Monday, September 25, 2006

Orstralia Orstralia

Being Australian outside Australia is very different from living in the land of my birth. In the days following the death of Steve Irwin I had several people offer their condolences to me regarding the demise of the TV star. Some of these people I did not even know, they offered their sympathy once they learned where I came from. One thing that the death of Irwin has provoked is an interest in what has been going on in Australia since the last news story that brought questions and comments from those around me here in the way way north. That story was the Tampa fiasco in 2001 and I was no wiser than anyone else regarding what the hell was going on.
Now the word "Australia" is in the air again and articles seem to cropping up regarding the great brown land. Last Saturday the largest circulating daily newspaper in Sweden, Dagens Nyheter (Daily News) published a long account of what it described as historical revisionist in the historical account of Australia. The title of the article is "The struggle for No One's Land", a reference to the terra nullius classification applied by the colonial powers to the Australian continents as it was gradually annexed by Britain. I am quite familiar with this story, although some of the texts are new to me. I first heard Henry Reynolds speak in 1997 and have been following the utterances of Keith Windschuttle since they emerged in the popular sphere in the early 1990's. What constitutes genocide and what is historical evidence seems to be two of the prongs this distant front of "the culture wars".
Australian conservative Prime Minister John Howard (described by Windschuttle as a "cultural warrior") and his peers sit firmly against the "black armband" view of history which uses ugly words like invasion, genocide and struggle. The recently deceased Steve Irwin, although no political philosopher and probably very much the "nice bloke" of his TV personae, described John Howard as "the greatest leader in the entire world".
Howard spoke at Irwin's memorial service and millions mourn the loss of this unique man (Personally, I have sympathy for his kids; fathers should be more careful). But what does the spectacle of nature as created by the powerful presence of Irwin and the wafer thin paper trail deemed by Windschuttle to be what makes history have in connection. I would say the depth of the dialogue.

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