Australia - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Looking at the Present and also at the Beginning
Australian are bombarded with propaganda on a daily basis.
We are continually told what a beautiful country we are living in. to the most part this is true.
It can be said, however, that people living in Australia did not always see it as beautiful or, for that matter, lucky.
Religion doesn't play a major role in the lives of many Australians. There is the present day fear, however, that this will change.
Fred Nile tried to make Australians more religious in a Christian way but not with much success. Many of us do not want someone else to have a go at this but with another religion.
There are those on the internet that would have Muslims as the demonic hoards of Satan. What nonsense.
There are also those on the internet who would have Muslims as angelic souls seeking peace and a place to live.
Both strongly opposing views smack of propaganda.
So what are Australians afraid of when it does come to the Muslims who wish to migrate to Australia? There was the Martin Place, Sydney incident.
This was more the fault of Australia's law courts rather than Muslims living in Sydney.
The madman was a Muslim but first and foremost he was insane. Not all Muslims are insane.
He was up on serious earlier charges and should not have been let out to roam the streets. Bail should have been refused. If it had been he and others would still be alive.
It is this kind of reverse racism that seems to be part of our present day court system that frightens people. If he had been any other kind of madman would he have been let out? No one can really answer that question. But there is the suspicion that the answer is a definite no.
There have been incidents throughout the world of late placing Muslims in a bad light. There have been attacks upon French democracy in France. In Belgium fireworks for New Year's Eve had to be cancelled because of terrorist threats.
In Wollongong, NSW someone scrawled the word Satan on a blow up Santa resting outside the local Woolworths on the 24th of December 2015.
Was it some misguided Muslim making a point? was it a far right Christian making a statement? Or was it some kid mucking about and just being silly? Who can know for sure. But years ago it would have simply been assumed it was some kid mucking about.
There is presently the fear that, in the near future, there won't be enough money in the kitty to pay for those soon to retire. The so-called baby-boomers that started with super late will send the country broke.
Hence ads on television about the 'merits' of working to a ripe old age and beyond. Also ads getting employers to employ old people. There have also been snippets on A current Affairs showing old people having a jolly good time earning a crust.
There is an episode of The Simpsons in which this cartoon family makes its way to Australia. In this episode a number of things are sent up including the country's convict past.
It is a past that really doesn't have much to do with the people living in Australia today. Certainly there are no convicts or potential convicts lurking around every corner at our airports. Even so, the image of the convict is a strong one.
Incidentally, it should be noted that the boot as ritualistic punishment in this Simpson episode is fictional. It should also be noted that the transport of animals, including frogs or toads, from elsewhere in the world to Australia has resulted in disaster in the past and may well result in disaster in the future.
The cane toad, for example, originated in South America. It was brought into Queensland in the 1930s to take care of a cane beetle problem and has been a menace ever since. It has since made its way from Queensland into New South Wales and might well make it into Victoria before this decade is over.
The first lot of propaganda leveled at Australia was generally in the negative. It came from law enforcers and men of power and position who wanted people to believe that the place convicts were sent was far from paradise.
The idea was to turn potential criminals away from crime. It also came from the genuine feeling of homesickness that people journeying to a faraway and, for the most part, unknown land experienced.
The early British artists that painted the Australian animals and plants often did it with British animals and plants in mind. Hence some early colonial art depicts some strange looking kangaroos and emus.
Australia was once viewed as a dumping ground for convicts. Some of these convicts were petty thieves. Others could be described as political prisoners.
Taking everything into account, the British and, in particular, the English powers that be at the time didn't want them in Britain and hanging so many was out of the question.
Sending them to the colonies in America was no longer possible. There had been a revolution and the new country of the United States of America had been formed.
Parts of Africa were given consideration and dismissed. Diseases carried by mosquitoes was a major problem.
It had been decided that wherever the convicts were put it had to be a place where a colony or colonies might grow and where those sent had a chance at life.
This was coupled with the fact that soldiers had to be sent to guard the convicts and soldiers may go into battle and die but they don't readily walk into a place that they know they will not return from.
Hence when the USA and Africa were taken out of the running as dumping grounds some other place had to be found.
Captain Cook had explored the east coast of Australia and found the land abundant with life and possibilities for the Crown. Prior to Cook's exploration of this east coast, not much was thought of Australia.
The west coast had been explored previously and found wanting. Water was the main issue. For a colony or colonies to thrive there had to be an abundance of fresh water and a good supply of annual rain for crops.
According to Captain Cook and botanist Joseph Banks there was fresh water and the forests indicated good rainfall. Hence the east coast would be colonized by the British using convict labor.
There was also another reason for colonizing the east coast of Australia and then the whole of Australia. The British Empire did not want the French to have too large a power base in the southern hemisphere.
The French had their sights on the east coast of Australia but, by a narrow margin, the British got there first in force.
The first fleet to set sail for New South Wales held in its holds convicts and the soldiers to guard them. Establishing a foothold in the new land was not easy.
Crops that grew well in Britain grew poorly in the new soil. If not for the native Aborigines and their willingness to share their knowledge of the land, the early colonists might have starved to death.
Convicts, once they had completed their sentence could then either try to earn enough money for passage back to Britain or become citizens of the new land.
Since the cost of passage back to Britain was beyond many of their means, building homes and a life in the new land was really the only option.
Then there was the fact that convicts had died on the journey to Australia and there was the possibility of dying on the way back to Britain.
Back in England word got around that life in the new colonies was hell on earth. Many people said that they would rather die than be put in chains and sent to Botany Bay. Whereas it was true that life could be hard for convicts, it was also true that life began to get better when those convicts became settlers.
There were convict uprisings that were put down and, at one stage, a soldier uprising. These uprisings naturally did nothing for Australia's reputation as a good place for settlers to turn up.
Of all the penal colonies established, Tasmania had the worse reputation for brutality. It was to Tasmania that the worst of the convicts were sent. Of course Tasmania no longer has this reputation.
As time went by the desire arose among the colonies to bring in more people that were not convicts or soldiers. In order to do this the image of Australia as a place where convicts are sent had to be dropped.
The developing wool trade helped. Shearers and farmers were needed along with shopkeepers and businessmen in general. The image of a wide, free country was then put out to attract the right people to come and settle.
THE IMAGE OF THE DROVER AND THE JACKAROO
As the population of the colonies in Australia grew, more and more people came to live in the cities and spreading suburbs. Stories of Bushrangers ( outlaws) and the men who worked with the sheep and the cattle (Jackaroos and Drovers), however, took on more and more importance.
As in the Banjo Paterson poem Clancy of the Overflow (1889) where a city worker envies the life and freedom of a drover. This was similar to the way the American city dweller in the 19th Century often envied the cowboy or drover.
Here it should be noted that Banjo Paterson's poem, together with many other pieces of writing that gave the colonies of Australia a sense of growing nationalism, were published in The Bulletin.
Banjo Paterson is also remembered for The Man from Snowy River (1890) which is a poem so well loved by Australians that it is on the ten dollar note and has spawned one hit movie by the same name (1982) plus a sequel to it (1988) and a television series by the same name (1993-1996). Apparently there was also a film version in the silent era (1920).
The poem is a fast paced and galloping race to bring back a valuable colt that got away. Riders from all over try their luck in the rough country but it is the man from Snowy River who succeeds.
The poems and short stories of Henry Lawson also contributed in giving a feeling of unity to a country yet to be officially brought together. His work, however, touched upon some of the harsher realities of the bush and of bush life.
In his essay Australian Loyalty (1887), he calls for Australian nationalism. He also calls for less British influence.
Life on the Land
ON THE LAND
The image of the hard working vital Australian farmer has been with us since the last half of the 19th Century. Steele Rudd made much of this in his novels which featured the characters of Dad and Dave.
On Our Selection came out in 1899 and Our New Selection came out in 1903.A number of Australian movies were made out of On Our Selection starting with a silent film in 1920.
Possibly the best of the films made concerning Rudd's very Australian characters was Dad and Dave Come to Town which was made in 1938. The dry humor in Steele Rudd's writing and in films like Dad and Dave Come to Town are seen today as typically Australian. Dad and Dave also did well on the radio between 1932-1952.
There have been a number of movies, mini-series and even plays based around the tough profession of cane cutting. There was the play The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler (1955) which was made into a movie by the same name starring Ernest Borgnine (1959).
At a time when there were very few plays being shown in Australia that reflected the Australian way of life there was The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. It made ordinary Australians feel proud because, in a way, it gave them a voice that wasn't British. Since the fifties the play has been staged numerous times. It has most recently been put on in Wollongong on the south coast of New South Wales in 2012. The Fields of Fire mini-series, also to do with cane cutting in Australia, came out in 1987.
The Australian Flag
UNDER THE SOUTHERN CROSS
The stars that make up the southern cross can only be seen in the southern hemisphere. During the Eureka stockade incident (1854) in which Ballarat gold miners took on local soldiers representing the crown, the southern cross represented the miners. It was displayed on a flag made up for the occasion.
Since then the southern cross has been on flags of defiance from unions looking for a better wage to political campaigners wanting to ignite patriotism in their countrymen.
The miners at Ballarat, Victoria lost the battle with the soldiers but won years later in court. They had been mistreated and in the end it was all sorted out in their favor. Among those defending the stockade was a group of men from the USA who called themselves the California Sharpshooters.
The southern cross also appears on the Australian flag. The Australian armed forces have taken it into battle over the decades so there is that history nowadays behind it. Yes, it is true that the British Union Jack was flown during the Boar War and was generally used during the First World War rather than the Australian flag.
Even so, the Australian flag with the southern cross has been there during the Korean campaign, Vietnam and the present day conflicts. All up, the southern cross is a might symbol of Australia and continues to be used as a symbol.
SHE'LL BE RIGHT, MATE!
THE LUCKY COUNTRY
The myth and legend of Australia being the lucky country is very much a 20th Century creation. It was part of the drive to get more people to migrate to Australia. It remains part of the belief that there is still a lot of wilderness to clear and lives to improve by doing so.
There were propaganda films made after the 2nd World War which referred to Australia as the lucky country and called upon British citizens who wanted a better life to come to Victoria or New South Wales.
Certainly after the 2nd World War there was fresh optimism. The Snowy Mountain scheme to build a great hydro-electric dam required lots of labor and the skills of overseas people. New improved methods of irrigation promised great harvests. Secondary industries that had lain dormant since the Great Depression were starting to come back to life.
Prosperity and migration seemed to go hand in hand. It all had to do with creating a better future for all. Tariffs protected goods being manufactured in Australia from cheaper items being made elsewhere.
Migrants familiar with the rag trade were sought. Many of them were welcomed by manufacturers on the docks of Sydney and Melbourne. Whole communities grew up around the idea of clothes being made locally.
When the tariffs were removed in the 1970s and around the same time the banks were no longer regulated by the government, the lucky country no longer looked to be so lucky to the people actually living in Australia. This did not stop the migrants from continuing to come to Australia or Australia from continually being referred to as the lucky country.
Neither a Large Army nor a Large Population Required
POPULATE OR PERISH!
Recently there has been talk about a BIG Australia. This came from now former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Blind to the fact that a BIG population increase is not sustainable, this politician pushed for large numbers of migrants anyway. Someone should have shown him a map of the country. A lot of places cannot hold population.
Dump a couple of million people in the middle of Australia and watch them die from exposure, starvation and lack of water. Of course a good politician never lets something like the truth get in the way of his or her ambitions. It is up to the public in general to attempt to keep them honest.
Of course the notion of the Big country has spread in schools and on television. It has also been countered by Australians with some common sense.
After the experiences of the 2nd World War a belief rose up that more people needed to be enticed into coming to Australia to avoid eventual take over by another country. If not for American intervention during the 2nd World War there was, after all, the possibility that Australia could have been conquered by the Japanese.
There may have been something to 'Populate or Perish' in the '40s and '50s but certainly not today. As mentioned by Dick Smith, the size of your army, navy and air force in terms of personnel doesn't count for as much as it used to. Ironically, it was the USA that made this clear in 1945.
A single plane with crew and a special bomb could devastate an entire city. To prove this point they even devastated a second city. The result? The surrender of the Japanese, the end to the 2nd World War, and the beginning of the atomic age.
The age of large battle ships with large crews required has also come to an end. The Australian ANZAC class ships are small, light and highly maneuverable with enough sting to get whatever job is required of them done. Submarines have never required large crews. Jet fighters tend to be expensive but small in number.
Often tanks and tank crews today can do the job that lots of infantry used to do. It takes a fair amount of capital to keep a respectably powerful army, navy and air force together but not as many men as was required in the past. The only real argument that can be put forward for the need for an ever increasing population when it comes to the armed services is the capital required to fund them.
The myth about the need to clear the land for progress has resulted in too many trees being cut down and the backlash to this has been the rising salt problem. Rising salt makes the land infertile.
The idea that irrigation will provide more land for growing crops thus the need for more people to do the growing and harvesting has also resulted in either the rising salt problem or in the devastation of Australia's waterways. There are rivers in New South Wales in bad shape. The recent rains have helped but they cannot be counted on to continue to help. Australia is a land of drought as well as flooding rain. This should never be forgotten.
The argument for increasing population often comes down to some clever politician or university student, using the fact that we are mostly a migrant nation anyway as an excuse to keep on bringing people in regardless of whether there is real sense in doing so or not. There is also the argument that migrants always add to the wealth of the nation and do the work that no one else will do.
Unfortunately, it is cheaper to bring in skilled labor rather than train young people. The end result of this being young people who should have apprenticeships and older retrenched workers in need of retraining out of work.
After the 2nd World War there were government schemes to improve infrastructure with fresh migrant labor. Where are the present schemes? Is it possible to overpopulate and perish? Probably. But most politicians won't go there.
The Spirit of ANZAC was Born During the First World War
Just before the landing at Gallipoli during the 1st World War the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp was officially given its name. The Gallipoli campaign was not a great success in military terms but it did create the image of a fighting people not easily beaten even when the odds are stacked against them.
The ANZACs did well in France and Belgium. At one stage In 1918 Australian soldiers even prevented the Germans from winning the war. This was before the Americans could arrive in force.
During the 2nd World War Australian soldiers were in the fight against Rommel in the desert as well as in South-East Asia protecting their homeland.
In Libya Australian and British forces that slowed down the advancement of German troops at a crucial time were given by the Germans the nick-name of Rats.
They took up this name with pride and The Rats of Tobruk live on in film, books and legend. It is such a shame that this year, 2012, the graves of 50 brave Australians and 11 equally brave New Zealanders have been vandalized. Those responsible should be ashamed of themselves.
There have of course been wars involving Australians since WW2. There have also been peace missions by Australian servicemen. Some years ago floods in New Guinea brought out the best in Australian soldiers and airmen.
A few years ago when food and medical supplies were urgently needed in Indonesia due to a natural disaster Australian military forces were there to help out. And so the ANZAC tradition lives on.
Fishing,Swimming and Surfing are Popular Activities in Australia
Australians are said to be a nation of sportsmen and women as well as a nation of good sports. We are also regarded as easy going and, to some extent, this is true.
From the late 1950s to the present a beach/surf culture has developed. The life saver is at the heart of this culture.
Men and women who volunteer to be trained and go out there in rough weather to save lives in the surf easily earn our love and respect. Unfortunately we are not all bronzed Aussies though many of us would like to be.
We tend to loose our cool when a life saver is struck by someone after they have saved a life.
We are also not very tolerant of those who do not respect our women when they wear bikinis on our beaches.
Volunteer firefighters are also part of the helping out your mates tradition that has grown up in Australia along with Returned Serviceman League's clubs and Legacy. Legacy is funded by ordinary Australians dipping into their pockets to look after war widows.
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