Passing Bull 157 – TV or not TV

 

The other night I turned off two different codes of football on the TV and highlights of a cricket match in quick succession.  The reason was the same.  Each game was halted because of intervention by the off-field referee – the bane of TV replays.  They may be OK for line calls in cricket and tennis, but they are a pest elsewhere.  And it is hard to see how we might get rid of that pest if the overwhelming majority of the audience of the game is watching by TV – and has access to replays whether the broadcaster offers it or not.

More than twenty years of watching the NRL have convinced me that this apparatus does not so much settle arguments as inflame them.  FIFA is now finding that out – including in the final of the World Cup.  We are not talking about sport so much as entertainment, and stopping the game negates that.  It may also stop a side that has momentum.  Teams go to some length to slow games down when it suits them, and now an invisible official can do that for them.  We are acquiring evidence that suggests that if you invest officials with power, they may feel neglected unless they are seen to exercise it.  And heaven only knows what all this quibbling on technology does for our kids.  Sport is supposed to teach them how to lose and how to go with the call of the dice or the rub of the green.  This hair-splitting does the reverse.

The rugby union game I turned off was the worst.  Two New Zealand sides were playing in Fiji.  The score was 40+ to nil at halftime.  Then the loser scored two quick exciting tries and, as they say, it was game on!  But wait!  If you rolled the film of play back 50 meters there was a bubble in play that may have been a knock-on.  After a few minutes of replay, the second try was disallowed.  I snapped off in disgust.

Apart from ruining the game – either as a game to be enjoyed by those playing it or as a spectacle put on by professionals to entertain us – there seemed to me to be a problem of fairness, if not jurisprudence.

I assume that the rules of the game allow for this process of reviewing and over-riding the on-field referee by the invisible hand, as Adam Smith may have put it, but that is not the end of it.  A knock-on is against the rules in either form of rugby because you must pass the ball backwards.  (I am tentative because I was brought up with AFL footy.)  As I understand it, most knock-ons are accidental – deliberate knock-ons attract different responses or penalties.  The penalty that is awarded where the on-field referee calls the knock-on can usually be justified on the grounds of fairness because it represents a kind of award to the other side for applying sufficient pressure force the error – or it is just a smack for a mess up.  But the penalty consists of putting down a scrum with the side infringed against having the put in.  It must then apply its skills to get the benefit of that play.  When a penalty is offered and taken by a shot for goal, the side infringed against has to have someone who can kick it – and a lot may turn on where on the ground the offence occurred.  But where a try is disallowed because of a prior knock-on, the infringer is penalised, and to the tune of five points rather than two, without the other side having to do anything.

That does not seem right – to put it at its lowest.  There is no correlation between the offence and the penalty.  The penalty is awarded in fact (de facto) rather than by law (de iure) but its extent is determined by events after the breach of the rules.  That is why the penalty does not match the crime.  One reason that I have been following rugby is that the refereeing is much better, in my view, than in other codes.  T V is fast eroding that benefit.

Some rules say that the invisible hand can only interfere where the infringement is ‘clear’ and ‘obvious’.  What is the difference?  And how do you answer those who say that little in rugby is ‘clear’ or ‘obvious’?  What about stipulating that the infringement must look to have had consequences for the play?  Referees have to make calls like that in awarding penalty tries.  The fact that the on-field referee did not notice the offence may itself suggest that it was inconsequential.  What about saying that in each case the referee must make a call and that unless within say ten seconds the off-field referee is satisfied that that decision was plainly wrong, it stands?  What about reserving reviews for the side aggrieved and limiting their right to call for them – as happens in cricket?

Something must be done.  When did you last see an umpire call a fast bowler for a no-ball?  And what decent person wants to do a job where you get hung out to dry before millions of people?  And at least if the bloke in the middle buggers it up, you know whom to abuse.

Bloopers

Trump as President is doing a great deal of good and a great deal of bad.  Judging the balance is exceptionally difficult.  If you denounce Trump you are destroying the good; if you endorse Trump, you are denying the bad.  Yet the essence of strategic effect is correctly diagnosing reality.

The Australian, 14 July 2018, Greg Sheridan.

The problem with our politics.  Two fallacies followed by a nostrum.  We should be able to handle conflicting views.  Our failure leads to people like Trump.  Keats said:

…..at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.

Here and there – Submission to Banking Royal Commission

[The following submission was made to the Royal Commission before hearings started.]

Auf wiedersehen, Fraulein Longmuir

I refer two letters to NAB, my previous banker, that are set out at the end of this note.  Those letters refer to acts of what I would describe as misconduct by a bank – and I don’t think threatening to renege on bank cheque can be dismissed as mere discourtesy.  I offer the following observations, based in part on the conduct referred to in the letters, but mainly on a lifetime in dealing with banks – and acting for and against them.

  1. My father and mother, Mac and Norma Gibson, had banked with a NAB predecessor, CBC, throughout their married life. Miss Longmuir at Queen Street looked after them in my lifetime until I married.  Those days are long gone, and my two letters to Mr Clyne were in large part a lament for their passing.
  2. Shortly after the incidents referred to, I wished to change my will. Before the bank produced it, they demanded payment of arrears of storage.  So much for two generations of patronage.  This was too much for me, and I terminated the connection.
  3. I now bank with Bendigo. Although I do a lot on computer (and COMMSEC looks after my super), I enjoy going to the Kyneton branch of the Bendigo Bank, and talking to real, live human beings.  I actually got to speak to an account manager who knew what she was talking about – and who wasn’t stitched up by parroted bumpf about bank ‘products.’  Too many bank employees soon convince you that you have arrived at the perimeter of their safe knowledge.  And, if you are a lawyer, you might then wonder just how forensically vulnerable they may be because of their lack of understanding.
  4. My super fund has shares in Bendigo and the big four – except for NAB. I first got into them because a mate who was a stockbroker said to me that banks might generate returns to shareholders by doing the very things that so annoy us as customers.
  5. The truth is that the big four are a kind of oligarchy or protected species. They’re like koalas, but they’re not loveable.  The government protects them by a regime that would surely provoke anti-trust inquiries elsewhere.  And you and I get to stand behind them as de facto   You would therefore expect them to have a decent sense of community, if not gratitude.
  6. Although I am reasonably happy as a bank shareholder, I feel very squeamish about being a party to the payment of huge salaries – say, twenty times what we pay High Court judges – to people who earn about 100 times what they pay their tellers, and whose bonuses may turn on how many of those tellers they sack. On reflection, ‘squeamish’ is not nearly strong enough.  I am revolted.  It’s like being a resident of Dachau in 1936 and looking the other way.  (And when I went there in 1966, the residents were still skittish about acknowledging that they knew where the concentration camp was.)
  7. I was initially against conferring another Christmas bunfight upon lawyers with an inquiry like this, but one thing in particular changed my mind. People in the financial press were fond of talking about the ‘culture’ of banks.  Some, including those who should know better, said that the culture of a bank was a matter for the CEO.  They were incandescently wrong about that as a matter of law.  The board of directors may be able to delegate powers, but they cannot absolve themselves of their legal responsibility.  I got an uneasy feeling that too many bank directors didn’t know what they were there for.
  8. The fallacy about the responsibility for culture is in my view related to the shift in powers in major corporates over the last generation or so. The law says point blank that the ‘business of a company is to be managed by or under the direction of the directors.’  As best I can see, too many boards now act as glorified audit committees and leave the running of the bank to the CEO and management.  They need to be reminded – in neon lights – that they, the directors, are as a matter of law responsible for every aspect of the management of the business of the bank.  They are not there just to pick up their pay cheque, and check their insurance policies.
  9. I am told by someone who has been much closer to banks than me that the problem is compounded when too many bank directors do not know enough about the business of banking. Smart managers can then sell them pups.  If you see a lawyer on a bank board, ask them how they would feel about a bank manager running a law firm.
  10. But one fallacy should not lead to another. The directors are not answerable to their shareholders alone, and the bottom line of profit is not their ultimate aim or justification.  People succeed in business when other people want to do business with them.  When we speak of the worth or value of a business, we often refer to ‘goodwill.’  In substance that is the willingness of people to keep doing business with that entity.  That goes for fish ‘n’ chip shops, service stations, hairdressers and banks.
  11. We know that the term ‘goodwill’ can be difficult for accountants and lawyers, but most of those difficulties are avoided in public companies. A market value is put on each item of ownership of the company or each loan instrument that it issues as another way of raising capital.  In the result, the market sets one way of looking at the value of a publicly listed bank.
  12. That may lead to a sense of security in the directors of banks that is misplaced. How much actual goodwill do banks have with or from their customers?  How many of us enjoy doing business with our banks and want to keep going back to them?  In my experience, very few of us would happily say ‘yes’.  My impression is that the standing of banks with their own customers and with the community at large has been on the slide for at least two generations.
  13. On any view, the low opinion that most Australians hold about their banks should suggest to the directors of those banks that they have not been managing their business properly. Perhaps those directors might stop being sated by figures, even whoppers, and concentrate on intangibles.  In colloquial terms, there is more to being a bank director than counting beans.
  14. May I give an example of how distrust of the big four banks operates? My super fund is in part invested in four banks.  I only hold shares.  I will not deal in bonds, in part because I accept the advice of Mr Buffett not to invest in something I don’t understand, and in part because dealers in bonds seem to me to be the worst of a bad lot.  Nor would I go near bank hybrids.  Why not?  There is too much gobbledegook in the fine print, and frankly I would not trust one of the big banks to do what I would regard as ‘the right thing’ if things turned sour.
  15. As it seems to me, one fundamental question facing the directors of our banks is as follows. In the year of Our Lord 2018, can you acquit yourselves of meanness to your staff, indifference to your customers, and a failure to give back to Australians by saying ‘But we are making buckets of money’?
  16. There are many reasons why the duties of bank directors extend well beyond looking after the bottom line. As I mentioned, these banks are owned and guaranteed by millions of Australians.  They are protected by our government.  These facts of our communal life have allowed banks to lead a sheltered, even cloistered, lifestyle which may well have soothed their directors into apathy.
  17. But community attitudes to large corporations have changed in the space of one generation. The GFC properly put the fear of God into a lot of people, including me.  Many people, including me, are angry that more of the malefactors are not doing time for their role in bringing the whole world to the brink.  We were told that some of these constructs of greed were too big to fail, and that we, through our governments, had to intervene to save them.  For this relief, we don’t appear to be receiving much thanks.
  18. This apparent immunity of those directing what should have been failed businesses is another aspect of the lesion of inequality that corrodes our community. After the GFC, many people feared and distrusted big corporates in equal measure.  This fear brought to mind something that the late Mr Justice Smith told me about what ordinary people thought about judges.  His Honour said that the average bloke looked on judges as being not far removed from coppers – they were people who had power and who might, unless you were careful, do you some kind of harm.
  19. It’s not just that people pay less respect to big business – paradoxically, they now expect much more from it. We saw it with the willing participation of many corporations in the marriage equality debate (even if this was above the pay level of some of our thicker politicians).  We see it now in the guns debate in the U S where, as with climate change, some corporates are accepting responsibility for communal welfare, in default of decent government.  We can see it with the #MeToo movement.  Mark Shields of The Boston Globe (and PBS) said that corporates are learning that they can no longer be morally neutral.  I think he’s right and that the change is fundamental.
  20. And all that’s before you get to the legal obligations of banks as employers, and as institutions that hold positions of trust and confidence with their customers. Here, too, things are much in flux.
  21. About thirty years ago I was acting for a bank with the late Brian Shaw, QC in a matter that got to the High Court. I think it was one of those cases where a farmer had borrowed in Swiss Francs and taken a huge hit.  As best I can recall it, the trial judge had taken a shine to the cocky – but certainly not to us.  In talking with Brian, whom I greatly admired, I made a mistake that I wouldn’t make now.  ‘Brian, the banks get very jittery about being lumbered as fiduciaries.’  I got one of those angular, quizzical looks.  ‘Do they deny, then, Geoff, that they owe obligations of confidence and secrecy to their customers?’  That served me right for using a weasel word that is attractive to people who like going round in circles.  (And after all, even Swiss banks learned of the price they were paying for aiding and abetting crooks.)
  22. Two points come out of that case. The law says that directors and other employees owe their companies duties that are described as fiduciary – such as obligations of good faith, and avoiding conflicts of interest and duty.  The time is I think coming when that traffic will cease to be so one-way.  I am aware that there is some dispute about this in the cases, but I think that the arid rigour of the syllogism will soon surrender to what Oliver Wendell Holmes called ‘the felt necessities of the time.’
  23. One example might come when a bank learns that an employee poses an unacceptable risk as a predator to other employees. Another will surely come when the bank accepts that an advisory service it offers puts it, and its staff, in a hopeless position of conflict.  It is in my view likely that big corporates will find themselves under a legal obligation not to leave their staff compromised.  I will deliberately leave the language as loose as that.  The corporates are liable for the wrongs of their employees but, at least for the most part, the employee may have a personal liability to the victim.  There may also be an issue of moral responsibility.  People who think that the law has nothing to do with morals are dead wrong.
  24. There have already been marked changes in the general law relating to the duties of banks. Take the Swiss Franc cases in the eighties.  At one time or other, I acted on different sides while these cases were in vogue.  Customers of banks, many on the land, complained that they had been lured into borrowing in Swiss Francs by bankers who had not adequately explained the risks inherent in such a course.  Many of those borrowers got badly burnt.  They then sued the bank.  At bottom, one business person was saying to another: ‘When we entered into this contract, you knew more about this kind of transaction and the risks inherent in it, and because of your superior position, you owed me a legal duty to inform me of those risks before signing me up.  Had you discharged that duty, I would not have gone on with the deal.  It’s therefore only right that you should bear the loss.’  When such a proposition was first uttered, it sounded heretical – and not just as a matter of law.  Capitalism is built over the graves of dead competitors.  But most of the time, the farmer got up, either by verdict or compromise.
  25. There were I think two reasons for this. First, most litigation falls to be determined, thank heaven, by what lawyers call the merits.  If you go into a court room where a bank is confronting a man of the land whose life work it has written off in a deal that now looks as dodgy as Bitcoin, it will not be long before you detect which way the breeze is blowing in that court.  Banks rarely get to kick with the wind.  The best that they can do is take solace, if that’s the term, from the gorgeous nicety of the language of Lord Devlin.

The fact that juries pay regard to considerations which the law requires them to ignore is generally accepted…It is, for example, generally accepted that a jury will tend to favour a poor man against a rich man: that must be because at the bottom of the communal sense of justice there is a feeling that a rich man can afford to be less indifferent to the misfortunes of others than a poor man can be.

  1. Secondly, counsel for the farmer was often able to say to counsel for the bank, something like: ‘Having seen your branch manager’s diary notes, I have no doubt you will not be calling him to give evidence. Nor will your people want to see any of it on the front page of the local paper.  The poor bloke didn’t know what he was doing.  He wouldn’t know the difference between a Swiss Franc and a Swiss tart.’
  2. This kind of problem suggests a vulnerability of big corporates generally. Those at the top know how to look after themselves.  They are trained in various techniques involving what might be called massaging.  Those who actually deal with people over the counter are far more vulnerable.  As I indicated above, you can often see this if you get to talk to a fellow human at a bank.  You sense that they are all at sea as soon as they go off script about the ‘product’ that they are trying to flog.  I referred to some examples in my letters to Mr Clyne.  Such people could undergo real pain and cause real hurt to their employer in the witness box.  You don’t have to be a member of the Smorgon family to know that the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
  3. The late Neil McPhee, QC had a better nose for the currents of the law than any lawyer I have known. I was talking to him about the forensic susceptibility of the banks that had let people down, and he shared this insight with me.  ‘Geoff, I have been involved in a number of cases for and against banks.  I have examined and cross-examined economists and other experts about fluctuations in currency markets – what’s called volatility.  These experts have established, to my complete intellectual satisfaction, that there is no rational basis on which anyone, no matter how smart or wise, can predict fluctuations in currency markets.  But I cannot help thinking that many of the promotions of the banks to their customers are somehow premised on an implied assertion that some people can predict such fluctuations.  Any such assertion must be false.’  It seemed to me then, as it does now, that such an argument must have weight.  And woe unto the lawyers who are charged with framing, and then defending, the disclaimer.

They are the issues I would to raise for the consideration of this commission.  I am sorry that this letter is so very long.  I can only say that the issues appear to me to be of substance.

I hope that this commission will encourage the directors of banks to seek to recover the trust of their customers and the respect and decent careers of their staff.  Mac and Norma are long gone, but is it too late to aspire to the return of Miss Longmuir?

We may not get the Domesday Book from this royal commission – but neither will we need the great F W Maitland to decipher it.

Yours truly,

Geoffrey Gibson

14 Breakneck Road,

Malmsbury

Victoria, 3446.

  1. I am known to the commissioner, but I don’t think that fact precludes my making these comments to the commission.

ATTACHMENTS

23 March 2012

Mr Cameron Clyne
Chief Executive Officer
National Australia Bank
Reply Paid 2870
MELBOURNE, VIC.  8060

Dear Mr Clyne

SALES TEAM D

You don’t know me.  Neither do any of your employees.  Since you have been my banker for 60 years, I think that that is very sad.  Don’t you think that is very sad, Mr Clyne?

When I bought my present house, I was subjected to treatment by some of your operatives that in part caused me to write the attached paper on ‘The Decline of Courtesy and the Fall of Dignity.’  You will see that your bank has the misfortune there to be compared to Telstra and Qantas.  That is not good company to be in, Mr Clyne.  The part that really got me was the threat – that is exactly what it was – to pull the pin – that was the phrase – on a bank cheque.  Your staff could give a customer a heart attack threatening to do that to them on the day that they are settling on a house purchase.  A bank threatening to renege on its own paper?  It is hard to imagine a better example of how banks have lost their way – how once respectable business houses have now become unrespectable counting houses.

Being minded to move home, I thought I should confirm my leeway with your bank before making an offer.  I drew Sales Team D in the lottery.  I said I was happy to go to your Kyneton Branch and talk face to face, but, no, Sales Team D told me they were on top of my case.

Your staff can fill you in on the sad results, Mr Clyne.  I had to prove my identity – at least twice.  Sad after 60 years, is it not?  The property I am looking at is worth under half of a city property that I can offer for security.  The increase to the existing facility is modest.  For any bank that knew me as its customer, and wanted to look after me, the proposed transaction would hardly raise a query.  Not so with Sales Team D, Mr Clyne.  I was required to produce tax returns, and then told I would have to surrender one credit card and submit to a reduction on the remainder.  I began to feel for the people of Greece.  Now, Sales Team D wants to go beyond the tax returns, and I now have two accountants wondering just what has got into Sales Team D.

How would you or your fellow directors like it if they were treated like this by someone they have been doing business with for ten minutes, let alone 60 years?  In the course of more than 40 years’ legal practice, I have held various statutory appointments, including running the Taxation Division of the AAT, later VCAT for 18 years.  Some people – including Her Majesty the Queen in right of the State of Victoria – therefore felt able to take me at my word.  But not Sales Team D.  Do you know why, Mr Clyne?  My bank does not know who I am.

Perhaps they are worried about my recent expenditure on credit cards.  Let me assure you, Mr Clyne, so was I.  Very worried and very annoyed.  I bought a CLK Mercedes about six months ago at a very good price.  I just needed to extend a borrowing facility by six thousand to get the $26,000.  I got handballed around four operatives, having to prove my identity along the way.  I got referred to various teams.  Most asked my occupation.  (Sales Team D the other day asked if I was still a member of a firm I left about ten years ago and which ceased to exist the other day.)  I was told my case was difficult because the facility was secured.  Then I was asked to produce tax returns to support a request to extend a secured facility by six thousand dollars.  That is when I gave up, and used the credit card to buy the Mercedes.

I do not blame any of the few employees you have left.  They are trained – programmed – to be automated and not to think.  They also know that the market, which can never be wrong, values their contribution to the bank at about one hundredth of yours.

Do you know what I think, Mr Clyne?  George Orwell was wrong.  It is not big government that is tearing up the fabric of our community by Big Brother – it is Big Money, and Big Corporations.  I think that you and your fellow directors should be ashamed of yourselves.

If it matters, I hold shares in the bank, and I am not a happy shareholder either.

Yours sincerely

Geoffrey Gibson

 

3 April 2012

Mr Cameron Clyne
Chief Executive Officer
National Australia Bank
Reply Paid 2870
MELBOURNE, VIC, 8060.

Dear Mr Clyne,

SALES TEAM D

Well, they did it for you.  Sales Team D – may we just call them STD for short? – stopped me from buying the new home that I wanted.  It was not perfect – it was just ideal.  Ideal for me, Mr Clyne.  But, then, what is a mere home to someone like me to a great Australian banker?

How did STD manage to pull it off, you may ask, Mr Clyne?  Quite simply really.  They did not know me, and they did not know what they were doing.  This all became sadly but inevitably apparent when a roaming STD cell-commandant opened his phone talk with me after my first letter to you with the gambit that my problem was that I had overstated my income.  Really, Mr Clyne, your attack-dogs and flak-catchers would want to be on the highest level of dental insurance if they want to go around behaving like that.  No wonder you forbid them to meet your customers in the flesh.

But I suppose that the ADs and FCs of STD kept you safe from my letter.  You would prefer to stay like Achilles gleaming among his Myrmidons, except that you would not stay sulking in your tent – no, you would be glowing over all that lucre.

You and the people at STD are a real threat to business in this country, Mr Clyne.  You should be helping the flow of capital.  The big Australian banks are doing just the reverse.

And you should really stop those ads that tell the most dreadful lies.  Lies like your people are free to make decisions, or that the big banks like competition.  Nothing could be further from the truth, Mr Clyne.  The people at STD know that they are forbidden to think, much less make decisions, and STD shut up shop completely, and have been in a surly sulk ever since I told them I was talking to another bank.  (Although they did ring the other bank to inquire – without my consent – about what I was doing.)  The major Australian banks are just a collusive cartel operating sheltered workshops that rely on the people of Australia to bail them out whenever they balls it up – and then they pass on their guilt and paranoia to those same people by refusing to lift a finger for their customers when they need a bank.

Those people do not hold your staff responsible for the shocking fall in the standards of our banks, Mr Clyne.  They hold you and your like responsible.  You do after all get paid about one hundred times as much as the folk of STD.

If you and your board step outside your cocoon of moolah, minders, and sycophants, you will not find one Australian – not one – that has a kind word for any of you.  What all those people should do to the big banks is to take their business elsewhere.  That is what I will do.  You never know, Mr Clyne, I may meet a real person in the flesh, one who might know what they are doing, and who will even know who I am.

Yours sincerely,

Geoffrey Gibson

No answer came the firm reply.

Us and the U S – Chapter 11

Us and the US

[The extracts that follow under this gravely ungrammatical title précis a book published in 2014 called ‘A Tale of Two Nations; Uncle Sam from Down Under’.  That book sought to compare the key phases of history of the two nations under fourteen headings.  That format will be followed in the précis.  The chapter headings are Foreword;1 Motherland; 2 Conception;3 Birth; 4 Natives; 5 Frontiers; 6 Laws; 7 Revolution; 8 Migration; 9 Government; 10 Wars; 11 Patriotism 12 Wealth; 13 God; 14 Findings; Afterword.  Each chapter is about 1400 words.]

11

Patriotism

In his first campaign for election as President, Mr Barack Obama was criticised for not wearing the badge of his flag.  Someone even queried his patriotism.  An Australian politician wearing a flag in his lapel would be open to a comment that would not be flattering; but it would be out of the question to criticize one for not doing so.  Such a comment would not just be in bad taste –it would be evidence of madness.  Members of the current government (2014) from time to time get exercised over a lack of empathy from the national broadcaster, the ABC, as if the ABC were being unpatriotic in criticising its employer; but sane Australians regard that silly kind of political posturing as bullshit.

Most people in Australia understand the word ‘patriot’ to mean someone who loves their country and is loyal to it.  Australians do not use the terms Fatherland of Motherland; neither did the English; those words make both lots uneasy.  The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that something more is required of a patriot than passive loyalty.  It says that a patriot is ‘one who exerts himself to promote the well-being of his country; one who maintains and defends his country’s freedom or rights.’  To be a patriot, you have to get off your backside and do something – this then raises the spectre of the busybody.

A love of your country presupposes that you know what your country is.  What was the Motherland of a fifth generation colonial family in Boston in 1760?  America as nation had not yet been invented, and even when it was, a lot would regard their first loyalty as that owed to the colony or state.  The question can also arise when there is a change in the regime of the country that is loved, as for example when the king loses his head.  Citizens of Paris in 1760 knew that France was the mother country – la patrie – and that King Louis XIV represented France.  But what was the case after the king had been guillotined and the monarchy had been abolished?  Were you loyal to la France or la patrie?  But if you said either, and you were allowed to get away with saying that and no more, you could be saying that you were loyal to the Republic – or that you remained loyal to the monarchy.

So, questions about patriotism arise where there is a regime change in the nation that is loved.  Those become life or death questions when the title of the new regime is shaky because it came into power unlawfully – and by definition, a revolution, a change of regime wrought by violent means, is not lawful.  So, people in a revolution get quizzed about their patriotism.

The British crown was overthrown in America in the course of a revolt that might now be called a terrorist insurgency.  If the revolt had failed, and if there had been no change of regime, its leaders could have been executed for treason.  They understood this.  When the Declaration was signed, Benjamin Franklin said: ‘Well, Gentleman, we must now hang together, or we shall most assuredly hang separately.’  At the end of the Civil War, many in the North wanted to hang Jefferson Davis and Lee.  Their ‘crimes’ were of the essence of treason – they had sought to overthrow the republic of the United States by force.

That kind of insecurity of title has not been a problem for the U S – after they won the war of independence, they won the recognition of the Union, and a lot of the supporters of the old regime left to go ‘home’.  But it kept flaring in France after the death of the king, and it led to instability for about a century.  The government said that la patrie est en dangère [the Fatherland is in peril], but this came to mean in the Terror that those in power were feeling lethally insecure.  They then executed people who threatened their security.  You were not a true ‘patriot’ if you were against ‘the Revolution’, and you were against the Revolution if you were opposed to those who constituted its most recently formed government.

In this way, ‘patriotism’ very quickly became opposed to ‘liberty’ – the first refuge of any government seeking to reduce the rights and liberties of its subjects is to claim that the nation is in danger.  The shorthand now is ‘national security.’  You will even find national security being invoked against refugees.  Simon Schama referred to ‘the problematic relationship between patriotism and liberty, which, in the Revolution, turns into a brutal competition between the power of the state and the effervescence of politics.’

But one problem did remain in the United States.  When everything had settled down, you might be from Virginia and the U S, but if there was a conflict, with whom did you side?  This had not crystallised as a problem for Washington.  Like most Americans at his level in, say, 1760, he was ambivalent about England and its crown and institutions.  He had repeatedly sought a commission in the imperial force, but the Horse Guards, the relevant HQ, had no regard for colonials, from America or India.  But for this snobbery, the allegiance of Washington, and history, may have been different.

But this was a problem for Robert E Lee.  He held a commission from the Union, that he had served for more than thirty years.  Was he to turn his troops against his home in Virginia?  Where a professional person is torn between competing interests, then, if a duty is owed to both, the law says that that person should serve neither.  That was not the option chosen by Lee.  Lee himself cited Washington’s withdrawal of loyalty to Great Britain as ‘an example not branded by the world with reproach.’  Lee’s choice baffles many today and was a reason why many Americans wanted him hanged.

Australia never had a revolution, and that may be a reason why patriotism is not discussed there.  De Tocqueville summed up patriotism for Americans.  ‘But I maintain that the most powerful, and perhaps the only means of interesting men in the welfare of their country, which we still possess, is to make them partakers in the Government…….in America the people regard this prosperity as the result of its own exertions; the citizen looks upon the fortune of the public as his private interest, and he co-operates in its success, not so much from a sense of pride or duty, as from, what I shall venture to term, cupidity’.  Cupidity might be greed, as in the famous ‘Greed is good’ of Gordon Gekko.

De Tocqueville also said:  ‘As the American participates in all that is done in his country, he thinks himself obliged to defend whatever may be censured; for it is not only his country which is attacked upon these occasions, but it is himself…..Nothing is more embarrassing in the ordinary intercourse of life than this irritable patriotism of the Americans.’  There you have Donald Trump.

There is something close to the heart of America here.  The upside is ambition, drive, and personal and communal responsibility; the downside is Salem, McCarthy, Ronald Reagan, and Gordon Gekko – and that nonsense about the lapel pin of Barack Obama.  In some sense, the feeling of communal responsibility and participation does seem to rest well with American patriotism; so does their prickliness if you happen to query in passing something close to American hearts.

Australians are not so serious about all this kind of thing, and open discussion, much less profession, of patriotism is not encouraged.  If they see it in Americans, they might mumble something about people wearing their hearts on their sleeve

Here and there – Jeffrey Smart

Jeffrey Smart has something in common with Louis Armstrong.  He has his very own style and it is instantly recognisable.  Not many artists achieve that distinction.  But Smart is different to Nolan, Boyd, and Williams.  They taught us how to see and come to terms with the bush.  Smart taught us how to see and come to terms with the city.  In something of a manifesto, he said in 1968:

I find myself moved by man in his new violent environment.  I want to paint this explicitly and beautifully.

Some styles become outmoded for the artist’s message.  (If he has a message.)  But how would Bonnard paint a Hilton Hotel bathroom?  How wrong a jet plane or a modern motor car looks painted impressionistically!

A man is logical on horse-back: but in a satellite, surreal.  Only very recently have artists again started to comment on their real surroundings……

Security?  The bomb?  How much more insecure Fra Angelico must have felt riding to Orvieto with the threat of outlaws, robbers, and the plague.

Smart was born into a comfortable part of Adelaide in 1921.  He was obsessed with drawing as a child and the technique that he acquired would always be central to his painting.  While serving in a number of jobs, including the part of Phidias on The Argonauts on the ABC, he acquired a full education in art, most noticeably from an Adelaide lady called Dorrit Black.

She began with the geometric method for establishing the Golden Mean….This was a positive eye opener, and she linked it with compositions by Poussin, Tintoretto, Veronese, da Vinci and so on.  And it all related so clearly to Braque, Léger, and above all to Cézanne.

We see immediately how important this teaching was to the structures in Smart’s mature paintings.  He was very taken with the light and sense of place in Piero della Francesca, but Cézanne would remain his champion.

Like many Australian artists back then, he really got going in trips to Europe.  He studied with Léger for a while in Paris, and his early work shows some influence of de Chirico.  Smart said of him: ‘There is an element of the naïve in him, his perspective distorted without a care in the world while Cézanne agonized over the same thing.’  Smart would later say that his later paintings are better than his earlier ones partly because until he was forty-one he was working at other things to earn a living.  Someone said that post-modernism was like playing tennis with the net down.  That could never be said about Jeffrey Smart.  He had a life-long commitment to the high technique derived from the masters over the ages.

Peter Quartemaine says:

When a painting is ‘right’ it has for Smart a stillness, that quality he so admires in artists as diverse as Balthus, Poussin, Mondrian, Braque and Ben Nicholson.  He himself turns to T S Eliot for the best expression of what this stillness means in the work of art, a passage from Burnt Norton which he feels hints at the greater accessibility of the visual arts as vehicles of meditation compared with music or literature.  ‘At least, we do abolish time.’

…….Only by the form, the pattern

Can words or music reach

The stillness, as a Chinese jar still

Moves perpetually in its stillness.

Smart recalls in this connection reading a critical account of a Cézanne landscape as ‘nature in arrested movement’, where the critic assumed that the stillness came from the peacefulness of the original scene.  He insists that in Cézanne, as with Eliot’s Chinese jar or a perfect composition such as Guernica, the stillness comes from ‘the perfection of the design alone.’…..Eliot’s mature work, especially Four Quartets which has influenced the artist profoundly, is an expression of hard-won faith in the world and in the value of artistic endeavour.

Smart would later recall that Dorrit Black spoke of ‘making a picture’ rather than ‘painting a picture.’  Léger suited his preoccupation with geometric shapes.  ‘I paint buildings a lot because they are rigid shapes…they go straight into the picture plane – they make a space, a box, where you want it.’  He said that Piero della Francesca and Cézanne had taught him how to compose.  He was engrossed by The Flagellation and the Gilles of Watteau (which is referred to in his painting Dampier III).  He surrounded himself with reminders.  One said that ‘an artist must himself be moved if he is to move others.’

Germaine Greer said:

Many observers, hypnotised perhaps by the occasional human figures isolated in a man-made environment in Jeffrey Smart’s work, have been struck by its mystery and ambiguity…..There are few artists who can provide the shock of recognition and they are all great.

The rest, as someone said, belongs to the madness that is art.

Us and the US – Chapter 10

Us and the US

[The extracts that follow under this gravely ungrammatical title précis a book published in 2014 called ‘A Tale of Two Nations; Uncle Sam from Down Under’.  That book sought to compare the key phases of history of the two nations under fourteen headings.  That format will be followed in the précis.  The chapter headings are Foreword;1 Motherland; 2 Conception;3 Birth; 4 Natives; 5 Frontiers; 6 Laws; 7 Revolution; 8 Migration; 9 Government; 10 Wars; 11 Race; 12 Wealth; 13 God; 14 Findings; Afterword.  Each chapter is about 1400 words.]

10

War

The American war of independence was a frightful guerrilla war with atrocities on either side.  The Civil War was a war of attrition, with casualty rates piled up by a mode of warfare that would offer a ghastly premonition of the Great War.  Once the colonies revolted, it was victory or death for their leaders.  That threat was not so real for those states seceding from the Union, but in that war, both sides were equally charged morally.  In the first war, the rebels never lost the moral high ground, and getting British soldiers to fight against Britons on foreign soil cannot have been simple.

The first war was a precondition of the birth of the Union; the second war was a precondition of the survival of the Union.  This war of independence was mythologised in a way that looks completely American.  There was no need to mythologise the Civil War.  It had its own stark grandeur that would be given precise expression by the greatest American of them all.  For some people outside America, this was the real birth of the nation that they so admire.

George Washington was pompous and patrician, a vain old Tory.  But the new nation needed more than a hero; it needed something like a cult.  The very shortness of American history led to almost indecent haste in making Washington a saint.  Might perhaps the Americans have a propensity to talk themselves up?

The Civil War was so much more bloody and destructive than that fought in England two centuries earlier.  It was fought over four years when southern states, with nearly half their population enslaved, wanted to secede from the union on the issue of the extension of slavery.  There is no doubt that state loyalty is still much stronger in the US.  It strikes Australians as odd that a man could be Virginian first, and American second.  About 620,000 Americans died in the conflict.  Names like Fort Sumter, Bull Run, Antietam, Shiloh (‘Place of Peace’), Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Appomattox lie deep in the national consciousness.  Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg redefined the Union.

The Americans were latecomers to both world wars, but their intervention was decisive, especially in the Second World War, both in Europe and in the Pacific.  In the Second War, America was directly attacked and its military and industrial mobilization left it the most powerful nation in the world.  Wilson and America failed at Versailles, but so did other Allies.  America produced more real military heroes in Bradley and Patton, and the future President Eisenhower.  The Marshall Plan was statesmanlike and humane, and by crushing Germany and Japan militarily and then being generous in victory, the U S avoided the awful errors of Versailles.  Korea was at best a draw; Vietnam was a moral and strategic black hole; and whatever else might be said about the perceived failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, the memory of them is not inducing America to try that kind of thing again.  America has retired hurt as the world police officer.

***

The Australian war experience got off to a bad start.  The colonies jointly – the Boer War started just before federation – went off to the aid of the leading world power in a fight that had little or no intrinsic merit or interest to Australia.  The Australian participation in the war was deeply divisive at home, with consequences that are at best disputed, and for no discernible benefit to Australia, apart from paying some kind of respect or dues to the world’s leading power.  Very much the same damning assessment would later be made of Australia’s tagging along behind America in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  One difference is that in the case of both Vietnam and Iraq, the government of Australia told its people untruths, to put it softly, when that government determined to send off its young men to be killed in foreign conflict.

Australia would lose more than 60,000 killed in World War I, and about half that in World War II.  It was only in the latter war that Australia was directly threatened, and it was Australian troops under their own commanders who halted the Japanese advance into New Guinea.  The appalling war crimes committed by Japanese troops under Emperor Hirohito on Australian troops and prisoners of war etched very deep in the Australian consciousness.  The frightful games that the Japanese play with their own brutal history have, to put it softly, not helped.

Yet, when Australians commemorate their war dead, they tend to focus on the charnel house of the Great War.  This concentration on the First World War reflects the mystique, for the want of a better word, of Gallipoli.  On two occasions, the infidel invaders were within touching distance of achieving their objective, but on each occasion they were caught in time.  The whole expedition was botched from on high from the start.  The invaders were facing Turks defending their own soil, and with Allah on their side, and they ran into a man of military and political genius called Mustafa Kemal, who was more the Father of Turkey than George Washington was the Father of the United States.  There were months of stagnant fighting in trenches, the very type of war that the planners had sought to avoid.  The casualties on both sides had been horrendous, and all for nothing – except for the creation of modern Turkey.

Gallipoli was memorable for the Australians and New Zealanders (Anzacs) because this was a form of debut, and their casualty lists loomed larger in their smaller country towns.  Most country towns in Australia have a memorial to those lost in this war.  But in fact the British suffered far more casualties than Australia; the French lost as many as Australia; and the Turks lost as many as Britain, France, and Australia combined.

The glow that Australians now see this disaster in comes from the need for a sustaining myth like that of the Americans.  If you go to Gallipoli on a clear quiet day, you can feel a marvelous peace near the water where men had torn at each other hand to hand most barbarously for nothing.  There is a monument on which Kemal assures the foreign mothers of the fallen that their sons are resting in peace.  Those who survived became part of the sausage factory on the Western Front, the last gasp of ruling monarchies and a cruel and effete ruling class.  They produced a general of the first order in Monash, but he too had to serve under a butcher.

In the Second War, the Japs got very close.  Darwin was bombed.  There was real tension with the mother country about Australian troops being kept to face Rommel in the desert rather than defending their own homes against the Japs.  The fall of Singapore to the Japs – the guns pointed the wrong way – and the loss of English capital ships led Australians to turn their gaze to across the Pacific and look to Uncle Sam as their new protector.  That still position holds.  It was by and large American troops that pushed the Japs back on the islands at the most frightful cost.  The American admirals were preeminent, and Australia has nothing like that monument to the US Marines at Iwo Jima.

Australia was well served by Prime Minister Curtin, but it produced no one of the standing of Roosevelt, or that paradigm of clean and simple leadership – yes, leadership – President Harry Truman, the great president who said that ‘The buck stops here’, the man who took two heavy decisions of equal import, to bomb the Japs and to fire Macarthur, for which both his troops and his nation should be forever grateful.

The most disgraceful phase of Australia’s military history came with the refusal of most Australians to acknowledge the return of soldiers from Vietnam.  Then their government got lousy about compensating them, and looking after them.  This national meanness put a big dint in the national myth of ‘mateship’ – Australians were kicking their own troops in the guts.  Erich Maria Remarque had written books about the Great War that are a sustained and enduring paean to mateship.  The notion that Australians might have some primacy in a basic part of humanity is at best rather sad.  We are yet to found a myth.

Us and the U S – Chapter 9

Us and the US

[The extracts that follow under this gravely ungrammatical title précis a book published in 2014 called ‘A Tale of Two Nations; Uncle Sam from Down Under’.  That book sought to compare the key phases of history of the two nations under fourteen headings.  That format will be followed in the précis.  The chapter headings are Foreword;1 Motherland; 2 Conception;3 Birth; 4 Natives; 5 Frontiers; 6 Laws; 7 Revolution; 8 Migration; 9 Government; 10 Wars; 11 Race; 12 Wealth; 13 God; 14 Findings; Afterword.  Each chapter is about 1400 words.]

                                                            9

Government

The Declaration of Independence was of, by, and for, white men.  Opinions were asserted in 1776 that would find no place in America more than two hundred years later.  We have seen that the Indians were written off as savage mass murderers.  The statement that ‘all men are created equal’ was, to the certain knowledge of the authors, untrue – unless a black man is not a man.  That is one count of dishonesty.  The second count is the lack of candour on the causes of the revolt.

There is no history of the American Revolution that has been written that says that the American colonies revolted from their subjection to the British crown for any of the reasons that are set out in the eighteen clauses of the Declaration of Independence.  The primary reason for the revolt of was the imposition of taxes by the British parliament – when those being taxed had no direct representation in the parliament levying the tax.  But British taxation is only referred to once in the Declaration of Independence and then in false terms.  They say the King imposed the tax.  The Glorious Revolution had put paid to that.    Most divorces are about money, and this one was no different.  American historians are silent or coy about this.  So, the Declaration was infected by two counts of deceit, which you can still see at work today.

The American Declaration of Independence is therefore of limited historical value in explaining why the Americans proceeded as they did, or what values of humanity they proposed to pursue for their future.  The tragic truth is that the barefaced lie about slavery would haunt the young republic until it was expunged by the death of more than six hundred thousand Americans in the Civil War and by the moral courage and intellectual genius of Abraham Lincoln, the one unquestionable gift of the United States to humanity.

The United States Constitution is an altogether more prosaic affair.  It has served the needs of the nation reasonably well.  It was designed to permit the working of government consistently with the rights of its citizens.  It was not designed to be an ideological platform, although the amendments that are collectively called the Bill of Rights inevitably invite political, if not ideological, debate.

Perhaps because the U S was moving away from a monarchical government, its constitution invests much more power in its president than do similar constitutions where the monarchy is retained.  But a rigidly doctrinal adherence to the separation of powers has produced what for others appear to be unfortunate results.  A president may be confronted by a hostile Congress which is bad for both the efficiency of government and the faith of its citizens in the workability of government; and the president is not accountable to Congress in the sense that he can be examined in Congress, as is, say, the prime minister of England every day of the parliamentary year.  There is a related problem of the president not being in the parliament – neither is the leader of the opposition, because there is no such office.  This does not conduce to honesty or sense from the party not holding presidential office.  The result is a sustained divorce from reality that is not healthy and that cannot last.  Other difficulties in the Constitution and party system are being fully tested in 2017.  Just as tax was hardly spoken of in the Declaration, so no one speaks of it in U S government today.

The First Amendment begins: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’  England still is the direct opposite.  It has an established church of which the queen is the head and it has a constitution that bars Catholics from sitting on the throne.  Yet religion at least appears to be far more prominent in U S political life than in, say, England, France or Germany where it is almost entirely irrelevant.  That is the difference between a doctrinaire American and a pragmatic Englishman.

And the one shot that was heard around the world came in 1831 when the British Parliament outlawed slavery.  That very significant act of political and moral courage was brought about after an inspired campaign to change and direct public opinion in Britain that was organised and directed by the established church, the Church of England, and a group of religious fanatics who had been hardly done by in America, the Quakers.

The picture of the United States that emerges from a comparison of the beneficiaries of the English and French Revolutions, is one of a conservative, staid and risk-averse political backwater.  There are times when sadly the Americans just resemble a God-happy, gun-happy and flag-happy people still in search of a lost king.

***

The institutions of government in Australia were built by middle class people with at least some education, but the progress was less eventful or momentous.  It is about as riveting as the story of the merger of a few town councils.  The Australian colonies adopted the Westminster system for each government, and considered the American example in adjusting powers between the states, as the colonies became the Commonwealth of Australia.  The federal body was given specific powers, and the states kept the rest.

Allowing for two world wars and the Great Depression, the Commonwealth did what it was appointed to do.  Largely as a result of tax decisions of the High Court during the second war, the Commonwealth became preeminent in income tax and therefore political power to an extent not reflected in the Constitution itself.  State functions like education, health and transport are de facto run out of Canberra, because it has the money, and this has been a buck-passing Godsend to politicians of all colours at all levels.  The average voter, at least in the cities, feels no closer to government in Melbourne or Sydney than Canberra, and the states in America have more impact on life at large than in Australia.

The party that became the conservative party – the Liberal Party – took its time to emerge, but the Labor Party almost from its inception developed a capacity for publicly blowing its brains out by having leaders rat or by self-immolation in a split after World War II that disenfranchised a generation.  As a result, it may have provided soul food to its own faithful, but it badly let the people down by failing to provide an electable alternative to the Pontius Pilates opposite them, and the nation drifted into a mindless conservative mediocrity – or, at least, that is how some saw it.

America and Australia now both have a serious problem getting the party model of parliamentary democracy to work.  Government is no longer small, and never will be again; taxes are no longer small, and never will be again.  We know that we have too much government and too much law.  We also know that no one will try to fix it even if they could.  It is no good for a political party to remain ideologically pure if it will lock itself out of government for a generation.  The government has to govern for the people, and an opposition has to offer an electable alternative.  Both nations need to see political parties offer a rational choice on how to go forward – but neither offers grounds for optimism.

Us and the U S – Chapter 8

Us and the US

[The extracts that follow under this gravely ungrammatical title précis a book published in 2014 called ‘A Tale of Two Nations; Uncle Sam from Down Under’.  That book sought to compare the key phases of history of the two nations under fourteen headings.  That format will be followed in the précis.  The chapter headings are Foreword;1 Motherland; 2 Conception;3 Birth; 4 Natives; 5 Frontiers; 6 Laws; 7 Revolution; 8 Migration; 9 Government; 10 Wars; 11 Race; 12 Wealth; 13 God; 14 Findings; Afterword.  Each chapter is about 1400 words.]

8

Migration

The nations that we know as America and Australia still see themselves as predominantly white.  They got to be that way with laws that each passed to preserve its racial integrity, although they may not have used that language. Before they could get to that stage, white people had to be introduced on to lands previously used or occupied by people whose skins were coloured.  The colonies had to be settled and then peopled.  Without white migrants, the whites would not have gained supremacy.  It is therefore obvious that migration is essential to the history of each of these two nations.

There is an essential difference to the course of migration into each country.  For the most part migrants to America arrived under their own sail or steam, or by dropping down from Canada.  For the most part migrants to Australia arrived with the help of government.

We saw that the first settlers did not come to America under the aegis of the government of England.  They were either quitting England for religious purposes – these were in truth refugees from persecution on the grounds of religion – or they were going out in ventures of what we would call venture capitalism, intent on making a new life – and profits.  The Americans soon learned how to combine a pious love of God with a pious regard for wealth.  The Puritans back home had never had any problems on this.  Any espousal of poverty would have been as sure a sign of madness as an espousal of democracy.  Their place as God’s elect justified them in this world and the next.  Their success on earth here was proof of their acceptance in heaven.

Four years before the colony at Botany Bay started, Benjamin Franklin had said that America was a good place to get rich and that ‘nowhere else are the labouring poor so well fed, well lodged, well clothed and well paid as in the United States of America.’  This was a land, he said, ‘where a general happy mediocrity prevails.’

The population in 1800 was north of five million, but it was close to doubling in twenty years.  Napoleon needed to fund his war – and more agony for Europe – and the Louisiana Purchase and the brutality of President Andrew Jackson on the Indians opened up vast areas of new land when the population in Europe was exploding.  Immigrant ships dared the Atlantic, and more than 30,000 arrived each year.

Naturalization Acts had acted as a colour bar since 1790, but the inflow from Europe was colossal.  In the century after 1815, about thirty million crossed over, and it ran at about one million a year during World War I.  The California Rush for gold in and after 1849 put before the world the dazzling promise of America, and public and private money was spent on selling America.

There were other things beside the huge wages.  Liberty.  The vote.  No political police.  No conscription or aristocracy.  No censorship.  No arbitrary arrest.  No secret police.  No legalized class distinctions – except those based on colour.  (American Negroes did not go into the melting pot.)  There was no state church or any tithes backed by the state.  Since there were few poor, there were no poor rates.  After the Depression, the epoch of unrestricted mass immigration had come to an end.  Now politicians are competing to show who can slam the door the hardest.

***

There is likely to be a great difference in outlook between someone going to the New World to glorify God and to make their fortune and someone who is expelled from home because he has got seven years for theft – or the troopers that have been sent to act as prison wardens for the refuse of their nation at the other end of the world where Tiger snakes and trap-door spiders kill people and sharks eat them.

It was not until after 1830 that free migrants to Australia exceeded convicts.  The U S was closer and the voyage was shorter and cheaper.  Australia competed by paying the fares of British migrants.  This was funded from the sale of land which in turn made land much dearer than in the U S.  Well over half of the migrants coming to Australia up until, say, 1970 had all or most of their fare paid for them, and they might look to being looked after on arrival.

The founders of Australia had a very different attitude to government than Americans – one government that had encouraged them to go and another government that paid their way and showed what it had to offer when they arrived.  As a result, Australia remained much more firmly British and, for a very long time, a lot less cosmopolitan, than the U S – and a lot more staid.  Geoffrey Blainey said: ‘Here was one of the mainsprings of the welfare state which emerged so clearly in Australia and New Zealand.  As most migrants were subsidised, they tended to lean on the government that initially cared for them.  Self-help dominated American attitudes, but ‘lean on the government’ was common amongst Australian attitudes….Nothing did more to give Australia an ethnic unity than the practice of selecting and subsidising the migrants.  This sense of unity was to encourage later generations of Australians to fight on Britain’s wars on the far side of the world.  In contrast, in the United States the ethnic disunity helped to deter that nation from fighting in foreign wars.’

We might add that the U S attracted more people of means, more middle class settlers, in its formative years.  These differences still run very deep indeed.  Among other things, telling Australians that they will have to lose their entitlements may not fall far short of telling them that you will take away the air that they breathe.  It is likely to sound downright silly.

After the colonies federated and became States, all of them adopted a policy of subsidising migrants from Britain before 1914.  The whole scheme was determinedly ‘White Australian’, a label then used with no blushing at all.  Indeed, in some quarters there was antipathy to Italians on the ground that they were not quite white.  After World War I, those on the Labor side began to be hostile to open-ended immigration.  It was ‘Populate or Perish’ against ‘Save Our Jobs.’  But the closeness of the savage Japanese invasion, after the fall of Singapore, revealed the vulnerability of that vast empty nation.

It was a Labor Government, followed by a conservative government uninterrupted for a generation, which saw a massive increase in assisted migration after World War II, and a much broader migrant pool including European refugees.  This time it would be European migrants like Greeks or Italians who would feel the brunt of the natives’ blunt insularity.  The wave of post–war immigration helped to put aside the old Anglo sombreness, and the waves of Asian and African immigration after the Vietnam War have helped even further – until the rednecks got restive about colour and refugees, and their leaders toed the line.

Us and the U S – Chapter 3

Us and the US

[The extracts that follow under this gravely ungrammatical title précis a book published in 2014 called ‘A Tale of Two Nations; Uncle Sam from Down Under’.  That book sought to compare the key phases of history of the two nations under fourteen headings.  That format will be followed in the précis.  The chapter headings are Foreword;1 Motherland; 2 Conception; 3 Birth; 4 Natives; 5 Frontiers; 6 Laws; 7 Revolution; 8 Migration; 9 Government; 10 Wars; 11 Race; 12 Wealth; 13 God; 14 Findings; Afterword.  Each chapter is about 1400 words.]

3

Birth

The Mayflower arrived off Cape Cod in November 1620.  There were forty-one families and they were what we call Puritans.  These very religious people thought that the Church of England was too much like the Church of Rome.  We might now call them fanatics, or fundamentalists.  They wanted a religion free of abstraction in thought and hierarchy in action.  God was over all, but no mere mortal could be superior to another.  They had been persecuted because they were dissenters.  In the New World they could start a new life and they would have the numbers.  Their country would be God’s own country because they were God’s chosen people.  As John Winthrop said, ‘Wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill…. we shall be… a by-word throughout out the world.’

On their way over, they entered into a written covenant.  The critical words are ‘combine ourselves together in a civil body politic.’  We may owe allegiance to an English king, but it is we who will combine to make our new world.  If that combination comes into effect with the blessing of God, well, then, how can we fail?  These boat people brought to the New World God, conviction, strength, and a contract.  They set out as families and for good reason thought that they were exceptional.  They were nothing if not American.

In 1606, the Virginia Company was formed to recover for Christ ‘a number of poure and miserable souls wrapt up into death in almost invincible ignorance.’  Well, it was unlikely that the colony set up at Jamestown could survive on the conversion of the Indians.  There was capital was riding on this venture.  This was not the work of government – people had sunk their own money into the company.  The colony started to take hold when investors were offered land in return for their capital.  Later settlers were offered land in return for labour.

The colony at Chesapeake Bay nearly went the same way as the first Virginia settlement. It was saved by the enterprise of a mercenary called Captain John Smith.  Smith was candid.  ‘For I am not so simple as to think that any other motive than wealth will ever erect there a Commonweale’.  He wondered about people ‘making religion their colour when all their aim was nothing but present profit.’  Tobacco would do for Virginia what wool would do for Australia.  The company also said the colonists would have ‘the rights of Englishmen’, and the first General Assembly of Virginia met.

Rhode Island arose for those who had had enough of the Brethren.  So did Maine, parts of which had been dominated by the French.  Salem was settled and The Massachusetts Bay Company was formed in 1629.  Later, John Winthrop, a Cambridge man trained at Gray’s Inn, arrived.  He rejoiced that the Indians had been wiped out by smallpox.  Winthrop was in truth a dictator, and Salem was more intolerant than England ever had been.  The purges of alleged witches at Salem are a lasting stain on the nation and a reminder of the threat that religious fanatics pose to others.  They prefigured Senator McCarthy.

Maryland was named after a Catholic queen.  New York was named after James II, the Duke of York, after it was changed from the Dutch New Amsterdam.  William Penn arrived in Delaware for what was to be Pennsylvania.  This future state was handed over for the release of a debt of £16,000.  Penn was settling for the benefit of the Quakers who had been shockingly mistreated in the other settlements. Quakers from the Rhineland settled at Germanopolos.  Philadelphia would be the birthplace of the American Declaration of Independence.

In the meantime, people from across Europe were settling.  The American colonies were from the start far more middle class and cosmopolitan than the Australian colonies, and they were always much better equipped to lose any sense of dependence on the Mother Country.

***

The coming of the white man to Australia was not attended by any romance at all.  The First Fleet assembled at Portsmouth.  There were two warships, six transports, and three store ships; there were nineteen officers, eight drummers, one hundred and sixty privates, thirty wives and twelve children.  There were more than seven hundred convicts, about a quarter of them women.  Assembly and provisioning took months amid chaos, squalor and despair; the shopkeepers at Portsmouth lowered their shutters, while slatternly female convicts lolled on the decks with such clothing as they had.

They dropped anchor at Botany Bay on 20 January 1788, after a journey of more than eight months.  They arrived a year and a half before the fall of the Bastille, a signature prison of the Old World and Ancien Régime.  They did not like what they saw, now blasted by a summer heat.  They found a better spot, Sydney Harbour, one as gorgeous as the two they had stopped at on the way – Rio de Janeiro (also built by convict labour) and Cape Town (whose Robben Island is now a shrine to the imprisonment of the great Nelson Mandela).  On 26 January 1788 the white people hoisted an English flag. That day is celebrated by some annually as Australia Day.  It does not have quite the same élan as Bastille Day or Independence Day.

Shortly afterwards, fourteen couples were joined in marriage; the colony had to be peopled.  The Protestant Ascendancy also had to be preserved.  On 13 February, Captain Phillip swore an oath about the real presence.  There had been trouble a few days before when the women had finally been released from their ships.  Some of the sailors got into the rum with the women, and there were appalling scenes of debauchery.  But somehow the colony survived until the second fleet arrived two and a half years later.  The financial drain might for a while have been a concern to London.

What were the convicts like?  Manning Clark said:  ‘When these men and women spoke for themselves before their judges, they seemed to be liars, drunkards, and cheats, flash and vulgar in dress, cheeky when addressing their jailers when on top, but quick to cringe and whine when retribution struck… they were men and women who aroused their contemporaries to disgust and apprehension, but rarely to compassion, and never to hope’.

There may have been a limit of, say seven years on their term of imprisonment, but for most it was a one way ticket – for the reason that they could never afford a return ticket.  By 1800, about two thirds of the colonists at New South Wales were free.  Transportation ended on the east coast in 1850.  More than 160,000 convicts were transported to Australia.  But free immigration was on the rise.

A Scottish military man was sent out with his own regiment after a kind of rebellion, and over a period of twelve years, Governor Macquarie encouraged emancipation.  He even offered land to aborigines.  A London commissioner recommended injecting terror back into transportation.  This suited the sheep farmers who were squatting on crown land and becoming rich off the sheep’s back.  Some of them even fancied their own kind of aristocracy.  The squatters were the big hitters in the first century of the white people down under.

So, one nation started with free enterprise and the better people seeking God and their fortune; the other was a government job to get the dregs off-shore.  One started with liberation and hope; the other with imprisonment and despair.  That is one hell of a difference.  One nation craved independence and won it; the other fears independence and ducks it.

Here and there – The Wars of the Roses on the BBC

 

In 1964, the year of the Demons’ last flag, the BBC made a televised recording called The Wars of the Roses.  It consisted of a heavily edited version of four plays: Henry VI Parts I, 2, and 3, and Richard III.  The editing didn’t involve just cutting – new dialogue was added.  You can if you like try to spot the additions.  I couldn’t be bothered (and I suspect that my ear may be as dodgy as my palate).  The issue may in one sense be sterile, since it is unlikely that anyone will chance their arms by putting on the whole of the Henry VI trilogy in this country – they don’t try it often in England.  We get either an abridgement, or nothing.

This TV show was a huge undertaking.  The set was both massive and novel, and the cast was of the kind called ‘stellar’ in the popular press, although the producers were prepared to chance their arms.  The show was recorded over eight weeks with many stars who had been involved in a recent Stratford production of the four plays.

One object of the production was to demonstrate the relevance of many themes of the plays to modern politics.  The director, Peter Hall, said:

I became more and more fascinated by the contortions of politicians, and by the corrupting seductions experienced by anybody who wields power.  

The RSC issued a three CD set of the trilogy in 2016.  The show was shot in black and white and its grainy appearance lacks the definition of High Noon, but it is a great and historical production.

Each of the three parts is punishingly long – far too long to be taken in one hit in comfort.  When the BBC replayed the series, they did so in eleven parts.  The truth is that all four of these plays are too long, at least for Australian audiences.  Many years ago, I saw the RSC do the Full Monty on Richard III at the Barbican, and it was an ordeal for back and bum of Wagnerian dimensions

Before watching the series, you may wish to look at the supplement that has interviews with two surviving stars – David Warner (Henry VI) and Janet Suzman (Joan of Arc and Lady Anne).  Both would go on to wonderful careers, but each was hesitant at this stage, and their selection carried risk.  Warner was offered his role after three auditions.  He said he couldn’t believe it, and that he spent the first few days apologising for his selection.  It was a great choice.  His face, which is on the cover, was made to express the pain and indecision of a pious disaster.  Of his part, Kenneth Tynan would say ‘I have seen nothing more Christ-like in modern theatre.’  Either the critic had a queer view of Christ, or he missed that part where this idle fop disinherited his son so that he could hold on to power for a few years more.  (And I am a Tynan fan.)

When offered the role of Joan la Pucelle, Suzman asked who was she?  ‘Joan of Arc, you bloody idiot.’  Then she turned up on the set, and all ‘the big guns were there.’  I’m not personally familiar with how the hierarchy in the theatre manifests itself to relative novices, but I imagine you could get the kind of snakiness you may find among some barristers and test cricketers – that is, naked bitchiness.  Suzman says the editing was a corrective to a ‘biblical’ view of Shakespeare.  Her features then, and fifty years on, radiate a kind of strength – of a kind, perhaps, that the Lady Anne lacked.

One of the big guns that may have put the wind up Janet Suzman was Peggy Ashcroft.  She plays Margaret of Anjou, the queen of Henry VI, and the ‘she-wolf of France.’  She appears in every segment, and is the driving force for a lot of the action as the proud wife of an anaemic king, and the protective mother of his betrayed heir.  She starts as the young French girl who is wooed into a negotiated marriage, becomes the de facto ruler of England, and the serial killer of the enemies of her house, and ends as a savage old hag at risk of being accused of witchcraft (which they all believed in back then.)

Since the actress was fifty-six when she played this part, pulling it off would be a feat – but pull it off, she did.  Here is how a contemporary critic saw what appears to have been the original stage production.

.. the quite marvellous, fearsome performance of Dame Peggy Ashcroft as Margaret of Anjou, who skipped on to the stage, a lightfooted, ginger, sub-deb sub-bitch at about 11.35 a.m. and was last seen, a bedraggled crone with glittering eye, rambling and cussing with undiminished fury, 11 hours later, having grown before our eyes into a vexed and contumacious queen, a battle-axe and a maniac monster of rage and cruelty.. even the stoniest gaze was momentarily lowered from this gorgon.

Peggy Ashcroft said of her part as Margaret that she was:

….a Dark Lady if ever there was one – and prototype for Cressida, Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth – was Shakespeare’s first ‘heroine’ – if such she can be called… It takes four plays to make her one of the great female characters in Shakespeare – and the full-length portrait has been seen only in The Wars of the Roses cycle – but she has facets that are not touched on in any other.

Margaret’s feral growls and hideous curses could cost you some sleep.

Janet Suzman is vital and gamin, and utterly followable as Joan of Arc.  The scene where the big hitters elect to pick either a white rose (York) or a red rose (Lancaster) resembles heavy chested Harley riders.  What are they missing that makes them show of so dangerously?  In truth these magnates resemble the Mafia more than the Hell’s Angels.  And the Mafia and the feudal system both evolve out of the same disorder – the failure of central government to provide security drives people to make other arrangements.  They seek protection elsewhere.  You look after me and I will look after you.

These lords and knights have that marvellous medieval accompaniment – their ‘powers’.  Their puissance, another word much used in these times, leads others to pledge allegiance – to their liege lords.  It is I suppose the kind of thing you see in shows like House of Cards, but there is something less prosaic about ‘powers’ than poll ratings or factions or unions or think tanks or talk shows.

We are talking about chess played with extreme prejudice.  The magnates are like the knights and bishops, or even rooks, except that the rules are there to be flouted.  The concept of allegiance was at best fluid.  The followers – the powers – of the Duke of Burgundy or Lord Gloucester were as solid and reliable as the Tory ministers of Mrs Theresa May.

I will not mention all the players.  The cast includes Roy Dotrice, Brewster Mason, Eric Porter, and the others mentioned here.  The rose pickers include Donald Sinden as Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, and William Squire as Suffolk (the wooer and lover of Margaret).  Sinden’s voice reminds me of Drambuie.  There is something about it that makes it instantly recognizable, rather like the deflated Kevin Spacey.

When I lived in South Yarra, I could walk to and from work in the east end of Collins St, about thirty-five minutes each way, and in about four months listen to all thirty-eight plays.  (It was then that I was glad that I had seen Cymbeline and Troilus and Cressida because I would not be doing so again; and Cyril Cusack’s Iago put me off Othello for life.)  I suppose I had heard A Winter’s Tale on four or five occasions, before one day, out of nowhere, on the tan, I recognized the voice of the lead – there was no doubt it was William Squire who played Hunter in nearly all the twenty or so episodes of Callan.  And in this trilogy there is also a lot of that eyebrow rolling and nasally drawled incredulity.  It is bliss for Callan fans.

Gloucester (Paul Hardwick) is the definitive politician and the unfortunate Winchester (Nicholas Selby) is played like Joel Grey in Cabaret.  Both could have walked straight out of Yes, Minister.

The Jack Cade sequence was to my mind hopelessly over the top, and too violent.  Indeed, there are many scenes of horrific violence.  We get to see what a blood feud can really look like, generation after generation.  Janet Suzman remarked on the violence, and the role of cabbages in the decapitations.  She said people were fainting all over the place.

One of my favourite scenes from this playwright is the confrontation between Queen Margaret and the Duke of York.  She taunts him about his progeny.

And where’s that valiant crookback prodigy,

 Dicky your boy, that with his grumbling voice

Was wont to cheer his dad in mutinies?

Well, we’ll get to see this Dicky in full murderous flight in the next episode, but this French-born woman steels herself not just to extinguish her womanhood, but her humanity.  She will mock not just knighthood, but fatherhood.  She rubs the nose of York into the blood of Rutland (his son) on a handkerchief.  She says she mocks him to make him mad so that she can sing and dance.  She puts a paper crown on the head of the man who would be king and says:

Ay, marry, sir, now he looks like a king

Ay, this is he who took King Henry’s chair

And this is he was his adopted heir.

But how is it that great Plantagenet

Is crowned so soon, and broke his solemn oath?

Off with the crown, and with the crown his head!

And whilst we breathe, take time to do him dead!  

 

The BBC version is not for children.  Margaret by now is oozing hate, and we start to get that old Greek feeling of whole houses being cursed.  (In the McKellen film, Annette Bening as Queen Elizabeth gave meaning to the phrase ‘Ay me!  I see the ruin of my house’ – ‘Welcome destruction, blood, and massacre’.  She was right.)  The violence was perhaps not so surprising after the assassination of Kennedy, and the beginning of the war in Vietnam.  And the Cold War was stepping up, so mutilation by a sickle in the area of the groin may have then had different significance.  We have now been exposed to so much more horror, that this level of explicitness looks as unnecessary as it is unkind.

In the final part, we see evil made manifest in Richard III played by Ian Holm.  Richard III is a master class in the kind of stunt pulled by Peisistratus that was made whole by Mussolini and perfected by Hitler.  The part as played by Ian Holm is so threatening because it is underdone.  It’s as if the producers wanted to comment on the ‘banality of evil’ that Hannah Arendt saw in Eichmann.  (He was one of those mass murderers who went to work with mass death in his brief case.)  What we are presented with here is not motiveless malignity, but wanton evil.  Most people can get hot for sex; the world must be peopled; but some people, sadly, get hot for evil.

Ian Holm was born to act.  For this role he also brings the advantages of relative youth and shortness of size.  He said:

I played Richard very much as a cog in the historical wheel, and not as an individual character. We tried very hard to get away from the Olivier/Irving image of the great Machiavellian villain.

When Richard is confronted with his bloody past, we get the kind of apologia that Fox News reserves for Donald Trump.

Look, what is done cannot now be amended.

Men shall deal unadvisedly sometimes

Which afterhours gives leisure to repent.

 

The scene where Richard confronts Anne is difficult, because it is revolting.  But we have been rudely reminded that quite revolting people – including racist morons – might appeal to people who don’t mind being revolted, or who just don’t care.  And we are also reminded of the difference between the power of sex appeal – that this king had none of – and the sex appeal of power.  When we say that power corrupts, it is not just the wielder who can be corrupted, but those who come within its thrall.  The regimes we least admire work on dragging people down to their level and then locking them into the regime by their complicity.

All that and more is on show here in this remarkable trilogy for the preservation of which we owe much thanks.

PS. May I add a note about Hunter? Callan worked for the British spooks.  He was dragooned into it, and to do dirty hit jobs, because they got to him in the Big House.  He has come up the hard way.  His only mate is a scruffy Cockney cab driver called Lonely.  Hunter is from the Establishment.  So is another agent, Toby Meares.  They are observing from afar Callan on a dangerous mission to meet a deadly Russian killer.  Hunter scowls – he’s good at that – when Meares expresses a moral qualm about the danger to Callan.

Well, then, what would you do if you were in my position, Meares?

Well, on reflection, I think I would do nothing, Sir.

In that case, I would applaud your reticence, Meares.

Oh, don’t applaud, Sir – that way your right hand might know what your left hand is doing.

 

If you watch William Squire in The Wars of the Roses – he is Buckingham at the end – you will see immediately why he was a natural for the part of Hunter – and why he continues to play a substantial part in my entertainment.  As it happens, Buckingham is one of the most vapid and watery liars the world has known.  He is the Platonic form of the kind of politician who drives the rest of us mad.

Here and there – Gallipoli by Les Carlyon

 

When I visited Gallipoli nearly twenty years ago, my guide, a most affable former naval officer, was proud to show me the gun emplacements on the Asian side where ‘the sick man of Europe’ had stopped the greatest navy in the world – in circumstances that still excite misgivings and bad feelings, and not just down here.  I can’t recall now whether Ali said that the Turks were lucky that the British navy stopped the fight after only one day of its concerted attack, because the Turks were dangerously low on ammunition.  This would not be the last time in that war that the British pride in their navy operated to make them duck putting a critical battle to the issue.  That’s exactly what Lord Denning thought Jellicoe had done at Jutland, and Denning never forgave him.

We looked at those guns on our way to Troy.  Then, after a night at Cannakale, we returned to the European side.  We then spent about five hours going around the major sites, such as Anzac Cove and Lone Pine.  When we got to the summit of the ridge called Chunuk Bair, we could see the narrows of the Dardanelles.  My guide told me that the New Zealanders had taken this peak, and that if the Allied forces had been able to hold it, they could well have broken through and gone on to Constantinople.  In light of all the human misery and inanity I had been looking at that day, this hypothetical was hardly comforting.

Well, as Les Carlyon remarks more than once in his book Gallipoli (2001), the battles around Gallipoli, like those of the Trojan War, were full of ‘what ifs’ or ‘if onlys.’

The man who led the charge to the summit of Chunuk Bair was a New Zealander commanding soldiers from around Wellington and Otago, Colonel William George Malone.  He certainly looks the part – one of those solid, square-jawed six-footers that you see in the forward pack of the All Blacks, a man apparently born to lead.  (Some of the Maori units performed the haka before battle, to the bemusement of the locals.)  As well as being a land agent and solicitor with five offices, Malone was a farmer.  He had about 2000 acres around Stratford.  This is what Carlyon says of this farmer turned warrior.

Malone, tall and straight-backed, didn’t fit any of the stereotypes.  He was born near London but saw himself as a New Zealander.  He was of Irish descent and the temper of his adopted land was Scottish.  He spoke French and loved classical music.  He liked soldiering but was never going to make general: he was ambitious but not in the sense that he was prepared to win promotions over the bodies of his men; he was always going to be more popular with his men than with his superiors. He was bossy and petty, a man of tidy habits that bordered on fetishes, yet his men loved him.  Sixty years after Chunuk Bair, old men who had served with ‘Molly Malone’ spoke of him with reverence.  He was their father; he had looked after them.

If that is right, Malone was everything that most of his English commanding officers at Gallipoli were not.

Three days before his last on this earth, Malone wrote the following letter to his wife.

I expect to go through all right but, dear wife, if anything untoward happens to me there are our dear children to be brought up.  You know how I love and have loved you…..If at any time in the past I seemed absorbed in ‘affairs’, it was that I might make proper provision for you and the children….It is true perhaps that I overdid it somewhat.  I believe now that I did, but did not see it at the time.  I regret very much now that it was so and that I lost more happiness than I need have done.  You must forgive me; forgive also anything unkindly or hard that I may have said or done in the past….I have made a will and it is in the office in Stratford….I am prepared for death and hope that God will have forgiven me all my sins.

Malone woke his batman at 3 am on 8 August 1915 and gave him the address of his wife in case he got killed.  He shook hands with the man and said ‘Goodbye.’

The Wellingtons advanced sixteen abreast and got to the summit of Chunuk Bair with relative ease.  They were to be joined later by Gloucesters and Welsh Pioneers.  As Carlyon says, ‘thoughts of victory teased.’  But they also saw that the summit would be hard to defend.  In the area were Sikhs, Australians, Gurkhas and New Army boys.  Monash, Australia’s best general, was having what Charles Bean, the military historian, called ‘one of those black days’.  The young Kiwis astride Chunuk Bair were about to be put to the test that no sane man wants to face.

Some New Zealanders who fought on Chunuk Bair never saw the Narrows.  Malone didn’t stare at them for long.  He was a practical man; he knew that looking at the narrows was not the same as owning them.  He had to hold this awkwardly shaped summit; that was the first thing.  And after 5 am, when the haze lifted and the Turkish riflemen could see their targets, clinging to that summit became one of the epics of the Gallipoli campaign.  ….By 5 am the Turks were starting to pick off the Wellingtons.  The Gloucesters and Welsh Pioneers were shot down as they came up to reinforce Malone.  The Gloucesters on Malone’s left broke as they tried to dig in….  The Turks could creep to within twenty yards of the Wellingtons before being seen.  The front trench, which was too shallow anyway, became clogged with dead and wounded.  By 6.30 am, Malone was running a tremendous battle….The New Zealanders’ rifles became too hot to hold.

Even by the standards of Gallipoli and Troy, this was hell made flesh.  One Kiwi took a Turkish trench, and ended up standing on the dead and wounded.  He said the colour of the earth was blood.  The Wellingtons made short bayonet charges at the advancing Turks.  Malone himself used a bayonet.  It was buckled by a bullet.  An officer told Malone a man of his rank should not lead such charges.  Malone replied: ‘You’re only a kid – I’m an old man – get out yourself!’  A reporter on the beach later met a New Zealander with ten bayonet wounds.

Malone moved about all day amid this carnage trying to hold morale.  At about 5pm Malone was hit by a misdirected shrapnel burst that had come from either an Anzac battery or a warship.  He fell to friendly fire.

So died one of the grand and original figures of the Gallipoli campaign, a free spirit who could stretch his mind beyond the clubby world …and would stretch his integrity for no man.  It seems unconscionable that he received no posthumous decoration for his day on Chunuk Bair.  By the standards set at Lone Pine, he should have received the Victoria Cross.  In death, as in life, Malone was not much loved by those in authority.  He was always going to be an outsider.  Mater [his wife] took her three children to England during the war and never returned to New Zealand.  Malone’s farms were sold and his large family home burned down.  His son Edmond died of wounds in France in 1918.

The vast tragedy that engulfed the House of Malone could have come straight out of Homer.  It is within my personal knowledge that the Australians who fought in that war held two lifelong gripes against the English officer class – their incompetence or heartlessness in the field, and their lousiness in accepting the courage and competence of the colonials.  If medals are given to those who carry out their duty over a sustained period of time while facing probable death or mutilation, then in a just world, every one of those poor bastards on Chunuk Bair should have got a Victoria Cross, dead or alive.  Of the 760 Wellingtons who had arrived on the crest that morning, only two officers and 47 men remained unwounded.

They looked like the nightshift leaving a clandestine abattoir.  Their uniforms were torn and spattered with blood.  They had drunk no water since dawn and barely slept for two days.  According to Bean, they talked in whispers, trembled and cried.  Some bled to death and others went mad with thirst.  Some asked when the stretcher-bearers were coming and were told they weren’t.  Others prayed or hallucinated or passed out…..Some of the wounded from August 8 took three days to travel down…, attacked by flies the whole way, thirsty the whole way, covered in dust with bloody clothes stuck to their bodies.

The New Zealanders left on the summit were relieved later that day by British New Army Battalions.  They were swept off the summit on 10 August by an attack led personally by Mustafa Kemal in what Carlyon calls ‘death by avalanche.’  The Australian war historian Charles Bean dropped his guard at a time when people did not blush to use the word ‘race’.  ‘The truth is that after 100 years of breeding in slums, the British race is not the same….It is breeding one fine class at the expense of all the rest.’  Good God, did the descendants of convicts see themselves as ethnically superior to the stock of the Mother Country?  Well, putting race to one side, the nemesis of the British had intervened once again to save his nation from defeat at the hands of accursed infidels.

One Victoria Cross was awarded to the immortally brave New Zealanders who took Chunuk Bair and held it until they were relieved.  It was given to Corporal Cyril Bassett, a signaller.  Carlyon said that Bassett knew the truth about Chunuk Bair.  ‘All my mates ever got were wooden crosses.’

By contrast, seven Australians won the Victoria Cross at Lone Pine, two of them posthumously.  The British saw Lone Pine as a win.  Chunuk Bair was a loss.  We must suspect that the British were laying the seeds of what has become a vicious trait in the Australian psyche.  We don’t like soldiers who lose.  We turned our back on those returning from Vietnam, and we are now giving the same treatment to those who fought for us in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The French lost more soldiers than Australia did at Gallipoli, but they were not a young nation in quest of a legend.  And statistics can be demeaning.  They can rob a story of its moral horror.  To understand that horror, and the ghastly sense of chance and waste, we need to be reminded of the story of Molly Malone and his men.  That story is worth more than all the charts and graphs on earth.

It looks to me that Carlyon told the story of Gallipoli as it should be told and that he is very sensible and fair in looking at those responsible.  Churchill’s conception was at best romantic – his family said he was always dangerous with a map in his hand – but his powers of persuasion turned the heads of those who should have known better.  Fisher was sceptical but erratic.  Kitchener was aloof and out of date, but the others walked in fear of him.  The command at home was divided and the overall strategy bears an uncomely resemblance to that of the English and Americans in Iraq.  Hamilton was literate and urbane, but they are not the qualities you need in an abattoir, and he walked in fear of his betters.  The original plan was to have the navy do the job, but the navy got timid, and Plan B was not thought through.  Then there was the incompetence or cruelty of the officers on the ground.

Two young nations sacrificed the flower of a whole generation in a great Imperial balls-up.  When Kitchener finally got to Gallipoli, he was driven to a confession, although this old man may not have seen it that way.  ‘The country is much more difficult than I imagined, and the Turkish positions….are natural fortresses, which, if not taken by surprise at first, could he held against very serious attacks by larger forces than have been engaged…..To gain what we hold has been a most remarkable feat of arms….Everyone has done wonders.’  Nothing ever surprised the Turks in this campaign.  The Minister of War was therefore admitting that his ignorance had led to the unnecessary slaughter of thousands upon thousands over seven months in pursuit of what was obviously unattainable.  When Kitchener told the ANZACS that the ‘King has asked me to tell you how splendidly he thinks you have done – you have done splendidly, better even than I thought you would’, those poor deluded remnants cheered him heartily.

Although I have made my pilgrimage to Gallipoli, and to the Western Front, the mystique of Anzac Day remains as impenetrable to me as that of the Holy Trinity.  I wonder what that hard head Molly Malone and his men would have made of it.  I can’t help wondering if their response might be: ‘Why in the name of God are you celebrating the campaign where good and brave men got slaughtered – and all for nothing?’

Carlyon closed his chapter on Lone Pine citing a letter home from a young soldier who wrote home to his parents in Hawthorn (Melbourne).  Private James Martin had given his occupation as ‘farmhand’.  He told his mum and dad that the troops had got a present from Lady Ferguson, the wife of the Governor-General – ‘2 fancy biscuits, half stick of Chocolate and 2 sardines each.  I think I have told you all the news so I must draw to a close with Fondest love to all.’

Private Martin craved a letter.  Across the top of his letter he scrawled: ‘Write soon.  I have received no letters since I left Victoria and I have been writing often.’  A little over a fortnight later, he died from heart failure, probably caused by enteric fever, and was buried at sea.

His enlistment papers gave his age as 18.  At the time of his death, he was 14 years and nine months.  Among his effects was a scrap of red and white streamer that he had picked up as his troopship left Melbourne.

It sounds like the poor little bugger never made it off the boat.  God only knows how his mum and dad took the news when the telegram arrived back at Hawthorn on the other side of the world.