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The Holocaust


Often the history, the story we tell, is as important as the events that lie behind it. Take the disputed Holocaust as an example.   The Jewish Board of Deputies says the number killed was six million; holocaust deniers say that far less were killed.  What can we make of this?  Unless a lot of film and documented eyewitness accounts have been doctored, I'm reasonably sure it was a pretty big number.  Does the claimed number differ from the actual events?  If so does it matter?

The fact itself, as it really happened, changed the future.  Many people died; many more were never born; paintings were never made; music was never written; inventions were not conceived; discoveries not made; businesses never started.  Almost everyone alive today would never have been born if it had not happened just so.  Why then is the historical version, the story, so controversial?  It's one of few stories, perhaps the only one remaining, that in some countries has legal sanctions attached if people doubt it and say so. 

It's because the story itself, independent of the event it describes, has utility.

In the 1970's I met a widow who had a property in Castle Hill NSW.  In 1945 she said, she had fled from Auschwitz, with the other prisoners; together with their German guards who were also starving; ahead of the advancing Russian Army.  English was not her first language but I understood that she was a Polish political prisoner accused of being an anti-German activist; but the prisoners and their guards were more scared of the Russians than of the Germans. 

She was not Jewish and was not sympathetic to Jews.  She confirmed that the Jewish prisoners were very badly treated and many/most died.  She was, she said, not aware of the extermination ovens.  When they got to apparent safety the allied troops wanting to help gave them food from ration packs.  This proved to be too rich and many of them died as a result of this kindness. 

Her husband had fought with the Russians and for his pains was sent to a forced labour camp, from which he somehow escaped.  Reputedly the Russians massacred numerous troops who had previously fought with them.  For the remainder of their lives they lived in fear of the 'authorities' but most particularly of the Russians in the context of the 'cold war'.

As a result of the actual events that took place you and I are here.  We would not be had not the events that led to these deaths, and the millions of others in two world wars, been exactly as they were.  I explain why in more detail elsewhere on this website.  

But over and above what actually took place are the stories we tell about those events.  In the case of the Holocaust they are still told as an apparent justification for continuing to settle on the land of people who were totally remote from the actual events; and of the stories told about them.


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A Little Background

The land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea, known as Palestine, is one of the most fought over in human history.  Anthropologists believe that the first humans to leave Africa lived in and around this region and that all non-African humans are related to these common ancestors who lived perhaps 70,000 years ago.  At first glance this interest seems odd, because as bits of territory go it's nothing special.  These days it's mostly desert and semi-desert.  Somewhere back-o-Bourke might look similar, if a bit redder. 

Yet since humans have kept written records, Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, Ancient Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, early Muslims, Christian Crusaders, Ottomans (and other later Muslims), British and Zionists, have all fought to control this land.  This has sometimes been for strategic reasons alone but often partly for affairs of the heart, because this land is steeped in history and myth. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Royal Wedding




It often surprises our international interlocutors, for example in Romania, Russia or Germany, that Australia is a monarchy.  More surprisingly, that our Monarch is not the privileged descendent of an early Australian squatter or more typically a medieval warlord but Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain and Northern Island - who I suppose could qualify as the latter.

Thus unlike those ex-colonial Americans, British Royal weddings are not just about celebrity.  To Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders, in addition to several smaller Commonwealth countries, they have a bearing our shared Monarchy.

Yet in Australia, except for occasional visits and the endorsement of our choice of viceroys, matters royal are mainly the preoccupation of the readers of women's magazines.

That women's magazines enjoy almost exclusive monopoly of this element of the National culture is rather strange in these days of gender equality.  There's nary a mention in the men's magazines.  Scan them as I might at the barber's or when browsing a newsstand - few protagonists who are not engaged in sport; modifying equipment or buildings; or exposing their breasts; get a look in. 

But a Royal wedding hypes things up, so there is collateral involvement.  Husbands and partners are drawn in.

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Opinions and Philosophy

In Defence of Secrecy



Julian Assange is in the news again. 

I have commented on his theories and his worries before.

I know no more than you do about his worries; except to say that in his shoes I would be worried too.  

But I take issue with his unqualified crusade to reveal the World’s secrets.  I disagree that secrets are always a bad thing.

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