The Fools on Russell Hill

russell hillIn researching Australia’s Defence, my new book, I corresponded with a senior Defence officer on Russell Hill.  His email was signed off with these words:

I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people as the traditional custodians of the land on which I work and live.

There are two things about this, once you get over the inanity of the gesture.  Firstly, it is quite inappropriate to state one’s personal beliefs on your employer’s correspondence;  secondly it is the same as stating that you are a Moonie, or a Scientologist, or wiccan or the like.  If the stated belief is honestly held, it suggests that the correspondent should be treated with wariness as someone likely to be mentally deficient.  If not, that means the Defence is in the grip of some Aboriginal-worshipping cult able to deal out punishment to those who fail to perform its rituals.

How would this have come about? This cult is simply filling a void.  Some research indicates that evolution has hard-wired us for religion.  A large proportion of the population states that they are atheist or agnostic, but the need for something greater than self persists, and insists on ritual.  The devotees are just unaware of why they are performing their genuflections.

Aboriginal-worship, as performed on Russel Hill, is ancestor-worship, a quite primitive form of religious observance.  Worshipping ancestors, even if they weren’t your own, provides continuity and the promise of immortality.  Edmund Burke said it another way with his dictum that “society is a contract between the dead, the living and those yet unborn.”  Ancestor worship doesn’t build nursing homes though.

Ancestor worship is not the only form of religious observance on Russell Hill, it has competition from another couple of ancients gods that have also made a comeback.  Nature worship is observed as climate change, and the fertility goddess has returned as gender equality.  Defence has set up offices for all three of these religions.  Ancestor worship has the office of Indigenous Affairs, nature worship the Combat Climate Change Initiative, and the fertility goddess can be found at Gender Equality Advisory Board.

Like Valhalla, the gods have their hierarchy and, normally, Aboriginality trumps the others.  The new Defence Minister, whose profile brings to mind a Palaeolithic fertility figure, suggests that the fertility goddess will give Aboriginal worship a run for its money.  Expect the subject of women in combat to be raised once more.

There is one Western, liberal democracy that remains in constant danger of being overrun by its neighbours — neighbours who have been taught to hate it with their mother’s milk. That nation is Israel.  With its small and beleaguered population, Israel has always had an interest in maximising the number of people who can be deployed in combat units, so it tried using women. That wasn’t successful for two reasons. Firstly, troops are trained to keep advancing despite the injuries and screams of their comrades who have been hit by enemy fire. If they don’t, the attack breaks and you end up with a worse situation – troops held down in exposed positions and the wounded and dying needing attention.

Troops can be trained to happily ignore males screaming in pain but seem to be evolutionarily conditioned to  help females in distress. This breaks the attack and makes such mixed units useless on the battlefield. Secondly, troops react to female comrades being wounded or killed by conducting reprisals against anyone to hand, enemy combatants or civilians. This isn’t good for discipline. So Israel abandoned using women in combat because it just didn’t work out.

There is more to defence policy than paying conspicuous homage to ancestors and fashionable notions of gender and equality. Is there a Russell Hill incumbent who has not forgotten that?

David Archibald is the author of Australia’s Defence (Connor Court 2015).

  • dosakamccann@gmail.com

    I would be interested to hear David’s take on the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), the Kurdish feminists in northern Syria, who are taking on the Islamic State group.

    • bemartin39@bigpond.com

      According to my very limited knowledge of the sugject, these Kurdish Women’s Protection Units are all-female outfits, not just a few women interspersed among mainly men. If that’s so, it’s a very important distinction.

      • ellenbraddock

        I’ve seen many examples of fellow women telling other women to, effectively, ‘harden the f* up’ when slacking off. Men might have a hard-wired protective attitude toward women, but women don’t have a similar attitude toward other women. That probably explains why the Kurdish all-female units can be so effective.

  • pgang

    Speaking of inane comments suggesting mentally deficient belief systems:

    “Some research indicates that evolution has hard-wired us for religion.”

    “Troops can be trained to happily ignore males screaming in pain but seem to be evolutionarily conditioned to help females in distress.”

    The god of the gaps: evolution.

    • bemartin39@bigpond.com

      While the adverb “happily” was carelessly frivolous of David, picking a bone with him on the other sentences cited is rather petty.

  • Keith Kennelly

    I don’t think we are evolutionarily ‘hardwired’ for religion.

    It makes no sense as the all religions with all their man contrivances as well as their mysogny, vengeance and outright evil of many from the priest caste are far from being seen as a higher authority by most of us any longer.

    I think we are hard wired to need a higher have faith in a higher authority.

    That higher authority may be called god, Allah, ya lah or whatever but it certainly

  • Keith Kennelly

    Wouldn’t align itself with the religions and the constructs of religious nut jobs.

  • brian.doak@bigpond.com

    The Christian religion has been most effective in changing individual people, and hence the peoples culture, for the better. The full-blooded aboriginal, David Unaipon, pictured on the fifty dollar note is one who embraced Christianity making the change of religion and culture and bettering himself. Again,holiday makers in Fiji can see and hear how Christianity has made such hospitable people from the former headhunter culture.

    In Australia in the 1960’s we withdraw from the culture war and Namatjira art was discredited and hunter-gatherer stone age art came back.
    The Defence Department ought to be the very last to embrace or restore any aspect of Aboriginal stone age culture apart from a historical reference in names such as Woomera and Woolloomooloo.

  • mburke@pcug.org.au

    By all means highlight the nonsense being spouted by and from the Department of Defence. However, it’s not fair to blame the military officers who are simply complying with Government policy as they are bound to do. If a senior officer includes a politically correct form of words at the end of a message, I would firstly assume that it is a bit of pro forma boilerplate. Alternatively, if they waffle on about diversity and all the rest of the Sexual Discrimination Commissioner’s blather, don’t assume that they believe that crap. They have been ordered to comply and to act as if they like it. Elizabeth Broderick’s parting shot to the effect that the military “must” open up more channels for women to reach high command than currently exist is so profoundly stupid that only a politician seeking to pacify the “fright bats” could possibly take her seriously. Blame the politicians, not the Service people.

  • acarroll

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the reference to religion here isn’t necessarily referring to organised religion. Marxism is a secular religion, after all. Unlike Keith Kennelly I do believe we’re hard-wired for religion in this sense. It’s as if people need a lens with which to reason about the world. Religion creates a model for how the world is and “should be”.

    In the void that the removal of Christianity in the West has left, various forms of Marxist ideology — steeped in the universal moral roots of the enlightenment — such as multiculturalism, anti-racism, anti-white privilege, anti-capitalism, anti-patriarchy, anti-cis-gendered (!) anti- have swept in and taken over. None of these movements have precedent in our past. It appears that they all ultimately serve to degrade and weaken the strength of European societies and their identity.

    Take a read of the book, The Culture of Critique, to get an unorthodox perspective on the roots of these movements.

  • Keith Kennelly

    Hi a carroll

    Make no mistake, the reference here was to organised religion.

    If the reference had been to the words of Christ I would have had no objection at all

  • Keith Kennelly

    And of course the object of the piece wasn’t just to defend our traditions it was to promote both The Christian and the ancient Judea religions and their dogmas..
    Had it referred to the Enlightenment and the Reformation and the great liberal philosophy the developed and grew out of those and the subsequent relegation of religion, out of government affairs, then the article could have had more of a ‘ring of reality’ to it.

    I nearly choked when the author quoted Israel as a Western Liberal democracy.

    What with its illegal occupation, oppression, apartheid and intolerance exhibited in its constitution. (It states the laws of Israel must be based in the Hebrew bible). Ie the old testament.

    The author has an odd conception of what is traditional liberal.

    • acarroll

      What Israel is perpetrating in its region causes cognitive dissonance in the West only because we’ve been hearing for 70 years from the victims of such actions — predominantly diaspora Jews — how bad they are when done by anyone other than Israel (Germany = Evil, South Africa = Evil, Nationalism = Evil, Israel = Righteous self defence!).

      I have no problem with the Israeli government enacting populist laws (for what else is democracy? Ha!) that serve the interests of the majority of the people/group/fasci. That’s what all good democratic governments are supposed to do, after all. You reap what you sow however.

      We in the West need to leave them and the Arab world alone to sort it out. That will greatly change the equation and Israel may just have to sit at the negotiation table for reasons other than lip-service to a peace process.

  • en passant

    I read this article before going on a long drive today (which gives me time to solve the world’s problems) so I had time to think about how careless the central points of this article. For brevity I want to deal with just two points (and then comment on Keith K’s equally thoughtless comment).
    Quote: “Troops can be trained to happily ignore males screaming in pain but seem to be evolutionarily conditioned to help females in distress.”
    David can put up an argument for females not to be in the infantry where hand-to-hand combat may occur. Today that is such a rarity as to be a minor consideration. Most killing and injuries are a result of mechanised weapons fired from a great distance. About 75%-80% of the Vietnamese casualties at Long Tan were from artillery, a few from the APC’s when they arrived and less than 20% by infantry small arms. As 245 bodies were found, do the sums. In fact, it is likely that 800 – 1,000 were wounded or killed, none in hand to hand combat with a bayonet or brute strength. All 58 Australians who were killed or wounded were inflicted by small arms. He who has artillery, armour and airpower wins, though we still need infantry to hold ground. The USAF ‘Nintendo Warriors’ who pilot drones and kill remotely include females, who press the button and hi-five just as fast as their male counterparts.
    Having demolished the argument, now let me support it (that women should not be in combat roles) for different reasons. In the field there is no time for niceties and when nature calls you may need close protection. You also have to share a small living space for long periods and it just breaks some taboos. They manage on the Space Shuttle, but then people are not seeking to kill you. Female forward scouts just will not work in the real world.
    Indigenous sensibilities: Sad to say, but Defence has appointed some of its very scarce soldiers as “Indigenous Liaison Officers” to ensure that we respect their sacred sites, culture and every other mumbo-jumbo that is created out of thin air. Who knew that the Aboriginal Heritage Act in Victoria enshrines that we must protect the night sky? I take that to mean no street lights and satellites are allowed in Victoria, but I am guessing. Maybe this is a job for the legions of muslims and LGBT warriors The Hon. Stuart “Capability” Robert was keen to recruit (inflict?) into the ADF.
    Keith: “I nearly choked when the author quoted Israel as a Western Liberal democracy. What with its illegal occupation, oppression, apartheid and intolerance exhibited in its constitution. (It states the laws of Israel must be based in the Hebrew bible). i.e. the old testament.”
    As you point out Israel has stolen the land of their ancestors from the modern occupiers, just as we have occupied this land. So what would you prefer for the land if Israel: the relative stability of a vibrant democracy that allows Arab citizens to sit in its Knesset or the tyrants and chaos of every one of their bloodsucking murderous neighbours? One cartoon that has stuck in my mind for decades was produced after a speech to the UN by Msr. Whoocares who said his nations problems would be solved if they returned to the borders of 19xx. The cartoon then went on to show how many countries would disappear and how many colonies would reappear – and we would refight WW2 over Alsace-Lorraine and Sudetenland. So, do we do the right thing and hand Oz back to the 700 (or was it 7,000?) tribes living in humpties and without even a wheel or pottery? That should do it – a simplistic slogan for a complex problem.

  • Keith Kennelly

    A Carroll

    Gee so good we agree on so much.

    En passant

    Thoughtless. Hardly. Acceptance of the
    propaganda of the dominant side while rejecting the views of innocent people who have been forcibly removed from their homes, had them demolished and seen their replace with illegal strategic enclaves is, not mere thoughtlessness. As is the support for collective punishments.

    All these things are rightly outlawed in the Liberal Democratic World.

    en you’d have some credibility if you actually acknowledged these wrongs and criticized the practice of them rather than lowering yourself to mouthing mere propaganda and spewing personal abuse.


  • Keith Kennelly

    En there are options, but you’d have a fit if I presented them.

    First option. Burn down all churches, mosques, synagogues; then ban all religions and imprison all zealots and other clergy.

    • en passant

      We agree on something: religion is a mental illness that brings nothing of value now that its time should have long passed.
      I have watched various youtubes of people being run down by cars and then stabbed and hacked to death with meat cleavers. In that particular case the Arab who did it had a good job, a house and a family, but irrational hatred trumped the good life of here and now.
      So, what should Israel do? become another Syria, Iraq or cease to exist at all?
      You did not answer the question of legality encapsulated in the following:
      “One cartoon that has stuck in my mind for decades was produced after a speech to the UN by Msr. Whoocares who said his nations problems would be solved if they returned to the borders of 19xx. The cartoon then went on to show how many countries would disappear and how many colonies would reappear – and we would refight WW2 over Alsace-Lorraine and Sudetenland. So, do we do the right thing and hand Oz back to the 700 (or was it 7,000?) tribes living in humpties and without even a wheel or pottery?” We occupy Oz illegally, you know?

  • Keith Kennelly

    No. Israel should simply drop the emphasis on its religion of exclusivism and rejection of difference. It should embrace difference and allow the opportunity for peace and reconciliation.

    Your fears of destruction are similar to the fears organized religions have maintained and fostered for 1000s of years just so they can control the masses.

    we in the western liberal democracies castrated the religious nutjobs a few centuries ago. It’s time all the mid east religions did the same.
    Have some faith; Israel will survive if it does that. People will choose peace over hate … given the opportunity.

    • acarroll

      Hi Keith,

      I don’t have your same sense of faith in humanity. Hate will always manifest itself, and depending on the propensity of a people may dominate.

      The defining characteristic of people from the middle east and their religions (excluding Christianity: Greek in spirit, if not entirely in text) is exclusivity. The place was turned into a total mess over a long period of time, starting thousands of years ago with the Assyrians whose kings’ policy when conquering land was to displace half the population into another province of the empire, while importing new people to the conquered land. Classic divide and rule — the tribes/nations fight amongst each other while the overlord sits back in safety. Frankly, I believe this is what advocates of multiculturalism (the informed, not the useful idiots) intend.

      Judaism has survived in exile for so long because the Rabbis came up with an excellent and timeless strategy for keeping their flock from being assimilated or wanting to assimilate, and it comes down to a message of conceited specialness, chauvinism against and fear of the host population (as you correctly identify). For a working example of this, read up on the annual Kol Nidre prayer.

      Having said that, it’s likely that Judaism and its followers with its strong built in ethnocentrism will be around a lot longer than the original peoples of Europe who’ve bought into or been coerced into believing the idea of “there’s only one race: the human race”. This is biologically false and it’s as nonsensical as saying, “It doesn’t matter if Bison die out because there’s only one race, the Bovine race” (bison and domestic cattle can produce viable offspring — see Beefalo).

  • wse999

    What tosh. The same bullet, whoever pulls the trigger.
    Per the latest Wiki: “Women in the Israeli Defense Forces .. Women have taken part in Israel’s military before and since the founding of the state in 1948… with women comprising 33% of all IDF soldiers and 51% of its officers, in 2011… As of now, 88% to 92%[9] of all roles in the IDF are open to female candidates, while women can be found in 69% of all position..”

  • Keith Kennelly


    Your view that hate will aleays manifest itself is true, but only where there is an absence of its reverse.
    But the great exception of course is the society in which we live. Western Liberal Democracies openly and within its structures accept the wisdom of Christmas and apply the messages of ‘The Golden Rule’, forgiveness and peacefulness. Where hate has arisen within the west the west has eradicated or controlled it. The great examples of the former are Slavery, Nazism and tyrany and examples of the later are the exclusion of religion from government and the outlawing racism and sexism. To some degree the other great evil example of hatred is the creeping socialism and that will be eventually overcome.

    You could qualify your views easily and we’d be in fully agreement.

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