The Unkindest Cut

by Brian Jenkins, October 2005

Lieutenant General John Sanderson, AC, is at the end of his term as Governor of Western Australia. He was well suited to the post not only as a distinguished soldier but also as an outspoken critic of perceived abuses and shortcomings in government. I became an ardent admirer on learning that a committee chaired by Sanderson candidly described the The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) as "a bunch of drongos" in its handling of the 1999 East Timor crisis. [See copy of Canberra Times coverage]

Therefore, with a few other StopMAI diehards, I joined a packed audience at Sanderson’s advertised public address on 29 September 2005, on the theme ‘Economic Rationalism and the Death of a Thousand Cuts--Time for Imagination, Vision and Courage in the Great Southern Land’. The occasion was organised by a group called ‘Council for the National Interest’. (At time of uploading, a copy of the speech was available from the Government House website. This will disappear in time and enquirers are welcome to email me for a copy.)

Alas, our reaction was disappointment all round. We were primed to receive "the views of a deeply concerned patriot who senses that we are losing control of our future because of a developing tendency to undervalue things that are fundamental to the sustainability and preservation of our society".

Instead, we were finally urged to accept that ". . . we are going to have to import people to provide our labour force and service our communities - much faster than many would find comfortable. The free movement of labour had to be a component of the market forces/ globalisation philosophy. It already is in places like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Singapore, where they exploit people like Thais, Bangladeshis, Philippinos and Indonesians without enfranchising them. . ."

Sanderson claimed to be setting 21st century parameters for "an inclusive foundation of faith, self belief, enduring infrastructure and a healthy environment." But, he concluded, "That certainly won’t be the case if we huddle like a frightened and cowed mass in the bottom corners of this continent, measuring our success by the amount we consume rather than the amount we build. That would surely cause us to die the death of a thousand cuts".

On returning home, I immediately wrote a letter to the speaker, enclosing a copy of the short paper Death by a thousand cuts (May 1, 2005) by Professor Immanuel Wallerstein, Senior Research Scholar at Yale University and, for some 30 years, Director, Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems and Civilizations at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

In Prof. Wallerstein's considered estimation, it is the United States and its unsavoury corporate clientele which is irrevocably 'dying the death of a thousand cuts'.

I soon had a reply from the Governor’s secretary, saying that His Excellency knew Prof. Wallerstein personally, but recommending that I also read the work of Prof Richard Higgott of Warwick University, UK, who believes that the excesses of the Bush administration would have happened under any other president. In the words of Robert Jervis, "It is the logical outcome of the current unrivalled position of the US in the international system".

The matter is far from ended. I am assuming that John Sanderson is firmly on the side of those of us who oppose global corporate control, but that he needs to start thinking outside the square of conventional national security.

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