Combined Arms Consulting

What defines us as a society

World War 1 poppies

Published: 14 Jan 2024

8 min read

“Great uncle Charlie’s blood stains Gallipoli shores, granddad Carl’s footprint throughout the fields of Flanders, the Digger to me is family.”

wrote those words 5 years ago when I entered a History Channel competition, on a whim, to go to Belgium and France to remember the 100th anniversary of the armistice. To my surprise, I won and together with my wife, Narelle, we visited the fields in which our family ancestors helped forge our Australian identity.

I wonder what they would think of Australia today when they see the division and hate that abounds on every street corner and where the ugly spectre of ancient hatreds last seen in Europe in the 1930s seems to have found a new voice globally.

In 1944 Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal wrote a book called “An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy” and although the book largely focused on race relations a key foundation of the book was based on what defined American culture. i.e., the “American creed” - Gunnar Myrdal defined this creed as emphasising the ideals of individualism, civil liberties, and equality of opportunity.

Samual Huntington, a Harvard Professor in his book “Who Are We” also explored this notion as to what are defining characteristics of US society. Both works, and I can cite numerous others, recognise the importance of first understanding who we are as a people long before any social cohesion can be attained.

Without that definition and understanding, we flounder. Like any beautiful coral vista, it must first be grounded on a solid rocky foundation.

In Australia, we have struggled to understand our own identity and come to terms with our skeletons over the centuries.

The treatment of our indigenous brothers and sisters, and the collective shameful past eventually led up to the monumental 1967 referendum in which an overwhelming majority of Australians voted to amend certain sections in the Australian Constitution concerning Aboriginal people. This acknowledgement of our cross to bear was further addressed with the 1992 High Court of Australia handed down its landmark ruling on Mabo v Queensland establishing the principle of native title rights in Australian common law. I can go on and cite many other events, but the road is still to be travelled.

Australians also addressed the insidious nature of the racist White Australia Policy where Arthur Calwell at that time was Minister for Post-War Immigration in the Chifley Labor Government stated that two 'Wongs'(i.e., Chinese people) do not make a white. How would that be seen today? We are progressing, so I hoped.

Today Australia is one of the most successful multicultural countries in the world its capacity to embrace alternative points of view is world-renowned, as Tony Blare the former UK PM stated you judge a country by who wants to migrate into it as opposed to who wants to leave it.

As Australians, we have certainly come a long way, and we should be proud however, I fear that our current crop of leaders is facilitating a slide back into the old “micro-identity” days under the guise of the pursuit of social cohesion, AKA not wanting to offend anyone, without truly basing this “social cohesion” on the foundational cultural identity that is Australian.

And what is that identity, corny as it may I believe it is about giving everyone a fair go, an acceptance of difference and the willingness to call it how it is even if it is not that popular, and never, never let down your mates – no matter how challenging.

Social cohesion without values, is as backward and dangerous as any social policy can be – just ask the Germans in the 1930’s.

Will Kymlicka, the research director at the Canadian Centre for Philosophy and Public Policy noted in his work “Multicultural Citizenship” that with each flow of migrants differing expectations, needs and attitudes need to be considered however without a strong “indigenous cultural creed” those expectations, needs and attitudes can undermine the very foundation attributes that go up to defining the host society in the first place.

Our current world makes this even more difficult to manage as we get real-time imagery – without historical context – and the world of the “identity gap” cohesion without foundation becomes ever harder to traverse. Migrant groups don’t need to adopt the macro culture – they can espouse their prejudices and values just by maintaining a Facebook account.

As leaders, you must also look beyond the latest YouTube clip, even if the public, especially generations born under the umbrella of social media and LEAD and above all act! Where the law is broken the law must be enforced – screaming “gas the Jews” or “to the river to the sea” is not “a pressure release” Our leaders are negligent if it is not recognised for what it is.

I am not going to argue the case of Gaza here, that is not my intention, but I am going to highlight the direct connection that Australia has played in that region and the bonds that connect us to that region based upon history and values.

Roland Perry’s book ”The Australian Light Horse” best outlines that relationship with Israel, if it wasn’t for their exploits in defeating the Ottoman Empire Israel in all likelihood would not exist.

Lieutenant B. L. Mendelsohn Tomb Stone

The impact on the Jewish community and honestly all migrant communities during the challenges in southern Israel and Gaza is horrendous but I wonder what Trooper Mendelsohn would think if he saw this poster and what is happening on Australian streets today.

Hateful Jewish on a public bin 2024

You see our leaders are the custodians of not just the current national identity, but the builders of future generations' values, you owe it to Trooper Mendelsohn, Sir John Monash, Sir Issac Issacs, and countless other Jewish and other migrant groups to ensure that whatever social cohesion that you seek that it will be based on core values that define this country. and it takes more than statements.

Appeasement does not work – just ask Neville Chamberlain

However, this is not just an Australian phenomenon. consider the images below – see if you see what is missing.

The four countries highlighted here are demonstrably four of the freest and most liberal democracies on the planet yet without the iconic landmarks you could mistake these protesters could be in Tehran, Tripoli or Damascus. Together with the plethora of Palestinian and Hamas flags, there is not one national emblem of the democracy that allows this type of (in many cases) violent anti-Semitic, anti-western demonstrations to take place.

It is not only in the streets that this erosion of Western values manifests.

In a recent conference hearing the Presidents of three of the top universities, Harvard, MIT and Pen State could not unequivocally condemn if calling for the genocide of the Jews constitutes racial harassment – their response “it is context driven”. Really?

If this is the response to a “no-brainer” what are the values and Western concepts being taught in our leading institutions worldwide?

Yascha Mounk in his brilliant book “The Identity Trap” highlighted the fact that especially in Western society mico tribal allegiances have superseded the overall Western and Enlightenment philosophies of tolerance and acceptance.

This approach seems to be adopted by the left who once took a humanist view. In contrast, today they are largely driven by “progressive separatism” and the desire to find offence in the wrong pronoun while overlooking atrocities and the transgression of core Western values.

It seems that from where I am standing the West is heading towards a world more in tune with a caliphate than what Locke, Voltaire, John Stuart Mills, Rousseau, Hume and other great thinkers would recognise.

This is where leadership comes into the picture, both at the national level and more importantly at the local precincts.

As a proud Australian and someone who is embedded in the Western heritage our fathers and forefathers fought to protect I feel compelled to push back, I feel compelled to make a statement largely directed to all, but specifically aimed at our leaders.

It must be the role of the leader to articulate and more importantly defend the core values that define any society and any organization. To achieve social cohesion you must first define the bedrock upon which that cohesion is based, otherwise you are rudderless.

That is why our leaders need to see beyond the next news cycle and the next sound bite. Trying to placate everyone at the end of the day you end up pleasing no one, and as national and local leaders without standing up to the corrosive cancer that seems now to be proliferating our streets and it seems that based on some of our educated young, can you believe that Bin Laden's "Letter to America" on Tik Tok is gaining traction, our future might not be that bright.

It starts with all of us.

I feel compelled to call out this corrosive and cancerous lack of action by some of our leaders, in part by being the type of leader I believe our society needs today within my immediate sphere of influence. this is not a stretch as I must do this for my grandchildren’s futures and the memory of Charlie and Karl and the sacrifice, they made for all of us over 100 years ago.