Letters to Eureka Street

Misnamed test

I have just read the review in the January–February 2005 edition of the book Kisch in Australia.

I was somewhat surprised to read two references in that article to the ‘diction’ test, formerly administered by Australia’s immigration authorities. It should, of course, be the dictation test. It’s not clear whether the test has been incorrectly named in the book, misdescribed by the reviewer or is simply a typographical error. In any event, it’s unfortunate that this notorious and arbitrary means of excluding potential immigrants from landing in Australia has been erroneously named in this way.

I’m not sure whether there is any corrective action you can take at this point; but I thought it was worth drawing to your attention as an unhappy slip of the pen in such a fine journal.

Christopher Fogarty
via email

Thanks for picking this up, Chris. You  are quite right. We apologise for the error. —Ed

A mean mandate

Perhaps the Howard Government feels in addition to everything else that it now has a mandate for an increasing lack of compassion towards asylum seekers.

Not only are asylum seekers being deported to countries with repressive regimes and a record of human rights violations on political, religious and gender grounds, but the governments are being given personal information about those being returned.

Most of us do not need too much imagination to realise what is likely to be their fate.

Noelleen Ward
Albert Park, VIC

Unborn victims

Firstly, I assure Kerry Bergin (Eureka Street, November 2004) that, as a Catholic, I do not believe that the world was created in six days about 5700 years ago. Or in many of the other things that the correct use of the term ‘fundamentalist’ implies. Nor do most other Catholics.

Secondly, I assure her that nowadays I?justify my belief that induced abortion is wrong without reference to my church’s teachings.

I believe that abortion is wrong for the same reason that the average non-religious believer believes that murder is wrong. We belong to a society of human beings, and we believe that one human being does not have the right to kill another except in self-defence. (Different people will have different ideas of what self-defence means.) Certainly no human being has the right to kill an innocent fellow human. This belief came from a religious source but is accepted now as a fundamental value by most human societies.
Bergin mentions rape and other abominations, but if we deplore the practice in some societies of punishing the innocent victim, the woman who has been raped, how can we condone the punishing of the innocent product of a rape?

The suggestion that abortions do not involve victims and perpetrators seems to require a belief that the foetus or embryo is not a human being. Which seems then to require a belief that there is a change of species at some stage, from non-human being to human being (or perhaps from human non-being to human being).

The belief that the human foetus or embryo is a human being is not a religious belief (although some may hold it for religious reasons). It is based on the scientifically proven fact that from the earliest stage there is present a human life, genetically distinct from the parents, and capable, in the absence of fatal defects and gross interference, of growing and developing just as have Kerry Bergin and I and all your readers.

The idea, expressed by some politicians lately, that introducing abortion as a topic of political debate is to be deplored as introducing religion into politics should be ridiculed, because opposition to abortion need have nothing at all to do with religion. Opposition to abortion is a perfectly rational scientific attitude, given the principle that human beings shouldn’t kill other human beings.

Gavan Breen
Alice Springs, NT

Hot Cross ban

It’s astounding how distracted one becomes when surfing the web. Recently in search of a traditional hot cross bun recipe, a new tangent led me to a parallel universe—an article from 2003 entitled ‘Hot cross banned: councils decree buns could be “offensive” to non-Christians’.

Intrigue inspired the next search for a history of the ‘offender’. Like most Christian traditions, hot cross buns are an adaptation of a pagan custom. According to one source: ‘The cross represented the four quarters of the moon to certain ancient cultures and to the Romans it represented the horns of a sacred ox.’ This correlates with the definition of ‘bun’, which is thought to have been derived from the ancient word ‘boun’, meaning ‘revered animal’.

The Christian relationship to the hot cross buns could have originated around the 14th century when monks placed a cross on the buns to honour the ‘Day of the Cross’ (Good Friday). Father Thomas Rocliffe stamped his cross into spice cakes in 1361, distributing them to the poor visiting the monastery at St Albans.

In the 16th century Queen Elizabeth I attempted to knead out the ‘offender’ but in the end conceded defeat as the bun rose in popularity. 

How far do we venture in terms of political correctness? Will children be sent to detention for playing noughts and crosses? Will athletes run aimlessly, unable to travel cross-country? The world economy could suffer a significant down-turn if sports-shoe manufacturers are banned from the sale of cross-trainers.

Lee Beasley



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