Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Time for Honesty

The message (last two sentences) has been lost in the hysteria.



There are some issues in Australian politics that invite disaster unless there is a bi-partisan approach.

Amongst these, I would list national policy on disabilities, climate change and asylum seekers. There are others, but a quick glance at our history will reveal the absolute tragedy that follows the taking of adversarial positions on these three.

The best example of what follows when this principle is ignored comes from recent history, specifically our involvement in Vietnam.

The consequences of the fear, hate and bitterness generated during that conflict continue to be visited on Vietnam veterans, and often on their families. If you doubt this, check the statistics.

Pandering to fear and loathing in the electorate works, but it creates victims. For the purpose of this exercise, let's use the military term "collateral". In the case of Vietnam, returning soldiers became the collateral. Considering refugee policy, "collateral" are the asylum seekers.

Most recently, we have the spectacle of the unfortunates turning up after the legislation went through this week, being exiled (like colonies of Robinson Crusoes) in godforsaken outposts in the Pacific.

When John Howard let the genie out of the bottle back in 2001, I doubt he understood the monster he was creating. That genie, fed on xenophobia, racism, and gut fear, has overwhelmed rational discourse, and risks poisoning our value system for generations.

Again, paralleling the adversarial tone set up around Vietnam, we saw fear (the Communist hordes from the North), used effectively to wedge the opposition. This worked for a while, but inevitably, when it ceased to work, the community turned on the diggers. 

Victims were created - generally all diggers, but particularly the conscripts who had no choice. These days the victims are the asylum seekers, whose choices are also limited. At least conscripts not found to be conscientious objectors knew how long they’d be behind bars. Refugees will be denied this certainty.

We see absurdity used to justify extremity – back then random twenty year olds conscripted to kill and be killed – these days children locked up behind razor wire.

The saddest aspect of all is the hypocrisy shown on all sides of politics. The most recent legislation is justified by the Coalition as a method of saving lives. The under song has nothing to do with saving lives, and everything to do with harnessing the latent xenophobia which has been part of our national psyche since the anti-Chinese riots at Lambing Flats.

They make cynical use of this national ugliness, at the same time dressing it up as compassion. A quick reading of the blogosphere reveals this undercurrent.

Labor has capitulated because they have been wedged. Humanitarian Principles have vanished overnight. Expediency is dressed up as compassion. The expert committee was a device to outsource moral responsibility. It worked a treat.

There is and always has been a “solution” - although using this word brings us into the company of the notables who espoused the “Jewish solution”. John Howard had no qualms about reintroducing the term into our national vocabulary. This puts him in interesting company.

The successful template I refer to was written during the time of the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese boat people. It would take a decade or more – would cost a great deal – would involve some heart searching in terms of our relationships with our neighbours to our North, but it is possible.

It worked back then, because the approach in this country was bi-partisan. The xenophobia was always there, but it was never harnessed. Back then, we had leaders with backbone.

It won’t happen in 2012, because we are governed by cowards and opportunists on both sides of politics.

Howard's monster will endure. The collateral damage will last for decades.

Ask a Vietnam veteran.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The consequences of the fear, hate and bitterness generated during that conflict continue to be visited on Vietnam veterans, and often on their families. If you doubt this, check the statistics."
I've had a read of the link.....can you please indicate where the quoted study had a reference to fear hate and bitterness etc.....

Anonymous said...

Can I safely assume that you are searching for the term "collateral damage" in this piece.....'For the purpose of this exercise, let's use the military term "collateral". In the case of Vietnam, returning soldiers became the collateral.'
I would hate to think that a loan was taken out using returned soldiers as collateral.

Anonymous said...

The Vietnamese solution was perfect eh? Read on..... http://www.aic.gov.au/documents/E/1/E/%7BE1E2943C-1FB7-40D6-B85E-DFB354BE751A%7Dethnic.pdf

1735099 said...

The morbidity study doesn't look at the reasons for the health outcomes, but the hostility directed at returning veterans is clearly a factor.
My own coversations with vets over forty years bears this out.

1735099 said...

If you're having a problem following my use of metaphor, I suggest you buy a good theosaurus....

Anonymous said...

I've looked around the pet shops and can't find a dinosaur called a theosaurus, can you give me a starting point?
So you believe that physical ailments usually attributable to exposure to chemicals, genetics, disease can be attributed to hostility being directed at one?
Even though the study does not indicate that, you claim it as an irrifutable fact. My dear fellow, when that nasty LNP person at the polling booth pointed the bone at you he got inside your head and now if or when you contract cancer or your children become ill or your grand children have a problem you can blame that LNP member, and the RSL bloke that refused you membership. None of it has anything to do with chemicals, substance abuse or exposure to the sun.....wake up.

Anonymous said...

"My own coversations with vets over forty years bears this out"
I don't doubt that the men sent to Vietnam have psychological issues arising from the treatment given many of them on their return, but the study you quote from does not include psychological problems. You cannot assume that general health concerns can be alluded to in a very specific study that has clearly excluded the psychological injuries suffered.

Richard Sharpe said...

4 points:  

1. Last time I was here you made two factual mistakes in two footnotes. That's a 100% fail rate, and I thought you might have learned from it. I guess not.  

2. Collateral is something your bank will ask for before giving you a loan. You just keep trying to use military terms you don't understand.

3. There is  no such thing as a "Theosaurus". Perhaps rather than referring people to a thesaurus to interpret your clumsy analogies, you first ought to consult a dictionary.  

4. Somehow, and it comes as no surprise whatsoever, you've created tenuous links from contemporary issues to Vietnam.There was such a high degree of logical gymnastics in this piece that I was at first inclined to applaud, but really it's just sad for you. I'm sure you know a lot about disability policy, you've spent a great deal of your life in that field. But, you have a fairly simpistic and ideologically shaped view of broder protection policy, and a poor grasp of the military concepts you've used to try to tie these all together.

1735099 said...

1. My footnotes, accurate or otherwise, have no bearing on the substance of my post. Have a go at the substance - if you can....
2. The military actually takes these terms from a civilian context. I'm surprised you don't grasp this. An example is "friendly fire". I was on the end of it on 13th March 1970, and can assure you it is anything but "friendly".
3. Blogging in the bush on my iPad has its risks. An "o" in thesaurus is an example of one of them. My bad. You have the same problem - "broder" - what's your excuse?
4. You haven't exactly been specific. Why not have a go at the concepts. My post was about the bipartisan use of fear as a political wedge, and the hypocrisy revealed in this process.

Richard Sharpe said...

Is it really your point that military phrases in the English language are drawn from the English language? That's deep man. I'll also be sure to advise the Supreme Allied Commander at NATO that you have objections to the term Friendly Fire on the basis that its not very friendly. Ignore that in this case friendly refers to the source rather than an adjective to describe its nature. Friendly fire is frequently much worse than enemy fire, because our weapons often have overmatch (which ties right back into the LOAC), and it has the added psychological impact of having been a mistake from our own forces.

All of that doesn't change the fact that the term you were after was Collateral Damage. It's just another example of your attempts to use military terminology, and failing. I also don't buy your feeble typo excuse. Even on an iPad, you had to go to the other side of the keyboard to input the wrong letter that just happens to spell the word the way it is so often mispronounced. Nice try - fail.

As to your argument, it's a weak collection of random and unrelated themes that ignore some harsh realities. The IMA problem had been resolved prior to the 2007 election. Rudd and Co. changed the rules and reignited it. The issue is not about using hate as a wedge, it's about maintaining control of our borders and about renouncing stupidity masquerading as compassion. You can also disabuse yourself of the misconception that there was some sort of bipartisan approval of Vietnamese migration. Does the term "Vietnamese Balts" sound familiar?

All of this has absolutely nought to do with Vietnam Veterans and their acknowledged poor treatment on RTA. The link was tenuous and convoluted, and really only served to reinforce the perception that you will try to make just about any topic somehow related to your status as the aggrieved Vietnam Veteran.

Finally, the very unsubtle pairing of Howard with Hitler was hyperbolic, cheap, and most importantly, grossly inaccurate.

Anonymous said...

Gee I wasn't the only one to pick up on this inability of yours. No typographical error with the "o" its at the other end of the board. It appears that ou have taken me off your welcome list...too hot to handle eh?

1735099 said...

The American military uses euphemisms to dress up the morally unacceptable. Hence "collateral damage" and "friendly fire".
Playing with these pretensions simply points out the absurdity of the military myth across the Pacific. We can do without it here - it's not part of our national psyche.
The harsh reality is that both political groupings in this country have used demonization of a group of people (refugees) to garner political support. ThIs technique was used successfully in the thirties by the Nazis. That is established historical fact.
If pointing this out offends your delicate sensibilities - sorry bout that.
If you don't believe a similar process hasn't occurred here since 2001, you've been living under a rock.
Whitlam was quoted as using the term "Vietnamese Balts", but neither party campaigned on fear and loathing of them as refugees.
As to Vietnam, two factors make it relevant.
First, Menzies whipped up fear of Communism (remember the Red Menace, the Domino theory) to justify our involvement and the subsequent conscription of 20 year olds. Secondly, the fear and hate generated by this rebounded on the returning troops who bore the brunt. It didn't matter whether it came from the Right or the Left (and I experienced both), it was destructive.
To extend the metaphor, it was friendly fire.
My point, which seems to have sailed right over your head, is that the cynical use of ignorance, fear and hate always rebounds, and is utterly destructive.
Your inability to grasp this simple concept adds weight to the observation of the Task Force commander in the sixties who noted that the average IQ of the military improved by 20 points with the advent of conscription.
Like all Nashos, I was in the army to do a job - not to get a job.....

Anonymous said...

"My point, which seems to have sailed right over your head, is that the cynical use of ignorance, fear and hate always rebounds, and is utterly destructive"
As stated in one of my posts that you have failed to publish this is an unassailable fact, but you quote from a study that has absolutely nothing to do with your intention.
"Like all Nashos, I was in the army to do a job - not to get a job" With your reiteration of this line you insult every regular soldier you served with as well as those who served before and after your term. You forget who trained you well enough to survive your ten months overseas. Your arrogance is only out done by your stupidity.

Anonymous said...

Like all Nashos, I was in the army to do a job - not to get a job.....

You have previously stated that you were in the army to avoid a jail term.....which is true?

The inference above is that you did a voluntary service, and we know that is far, far from the truth.

1735099 said...

"Your arrogance is only out done by your stupidity."
I'm not arrogant enough to consider myself the self-appointed spokesman for all regs - past, present, and presumably future.
Regs I served with (and with whom I spent plenty of time in the recent past) regard this comment as part of routine payout that occurs when we get together.
You obviously have no idea about the nature of the relationship - but then you wouldn't, having never served with Nashos.
Learn something - read this - http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012/australian-identity/australian-history/reflections-on-the-fall/

1735099 said...

"The inference above...."
It's entirely possible to serve because you have no choice, but once forced into service, to do the job assigned as well as you can.
Only those with small minds (lacking in sufficient space to entertain two ideas at once) have a problem understanding this.

Anonymous said...

If you intend to claim "tongue in cheek" put in a reference for those not familiar with diggers having a dig.
"I'm not arrogant enough to consider myself the self-appointed spokesman for all regs - past, present, and presumably future"
I am sure the regs are happy with that, because I am also.
"You have previously stated that you were in the army to avoid a jail term.....which is true?"
To avoid jail time or specifically do a job ....no answer to that?
"It's entirely possible to serve because you have no choice, but once forced into serviceto do the job assigned as well as you can."
What you meant to say then is that you were pressed into service with people who couldn't get a job elsewhere, but once you were given a job you did it to the best of your ability, having been trained to a very high standard by the very same people who couldn't get a job elsewhere....is that correct?
Four years at uni and a degree does not create a sage and it would appear two years in the army and forty more have not helped much either. If you think your tongue in cheek condescending comments about your assumed superiority to a regular soldier go unheeded by those regs with a smile.....think again. Do you even understand why comedians have to be careful about joke material chosen for its minorities' content?
If you think those at the reunion were impressed by your B.S. think again.

1735099 said...

"If you intend...."
Thanks for the advice, but I trust my readers to have enough sense not to need explanations. It works for most.
"What you meant to say..."
No. what I meant to say is what I said.
"If you think...."
It must be useful to have your psychic powers.

Anonymous said...

"You obviously have no idea about the nature of the relationship - but then you wouldn't, having never served with Nashos." Now there's an assumption.

"No. what I meant to say is what I said." What you said is the precis of what I said. (Sorry about the acute over the e but my board will not allow its use.)

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