In Australia, Are All Historic Losses Treated Equally? – Smart Media Magazine

In Australia, Are All Historic Losses Treated Equally?

The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. Now that the Easter holiday is over, here is our latest issue which was written by Isabella Kwai, an Australian reporter with the bureau. Sign up to get it by email.


Last Tuesday, Australians woke up to a disturbing sight: The Notre-Dame cathedral was burning. Like many others on the way to work, I replayed the footage over and over, watching orange flames racing across the roof, the spire keeling over, the people of Paris standing in the streets in unified horror.

[Here’s a 3-D exploration of how the fire spread so quickly and why it might have been difficult for the firefighters working to put it out.]

For Parisians, losing part of the Notre-Dame cathedral has prompted a soulful reflection on the history of the city and the effect of symbolic landmarks on a nation’s identity.

• Mistakes? In 3 Months on the Road, I’ve Made a Few: A quarter of the way through a yearlong trip, the 52 Places Traveler reflects on some of the things he’s done wrong — and what he’s learned from them. Yes, we all still wish we had his job.

• One Month, 500,000 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority: In a major ethical leap for the tech world, Chinese start-ups have built algorithms that the government uses to track members of a largely Muslim minority group.


Quite a few readers had something to say about last week’s newsletter, in which we talked about free speech, preachers and vegan activists. Thank you for writing in — it’s always a pleasure to read your responses. Here’s a selection. If you’d like to contribute this week, you can write us at

“I am a born-again Christian. Have been most of my life. I was horrified by Mr. Blair’s behaviour. It was most un-Christlike. Firstly, Jesus never cornered anyone and ranted at them when they could not get away. This was cowardly, this was lazy and this was disrespectful.

“Secondly, Mr. Blair wasted a good percentage of his ‘three minutes’ talking about himself — how much effort he was making, implying that everyone listening should be impressed and grateful. Mr. Blair was clearly unaware that Australians really, really don’t like people who big-note themselves. He did not do his research. That level of arrogance immediately guaranteed him a hostile audience.

“If I had been in that carriage, I would have apologised to my countrymen for the breathtaking ignorance, laziness and boorishness of my brother in Christ.”

— Chris McGregor

“Australians in general dislike preaching, phone sales or doorknockers or protesters because we were raised in a society that discouraged confrontation. Why does our country dissuade confrontation? Have you met the Indigenous Australians? Me neither, but there’s only 2% of them left, it’s a national shame, we’re only just now getting around to apologizing and teaching / acknowledging their language (more out of long belated respect that they were owed) in rural schools.

“Australia hides a lot of shame, so when someone acts holier than thou, we try to tear them down before they can even be heard – the Australian national mantra is “that may be well and good, but we have our own problems.”

– Jesse Rintoul

“I err toward thinking that public protests that disrupt are usually a small price to pay for the information they provide back. I mean, if 10,000 people can be mobilised by Trades Hall to march and close off city streets that tells me something, right? Likewise, a group of self-styled disenchanted taxi drivers or Vegans wanting to change human behaviour.

“And what happens if we don’t have that information? We’re more stupid, and without the safety valve, arguably we’re more prone to national leadership oscillations in a way that’s really damaging.

“So, no we shouldn’t just leave one another alone. Because whether in cheek-by-jowl metropolises or intimate neighbourhoods or small towns that answer is both absurd and unwanted. If for no other reason than we would learn less about one another – which after all is part of the problem set to begin with.”

– John Carruthers

We’re giving away three double passes to see Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, the author of “Friday Black,” at the Sydney Writers’ Festival on May 5 at 3 p.m. Full details of the event here.

The New York Times profiled Mr. Adjei-Brenyah in 2018, describing “Friday Black” as a “strange, dark and sometimes unnervingly funny debut collection.”

To win, enter via this link with the code “NYTIMES.”

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