Letters

Letters

Acknowledging Intellectual Property

 

SIR: I wholeheartedly agree with your comments (December 2012) on the practice of acknowledging the prior owners of the land on various public occasions.

At a dinner last September commemorating the University of Melbourne Medical School’s 150th anniversary, Glyn Davis took it to a new level, going on for several minutes about this tribe and that and their contribution. It struck me that perhaps these tribes had contributed the “real property” upon which the university was founded, but where was the acknowledgment to those who had contributed its “intellectual property”? I know real estate is important to universities, but one would have thought a university’s intellectual foundations were even more important.

Would it not be appropriate for academics, after fulfilling their obligations, under university rules, to make the acknowledgment to the tribe for the land, to continue with some suitable acknowledgment for the intellectual patrimony which they received gratis and which formed the basis for their work? For the sciences, it could start with say Thales, Aristotle, Ockham, Newton, Galileo and then, depending on the specialty, continue with names such as Harvey, Lister, Koch, Darwin, Einstein, as appropriate, up to the present day. In History you might start with Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Gibbon, but non-Western historians could be included too. Art might start with Phidias, literature, Homer. Politicians at government ceremonies might acknowledge Cleisthenes, De Montfort, Walpole, Burke, Wilberforce, Jefferson, Adams and for some, Machiavelli. It would be educational for most of us (as you can tell by my inadequate lists of names) and very educational for some. 

It may or may not escape the notice of the audience that the vast bulk of that intellectual property was brought to Australia by the British at the time of settlement or subsequently by Australia’s wider connections with the West that resulted from its settlement, and that all of that great legacy was received by all of the people of this country without any direct compensation.

I thought this might be a good suggestion to raise with some of those charged with making these acknowledgments, as they would still be compliant with the rules, but this would put the rules in a much clearer and more accurate perspective. 

Mark Sheppard
Melbourne, Vic

 

Why All the Toil?

SIR: Mervyn F. Bendle (“The Quest for Jesus”, January-February 2013) might enjoy what John Nelson Darby wrote around 150 years ago in his book The Irrationalism of Infidelity:

 

The kind of opposition men make to Christianity proves its truth in the main—proves in it the consciousness of a real claim of God on the soul.

No doubt men have attacked Paganism as false. They have resisted Mohammedanism, though its sword was its principal argument, so that there was less of this.

But the constant and laborious exercise of free criticism, the close and sifting examination the Bible has gone through for ages, the anxious research after errors or contradictions within, proves anxiety to show that it is not what it pretends to be. Why all this anxiety? Those not immediately under the influence of Mohammedanism are long satisfied that it is false, and leave it there; but these minute researches after a flaw in the scriptures continue—are repeated—renewed. Men take it up on every side. Astronomy and geology are called in aid. Geography is ransacked: history, antiquity, style, manuscripts of all kinds, foolish writings of the fathers, absurd writings of heretics, apocryphal imitations of its contents; nothing left unturned to find something to discredit it; wise writings of philosophers to prove they could do as well, or were the source of the good, or even of the alleged absurdities of doctrine; every other influence sought out which could have moralized humanity, that it may not be supposed to be this. Why all this toil? Why, if it be a doctrine like Plato’s, should it not have produced its effect, and our philosophers be as cool about it as about other things? It has—their conscience knows it has—God’s claim and God’s truth in it; and they will not allow that the true God, that Christ, is the source of it, for then they must bend, and admit what man is.

Philip G. Hayward
Lower Hutt, New Zealand

 

Biblical Evidence

SIR: I am surprised that Peter Couttie (Letters, January-February 2013) considers it obvious that I have not read the New Testament fully. I have read it all, carefully, a number of times. Indeed, the more I read it, the less I believe the central doctrines of Christianity.

The points raised by Couttie confused me greatly. First he gave a reference to Matthew 28 when he quoted words spoken by the Angel “in Mark’s Gospel”! Second, he gave a reference to Luke 24 concerning Jesus appearing at the edge of the Sea of Galilee. Luke’s Gospel does not contain a description of any such event. Perhaps Couttie was thinking of John 21. Whatever he meant, Couttie’s references to the Gospels of Matthew and John cannot reconcile the contradiction I pointed out between the Gospels of Mark and Luke.

Couttie then went on to suggest that I should read about Dr Alexis Carrel, Lourdes and Fatima. I am afraid any such research will not change my opinion about Peter Barclay’s “lack of real evidence”. Barclay did not raise these subjects. In any event, I am strongly of the view that a claimed deathbed conversion by a Nobel Prize-winning, Nazi sympathiser/collaborator and eugenics advocate does not constitute evidence either for or against the claimed resurrection of Jesus. Likewise, any claimed appearances by the long-dead Mary, or miraculous healings attributed to her, also do not represent evidence for or against the claimed resurrection of her son.

It seems that Christian apologists simply do not understand what constitutes reliable evidence.

Samuel Beaux
Neutral Bay, NSW

 

The Protean Paper Clip

SIR: Apropos Iain Bamforth’s inspiring review of Paraphernalia: The Curious Lives of Magical Things (January-February 2013), I have some additional thoughts on the humble paper clip.

Yes, we often twiddle with it as we cogitate, the finger-tip stimulation effecting, one may reasonably hypothesise, some useful activity in our brain-cells. Conveniently, the paper clip is almost always on hand; we still need it to help disentangle the mess of papers which oppresses in this age of virtual mail and filing. Its ubiquitous presence in our quest for order lends itself to metaphor. Thus the following little puzzle: Why are there usually many more wire coat-hangers about than paper clips? The answer is that the paper clip is the larval form of the wire coat-hanger.

We cannot ever be in full control of the stuff around us; it does indeed have a life of its own.

Mira Crouch
Glebe, NSW

 

The End of South Vietnam

SIR: Daryl McCann’s review article (“South Vietnam’s Journey into Oblivion”, December 2012) is unerringly faithful to recently cleared Defence intelligence estimates of the period.

I briefly visited Saigon in February 1975, only a few months before the Republic of Vietnam fell. The sense of doom which hovered over the capital was palpable. On my arrival at Tan Son Nhat airport, a national tourism official could not mask her sadness. In the city, emaciated mothers, dressed in rags, carrying babies in slings, begged for food and money. The Vietnamese police manned intersections and demanded identity papers from all draft-eligible young males. A British bank manager apologised for a delay in a foreign exchange transaction; the female teller’s brother had recently been killed in action. At the presidential palace, a helicopter was all gassed-up, on its pad, ready to fly out at a moment’s notice. A tank was armed up amid many sand-bagged heavy machine gun emplacements. One night on Red Cross Street, I was alarmed by the unremitting crack of distant artillery fire. I was assured by an Australian staffer that it was merely outbound.

A month later, a country unravelled, the ending was clear, and millions of South Vietnamese had to personally experience that denouement. George Veith’s book, Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam, is on my reading list for this year.

On December 27, 1972, the Whitlam government ceased all defence aid to South Vietnam. In January 1973 the government formally ended Australia’s military commitment. For Australia, the war was over. A residual guard and escort platoon remained to defend the Australian embassy in Saigon. It was withdrawn in mid-1973. In April 1975 the RAAF was deployed on an extensive humanitarian mission in air-lifting refugees, including orphans. Veith has captured the key themes: the denial of US military aid, compelling geo-strategic imperatives, the collapse of Danang, the loss of morale in the armed forces, President Nguyen Van Thieu’s failure of leadership, the bravery of many of his combat elements, and the political mendacity of Hanoi. North Vietnam went for broke, committing all of its reserves in a fight to the end. For the USA, it was all too hard. South Vietnam, a once loyal ally, was abandoned to its fate. The West had lost interest in its survival. 

Reflecting on the loss of the Republic of Vietnam, in September 1975, Dr Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State, in a conversation with his Australian counterpart, Senator Don Willesee, responded emotionally, referring to the North Vietnamese as “the most bloody-minded sons of bitches with whom he had ever had to deal”. Earlier, he had referred to Hanoi in similarly trenchant terminology. In August 1973, during a prime ministerial visit to Washington, Kissinger had also enunciated his feelings to Gough Whitlam. “The same monomania which had led the Vietnamese to fight the war for so many years also made them treacherous in negotiations.”

We have much to learn from history or we remain condemned to repeat its mistakes. But a ruinous war in Indo-China is over. The killing has stopped. That is the only positive outcome.

Mike Fogarty
Weston, ACT

 

Frank Mount and Asia

SIR: I read with interest John McConnell’s review of Frank Mount’s recent book Wrestling with Asia (December 2012).

Mount and the late B.A. Santamaria played a critical role in establishing the regional political architecture that has seen South-East Asia become an area of peace and stability, an outcome few would have predicted when Saigon fell in 1975. Not only has Vietnam itself been integrated into ASEAN, Burma has emerged from its cocoon to become the region’s latest boom economy.

ASEAN’s remarkable emergence as an engine of “national resilience” as Suharto put it, must be due at least in part to Frank Mount’s efforts. This is, in itself, a success many would justify as a life well spent.

Mount’s book will be a gold mine for future researchers of this time and era. One gains the impression he has much more to tell. We can only hope he is given time enough to say it.

Jeffry Babb
Essendon, Vic

 

The Tyrant’s Splendour

SIR: Roger Underwood mentions in his informative article (November 2012) that Hermann Goering designed his own unique and magnificent costumes. One of his summer uniforms in white linen of extra-large proportion is on display at the Imperial War Museum in London together with his Reichsmarschall baton of white crystal embossed with Nazi insignia in gold and diamonds. Of coincidental interest is an almost identical display of the summer uniform in white linen of the equally unpleasant Erich Mielke, Communist boss of the Stasi (of the GDR) together with his Armeegeneral baton of white crystal embossed with Communist insignia in gold and diamonds at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin. The more things change the more they remain the same.


Ian Bernadt
West Perth, WA

 

Not the First

SIR: In his article “Barack Obama v The Party of Lincoln” (January-February 2013), Daryl McCann says that Condoleezza Rice was the first woman to be Secretary of State in the United States. Madeleine Albright was in fact the first woman to hold that office (1997 to 2001).

Robert Turnbull
Hunter’s Hill, NSW

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