Testing the thesis (continued)
(The supremacy of the military/avid militarism)
The military remains supreme.
Australia’s defence expenditure increased by 50 per cent between 1989 and 2007. The Government allocated $22 billion to the Australian Defence Organisation in the 2007-08 financial year. In the 2006-07 budget the Howard Government announced that it would continue to increase real defence spending by at least 3 per cent each year until 2015-16.
According to the World Bank in 2014 Australia’s military expenditure was measured at 1.78 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.
The following data are taken from a table of the top twenty countries on the list of countries by military expenditures by the International Institute for Strategic Studies World Military Balance 2016 (for 2015) with the highest military expenditure for 2015 published in the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbook 2016 using current market exchange rates in 2015 U.S. dollars: Australia ranks fifteen; it spent 22.7 billion, equal to a share of 1.8 per cent of 2015 G. D. P., or 1.000 per capita.
The list prepared by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
2016 Fact Sheet (for 2015) places Australia as thirteenth in comparison with other countries:
|% of GDP|
Military expenditures data from S.I.P.R.I. are derived from the N.A.T.O. definition, which includes all current and capital expenditures on the armed forces, including peacekeeping forces; defence ministries and other government agencies engaged in defence projects; paramilitary forces, if these are judged to be trained and equipped for military operations; and military space activities. Such expenditures include military and civil personnel, including retirement pensions of military personnel and social services for personnel; operation and maintenance; procurement; military research and development; and military aid – in the military expenditures of the donor country.
As Broinowski noted: “Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected.” The ‘Australian Defence Force’ is a misnomer. It has mainly four functions: 1) to serve overseas in support of other governments’ decisions, 2) to employ weapons which are force-sold to Australia because of the power of the military-industrial complex of Australia’s Great-And-Powerful-Friend, 3) to pursue intimidation and/or invasion of other countries, while maintaining the ‘tradition’ of militarism as a source of male dominance if not of machismo, an expression of nationalism; 4) a limited function as coastguard.
Militarism and nationalism are like twins joined at the side. They live and thrive on rhetoric with frequent recourse to the Crown, the (dysfunctional) Royal Family, the (foreign) flag, and the totally melancholic, often morbid, tribute to the dead which takes place ‘that one day of the year’, 25 April – Anzac Day. That is the day – as Dave Warner once said – when ‘we march our march and we drink our beer’. It is on that day that everyone who is said to have died for Australia is ‘honoured’ – by marching and getting high on beer.
Anyone who knows even a little history would remember that marching has always been regarded by dictatorial regimes as a needed substitute for thought. Large consumption of beer helps to blur fact from myth. Thus the landing at Gelibolu, which is the name of the place Australians, New Zealanders and English invaded in 1915 with absolutely disastrous consequences, has become a ‘sacred day’ in ‘secular’ Australia. And thus the confusion between history, myth, reminiscing and fabulae raves up, with the risk of serious consequences if one were to attempt to re-establish the truth on the occasion. After that, everything is permitted, in the name of laconicism and that grand, all embracing, all soothing resource which is ‘mateship’. This, of course, is regarded as an exclusive Australian quality. No other returning soldiers, whether volunteers or conscripted, in other countries are allowed to possess it.
Gelibolu was an ill lost battle from which no good came; it never ‘tested a young country’s mettle’ and did not ‘show what game young men can do.’ It gave Turkey a nation founding hero, Ataturk, and Australia almost a century of bloodstained hypocrisy. And there seems to be no end to it.
Questions are never asked, of the simplest kind such as: why warring against Maoris in New Zealand in 1845? And what on earth were ‘colonial’ Australians doing in Khartoum in 1885, or against Boers in South Africa, or ‘federated’ Australians in Russia in the 1920s?
Treasonable would be to ask: why should our youth continue to be cannon fodder for the financial advantage of weapon-manufacturers, offending countries and people they have never visited, defending on someone else’s land our power élite, their miners, banksters, money-makers, pimps, and establishment we hardly ever use to our own advantage? Asking that would be, and so is, taught from cradle to grave to be un-patriotic, un-Australian.
Rampant sexism was early identified as one of the characteristics of a Fascist regime. Modern authoritarian regimes may pretend to be outwardly egalitarian, and anyway it is ‘popular’ to appear nothing but egalitarian.
The reality is quite different. ‘Traditional’ gender roles remain, albeit covertly, quite rigid. Women remain unequal at all level of life. There is unequal economic treatment, despite the fact that for over forty years the ‘right’ to equal treatment has been preached by every aspiring politician.
There is social inequality. It is implied in the machismo which still pervades certain occupations, even in such limited fields as life-saving formations. It is fuelled by the media, seventy per cent foreign-controlled, and profusely devoted to the representation of women as objects of sexual, even if only visual, satisfaction. Coincidentally, publicity of all kind exploits and emphasises a woman’s beauty as a lure for selling everything: from furniture to vacuum-cleaners, not to mention cosmetics, of course.
Such inequality ‘slides’ not so gently in areas as the military, where women may be excluded from the very beginning – example: ‘cadet’ training at school, and – if admitted – may continue under the unfair, discriminatory, and often abusive treatment to which women are subjected in the Defence Forces. There is the periodical investigation of sexual harassment of women in the Australian Navy. The latest foreign adventure, in Afghanistan, was ‘justified’, at least initially by the ‘mission to liberate women’. Later, the mission was explained as that of training part of the Afghan Army – and a woman Prime Minister said so in the Australian Parliament in November 2011. By the end of April 2011 she had found a way of hardening her uncompromising position on North Korea’s nuclear programme, at a time when diplomats said that the isolated regime was reaching out to talk, and despite North Korea’s attempted overtures to American and European diplomats about restarting those talks. What was it? Zeal? Bloody-mindedness? Stupidity? Servility?
On 24 March 2011 all media were abuzz over the then latest scandal: allegations of Australian soldiers serving in Afghanistan having posted ‘racist’ remarks and videos on a social network site. Because the word ‘racist’ has become as abused as others in the new-language, one should begin by clarifying that the soldiers had referred to then Prime Minister Julia Gillard as a ‘fucking ranga’. Now, ranga is a local corruption of the word Orangutan, a red-haired animal, well-known for its fiery temper and pale skin – carrying the implication that the female of the species is good in bed, combining its natural aggression with its lack of appreciation for its looks. In lavatory language, it refers specifically to a redhead female, who presumably has red pubic hair. People of light complexion and with red hair are likely to sunburn easily. Discrimination against people with red hair and pale skin stems from English name-calling of Celts.
Some videos recorded the soldiers as referring to Afghanis as ‘rag-heads’, ‘dune coons’, niggers’, ‘sand niggaz’ – a gift from the Great-And-Powerful-Friend: it is the plural of nigga, a word which describes ‘ignorant-African-Americans’ – and ‘smelly locals’.
The former Prime Minister, and for a while Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd was also not spared some lurid comments.
By the evening of 25 March 2011 the television stations hosted a procession of personalities: the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, the Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, the Air Marshall Chief of the Defence, Angus Houston appeared, and all with the customary air of contrition mixed with embarrassment to explain how they had apologised, and all to display a sense of surprise. Alas, people old enough remember that the deplored terms are on par with those used more than forty years ago by Australians, particularly during the Vietnam invasion, with reference to the local: ‘coons’ and ‘gooks’, as well as ‘chinks’ – broadly for people with an Asian appearance, ‘niggers’ – for people with darker skin – including American Blacks, ‘Lebo’ – with an assumed Lebanese background, et cetera.
If the ‘mission’ in Afghanistan was that of ‘winning the hearts and minds’ – as it was in Vietnam – all one can say is: it failed in Vietnam. Was it going to be different in Afghanistan?
Tomorrow: Testing the thesis . . . Rampant sexism (continued)
* In memory of my friends, Professor Bertram Gross and Justice Lionel Murphy.
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975 he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra. He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.