Home' Greymouth Star : July 16th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Thursday, July 16, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1867 - Reinforced concrete is patented by
Joseph Monier of Paris.
1918 - Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar,
is murdered together with his family and
entourage by the Bolsheviks at Yekaterinburg.
1935 - The world’s first parking
meters are installed in Oklahoma
1940 - Hitler gives orders to
prepare the invasion of Britain.
1945 - First atomic bomb is
detonated over desert in New
Mexico. It heralds the start of the
1948 - The world’s first turbine-propeller
aircraft, the Vickers Viscount, makes its
1951 - US novelist J D Salinger publishes
The Catcher In The Rye.
1957 - US Marine Major John Glenn sets a
transcontinental speed record when he flies a
jet from California to New York in three hours,
23 minutes and eight seconds.
1999 - A plane piloted by John F Kennedy
Jr, son of the late president, disappears over the
sea north of Long Island, New York. The plane
also carries his wife and sister-in-law.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Roald Amundsen, Nor wegian explorer
(1872-1928); Trygve Lie, UN
Ginger Rogers, US actress (1911-
1995); Margaret Court, Australian
tennis champion (1942-); Stewart
Copeland, US musician (1952-);
Michael Flatley, Irish dancer (1958-
); Will Ferrell, US actor (1967-);
Wendell Sailor, former Australian
rugby union player (1974-); Adam Scott,
Australian golfer (1980-).
“ He who tells the truth must have one foot in
the stirrup.” — Armenian proverb.
“As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man
called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and
He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he got up
and followed Him.” — (Matthew 9:9).
Fittest man in
Greymouth in the
last 48 hours is Jon
dancer with the New Zealand Ballet Company,
he has had an even more strenuous time
over the past few days than he expected. The
other principal male dancer left the company
unexpectedly last Friday, leaving Mr Trimmer
with a “full plate” of performances, sometimes
three times a day.
And he thinks some ballet work would be
good for rugby players. “ I’m really serious
about this,” he told an Evening Star reporter
last night. “I think some of our ballet bar work
would be ideal to tune muscles before a game
— a nd not only rugby but almost any sport.”
West Coast challenges for the Seddon Shield
on Saturday — perhaps it is not too late.
Once almost completely destroyed by fire, a
Herbert Street landmark will get a facelift in
just a few weeks. It is the 74-year-old Union
At present owned by Robert Ford and
Company, in receivership, the iron and
wooden building will shortly lose its veranda,
which bestrides the footpath, and get a coat
of roughcast. The renovations will not be
extensive, but will be aimed at meeting the
requirements of the Licensing Commission
and will include new fire escapes.
It is by no means the oldest hotel in town; it
is the Brian Boru’s junior by 20 years.
In those earlier days, beer was bottled on the
premises, and over this bottling department
was a loft which had been used as a dormitory
at peak guest periods. This was severely
criticised as a fire hazard by the then Licensing
uFood for thought
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Once all the Germans were warlike and
But that couldn’t happen again.
We taught them a lesson in 1918
And they’ve hardly bothered us since then!
— Tom Lehrer
Yanis Varoufakis openly compares the
Eurozone’s diktat to Greece with the
Treaty of Versailles. The former finance
minister’s comparison is well made. The
Carthaginian peace imposed upon the
German people in 1919 was not only
intended to devastate their economy it was
supposed to crush their spirit.
As punishment for launching the most
catastrophic military conflict in human
history, the Germans were to be kept in
a state of economic ser vitude for decades
to come. Nor was the victorious allies
claim that Germany was solely responsible
for the outbreak of World War One
a matter of mere rhetoric. The British
naval blockade of Germany, which was
gradually star ving the defeated nation to
death, would not be lifted until Germany’s
“negotiators” (not that these were, in any
genuine sense, negotiations) accepted the
Treaty’s “war guilt clause”.
As the brutally punitive intentions of
the Versailles diktat gradually emerged,
three members of the Imperial British
delegation, Harold Nicolson, Jan Smuts
and John Maynard Keynes were filled with
a terrible sense of foreboding. All three
were convinced that nothing good could
come from such an inhuman document.
Each understood, with a chilling certainty,
that the victorious allies were sowing
The young economist, Keynes, quit
the negotiations and returned to
England where he spent the summer
months of 1919 writing The Economic
Consequences of the Peace. In his
book (which instantly became an
international best-seller) Keynes argued
that the massive reparations demanded of
Germany, combined with the Americans’
insistence that all Allied war debts be
repaid, could result only in a fundamental
derangement of the global economy.
Throw in the German people’s Versailles-
inspired sense of grievance and disaster
was guaranteed. With uncanny accuracy,
he predicted that Europe would be at war
with itself, again, in just 20 years.
Of course, Greece is not Germany.
Her people are not about to pull on
jackboots and stomp all over the peace
of Europe. But Germany is Germany
and it is nothing short of tragic that the
nation which went through the experience
of Versailles — and all that followed
from it — has so easily forgotten how
it feels to be ganged-up on by a Europe
determined to drive your country to the
wall economically and strip it of what little
self-respect it has managed to retain.
This failure of memory is particularly
worrying in the light of what happened
in 1953. That was the year in which
Germany ’s European neighbours,
including Greece, wrote off up to 50% of
its still-outstanding Versailles debts. Yes,
it was the Cold War. Yes, Germany was
divided and it was important to give those
Germans living in the west a sense of hope
and confidence in the future. Even so,
barely 14 years had passed since, as Mick
Jagger put it, “the blitzkrieg raged/and the
bodies stank”. Europe had considerably
more to forgive Germany for in 1953 than
it has to forgive Greece for in 2015.
The spectacle of Germany ’s Chancellor,
Angela Merkel, and her flinty-faced
Finance Minister, Dr Wolfgang Schauble,
squeezing the last drops of blood from
the broken stones of Greece has sent a
collective shudder through the rest of
Europe. It is a reaction with which Dr
Schauble will be well pleased. It has long
been the German Finance Minister’s plan
to render Germany ’s economic hegemony
over Europe permanent by turning the
continent into a “debtors’ prison”. Greece
is to ser ve as an example of what will
befall any Eurozone member foolhardy
enough to challenge the one-way flow of
wealth to Europe’s biggest banker.
Frau Merkel is convinced that by
allowing Greece to remain in the euro
zone she has demonstrated her bona fides
as a “good European”. It is, after all, vital
that all Europeans understand that debts
must be repaid, and that only orthodox
economic policies should be pursued.
If that requires German technocrats to
second-guess the decisions of elected
Greek politicians, then so be it. The
Greek people need to understand that
democracy has its limits; that saying “no”
has a price.
The economic consequences of Angela
Merkel, like the economic consequences
of Versailles, will be a Europe at war with
itself — within 20 years.
Chris Trotter is a left-wing media
The economic consequences of Angela Merkel
s a child raised in the
south, my family and I
occasionally spent the
Fourth of July at Stone
Mountain — a giant
quartz rock in north-east
Atlanta car ved with a 1.2ha mural of three
Confederate heroes. At the time I never
thought much about the absurdity of
watching coloured laser lights dance across
car vings of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall
Jackson and Robert E Lee while listening
to the bluegrass classic The Devil Went
Down to Georgia — all to celebrate
In the 1980s it was unimaginable that
there would be anything like the current
backlash against the Confederate flag.
If not quite ubiquitous, Confederate
flags were a common enough sighting
on porches, bumper stickers and even
bikinis, and the Georgia State flag back
then featured the Confederate battle flag.
Growing up in Georgia, especially as a
child of Indian immigrants, I learned that
it is possible to hold contradictory ideas in
your head at once — that people can feel
affection for a south that tried to break
away from the country for which they feel
fer vently patriotic.
By contrast, Germany, where I now live,
entertains no such subtlety. Immediately
after World War Two the government
confronted its crimes by banning the
public the use and distribution of all
Nazi symbols. Displaying a swastika and
performing the Hitler salute became
illegal and disappeared from public life.
The Bavarian government, which owns
the copyright to Hitler’s manifesto Mein
Kampf until the end of this year, banned
its publication. In the 1990s, when right-
wing groups instead took up the Imperial
war flag as their banner, many German
states swiftly stamped out its spread
the way they knew best — with more
regulations against its public display.
It is impossible to compare the atrocities
of the Holocaust and destruction left by
World War Two with those of slavery
and the American Civil War. Such
horrors have no peers and leave their own
But it has taken a century and a half
for many in the southern United States
to finally acknowledge the influence that
the Confederate flag has on its society.
When South Carolina lowered the flag at
its State house on Friday,
Governor Nikki Haley
tweeted “It’s a new day
in South Carolina” and
the National Association
for the Advancement of
Coloured People ended its
15-year economic boycott
of the State.
In Germany, meanwhile,
the power of symbols
has long since been
recognised. Even privately
displaying any sign of
such as a swastika
makes people here social
outcasts. It is such a
sensitive topic that a
company would have
public support if it fired
an employee who keeps a
Nazi flag in his home.
“Symbols do matter,”
Adam Kerpel-Fronius, a
Berlin-based historian at
the Foundation Memorial
to the Murdered Jews
of Europe, told me over
the phone. “ They change
how people relate to an
ideology.” He points to
Hungary, where no such
bans on Nazi propaganda
exist, as an example of
what happens when there is no clear line
between what is and is not acceptable.
In Hungary the current right-wing
government is resurrecting symbols of
its Nazi-sympathising past in the name
of patriotism, and people openly display
stickers showing a Hungarian map with
borders that existed before the country lost
most of its territory in 1920.
“ What are these people trying to say?”
said Kerpel-Fronius, who is originally
from Hungary. “Does this mean they want
Hungary to wage war on its neighbours?”
Even if they are not advocating for war,
the signal such stickers send is nonetheless
pernicious. Nazis understood the power
of symbols to stoke anti-Semitism, and
the German rejection of those symbols
was just as much a rejection of Nazi
ideas. Germans believe that banning Nazi
symbols will help prevent violent, racist
dogma from taking hold again.
In their place, Germany built widespread
memorials to the victims of its dark past.
Every time I leave my apartment building
I see two “Stolpersteine,” or small gold
square plaques embedded in the sidewalk
to commemorate Holocaust victims.
The discussion over flags and memorials,
however, often obscures larger problems —
and sweeps the issue of racism from public
life. “Sure, they show that the government
is on the side of victims and is putting
the wrongdoers in the cupboard,” says
Simone Rafael at the Amadeu Antonio
Foundation, which supports projects
to fight neo-Nazism. “But it doesn’t do
anything to address fundamental racism.”
As evidence Rafael points to recent
violence against refugees in some parts of
Germany, and a study last year showing
that while 2.4% of Germans believe in
extreme right-wing ideology, about 18%
are biased against Muslims.
While most Germans have no qualms
about openly condemning public displays
of bigotry, the private conversation about
race tends to be more muddled. For
example, the word “race” is taboo in the
German language because of the way Nazi
propaganda manipulated the term. Yet I
recently met someone who referred instead
to my “phenotype” and told me that I do
not look American.
And a few years ago, after a break-up, I
was having dinner with a German friend
and her boyfriend from a small German
town. His well-intentioned advice to
me: stick to dating other expats because
I would have trouble finding a German
man who would be comfortable bringing
someone who looks like me home to his
These experiences show that banishing
hateful symbols from public view helps to
sustain sensitivity and awareness around
the horrors they represent, but getting rid
of a flag is hardly a cure-all.
Joe Wilkinson, a Republican Georgia
State representative from a northern
Atlanta district, is under no illusion that
removing Confederate flag displays would
have prevented the South Carolina church
shooting. Wilkinson, whose sons attended
the same high school as my brother and
I, calls himself an “unreconstructed rebel”
and refers to the Civil War as the War
between the States. He told me that “I will
never turn my back on the Confederacy.”
Still, in 2001 he voted to have the
Confederate battle flag removed from
Georgia’s State flag. Though the current
Georgia State flag is a less obvious
homage to the Confederacy, it is not
nearly as charged as the battle flag it
replaced. “ The fact of the matter is that
the battle flag was hijacked and became
a symbol of segregation,” said Wilkinson.
“ It’s now being used for the wrong reasons
that I don’t agree with, then or now.”
As a child of immigrants with no family
connection to southern history, seeing
the flag everywhere inured me to its
impact. Even Governor Haley, another
Indian-American woman, said that she
only recently realised the pain that the
flag caused so many people. For me, it was
not until I left Georgia after high school
that it occurred to me how wrong it was
to have a Confederate battle flag flying on
top of the State capital.
Renuka Rayasam is an Atlanta native,
now based in Berlin. — Reuters
Pride or prejudice?
The Confederate battle flag is permanently removed from the South Carolina State house grounds during a ceremony in Columbia.
In Amsterdam a mobile factory, the
size of two shipping containers, ingests
rubble at one end, liquifies it into
cement and spurts out Lego-shaped
Call it rubble for the people,
converting the deadly debris from
disasters into homes and hospitals,
cheaply and quickly.
It is the brainchild of Gerard Steijn,
a 71-year-old sustainable development
consultant turned social entrepreneur,
who leads the Netherlands-based
project to recycle the rubble from
natural disasters and wars.
He plans to create ecologically sound
and safe housing by producing 750
building blocks a day from the debris,
enough for one home at a cost of less
than $20,000 each.
“In disasters, you have piles and piles
of rubble, and the rubble is waste. If
you are rich, you buy more bricks and
rebuild your home,” Steijn said in a
“But what happens if you are poor?
In disasters it is the poorest people
who live in the weakest houses and
they loose their homes first. I thought,
what if you recycled the rubble to build
back better homes for poor people?”
His rubble-busting Mobile Factory
has fired the imagination of a
landowner in Haiti and a civil engineer
at the University of Delft. They have
joined forces to test Steijn’s idea and
build the first rubble community in
Port au Prince next year.
Each 20 x 10 x 10 cm, snaps together
Lego-style without cement or mortar
allowing the home to flex under stress,
he explains. Bamboo poles inserted
into the walls provide extra stability,
while two bamboo poles and a steel
cable anchor the roof, he explains.
“ It’s very simple,” de Ridder said by
telephone. “ We eat the rubble, make
high-quality concrete blocks. Like
Lego, it is standardised in material and
Unskilled people can build the
homes with the blocks, which meet
demanding Dutch construction
standards to ensure they will last for
“ I want to give people a perspective
on what they can do for the future.
I want them to have more than
they imagine, where they will have
a very nice piece of land, a very nice
environment and a very nice home.
“And I like that it’s very ecological,”
Dresse said. — Reuters
Disaster debris can become
building blocks for a new life
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