Letters to the Editor

The Weasel ‘We’

The Weasel “We”

Sir: In their article “Anglophobia: The Unrecognised Hatred” (April 2022) Richard Harrison and Frank Salter quote Colin Tatz, who condemned Australia in terms of the first person plural: “We are fundamentally a racist society …” Harrison and Salter expose Tatz’s manipulation of the weasel word we, by pointing out that Tatz “was not genuinely pleading guilty or identifying with the nation. He was blaming others, the masses, the Anglo Australians.”

This psychological strategy of pretending to be honest, humble and remorseful as a cover for actually wallowing in self-righteous condemnation of one’s fellow citizens, was dissected at the beginning of the Second World War by the Christian writer C.S. Lewis in his essay “Dangers of National Repentance”.

Lewis’s target is clever young people who have “drunk in almost with [their] mother’s milk a distrust of English statesmen and a contempt for the manners, pleasures and enthusiasms of their less educated fellow-countrymen”. They are “ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England”, but are really “repenting what they have in no sense done”. He goes on to explain:

By a dangerous figure of speech, [they call] the Government not “they” but “we”. And since, as penitents, we are not encouraged to be charitable to our own sins, nor to give ourselves the benefit of any doubt, a Government which is called “we” is ipso facto placed beyond the sphere of charity or even of justice. You can say anything you please about it. You can indulge in the popular vice of detraction without restraint, and yet feel all the time that you are practising contrition.

In other words, the “first and fatal charm of national repentance is the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing—but, first, of denouncing—the conduct of others”.

Bill James


Slave Selection and IQ

Sir: I refer to Herrnstein and Murray’s finding of a fifteen-point difference between the average IQs of black and white people in the US (“Anglophobia: The Unrecognised Hatred”, May 2022). I believe this is readily explained by the fact that those Africans arriving and surviving on American shores were a highly selected group of people.

The African chieftains who sold many of these people to the slave traders would not have parted with their best and brightest. Nor would the traders want them. The buyers would supply what the market required, whether in Arabia or in the Americas. Many traders would not have hesitated to seize people that fitted their specifications, without payment to the tribe.

Those slaves bringing the highest prices for the Americas were obviously those who could perform best in the cotton fields. Ability to endure the hot sun, carry heavy burdens, work hard for long hours and be “tractable” were the qualities bringing the best prices.

A further selection pressure was the ability to survive to the point of sale and, if going to the Americas, a rather horrific sea voyage. It is also likely that the right to have children would have been withheld from “trouble makers”.

It would be interesting to assess the IQ of African black people living in Africa today. I suspect they would be far nearer the norm.

In regard to average IQ, we should all remember that a person can drown in a river that averages ten centimetres deep.

Les Cooper


Les Murray’s “Windfall”

Sir: Thank you for the excellent review by Geoff Page of Les Murray’s Continuous Creation (April 2022). Might I, however, offer a defence of the “slight” haiku, “Windfall”? It is, of course, a wordy, Western haiku employing our conventional, cumbersome syllable counting. But it’s still a haiku by Les Murray.

The key to the poem, surely, is line two. The last thing a driver in the bush wants to do is hit a large animal. He thinks he sees a kangaroo in his way. What happens? He slams on the brakes. Line two does not tell us this; but rhythmically it comes to a shuddering, suspenseful halt if read with a little drama. Let the reader stress the last three words with a rising inflection, teetering at the line break.

“Ahead on the road!” could be a passenger’s warning. “Turns out” could be what a skidding car does.

You tense for impact—it never comes. What was it, then, that for a moment you took for a kangaroo on the warm bitumen? Open the door and look down. A drift of twigs and leaves. Up close, only that! The real “windfall” is your sense of relief. Blink, breathe, smile. A new lease on life!

If one wants symbolism as well as experience, one could say that the poem is about imagined dangers that cause momentary panic, but, happily, prove not to exist.

Robert Handicott    


Alexander Dugin’s Eurasian Fantasy

Sir: Dr John Moses’s article (May 2022) is a timely reminder not to take our eyes off Europe as we focus on China and the Asia-Pacific. He helpfully relocates Putin’s aggression in Ukraine from being a border issue over disputed territory to an issue of calculated aggression prompted by a resilient revival of Slavophilism already two decades in the making. The key figure in this revival is the propagandist political philosopher Alexander Dugin, who figures little in Australian political commentary.

Dugin’s target is glasnost itself. He rejects it as restrictively Western-oriented and unfavourable towards Russia’s indebtedness to its Eastern heritage. Dugin instead fantasises about a Russian-inspired coalition of local civilisations (his choice of words for “cultures”) stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Dugin has recruited popular and political support for articulating a new (but not novel) worldwide role for a post-Bolshevik Russia.

Dr Moses’s critical point is that Dugin’s fantasy has inspired Putin and, however ill-fated Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, other aggressions are foreshadowed by Dugin’s doctrines. Dugin’s writings are available in English and deserve study.

George Shaw


An Expletive Explained

Sir: Michael Connor in his article “The Country That Lost Its Memory” (April 2022) details Veronica Gorrie’s complaints about Queensland police using the term “black c****” when arresting Aboriginal Australians, pointing out that white Australians are equally abused as “white c****” by indigenous people in the public domain.

My son, an experienced police officer, tells me that the word “c***” is a very common expletive used by both police and their prisoners whether black or white, often in the heat of the moment. In fact the word “c***” seems to have lost its execratory meaning, especially when used by police and those arrested, and has come to mean something more like “scumbag”.

My son recalls assisting a police officer, a colleague who had recently migrated to Australia from northern England, in arresting a well-known indigenous car thief. The officer referred to the thief as “that coont”. The thief turned to my son, whom he knew from previous brushes with the law, and complained loudly and bitterly, “That white c*** has just called me a coon!”

Ian Bernadt


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