Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for January 2010

First published “The Chronicle” 19 January 2007.

During the 16 years (now seventeenth year) of my column in The Chronicle, I’ve had people ring and tell me that it’s no wonder you can’t believe what you read in the paper. They base their comment on having come across some spelling mistakes in the body of the paper not to mention the column, which I’m certain was their real reason for calling. While probably right in both cases I think the mistakes are few and far between. In my own case I was hauled over the coals, and rightly so, by a former High School Principal for confusing principle and principal.

Of egregious spelling mistakes in The Chronicle’s past was the headline that included the word “codswhallop.” When I read it I telephoned the editor (not the current editor) and told him a reader had called me and said the spelling was codswallop. Unfortunately, he refused to admit it saying he had used the word in other papers without a problem. Why he denied it I don’t know as the mistake was of minor importance except, perhaps, in the sense that readers who think spelling in the paper is always right would go on to use the wrong spelling at a later date.

Apart from mistakes in spelling, misprints and poorly worded phrases in newspapers often make things funny, even if unintentionally and they occur in even the most prestigious publications. At times they are to be found in The Canberra Times, The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald and other major publications, as have reports that not only are inaccurate but also are not true.

One of the most famous examples of misreporting concerned Mark Twain himself a reporter and once the owner of the Buffalo Express newspaper. Most people will be familiar with this piece of misreporting because Twain’s reply to a reporter’s question about the rumour of his death has become one of the world’s’ most used quotes: “the truth of my death is greatly exaggerated.” This is a good example of the fact that reporting slips in newspaper, magazine, and now radio and television programmes provide the most memorable humour.

Advertising also provides much humour. I doubt anyone wouldn’t know that the following magazine advert was for dogs: “Great Dames for sale” or that the truth of the advert: “Man, honest. Will take anything” means something different to what is implied. Mind you they might think twice about the following phrase: “Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.” I also think the following advert a classic: “Illiterate? Write today for free help.”

For myself I get fun attaching using advertising phrases that created the wrong impression to create an ad to make the ad for an activity more interesting. For example the advert that said: “Our bikinis are exciting. They are simply the tops” might be of benefit to the board of a mixed swimming club seeking new members.

By this time, however, and because you might have started wondering what the title of the column applies to, let me take you back to page 9 of last week’s Chronicle which carried a picture of Boadicea, myself, my daughter Elizabeth and husband David under the following caption: Marriage milestones run in the family,” followed by a brief story.

The story was true but for one small detail: it said that Boadicea and I had just celebrated 60 years of marriage. Much as I would like to claim that as true, I can’t. Boadicea and I have only celebrated 50 years of marriage. Indeed, whether either of us will live a further 10 years is a matter of doubt with my case less certain than Boadicea’s.

My case is less certain because it could depend on Boadicea’s horoscope. If it says she has a great opportunity to remove an obstacle to happiness and if we’ve fallen out and haven’t spoken for a couple of days, she might decide to pick up her trident and dispose of me before the ten years are up.

Apart from adding to view that you can’t believe what’s in the paper such an event would give The Chronicle a story and the headline: “More than 50 years of marriage could be dangerous”

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This extended version of the column published in The Chronicle 19 January 2010 was published in OnLine Opinion 19 February 2010

I am confused when the words aboriginal and indigenous are used in the same sentence to describe the same people. Although the words are interchangeable, indigenous also has an extra meaning. The OED defines Aboriginal as people of the race that has existed in a land from the earliest times while Indigenous also means people belonging naturally to a place, which, in the latter context, makes most Australians indigenous.

And if one accepts the science of man originating in Africa and that his genetic structure has changed little over the millenniums, it seems logical to assume that if the skin colour of an aboriginal African today is black, then black was the colour of Africa’s original inhabitants and is still the basis genetic structure of all people today.

That said, it would also seem reasonable to assume that, following his first global movement and settlement in different parts of the world and while retaining his genetic inheritance, he developed new languages, cultures, physiognomies and skin colours to cope with the demands of his new environments. This accounts for the differences between the world’s various peoples.

At the same time, the effect of his continued travelling and intermarriage with other travellers has made the billions of people who currently inhabit or, as some would have it, infest the earth, indigenous. I am certain also that, in time, this mixing will continue to leave us, as Ophelia said in Hamlet: “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

I say this because as man created new technology he also created the global village. In doing so he has sparked a second great global movement that is changing the world at far greater speed than the first great global movement. I suspect, too, that, in future, and using even more advanced technology, man will spark a third great global movement and that this global movement will see man living in space. When this happens I am in no doubt that man will develop an even greater range of cultures, physiognomies and skin colour.

Some people say I am drawing a very long bow: so be it. But, long bow or not, I hope that when I release my arrows my aim is good and that they find their mark among racists because every arrow has a message that none of them will like. The message: that regardless of what they think, their skin colour is simply a “paler shade of black”.

This message will, of course, provoke anger among a certain section of white people who will never accept that their genetic inheritance is black. Indeed, I feel sure they will argue that Africa’s original inhabitants were white and that the changes I have outlined happened in reverse. Some, of course, won’t even accept that argument and continue to argue that whites were created as super humans and non-whites as inferior humans. Never will they ever be persuaded that colour is only skin deep.

Not that racism is confined to people whose colour is the palest shade of black. The emotions that drive people to adopt a superior view of their status also drive people of different shades of black to hold the same superior view. Unfortunately, while colour is but skin deep, emotion is not.

Returning to my starting point even if there are only a few groups of Aboriginals left in the world, Australia should be proud of those who live here. We should be hailing them as a unique race not diminishing them by referring to them as indigenous. If something isn’t done soon (although already too late for some) the remainder also will lose their uniqueness and culture.

That said, I’d like to ask Australia’s Aborigines three questions. Why don’t you insist on being given your proper title? Why don’t you make the uniqueness of being Aboriginal a cachet of prestige that will be the envy of many people around the world? (An indigenous Scot myself, I am one of the envious people because I wish I could ascribe the description Aboriginal to my Scottish heritage).

Perhaps they should copy (as reported by Brandy Yanchyk, the BBC World Service, Vancouver) Tewanee Joseph, leader of Canada’s aboriginal umbrella group known as the Four Host First Nations, who said that what Canada’s aboriginals should do [and keep on doing], is rebrand themselves positively so that:

” What people will learn is that we’re business people, we’re entrepreneurs, we’re visual artists and we’re performing artists. You know our culture is really living and thriving today and it’s been through challenges.

“We no longer want to be seen as just Dime Store Indians, just beads and feathers. I think for us those stereotypes are very important for us to break.”

For Canberra’s best community news”The Chronicle” published every Tuesday

Been reading, watching or listening to reports of the whale of a battle about whales in what, allegedly, is Australia’s Antarctic Southern Ocean (exclusive) Economic Zone? Whether or not the latter is accurate is a matter of dispute as some 47 member countries of the International Whaling Commission do not recognise Australia’s hegemony over the zone.

Japan is one such country, as indeed is Canada. That this is the case puts a different gloss on whether or not Australia has the right to stop Japan killing a number of whales which, Japan says it does in the interests of research.

But the cause of the current trouble is Canadian Paul Watson, Captain of the environmental ship, Sea Shepherd, whose small high powered and highly mobile second vessel Ady Gil collided with the whaling ship Shonan Maru while trying to prevent it from doing its job.

The collision was captured on video, since when there have been as many calls from the anti whaling lobby and other environmental zealots who blame the Japanese for the collision as there have been interpretations of what took place. They also advocate Australia launching legal proceedings against the Japanese.

On the other hand I know of many who think that if action is to be taken it should be against Captain Watson. As a former merchant seaman – I did not serve on a whaler – I agree with them. I am of the view that Captain Watson and his vigilantes should be prosecuted for their disregard of Maritime Law and safety at sea rules. Indeed, many compare his actions to terrorism or the actions of the pirates operating off the Somaliland coast.

My opinion about Captain Watson is based on watching the collision scene many times. In my opinion his claim that the Ady Gil was not under way at the time of the collision is spurious. That it was not under power is not the same as saying it was not under way.

Indeed many have taken the view that the collision occurred because Capatin Watson was trying to be too clever by half; that he had ordered the Ady Gill to cut its motor before it closed on the Shonan Maru and so was under way at reduced speed.

Other people who have viewed the collison said they could see no wake churn something that adds credibility to my theory that power had been cut too early thus making Ady Gil too slow to get out of the way of the Shonan Maru. Indeed had power not been cut ithe Ady Gil would have avoided colliding with the Shonan Maru. Unfortunately sensible discussion about this subject will never take place because Captain Williams personifies the kind of leader who is never wrong.

Of course, had everything gone to plan and a narrow miss instead of a collision taken place, Captain Watson would have been trumpeting in the media that it was only his seamanship that prevented a maritime disaster. The truth: his lack of seamanship and his need to be seen as the whale messiah nearly caused crew of the Ady Gil to lose their lives.

Too harsh a view of Captain Watson? I think not. His record speaks for itself. Never once during previous incidents has Captain Watson ever admitted to being in the wrong, either morally or in terms of seamanship. Not only has danger to life always been Japan’s fault but dangerous sea practices that could have caused loss of life have also been its fault.

I think it’s about time the Conservation movement for whom Captain Watson works reined him in because the ocean can not be taken lightly. It has never listened to messiahs who think they know all the answers. I hope, too, that his extremism in the Antarctic’s whale battles does not lead to a major disaster that causes people to lose their life. Unfortunately I am less than hopeful.

A note to Chronicle Canberra readers. Next edition: Tuesday, 13 January


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