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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 31 August 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 31 AUGUST 2019 23 OPINION ace was set aflame by 3,500 British troops and burned for three days. Some three hundred remaining eunuchs and palace maids, who had hidden themselves from the British soldier, perished with the burnt palace buildings. Priceless cultural treasures, including fine porcelain, gold, jewels and statuary were carted off by the soldiers, the choicest artefacts being reserved for the eighth Lord Elgin, including bronze vessels prized locally for cooking and burial in tombs dating back to the Shang dynasty and were up to three millenia in age. Like his father before him, the eighth Lord Elgin broke up the famous Zodiac Fountain, a structure that the Chinese government is now, slowly and painstakingly endeavouring to purchase, fragment by fragment. Charles George Gordon, later to achieve everlasting fame as Gordon of Khartoum, was present during the pillage, as a seventy-seven year old solider. He wrote with conflicting emotions of the rape of the Summer Palace: "We went out, and, after pillaging it, burned the whole place, destroying in a vandal-like manner most valuable property which [could] not be replaced for four millions. We got upward of £48 apiece prize money … I have done well. The [local] people are very civil, but I think the grandees hate us, as they must after what we did the Palace. You can scarcely imagine the beauty and magnificence of the places we burnt. It made one's heart sore to burn them; in fact, these places were so large, and we were so pressed for time, that we could not plunder them carefully. Quantities of gold ornaments were burnt, considered as brass. It was wretchedly demoralising work for an army." Having destroyed this priceless cultural edifice and appropriated all of its treasures, the eighth Lord Elgin went on to force the Qing dynasty to accept the unequal treaty of the Convention of Peking, ceding the Kowloon Peninsula to the British colony of Hong Kong and parts of Outer Manchuria to the Russian Empire. He died of a heart attack in India and had no connection whatsoever to Australia save that he served the Empire of which Australia was also a part. Presumably, his name was given to the Carlton Street in order to celebrate the violent addition of Kowloon to the British Empire and the brutal opening up of Chinese markets to British narcotics. To maintain the eighth Lord Elgin is a suitable person to be honoured in Carlton is thus to be an accessory to violence, drug-pushing, theft and state sanctioned murder. The legacy of the unspeakably vile eighth Lord Elgin's deeds are deep wounds within the Chinese collective psyche and a lasting mistrust of the West that endures to the present day and informs Chinese foreign policy to a significant extent. It is no wonder then, that increasingly, members of the Chinese community in Melbourne are expressing their revulsion at the continued use of the name of their oppressor as a name of a prominent Carlton Street. Some have reached out to the Greek community, finding common ground, as co-victims, in the manner in which the Elgin's exemplify all that was heinous about the British Empire's racist and violent ideology of appropriation, cultural and territorial aggrandisement in an age that may be long gone, though its wounds remain. Had the Elgin's a connection to Australia, it could be plausibly argued that despite their crimes, they form part of this nation's history, which we must accept, for better or for worse, and they should not be effaced in the cause of political correctness. Yet that argument fails resoundingly, as the Elgins had no connection to Australia nor any impact upon its history whatsoever, making their commemoration ever the more so ridiculous, hurtful and inappropriate. It is high time that the Greek community stands in solidarity with the Chinese community in vociferously demanding that Elgin Street, far from the violent colonial past of vandalism and destruction it celebrates, actually do the opposite: that is, to commemorate the traditional owners of the land upon which the street lies, highlighting the fact that they too are victims of the same policies that saw the Elgins and so many of their ilk, thrive. A traditional name such as Bunjilaka, already the name of a Carlton museum, derived from the words in the Woiwurrung language of the Melbourne region, signifying 'creator', and 'soil', the land created by Bunjil, a creation ancestor from south-eastern Australia, or any other name referring to the significance of the are to its traditional owners is thus a fitting and appropriate form of redress and will have significantly more relevance to the area than the memory of a family of aggravated robbers, a festering wound upon the consciousness of three Australian communities. It's time justice was done. Let’s really separate the church from the state Fotis Kapetopoulos looks at the inherent conflict between church and state in light of the new Greek Orthodox Archbishop’s public anti-abortion position The new Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, Archbishop Makarios recently addressed a pro-life rally in Sydney. I was surprised by the haste with which the new Primate publicly opposed the current bill in the NSW Parliament seeking to decriminalise abortion. One of the Archbishop's concerns - like all pro-lifers - is that abortion could be held up to 22 weeks into pregnancy. In fact, the bill actually adds more regulation not less, by requiring two doctors to sign an approval for late termination. And only when the mother's life is in danger, or in the case of severe foetal abnormality. The Queensland Law Reform Commission report on the review of termination of pregnancy reveals only 1 per cent to 3 per cent of abortions are ever carried out at such a late stage. When the Archbishop visited the Neos Kosmos' offices a few weeks ago, it was the first time I had come into such close proximity to high clergy. Being brought up in an anti-clerical, in fact communist, household, I had very limited connection to church and faith. With age, though, I have become more tolerant of religion, at least from a cultural, historic and creative perspective. I found the Archbishop er- udite, funny and engaged. The Archbishop's opposition to abortion did not surprise me. What got to me was his criticism of liberalism, φιλελευθερισμός. The Archbishop's right to express his views on abortion is facilitated by liberalism. The Archbishop also made a passing remark that one may believe 'some other abstract philosophy', but being 'guided by Christ is what matters'. Given Aristotle and Plato were incorporated into Christianity - as well as Judiasm and Islam - I found his statement intellectually dishonest; especially considering he is an intellectual and Greek, and moreover he was speaking to Greek Australian journalists and thinkers. He was not addressing his flock on a Sunday. It was in Athens, 500BCE, that human beings first became citizens or the polis, the city, or state. Democracy, liberty and freedom of expression and thought are gifts we gave the world and the world still enjoys. Liberalism in England later saw the gradual incorporation of Common Law and Equity Law. This legal fusion is at the centre of Anglo-liberal democracies be it Australia, Cyprus, US, Canada, India, Jamaica, or South Africa. Our courts recognise equity law when it is better than common law in any particular case, otherwise we revert to common law. The Church has exhibited great malleability in relation to power over the centuries. They accommodated Greece's occupation by the Ottomans, and even augmented power in the Ottoman Millet over 400-years. Many historians suggest that the Church did little to foster literacy, human rights, or enlightenment during that occupation. As the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America states: "During both good and bad periods of the Church's history, her law has adapted itself constantly to the circumstances of the time, up to the present day." Abrahamic faiths - Christian, Muslim, and Jewish – all oppose abortion using a humanist rationale. It is understandable, GrecoRoman society was a cruel one even if politically, culturally, artistically and philosophically very sophisticated. In Roman law, children were considered the property of the father. "After seeing his newborn children, a father could choose not to accept them, in which case they were ‘exposed’ - literally left outside, to die or to be taken in by a compassionate stranger." Female infants were the most frequent victims of this practice. Around 335CE a new world order, Christianity, gave women and children more rights. Women and children were considered to have independent free will. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in some ways are embryonic forms of universal social justice. However, we are not living in Ancient Israel, Ancient Greece or Rome, the Byzantium, or a medieval Papacy. Abortion is now a human right. And the separation of clerical power and state defines our democracy, not the word of any spiritual entity. Religious laws impacted on our secular laws and we balance equity and common law. The laws of the land in a democracy are negotiated between citizens, courts and the state. When the NSW Parliament legislates to decriminalise abortion, it will be up to women to wrestle with their own values in considering their options as citizens or a democratic state. Not too different to Ancient Greece with the great exception women have equal rights to men now. The Orthodox Church has always been good at giving Caesar what is Caesar's. Archbishop Makarios is fresh in Australia so, he may wish to give himself some time and reflect on who Caesar is on this occasion.
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