18 November 2017

"One Nation" in Australia and extreme right wing political parties across Europe

The cultural and linguistic diversity of Australia's resident population has been reshaped over many years by migration. In 2015, 28.2% of the resident population was born over­seas (6.7 million persons). As would be expected from a major member of the British Commonwealth of nations, the greatest proportion of these migrants came from the United Kingdom (5%) and New Zeal­and (3%). And increasingly, migrants are arriving from China (2.0%), India (2%), the Philippines (1%) and Viet­nam (1%). The fastest rate of increase over this period was for people born in Nepal, Pakistan, Brazil, India and Bang­ladesh.

As a result of this diversity, Pauline Hanson's party, One Nation, has arisen as a strongly nationalist, right-wing and populist party in Australia. One Nation was founded in 1997, by then-member of the Conservative Party in Federal parliam­ent, Pauline Hanson. Dis-endorsement came before the 1996 federal election because of comments she made about Indigenous Australians, Muslims, Asians & immigration. Hanson also critic­ised the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

Condemning multiculturalism, One Nation has rallied against government immigration and multicultural policies. Along with Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, she once drew a link between African migrants and “crime, HIV, TB and leprosy”. Hanson said "You can't bring people into the country who are incompatible with our way of life and culture. They get around in gangs and there is escalating crime that is happening."

Parliamentarians against racism walk out of the Senate
during Hanson's maiden speech, 2016.

Some of Hanson's maiden speech 
photo credit: SBS

Does it matter what One Nation believes? Yes, it does. At the 2016 Federal election the party polled only 4% of the nationwide primary vote in the Senate, but in Queensland her party gained 9+% of the Senate vote! The primary effect at both state and federal levels could be to split the conservative parties’ vote and in particular to threaten the National Party's support base in Queensland.

When Pauline Hanson made her incendiary first speech to the Senate in 2016, all the Greens senators walked out. She claimed the nation was "in danger of being swamped by Muslims" with its people "living under sharia law and treated as second-class citizens" if urgent changes weren't made to immigration policies. She claimed they "bear a culture and ideology which is incom­pat­ible with our own" and called for an end to all immigration. She called for an end to halal certification and for a ban on the construct­ion of any further mosques - with those existing to be monit­ored, saying she did not believe Australia could remain secure under current immigration policies.

Just in case Australians didn't understand One Nation’s racism, Hanson added "Muslims are imprisoned at almost three times the average rate. The rate of unemployed and public dep­endency is two to three times greater than the national aver­age. Muslims are prominent in organised crime with associated violence and drug dealing. Anti-social behaviour is rampant, fuelled by hyper-masculine and misogynist culture. Multiple social surveys find that neighbours of Muslim settlement are suffering from collapsing social cohesion and fear of crime."

Since being elected to the parliament, One Nation has voted with the Conservative government on welfare cuts and to rest­ore the Australian Building and Construction Commission ag­ainst unions. Pauline Hanson also called for penalty rates to be abolished entirely, but failed in that endeavour. She opposed the plan to extend the taxpayer-funded paid parental leave scheme because it “could encourage women to get pregnant to access government benefits”.

What will happen in the upcoming state elections in Queensland and in the next federal elections, if they have to be declared earlier than expected?

Golden Dawn in Greece
photo credit: New Statesman

If you think that after WW2 an uber-nationalist, anti Semitic, anti-migration, anti-welfare party could never gain the bal­an­ce of power in civilised European countries, I urge you to examine re­cent polling results for:
1. the far-right Freedom Party in Aust­ria;
2. the Anti-European Union, Anti-Islam Party for Freedom in the Netherlands that incites discrimination against Muslims;
3. Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party. The neo-Nazi group, The Radical Camp organised a huge white-supremacist rally in Warsaw and flew racists from Slovakia and Hungary to join in.
4. Hungary’s right-wing, anti-Semitic Fidesz party and its ally even further to the right, Jobbik;
5. France’s anti-immigration and anti-European Union National Front party;
6. Greece’s most prominent neo-Nazi movement, Golden Dawn who found a new surge in support following Donald Trump’s ban on travellers from some Muslim-majority countries into the USA;
7. Alternative für Deutschland in Germany is anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic and Eurosceptic; and
8. The True Finns are strongly nationalist, Eurosceptic and anti-globalist.

I cannot directly compare Trump in the USA with Europeans because he is Head of State and not a politician in the nation’s parliament. However examine his executive order temporarily banning imm­ig­rants, travellers and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries - it perfectly defines his “disdain for human rights”. Examine his “rampant sexism”, “obsession with national security”, “obses­sion with crime and punishment”, and “rampant corruption and cronyism”. Of all the Early Warning Signs of Fascism on the list, so far “fraudulent elections” is one of the few than can be excluded from Trump’s list of achievements.

14 November 2017

Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim: the film

After Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria (1819-1901) was devastated. Fortunately the Queen became very close to her gillie John Brown in Balmoral, a warn friendship that lasted for decades. When Brown died in 1883, Queen Victoria was devastated for a second time. Now we can analyse the third male relationship in the queen's life that started in 1887.

But how close to real history is the film Victoria & Abdul, directed by Stephen Frears? Queen Vict­oria, Empress of India (Judi Dench) took her Indian responsibilities very seriously. She asked for two Ind­ians to travel from India to share in the Queen's Gol­d­en Jubilee in 1887.

Mohammed Abdul Karim 1863–1909 (Ali Fazal), a Muslim born in British India, was selected to give the queen an Indian gift. But when the Queen wanted to employ these two Indian servants for the entire Jubilee year, Karim and Buksh had to be tutored in English and in British etiquette. After a journey by rail from Agra to Bombay then by mail steamer to Britain, the men arrived at Windsor Castle in June 1887. By Aug Karim was teaching the queen Urdu.

After Karim told the Queen that he’d been a clerical worker in India, he was prom­ot­ed to the position of Munshi/teacher in Aug 1888. This was so that he would stay in Britain.

The Queen's let­ters noted that her discussions with the Mun­shi were social, philosophical and political. Undoubtedly the Queen found in Abdul Karim a connection with a distant part of the world, and a confidante who could discuss intellectual issues with her. At Scotland’s Balmoral Castle, Karim was given the room once occupied by the late John Brown.

In Nov 1888, Karim spent months back in India, in honour of his father Waziruddin. So the Queen wrote to the Vice­roy of India, Lord Lansdowne, demanding action on Waziruddin's pen­sion. Unfortunately the film didn’t mention Karim's many trips back to India and the very close bond with the father. [Note that in June 1892, Wazi­ruddin visited Brit­ain and stayed at both Balmoral and Windsor Castles!]

Poster for the "Victoria and Abdul" film, 2017 

On the other hand the film made it crystal clear that Karim's swift rise instantly angered the members of the Roy­al House­hold, who would never have socialised with Indians out­side the nobility. The Queen naively expected them to welcome Kar­im. As did Karim.

The rapidity of Abdul’s advancement would have led to his unpopularity in any case, but racism was ev­ery­­where; it went hand in hand with a strong belief in Britain's global dominion. Because the queen found racism intolerable, her private secretary Sir Henry Pons­onby (played superb­ly by Tim Piggot-Smith) had to neg­otiate between the Queen and her courtiers after each incident.

The film clearly showed them at Balmoral in Sept 1889 when the two of them stayed overnight, in an isolated house on the estate where Victoria had been with John Brown. The film also showed the “Queen vis­iting Abdul twice daily, in his room taking Hind­ustani lessons, sign­ing her boxes, examining his neck, smoothing his pillows.” It was almost dom­es­t­ic.

Clearly the ageing Queen did not trust her own son and the Royal Household to look after the Munshi after her death. So she asked the Viceroy of India, Lord Lans­downe, to grant Karim land near Agra. The Viceroy reluctantly cooperated.

In May 1892 Karim was in India on leave and re­turned to Britain with his wife and mother-in-law in hijabs. They were put in roy­al houses at Windsor, Balmoral & Osborne. And partic­ipated in Christ­mas presentations.

Note the connections. When Lansdowne's term ended in 1894, Lord Elgin took over. Ponsonby's son Frederick was Elgin's aide-de-camp in In­dia, then an officer in charge of royal horses in Brit­ain. Fred­erick wrote to Lord Elgin in Jan 1895 about the court's discomfort with the Indian.

In the Queen's 1895 Birthday Honours, Karim was appointed a Com­panion of the Order of the Indian Empire, despite the political oppos­it­ion. After Britain’s 1895 general election, Prime Minister Lord Rosebery and Secretary of State for India Henry Fowler were re­placed by Lord Salisbury and Lord George Hamilton. Lord Hamilton suggested the Indian might become a tool in the hands of other, more dangerous men. In fact some of the resent­ment at court and in government occurred because of the Munshi did, or might have, tak­en political advant­age of his position.

The advisors also feared Karim's link to Rafiuddin Ah­med, an Indian political activist/student in London who was con­n­ected to the Mus­lim Patriotic League. They suspected Ahmed extracted confid­ential information from Karim to pass to the Af­ghanistani Amir. As the political anxiety in Britain cont­inued, why didn’t the film discuss these political fears?

And there was another concern. Lord Elgin was warned by Lord Pon­sonby that the Queen gave his letters to the Munshi to read, and that consequently his correspondence to her should not be seen as secure. Most people agreed with the suspicions of her House­hold that the Munshi could have influenced the Queen's op­in­ions on Indian issues, biasing her against Hindus, in favour of Mus­lims. But suspicions that he passed secrets to Rafiuddin Ahmed were later discounted.
Karim never had any children. The Queen's Dr James Reid explained it was because Karim had VD.

Queen Victoria and Abdul preparing correspondence
in c1890s

In Mar 1897 as members of the Household prepared to depart for Cimiez in southern France for the Queen's annual visit, they in­sisted that Karim not accompany the royal party, and threatened to resign en masse if he did so. Dr Reid even warned the Queen that her attachment to Karim led people to question her san­ity.

Even as late as 1899, members of the Household were still main­taining that Karim could not accompany the royal party when they on holiday. Nonetheless Karim asked Victoria for the title of Nawab, and to app­oint him a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire. Despite a hor­rified Lord Elgin, Victoria gave Karim the order in 1899.

The Munshi returned to India in Nov 1899 for a year. Lord Cur­zon, Elgin's replacement as Viceroy, died in June 1900. By the time Karim returned to Britain in Nov 1900 Victoria was facing death. He'd served her during the final 15 years of her reign, taking her from tired and grumpy, and gaining her maternal love.

Filmed in exquisite detail at Osborne House, this excellent film ended with the Queen’s death.  The newly crowned King Edward VII (Ed­die Izzard) sent the Munshi family back to India, and had almost all of Victoria and Karim’s letters burned. At last the king and all his aristocratic lovers were happy at court.

The Munshi died at Karim Lodge, on his Agra estate in 1909. He was placed in the Agra cemetery bes­ide his father. Having no children, Munshi’s nephews inherited the estates. The family continued to reside in Agra until the partition of India in Aug 1947, after which they emigrated to Pakistan.

11 November 2017

The Mozart family's music - Leopold, Maria Anna and Wolfgang Amadeus

On 11th of October each year, the United Nations celeb­rate In­ternational Day of the Girl Child, emphasising the needs and challenges that girls face. So this year I was interested in looking over my own posts on Fanny Hensel (1805–47), Felix Men­delssohn’s sister, compos­er and under-valued musical advisor. Unfort­unately I didn’t find very much.

However it did get me onto a totally different search: for Maria Anna Mozart (1751–1829) aka Nannerl, Wolf­gang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91)’s older sister. They were the children of musician and composer Leopold Mozart and Anna Maria Pertl of Salzburg.

Maria Anna was taught harpsichord by her father Leopold. So they enjoyed a great childhood, indulging their musical creat­iv­ity and creating their own musical world. In fact Leopold took the two children to tour the most cultural cities across Europe, perform­ing together as child prodigies. Acc­ord­ing to all reports, the youngsters impressed both audiences and critics.

But it was possible that the Mozart girl was really the better musician. Leopold Mozart confirmed it in writing, saying “My little girl plays the most difficult works which we have… with incredible precision and so excellently. What it all amounts to is this, that my little girl, although she is only 12 years old, is one of the most skilful players in Europe.”

Wolfgang and Nannerl Mozart
by Eusebius Johann Alphen
portrait miniature on ivory, c1765

Birthplace Museum, Salzburg

As Nannerl and Wolf­gang’s musical talents developed, her ador­ing youn­g­er brother loved her work. At a con­cert, when Wolf­gang an­n­ounced that the piece he has just played was writ­ten by his sister, Leop­old was furious. He ordered Nannerl to never comp­ose music again!

Clearly Nannerl must have composed. Note in 1762 when the two children played for aristocrats in Munich, Count Karl von Zin­zendorf wrote: “The little child from Salzburg and his sister played the harpsich­ord. The poor little fellow plays marvel­l­ously. He is a child of spirit, lively, charming. His sister’s playing is masterly, and he applauded her.” When Wolfgang was in London working on his first symphony during 1764-5, she wrote it all down and orchestrated it for him. And when she sent one of her com­pos­itions to her brother in 1770, he responded in a delight­ful let­ter, filled with admiration for her work. So why are we not familiar with the music Nannerl composed?

Note the oil painting commissioned by Leopold Mozart at Salz­burg and created by Johann Nepomuk della Croce. Wolf­gang and Nannerl were shown playing four hands on a forte-piano. Leopold had his violin and quill, showing that he was both a musician and a writer. The portrait on the wall was of the late Mrs Mozart. And the figure of Apollo represented the family’s music talents.

Mozart family: Nannerl, Wolfgang, father Leopold and portrait of their late mother, 
by Johann Nepomuk della Croce, 1780-81

Leopold had already stopped Nannerl from touring across Eur­ope and from then on, Leopold focused all his attentions on Wolf­gang. Despite being noted as an outstanding forte pianist, her father thought it inapp­rop­riate for his daughter to have a pro­f­essional career, regardless of her talent. Leopold exp­lained that only noble women were allowed to play, unpaid, at their own dinners and cult­ural salons. Yet Nannerl had to remain at home and give piano lessons to wealthy students, to finance her brother’s Italian tour! Nannerl obeyed her father, but became very depressed.

By the time Nannerl reached marriageable age, her father vetoed her first choice of husband. So she did not marry her eventual husband, the magistrate Johann Baptist Franz von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg (1736-1801), until 1784.

Then there were huge demands on Nannerl’s energy. Berchtold’s first two wives had died and he had been left with five child­ren, whom Nannerl helped raise. Plus they had three children of their own: Leopold (born 1785), Jeanette (born 1789) and Maria Babette (born 1790).

Did Nannerl stop composing? None of her music was known to have survived, so there are three possibilities. 1] She did continue composing, but the material was lost or destroyed, 2] she did con­t­inue composing, but her works were wrongly or sneakily attributed to Wolfgang, or 3] she never composed ag­ain. All that is cert­ain is that while Wolfgang became world renowned, Nannerl did not.

New research by Australian scholar-conductor Prof Mart­in Jarvis identified Maria Anna’s musical handwriting, a disc­ov­ery that suggested she composed works used by her younger brot­her to learn piano. It has long been known that the note­book was used as a pedagog­ic­al aid by Mozart’s father, to teach Wolfgang to play piano - particularly the pieces the lad used early in his (short) career.

Nannerl and Wolfgang’s relationship was beset by years of sep­aration and the preference of their father for his son, over the needs of his daughter. Nannerl’s dreams were over, and it seemed as if her depression was deepened by the ever-growing distance from the Mozarts. The siblings wrote to each other aft­er Leopold’s death, but Wolfgang's letters to her dealt only with the formal dispos­ition of Leopold's est­ate. I am not even sure if she associated with Wolfgang’s wife Constanze Weber and their children.

When Wolfgang Mozart died in 1791, Nannerl dedicated herself to hon­our her brother by coll­ect­ing all his compositions and erect­ing monuments to him. After her husband Berchtold died in 1801, Maria Anna returned to Salzburg and supported once again by giving piano lessons! How ironic! She died in 1829, and was buried in Salzburg.

Sylvia Milo’s play The Other Mozart: the forgotten genius of Mozart’s sister, opened in 2015. Milo wrote it because she had visited Mozart’s house in Vienna and saw a painting of the two sib­l­ings together. It showed a woman sitting next to Wolfgang Mozart, clearly look­ing like his equal.