A few items hopefully of some significance

Just recently there is more news on our wonderful Indian ally and its murderous activities abroad; a reality check on Australia’s global significance; and, a statement of from a leading Australian novelist that few have been brave enough to utter.

India’s attacks on Sikh activists – wherever they live

The assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada by India has now been widely reported around the world. The Indian government has denied its role, naturally, and it has sadly done little to shift US, Australian and other support for this ‘bulwark’ against China and massive market opportunity.

Tut tutting followed by silence has been the response.

But now The Financial Times has exposed that India was plotting to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, the general counsel of Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) and a pro-Khalistan Sikh leader who was organising the US part of a Khalistan referendum.

The SFJ has been organising the unofficial referendum among overseas based Sikhs supporting the creation of an independent Sikh state to be called Khalistan but within Indian territory similar to other Indian territories.

Pannu said the plot challenged Washington’s sovereignty and national security. The US government has, acknowledged ‘the seriousness of the issue’ and raised it with the Indian government.

He said he was confident that the Biden Administration’s would handle challenges to American sovereignty such as this. Guess we will see.

Australia’s international presence

 Each year The Economist publishes The World Ahead, which seeks to predict likely outcomes around the world in international affairs, individual countries, business, technology and culture.

Unlike many predictions they are tentative and include various provisos. They also evaluate how they did on their predictions the year before – something media pundits rarely do in any time frame.

But the striking thing for Australians is the nation’s almost total absence from the 100 page The World Ahead. We do get the odd mention in some articles, but it is striking that Egyptian hip hop features a decent size article compared with us having no dedicated article at all.

There is much to be said about being ignored in a tumultuous world – if not probably in the minds of our political and business leaders. It could be that nothing disastrous or wonderful is believed to be happening to us in 2024 or that we are just not that interesting.

A lyrical and brave book

 Richard Flanagan’s new book – Question 7 – is a wonderful book. Part memoir, part Tasmanian and family history, wide-ranging, lyrical, elegiac, part homage to family and part polemic.

It also describes and analyses his near-death experience kayaking on the Franklin River and its profound impact on his life and writing.

Amidst the wonders of the book he thinks about the H.G.Wells’ book, War of the Worlds, and the comparison it prompts with the genocidal practices of the British Government and the soldiers and Tasmanian settlers.

He describes the roaming death squads, disease and the systemic attempted destruction of Tasmania’s Indigenous population comparing it with Thomas More’s Utopia where sheep ate people and the Wells’s novel and its anticipation of a nuclear bomb.

“Looked at this way the effect was little different from a nuclear explosion because the intent was the same: obliteration. The distance between Wells’ War of the Worlds and the World Set Free is not so great,” he writes.

Flanagan also has the courage to take on a subject many of us are concerned about but are frightened to raise – “a world of po-faced sacrosanct orthodoxy.”

In the book he writes: “When I found myself at this other end of life once more sitting up the back of literary and artistic events of today that so resemble churches of yesterday, old rituals in new drag, with their unquestioning subservience to new orthodoxies and their contempt for difference which many find comforting, replete with their savage castings-out and swooning agreements which many find necessary, my mind drifts. A world of sacrosanct orthodoxy is a world in which the novel and the novelist have no home. A writer, if they are doing their job properly, is always a heretic. As I sit silently through the stale medium, the po-faced hypocrisies amid dreary homilies, my mind is escaping once more to dream of the sun and sea outside.”

Sitting through such situations at literary festivals – no doubt it will be the same in Adelaide next year – you sometimes wonder where it all started. As a cynical old-style leftie once said: it just may be an invention of the right wing- get the young obsessing about pronouns while they get on with ravaging the earth.

Flanagan’s great-great-grandfather was a convict who was a slave labourer on a plantation called Brickendon on the outskirts of Longford in Tasmania.

The property is still today in the hands of the family of the landholders who were granted the area and nowadays open it to tourists. The current owner is hospitable and very honest about the history of the place. It also has a tourist shop and in it there is a small area which features a TV set which shows an interview with Flanagan’s father and Flanagan himself.

History, tragedies and coincidences are never far away wherever you go in Tasmania.