Observations of an Expat: A Statute of Limitations on National Guilt

April 1, 2016 OPINION/NEWS


Tom Arms

I propose a statute of limitations on national guilt. My proposal is prompted by the diktat from the politically correct academics of Australia’s University of New South Wales. They have told students that henceforth they should refer to the British involvement in Australia as an invasion, occupation and colonisation.

To be accurate, the university has not dictated that students use the terms as opposed to the well-worn words “discovery” and “settlement”. It has only recommended their use. In my day, when a professor “recommended” a certain phraseology, I stuck it in every possible paper to insure the best possible grade.

The promise of a good grade, leading to a good degree and a good job is a strong incentive to toe the line.

That is not to say that the Australian academics don’t have a point. When Captain James Cook landed at Botany Bay in April 1770 there were an estimated one million aborigines already living on the southernmost continent. In 1900 there were 100,000.

Only a handful died in what were called “settler wars”, so the term “invasion”—which my dictionary defines as “to enter by force in order to conquer or pillage”—is a bit strong. Almost all of the native Australians died from European diseases.

In South America, the Spanish conquistador Pizarro found an Inca civilisation of 16 million people. He set about slaughtering their leaders, but the general population shrunk to 160,000 through the introduction of measles, chickenpox, influenza and smallpox.

The same is true of the Native Americans who occupied what became the United States. In 1492 There are believed to have been upwards of 18 million native Americans stretched from sea to shining sea. By 1890, 250,000 remained.

There are many other examples of historical infamy: Portugal in Brazil and Africa. The Mongols in Russia, Afghanistan, Iran and northern India; the Vikings; the Turks in the Balkans; the Crusaders in the Middle East; the Belgians in the Congo; the Italians in Ethiopia; the Zulus in South Africa and then the British with their far-flung empire just about everywhere else.

Then there is the slave trade which involved several European countries and a number of African leaders who raided each other’s tribes to produce an estimated 40 million bodies for the slave ships.

The slave trade did not start with the British or the Portuguese and their African allies. Roughly half of the population of the Greek and Roman empires were slaves. Some of the first historical records refer to slaves and so they were certainly around long before the Assyrians built cities in the Middle East’s Fertile Crescent.

Slaves were regarded as an essential cog in just about everyone’s economic machinery—until the machines of the industrial revolution started to replace them. The increased production, however created a perceived demand for secure markets and consequently the industrially-based European empires were born. To justify both slavery and imperialism, arrogance was required. Other races were lazy, had smaller brains, were less civilised, the wrong religion, undemocratic, primitive and/or uneducated. They either did not deserve to or were incapable of managing the lands they occupied. So they were displaced and replaced with the human products of what was regarded as a superior European civilisation.

This was the White Man’s burden; a phrase, by the way, which was coined by Rudyard Kipling not to describe the British Empire, but the American administration of the Philippines.

In the 21st century these beliefs have been dismissed as bunkum at best or racist as worse. But its victims—in all corners of the world—still bear grudges. These grudges colour relations between countries which affect trade, tourism, military deployments and personal relationships. For instance, I know several people who refuse to visit Germany because of an Austrian named Hitler.

Clocks and history only go forward. It is important to learn from the past, but sometimes it is also important to forget it.





Tom Arms broadcasts on world affairs for a number of US radio stations including WTKF at http://www.wtkf107.com/. His Weekly Viewpoints discussion programme can be heard at 1830 EST on Wednesdays and his LookAhead at the next week’s main events on Fridays at 1800.




LookAhead Radio World Report for week commencing 4th April:






Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.


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