Home' Greymouth Star : September 11th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Thursday, September 11, 2014
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uLetters to the editor
1297 - Scottish rebels under William Wallace
slaughter a larger English force at the Battle of
1649 - Oliver Cromwell, leader of the
victorious parliamentarians in the English
Civil War, besieges Drogheda in Ireland and
massacres most of the inhabitants.
1777 - The British defeat the Americans, led
by General George Washington, at the Battle
of Brandywine Creek in the American War of
1855 - The Siege of Sevastopol, the major
operation of the Crimean War, ends when
British, French and Peidmontese troops finally
capture the main naval base of the Russian
Black Sea fleet.
1950 - Death of Jan Christian Smuts, South
African soldier-statesman, aged 80.
1973 - Chile’s President Salvador
Allende is deposed in military coup,
and military officials say he committed
suicide rather than surrender.
1997 - Scotland votes `Yes’ on
referendum to set up a separate
2001 - Terrorists crash two hijacked
aeroplanes into the World Trade Centre in New
York City, bringing down the twin 110-storey
towers, killing almost 2800 people. Another
airliner plane slams into the Pentagon in
Washington DC, killing at least 189 people. A
fourth hijacked plane crashes in rural southern
Pennsylvania, killing 44 people aboard.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
O Henry (William Sydney Porter), US
writer (1862-1910); D H Lawrence, English
author (1885-1930); Ferdinand Marcos,
Philippine president (1917-1989);
Barry Sheene, British motorcycle
racer (1950-2003); Brian De Palma,
US film director (1940-); Mickey
Hart, US rock musician (The
Grateful Dead) (1943-); Renee
Geyer, Australian singer (1953-);
Megan Williams, Australian actress
(1956-2000); Mick Talbot, US rock
musician (The Style Council)(1958-); Kristy
McNichol, US actress (1962-); Moby, US DJ-
musician (1965-); Princess Akishino, Japanese
Imperial Family (1966-); Harry Connick Jr,
US actor-singer (1967-); Ben Lee, Australian
“There is nothing so powerful as the truth,
and nothing so strange.” — Daniel Webster,
US statesman (1782-1852).
“ For you, my God, have revealed to Your
ser vant that You will build a house for him;
therefore Your ser vant has found it possible to
pray before you.” — 1 Chronicles 17:25
born man has been
professor in history
at University College, Dublin for the 1965-
66 academic year. He is Dr Patrick O’Farrell,
senior lecturer in history at the University of
New South Wales.
Dr O’Farrell is a son of Mrs M O’Farrell of
Puketahi Street, Greymouth, and the late Mr
P O’Farrell. Dr O’Farrell, who is married with
five children, is the author of Harry Holland,
Militant Socialist, a biography of the member
for Buller who led the New Zealand Labour
Party from 1919 to 1933.
Another West Coast coalminer had a lucky
escape from serious injury this week. Leo
Beban, a 42-year-old Strongman State colliery
worker, was engaged on duties down in the
Rise Panel section late yesterday afternoon. He
ended up by being carried out of the mine on a
stretcher suffering from shock and battered ribs.
There was no eyewitness to the mishap in
which he was involved, but it is understood a
tugger, a small compressed air-driven winch
for hauling boxes of coal, pulled loose. In the
process it slammed Mr Beban hard against a
coal section. On examination in Greymouth
Hospital the Alexander Street resident was
found to be suffering from three broken ribs.
“He received a very nasty blow and was lucky
to escape more serious injury,” a mine official
On Monday morning, a Cobden miner,
Kevin Twist, was buried in a fall of coal while
working at the Brighton Coal Company
private mine, also on the Coast Road. He
received a broken arm and shock and was lucky
to miss more severe damage.
uFood for thought
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Insight into evil
hat makes ordinary
people commit acts
has been debated
moralists, historians and scientists for
One idea that carries much weight today
is this: you, me — almost anyone — is
capable of carrying out atrocities if ordered
to do so.
Commanded by an authoritarian
figure, and wishing to conform, we could
bulldoze homes, burn books, separate
parents from children or even slaughter
them, and our much-prized conscience
would not as much as flicker.
Called the “banality of evil,” the theory
has been proffered as an explanation for
why ordinary, educated Germans took part
in the Jewish genocide of World War Two.
Now psychologists, having reviewed an
opinion-shaping experiment carried out
more than 50 years ago, are calling for a
“The more we read and the more data
we collect, the less evidence we find
to support the banality of evil idea,
the notion that participants are simply
‘thoughtless’ or ‘mindless’ zombies who
don’t know what they ’re doing and just go
along for the sake of it,” Alex Haslam, a
professor at the University of Queensland
in Australia, said.
“O ur sense is that some form of
identification, and hence choice, generally
underpins all tyrannical behaviour.”
Their detective work focused on
legendary experiments conducted in 1961
by Yale University psychologist Stanley
Volunteers, told they were taking part
in an experiment on learning, were led to
believe they were administering an electric
shock to a man, dubbed the “ learner” who
had to memorise pairs of words.
Every time the learner made a mistake,
the “teacher” was told by a stern-faced,
lab-coated official to crank up the shock,
starting with a mild 15 volts and climaxing
at a lethal 450 volts.
The experiment was fake — the learner
was an actor and the shocks never
happened. The teacher could hear, but not
see, the learner.
Frighteningly, in one test, nearly two-
thirds of volunteers continued all the way
to “ lethal” voltage, even when the learner
pleaded for mercy, wept or screamed in
These experiments became enshrined
in textbooks as an illustration of how
the conscience can be put on hold under
The findings meshed with a landmark
book by the writer Hannah Arendt on the
1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, an architect
of the Holocaust.
Far from the monster she had expected,
Arendt found that Eichmann came across
more like a petty bureaucrat, prompting
her to coin the term “ banality of evil”
to suggest how ordinary people, by
conforming, could commit atrocities.
The new research, published in the
British Journal of Social Psychology, took
a closer look at Milgram’s “teachers”.
A team sifted through a box in the Yale
archives that contained comments written
by the volunteers after they were told the
purpose of the experiment, and that the
torture had been fake.
Of the 800 participants, 659 submitted a
reaction. Some said they had felt unease or
distress during the tests, but most reported
being positive about the experience, some
“ To be part of such an important
experiment can only make one feel good,”
“I feel I have contributed in some small
way toward the development of man and
his attitudes towards others,” another said.
“If it (is) your belief that these studies
will benefit mankind then I say we should
have more of them,” yet another said.
Were these happy comments spurred by
relief, after volunteers learned they had
not, in fact, hurt anyone?
No, suggests the paper. A sense of
pleasure, of duty fulfilled, of having ser ved
a higher calling, per vaded the comment
Milgram had also given the volunteers
a dose of mission-priming before the
experiment. Without saying what it
entailed, he told them that what they
would do would advance the cause of
Participants’ awe of Ivy-League Yale
played a role, too — obedience levels
were higher there than when experiments
were conducted in offices in Bridgeport,
Milgram “was a skilful dramatist as well
as a psychologist,” Kathryn Millard, a
professor at Macquarie University, Sydney,
Far from supinely obeying the lab-coated
overseer, volunteers escalated the shocks
believing they were acting for a noble
cause — science, the paper argues.
“The ethical issues here (are) more
complex than commonly supposed,”
“It is apparent Milgram assuaged
participants’ concerns by making them
believe in a noxious ideology — namely,
that it is acceptable to do other wise
unconscionable things in the cause of
Stephen Reicher, a professor at the
University of St Andrews in Scotland, said
the implications were far-reaching.
It showed that ordinary people could
commit acts of extraordinary harm, but
that thoughtlessness was not the main
motivator, he said.
“ We argue that people are aware of what
they are doing, but that they think it is the
right thing to do,” he said.
“This comes from identification with
a cause — and an acceptance that the
authority is a legitimate representative of
that cause.” — AFP
With just over a week to go, the core
issue of this election is at last coming into
focus. It is difficult to recall a political
contest so fraught with diversions and
divisions as this one. Nicky Hager’s book,
Dirty Politics, has told us very forcefully
what politics should not be about, but
it has been nowhere near so helpful at
informing the better angels of our nature.
What Mr Hager has managed to do,
however, with characteristic prescience, is
place the issue of trust at the heart of the
choices we must make in eight days’ time.
But trust, in politics, is not a simple
thing. Like love, it is apt to be bestowed
upon the most unlikely and undeser ving
of individuals, institutions and nations.
That is because trust is about a great
deal more than simply keeping promises.
Indeed, the people we trust most are often
those who have proved that, sometimes,
promises must be broken. Given a choice
between an angel and a demon for prime
minister, it is by no means axiomatic that
a desperate electorate will always vote for
the heavenly creature.
“ Horses for courses” is the expression you
often hear in the mouths of old politicos.
By which they mean that there are some
tasks better suited to demons than angels.
In the course of a lengthy political career,
Winston Churchill earned the enmity of
just about every section of British society.
In 1904 he betrayed the aristocracy by
abandoning the Conser vative Party and
joining the Liberals. In 1926 he helped
defeat the Trade Union Congress’s
General Strike. Throughout the pacifist
1930s he constantly urged his countrymen
to prepare for war. And, as the arch-
imperialist of his generation, he did all
he could to deny the people of the Indian
sub-continent their independence. In
short, Churchill was a reckless egotist,
an avowed racist and an inveterate
warmonger: anyone searching for the
angelic in his character faced a daunting
Yet, when the shadow of a much darker
demon fell over Britain in 1940, it was to
Churchill that the British people turned.
Given the fateful course that lay before
them, only a warhorse would do.
Five years later it was a different story.
The “Spirit of ‘45” wanted nothing more
to do with warhorses. Winning the peace
could not be accomplished by harnessing
the same demonic forces that had won
the war. It was one of those rare occasions
when, given a choice between the devil
they knew, and the angels they didn’t,
people voted for the angels.
Now, John Key is no Winston Churchill,
and yet there is no disputing that for most
New Zealanders he has been the right
horse to carry them through the course of a
global financial crisis. In a world teetering
on the brink of economic disaster, who
better than a millionaire currency trader?
True, currency traders are not known for
being angels. They are quick and ruthless
and shamelessly opportunistic. But, for the
last six years most New Zealanders have
not cared. They have trusted National’s
demon to take them where Labour’s angels
feared to tread.
The questions New Zealanders must ask
and answer before 7pm on September 20
is whether or not New Zealand is still on
the same critical course as 2008 and 2011,
and whether John Key is still the right
horse to carry them through?
Labour has put up a challenger who,
frankly, calls to mind Clarence, the
wingless Angel in Frank Capra’s It’s A
Wonderful Life. David Cunliffe is gentle,
well-meaning and, like Clarence, just a
little accident prone. He is urging us to
do the right thing by our communities:
warning us against letting the country’s
problems get too big to fix. But Cunliffe’s
and Labour’s big problem is that New
Zealanders are not yet sure if it is the
right time to start trusting accident-prone
angels. The economic recovery is, at best,
precarious; at worst, over. If things, again,
turn pear-shaped, is David Cunliffe really
the right horse for the course?
Then again, just how far to the dark
side has John Key already taken us?
Nicky Hager has posed the question,
but a disturbingly large number of New
Zealanders seem too frightened to hear
That is always the trick with the demonic
horses we mount in times of danger:
knowing when, and how, to get off.
Chris Trotter is an independent left-
The horse for the course?
Fishy situation as trout, eels co-operate
If you want to witness effective
teamwork, you might be as apt to find it
among the fishy denizens of a coral reef as
in the office where you work.
Scientists this week described how
a colourful fish called the coral trout
recruits moray eels to help hunt for prey,
with both ending up well fed. Aquarium
experiments showed that the trout are
choosy in picking the best eel partner for
The researchers noted that the trout
performed as well as chimpanzees in a
2006 study that demonstrated how these
close cousins of humans assisted one
another in a food-gathering task.
The coral trout uses communicative
body gestures including head shakes
and headstands to enlist eels as hunting
It is an under water dream team, with the
trout possessing the speed to chase down
a fish out in the open and the serpentine
moray eel boasting a sinuous body
enabling it to get at any fleeing prey that
hides in a hard-to-reach coral crevice. They
join forces on Australia’s Great Barrier
Some moray eels in the wild are more
helpful than others. In the controlled
environment of aquarium experiments,
moray eel models were employed to test
how well wild coral trout caught for the
study could discern a good collaborator
from a bad one.
One model was designed to come to the
coral trout ’s aid and flush out prey. The
other eel model simply went the opposite
The trout quickly learned which eel
model was the better partner and recruited
the good collaborator three times more
often, the study found.
“This shows that a big mammalian
brain is not necessarily required to
undertake these sophisticated forms
of communication,” Alexander Vail, a
marine biologist and zoologist at Britain’s
University of Cambridge who led the
study published in the journal Current
“Although the brains of mammals
are certainly larger than those of fish,
size may not be all that matters, and
we are still a long way from a thorough
understanding of fish brains and the
mental computation they may capable of,”
Coral trout are torpedo-shaped and
about 50cm long. Their body colours range
from olive green to deep red and they are
covered in small bright blue spots.
The eel benefits by being able to eat the
fish chased into reef crevices by the trout.
The trout benefits by being able to eat
those fish the eel fails to catch.
“ Each of these large predators is out for
itself in their collaborative relationship,
but they both do far better by working
together and using communication to
co-ordinate the hunt,” Vail added. “ Both
predators capture roughly the same
number of prey items when hunting
Researchers have noted similar
collaboration with eels by another fish, the
roving coral grouper. Vail said similar skills
probably exist in other animals as well.
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