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.

 

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Aggrandising colonialism’s cultural ancestors

Was it not the Scottish Enlightenment (centred on Edinburgh University) which offered intellectual enlightenment to the English? Did that widened understanding of matters significant seep into the psyche of the buccaneers of the East India Company and, later, into the policies of the British rulers of India? Probably not! Were not the latter imbued with the objective of enabling their ‘natives’ to achieve a speedier access to Nirvana through being clutched to the bosom of Christ, while continuing with their own role as shopkeepers?

When scholastic writings by white supremacists did not convince subject peoples that the ‘white race’ was genetically (inherently) superior to all other ‘races,’ the British colonial mind seems to have sought appropriate intellectual and militaristic forebears in continental Europe.

Fortunately, there were the philosophers of Athens, who were not pre-occupied with the semantics of the Church; Macedonian Alexander (the Great), who allegedly introduced everything Greek to all the tribes on the way to the Indian sub-continent, was also available.

Two further developments aided the search for an appropriate cultural ancestor. European scholars of Indian philosophy were cleverly able to date Indic writings to no further back in time than about 1500BC. This allowed Abraham and his people to establish Judeo-Christianity as the religious ancestor of Europeans, with priority over Hinduism.

Then came the acolytes of these scholars, who claimed with great certitude that no ‘black peoples’ had contributed in any substantive manner to human civilisation. These black people were presumably the Egyptians, Sumerians, Persians and Indians, and anyone else with a nicer skin colour than (coppery) white. Strangely, the Mediterranean cultural ancestor and the Levantine religious ancestor could not have possessed that superior white colour!

I now ask these two questions. Who taught Heraclitus that ‘It is all fire up there’ (or words to that effect)? An unknown Indian whose name is not recorded in a text book allegedly reached that conclusion thousands of years before.

Second question: Did not the Bible draw liberally upon Sumerian writings, while the Vedas of the Indic people have been dated, through known planetary configurations, back to about 7,000 BC?

After the modern Western neo-colonials have self-destroyed themselves, or hopefully matured morally, could we recognise that we human beings are all one species? Could we also accept that each one of us will probably have different religio-cultural ancestors in each life on Earth?

The hegemonic empire – cheap to manage

A hegemonic empire is an empire of influence; not of direct control. The current hegemonic empire of relevance is that of the USA. Through its Monroe Doctrine, the USA has kept the buccaneers of Europe (including Britain) away from Central and South America.

The nations of this southern region rule themselves. Democracy and human rights are far less important than the profits accruing to the USA through the latter’s over-sight, and some intervention – militarily or in a clandestine manner – of politics and production.

Since the end of the Second World War, the USA has extended its economic, political, and military influence throughout the world, enjoying its role as Sheriff of the ‘International Community’ of Western nations and their acolytes. It apparently made Britain the Deputy Sheriff of Europe, presumably because, as President Roosevelt said (in 1945) of Britain “Now we own the bastards” (through Lend-Lease arrangements). Presumably there are other deputy sheriffs, especially Australia (for the Pacific).

As I wrote in ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’ in the chapter titled ‘On empires gone – and going’:

It appoints so-called ‘deputy sheriffs’ to safeguard the interests of the West in their respective bailiwicks; it has trade and mutual-defence agreements with nations which seek protection from imagined foes; and it has military bases here, there, and everywhere to protect the nations of the West and their allies. The USA will fight terrorism anywhere and everywhere; defend itself from attack by enemies, real or creatively conceived; keep the sea routes open, thereby making other navies unnecessary; sell armaments (its primary objective?), and contain political threats, even imagined ones. This has given it the right to have a foothold in all sorts of places; we Aussies are grateful for such protection!

It also makes generous grants as strategically needed, to keep unpopular, even undemocratic, foreign leaders in power. Their job is to ensure that the needs of the USA, viz. oil and other resources, bases, access routes and export opportunities, are met. Its deputy sheriff Israel is furnished with the latest weaponry to prevent an Islamic resurgence. This includes the intended breakup of Iraq into three ethno-religious regions; so wrote an Israeli scholar recently.

A strong foothold on Iraqi soil will give the US power to oversight lesser nations and overlook the more powerful. The US has reportedly installed its satrap in Afghanistan to enable that desired oil pipeline from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean to be achieved one day. The US will also enable Israel to recover Judah and Samarra as that pure Jewish nation that their God decided was OK, even as it works assiduously to bring about ‘peace’ between oppressor and oppressed. Justice? Only the Court of Cosmic Justice can ensure that. And it will!

Ethnic cleansing, like ‘rendering’-with-torture, and assassination are acceptable, but only in the interests of protecting Western democracy. Australian politicians who visit Israel without being able to notice the plight of stateless Palestinians couldn’t possibly have any concern with this view of the Middle East of the future.” … …

“How long will this new empire last? Since it is only about 60 years old, who can tell? Through its Monroe Doctrine, the USA assumed indirect control of South and Central America a long time ago. Would the US now install Monroe Mark 2 to keep any rising power away from its current spheres of interest? If so, how?” … …

“Yet, this neo-colonising nation is the only major power which has shown any inclination to protect a minority here and there in the world from being butchered.” … …

“Thus, the USA can become a moral leader for mankind. Should we Aussies hold to this hope?”

 

 

My books have something relevant to say

I interrupt my daily posts on my WordPress blog ‘An octogenarian’s final thoughts,’ about a wide range of issues of possible interest to sensitive readers, to inform my followers, with great joy, that 4 of my 5 self-published non-fiction books had been recommended by the US Review of Books (a rare accolade, says the Review).

The Karma of Culture and Hidden Footprints of Unity: beyond tribalism and towards a new Australian identity were, together with Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia, written in response to a suggestion from the spirit world (yes, I have undeniable reasons for accepting the reality of this world).

The suggestion I received was that I could contribute to building a bridge from where I came to where I am. It took me 2 years to realise that I could do that through my writing, using my own settlement experience, as well as my work experience, over nearly a decade, as Director of Policy, on migrant settlement issues. My work covered all the relevant policy areas: ethnic affairs & multiculturalism; citizenship & national identity; refugee & humanitarian entry; and settlement support services. We did a good job in integrating new settlers.

I believe that I have done what was suggested by the spirit realm. Encouraged by most favourable pre-publication endorsements, I then wrote a memoir, The Dance of Destiny. A recommendation from the US Review followed; supported by favourable reviews.

My last non-fiction book, Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society is a series of essays, including brief chapters on religion, the Cosmos, and the hegemonic US Empire. I recommend that Australia should seek to become the next state of the USA. This book attracted another recommendation from the US Review. This book was endorsed and reviewed most favourably.

What influenced my decision to publish this rear-vision commentary about my adopted nation (of which I am quite proud) after a lifetime, was the pre-publication endorsement by a professor of history & politics; these included the words ‘There is wisdom here. I have also been told that my books represent a sliver of Australia’s early post-war history.

I have lived a highly interactive and contributory life, including holding leadership positions in civil society, since I arrived in 1948 (during the virulent White Australia era). I have had 2 major career paths (as a psychologist and, later, economist) denied through sensitivities related to my skin colour and my being foreign! However, Australia has now matured, and on the way to joining the Family of Man.

Then, for fun, I published Pithy Perspectives : a smorgasbord of short, short stories. This received 2 excellent reviews. My stories are bicultural, ranging from wacky and frightening to uplifting.

All 6 of my books are available as ebooks for about $US 2.99 each at amazon.com. What the books are about is set out on my WordPress Publications page; the Accolades page covers the endorsements and reviews.

My royalties from Amazon will be donated directly to Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres). Please consider informing your friends about my books. I thank you in anticipation.

Has religion been used in a civilisational war?

When the buccaneers of the British East India Company gradually increased their control over the Indian sub-continent, from a small trading post to most of the principalities, they chose to adopt the mode of governance and lifestyles of the rulers they deposed. Many reportedly took Indian wives, and sent their tinted children to appropriate schools in Britain. (There, these very wealthy offspring were seemingly described as ‘having a touch of tar.’) That is, the buccaneers seemed to have adapted to India (with substantial benefit) rather than the reverse.

Then the British Government decided to replace the East India Company. Were certain politicians and their officials a little jealous, or were they horrified at their people going ‘native’? Probably the latter, as a claimed cultural superiority usually attaches itself to the militarily superior – a very human attribute.

The claimed innate (ie. genetic) superiority of the ‘white race’ was then extended to an organised despoliation of the cultures of India, especially its millennia-old religion. The denigration and destruction of the cultures of any people who had been invaded successfully or over-run enhances the control sought by the ambitious new arrival. European Christian colonisers did this rather well.

While I prefer to read history in 300-year rolling cycles (a useful statistical approach) – and this period corresponds to the 300-year circuit of planet Saturn – an examination of the intent and effects of European colonialism should desirably cover the totality of the 5 centuries that this human virus had effect.

Post-WW2 European neo-colonialism – including changing ruling regimes and some national or tribal borders – is a less-virulent infestation; and it too will pass when global governance becomes tripartite – and fairly soon. The newest empire, the hegemonic one, based on exceptionalism (on the one hand) and globalisation (on the other), will eventually fade away; planetary movements should have a role to play in this withdrawal. In any event, no empire has lasted more than 300 years (plus or minus a standard deviation of, say, 50). Look at the Roman Empire.

When the British invaded, for settlement, North America, New Zealand and Australia, they destroyed the First Nation Peoples in these territories. In Australia, according to the renowned Dr. Coombs, they demolished a long-established civilisation as well. Leaving aside for the moment the comparable depredations in other parts of the globe by other European buccaneers, in India, the British set out to damage to the longest-lived civilisation of mankind.

These were the prongs of this attack:
• Missionaries began to gather heathen souls to the bosom of Christ by rubbishing their traditional beliefs and practices
• The peoples of the sub-continent were also told that they prayed to a large number of ‘gods’, when the reality is that the so-called gods are deities who are representations of a single universal creator God – who is unknowable, but is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.
• They were also told that a superior ‘white’ species, the (mythical) Aryans had over-run and civilised the local ‘black’ peoples previously living there. This is false history!
• From about the 18th Century, European scholars claimed that, not only was the white ‘race’ superior to all other ‘races,’ but that no coloured peoples could possibly have contributed to the origins of human civilisation. These inferior races included the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, and Indians (while the Christian Bible draws heavily on the Sumerians). Dear, oh dear!
• Some European scholars also decided that Hinduism could not go back beyond 1300 BC. This is the earliest possible origin of the Europeans’ religio-cultural ancestors, the peoples of  Samaria and Judea. No faith could apparently be older than that of the Jewish people. Furthermore, all learning was claimed to have originated with the Europeans’ intellectual ancestors, the ‘Greeks’ (viz. Athenians). Yet Athens was said to been established by the Egyptians, with many Athenians studying in Egypt. Pythagoras apparently studied there for 8 years.
• The Indians were also told that Hinduism had been derived from Christianity!

This religious war on India’s civilisation was not successful, despite a reportedly brutal rule by the Kaiser of India, leaving the Indians to sort out their caste and related societal problems after independence.

Contrary to Prof. Huntington’s theory that a war of civilisations is probable in the future, such a war began with the rise of European colonialism; and it continues virulently in the Middle East. What a waste of human lives and spiritual potential.

The British English

“I know of no method by which an aristocratic nation like England can become a democracy” Hilaire Belloc, Anglo-French writer, 1921

The British Empire must behave like a gentleman” David Lloyd George, British Prime Minister, 1921

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: ‘This was their finest hour.” Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, 1930

(Comment: The scion of a former colonial administrator was not pleased when I told him that we colonial subjects did not like being governed by foreigners; and that we are thereby not grateful for being taught how to govern ourselves. His response? ‘You are prejudiced.’ This was only a few years ago.)

The demise of terra nullius through Native Title

The High Court opened up a very large can of worms when it determined (in the Mabo case in 1992) that the Torres Strait Islanders (TSI) and, by implication, the Aborigines, had native title rights under common law. This did not help to contribute land to an Aboriginal or TSI nation. A native title right refers simply to a residual right to share in the use of land, but only in a customary way. Under the High Court’s later determination (in the Wik case in 1996), the rights of the Aboriginal community are subordinate to that of the lessee.

In the Mabo case, the Court said: “Where a clan or group has continued to acknowledge the laws and … to observe the customs based on the traditions of that clan or group, whereby their traditional connection with the land has been substantially maintained, the traditional community title of that clan or group can be said to remain in existence”.  Native title refers to the common law rights of access and use of traditional land by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The rights include hunting, gathering, fishing, ceremonies, and just living.

The High Court thus put away for good that useful argument favoured by settlers and Australian jurists that Australia had been an empty land (‘terra nullius’) when occupied by Britain, contrary to all the evidence against that view.

The Court, by finding that the indigenes of Australia had indeed been in possession of their lands, brought the law in relation to Aboriginal land rights into line with current standards of justice. As the eminent historian Prof. Henry Reynolds said, “Terra nullius was out of step with international standards of human rights, on the one hand, and with fundamental values of common law, on the other …”. Mr. Justice Deane of the High Court (subsequently Governor-General of Australia in the late 1990s) remarked back in 1985 that “The common law of this land has not reached the stage of retreat from injustice”, in relation to the nation’s recognition of native title.

However, justice did arrive at last — at least, in the legal realm. In the mid 1990s, the High Court again upset the conservatives, the racists, and sundry fellow travellers. The resulting outbursts were most illuminative, displaying a range of bitter and irrational assertions, suggesting that professed beliefs in law and justice by many in influential positions (including parts of the media) are not deeply held. As Thomas Carlyle said “Can there be a more horrible object in existence than an eloquent man not speaking the truth?”

The High Court, by a majority decision (in the Wik case), held that a pastoral lease did not necessarily extinguish native title. In some cases, some native title rights can survive the grant of a lease. However, in any conflict between the pastoralist’s rights and native title rights, the former rights prevail.

Reportedly, the decision took into account an official policy dictated from the UK in 1848 that the grant of a pastoral lease gave “… only an exclusive right of pasturage for their cattle and of cultivating such land as they may require …”, but that the lease was “… not intended to deprive the Natives of their former right to hunt over these districts, or to wander over them in search of subsistence, in the manner they have been hitherto accustomed”.

Following the Wik decision, farmers and pastoralists on Crown pastoral leases sought ‘certainty’ for themselves, by the federal government formally extinguishing native title. Certainty also means the freedom to diversify their operations beyond the terms of existing leases. This would effectively make the leases de facto freehold, independently denying any native title right. Since many of the leases are reportedly already being used for a wide range of purposes, the question is how a pastoral lease, which is surely for pasturage of cattle, allowed full scale farming (as distinct from farming for sustenance). More intriguing was the claim that certain governments had ignored the law in granting mining leases.

(The above is an extract from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’ Is it surprising that Australian politicians and their acolytes see no need for human rights legislation? Have Mabo and Wik empowered the TSI and Aborigines in any meaningful way? Have Native Title rights been undermined by officialdom since Wik?)