Monday, 7 May 2007

An Australian Experience-advantages of an antipodean location

Australia was lightly disregarded in the old colonial system due to its remoteness geographically to major power centres of the civilised Atlantic. This unfavourable condition, a seemingly irremovable curse in olden days, has turned out to be an inseparable advantage for this country from the 20th century on. Australia is able to demonstrate this precious luck through, sadly, a series of man made disasters and havoc elsewhere in com temporary history.
With its vast space, established urban centres and transportation networks, Australia could be a last resort if massive disasters happen in other parts of the world. This continent is cut off from other continents, separated by seas and oceans. A few nearby neighbours are either extremely friendly (New Zealand) or posing little threats (Papau New Guinea). Only the north is exposed to external threats, which in any case have failed to materialise and pose any real danger to the heart of Australia, the south eastern coastal belt.
In modern history, Australia has faced an alert of attack only once (an invasion is too strong a word), the Japanese bombing of Darwin in 1942. These casual attacks by the imperial air force of Japanese were a side show of their grand war plans in the Pacific, not a prelude to landing or real invasion. Japanese forces were over-stretched, with millions tied up in mainland China and covering territories from Manchuria to Indonesia. That bombing hit a place far away from any significant urban centres; even Brisbane was out of the range of Japanese bombers. Without adequate naval escort and firepower, eastern coastal regions were virtually free from Japanese landing attacks, and there is no launching place to sufficiently arm numerous divisions for a Normandy scale landing battle. If Darwin were indeed been invaded by a couple of divisions mustered by the Japanese planners, that would have been most likely to establish a small colony of their at the north most tip of Australia. It is quite incomprehensible how they would sustain the captured land there, without constant supplies from their other bases and sizable local sources of production. Any attempt to march across the land from there to southern cities would be suicidal to the Japanese army under punishing conditions. Australia, like the north America, is lucky to have oceans surrounding their continent. The tyranny of distance beat countless potential aggressors.
In the case of international emergencies, Australia is a natural and logical choice of refuge for evacuees. General MacArthur did this sensible thing during WWII, when he hastily fled to Australia in the face of advancing Japanese troops, to recoup and regroup. Australia is also a generous recipient of immigrant refugees, including Italians and Greeks from war desolation and destruction of the last great war. A more recent effort was made on accepting fleeing Vietnam refugees since the 1970s. These rescuing and relocating processes are the main background themes for Australia to be commonly recognised as a safe base in international conflicts and an ideal oasis of the human society. This remote, isolated colony did not collapse under internal troubles but has provided vital sanctuary for people escaping from the world's trouble spots.
As the terrorism of the 21st century is concerned, Australia proves a safe place against this kind of new potential threat. It has no land link with any other territories, and there are no border areas where smuggling and potential terrorist activities can be launched Once airport security is beefed up and becomes routines, it is hard for initiators of terrorist attacks to pass and execute their plans. Those large areas in the north look easy to land, but harsh natural conditions there beyond beachheads could kill and bury unaware intruders. Further, modern surveillance technology has made it possible for safeguarding massive open areas with fewer number of personnel. The Australian authorities need only to concentrate on airports, not border checks, a situation much less complicated than that in the US.
The vast expanses of Australian outback is not without their worth. This wilderness contains numerous kinds of minerals in unbelievably enormous quantities for exploration and consumption to last in foreseeable future. With long history of civilisations on the Eurasia and wide exploration of the New World, Australia was little utilised for its underground mineral reserves till the 20th century.
This makes one wonder whether Australia has been purposefully reserved this way to be highly effectively explored by peoples of industrial manufacturing, and also to be subject to the demands of consumption and living of human societies of future generations. If this is so, then one of the horrifying themes in the American movie "Independence Day" rings an alarm bell. The theme depicts an alien race which roves over the universe, extracts resources from each passing planet, and moves on after those planets are totally emptied and then filled with waste. In an ironic sense, one notion that cannot be ignored is that this alien race is precisely the human race itself. The mother earth is going to exhausted eventually at current pace of development, in the name of survival, and sometimes pleasure, of this race.
This has happened to Australia in its comparatively short history of two hundred or so years. There are numerous ghost towns littered on this continent, remains and reminders of past buzzing industrial and commercial activities. All those left behind are ruins of past buildings, showing deserted skeletons, no matter how grand and crowded in those old days. Past money and achievements were swept away, along with attached structures built by those participants once gathered around certain centres. These are scenes not far from what depicted in that disaster movie, but these are real, not footage of a movie site.
Australia as an outpost and old desert-like continent may just be the much needed reserve to sustain the maddening consumption and to prolong the functioning of human race in current and future forms. Australians got their nickname "diggers" from what they do best, excavating mountains of rocks and turning them into sought after raw material commodities for the industrial world. This was, and is, extremely profitable and cost-effective. When human's appetite bulge and swell without restraint, this motionless landscape, inconvenient location and harsh conditions in Australia would cease to matter; they turn out to be unique advantages and great benefits to the nation, as well as crucial to the survival of the human race. It is here, and will be here, that Australia would finally and ultimately prove the worth of this medium sized, often neglected, country to the global community, when the desires and wants of the human race demand it and technologies for harnessing the nature allow it.
The universe works mysterious ways: if it sheds unusual spoils to a favoured place, there ought to be a catch. The proportions in Australia are equally tilted: the familiar images of expansive wilderness in the Australian outback appeal to thrill seekers, while the images of urban centres reflect true shapes and forms of life of ordinary Australians in those temperate, lush and inhabitable regions. These contrasts and balances in one setting demonstrate to the world how completely this country is blessed, with easy life style and seemingly inexhaustible resources. These rare fortunes lay the solid foundation of what successes have been achieved ans should be accomplished by the people of Australia, subsequently landing on their shoulders a more trying mission than they have realised for the betterment of future human societies.

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