Weekly Wrap 30 September 2013

More wickedness from Errol
“I am sour on women but cannot do without them and I need them incessantly so as to feed my sourness”  From My Wicked Wicked Ways. 1959

THIS PAST WEEK in Passive Complicity
correct settingsSaw the introduction of Corridors of Power by Sir Bertram Postule.


‘When we, the (Christian) Crusaders, arrived at the gates of Jerusalem (1096) we were confronted with something wholly new; a tolerant, civilised and sophisticated society.  All of the great disciplines, Philosophy, Mathematics, Science and Medicine were available for study, and a rigid code of honourable conduct was practised.  There was no discrimination whatever..’ wrote Tarquin O’Flaherty in the fourth instalment of ‘Man as Machine’.  A conclusion – of sorts

From there we looked at ownership in Owning Food, Owning Recipeswith an extract from Jerusalem, A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi.  They argue that attributing ownership to foods and recipes is fraught with difficulty, as recipes and food owe so much to our forebears and to our cultural mixing.

Cecil Poole is on again about food, firstly with a story of a regular food drive in Food PORCH, which explains the operation of this charity and the joy the volunteers get from the giving and doing.  The second, Food and Refugees, talks of a visit to Transplanting Traditions Community Farm where it appears that the local community actually sees some value in refugees for who they are!

Paddy 0′Cearmada took a critical eye to censorship in Art and the Censor.  “Rather than ask what it is that Paul Yore is proposing to us about a corrupted world, he is instead excoriated as corrupt by self-appointed guardians and in the case of the Sydney Art Fair they impose untested law backed by a powerful Patron of the Arts who without hesitation declares what we can see.”

Saturday’s MDFFManifest Destiny and American Indians Manifest Destiny, looks at the link between the Doctrine of Discovery and the evolution of the concept of Manifest Destiny.  Of how religion was used to underpin the expropriation of aboriginal land to Christian Europeans.

Poetry Sunday brought Dylan Thomas’Fern Hill, about which our poetry editor, Ira Maine said: “‘Fern Hill’ is an astonishing evocation of a childhood spent in the country, an irresistibly soft and magical place, full  of streams and horses and sunbeams, the sweet scent of hay and perfumed and dappled shade.”

  And, dear reader, please feel free to add comments about this and any of our postings.

Cecil Poole

Poetry Sunday 29 September 2013

Fern Hill
by Dylan Thomas

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
     The night above the dingle starry,
          Time let me hail and climb
     Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
          Trail with daisies and barley
     Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
     In the sun that is young once only,
          Time let me play and be 
     Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
          And the sabbath rang slowly
     In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
     And playing, lovely and watery
          And fire green as grass.
     And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
     Flying with the ricks, and the horses
          Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
     Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
          The sky gathered again
     And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
     Out of the whinnying green stable
          On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
     In the sun born over and over,
          I ran my heedless ways,
     My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
     Before the children green and golden
          Follow him out of grace,

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
     In the moon that is always rising,
          Nor that riding to sleep
     I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
          Time held me green and dying
     Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
Comments by Ira Maine, Poetry Editor
This poem ‘Fern Hill’ is an astonishing evocation of a childhood spent in the country, an irresistibly soft and magical place, full  of streams and horses and sunbeams, the sweet scent of hay and perfumed and dappled shade.. Relax and read a few lines and you are right away immersed, caught up, swamped with sunshine and foxes and Adam and Eden.. you are….’young and easy under the apple boughs…’

Don’t look for logic in any normal sense. The restraints of logic have no place in childhood. Just allow Dylan Thomas’ way with words take you to the Wales of his childhood  and allow the poet to show you by magic, what it looked like through a child’s eyes.

Towards the end of this enchanting piece he is an adult, looking back on something, a feeling, a knowledge, a child’s way of looking at the world that has gone forever. And he remembers, oh how he remembers…

‘… nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me

Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand…’

Gloriously evocative poetry for those with ears to hear and minds to see…


MDFF 28 September 2013

Manifest Destiny and American Indians
by Cecil Poole
(This piece follows on from last weeks MDFF Jefferson, Pope Innocent IV, and American Indians, which briefly touched on The Doctrine of Discovery*)

Islam, Christianity and Judaism have the Book of Genesis as their genesis.  It is argued by some that these monotheistic religions arose from the changed cultural demands of agrarian societies as opposed to the demands of hunter gatherer societies.

Genesis contains within the story of the Garden of Eden.  This story starts with the Garden providing its inhabitants, Adam and Eve with all they need – “Nature provides”.  Due to that hussy Eve colluding with a snake and a rosey red apple to tempt the naive Adam the whole lot of them are thrown out.  Out of the garden where ‘nature provides’.

Thence it becomes the lot of the believers to try, with all their might, that impossible task of recreating that garden.  To do this believers, through their religion, are given ‘dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth’. (Genesis 1:28)  It did not take long for Christians to take this to mean dominion over infidels, non-believers.

It is from this simple bigoted premiss that the idea of Manifest Destiny arose.  (That it also demanded that believers remake the ‘Garden of Eden” to their specifications – take control of Nature if you will – is a matter for another post.)  It is through the Doctrine of Discovery that (principally) European powers explained their theft of lands from the indigenous  owners, and the actual physically and culturally genocidal policies as ‘Manifest Destiny’.  These powers then went on to say that they were doing it for the indigenous peoples own good.

Robert J Miller in “Native America Discovered and Conquered” has this to say: Manifest Destiny developed from the elements and the themes of the international law Doctrine of Discovery.  for 40 years or more, American politicians, citizens and newspapers used the elements of Discovery to justify Manifest Destiny and American continental expansion…..

The elements of Discovery became the rationale and justification for the idea of a divinely inspired American expansion across the North american continent.  Apparently Euro-Americans possessed the only valid religions, civilisations, governments, laws and cultures , and Providence intended these people and their institutions to dominate this continent.  the human, governmental and property rights of Native Americans were almost totally disregarded as Discovery and then Manifest Destiny directed the united States continental expansion.  The ‘wild and savage’ Indians and Mexicans were either to ‘disappear’ by assimilating into white American culture or they were to become extinct.  Under Manifest Destiny it was ‘clear’ that God wanted them to get out of the way of progress – American progress.  The economic and political interests of americans and of the United States were destined to dominate the continent and to aquire almost all of its assets.

The elements of Discovery and Manifest Destiny were pursued by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and a host of american politicians and citizens who wanted to benefit from the land and resources  that they thought was available for the taking, with God’s blessing….   The Discovery claims the United States made against Indian Nations and Indian people in the Louisiana Territory and the Pacific Northwest imited their human, property, commercial, sovereign, and self-determination rights…….

Two statements aptly sum up what Discovery and Manifest Destiny meant for Indians.  When Senator (Thomas Hart) Benton (1782 – 1858) was asked about American expansion and whether it would cause the extinction of Indian tribes if they ‘resisted civilisation’, he stated “I cannot murmer at what seems to be the effect of divine law… The moral and intellectual superiority of the White race will do the rest.”  as Manifest Destiny clashed against Indian interests in Wyoming in 1870, a newspaper wrote, “The rich and beautiful valleys of Wyoming are destined for the occupancy and sustenance of the Anglo-Saxon race……  The Indians must stand aside or be overwhelmed…… The destiny of the aborigines is written in characters not to be mistaken….. the doom of the extinction is upon the red men of America.” (p160, 161)

Passive Complicity promises more on this theme.

* The Doctrine of Discovery ha(s) been used for centuries to expropriate indigenous lands and facilitate their transfer to colonizing or dominating nations.  Under this Doctrine title to lands lay with the government whose subjects explored and occupied a territory whose inhabitants were not subjects of a European Christian monarch. The doctrine has been primarily used to support decisions invalidating or ignoring aboriginal possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments.

Brody H. The other side of Eden.  2000.  New York, North Point Press
Miller R.J.  Native America, Discovered and Conquered. 2006 Westport CT, Greenwood Publishing Group.


Food and Refugees

Transplanting Traditions Community Farm.
By Cecil Poole

Every time I visit my Daughter in Law takes me to another farm.  This time it was to the Transplanting Traditions Community Farm, just ten minutes or so drive from her home.  We went there for a little party for Vaughan, a friend of my five year old grand-daughter.   Vaughan’s mother had been involved in raising funds for the farm and the party was a form of thanks for that.  We arrived on a warm afternoon in the middle of September, early fall, and were met at the gate with what, to my eyes, looked like a verdant market garden, yet totally unlike any market garden I’d seen in Australia.
P1040500This was no mono-culture, no acres and acres of cabbage, or broccoli, potatoes or beans, but a mixed garden, more permaculture like, more like an urban community garden – yet even more verdant, almost fecund.  Then I twigged it, I remembered where I’d seen something similar – in Java, and in Vietnam, yes this was South East Asian in appearance.

Nicole, our guide, and one of the farm co-ordinators, set the children with bracelets of sticky-side-out masking tape to hold the seeds, flowers and grains of soils that drew their attention.  (Obviously Nicole had been a teacher – clever me for seeing that!)  PumpkinGoing through the farm we saw, felt and tasted lemon grass, kafir lime leaves, mints and basils of many varieties, brassicas, radishes, greens of all descriptions, and so many types of beans.  We saw pumpkin growing above our head, supported on structures made of split bamboo, and in the shade beneath there was ginger and other shade loving tropical plants.  And everywhere I looked I could see chili peppers, yellow, red, green, striped, large, small, tiny, most hanging down, some standing upright on their stems.  Oh yes, the Asian influence – more so than Central America.
P1040597This farm of just a few acres, had row after row of highly productive plants.  Even a few rows of dryland rice.  Every few rows there was another shade structure with pumpkin or squash covering it, there would be a largish bamboo seat or platform nearby.   And the farm was used by refugees from Burma, Karen peoples from the Thai border region, mountain people with a strong culture of self sufficiency through farming.

Seat“We come here together, we sit together, sharing our feelings sharing our job availabilities, sharing our future goals and objectives together.  This is the most beautiful thing and one of my favourite parts of why I love to come to the garden” says Pot Hsu, one of the farmers.  Another, Choo Htoo says “By growing here I can save money.  I can get fresh and healthy vegetables all the time.  By growing I never have problem with my family about vegetables.  Besides I can share some vegetables with my neighbourhood.”

The farm mission is “increasing agricultural entrepreneurship and cross-cultural understanding through farming and food”.

I came away thinking what a respectful way to treat with refugees, and maybe, just maybe, we can learn something from them.


Art and the Censor

Benefit of Clergy
by Paddy 0′Cearmada

George Orwell once ventured into Art Criticism, albeit in the form of a book review.  Beginning with the famous observation: ‘Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful’ Orwell proceeded to use Salvador Dali’s autobiography to explore what he clearly saw as the depravity of his art.  Necrophilia, coprophilia, masturbation, and narcissism are all identified in the words of the artist and his art.  Orwell clearly does not approve, but the man who later brought to our imagination Big Brother, double-speak and the Thought Police, did not advocate that the works be banned or censored.  In fact he suggested the very opposite:
Now, if you showed this book, with its illustrations, to Lord Elton, to Mr. Alfred Noyes, to The Times leader writers who exult over the ‘eclipse of the highbrow’ — in fact, to any ‘sensible’ art-hating English person — it is easy to imagine what kind of response you would get. They would flatly refuse to see any merit in Dali whatever. Such people are not only unable to admit that what is morally degraded can be aesthetically right, but their real demand of every artist is that he shall pat them on the back and tell them that thought is unnecessary. And they can be especially dangerous at a time like the present, when the Ministry of Information and the British Council put power into their hands. For their impulse is not only to crush every new talent as it appears, but to castrate the past as well. Witness the renewed highbrow-baiting that is now going on in this country and America, with its outcry not only against Joyce, Proust and Lawrence, but even against T. S. Eliot.

History has of course moved on.  Orwell’s criticism now seems old-fashioned in an era when Dali is a sure fire Block-buster and crowd pleaser, with all night viewings at the exhibition held at the National Gallery of Victoria and a triumphant Gallery bureaucracy exalting in the young audience that it drew to the great bastion of fustiness.  Dali is now in the realm of the classical greats, and his exceptional draftsmanship and skill in painting (both readily acknowledged by Orwell) have secured him a place with the gods.  Indeed instead of the real world of the ‘sensible art-hating English person’ Dali’s art lives in the parallel universe of surrealism.

History has moved on, and not in a positive way.  Paul Yore’s work Everything’s Fucked first drew outrage when it was exhibited at the Linden Gallery in St Kilda as part of a multi-venue celebration of the work of Mike Brown, an artist who famously pushed the boundaries and who was himself prosecuted for obscenity.  Frightened by a single complaint, the Board of Linden closed the Gallery, and after re-opening with warning signs a sustained campaign by local political aspirants with very conservative agendas led to a police ‘raid’, confiscation of art works, and charges being laid against the artist for producing and possessing child pornography.

The work is a collage and installation with found objects and collected images including some that are naked and male with erect penises, or men urinating.  The child element appears to be the face of Justin Beiber stuck on the bodies.  The references are ironic and playful, but apparently to the eyes of the investigating police potentially pornographic.  The least that can be said is that this allegation will be tested in court, what followed was even worse.

Paul Yore was invited to participate in the inaugural Sydney International Art Fair which opened last week.  His installation was called The Incoherence of the Incoherence and incorporated images, objects and fairy lights to create a fanciful grotto.  On the afternoon of the scheduled opening a nervous administration reviewed the work with lawyers and on the basis that it contained naked child-like figures ordered that it be removed from view.   This dubious objective was achieved by the erection of a black screen in front of the work and the installation of a burly security guard to ensure that no-one could see it and presumably be outraged.

Remarkably the Chief Executive of Sydney Contemporary, Barry Keldoulis, had no doubt about the decision.  Determining that the work broke New South Wales law he is quoted as saying “Our decision with regard to the installation is about the law of the land and they are on the wrong side of it”.  More disturbingly Tim Etchells, known as the ‘founder’ of the Sydney Art Fair is reported to have said that the work was not of sufficient quality to exhibit.

Orwell gave his review the title Benefit of Clergy.  In 1944 that phrase still had resonance but today it perhaps requires an explanation.  Sometimes called ‘the privilege of the clergy’ it refers to a medieval provision that held ordained priests and some religious houses exempt from trial in secular courts allowing only for trial under Canon or church law.  Famously it led to the great dispute between Henry II of England and Thomas á Beckett resulting the martyrdom of the latter.  Orwell’s use of the term was ironic.  The ‘clergy’ in his review were artists, permitted through their genius to stray into areas of taboo like necrophilia, coprophilia or open discussion of masuturbation.

Once again history has moved on.  Commenting on the Paul Yore controversy Juan Davila an artist who has experienced similar criticism called the whole furore for what it is – a moral panic.  The exposure of systematic abuse of children, often at the hands of the clergy and in particular the Catholic Church, has made any reference to children a challenge.  Leaving aside the fact that the face used in Everything’s Fucked was Justin Beiber; no longer a child, but whose childlike features were shamelessly exploited and sexualised in promoting his saccharine music; the moral bastions now defending us from Paul Yore overlook the fact that their panic has its origins in a Church authority that hid hideous abuse.   These same Church authorities now benefit from the climate of fear by imposing their morality, aided by a government largely beholden to their cause.

Orwell foresaw this in 1984.  Fear enabled the perverse to appear normal and become the new norm.  Rather than ask what it is that Paul Yore is proposing to us about a corrupted world, he is instead excoriated as corrupt by self-appointed guardians and in the case of the Sydney Art Fair they impose untested law backed by a powerful Patron of the Arts who without hesitation declares what we can see.   To paraphrase Orwell their impulse is to crush every new talent as it appears, and to castrate the past as well.

With such moral guardians we are it seems but three steps from the Taliban.



By Cecil Poole

This morning I tried to jump into in the van, what we in Australia would call ‘A People Mover’, with my 2 year old namesake grandson only to be confronted with bag after bag of groceries.  The car seemed packed to the gunwales with them, great big brown paper bags, with paper handles stuck on the sides.  There were ‘Trader Joe’, Whole Foods’ and ‘Co-op’ bags – the type used by environmentally aware grocery shoppers.  No plastic bags here thank you very much.  I was just about to unload them, thinking that although my daughter in law (The d.i.l.) was pregnant, to shop up this much was surely ridiculous, when she said no, no, leave them there, they are for the food drive.

We finally squeezed onto the van, I dropped the happy grandson at child care and then fronted The d.i.l. about the food – where did it come from, what was it for, where was it going and can I come and see.   Of course she said yes, and off we headed, my atheist d.i.l. and her atheist f.i.l, to the Saint Thomas More Catholic School and Church precinct.  (Not more Catholic than any other.)

PORCH1Cars and vans lined the curb, doors and trunks agape, trolleys cluttering the sidewalk.  Each car delivering similar bags of groceries.  We were met by a man and a woman each in a green tee shirt with ‘PORCH’ printed across the front.  They happily and willingly loaded all our bags onto the trolleys and we helped wheel them inside, through the foyer to a large conference room.  PORCH4Immediately inside the door were two tables onto which our bags were placed and then instantly stripped of their goods.   The bags went one way to be inspected and if passed then folded for re-use, otherwise trashed – into the recycle bin of course.

PORCH2The food was all sorted into myriad sections.  There were bulk sauce, rice, noodles, soups, single serves, popcorn, pasta, peanut butter, cereal and breakfast food, boxed milk, beans, bags of beans, and baking goods, just to mention a few.  The energy, the joy of doing pervaded the space, smiles and laughter the order of the day, along with quick and efficient work.

PORCH6Then bags of mixed goods were assembled using the used bags, doubled so as not to fail.     These then were carted back outside, on these same trolleys and packed into delivery cars and vans.  There seemed to be little hierarchy, no-one wandering around lost, saying what should I do, or I wish they were better organised.  The appearance was very much of a grass roots organisation committed to what they were doing.

From here the food goes to what is locally known as ‘Food Pantries’, or direct to people, families typically, ‘in need’.  It seems that those ‘in need’ are identified by school social workers.

The d.i.l. is a “neighbourhood collector” collecting in one of over 120 neighbourhoods.  This is done monthly with participants leaving their contribution on the front porch.

Whilst mightily impressed I could not help thinking of the quote “If I feed the poor then people call me a saint, if I ask why they are poor then people call me a communist.”

(PORCH is the name of People Offering Relief for Chapel Hill Carrboro Homes, visit their site here)

From their website:

Poverty & Hunger Facts

While the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are widely perceived as affluent, all too many of our neighbors are falling into poverty.  According to the most recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, one in six families in our community now live at or below the poverty level – about $22,000 a year for a family of four.  Many of these families comprise the “working poor.”  They log long hours at their jobs – in construction, the poultry industry, and UNC Housekeeping, for example – but their paychecks are still stretched way too thin.  Almost every day, these families are forced to wrestle with difficult and painful decisions:  Refill a prescription or the gas tank?  Repair a dripping faucet or a leaking roof?  Fall behind on the utility bill or the phone bill?  Skip breakfast or lunch?  Through its monthly Hunger Facts, PORCH hopes to create more public awareness about the reasons for the rise in poverty and hunger, and how we as a community can more effectively respond.  It begins with porches.  Each time a canned good is left out on your porches, the safety net for our most vulnerable neighbors grows a little wider and stronger.


Owning Food, Owning Recipes

Here at Passive Complicity we are interested in ownership, in ‘Private Property’, in the Commons.  Who owns the stories we tell?  Are they really the property of the storyteller, or are they in some way shared by all those who have helped form them?  Who owns the land we walk on, the land we have our houses on?  When we look back was it ever really bought from the original inhabitants or expropriated in some ‘legalistic’ form, perhaps taken in exchange for beads, mirrors and trinkets in an exchange in which one party had no real idea what was going on?  Who owns ideas, music, art, inventions?  Hasn’t all society played a role in the all of these?  Intellectual property, genes, seeds? And as important as any who owns the recipes we cook by?

Jerusalem: A Cookbook, Ottolenghi, Yotam: Cooking, Food & Wine : Walmart.comSami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi have written a wonderful book “Jerusalem, A Cookbook” 2012, (Random House, New York) in which they discuss this very question.  Here are their thoughts.

“In the part of the world we are dealing with everybody wants to won everything.  Existence feels so uncertain and so fragile that people fight fiercely and with great passion to hold onto things: land, culture, religious symbols, food – everything is in danger of being snatched away or of disappearing.  The result is fiery arguments about ownership, provenance, about who and what come first.

As we have seen through our investigations, and will become blatantly apparent to anyone reading and cooking from this book, these arguments are futile.

Firstly, they are futile because it doesn’t really matter.  Looking back in time or far afield into distant lands is simply distracting.  The beauty of food and of eating is that they are rooted in the now.  Food is a basic hedonistic pleasure, a sensual instinct we all share and revel in.  It is a shame to spoil it.

Secondly, you can always search further back in time.  Hummus for example, a highly explosive subject, is undeniably a staple of the local Palestinian population, but it was also a permanent feature on dinner tables of Aleppine Jews who lived in Syria for millennia and then arrived in Jerusalem in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Who is more deserving of calling hummus their own?  Neither.  Nobody ‘owns’ a dish because it is very likely that someone else cooked it before them and another person before that.

Thirdly, and this is the most crucial point, in this soup of a city it is completely impossible to find who invented this delicacy and who brought that one with them.  The food cultures are mashed and fused together in a way that is impossible to unravel.  They interact all the time and influence one another constantly, so nothing is pure any more.  In fact, nothing ever was.  Jerusalem was never an isolated bastion.  Over millennia it has seen countless immigrants, occupiers, visitors, and merchants – all bringing foods and recipes from the four corners of the earth.

As a result, as much as we try to attribute foods to nations, to ascertain the origin of a dish, we often end up discovering a dozen other dishes that are extremely similar, that work with the same ingredients and the same principles to make a final result that is just ever so slightly different, a variation on a theme.”


Weekly Wrap 23 September 2013

Errol Flynn returns with words of advice for the lost and destitute – or should that be the depraved?
“I portray myself as wicked, hoping I will not be regarded as wicked.  But I may really be wicked in the Biblical sense.”  From My Wicked Wicked Ways. 1959


The second part of George Monbiot’s  Chemical Weapons and the UN Security Council opened the week.  He wrote “Until there is some candour about past crimes and current injustices, until there is an effort to address the inequalities over which the US presides, everything it attempts – even if it doesn’t involve guns and bombs – will stoke the cynicism and anger the president says he wants to quench.”

‘Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death in a London pub.  He was 29 and a spy in the pay of Sir Francis Walsingham, the Virgin Queen’s secretary and England’s Spymaster.’ wrote Tarquin O’Flaherty in the third instalment of ‘Man as Machine’.


Cecil Poole brought a piece called Food to the table, in which he explored what it is that makes us buy certain foods, and what it is that “nature provides”.

Sophie Mirabella is no longer the member for Indi.  Our political commentator,  Paddy O’Cearmada, write of this in The Last Stand, Sophie and Ned.  

The Light of the World also by Paddy 0′Cearmada discussed “Tony Abbott’s statement that many women are knocking at the door of his recently announced Cabinet is a modern example of the ‘obstinately shut mind’.   Triumphant as a new Prime Minister he had the power to open that door, and the fact that only one woman has been admitted is a disgrace.”

Saturday’s MDFF Jefferson, Pope Innocent IV, and American Indians takes us to North America to look “the racist, greedy religiosity of Manifest Destiny used to seize Indian land”.


Poetry Sunday brought Soliloquy for One Dead by Bruce Dawe. Our Poetry Editor Ira Maine said this beautiful poem needs no comment.
“Ah, no, Joe, you never knew
the whole of it, the whistling
which is only the wind in the chimney’s
smoking belly, the footsteps on the muddy
path that are always somebody else’s.


And, dear reader, please feel free to add comments about this and any of our postings.

Cecil Poole

Man as Machine Part IV

Man as Machine.(a conclusion)

As the English 19th century folded its tents and fled, there was justifiable optimism abroad as to what the the new century would offer.  The Industrial Revolution had changed the world forever.  The rise of the middle class was offering unprecedented opportunity to every level of society.  The generally held belief was that some sort of vague, Utopian/Socialist/Fair Shares for All type of society would inevitably emerge.  A whole new future was gathering speed, an astonishing new and unstoppable society was being created before our eyes.

What none of this unbounded optimism allowed for was the nouveau riche.

The term ‘Noblesse oblige’ is French and means, literally, ‘nobility obliges’.  The Dictionary of the French Academy explains this as meaning that those who claim to be noble must conduct themselves in a noble manner.  It is the responsibility of the nobility, the more fortunate amongst us, to set the best possible example by helping those who cannot help themselves.  In other words, to be truly noble is to be automatically responsible for those less fortunate.  These  responsibilities of nobility cannot be sidestepped.  As far as the aristocratic rules of conduct are concerned, honour, respect, generosity, and helping others (service) is primary, and frittering away your time in comfortable idleness is unthinkable.

These are good decent and honourable rules and did not happen by chance.  Their origins are directly traceable to the effect Arabic culture had on the West during the period of the Crusades.

The Crusades failed to reclaim the Holy Land from the barbarian Muslim.  Quite the contrary, the Arabic belief system had such a profound effect on our culture that this effect has lasted right up to the present time.

Saladin (1138-1193) First Sultan of Egypt and Syria, presided over a way of life, an Empire, so civilised as to be initially incomprehensible to the Crusaders.

When we, the Crusaders, arrived at the gates of Jerusalem (1096) we were confronted with something wholly new; a tolerant, civilised and sophisticated society.  All of the great disciplines, Philosophy, Mathematics, Science and Medicine were available for study, and a rigid code of honourable conduct was practised.  There was no discrimination whatever.  Jews, Negroes*, Spanish, Arabs, it made no difference.  The intellect was all that mattered, the pursuit of knowledge paramount.

Understanding nothing of this,we entered the barbarian city of Jerusalem triumphantly and butchered Jews, Negroes, Christians and Arabs indiscriminately. Then we burnt the place to the ground.

Saladin broke the back of the Crusading habit by systematically destroying the carefully built network of Crusader strongholds.  In Europe, enthusiasm for Crusading slowly waned so that by the end of the 13th century, the Holy Land had rid itself of the new barbarians.

The Crusaders went home, irredeemably tainted by civilisation.  For almost 200 years they had been exposed to, and had lived alongside, a way of life unthinkable in a West dominated by an increasingly sin and sex obsessed Christian Church.  Saladin’s society, it’s generosity, it’s loyalty, it’s requirement that the weak be protected, that women be respected, that service be paramount, profoundly affected Western noblemen, and could not be shaken off.  There can be little doubt that the Arabic way of life awakened profound echoes in Europeans, reminding them perhaps of what the real, forgotten priorities of Christianity were.

Schools were quickly established all over Europe where all of the finer feelings we nowadays associate with Robin Hood and the Knights of the Round Table, honour, service , generosity, etc. were inculcated into the sons of the nobility.  The very need for these schools amply demonstrates how the Christian Church, in it’s pursuit of power, deliberately turned it’s back on it’s own most basic precepts, and how the Arabic way of life re-established the importance of these precepts in the West.

By the late Middle Ages, these notions had expanded beyond the nobility.  They now included the sons of wealthy traders, who were allowed to attend these ‘nobility schools’ to be taught to conduct themselves as  ‘gentlemen’.


* Negro is used in this context to refer to “member(s) of a dark-skinned group of peoples originally native to Africa south of the Sahara.”