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The Shrine of the Martyrs

Before leaving Taipei we were taken to the Shrine of the Martyrs to watch the changing of the guard (Alice is marrying one of the Guard…). 

Like the Greeks and other guards we have seen, they had apparently taken lessons from John Cleese’s institute of silly walks. They carried ancient weapons for which ammunition is unlikely to be available, and would thus preclude the effective guarding of anything.  But as the martyrs probably don’t require much guarding everything was as it should be.

 

 

As always on these occasions, the drill was immaculate and I was again reminded that the purpose of military drill is not to amuse an audience or fill in time but to instil an instinctive obedience to orders.

The martyrs include people how have given their time and energy to civil life,  like our recipients of the Order of Australia,  and I was reminded that Taiwan has never actually fought a war against anyone. 

 

 

A consequence is that these young men are completely untried in battle, unlike our troops who are ready to fight in anyone’s war.  Even during Vietnam Taiwan offered non-combat support to the US effort.  But they are ‘armed to the teeth’ with very advanced weapons.  

Unfortunately this together with their long stated aim of retaking the mainland, and their efforts to develop a nuclear weapon, simply caused China to militarise to a greater extent and earlier than they might have.

After the guard changing it was back on the bus for a hundred mile journey to the centre. 

 

 

 

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Travel

Denmark

 

 

  

 

 

In the seventies I spent some time travelling around Denmark visiting geographically diverse relatives but in a couple of days there was no time to repeat that, so this was to be a quick trip to two places that I remembered as standing out in 1970's: Copenhagen and Roskilde.

An increasing number of Danes are my progressively distant cousins by virtue of my great aunt marrying a Dane, thus contributing my mother's grandparent's DNA to the extended family in Denmark.  As a result, these Danes are my children's cousins too.

Denmark is a relatively small but wealthy country in which people share a common language and thus similar values, like an enthusiasm for subsidising wind power and shunning nuclear energy, except as an import from Germany, Sweden and France. 

They also like all things cultural and historical and to judge by the museums and cultural activities many take pride in the Danish Vikings who were amongst those who contributed to my aforementioned DNA, way back.  My Danish great uncle liked to listen to Geordies on the buses in Newcastle speaking Tyneside, as he discovered many words in common with Danish thanks to those Danes who had settled in the Tyne valley.

Nevertheless, compared to Australia or the US or even many other European countries, Denmark is remarkably monocultural. A social scientist I listened to last year made the point that the sense of community, that a single language and culture confers, creates a sense of extended family.  This allows the Scandinavian countries to maintain very generous social welfare, supported by some of the highest tax rates in the world, yet to be sufficiently productive and hence consumptive per capita, to maintain among the highest material standards of living in the world. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Writer

 

 

The fellow sitting beside me slammed his book closed and sat looking pensive. 

The bus was approaching Cremorne junction.  I like the M30.  It starts where I get on so I’m assured of a seat and it goes all the way to Sydenham in the inner West, past Sydney University.  Part of the trip is particularly scenic, approaching and crossing the Harbour Bridge.  We’d be in The City soon.

My fellow passenger sat there just staring blankly into space.  I was intrigued.   So I asked what he had been reading that evoked such deep thought.  He smiled broadly, aroused from his reverie.  “Oh it’s just Inferno the latest Dan Brown,” he said.   

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Opinions and Philosophy

A Dismal Science

 

 

Thomas Carlyle coined this epithet in 1839 while criticising  Malthus, who warned of what subsequently happened, exploding population.

According to Carlyle his economic theories: "are indeed sufficiently mournful. Dreary, stolid, dismal, without hope for this world or the next" and in 1894 he described economics as: 'quite abject and distressing... dismal science... led by the sacred cause of Black Emancipation.'  The label has stuck ever since.

This 'dismal' reputation has not been helped by repeated economic recessions and a Great Depression, together with continuously erroneous forecasts and contradictory solutions fuelled by opposing theories.  

This article reviews some of those competing paradigms and their effect on the economic progress of Australia.

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