Section 44 [The Foundations of Culture in Australia, by P. R. Stephensen, 1936]

[Editor: This is a chapter from The Foundations of Culture in Australia (1936) by P. R. Stephensen.]

§ 44

No need for a protector

Defence is also a prime national question. On the practical need of defending Australia against the possibility of a Japanese invasion, all Australian parties (including the Communists) are in agreement. The only doubt which may arise is whether the Japanese imperialists are really so stupid as to wish to conquer and colonise Australia. These deep thinkers may have realised that, even if they were to conquer Australia and people it, Australia would then become the home of a new kind of Japanese person, a Japanese-Australian, who would be as different from the original parent Japanese as the present-day British-Australian is becoming different from the original parent British! Australia colonised by the Japanese would nevertheless become a great nation — one of the leading nations of the earth — and thus eventually would be serious rival to the Mother Japan of the Northern Hemisphere.

The cost, to Japan, of conquering and colonising Australia would be enormous, even if the attempt could succeed. The White Australian Natives of to-day are not so ignorant, unarmed, unorganised, trustful, primitive, and friendless throughout the world as were the native Australians when Captain Cook landed on these shores as precursor of the far-too-easy British conquest of this continent. We, Whiteskin Australians, fighting for our lives on our own soil, would be infinitely harder to exterminate than were the Redskins in America, or than are the Blackskins in Ethiopia.

Counting the cost, the Japanese imperialists may decide that no ultimate profit would accrue to them from an attempt to conquer Australia by force. The raw materials, such as wool, coal, and iron, which Japan needs, may already be obtained from Australia, by peaceful trade, at world parity prices plus freight. Japan is already Australia’s best customer for wool — or is equal with Britain in this regard. If Japan conquered Australia, the Japanese industrialists in the “Mother” Country would still have to pay world parity prices plus freight for their wool from Australia — the “Japanese-Australian” exporters would see to that. Then what would be the advantage of the very costly military adventure to “conquer” this continent?

There is no escaping the fundamental fact of nature — that Australia is a vast and isolated continent, too vast and too isolated to be a pawn in anybody’s game.

Australia cannot become populated without becoming industrialised; and cannot become industrialised without becoming a rival to the original colonising mother-country — whether England or Japan: there is the irrefragable logic.

But assuming that Japan is too short-sighted to realised this, assuming that Japan wants to conquer Australia, would the British Navy defend us? We think so, we hope so; but we cannot absolutely be sure . . .

I state this question in the terms of a psychology which it is to be hoped will, in the New Age, become obsolete: the psychology of international clash. Enlightened opinion in all countries is tending to regard the soldier and the gun-maker with loathing, and is attempting to exterminate these pests, who war, in all countries, against humanity itself. A discussion of international fight-strategy may seem to have very little to do with the foundations of cultural achievement in any country: and I agree with this proposition, in the abstract.

Concretely, however, I perceive that Australian national morale, which alone can establish a culture here, has been undermined to a greater extent by the “protection” offered by Britain and the British Navy than by any foreign threat of aggression.

A nation which is under the necessity of being “protected” by another nation must make the age-old bargain which the Domestic Dog has made: in return for the security afforded by man’s protection, he submits his neck to the collar, his jaws to the muzzle, and his ribs, on occasion, to the boot. The Domestic Dog, having lost the wild liberty of the Dingo to wander where he will, even amongst dangers and sometimes hungry, has gained protection, but has lost independence of thought and action. As part of his price for protection, he must learn to wag his tail when the Master pats his head — as some of our Australian business men wag their tails when Britain confers a Knighthood upon them.

Protection, in other words, is always given at a price and as the result of an implied bargain. It creates a sense of inferiority in the person, or nation, so protected. How terrible, then, to discover suddenly that the “protection” may be withdrawn when it is most needed! Or alternately how stimulating to the emotions to discover that there is no longer any need for a protector!

If the Japanese intend to assault and invade Australia, they will of course wait until there is war or revolution or some such distraction in Europe to keep the British Navy in its “Home” waters. When Germany or Italy, or both of these dictator-ruled countries simultaneously, go berserk in Europe, the British Navy will, very properly, stay in the North Sea or the Mediterranean, to defend England: and will not be available for the defence of Australia should Japan choose that moment for its onslaught on this continent. That is not only plain truth and commonsense, but also a completely justifiable fact. The British Navy has been built to defend, in any emergency, England first. In any such contingency, Australians will be in the exhilarating position of having to defend their own country, unaided. Such a responsibility, I say, brings with it a sense of exhilaration, the feelings of a young eagle leaving the nest, or of a young man who, leaving his parents’ home, occupies a house which he himself has built.

P. R. Stephensen, The Foundations of Culture in Australia, W. J. Miles, Gordon (N.S.W.), 1936, pages 151-154

Editor’s notes:
irrefragable = indisputable; something that cannot be contested, denied, disproved, or refuted

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