Letters to the Editor

Divisive Labelling

Divisive Labelling

Sir: The late historian John Hirst pointed out that the naming of groups of people in Australia presented them as being a long way apart. While the term “indigenous” was promoted by the United Nations, only in Australia was the settler population defined as “non-indigenous”. There are no “non-indigenous” Americans and no “non-indigenous” New Zealanders. 

In Sense and Nonsense in Australian History, Hirst criticised this labelling of our people: “‘Non-indigenous’ implies a people without roots in this place; it elides the fact that settlers have been here for eight generations, that they have formed a distinctive polity and are not indigenous to anywhere else; they regard Australia as their home. On the other side it elides the fact that most Aborigines are descendants of settlers and the original indigenous population. The formulation in fact casts modern Australia as if it were 1788: one group has just stepped off the boat and confronts the traditional owners of the country.”

We did not protest strongly enough about our labels and now we face the Voice and more.

E. Moore


Pilate’s Role

Sir: In these days when Christianity hardly rates a mention in the West, it was refreshing to read an account of Pontius Pilate by Barry Gillard (April 2023), even if it ends with an “enigmatic” comment about the more central issue of the Resurrection.

Barry seems to have relied unduly on Ann Wroe’s book on the subject with her modern-day speculations: focusing on the John account, J.S. Bach and Martin Luther. But he does seem to give some of the gospel narratives credence in terms of historicity—also a pleasant change.

Barry quibbles with the accounts of Pilate’s wife and the incident of Pilate’s right to release a condemned prisoner but the gospels are good evidence themselves which purport to be factual, and arguably should stand unless clearly disproven. Luke makes some point of his inquiries at the start of his gospel.

The gospel accounts all show a vacillating official who realised Jesus was not a rebel and not guilty of any Roman crime. Yet Pilate decided to allow Jesus to be killed to keep the peace. The gospel accounts have the Jewish authorities judge him guilty of death because of blasphemy.

That the quote in Matthew 27:25—“The people said his blood be upon us and our children”—has been used over the centuries without justification is a sad reflection on the fallenness of us all. Jesus’s own words on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”, as recorded by Luke, should have been the obvious answer, pointing beyond retribution. Yes, Pilate was the person who passed sentence, but for us believers it was part of God’s redemptive plan which required another event three days later.

George Morgan


Dylan’s Directions

Sir: Joe Dolce, obviously not a Dylan fan, is scathing in his review of The Philosophy of Modern Song (January-February 2023). I see Bob Dylan as a flawed enigmatic character but a very talented musician and composer, much better at writing songs than books.

The folk group Peter Paul and Mary were the first recording artists to bring Dylan’s songs to a wider audience. In 1963 they had a big hit with “Blowing in the Wind”, which was the first of his songs I ever heard. The trio also received much radio airplay with his songs “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right”, “When The Ship Comes In” and “The Times They Are A-Changing”. Numerous other Dylan songs have become hits for other artists.

Bob Dylan first toured Australia in 1966 and by that time he had annoyed some of his fans by “going electric”. I attended his Melbourne concert at Festival Hall. On the street outside the venue some anti-Vietnam War protesters handed out leaflets but Dylan’s song list that night did not include any anti-war protest songs.

From a second-row seat I got a close-up view of Bob Dylan’s performance. He connected with his audience, making jokes and fooling around with members of his band. It was hard to detect any influence from folk singers but there was obviously some influence from the Beatles and Rolling Stones. A friend said after the concert: “I think he was very Mick Jagger.”

Dylan has certainly changed directions during his career. I really like these very perceptive lines in his 1979 song “When You Gonna Wake Up”: “Counterfeited philosophies have polluted all your thoughts, Karl Marx has got ya by the throat, Henry Kissinger’s got you tied up in knots.”

Terence Critchley


The Bible of Wokery

Sir: In response to the general argument against the modern wokery, as described by Barry Spurr most recently (April 2023), I would suggest the best defence would be an attack on the virtual bible that is the cornerstone of this new religion, namely Google.

I have noticed over years of research how quickly sites can disappear from this search engine. You find something remarkable, like the number of wind farms on track for Victoria (c. 330 ten years ago) and next time you look the information has disappeared, or been relegated down the list. You find a climate sceptic, or a few, with reasonable arguments, and a few years later you Google “climate sceptic” and all you find are warnings and advice on how to counter this sin.

Google is not the only search engine but has become the norm, even a word in Macquarie. Without this propaganda arm, the new religion would sink like a stone.

Jack Mitchell


The Way to Salvation

Sir: Barry Spurr is enjoying a purple patch. His pieces on T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (April 2022), James Joyce’s Ulysses (June 2022), Les Murray and Marian Poetry (December 2022) and W.H. Auden (March 2023) have been superb.

Likewise, his feature article “Thought-Deranging Tyranny: The New Religion of Woke” (April 2023) is erudite and insightful. I must take issue, however, with his characterisation of the Roman Catholic doctrinal affirmation extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the Church there is no salvation) as a prime example of “black-and-white absolutism” akin to the cruel and irrational polemics of the “secular, neo-puritan Church of Woke”. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus teaches that all salvation comes from the God-man Jesus Christ, the Head through the Church which is his Body. Allow me to quote from the Vatican Council II document Lumen Gentium promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1964 (paragraph 14):

“This holy Council first of all turns its attention to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself on scripture and tradition, it teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it.”

This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church (paragraph 16):

“… the Saviour [Jesus Christ] wills all men to be saved (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4). Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation.”

James Orrock


We All Have a Voice

Sir: In the 1970s we saw a series of protests around the world at sporting events involving South Africans, in an effort to end the institution of apartheid in South Africa. It is particularly disappointing to see our new Labor government seeking to introduce a type of apartheid into Australia—and not only introduce it but also enshrine it in the Constitution. I refer, of course, to the proposed Voice to Parliament, a privilege to be granted to a so-far undefined group of citizens on the basis of race.

At present every citizen has a Voice to Parliament. It is called a vote. This is granted irrespective of any racial, educational or societal basis. We are all Australians. This racist proposal must be thrown out.

Jim Woods


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