I have been working on a companion piece to Neil's Waltzing Matilda 21st century style – current reading. However, it is taking time because I need to think through some historical issues, so I have decided to hold it until the weekend.
Two natural disasters near Australia: the first, the earthquake and tsunami in Samoa and in American Samoa; the second, the earthquakes in Indonesia.
Australian and New Zealand Air Force planes are already flying aid into Samoa, a country of perhaps 217,000 people. What a difference accidents of political geography make. American Samoa looks to the US and plays American football and baseball. Samoa looks to Australia and especially New Zealand and plays Rugby. The country has just switched from driving on the right hand side of the road to the left.
At the 2006 census, 15,240 Samoan born lived in Australia. In Australia, Samoans make up a disproportionate proportion of players in both Rugby League and Rugby Union given the country's small population. It's a matter of size and athletic prowess.
Australian help has been offered to Indonesia, but there unfortunate recent familiarity with natural disasters as well as the size of the country mean that help is apparently not yet required. There are around 60,000 Indonesian born people living in Australia. A lot more than the Samoans, but then Indonesia is a much bigger country.
The disasters drove another event, the sixtieth anniversary of the foundation of the People's Republic of China, to third spot on the Australian TV news. As it happens, my train reading just at present is Emily Hahn's China only Yesterday: 1850-1050 A Century of Change.
I will write about this book a little later. For the moment, I simply note that one thing that stood out from the book, and especially the first part, was the vast incomprehension between the Chinese and European views of the world. So great was this that neither side actually understood what the other was saying!
In a world where improved transport and communications have drawn the mutually incomprehensible into closer contact, I think that it pays us to remember that the provision of mutual support - support without strings - in times of trouble is the best way of building bridges.
I think that this is correct on moral grounds. But it is also practical.