The Fading of Pierre Goodrich’s Dream to Spread the Word about Liberty

“Fade to White”

The party politicization (pro-Trump republican) of Liberty Fund and its rapid turning away from the Founder’s “original intent” of promoting long-term educational and academic goals is the subject of an article in this month’s Indianapolis Monthly magazine. As the victim of the first round of purges of those who defended that vision I learnt with dismay about the victims of the second round in May 2021 which led to my colleague Nico Maloberti taking his own life in despair and hopelessness for the cause. This is the subject of Adam Wren’s article “The Pursuits of Liberty”.

I will let Adam Wren’s article speak for itself but I will note that I was struck by the very clever and insightful graphic the magazine used to represent the fading away of Goodrich’s vision under the current Board and senior management, which I have entitled “Goodrich’s vision for LF: ‘Fade to White’.”

Note: After all that has happened over the past four years the fact that there is now a “Goodrich Resident Scholar” at Liberty Fund is one of the world’s great ironies and a travesty of justice to Goodrich’s memory.

The story of the decline of Liberty Fund has been taken up by Damon Linker in “The Week”: “A libertarian tragedy in Indianapolis: The political struggle over the libertarian soul takes a grim and telling turn” (27 January 2022) online. His sad conclusion is that in addition to its drift towards explicit “politicization” it is also a result of the Foundation’s loss of faith in the power of ideas to change the world:

However one describes it, the shift could well be driven as much by the corporate imperative to demonstrate influence as by naked political passion and ambition. The businessmen who sit on Liberty Fund’s board may be committed Republicans, but they may also have grown impatient with the absence of metrics to show their expensive conferences are making a concrete difference in the world.

In this respect, the story of Liberty Fund’s drift away from its founder’s vision may be one as much about overt politicization as it is about declining faith in the power of libertarian ideas to win the day through erudite conversation alone. And, far beyond this one organization in Indiana, that’s a loss — or, at least, a sign of a larger, deleterious shift — for our country, where once we tried to aspire toward something more reasonable.

I would add small caveat here. I do not think that it is an “either, or” choice between educating people about the history and theory of liberty, and “making a concrete (political) difference in the world.” There is after all a division of labour among advocates of any idea and its policy implications. There are some institutions which develop and promote the ideas at a theoretical level, there are those who teach these ideas to their students, there are “Think Tanks” where policies based on these ideas are developed, there are political parties which endeavour to put these policies into practice, and there are voters who vote (or usually don’t vote) to put these parties into power. If any link in this chain goes missing then the task becomes that much harder to reach.

The old Liberty Fund was situated at the top end of this long “structure of production of ideas” and was placed there very deliberately by its founder Pierre Goodrich to, as Damon accurately notes, “(foster) conversation among intelligent people from a range of backgrounds about the foundations and maintenance of a free society.” These “conversations” were often centered around one of the Great Books of Liberty which Goodrich had spent much of his adult life reading and promoting. He thought these great books provided the “soul” of the liberty movement and thus deserved close and frequent study. Liberty Fund’s place in the broader liberty movement was a unique and very important one but it is now vacant and is waiting for something else to fill it.

There are now four public statements which document what has been going on at LF:

  1. my piece “Nico Maloberti: In Memoriam” posted to my website on July 2 online;
  2. the “Letter to the Board” by long-time LF friend and supporter Chandran Kukathas which he wrote 11 July denouncing their actions and wanting to sever all ties with LF (privately but widely circulated)
  3. the article by Adam Wren: “The Pursuits of Liberty: The Tragic Death of an Idealistic Academic has brought to Light an Existential Struggle within the Halls of one of the Country’s most powerful Education Foundations, the Liberty Fund”, Indianapolis Monthly (Jan. 2022) online
  4. Damon Linker, “A libertarian tragedy in Indianapolis: The political struggle over the libertarian soul takes a grim and telling turn” The Week (27 January 2022) online

Nicolás Maloberti In Memoriam (1975-2021)

Nico Maloberti and I were part of a small group of Fellows within Liberty Fund who understood and agreed with the original strategic vision of its Founder Pierre F. Goodrich (PFG), which was to promote the ideal of a fully free society which would be comprised of “free and responsible individuals” interacting with each other in a purely voluntary manner by means of free markets, the rule of law, limited government, and free institutions of all kinds.

Note: see my “reconstruction” of Goodrich’s goals and strategies to achieve those goals, “Pierre F. Goodrich’s Goals and Strategy for the Liberty Fund: A Reconstruction”, which I wrote and circulated in 2018-19 and which Nico read , commented upon, and agreed with. And also my statement of how the OLL was designed to adhere to these principles and further PFG’s goals.

The counterpart to this study of liberty was the study of its direct opposite, namely the use of arbitrary power and coercion by the state and other organised groups, and the corrupting influence the use of power had on both the societies and the individuals on which it was exercised, as well the individuals who wielded that power. To paraphrase Lord Acton, whom PFG liked to quote, “liberty ennobles, while power corrupts”.

The method for achieving this goal, according to PFG, was not to engage in current policy debates or criticism, or party political activity, or journalism, but much more general, longer term educational and academic activity which would focus on the long history of thinking about liberty and power which stretched back over two and a half thousand years. This approach could be summarized as the study and appreciation of the ideas which lay behind current politics and political practices by a close reading of “the great books of liberty” which PFG had spent so much time and energy in identifying during the 1950s.

We had come to realize that LF had been drifting away from this original vision for some years under the leadership of a Board and Senior Management most of whom were not educators or academics, or even intellectuals (broadly understood) who were well-read in the classic texts of liberty as identified by the Founder. As Board members who had personally known the Founder or were educators and academics by training, retired or died, they were not replaced by similar like-minded individuals but by businessmen and lawyers who were more dilettantes in the world of ideas in which PFG liked to move. This “strategic drift” had become quite clear in 2010 when LF celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding, and again more sharply in 2018 when a new Chairman and President organised an awkwardly termed and poorly carried out “strategic refresh,” along with an overhaul of operational procedures within LF which was promised but which never eventuated.

During the so-called “strategic refresh”, attempts by the Fellows, who were “originalists” in their understanding of what LF’s goals and strategies should be, to organise a rereading and open discussion of LF’s founding documents in which PFG made his ideas reasonably clear, were repeatedly rebuffed. So this discussion never took place and the activities in which LF now engaged which had diverged from the Founder’s original intent were not put under the microscope and re-evaluated for their adherence to the basic goals of the organisation. Thus the “strategic refresh” turned into a “flushing out” of what remained of the Founder’s original intent, and, if one were cynical, a means of identifying those who opposed the new direction in which LF was being taken in order for them to be removed or “flushed out” as well.

This was quite ironic given the millions of dollars which were spent on designing and building a new headquarters for the organisation, on the exterior of which were emblazoned the names of the 100 or so authors of “the great books of liberty” which PFG had spent much time, effort, and money on drawing up and promoting. In the newly “refreshed” LF the discussion of the great books and authors had now been and would continue to be downplayed and replaced by much more discussion of current economic policies, party political matters, and who got appointed to what high political office. One way to interpret this symbolically was that the core and the external skin of the organisation had been reversed: what once had been the core of LF’s activities had now been relegated to the veneer of the building, while other more contemporary political matters became the new “core” of activities of the new LF.

It should also be pointed out that PFG’s original plan for listing and arranging the names on the sandstone walls of the Goodrich Seminar Room at the Lilly Library at Wabash College, Indiana, had as the end point or culmination of the progression of names the American Declaration of Independence, and not as one might have expected the American Constitution. The Declaration was the document which started the war of American independence from the British Empire and the subsequent Revolution. PFG thought that this Revolution, while noble in its aims, had only achieved a partial victory for liberty and thus much more needed to be achieved in a future “revolution” or “reformation” which he hoped to inspire by creating the Liberty Fund. (“Personally, it does not seem possible to think of any beneficial revolution with the possible exception of the American Revolution”, IGSR, p.21.)

Again, if one were interested in interpreting why the Board and Senior Management of LF decided to locate the name of the “Declaration of Independence” on the exterior of the building around the corner at the very bottom of a panel, hidden from view and obscured by another room jutting out from the main building, one might argue that they had absolutely no understanding of PFG’s thinking about its core significance, its relationship to the other authors of the great books of liberty (it built upon what had been written before), or the fact that it was the culmination of the first stage in the history on mankind’s striving for liberty against power. Its ridiculous position on the wall says volumes about the new LF and those who lead it.

[The facade of LF’s new building in Indianapolis, IN.]

For the “Websites Committee” to which Nico and I belonged we agreed upon the wording of a statement which we presented for discussion by the members of the Committee and which we wanted to be applied to all LF’s websites. It was based upon the long and detailed discussions Nico and I had during the course of 2018-19 on PFG’s goals and strategies (which are summarised here. Our statement was ultimately ignored by the Committee and it was soon dissolved. It stated that:

(W)e should never mention by name any sitting politician or political party, any piece of legislation which is currently before Congress, or any other policy matter currently under discussion. If we want to talk about, for example, “free trade” or “peace” we should do so historically (by referring to past historical debates about free trade vs. protectionism) and theoretically (by referring to classic texts like Adam Smith’s *Wealth of Nations*). That way we can be true to PFG’s “founder’s intent” and our tax exempt status as an educational foundation.

Nico and I also wanted the Websites Committee, as well as each of the other departments within LF (such as the Conference Program, and Publishing) to draw up a mission statement in which it would be declared explicitly and in detail how that department’s activities pursued the ultimate goal of the organisation using the methods recommended by PFG. As I had done for the OLL website.

In his detailed and very thorough critique of the appropriateness of many scores of posts to some of LF’s more political websites which he presented to the Board, Nico used the above principle as the main criteria for his selection of examples. Another criterion was the tone of the pieces as many departed from the more measured, scholarly, and reasonable forms of speech which had been part of LF’s practice for decades, and were we thought inappropriate for an educational and academic organisation.

Nico and I failed in our efforts to defend the original intent of LF’s founder. I was summarily sacked in September 2019 and Nico expected to follow soon after. He survived for another 20 months and then was sacked in May 2021. He took his own life a few weeks later on June 22.

The Incarceration of Foreign Students at Parafield Airport, S.A.

This morning I received an email from “Cathy” who describes herself as a LinkedIn News Editor , asking for my response to a recent story published in the ABC news website on “International student arrivals to quarantine at Parafield Airport facility under new SA plan”. Why she asked me I do not know (perhaps because I once taught at the University of Adelaide). I wrote a reply but my response was “too long” and cut short when I posed it. Here is her request and my reply in full (with images added since my first attempt).

Request

David, can student-only quarantine hubs help universities recover?

My name is Cathy Anderson , and I’m a LinkedIn News editor. We often reach out to LinkedIn members who can add an informed perspective on today’s news and trends.

As Australia’s tertiary education sector continues to reel from border closures, South Australia has announced a plan to repurpose buildings at Adelaide’s Parafield Airport to create a student-only quarantine centre.

Two apartment blocks in Sydney are also being considered as the first student quarantine hub in NSW.

We’d love to hear your perspective on this issue. How do you think the tertiary sector is faring? Could these plans kickstart the return of international students?

My Reply

I think this is utter madness which ignores the fundamental issues about the spread and the deadliness of Covid19 to different age groups in the population. Isolated housing for students in a vain attempt at “quarantining” is impractical, pointless, and profoundly immoral in my view.

Here are some points to consider:

1.) before March 2020, the accepted “Science” (“The Science” if you will) was that only the sick and infectious would be quarantined, the most vulnerable among the population would be protected as best one could (and vaccinated if a safe one was available), and the rest of the population allowed to go about their lives with minimal and voluntary measures taken (like staying away from work if one was sick, washing one’s hands, and coughing into a handkerchief. This is broadly the policy advocated but in the Great Barrington Declaration which I support and signed the week it came out.

2.) it has been clear from the very beginning that the disease affects different age groups in radically different ways. Children and young adults (like university students) have a very, very low infection death rate which is statistically insignificant and which is much, much lower than other death and injury risks (like car accidents and the annual flu). The death rates increase as the population group get older, with people aged in the late 50s and early 60s suffering death rates which are similar for a bad flu season, up to those in their 70s and above for which the death rate becomes quite serious. The statistics show that the vast majority of deaths have occurred in this age cohort (median age of death in Australia is 82 years) and they also had other serious “co-morbidities” (like Alzheimers, diabetes, heart disease, obesity) which would have killed them sooner or later anyway. From this data it is clear that the elderly are most at risk and should be protected, while the young are virtually risk free and should be left alone and lot locked up in so-called “quarantine centers”.

[Australian Deaths by Age Group]
[see also Ufuk Parildar, Rafael Perara, Jason Oke, “Excess Mortality across Countries in 2020” The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (3 March, 2021) here and the graphing website “Weekly Excess Mortality in 2020”

Australian Dept. of Health “Coronavirus (COVID-19) at a glance”

3.) Again, the statistics show that most deaths (40+% in the US and 75% in Australia – mostly in Victoria (96% of all aged care home deaths or 72% of all covid deaths in Aust.)) have occurred in nursing homes. In fact, being in any confined space for lengthy periods of times increases the risk of infection (the viral load factor) and death many times. This kind of “confinement” occurs in hospitals as well as domestic homes which suggests that “lockdowns” and isolation are the exact opposite of what a good health policy should be. Creating “student-only quarantine centers” would just be another example of this.

See “Studies on Covid-19 Lethality – Swiss Policy Research”

4.) The current focus on “cases” is completely misplaced as this ignores the error rate in the process (testing for fragments of DNA which may or not be from an active covid virus), the age group in which the person tested as “positive” lies (are they low risk or high risk), whether or not they actually have the disease and show symptoms, and whether or not the disease is serious enough to treated by a doctor or in a hospital. This essential information is not provided by the press in its daily bulletins which allows the government and their medical advisors to grossly exaggerate the threat and to take the appropriate steps (if necessary) to remedy the situation.

5.) I believe the panic about Covid has led to education policies (school closures) which have been a disaster, especially for secondary school children. For low risk tertiary students the disruption to their education has also been very significant, which range from them still being charged high fees for sub-standard online teaching (via Zoom), preventing them from having the complete learning experience of being on campus and meeting with their peers and their professors on a regular basis.

Thus, in conclusion, I completely oppose the creation “student-only quarantine centers”. This only perpetuates the useless policy of quarantining the very, very low risk young adult, student population and adds to the economic and social disruption of our society, which I believe is both unnecessary and immoral.

For further information I suggest the following websites:

From Rosé to a Sick Rose

During my first bladder operation I was struck by the conversations among the nursing staff and doctors in which my urine was judged according to the colour of wine. My twisted mind of course turned to Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 and his account of the predicament of “The Soldier in White”. I thought my situation was rather similar. [see “Turning Rosé into Chardonnay via a Middleman” (14 Feb. 2021) post

My second operation is fast approaching and my mind has turned to poetry in order to find some solace and comfort. The talk of “rosé” led me to think of William Blake and his poem about a related (at least to my mind) rose of a different colour – a red rose and a “crimson joy”. I have of course had to change the colour.

[Blake’s illustration for “The Sick Rose”]

The Sick Rose (1794)

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

And here is my parody:

The Sick Gland, by David Hart

O gland thou art big
The weakening stream
That flowed in the night
In my wildest dream

Has not found the bowl
Of emptied joy
And its dark yellow tint
Does my life destroy

17th Century Lithotomy

The British Association of Urological Surgeons has a useful website with sections dealing with the history of their profession. They inform me that in the 17th century there were “travelling lithotomists” who specialized in removing bladder stones. The procedure looks a bit grim from this contemporary drawing but it appears that Samuel Pepys survived the ordeal:

[17th Century Lithomotists at work]

Urologically, this was the era of “travelling lithotomists” who toured the country removing bladder stones through incisions in the perineum without any form of anaesthesia (*pictured*).  Lithotomists of this era included Thomas Hollier who, in 1662, operated on the diarist Samuel Pepys to remove his stone. Pepys was one of the lucky ones – few patients survived this procedure and those that did often suffered from incontinence due to sphincter damage and/or a urinary fistula.

The Body might well complain of this (mis)treatment but Andrew Marvell has a poem in which the Soul draws up an equal number of complaints about the Body. I have put the entire poem “A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body” online here). I quote the opening complaint by the Soul and my rewriting of it for the present circumstances:

SOUL
O who shall, from this dungeon, raise
A soul enslav’d so many ways?
With bolts of bones, that fetter’d stands
In feet, and manacled in hands;
Here blinded with an eye, and there
Deaf with the drumming of an ear;
A soul hung up, as ’twere, in chains
Of nerves, and arteries, and veins;
Tortur’d, besides each other part,
In a vain head, and double heart.

My updated version:

SOUL
O who shall, from this dungeon, raise
A soul enslav’d so many ways?
With bolts of bones, and flesh that fetters
Me from head to toe and then to bladder;
Here blinded with an eye, and there
Pained by plumbing at the nether;
A soul hung up, as ’twere, in chains
Of tubes, and sacks, and veins;
Tortur’d, besides that nether part,
With throbbing head, and troubled heart (or spelled Hart).

William Shakespeare’s (and Hamlet’s) Existential Dilemma

The last word should always be given to William Shakespeare. He, in the mouth of Macbeth, he makes the choice one faces very clear. Again, the original first then my version. I would have addressed a different body part than a skull as we see Olivier/Hamlet doing in the illustration:

[Laurence Olivier talking to a Skull]

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.

My version:

To pee or not to pee, that is the problem:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The stings and pangs of outrageous pain,
Or to take pills against my pee of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to pee
No more, and by pee to say we end
The gut-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a constipation
Devoutly not be wished. Not die – but pee,
To pee, perchance a stream – aye, there’s the nub:
For in that pee of life what streams may come,
When we have shuffled off this hurtful gland,
This gives us pause – to hope to bring
An end to so calamitous a life.

Australia Day: Girted, Skirted, and Alerted

After a long absence from Australia (20 years) it is interesting and instructive to be here on “Australia Day”. The day itself was hot and humid (37.5C) as was the perennial arguments about what “the 26th of January” is or should be all about, when “the 26th of January” should be held, or even whether “the 26th of January” should be celebrated at all. I fall into the latter camp since I am a classic example of a “rootless cosmopolitan”, as well as a “classical liberal”.

I find nearly all “national” anthems objectionable and usually refuse to stand or sing along at public events. This was sometimes hard to do when we were living in the US as most Americans are very “patriotic” (their term – mine is “nationalistic”). A study of several national anthems reveals that they often express very violent and chauvinistic sentiments which liberal people should avoid. I have given lectures over the years on “The Culture of Obedience” in which I discuss the political purpose of these anthems and how similar many of them are. See for example this one.

So what follows are some reflections on being “Girted,” “Skirted”, and “Alerted”.

On Being Girted

I was not living in Australia in 1984 when, as a result of a referendum, the national anthem was changed from “God Save the Queen” to “Advance Australia Fair”. I thought having a folk song known by most Australians would have been a better choice, as it is more of an “anti-anthem” than a true, patriotic song designed to inculcate respect for and obedience to a sovereign power. The song “Walzing Matilda” was after all a song about a vagrant who chose to commit suicide than to let himself be arrested for petty theft.

The version of “God Save the Queen” which we had sing when I was at school had this very objectionable second version, which has since been expunged from popular memory for obvious reasons. It went like this:

O Lord, our God, arise,
Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall.
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all.`

Back in the 1960s cinemas would play the national anthem and we were expected to stand while it was played. My first overt political act was to refuse to stand when the anthem was played, which sometimes incurred the wrath of patriotic old ladies who were sitting behind me in the theatre and who would wave their handbags about in a threatening manner.

In early January the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, unilaterally changed one of the words in the anthem to try to appease the critics – we were no longer “young” but had become overnight “one”. This seemed rather odd and high-handed in a supposed democracy, so I thought it was now time to read the Australian national anthem from beginning to end to see what the fuss was about. The following words (the original not (politically) corrected lyrics) can be found on Wikipedia:

Australia’s sons, let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains let us sing,
Advance, Australia fair.

When gallant Cook from Albion sail’d,
To trace wide oceans o’er,
True British courage bore him on,
Til he landed on our shore.
Then here he raised Old England’s flag,
The standard of the brave;
“With all her faults we love her still”
“ Britannia rules the wave.”
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance, Australia fair.

While other nations of the globe
Behold us from afar,
We’ll rise to high renown and shine
Like our glorious southern star;
From England soil and Fatherland,
Scotia and Erin fair,
Let all combine with heart and hand
To advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance, Australia fair.

Should foreign foe e’er sight our coast,
Or dare a foot to land,
We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore,
To guard our native strand;
Britannia then shall surely know,
Though oceans roll between,
Her sons in fair Australia’s land
Still keep their courage green.
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair.

As far as national anthems go, this would have to rank pretty low down the list because of its stilted language, unimaginative lyrics, and chauvinistic national sentiments. In other words, it is not an anthem I would bother to stand up for.

Satirists like David Hunt have seized on one very stilted expression for his book on Australian history entitled “Girt” and “True Girt”. I hope he writes a third, the title for which I suggest should be “Girt Unbound”. Or perhaps he could rewrite the anthem in order to add more trite descriptions of “our” country, such as verses about “our home is domed by air” or “our farms are based on dirt” (“dirt” rhymes with “girt”).

I wonder if the composer of “Advance Australia Fair”, Peter Dodds McCormick, realized at the time he wrote the lyrics (1878) that the east coast of Australia was chosen for a penal colony precisely because it was so remote and surrounded by vast oceans and thus created a natural “gird” to prevent the convicts from escaping. A bit like the French “Devil’s Island” (founded 1852) only bigger and with both poisonous spiders and sharks.

Or that this self same remoteness would provide our beloved leader Scott Morrison with another natural “gird” to wrap around us to prevent people flying in and out of the country spreading pestilence and pox. The “Tyranny of Distance” now seems to have been replaced by “the tyranny of hygiene central planners.”

At the moment, I don’t think I have ever felt more “girt” in my life and so the words of the anthem will have added meaning which its lyrcist (if we can call him that) never intended.

On being Alerted

Peter Dodds McCormick wrote another patriotic song circa 1901 called “Awake! Awake, Australia!” which was a call for the new nation of Australia to come to the defence of the Empire. Britain was involved in fighting the South African Boer’s struggle for independence and McCormick thought Australian men needed to be “alerted” so they could “lead the van” in order to “keep the Empire won”.

Note also the repeated exhortations for “Australia Fair” to arise from its slumbers and to lead the fight for the Empire.

Awake! Awake, Australia!
Awake from peaceful ease!
The nations great are calling thee,
From distant lands and seas.
Thy dormant days are ended, thy hours of rest are run;
Now rouse thee, for a nation’s work,
and keep the Empire won!
Beneath thy bright blue skies,
Australia Fair, arise!

“Awake! Awake, Australia!”
Old Father Neptune cries,
“My children have to Manhood grown,
beneath the southern skies;
My northern sons have led you,
brave, darling me of old.
Now southern seas, bring forth your men
of worth and courage bold!”
Beneath thy bright blue skies,
Australia Fair, arise!

Awake! Awake, Australia!
Old Britain’s bracing cheer
Is borne across the waters far,
and all her children hear.
The echoes are reply-ing
from climes o’er all the world
Australia fair must lead the van,
with banner bright unfurled!
Beneath thy bright blue skies,
Australia Fair, arise!

I wonder how Scott Morrison would change some of these lyrics to make it more politically correct. Might I suggest making it more gender inclusive as I don’t think it right for only the men (manhood, sons) to do the fighting for “God, King, and Country”. Australian women also need to be “alerted” to do their patriotic duty.

On being Skirted

While we argue about what to call “the 26th of January” or when in fact we should have “the 26th January”, or if we should have a “26th of January” at all, most people seem to “skirt” around the issue of convictism. Scott Morrison, bless his soul, tried to rise this issue last week and got blasted out of the water by suggesting that it wasn’t much fun for the soldiers and convicts on board the First Fleet “Scott Morrison criticised for saying 26 January ‘wasn’t a flash day for those on first fleet vessels either’”. It would have been more historically accurate to have mentioned the Second Fleet which came the following year and suffered horrendous casualties en route (25% died) and a further 20% died in the immediate months after landing.

A very large spotted gum next door came crashing down early on Boxing Day morning, crushing 2 parked cars, and causing considerable alarm. I tell you this because one of the “arborists” who came to clear up the debris told me that his ancestor had arrived on the Second Fleet, which is why I got to reading about it. I asked myself if there had been a “Last Fleet” and if so, would they have called it that? Probably not. And do the descendants of the 2nd, 3rd, and nth fleets gather around the BBQ on Australia Day and boast about their family’s heritage. Again, probably not.

As a side note, in the Third Fleet of 1791 (was this the last of the “numbered” fleets to arrive in Sydney?) it is important to note that one of the vessels, the Mary Ann, had a much needed “cargo” of women, who were in short supply in the male-dominated prison. Ever since, historians have been arguing whether in fact the “Mary Ann” was the last ship to arrive of the Second Fleet, or the first in the Third Fleet. I’m not sure this bothered the women cargo as much.

The hyper-nationalism of some conservative groups makes the historian in me want to point out the fact, which they like to “skirt”, that the colony in Sydney was a military run penal colony which had most of the features of a centrally planned socialist economy, with coerced labour, a government controlled and regulated “public stores” system for the distribution of essential goods, a barely functioning or even non-existent free market, bans on liquor consumption, controls on what could be produced (to satisfy the requirement of the East India Company monopolies in the region), the leasing of land to favoured individuals, and so on. Thus, the early decades of the colony were hardly the beacon of private property, free market capitalism, and democracy which some conservatives today would like to think. Some of these things might come later, but not for several decades of experiment and failure with military central planning of the economy. On “the 26th of January” this is what comes to my mind not the sunnier “for we are young and free”.

Four arrested in Sydney’s Hyde Park after peaceful Invasion Day protest at The Domain – ABC News

Given the convict and military socialist origins of the colony in Sydney it seems more than fitting that police on “Australia Day” would arrest and possibly imprison protesters for not maintaining the required “social distancing” in a public place. (By the way, shouldn’t this be called “anti-social distancing”?) Perhaps in solidarity with the founders of the colony (or should we rather call them “inmates”) we should all attempt to get arrested by engaging in acts of civil (or even uncivil) disobedience. We could then protest “Incarceration Day” as well as “Invasion Day”.

Maybe next year.