Queen Victoria, Manus Island and Crimea

Some time I will probably have the heart to write again about the so-called solutions the major parties have all been pursuing. The unravelling of much that is important for Australia’s worth as an example of human rights has been one tragic outcome of recent events. Many have been writing about these things, and there have been encouraging signs like Lighting the dark, as reported by Adrian Phoon. There is also an interesting article by musician/composer David Bridie, who knows Manus and PNG well.

Tonight SBS Dateline again breaks new ground with more whistleblowers prepared to inform us about what “our” camps are really like.

Inhumane conditions, self-harming and mismanagement… we’ve heard the claims about life inside the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres. Now Dateline has the evidence of what’s really going on there. In a special investigation to be screened on Tuesday, new video and photos reveal unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, plus there are damning accounts and leaked documents from whistleblowers. They’ve spoken in detail to Dr David Corlett, host of SBS’s award-winning Go Back To Where You Came From, to highlight the conditions facing asylum seekers trying to reach Australia.

The best account of  The Crimea that I have read appeared a few days ago in The Washington Post and this morning in The Sydney Morning Herald. A sample:

After the October Revolution ended the Russian Empire in 1917, Crimea briefly found itself a sovereign state. That didn’t last long, however: It was quickly dragged into the Russian civil war, where it became a stronghold for the White Army. Following a succession of governments in a few short years, Crimea eventually became the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921, part of the Soviet Union. It remained like this until 1945, when it became the Crimean Oblast, an administrative region of Russia.

Like much much of the Eastern Front, Crimea’s experience in World War II was incredibly traumatic: It was occupied by Nazi Germany, and the port city of Sevastopol was almost destroyed in the fighting. Once the Red Army retook Crimea in 1944, it forcibly deported the entire population of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia as punishment for collaboration with German forces. Almost half are believed to have died along the way. The Tatars, who had been on the peninsula for centuries, were not allowed to return to Crimea until the end of Soviet Union. They wouldn’t forget their hardships, however.

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Also well worth looking at is Nick Southall’s The Last Delegation. Nick is a 21st century Marxist – that is, he isn’t always what we have thought a Marxist to be. I have to confess to having known Nick since he was a boy, and his family for the best part of 40 years. (I know, I can’t believe it either!) He writes very very well too.

For over twenty years I’ve wanted to write an account of my trip to the Soviet Union. When I returned to Australia in 1990, after visiting Russia and Ukraine, many of the people I knew didn’t want to hear about my experiences in detail. For them, my reports seemed only to confirm that capitalism had won and we’d reached ‘the end of history’. So, I learnt to be quiet about what I saw, heard, experienced and what I thought was coming next. As I write now, 1990 seems such a long time ago, and my memory isn’t the best. Luckily I still have most of the letters I sent home every few days and some good photos. As you will appreciate, after reading this, there are things about my visit I cannot forget…

And as for Queen Victoria, I share the recommendation of the Australian Monarchists: I too will watch Queen Victoria’s Children on SBS1 with interest. 

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Mind you, I am not sure whether the Australian Monarchists read what this blogger had to say:

It looked promising since no documentary has ever been made of Victoria’s remarkable and varied brood, but it turned out to be one of the worst documentary series I have ever watched. It was so negative about Victoria that the producers’ names should be included in the list of those who tried to assassinate Victoria throughout her life (there were 7 people), for the series was character assassination through and through.

The series basically described Victoria as an irrational monster, a ‘domestic dictator’ someone called her, a woman who never liked her children yet was still obsessed with controlling every aspect of their lives. Her children were portrayed as helpless victims at the mercy of a tyrannical mother who got more vicious and demanding after Albert died….