Australian conversations

The delayed letter from Dr von Hollenberg has now arrived and is posted below.  If or when we learn anything about the intruder who inserted the forged posting ‘Warnings’ and what his game was details will be posted promptly.

Australian rules football could become the world’s favourite spectator sport if only some way could be found to explain to outsiders what the rules are (if indeed there are any rules). This great lacuna in social connectivity does not stop most Australian conversations running aground sooner or later on football or at least some topic connected with sport, where they remain stuck fast, the engines still running but without further progress. (Australian conversations about sport are not much like the parallel phenomena in Europe because they concentrate very largely on the players and actual play. But in England, for example, the majority of the talk especially in the pseudo-conversations which take up so much time in ‘sports’ broadcasts, will be about money, money spent, money paid, money earned (or at least gained) or about what we might call celebrity issues, that is who has got divorced from whom, or has got a new sponsorship deal, or is the star of an eight-page pull-out supplement in the media; or about legal matters, a suspension for breaching political correctness or a libel suit for insulting an important official; or else simple vaporous opinions of coaches or managers or pundits invoking such ill-defined notions as grit or ‘hunger’ and treated with a ludicrous degree of respect.) The other peculiar feature of Australian conversations in my admittedly limited experience is that they pay so little attention to the issue of their own link to immigration which is surprising in a country where well over 90% of the population either is descended entirely or in part from parents or grandparents who were immigrants, or is itself immigrant and born abroad. (I see no reason to suppress the fact that my own grandmother reached Sydney in 1902 where she settled on Spectacle Island with my greatgrandfather who was attached to what would later become the Royal Australian Navy). Of course this is not to say that immigration is a topic absent from Australian conversations, but in defiance of statistics it has a rather peculiar restriction, since the mention nearly always refers only to those who have arrived (especially if from continents other than Europe) within the last twenty or thirty years, or who hope to be going to arrive, since they find this a preferable prospect to remaining in countries where their homes may be smashed to pieces any day or they themselves may be killed or maimed any day by military explosives directed at them, or randomly dropped in their vicinity or deliberately dropped on the offchance that they themselves might be enemies of those ordering the bombardment. For some of these would-be immigrants one or all of these experiences with the sole exception of their own individual extinction has already happened. In some of the countries which the immigrants leave the mere fact of criticising the rulers, however justifiably, can and does result in critics being imprisoned, tortured and killed. Some of the would-be immigrants have been brave enough to speak up for their compatriots and for human rights, in full awareness of what happens after such criticism. Now since it is common for people holding high positions in Australian public life to praise this country and its people for their high standards (referring to moral principles rather than life-style, you understand) you can expect of course that those who leave such terrors behind them and endure the hardships of the highly dangerous journeys leading them to Australia will receive the warm and enthusiastic welcome which such tough, resourceful and principled examples to the human race deserve. One can expect it as much as you like but it is not what happens. As this journal pointed out last year, boats have been seized on the high seas and their passengers carried off without the choice, to a destination they do not want. In what way, if at all, does this not constitute a combination of piracy and kidnapping? To make it worse, conditions at that destination are deplorable and so far as I know, to this day even tame journalists from sources supporting the government are denied entry. To make it almost inexplicable, the proportion between the number of would-be immigrants and the population of Australia is such that even if every last one of the former succeeded in arriving where they do wish to go they would be a virtually invisible minority (but a minority which once integrated could make an enormously beneficial contribution to the cultural and economic life of the country just as have done the Vietnamese who arrived earlier.) However, rational considerations may not take us very far. Is there a deliberate unwillingness here to share the advantages of a privileged lifestyle, as mostly in Europe? Or is it a half-deliberate ignorance of evil things happening out of plain sight? We should hope not, but then we may be driven back to an unwelcome conclusion. The disposition to shun those of the same kind who are, however, not same enough is embedded deep. We see it in highly articulate politicians in Europe; we see it when a flock of blackbirds mobs and expels a luckless albino. So it is not surprising that there is such a startling restriction on the sort of immigration that can be admitted to polite Australian conversation, even while year by year palaeoanthropology piles up the evidence that the real original inhabitants are more autochthonous than we had ever guessed.

I had originally intended to include with my offering a few footnotes, of the sort which this journal includes from time to time. But having found myself ending the above on a serious note – I think that actually a truly savage denunciation is needed – all except perhaps the following seemed indecently flippant.

Linguistic corner Among the new lexical confetti showered on one another by the prattlers of social media is the item tl;dr often intended to be insulting. This is claimed to correspond to the sequence of real English ‘too long; I did not read it’ as would probably have been uttered by most modern editors if the manuscript of War and Peace had been submitted to them. It therefore has two meanings: (1) the person uttering it has lost, or never had, the ability to grasp the essence of a text by skimming through it; or (2) the person uttering it is in a job with demands which they are not fully able to deal with.