Saturday, December 10, 2005

Conquest, by David Day

David Day has written quite a bit about Australian history and politics, with two biographies of major Labor party figures under his belt. His latest book, published this year, is subtitled ‘A new history of the modern world.’

In essence, it tells of how ‘supplanting societies’ legitimise their occupation and take over of foreign lands. It goes through all the rituals and means by which the militarily and technologically stronger delude themselves into thinking what they are doing is the right, even moral, thing.

Thus, the white man comes along, usurps the land of the natives, and then pats himself on the back for ‘civilising’ the brutish savages. David Day is a splendid writer, and he brilliantly navigates us through various occupations and land grabs that have happened throughout history, skilfully marshalling quotes and source material to paint a picture of grand self-delusion.

What I have described might sound like your usual bitchy thumbs down on the last five hundred years of western culture. Not at all. Rather, it’s a fascinating look at how supplanting cultures (like Australia’s white settlers) actually see themselves.

David Day finishes on an optimistic note, saying that because we now have a more globalised world, and are more aware of other cultures, we are less likely to trample all over indigenous peoples.

As mentioned above, this is a splendid book, thoroughly enjoyable. Highly recommended!

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