Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday potpourri

Great Northern Railway

Pretty scene isn't it?

This photo by Gordon Smith shows what was once called The Great Northern Railway just north of Armidale. Hard to believe that that for so many years this was the main rail line to Brisbane.

Change is inevitable. Still, I find it sad that the Brisbane Government kept its part of the line open, while Sydney shut its part down. I think that this is pretty typical of the lack of vision that has so scarred NSW over the years.     

Often on Sunday I write a full essay. However, I really did this yesterday, so bear with me today if I just ramble a little.

I found Neil's post Tiananmen and all that – 20 years on remarkably interesting, in part because it included eye witness material.

In reading about events like this I have to remind myself that things change, but slowly. This is sometimes cold comfort. 

In this context, there was another dreadful case during the week involving the Australian Immigration Department. The thing that I find hardest to bear about cases like this is the way they reveal growth in fundamental inhumanity.

There is a powerful book here. Not a passionate book, but one that coldly, factually and clinically traces the growing moral corruption that finally blinded ministers and officials to what was being done. I cannot do it, I am struggling to complete my own current writing assignments, but I wish someone would.

Yesterday in Saturday Morning Musings - the challenge of writing good history I discussed some of the challenges involved in writing good history.

The Australian Immigration example extends some of my points I was trying to make. Any book must be clinical. The layering of case after case, fact after fact, will of itself create an emotional response in the reader.

Australians are not inhumane, just a little blind and self-centred. We need to be reminded from time to time that our own instinctive reactions create things that are in fact abhorrent to everything we stand for.

Over on skepticslawyers in Some melancholy cliometrics HD, the original skepticlawyer herself, is reacting to the destruction of past material by the Christian Church. I have not read the book SL is quoting from. However, I would make two points.

The first is that destruction of material giving alternative views is not unique to the Christian Church. The second is that for every book destroyed, one survived because of Church copyists who carefully reproduced material. Without them, Western civilisation would have been greatly impoverished. I suppose win some, lose some.

On Friday in  Round the New England blogging traps - 6 I continued my irregular review of New England blogs. I have to do a lot more here, as well as in my reviews of the New England press.

I know that I am very New England focused just at present, but in doing new things I find that my personality requires me to become obsessive about something to the point that the desire to complete conquers the day to day distractions of ordinary life.

As part of my current obsessions, I have been looking at the Australian Bureau of Statistics historical estimates of the Australian population. Those who are interested can find the series here.

Why population statistics? Well, it's just that I want to know what I am dealing with. It sets one context for events.

I think that the thing that surprised me was just how slow the growth in the non-Aboriginal population was. Did you know, for example, that it was 1809 before the population passed 10,000?

This is twenty one years after the arrival of the first fleet. The population then grew quite rapidly. Even so, it took a further nine years for the non-Aboriginal population to pass 20,000. Thirty years, 22,438 people. Makes one think.

Well, I have to cook lunch. That's all for now. 


rummuser said...

"Australians are not inhumane, just a little blind and self-centred. We need to be reminded from time to time that our own instinctive reactions create things that are in fact abhorrent to everything we stand for."

I just posted an article about Australians that touched me. The statement you have made can be made about any nationality!

Jim Belshaw said...

That was one lucky frog, Ramana! I do agree that the statement could apply to many nationalities.