STRAWS IN THE WIND: by Max TeichmannNews Weekly
Some like it hot / Thatcher the chemist / Turks in denial
, February 4, 2006
Some like it hot
Matt Price, a local journalist, with regular columns in one of our mass dailies, wrote a muffled tribute to John Howard in the English Spectator
("Proud to be Thatcherite", December 3, 2005), in which Price saw him as far more successful than Blair or Bush (and, I would add, not to mention Chirac, Schroeder or Helen Clark).
After more than 10 years, Howard is still
by far the person most favoured by the public as PM. He controls his party and the parliament with ease, and he has blunted or deftly evaded all the concerted attacks and continuous attempted ambushes by our now slightly raddled media.
At one point, Price recalled, Howard was accused by opponents of being a Thatcherite. The PM readily accepted the label, lauding Margaret as one of the great political leaders and reformers of modern times - an example to us all.
Obviously not everyone agrees, for a musical devoted to retelling the former British leader's life, in a suitably denigratory manner, has just had its London launch. All the parts, including male friends and enemies of Thatcher - e.g., Ronald Reagan, Sir Geoffrey Howe, Michael Heseltine, etc. - are played by women. The co-director, Naomi Cooke, said, "Lots of people hate her; she did terrible things. But you can't deny there is a humanity. You can't just dismiss her as a monster. You see a vulnerable side to her; we have all seen her cry." (The Times
(London), January 16, 2006).
I feel a lot of the audience are going to follow suit.
This is all very interesting and topical, for I have just been reading a couple of speeches by Margaret Thatcher when PM: one, on September 27, 1988, to the Royal Society; the second, on May 25, 1990, when opening the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, established by her Government.
In between, she had addressed the UN General Assembly on November 8, 1989 on the same topics: climate change, prediction and what would have to be done by the world community and by individual nations if the deleterious consequences of what she saw as coming from global warming were to be avoided.
It is useful to compare these speeches by Thatcher with the general sentiments of the recent climate conference (January 11-12, 2006), organised by Australia for six non-signatories of the Kyoto Protocol - countries which contribute 50 per cent of the world's noxious pollution, as of now. They are the US, China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia.
John Howard in a sense led this conference.Thatcher the chemist
In what was really the key part of her address to the Royal Society - she was herself a chemist - Margaret Thatcher made the following points:
Pollution from nitrates and an enormous increase in methane are "causing problems", she said. The drive to feed the world - which had one billion inhabitants in 1800, had five billions when she spoke, rising, she suggested, to nine or 10 billion - seemed the main culprit.
A worldwide agreement to halve the global consumption of chlorofluorocarbons by the year 2000 was successfully negotiated. This, it was hoped, would help to address the growing hole in the ozone layer.
But, even more significantly, our new capacity, and need, to exploit fossil fuels, which had lain unused for millions of years, have led to "a vast increase in carbon dioxide. And this has happened just when great tracts of forests which helped to absorb it have been cut down ...
"It is possible that with all these enormous changes (population, agricultural, use of fossil fuels) concentrated in such a short period of time, we have unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet itself."
She then listed three changes in atmospheric chemistry:
"The first is the increase in the greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons - which has led some to fear that we are creating a global heat trap which could lead to climate instability.Melting of glacial ice
"We are told that a warming effect of 1 degree Celcius per decade would greatly exceed the capacity of our natural habitat to cope. Such warming could cause accelerated melting of glacial ice and a consequent increase in the sea level of several feet over the next century
." (My emphasis).
She then spoke of the moves her Government was making to investigate all these matters, to engage other countries in that quest and
to initiate joint action on stopping, or at least checking, these malignant processes, as described.
So there it is. Thatcher - who had been a very good chemist - had, in concert with her scientists of the day, set the agenda and popularised the notions, "global warming", "greenhouse gases", etc, which we are still debating with increasing urgency now.
In her speech of May 1990, opening the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, she developed some themes further. Introducing the Report of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, she cited its conclusions "that greenhouse gases are increasing substantially as a result of Man's activities; that this will warm the Earth's surface, with serious consequences for us all, and that these consequences are capable of prediction ... That is why we are opening this Centre today."
She reported the panel's predictions, saying: "The world could become hotter than at any time in the last 100,000 years and ... can I remind you Abraham was around only 5,000 years ago!"
Then there is the possibility that, were world temperatures to rise, and keep rising, a great migration of animals and plants would follow, and many species be lost forever - while forests could move perhaps 100 kilometres northward in the Northern Hemisphere, and farming perhaps some 300 kilometres.
And populations would be displaced in countries continuously liable to flooding, or with areas of declining rainfall and, therefore, spreading desertification, e.g., Bangladesh and
These are all possibilities which, she said, we must explore by research and prediction. If the prognoses are bad, we must have in place a global strategy, but cannot afford to wait
. As she said:
"We would be taking a great risk with future generations if, having received this early warning, we did nothing about it or just took the attitude, 'Well! It will see me out!'"
Her address to the UN General Assembly of the previous year was a tour de force
, ending with her quoting Milton's Paradise Lost
(well chosen) - a far cry from the point-scoring and monosyllabical yelping, so prominent in discussions of the gravity of the issues she raised that we encounter nowadays.
I'm afraid her hopes for global action, and a joint global approach based on reason - to which she kept alluding - and sheer realism, have not born fruit. And, strangely, the sense of urgency at the sounding of the environmental alarm, which she echoed then, is absent now - but only at the Establishment level.
But you will find little evidence, in the "musical" about her, of this intelligent and prescient being - or in the Left media clichés about her career and her opinions. Rather, you should go to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation (www.margaretthatcher.org) for the "Essential Margaret Thatcher", where the addresses I mentioned and other speeches, interviews and divers statements can be found.Turks in denial
Australia received a visit from Turkey's Prime Minster on December 10, in the course of which Turkey had to defend, yet again, its defective approach to human rights and civil liberties; its maltreatment of its Kurdish minority; and, so far as Armenia is concerned, Turkey's continued denial of all responsibility for what is generally known as the Armenian genocide, which took place during World War I.
But a new example of Turkey's continued repression of critics or nonconformists in her society has come up, with the putting on trial of Turkey's leading novelist, Orhan Pamuk, for insulting the Turkish state.
Author of a bestseller, Snow
, Pamuk had, in a newspaper interview, discussed the deaths of one million Armenians in 1915 and the deaths of thousands of Kurds during Turkey's recent civil war.
The Turkish PM said not to panic - he was sure that something would be worked out. But, as the writer Pamuk said in The New Yorker
, "It's the constant game of threats and cat-and-mouse, and the periodic imprisonments which work against pluralism and the possibility of dissent ... [it] wears down and silences so many intelligent or public-spirited Turks."
There is no genuine desire on the part of Ankara to mend its ways or to admit to errors, past or present; and it makes them unfit, as things stand, to join the European Union - and this is what French President Chirac and former German Chancellor Schroeder separately declared some time ago.
But, as two recent books on Turkey - reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement
(December 2, 2005) - remind us, the Turkish treatment of minorities of other weak neighbours, typified by the Armenian massacres and by Attaturk's destruction throughout eastern Turkey of historic Greek communities and the expulsion of one million Greeks in 1922 (earlier discussed in News Weekly, July 3, 2004
), is not the whole story.Turkish invasion
The ferocious anti-Greek riots of December 6-7, 1955 - watched, if not encouraged, by the Turkish Establishment - destroyed what was left of the Greek presence in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey. These riots were aimed at driving out all Turkish Greeks who were in fact Turkish citizens. Thereafter, it only remained for Turkey's invasion of Cyprus in 1974 to force those Greeks, still hanging on in Turkey, to leave. Usually, their property remained in other hands.
Despite the earlier massive ethnic cleansing of Greeks in Turkey in 1922, following upon their catastrophic military defeat, there were still, according to the 1927 census, 120,000 Greek-speakers living in Istanbul and the islands of Imbros and Tenedos.
But, in 1955, that all changed. Mobs totalling 100,000 sought out Greek properties, although such knowledge, very often, had been only available from government sources. Some 4,500 shops were wrecked and looted, along with community properties and restaurants, of which there were many.
Most of the numerous Orthodox churches in Istanbul were pillaged, and many desecrated. Cemeteries were vandalised and bodies dug up.
Rapes were frequent, although they were underreported because of shame.
The Americans and British did nothing and said little, because Turkey was an in important ally. The CIA head Allen Dulles, who was touring Turkey at the time, called for discussions.
After that, the Greeks of Istanbul and other places began to decamp - with their properties destined to be subject to interminable litigation (often still proceeding). The Greek-speakers in Turkey fell from 80,000 in 1955 to under 50,000 in 1965.
In 1964, Turkey unilaterally abrogated the Turkish-Greek Convention of 1930, and 11,000 Greek nationals were expelled. They were allowed to take only what they could carry, plus $10.
After the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, a further mass exodus of Greek-speakers followed, so that the number of Greek-speakers in Turkey is now only 2-3,000. Hence the subtitle of the Times Literary Supplement
(December 2, 2005) report: "The empty spaces where Greeks once were".Violent intolerance
Given this continuous and continuing culture of violent intolerance towards minorities and individuals, from Ottoman times onwards, it is indeed strange that Turkey continues to be seriously considered for membership of the European Union, which is a collective depending for its legitimacy on democracy, freedom of the press, human and civil rights, and the rule of law.
Where has this ever been found in Turkey?
As architect of the proposed new EU constitution, Giscard d'Estaing said he couldn't even understand why the proposal was ever made in the first place.