The legacy of Martin Luther

Remembering Martin Luther – rebel priest who led the Reformation

It is 500 years since Martin Luther, a professor in moral philosophy and an ordained monk, nailed his Ninety-Five Theses or Disputation on the Power of Indulgences, to the door of the Castle Church in the German town of Wittenberg.

His dissertation, written in Latin, was a direct challenge to the authority of the Pope, head of the Holy Roman Empire, and the corrupt practice of bludging “indulgences” from the faithful to pay for the Vatican’s flagrant excesses. At the very outset, Luther confined himself to calling for internal reform within the Catholic church but his mission caught fire and quickly escalated into the European-wide Reformation. The result was the birth of a new branch of Christianity known as Protestantism.

The 16th century Reformation was preceded by the Renaissance. These two historical events are inseparable; they form part of a leap in human development from obedient servitude to humans being responsible for their own salvation through their own earthly deeds.

The Reformation explicitly carried forward the cultural, social and scientific advances of the Renaissance and encouraged people to read, write, compose, paint and think independently and in their own native language and not Latin, the lingua franca of the Roman Catholic church. Protestantism swept across Europe, obliterating feudalism and giving birth to a new mode of production called capitalism. In turn, the progressive elements within the new capitalist class gave rise to the Enlightenment which was largely overwhelmed by the massive slaughters of World Wars I and II and the economic division of the world into the “haves” and “have-nots”.

During the past 50 years of rising US hegemony, the world economy and the marketplace has been globalised. Labour forces from around the world were unified under a single oppressor – global corporations backed by blood-sucking banks.

The present day’s relentless social and economic turmoil is alarming and bewildering to many. Politicians, academics and commentators are lost for words or simply can’t explain what’s happening or why. This seems to be because the Renaissance, Reformation, the End of Feudalism and the Rise of Capitalism, the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment were never completed processes. This means that elements of previously unfinished business still live with us. As an example, we still have some monarchies, aspects of feudal preferment survive and child slavery still exists. Today’s battle lines are drawn between those who wish to carry forward the cultural and scientific gains of the past 500 years and those who want to bring back Biblical certainties from the olde worlde.

To me, the situation is eerily reminiscent of the 15th century Renaissance and there are echoes from written records left by diarists, letter writers, envoys and scholars. They all speak of fear, uncertainty, heroism, cowardice and treachery. Don’t we see that today?

Does this mean humanity is heading towards another Reformation? If so, what is its manifesto and who will be its Martin Luther? An Asian, Indian, African or Arab? You can be certain it won’t be anyone as ignorant as Donald Trump, Tony Blair or any of the other shallow minds of the current political class.

However, for the moment, let’s be content with hailing the huge historical contribution of Martin Luther, a married preacher and father of six, who set the thinking world against the depraved corruption of the Vatican and invited philosophy, music, art and literature into the lives of generations of people.

Israel’s Beersheba hoax

The Battle of Beersheba was fought on 31 October 1917 while Israel was not founded until almost 31 years later on 14 May 1948. At the risk of being repetitive, Israel didn’t exist when the Australian mounted cavalry made their famous charge at Beersheba in the Negev Desert 100 years ago this week.

Australia’s young fighters were thrown into the battle in Palestine to expel the Ottoman Turks. The battle would not have been won without the assistance of local Palestinians. They fought alongside the strangers from the other side of the world and brought them victory.

Prime Ministers Turnbull and Netanyahu – fake message

Yet Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten were in Zionist Israel this week celebrating the heroic Beersheba battle with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And all the official speeches and celebrations carried the fake message that Australian blood spilled in the battle at Beersheba [since renamed Be’er Sheva by the Zionist occupiers] forged “an indelible security alliance between Australia and Israel”.

Talk about falsifying history. Its falsity and cynicism were breathtaking. During the ceremonial parade uniformed horsemen and women from Australia rode alongside Israeli soldiers carrying the Israeli flag. In reality, the Australians were used as film extras in an Israeli propaganda exercise in support of embattled Netanyahu and an equally embattled Turnbull who are both under political attack from the extreme rightists in their respective parties, Likud and the Liberals. Amazingly, Australian taxpayers picked up the bill for Netanyahu’s extravaganza estimated to have been about $50 million.

For the record, there is no mention of a single Jewish combatant in the 1917 battle and that’s because not a single Jew lived in Beersheba at that time.

On the other hand, historians have noted that one-third of the troops in General Edmund Allenby’s Palestine campaign were Moslem i.e. Palestinians and Jordanians who took up arms against the decadent Ottoman Empire.

Turnbull spoke for the handful of crazed Zionists in his own Wentworth electorate when he said Australia was Israel’s “best ally”. In a passing acknowledgement to history, Turnbull said: “Australians took the town of Beersheba and secured the victory that did not create the state of Israel, but enabled its creation.”

He could have added that Ben Gurion’s declaration of statehood was preceded by Zionist terror attacks on Beersheba and the forcible removal of every Palestinian to Gaza. It was a prime case of ethnic cleansing.

Netanyahu made certain that this week’s events were a public relations triumph by banning Palestinians from attending. He made it a “Jews only” affair – and the Turnbull Government went along with it. Netanyahu reminded his audience of the Zionist state’s overriding objective when he emptied his speech of any reference to peace and said: “We attack those who seek to attack us.”

After sharing a bear-hug with Netanyahu, who is under police investigation over a financial scandal, Turnbull’s team signed a cyber-security pact with Israel to fight “global terrorism”.

The agreement means that Israeli spooks will now be stationed in Australian universities, Canberra departments and military bases to copy every defensive weapon developed in Australia. The Zionist intelligence services will be able to sell Australian-developed data on the open market to the highest bidder. Nice work, Malcolm.

On the barricades at Streets

There won’t be any Streets products in our household for a long time to come. No more Paddle Pops, Cornettos, Magnum ice cream tubs or Golden Gaytimes for this family. We are responding to a solidarity call by the Streets work force at Minto in south-west Sydney where the parent company, Unilever, is seeking to cut wages by 46%.

My hostility to Unilever goes back to the 1960s when I learned that the giant global corporation operated in Nazi Germany in the 1930s selling its products simultaneously to both sides: Hitler’s Third Reich and Britain.

When Hitler banned the remittance of profits to the UK-based parent company, Unilever moved (very slowly) out of the Reich, eventually departing when war broke out in September 1939.

In an overly generous comment on Unilever’s links with the Nazi regime, a Rotterdam academic wrote: “The organisation found itself torn between the interests of the British Empire and the German Reich. A combination of clever tactics against Nazi Germany, thorough legal and organisational wartime preparations and an innovative approach to the new production conditions, saved Unilever from certain demise during World War Two.”

Today Unilever is one of the largest corporations in the world. It was formed in 1929 by a merger between the Dutch-controlled Margarine Unie and the English-owned Lever Brothers, then the UK’s leading soap maker. Its star products were Sunlight followed by Persil.

The merger and the outbreak of World War Two triggered the acquisition of cheap global assets, including laundry soap and edible fats. Now the company controls detergent manufacturer Procter & Gamble, the United Africa Company and ice cream companies in Australia (Streets McNiven Bros, J.P. Sennitt and Amscol) as well as other companies in Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Brazil, South Africa, Denmark and Belgium.

Unilever is the world’s largest tea company with brands including Liptons, Typhoo, Tetley and Brooke Bond. Walk into any supermarket in the developed world and the shelves positively groan under the weight of Unilever products: PG Tips, Pot Noodles, Flora margarine, Marmite, Knorr dry soups, Vaseline, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Colman’s mustard, Dove and Lifebuoy soap and many brands of ice cream.

“Its bottles, tubs and packets appear in seven out of 10 kitchens and bathrooms across the world: two billion use its products every day,” said the London Telegraph in 2013.

While the group’s work force is paid the bare minimum, the CEO takes home $10 million a year and the directors are paid handsomely for showing up at monthly or quarterly meetings.

In its long corporate history, Unilever has been held to account for allegations of environmental vandalism through the destruction of rainforests, breaches of labour laws, human rights violations and fake advertising.

The company has a long-established procedure for maintaining its huge profits: when all else fails, axe products and sack workers. And now Unilever wants to slash workers’ wages? Tell them they’re dreamin’.

As Sally McManus, ACTU secretary, said this week: “This is about working people saying enough is enough.”

Media advice from NYT

Joseph Kahn, managing editor of The New York Times, gave the 2017 Andrew Olle Lecture last week and an edited excerpt was given a full page in The Sydney Morning Herald.

But what was edited out?

Joseph Kahn delivering Andrew Olle lecture

Completing his 30-minute speech, Kahn delivered a carefully-worded assault on “partisan journalism”. This is when newspapers, editors and news rooms sign up to one point of view and push it at every opportunity. At the same time, they ridicule the opposing point of view. The ever-dwindling readership of Rupert Murdoch’s media will be familiar with the ugly blare of “partisan” news.

Anyway, Kahn’s riff against partisan journalism was axed from the article. This is what the SMH  took out:

“Finally, I wanted to say a word about partisanship. Or, more exactly, about non-partisanship. In this political climate, there is tremendous pressure on The New York Times to become part of the opposition to President Trump. That pressure comes partly from some of our readers. They want us to more forcefully confront a president they see as a threat to democracy and American power. The other side also wants us to become the opposition. That would suit their narrative that there is no such thing as non-partisan media or non-partisan facts, only support for or opposition to their positions.

“Some media companies see it as in their journalistic or business interest to more formally take sides in this struggle. We have decided it is not in our journalistic or business interest to more formally take sides in this struggle. We’re convinced there is still a big audience for non-partisan journalism, in the United States and around the world, and that the polarisation of much of the media makes that potential audience larger.

“Moreover, we see partisanship as the enemy of good journalistic practice. The discipline of scepticism, scepticism even about many of the things our own journalists might take for granted, leads to better stories. It forces us to listen more carefully. It makes us more aware of changes in culture and society.”

He wound up his speech saying: “In an era of instant articles and breaking news alerts, it often pays to slow things down, ask hard questions, and then just listen.”

Thanks and bye bye

From much of Kahn’s speech it is very clear he has little idea about the life of a reporter in the 21st century. “Slow things down”? He must be kidding.

Local, national and global news is speeding up. It’s now a 24/7 commodity and the reporter who tries to “slow things down” and “then just listen” will find himself/herself quickly fired.

Kahn, however, is right about one thing. Since the election of President Donald Trump a year ago, the NYT and its equally snobbish East Coast neighbour, The Washington Post, have led the Resist Trump movement. Sometimes the whole of their front pages, the editorial page and the Letters to the Editor have been devoted to anti-Trump tirades. Reporters were encouraged to write such extravagantly-worded articles against the Trump administration that they fell into the “fake news” category and were never heard of again. Traditional journalism was junked and replaced by propaganda that would have done Pravda (Truth) and Izvestia (News) proud. Remember the old journo saying: “There is no Pravda in Izvestia and no Izvestia in Pravda.”

I have never understood why reporters don’t simply apply the time-honoured rigours of their profession: dig, investigate, research, interview, check again and then report. This approach would have been far more damaging to the odious Trump and his crooked coterie than all the invented and over-exaggerated stuff that many of them have come up with.

Thinking about the spineless fund managers and marketing gurus now running Fairfax Media, I am reminded of the demise of the New York Sun in 1950 and an obituary written by John S Knight, proprietor of the Detroit Free Press and other papers. After paying respects to the Sun in its heyday, Knight concluded: “The Sun then became just another good newspaper with dull, factual reporting and complete market coverage but wholly lacking sparkle, imagination and impact. More than anything else, the setting of the Sun is a graphic illustration of what can happen to any newspaper when it lives with a cash register in the place where its editorial heart belongs.”

Now if Mr Kahn had delivered that message he would have done Andrew Olle proud … but he appears to have spent too much of his career flying a desk in the office and not chasing news.

One comment

  1. Hi Alex,

    I think when it comes to the endless celebrations of Luther taking place at the moment, we should stop and remember that he was also full of seething hatred for the Jews of Europe – and published that hatred extensively – lest we be accused ourselves of manufacturing history.

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