Asylum seeker debate and the need for Olympian calm


Unfortunately the default response to boat people stories seems to be as shown on the left, and worse. I have been, and remain, of the opinion that hooking onto the tragedy playing out over the past week is quite deplorable, and that’s whether pro or con arguments on asylum seekers are being advanced. Let’s just wait for the enquiries to make their findings, while mourning the loss of life as any civilised person must.

But already we can see the debate taking its customary trajectory, and it isn’t going to get any better or any more rational. It seems that ever since Pauline Hanson stuck her oar in in 1996 having a sensible discussion about “boat people” has become totally unfashionable.

That’s why I am so delighted to have found (in Wollongong Library) a historian of Australia’s population and immigration policies from 1900 to the present who maintains an Olympian even-handedness while firmly grounding his story in facts, actual policies, and the experiences of individuals. Any historian who can dismiss the Keith Windschuttle thesis on White Australia as a “minor historical dispute” gets my vote. And yet this historian has attracted little notice, albeit winning the Community Relations Commission $15,000 Prize at the Premier’s Literary Award in Sydney in 2009.

9781921410574The work – Destination Australia : migration to Australia since 1901 by Professor Eric Richards of Flinders University in South Australia, was described by the Awards judges as a thoroughly researched overview of Australia’s migration history.

They said the book: offers a fascinating, detailed account of the many waves of nationalities whose arrival into Australia was central to a grand plan of immigration that has led us to our multicultural present.

Congratulating the winner of the 2009 prize, the Chair of the CRC, Stepan Kerkyasharian, said tonight: Professor Richards, by simply writing this all down, has made a huge contribution to the immigration debate in this country, which far too often goes on only in the air, without recourse to the historical facts.

We do need to know how we all came here and I compliment Professor Richards on his attempt to draw our attention to the source of migration and the turbulence that often creates our migrants and refugees.

For instance, he says that Australia gives little attention to the heroic and often tragic qualities of the emigrant experience and tends to represent the immigrant story as a matter of assimilation.

Instead, he argues, we should look at the sum of the extraordinary lives which began in forgotten places among people whose extraordinary migrant stories long preceded their landfall in Australia.

These immigrants, he says, were part of that remote drama connecting Australia with grand and tragic events of the distant world.

If Australia is the sum total of its people and their stories, then, if we are to know our own country, we do need to hear the stories of our  people. Professor Richards book has set out to teach us those stories…

There are some little surprises: for example John Curtin in the late 1920s screaming about preference being given to “Dagoes, not heroes” by the S M Bruce government, and Bob Hawke, later famously allowing all the Chinese students in Australia to stay after Tiananmen in 1989, complained about “queue jumpers” in 1978. (A few years later Blanche D’Alpuget, now Hawke’s wife, wrote Turtle Beach, a novel highly sympathetic to Vietnamese boat people and rather offensive to Malaysian authorities, especially when filmed in 1992.)

MPW-54907Turtle Beach is set in Malaysia, with the boat people arriving in the aftermath of the Vietnam War being greeted with hostility by local residents. When two hundred of them are drowned, the fish feed off their corpses and the livelihood of the fishermen is ruined, as people refuse to buy their produce. Ironies such as these abound in the novel. The heroine is again a reasonably attractive (not startlingly beautiful but with a seductively Monroe kind of voice) reporter in her late thirties, but unlike her predecessor, Judith Wilkes is a tough-minded careerist, determinedly carrying on with her work as she copes with a young family and a dying marriage to an ambitious political flunky back in Australia. Yet she has some of the same qualities as Alex: a tendency toward passivity, a weakness for sensual men, and a sense of idealism that renders her vulnerable to manipulation. Like Alex, she falls in love with one of the locals, Kanan, but is finally repelled by the fatalism of his Indian philosophy. Again the title of the novel embodies a metaphor to do with human helplessness in the face of larger historical movements. It comes from the turtles that battle against all odds to lay their eggs and bury them, only to have them dug up and sold or eaten by the local residents.

It seems to that we really only began accepting refugees on moral grounds rather than as virtual indentured labour (to serve for two years wherever the government saw fit) with the arrival of the Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s. We have always otherwise been very controlling about who settles here, it appears, taking a line in most of the 20th century which only abandoned a hypothetical 98% British population aim as the British source dried up leading to our gradually expanding the pool for immigration to northern then southern Europe, then to the Balkans and Lebanon and now to the world at large. Many an immigration scheme in the years between 1900 and the present has either gone belly up or has produced paradoxical results. Encouraged by visionaries like Rider Haggard, author of King Solomon’s Mines, and various others there was an agrarian vision which floundered as marginal land just wouldn’t support the farms settlers were allotted and as migrants gravitated to the coastal cities whatever governments meant to happen — a process that went on right through the 20th century.

In short, I really commend this book. I suspect it has failed to grab headlines because it is so judicious, as controversy ever makes a better story. Perhaps it is also that the author was not born in Australia – an advantage in this case, I feel—and because he is in Adelaide rather than Sydney or Melbourne.

Rating: ss10

On our national propensity to panic see Tanvir Ahmed, a psychiatrist,  in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

We live at a time where the factors that make people vulnerable to conspiracy theories are arguably at their peak. The notion of anomie could be measured by the massive uptake in psychological services and the growing proportion of people living alone. The decline in trust could be measured by our decades-long fall in joining civic groups, as outlined by the professor turned federal Labor MP Andrew Leigh in his book Disconnected. And modern work has shifted, perhaps permanently, to a more casual, liquid relationship between employer and employee, a trend exacerbated by the financial crisis.

This bodes poorly for the prospect of reason trumping emotion and fear in public debate. For all the pundits that decried the vacuity of debate surrounding our recent federal election, perhaps the politicians and their advisers were just acting sensibly. As the former premier Bob Carr told me recently, it is an enormous political risk these days for a political leader or party to really stand for something…

In our information age this problem is getting worse, for the internet can allow us to find "evidence" for almost any belief, promoting a Balkanisation of our society. This is already apparent in the fragmentation of media consumption.

There is no doubt WikiLeaks and Assange are worth celebrating. Their computing brilliance has resulted in some of the era’s best journalism expose´s. But the idea that there is some new transparency that is shifting the relationship between governments and the citizenry is far fetched. What is more likely is that a more fractured, tense engagement between opposing sides is now the new norm, promoted by rigid views on all sides reinforced by their equally blinkered media supporters. The psychological basis for this is a greater preponderance for conspiracy theory and its mental ally, cognitive dissonance. The information age is merely making the voice of reason more stifled and more relative.

If Tony Abbott believes he can be more polite and civilised next year in political debate, I wish him luck. History may not be on his side.


Go and read Russell Darnley: #Xenophobia and #Asylum Seekers in #Australia: Reality Denied by Fear.



Davo has been inspired by this post to add one of his own.

32 thoughts on “Asylum seeker debate and the need for Olympian calm

  1. It doesn’t seem like there is a need to panic. Just kick the illegal aliens out without trial and be done with it. It’s not like they’re Australians. Pretty soon they’ll stop coming. Or they won’t. Either way seems acceptable.

    I’ve heard mention that smacking them with a cane on their way back to their countries is also a good deterrent, but I can’t condone that. Maybe it’s just the chemical engineer in me talking, but we have some fantastic new polymers nowadays – some people even call them ‘space-age’. Cane is simply passe. I would suggest a polypropylene staff for durability with a short-chain Kevlar core to make it more flexible. You could probably whip them all with a single staff! That’s how durable pp is!

    Cane sucks. IMO.

  2. Thanks! Merry Christmas to you too. For the record, I come down on the side of real Christmas trees, though I do admit that we could make some spectacular fakes with thermoplastic elastomers. Think of a giant pine scented koosh ball to get the idea. Polymers rock. They truly are God’s gift to mankind. I can think of no better time of the year to celebrate them than the eve of our savior’s birth. God bless polymerization!

    Heh. For you, Neil, I’ll spell it incorrectly. Just this once, because it’s Christmas time.

    Our Saviour’s birth.

    Merry Christmas, my Aussie hippie friend.

  3. Ok look, I’m just going to put it out there, and you decide whether to act on it or not. An HPF/VDF copolymer. Trust me, it’s what you’re looking for. You’d still need some kind of structural core to make a Christmas tree out of it, but you could use it pure to make the whip that you’re going to beat illegal aliens with while you’re suggesting they not return to your country.

    You see, fluoroelastomers won’t break down no matter what weird solvents are on your illegal immigrant’s skin. They are completely non-reactive. And they don’t stick to anything. Now, they WILL leave a mark, thanks to their extreme elasticity. But that’s more of a feature than a bug when it comes to convincing people to stop breaking into your home. They’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on.

    Let me know when you’re ready to buy and I’ll hook you up.

  4. No aliens ever come here, illegal or otherwise. Just humans, and mostly as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or civil wars elsewhere. Sometimes we let them give birth in a stable.

  5. “No aliens ever come here, illegal or otherwise.”

    Clearly then, my elastomer whip plan has succeeded. You are welcome.

    Hey wait a sec. That guy in the vid looks like a tamil tiger. Why didn’t someone whip him with a high tech thermoelastomer composite switch and send him back to Sri Lanka years ago? I’m starting to think that Australians just don’t care about boat people.

    You could make a video of it to be shown in other nations called “Refugees, rethink” to convince them to stay the hell away. It’d put a quick end to the mass drowning we had to watch from Australia last week.

  6. Well good for him! You didn’t answer my question though.

    I was just joking around before, but now I’m starting to wonder. How many illegal aliens would be saved if Australia captured as many as they could, beat the living shit out of them and dumped them, bruised and battered on the shore of the country they came from, telling them never to return?

    And before you start spouting some ngo peace love hippie crap, remember that a good number of them are dead because of your current actions. They didn’t have to be. If only you’d beat the heck out of some people years ago to spread the word that Australia is not accepting of vagrants, this might never have happened.

    I’m just sayin’.

    • As I say in the post: …already we can see the debate taking its customary trajectory, and it isn’t going to get any better or any more rational.

      Perhaps because seeking asylum isn’t a crime, and we have obligations to respect that?

  7. “Perhaps because seeking asylum isn’t a crime”

    Really? Because I would have said that it’s a terrible crime, punishable by many years in detention. And beatings with a whip created with some form of plastic.* I know about your hippie leanings, so this may be hard for you to understand. Look at it this way: Someone just broke into your house and has decided to live there. When you ask them to leave, they say no, because they are claiming ‘asylum’, and also that you should go out and get some more milk because they drank the last of it. You are also out of feminine napkins, and your toilet is backed up. You should really see to that so they don’t sue you. Too late! They’re suing you.

    My point is that it is ALWAYS better to fix the problems overseas than to invite the problems into your own home. You won’t comprehend that though, will you :(.

    *I know. Your ingredients for your whip may vary. That’s just my personal favorite material. It’s just so versatile!

    • Let’s look at places where we have been fixing the problem overseas.

      At the end of 2009, the number of ‘persons of concern’ to UNHCR was 43.3 million, the highest number since the mid-1990s.

      The 43.3 million people of concern included:
      — 15.2 million refugees
      — 983,000 asylum-seekers
      — 251,500 refugees who had repatriated during 2009
      — 27.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs)
      — 2.2 million IDPs who had returned to their place of origin in 2009
      — 6.6 million stateless persons in 60 countries

      Countries with the most refugess were Pakistan with 1.7 million, Iran with 1.1 million, Syria with 1.05 million, Germany with 593,800 and Jordan with 450,000.

      Pakistan also hosted the largest number of refugees in relation to its economic capacity with 745 refugees per 1 USD GDP (PPP) per capita, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (592) and Zimbabwe (245).

      * Afghanistan has been the leading country of origin of refugees for the past three decades. In 2009 one out of four refugees was from Afghanistan (2.9 million).
      * Iraqis were the second largest refugee group, with 1.8 million having sought refuge primarily in neighbouring countries.

      There were 922,000 individual claims for asylum or refugee status of which 112,400 were resettled in 19 countries. The United States of America accepted the highest number (80,000).

      Our fixing is really effective, isn’t it?

  8. I’m not telling you what to believe or disbelieve, Niel. But according to the Bible, Paul’s 2nd letter to the Carcilonians makes it pretty clear. Here’s verses 7 and 8:

    “Verily I say to you that should a stranger attempteth to squat in thine hovel, they should be beaten.(7) Beaten with the most futuristic materials God has taught mankind how to use, that they may not drown in the ocean. (8)”

    But hey, if you prefer to let the poor sods drown against God’s wishes, who am I to argue? Australia, the land where they’ll let you drown instead of saving your life and smacking the hell out of you.

    Verse 9 goes on about some kind of futuristic whipping material containing carbon, hydrogen and possibly some fluoride, but I don’t want to bore you with the details. I’m sure you’ve read it before. It’s the Bible, for Christ’s sake.

  9. Well, I wanted to continue with my little ‘plastics and whips’ skit, but you seem to prefer to be serious. Fine, I’ll be serious too. Too bad :(. I think I had you on the run with my Bible reference.

    I don’t understand your point with your last comment. If 43 million people are incapable of living in their home country, why on Earth would you want them living in yours? Either the refugees or the people they’re fleeing from are incapable of living with others in peace. How do you know which group your letting into your home? Remember what happened in Rome and Byzantium?

    Plus, even expansive Australia doesn’t have room for all of these people. The best solution is, I’ll say again, to fix the problem over there, not create one over here.

    • Was that inscription on the Statue of Liberty put there as a bad joke, Kevin? If all those “huddled masses” couldn’t make it in their own countries, why on earth would the USA want them? And why didn’t the Jews focus on fixing Germany instead of spreading themselves and their problems around the place in the 30s and 40s? Of course some did try to fix Germany. We know what happened to them. We also know many had a hard time entering.

      Most survivors sought, therefore, to leave Europe, especially for the traditional immigrant destinations of the United States, South America and Australia. But while many western nations sympathised with their plight, few were willing to actually accept them as immigrants. In Palestine, a warm welcome from the local Jewish community awaited them. However, the pro-Arab policy of the ruling British Mandate meant that the Jewish immigration quota was impossibly small. Between 1944 and 1948 a vast illegal network operated to smuggle survivors into Palestine and during that time, 66 vessels brought some 70 000 Jews. Some died in the attempt and many were caught by the British authorities and interned in holding camps on Cyprus. The infamous refugee boat “Exodus” was actually sent back to Europe with all its passengers on board.

      Rome and Byzantium: they both lasted for over a thousand years. The USA and Oz have a long way to go yet then. China still exists despite Mongol hordes and Turkic border people. India survives despite a polycultural multilinguistic population and several foreign conquests.

      My former partner and friend of 20 years, M, arrived from Shanghai by plane in December 1989. Life in Shanghai had become difficult, partly because he told his best friend, a policeman, that the government was wrong in its response to Tiananmen and similar uprising in Shanghai. The friend had just been responsible for the arrest and execution of three protesters. He arrived on a student visa. I helped him gain permanent residence and then citizenship. Best thing I ever did and good for Australia too. (He can now go back, and has done so several times, to China, but remains a committed Oz.)

      As often happens, quite a few of the Chinese who came here in 1989-90 have returned to China where they are often nowadays very prosperous. In time no doubt this will apply to a number of the current refugees and asylum seekers but meanwhile they are generally adding to rather than taking away from our country. Like my Sudanese neighbour Dominic, for example. You and I can barely imagine what he experienced in Southern Sudan in the 1990s. He’s glad he’s here and not there and so am I.

      Of course we can’t take everyone, and shouldn’t try. But we can help. As for the “problem”: we are creating that by our having lost the plot on what “boat people” actually means and how small an issue it really is compared with the size of the world problem. Many seem to forget that we take a set number of humanitarian places every year and that boat people add zero to that number. The only reasonable quibble here is that when they are, if they are, found to be really refugees and thus accepted they prevent an equal number of others waiting in refugee camps overseas for the same privilege.

  10. Meh. You are forcing me to go back to my plastics and whip theme. Your examples of why we should allow illegal aliens into our country is without a single good example. Plastics, I say!

    China has been a country since ~1948 and is not remotely open to immigration, legal or otherwise. Just ask your favorite North Korean. India has been a country since ~1948, and it’s multiculturalism has left it in perpetual turmoil. Take a trip to Kashmir to see real multiculturalism in action. Israel has been a country since 1948 and it’s multiculturalism has also left it in perpetual turmoil.

    Also, Ellis Island has been closed to immigration for almost a hundred years. And it was never open to illegal immigrants or asylum seekers. So yes, it has lost some of its meaning in the last few decades. We’re pretty full now in the States. Huddled masses please feel free to stay home. We’ll take your scientists though! If only to make cooler plastics.

  11. China has been a country for around 3,000 years. Kashmir is disputed territory between two countries, and that’s the main problem. Israel’s problem is NOT being multicultural, at least as far as Palestinians and Jews go; it is multicultural in respect to the varieties of Jews.

  12. *sigh* China has been a WORD for thousands of years. Much like Egypt. It never described modern day China until ~1948 in the same way that Egypt has no similarity to the time of the Pharaohs. 3,000 years ago China was upwards of a dozen different countries. 2,000 ears ago, it still was. 1,000 years ago… it still was! I’m guessing that you can find this out on wikipedia if you are so inclined. You probably should do so before you comment on China again. It doesn’t sound like you know their history. No offense intended. It’s a country very far away, and we can’t be expected to know everything.

    I’m less forgiving about your misconceptions of India and Israel and the damage multiculturalism has caused in their existence. You really should know this stuff.

    While it’s true that Pakistan and India have occasional flare ups, the bombs in Kashmir have little to do with that. It’s just muslims doing what muslims do (you know, blowing themselves and others up). It seems rather inconsiderate to blame Pakistan for a time-honored islamic tradition. No, it’s multiculturalism in action.

    Lastly, did you not know that Israel is something like 25% arab? It might even be more than that. Your assumption that everyone in Israel is Jewish is a wee bit telling.

    So I guess if you want Australia to be a country like Kashmir is in India, or enjoy constant attacks like Israel must suffer through, then by all means, invite those asylum seekers in! I suspect a large group of people occupying your island won’t agree with you though.

  13. Kevin, I came first in Asian History (including China and India) at Sydney University. Yes, China had a revolution that culminated in the PRC appearing in 1949, but there was another revolution starring Sun Yat-sen in 1911 when the Republic came into being, and before that the Ching or Manchu Dynasty, and before that the Ming, and so on…

    I really do know Chinese history, far better than the average person. I have been taking an interest in it, and sometimes teaching it, since 1962.

  14. Thanks for the info. I thought it might have been 1949 which is why I used the tilde. I wussied out of admiting that I couldn’t remember.

    But why then would you say that China has existed for three thousand years? Are you merely saying that people have lived there for 3,000 years? That’s true for pretty much everywhere. Heck, POLAND has existed for 3,000 years if that’s your criteria. Good Lord, China has been part of more countries than frickin’ Gaul in the last 30 centuries. Japan would have been a much more peaceful example, but they’re not at all multicultural, so I understand why you didn’t use them to prove your point.

    Also, I’m not letting you off the hook for blaming Israel and Pakistan for the horror that is multiculturalism (when islam is involved, at least).

  15. Kevin, your knowledge of Chinese history leaves much to be desired. Remember Cathay, visited by Marco Polo? China in the Yuan Dynasty that was. “221 BC is the commonly accepted year when China became culturally and politically unified under a large centralized empire, the Qin Dynasty, founded by Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Successive dynasties in Chinese history developed bureaucratic systems that enabled the Emperor of China to control the large territory from the center.”

    Japan more peaceable? Not really. The samurai tradition didn’t come out of nowhere. Certainly Japan suffered few invasions.

  16. Heh. Peaceful WAS a poor choice of words. I was trying to say that Japan, unlike China, has been more or less a country for a very long time, but I did it very badly.

    I’ve forgotten why we’re arguing about this anymore, but when Marco Polo visited the far east, most of what we now call China wasn’t even under Chinese ownership. One of Genghis’s kids from Mongolia was running things (Kublai? something like that). He got there because Genghis conquered one nation after another, nations that comprise part of modern day China. Which one of those Chinese nations that Khan conquered is the real one in your belief system? Clearly, they can’t all be, and the one that surrounded Peking was quite small, relatively.

    I don’t see why this is debatable to you. It’s not an old nation. I mean, do you consider Iran an old nation because of Persia? Or Italy old because of Rome? I don’t. I simply do not follow your thinking.

  17. It seems, then, that all the histories of China I have ever seen or read have got it wrong.

    And on the Yuan Dynasty:

    That Dynasty, like the Manchus (Qing or Ching) from the 17th to 20th century, were thoroughly Sinicized, being absorbed into the Chinese culture, social organisation and bureaucratic system.

    中国 (the Middle Country) has indeed a long and continuous history.

  18. If you believe today’s China is in any way similar to China 3,000 years ago, then I agree with you. You have gotten your history completely wrong.

    Live and learn though. I for one am happy you lived long enough to learn. Merry Christmas!

  19. My views on Chinese history are totally orthodox, Kevin. All the Chinese histories in the libraries would be much thinner if there was even the slightest truth in your eccentric view of the matter. Shame I was so ill informed when teaching Asian Studies and Chinese history. Are you upset that before Christ the Chinese empire had been going for at least two centuries, or that Chinese culture probably predates Abraham? Not to mention it makes the USA a johnny-come-lately.

    And the continuities in Chinese culture are remarkable. There’s the writing system for a start, and today’s Communists draw more on the prestige of the Forbidden City than they do on Marx. “Tremble and obey”, as the old Emperors appended to their decrees.

    Perhaps you could try this course.

    Nonetheless, have a happy Christmas.

  20. Disclaimer .. Neil, have had some good teachers in my spotty history .. some good, some just surviving on pay packets. You, however, are one of the gems.
    [this is no “suck up” don’t know the bloke, never met him. Just like and appreciate his skill, knowledge and expertise].

    Kevin .. ya wanna come, strip off, and stand in MY backyard?

  21. No thanks, Davo. I can’t even remember the last time I stripped in someone’s backyard. I certainly wouldn’t want to do it in someone’s that I don’t know. Or even someone I do know, now that I think about it.

    Neil, what? You know I’m agnostic at the best of times. Why would you think my understanding of world history was based upon Jesus? Sure, the Chinese came up with some great stuff thousands of years ago. It’s a great tribute to monoculturism. No one’s questioning that. It’s just that the country of today is not the same shape or culture that it was thousands of years ago. It’s not the same mass of land, the same groups of people, they don’t share the same beliefs. In this way, it’s much like Greece. They’re both 20th century creations now. I’m starting to believe that you can’t understand this simple fact, so I give up.

    I will have to accept that you believe that China is a 3,000 year old country. Fact be damned.

  22. So how old is Russia?

    Kevin, such a shame historians of Asia don’t agree with you. Remember: Asian History has been a special interest of mine since 1962, and everyone knows that treaties between European countries (and indeed the USA) and China have existed at least since the 18th century, the Jesuits (Matteo Ricci) had a mission there in the 17th century, and the Romans traded with China via the Silk Road way back in the time of Christ.

    Except of course there was no China and no government claiming to run the Middle Kingdom, eh! All an optical illusion. Like the Great Wall.

    Can’t trust the CIA World Factbook either, of course:

    THE HISTORY OF CHINA, as documented in ancient writings, dates back some 3,300 years. Modern archaeological studies provide evidence of still more ancient origins in a culture that flourished between 2500 and 2000 B.C. in what is now central China and the lower Huang He (Yellow River) Valley of north China. Centuries of migration, amalgamation, and development brought about a distinctive system of writing, philosophy, art, and political organization that came to be recognizable as Chinese civilization. What makes the civilization unique in world history is its continuity through over 4,000 years to the present century.

    The Chinese have developed a strong sense of their real and mythological origins and have kept voluminous records since very early times…

    Your views on this are so strange I am beginning to wonder if those who say Americans have no sense of history are right.

    . I hear the same old phrases about America and Americans repeated word for word, over and over again. They must all refer to the same, “How to Act Like an Intellectual” manual for the text. Although they have never actually talked to one, due to a lack of spoken English and a fear of integrating with the locals when visiting other Italian intellectuals living in the U.S., they have very clear ideas about who and what Americans are. In a word, uncultured, which for a left-wing Italian means not being well-versed in Italian (or European at best) culture. Tit for tat with Condolezza’s firm belief that American values are universal.

    Sigh. It is true. We are uncultured (in the Italian definition of cultured) and there is nothing we can do about it. It doesn’t matter how many degrees and what level of knowledge, understanding and expertise we may achieve, even in a cultural field, we will never have that odor of intrinsic culture that Italian left wing intellectuals developed from their mother’s milk. It is an in-group, out-group thing. We are out, by the very nature of being American. We have no history (only some odd hundreds of years, not thousands) and cannot, therefore, have a real sense of History (capital H). We do not have that culture gene in our DNA. A Fulbright scholar and internationally acclaimed expert in Medieval Italian studies, once confided her frustration at always having to defend the fact that it is indeed possible to study Italian history as a non-Italian and actually be really, really good at it, even the best! This is often received with a shaking of the head in sheer disbelief.

  23. Kevin ..
    No thanks, Davo. I can’t even remember the last time I stripped in someone’s backyard. I certainly wouldn’t want to do it in someone’s that I don’t know. Or even someone I do know, now that I think about it.

    do you not think that there’s a point, there, somewhere.

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