Buddhist Sinhalese, after Britain left a political heritage of Western democracy. The British colonial authorities, well-known for their divide-and-rule practices, left a legacy there (and everywhere) which makes a mockery of effective democracy.

This situation applies in, say, Africa, where European ‘spheres of interest’ led to boundaries of colonial-created nations cutting across tribal boundaries. In almost every nation so created, minority tribes became subject to domination by the majority tribe. A passing thought: Were former superior colonial Christians of the ‘white race’ then able to argue that the ‘coloured races’ are really unable to rule themselves? (Singapore’s Mabhubani, when Ambassador to the United Nations, wrote a clever sardonic book titled “Can Asians really think?”)

Western democracy needs improvement. The pretence of ‘representative’ government is absurd. The control of a nation by political parties, which govern from election to election, is deplorable. Surely democracy can be modified to be more equitable. Today, control by Vaticanites of Australian politics and human rights (a role reversal – control by a minority tribe) continues.

The British came – and went (Part 1 )

In 2012, when I felt keenly that I could hear the whisper of the wings of Death, I wrote 44 articles (of a somewhat intellectual flavour) for exinearticles.com. I wished to leave my thoughts on some serious topics.

Since then, each month, a number of readers have looked at my articles. The article attracting the most interest is titled “The pros and cons of British colonialism.”

That anyone could find any benefits to a subject society from European colonialism must attract some attention. To then find that the author is a former colonial subject who is avowedly anti-colonial (but clearly not anti-British), would be more surprising.

The principal benefit I and my age cohort received in British Malaya was a sound education in English. This was based on a curriculum in Britain. It was truly broad-based. My classmates succeeded in various disciplines post-school, studying in Britain and certain colonial outposts offering competitive professional qualifications. One classmate became a professor at Harwell, UK, the atomic research institution.

Our education was, in my experience, superior to that provided to my offspring in Australia. This assessment is based upon my substantial involvement in the education system in the national capital. My children’s education was superior to that offered to their children. By then, there were many fads creeping into what should have been a focused preparation of the nation’s youth to become viable in a highly competitive global realm.

My first grandchild, near the end of her second year in school, could not read. Why? Phonics was out – by fiat, by the teaching profession. The rationale? Semantically unclear verbiage of such a high abstraction that one would need a bank of anvils to ground the attempted rationale to an operationally-definable level. We do have many, many excellent teachers – but they had to toe the line. In two 20-minute sessions with me, my grand-daughter could read. She turned out to be a bookworm. What a waste of 2 years!

The second benefit of colonialism which I accepted was British law, codified, and based on precedence. That justice does not always match the intent of the law, is covered in another post.

The third benefit is the concept of democracy. It has surface merit. However, regrettably, from my 70-year exposure to Australian democracy, I now assert that what is known as Western democracy is a sham. Yet, as the former Prime Minister of Singapore (Lee Kuan Yew) showed, there are other viable versions of democracy. Refer my later post.

China in the 15th Century AD

“We, Zheng He and companions, at the beginning of Zhu Di’s reign received the Imperial Commission as envoys to the barbarians. Up until now seven voyages have taken place and, each time, we have commanded several tens of thousands of government soldiers and more than a hundred oceangoing vessels. We have … reached countries of the Western Regions, more than three thousand countries in all.

We have … beheld in the ocean huge waves like mountains rising sky high, and we have set eyes on barbarian regions far away, hidden in a blue transparency of light vapours, while our sails, loftily unfurled like clouds, day and night continued their course, rapid like that of a star, traversing those savage waves.”

(Stone inscriptions in the Palace of the Celestial Spouse Chiang su and Liu Shia Chang, dated 1431)

From back cover. The inside front cover states as follows.

On 8 March 1421 the biggest fleet the world had ever seen sailed from its base in China. The ships, huge junks nearly five hundred feet long and built from the finest teak, were under the command of Emperor Zhu Di’s eunuch admirals. Their mission was to proceed all the way to the end of earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas and unite the whole world in Confucian harmony. That journey would last over two years and circle the globe.”

“… They had also discovered Antarctica, reached Australia three hundred and fifty years before Cook and solved the problem of longitude three hundred years before the Europeans.”

The above are extracts from ‘1421. The year China discovered the world’ by Gavin Menzies. He is a retired Royal Navy Submarine Commanding Officer, born in China. He “spent 15 years tracing the astonishing voyages” of Admiral Zheng He’s fleets.

The book contains many pages of supporting evidence; eye witness diaries; key charts “describing the first navigation of the world”; and the “determination of longitude by the Chinese in the early 15th century.” A somewhat comprehensive presentation.

As said on the inside front cover “His compelling narrative pulls together ancient maps, precise navigational knowledge, astronomy and the surviving accounts of Chinese explorers and the later European navigators. It brings to light the artefacts and inscribed stones left behind by the emperor’s fleet, the evidence of sunken junks along the route and the ornate votive offerings left by the Chinese sailors wherever they landed, in thanks to Shao Lin, goddess of the sea.”

The reviews shown by amazon.co.uk had an average rating of 4 (out of 5) from more than 500 reviewers.

Eurocentric readers, fed on Columbus and Magellan (both of whom had maps to follow), will need to rely on the achievements of European colonialism from the 15th to the 20th century AD, and today’s neo-colonialism. Ironically, the former colonial powers are now led by a new nation created by European emigrants within this colonial period.

 

Will the West be overtaken? (Part 2)

‘Why the West rules – for now’ by Ian Morris is interesting while challenging. His representation of China as the East is somewhat selective; he ignores any significant historical developments in mid-Asia. How could the Indian civilisation be the oldest continuous culture on post-Deluge Earth? Indic philosophy, not being consumer-oriented, allegedly developed an understanding of mankind in the universe a long way back in history.

Morris also conflates West Asia (“the first Westerners”) with Europe and the USA (the latter two normally known together as the West).

Then, is consumption of food the best criterion for comparing social development? A high average figure of consumption may cover vast disparities within the community. Is there not a place for moral or spiritual progress? Man shall not live by bread alone.

Yet, the Morris thesis is worthy of attention. There is this question: Did not Europe develop industrially and philosophically much later than the core cultures of Asia? Only after the 15th century CE was Europe joined by Morris to Western Asia as ‘the West’, except for the 500 years from 250 BCE when Rome was first linked to West Asia as ‘the West.’ A new nation created by European emigrants, viz. North America, was subsequently added to ‘the West.’ Ultimately, it is the USA, as ‘the West’, which is compared with China.

Morris, who writes in a very erudite manner, is most knowledgeable about all the major events of human history. He shows how ‘the West’ was ahead of China for at least for 2,000 years until 541 CE in terms of social development (as defined by him). Then China moved ahead until 1773. Industrialisation and battle-capacity subsequently enabled the West to get ahead again. China will, however, soon catch up, he expects (a somewhat unavoidable conclusion).

The reality is that China already contributes to consumption in the USA. Its recent economic, technological, and military advances, allied to a probable future in association with most of East Asia and probably all of Southeast Asia, while simultaneously linked to Central Asia through the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, will soon equal the military and industrial might of the West (the USA and its satrapies and NATO).

While Morris’ analysis is most impressive, his scenario seems to be much ado about little. A combination of economic success and military power (subsuming the necessary information technology and organisational competence) will probably result in China, Russia, and the USA eventually forming a tripartite global system of power-based governance – – by necessity.

Like the poor in developing and developed nations, the rest of humanity will survive, hopefully in peace; with energy consumption more equitable than at present, in the penumbra of this most probable governance relationship.

How will geography, impacted also by sporadic cosmic catastrophes, respond? Would the presence of 3 powerful nations, eyeing off one another with some suspicion, provide more protection than hitherto to the smaller, weaker, and unprotected nations?

Hiding from the actuality of history

“Instead of the cultured Chinese, instructed to “treat people with kindness,” it was the cruel, almost barbaric Christians who were the colonisers. Francisco Pizzaro gained Peru from the Incas by massacring five thousand Indians in cold blood.” So wrote Bruce Pascoe in ‘Dark Emu Black Seeds: agriculture or accident?’

As Gavin Menzies has pointed out, when the Chinese sought to cement trade ties in the 1950s, they took envoys back to China, treated them royally, and then returned them to their homelands.

Pascoe: “… the Portuguese used Chinese cartography to show them the way to the East. Then they stole the spice trade, which the Indians and Chinese had spent centuries building. Anyone who might stop them was mown down. When fifteenth-century explorer Vasco da Gama reached Calicut he told his men to parade Indian prisoners, then to hack off their hands, ears and noses.”

I recall Nehru in ‘Glimpses of World History’ stating that Vasco was shown the way to the East via the cape at the southern of the African continent (the Cape of Good Hope) by 2 Indian sailors he had met in Lisbon. (The Indians obviously knew the west coast of Africa). So much for Vasco’s gratitude. I have always wondered why the Christian explorers and buccaneers of the period were so blood-thirsty.

Pascoe again: “Invaders like to kill the original owners of the soil they intend to plunder, but even better than that, they like to humiliate them. Once that work is over, their grandsons re-write the history of the re-named land and paint their grandfather as a benevolent visionary.”

In contrast, the Bradshaw paintings in the Kimberleys in north-west Australia show a Chinese junk, and people dressed in the traditional long gowns with long sleeves. There has obviously been trade between the Aborigines and Chinese during the 15th century. Yet, modern Aborigines have no memory of such contact. In those circumstances and against the foolish claim that Lt. Cook discovered Australia relatively recently, these paintings may somehow not become known.

As Pascoe said, the “history of colonisation is dense with examples” of fabrication. He continues: “The urge to legitimise occupation is compared by McNiven and Hull to the warping of history and archaeology by Nazis to justify extermination of the Jews. In thinking of the effects of colonisation on Australia, contemplation of the workings of the European mind of that era is inevitable. There were other colonists from other continents, but it was Europeans who attempted to dominate the world, sometimes by dominating each other. “ (Is it any different now?)

“It seems improbable that a country can continue to hide from the actuality of history in order to validate the fact that, having said sorry, we refuse to say thanks.” (Pascoe)

Comment: I wonder how the foghorns on radio and other white supremacists will react to Pascoe’s well-researched words.

Pascoe’s ‘Dark Emus Black Seeds’

Here are the reviews contained in the book. White Australian supremacists, who seem to be thick on the ground, will not like what they say. What explains the derogatory views expressed publicly by white Aussies? A sense of collective guilt? No! One cannot feel guilty on behalf of one’s forebears. ‘Why can’t they be like us?’ is a better explanation.

Since the Irish Catholics were allowed to be a separate people, with their own systems of education and charity, should not the Australian Aborigines (who was here first) be a separate people within an integrated ethno-culturally diverse population?

Would that mean recognising them as First Nation People? Yes, but over the dead bodies of many a whitey. What about giving them a right to have a say in how they are now to be uplifted societally and integrated? Since terra nullius was proven false, could white-man superiority not be up to a requisite standard to ‘bridging the gap’ (a favourite mantra of politicians who prefer words to effective action)?

The reviews:
• “in 156 pages, Pascoe has inverted almost everything I thought I knew about pre-colonial Australia. Importantly, he’s not relying on oral history, which runs the risk of being too easily bunked; his sources are the journals of notable explorers and surveyors, of pastoralists and protectors. He quotes them verbatim, describing all the signs of a complex civilisation but viewed through the blinkered lens of appropriation and White superiority. As a teacher – I recommended it as essential reading for any educator.” Lisa Hill, blogger and educator.
• “This very readable, strongly argued study turns the accepted nation of the Aborigines as a hunter-gatherer people completely on its head” Steven Carroll, Sydney Morning Herald.
• “He has done a great service by bringing this material to students and general readers, and in such a lively and engaging fashion.” Richard Broome, Agora Magazine.
• “This is an important book that advances a powerful argument for re-evaluating the sophistication of Aboriginal peoples’ economic and socio-political livelihoods, and calls for Australia to embrace the complexity, sophistication and innovative skills of Indigenous people into its concept of itself as a nation … an important and well-argued book.” Dr. Michael Davis, Honorary Research Fellow at Sydney University.
• “A remarkable book.” Max Allen, The Australian.

The literary quality of Pascoe’s book about the settled lives of his ancestral people is demonstrated by being short-listed for the Queensland Literary Award and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, both in 2014; the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Award as ‘Book of the Year’, and the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Award as winner.

(Comment: The Bradshaw cave paintings show that the Chinese had visited the Kimberleys.

Regrettably, prejudice against the Aborigines by many of the movers and shakers of Australia is quite strong.) 

A settled First Nation People

Australian Aborigines were a settled people long before the invasion by Britain, contrary to the crap peddled after the invasion, killing, and societal and cultural despoliation (destruction). Clever administrators looked for a fresh dumping ground for those disadvantaged by their government’s cultural cleansing, since North America was no longer available.

Rapacious settlers ‘cleared’ the land they occupied so ruthlessly. Pseudo-historians turned historiography on its head by finding no documentation in Britain authorising the settlers to take whatever they wanted by killing the natives; therefore, no killing had occurred.

A settled people, who had survived in a harsh land for thousands of years, were now made nomadic by Britain. Terrible things were done to the women and children. The behaviour of some explorers casts doubt on their morality. While missionaries were busily gathering black souls to the bosom of their coloured Saviour, one has to wonder at the depth of belief in Christianity within the white communities.

And, quite naturally, white men were opportunistically busy creating a creole (hybrid) people. That seemingly led officialdom to believe that black skin could be bred out in time; “Fuck them white” was reportedly part of the policy encouraging the natives to “become like us.”

Now, an aboriginal researcher and writer, Bruce Pascoe, has recently published ‘Dark Emu Black Seeds: agriculture or accident?’ He has drawn upon the journals and diaries of explorers. The bibliography listed in his book is vast. The superior-white ‘foghorns’ (on radio) and their acolytes in politics and elsewhere will have great difficulty in countering Pascoe’s book.

My impression, after 70 years of a highly interactive and contributory life in Australia, is that ordinary people are more tolerant and understanding about the plight of their indigenous people. A retired history-teacher friend of mine bought a copy of Pascoe’s book for each of her many grandchildren. Truth will out!

In this context, it is worth noting that the redoubtable Prof. Henry Reynolds has pointed out that Australia’s Aboriginals had never ceded their lands, or their sovereignty.

From the back cover of Pascoe’s most impressive book: “If we look at the evidence presented to us by the explorers and explain to our children that Aboriginal people did build houses, did build dams, did sow, irrigate and till the land, did alter the course of rivers, did sew their clothes, and did construct a system of pan-continental government that generated peace and prosperity, then it is likely that we will admire and love our land all the more.” – Bruce Pascoe.

Reviews of the book were most positive.

Beyond the free-trade spin

You find ‘free trade’ is covering up a lot of special deals that may or may not be good for the economy. This is the conclusion I draw from the paper What do trade agreements really do? by a leading US expert, Professor Dani Rodrik.” So wrote Ross Gittins in the March 3-4 2018 issue of The Sydney Morning Herald. I have followed him for decades, as he is a most perceptive analyst.

He accepts the benefits from international trade. “… we all benefit from specialising in a particular occupation we’re good at, then exchanging goods and services with people in other specialities, so further ‘gains from trade’ can be reaped by extending specialisation and exchange beyond our borders to producers in other countries.”

In relation to NAFTA, Gittins quotes Rodrik as saying that recent research suggests the deal “produced minute net efficiency gains for the US economy while severely depressing wages of those groups and communities most directly affected by Mexican competition. So there’s a huge gap between what economic theory tells us about the benefits of free trade and the consequences of highly flawed, politically compromised deals between a few countries.”

Rodrik: “How can economists be so certain the gains to the winners far exceed the losses to the losers – and that the winners have compensated the losers?” Gittins: “What many economists don’t realise is that the international battle to eliminate tariffs and import quotas has largely been won (though less so for the agricultural products of interest to farmers).” Ignore ‘Trumpology’ for the moment.

Gittins also points out that “… so-called free trade agreements are more about issues that aren’t the focus of economists’ simple trade theory: “regulatory standards, health and safety issues, investment, banking and finance, intellectual property, labour, the environment and many other subjects besides.” Rodrik names 4 components of agreements that are worrying.

First, intellectual property (IP): Gittins points out that “the US just happens to be a huge exporter of intellectual property –in the form of pharmaceuticals, software, hardware, movies and much else.” “… with IP the rich countries’ gains are largely the poor countries’ losses.”

“Second, restrictions on a country’s ability cross-border capital flows.” “… it’s a good thing for less-developed economies to retain some control.”

“Third, ‘investor-state dispute settlement procedures.’ … They allow foreign investors – but not local investors – to sue host governments in special arbitration tribunals and seek damages for regulatory, tax and other policy changes merely because those changes reduce their profits. How, exactly, is this good for economic efficiency, jobs and growth?”

“Rodrik concludes that ‘trade agreements are the result of rent-seeking, self-interested behaviour on the part of politically well-connected firms.’ ... They may result in greater beneficial trade, but they are just as likely to redistribute income from the poor to the rich under the guise of ‘freer trade.’”

(Does not economic theory support the view of certain nations that only the rich save to invest, and thus take their economy forward?)

A ‘tickle-my-tummy’ nation

When I read this description of my adopted nation, decades ago, I was tickled (so to speak). When I was employed in the Balance of Payments Branch of the Bureau of Statistics, I realised how dependent Australia is on foreign capital inflows; and that there is a price to be paid when the economy is kept afloat by foreigners seeking a substantial profit or some economic advantage.

I arrived in 1948 when the British Subject status of Australians was replaced by Australian citizenship. British by origin and heritage, Australians seemed unconcerned by remaining beholden to Britain; except in relation to defence. When attacked by Japan, Australia had placed itself under the protection of the USA. We have been subservient to the US ever since, rushing into wars behind our hoped-for protector.

Since Australia is not in Asia, and is also not of Asia, with its Western roots, it cannot avoid being part of the West – in every way. We are an integral part of the West.   American corporations also developed Australia in economic (and cultural) terms, allowing us to jump smoothly after World War Two from a consumer nation (riding on the sheep’s back) to an industrial nation – a path not normally available to a developing nation. In the Treasury I learnt that the Government did rely on market forces to take the economy forward.

Our Governments, not known (ever) to possess any long-term plans for development (not even a population policy), are ever so grateful to anyone who wishes to invest in the country. Until the 1970s, when tariff-protected uneconomic, and technically inefficient, industries were opened up to foreign competition, with support from arbitral authorities, the people ate well. Welfare now subsidises or supports those affected by either import competition or the exigencies of an open market. (In 1963, I was the first ‘free- trader’ in the then Tariff Board.)

Like other nations, Australia seeks international trade agreements. Concessions of an economic nature are made, the signatories seeking mutual benefit. There will be some losers in each participating nation.

An amazing feature of the Trans Pacific Partnership to be signed is the surrender of Australia’s sovereignty. Corporations in signatory nations will be able to sue the Australian government in a foreign court “when they believe a change in Australian laws are affecting their profits.” Refer Anna Patty’s article ‘TPP deal may expose legal risks’ in the 5 March 2018 issue of ‘The Sydney Morning Herald.’

Patty quotes academic Stuart Rosewarne as describing this provision as “quite scary because it effectively allows a foreign-owned company to have any Australian law, including enhanced labour laws that are considered to impose additional or onerous obligations on a company’s employment practices, to be set aside.

Tickle my tummy or not? How cheap is sovereignty?

Parallel pharmaceutical treatments

“Balance aggravated Vata”; “Tonify aggravated essence”; “Enrich kidney Jing”; ‘”Promote water metabolism”; “Engender fluid”; “Disinhibit water”; “Soften hardness”; “Open body orifices”; “Extinguish Damp-Cold”; “Expel stagnant heat”. These are some of the permitted indications (claimed purpose or benefit) from which complementary medicine companies must draw when registering, and later labelling, their products.

An article by Esther Han, Health Reporter, on 9 Feb. 2018 in the Sydney Morning Herald states that:
• On advice from its Therapeutic Goods Administration, the federal proposes legislation to ‘restrict vitamin and herbal medicine companies to making only government-approved health claims on their products.’
• When lacking scientific evidence, ‘traditional use complementary medicines would be required to carry mandatory statements such as ‘traditionally used in Chinese medicine.’’
• ‘Australia has endorsed the WHO (World Health Organisation) … that traditional medicines have a valid function in modern medicinal frameworks.’
• Doctors and consumer interests have criticised the proposed approvals.

Other considerations in this matter are:
• Whether Australia’s trade agreements require minimal interference by participatory governments in any inter-country trade which reflects cultural practices and their underlying values.
• How effective are some prescriptions by doctors which may have been influenced by pharmaceutical company representatives? (‘Try this’ has been said to me by more than one Aussie doctor.)
• Just as some approved medicinal treatments are not equally effective on all patients, some complementary treatments can, and do, benefit the consumer.
• Are foreign nations influencing, if not dominating, Australia’s national policies through trade and/or defence agreements?