Australia’s Multiculturalism

Do you think multiculturalism is a success in Australia? Is it an ideal we should be pursuing? Is cultural diversity the casualty to being accepted within society?




Simply – Yes, Yes, No.

Julia Gillard during her term as prime minister is recalled as remarking that, multiculturalism was not just the ability to maintain diverse backgrounds and cultures but that:

It is the meeting place of rights and responsibilities where the right to maintain one’s customs, language and religion is balanced by an equal responsibility to learn English, find work, respect our culture and heritage, and accept women as full equals. … Where there is non-negotiable respect for our foundational values of democracy and the rule of law, and any differences we hold are expressed peacefully. …Where old hatreds are left behind, and we find shared identity on the common ground of mateship and the Aussie spirit of a fair go.

[The face of] True multiculturalism [can be seen as] a new migrant studying hard in an English language class, working two jobs to put their kids through school or lining up to vote for the very first time. True multiculturalism includes, not divides, it adds more than it takes. In the end, multiculturalism amounts to a civic virtue since it provides us with a way to share the public space, a common ground of inclusion and belonging for all who are willing to toil with hearts and hands … And because it always summons us toward a better future, multiculturalism is an expression of progressive patriotism in which all Australians, old and new, can find meaning. (Gillard, 2012; also Cited Ozdowski 2012)

Despite the relatively short history of Australia being steeped in racism, ethnocentrism and religious intolerance, Australia, as new eras of globalization have emerged over the last 25 years, has observed the increasing development of a globalizing cosmopolitan culture, which in drawing on numerous influences has become increasingly multicultural. Immigration policies in Australia have changed over time, and there remains little doubt that these will continue to change. What is equally important to recognize though is that the outlook of the Australian people and a broader consideration of Australia’s place has similarly changed in the years following federation. Australia has become a modern, self-conscious, cosmopolitan and independent political and economic power in the Asia Pacific which embraces the diversity which surrounds her. It is equally possible to argue that Australia always has to some extent been a nation of multi-cultures but that only recently has become a multicultural nation.

In 2011, The Australian Multicultural Council was officially launched by the Prime Minister on the 22nd August at Parliament House, Canberra and the most current version of Australia’s Multicultural Policy could be found at in ‘The People of Australia – Australia’s Multicultural Policy’.

Australia’s modern multicultural policy, is purported to exist as a non-discriminatory global immigration intake based on skills. Existent policies, for the most part, has excelled at the provision of “special” assistance to migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds and facilitating their general integration into mainstream life. I say for the most part here because there is always a segment of the population who are unwilling to integrate with society for fear of losing ties to their own cultural heritage. This being said we can also argue that the modern policy has also helped to enrich and diversify the Australian mainstream, making Australia less of a British colonial clone. Australia’s approach to multicultural policy embraces our shared values and cultural traditions and recognizes that Australia’s multicultural character gives us a competitive edge in an increasingly globalized world (Department of Social Services 2014). It is the response to continued changing, national policies on immigration and the support for immigrant groups, combined with a deeper commitment toward pluralism and cosmopolitanism. Until recently.

Ozdowski (2012) specifically noted that it is only possible in “societies where citizens are free and equal in opportunities can have a common sense of belonging … [to] remain cohesive and engaged in nation building projects”. There is no disputing that during Australia’s short history this has consistently remained the case. In an effort of furthering what has already been commenced though it  becomes important to acknowledge that human rights education is a key mechanism assisting with the advancement of equality and liberty within the limits of modern liberal democracy, one which Australia, in order to further develop, needs to incorporate into its educational systems.




Deakin University Newsroom, 2011 (October). Multiculturalism in Australia is a successful story says United Nation’s High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations. From

Department of Social Services, 2014, The People of Australia – Australia’s Multicultural Policy. From

Gillard 2012 (19 September) AMC Lecture – Address by the Hon Julia Gillard MP, then Prime Minister of Australia: Introductory Remarks by then Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Julia Gillard MP, Australian Multicultural Council. From;

Ozdowski, S. 2012. Australian Multiculturalism: the roots of its success, Third International Conference on Human Rights Education: Promoting Change in Times of Transition and Crisis. The Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, 6-10 December 2012.

Who’s Responsible for Helping the Poor?

Social protection is generally thought to be desirable, and governments have often attempted to provide it, If government is intended to provide for human wants, and people want social protection, governments will do it. This much is unsurprising, and unexceptional.

Spickler (2000:193) 

While there are certainly those who argue that, as a species, humans are not naturally responsible for anyone other than themselves, and/or that individuals should help themselves, there are a number of others who express ideas that detract from this broad generalization. The above quote from Spickler remains similar to an expression by Rawls, who passes comment that it is the duty of the States to assist one another. Such theories however, can be posited to remain negligent of the contribution and persistence of the global poverty problem by rich first world nations and multi-national actors. Such misconceptions Pogge claims are based on the perception that poverty is essentially nationally developed, and as such is independent of international factors which operate toward the problems perpetuation. He reinforces that all poverty as it exists in the world is the result of, in part or total, the actions of numerous actors, and that those who are the cause of poverty also hold the responsibility to end it.  Pogge states;

At present, each country is in charge of its own poverty eradication and most of the rich countries see no urgency in helping with this process …The existing global trading regime contributes to the perpetuation of poverty through the asymmetrical market opening that took place in the 1990s. Poor countries still do not enjoy unfettered access to our markets and are still hampered by anti-dumping duties, quotas and very high subsidies, for instance on agricultural products and textiles. Not only do these subsidies make poor countries’ products uncompetitive on rich countries’ markets. They also hamper poor countries’ products in other markets because they allow the rich countries to undersell these products everywhere. By upholding a global economic order that grandfathers the rich countries’ right to impose such protectionist measures into the global trading system, the rich countries greatly contribute to the persistence of the world poverty problem. (UNESCO 2003).

Pogge focuses intently, on the notion that global poverty provides strong attributions toward personal duty, such that the perception of any negative duty to amend personal adverse action becomes more powerful than the recognized positive duty to help, regardless any aspect of responsibility. This perception, that individuals should act to rectify self-implemented actions that resulted in detriment to others, appears to carry more significance than the ideal that assistance should be offered simply because it is possible to do so.

This opposing argument can also be used to frame the idea that there is a moral and social obligation to provide social protection. Peter Singer often champions this line of thought in arguing that, the ‘who’ and ‘how’ of poverty causation is unimportant, those who can end poverty have a responsibility to do so. To explain this mode of thought Singer provided, during his Moral Persuasion for Global Poverty, the example of the drowning child. Poverty, and the resulting responsibility to act, he remarks, remains consistent regardless of locale, and irrespective of whether instances of poverty remain far away, or in our own ‘backyard’. While this may hole some features in common with the attitudes proposed by Pogge, especially since multi-national corporations and state bodies are in the strongest position to act. Singer takes this a step further identifying that the responsibility lies with all individuals. He notes statistically, and with similar information provided from Pogge, that it is within the ability of the world’s wealthy minority to end poverty with relatively little personal expenditure. It is therefore, a shared responsibility to provide assistance, irrespective of why such assistance is required or who initiated the problem.

A third argument might lay in the tenants of religious belief, for which most state in some means or another that one should act (toward others) in such a manner that they would hope to see others act (toward them). So should the expectation be to help the poor simply under the understanding that this is what one might expect should they be in that same situation?

To outward appearances it would seem that there are three incongruous understandings pertaining to the responsibility of action toward assistance. Pogge’s understanding of events relate more directly to personalistic understandings that negative duties are more important toward determining action. Singer conversely removes any application of the personal sense of culpability. What strengthens Singers argument is its ability to remain consistent in the absence of human causation, such as in the case of poverty resulting from natural disaster

A more balanced argument falling somewhat toward the median of all these would contend that, people maintain some responsible for their own condition of poverty, in addition to notions which provide that governments, multi-national actors and natural conditions hold some culpability, and have the means to interrupt methods of effective action as a result of the need to assign responsibility. Frequently it is noted that ‘the poor’, under typical situations, don’t want or require handouts. What they strive for is a means to be able to better help themselves. It is with this understanding that individuals, corporations, and governmental bodies possess a duty or responsibility to create an infrastructure which supports the means for ‘the poor’ to begin being able to help themselves in improving their own situation. The following quote is one that perhaps provides an image through which to gain a generalized perception of poverty

… think of poverty as a tsunami in which not everyone can out run. Some will out run this wave, even thrive, while others are too slow and are consumed by the wave. All people have a personal responsibility for their economic standing, but collectively as a species we are all responsible for the elimination or augmentation of poverty, which goes beyond government responsibility (Hardy 2011)

So who is responsible for the poor?



Peter Singer: Moral Persuasion for Global Poverty

Thomas Pogge: Global Poverty – A Crime Against Humanity?

Thomas Pogge: Ending Poverty




Spicker, P. 2000. ‘The welfare states’, in The welfare state: a general theory, Sage Publications, London, p. 00.

 UNESCO Media Service, 2003. Interview with philosopher Thomas Pogge on the fight against poverty, viewed 12 May 2014. <>.

Hardy, E. 2013. ‘Who is responsible for the Poverty? Hubpages, Weblog post, June 2013, viewed 16 May 2014, <;.

Child abusers and those who protect them

A few thoughts on these questions which were recently posed.

  1. Are those responsible for the cover-up and facilitation of the abuse, just as culpable as the abuser himself? And should they face the same or similar punitive measures?
  2. Are celebrities given a free pass and is it more difficult to bring charges against those who have such a high public image? What does that mean for us as a society or species?
  3. Hughes will be eligible for parole in six years time. Is this sentence sufficient? Do you think that a harsher sentence would benefit the victims or society in general? Why/why not?


images (1)


In 2012 Nicholas Taylor wrote, as part of a petition seeking harsher penalties for child sex offenders that “A person who has suffered at the hands of child sexual abuse is robbed of their life, their liberties, dignity and all opportunities of living a ‘normal life’”. Many feel that child Abuse such as sexual or physical harm towards any child (and although this creates division of thought – not including spankings performed in a proper manner) should be dealt with in the severest possible manner, because achild has no way to protect themselves against their abuser – parent, relative, family friend or a stranger. Some documentation also cautions that there are a number of children who are not even aware that they are being abused and live under the notion that all families behave in this manner. This suggests that children under an age are not psychologically equipped, when forced into such a situation, to distinguish differences in appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Issues of child abuse should be dealt with harsher, if for no other reason,because children are the future of tomorrow and through the abuse and destruction of a child, the perpetrator of the crime is destroying the chance of a brighter future for that child but rather they are destroying it for all whose lives are touched, directly and indirectly.

Topics such as this become relevant in the light of the recent Hughes case. High profile cases such as these also present a number of added problems, the most commonly noticeable is the jail time served. While there are numerous news, magazine and official reports available the vast number simply list that he had been sentenced to at least 6 years jail time. These reports do not specify if this is total time or sentence or non-parole time – likely the total time of sentence. Typically according to data available concerning sexual encounters with a young person: Supreme Court sentences 1978-2011, the maximum time usually served for an individual with 5 or more counts (between 2001-2001) equates to about 30 months. Of this, the report also suggests that in excess of 90% of the sentence remained custodial (Sentencing Advisory Council, 2013). It is clear that the current legal sentencing is failing as a deterrent to protect children and should as a result be toughened. While this may seem extreme, perhaps Australia should take note of the new reforms implemented by South Korea increasing maximum period of imprisonment alongside new judicial orders, which include the introduction of orders for disclosure, orders of cure (through chemical castration) and orders for the use of a GPS tracking system (Hyungsoon, 2013). Another worthwhile addition to this would be the implementation of similar terms of incarceration for those who turn a blind eye. They are in effect conspirators to the event and under any other area of the legal system would be charged as such, why should cases concerning the assault of children in any of its manifestations be any different. Simply increasing the length of sentence alone, while providing a certain social appeasement, remains to be seen if it will achieve any direct result (There are numerous countries, Korea, USA, New Zealand, among others, that have recently raised the maximum term not just Australia)

As this argument returns back to consider the position of celebrities, Hinch commented that he personally felt a certain sense of “frustration that for a number of reasons, especially our defamation laws, the name of the man who did this to her [Sarah Monahan] was still being protected” (Hinch 2014). It seems that with the social construction of power positions that such personalities hold, as well as the notion of innocence until proven guilty (which help if you have huge amounts of money for a really good lawyer), there is a reluctance to press public charges such as these which likely stems from a fear of losing and receiving a counter claim for deformation of character resulting in the loss of livelihood. It depicts the society we live in as one which recognizes and exalts personality, privilege and position above all else. It is clear that other alternatives need to be sought to circumnavigate this issue such as controlled media exposure, where charges pressed are suppressed from the media unless a verdict of guilty is given. Certainly the public has a right to know in the case of arriving at a guilty verdict but is it essential to know if the individual is found innocent? This may encourage those who are victims of such crimes to come forward without risk or future persecution or prosecution.





Australian Associated Press, 2010, Hey Dad! co-star ‘threatened’ over sex abuse claims, news story, The Age National, From <>.

Beck, M. 2011, Child star to sue television network, news article, The Age National, From <>.

Bibby, R. 2014. Robert Hughes accuser writes letter explaining her feelings, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 17, 2014. From <>.

Hinch, D. 2014. Hinch on the Hey Dad! ‘sex abuse’. 3AW693 News Talk. From <>. 

Park, Hyungsoon, Legislative Update: Recent Amendments to South Korean Criminal Law: Confronting Child Sexual Abuse (December 18, 2013). Australian Journal of Asian Law, Vol. 14, No. 6, Article 6, 2013.

Sentencing Advisory Council. 2013. Sex Offence Sentencing, Research Paper, April 2013. Tasmanian Government

Taylor, N. 2012. Petitioned Hon. Robert Clark MP, Harsher Penalties for child abusers. From <>.

Wells, J. 2014, Robert Hughes, former Hey Dad! star, to serve at least six years in jail over child sexual and indecent assault, news article, ABC News, From <–six-years-on-sex-charges/5426126>.


The current state of Australia’s welfare system

How does Australia’s current welfare system either contribute or detract from its goal of being/becoming an ethical society?



Eva Cox (2014) claims that “visible social fractures” now exist that question Australia’s ability to continue calling itself an egalitarian state. While it is true that as a statistical measure of GDP, Australia’s current welfare system is one of the world most efficient, the cost of this provides a fundamental flaw in any step forward on Australia’s behalf on becoming or maintaining its position as an ethical society. It is no longer easily discernable who has and who has not benefited from Australia’s last two decades of growth. Although traditionally maintaining a weak belief in the right to welfare support, and as Marston (2005) relate, the act of “having a job is not only a necessity to provide the means of existence but it is also of prime importance for self-esteem, social identity and status”, many of those who have come to rely upon it feel that society has failed them. Long having customarily borne the brunt of discrimination, many of these individuals have gradually become redefined as being the problem. This holds a stark resemblance to the notations presented Murphy (2011) who also wrote, in the same article that: “Any system of welfare support encodes values and ideas about who is entitled to what, about what conditions should be attached to this support, and about what sort of society we want to live in.”

Recent budgetary alterations under the Abbot government, while seemingly appear to occur within parameters determined by his personal commission, continue to present punitive views toward any form of payments, as social emphasis has been further displaced by economic growth. Such views note that the levying of increased taxes provides the only adequate solution while simultaneously little consideration is observed toward concession reductions aimed at the wealthy. Problems of increased inequality appear rampant and are presumably the result of long term neglect of social policies of not just the current, but also previous recent governmental bodies. This Cox (2014) remarks “clearly articulate[s] the gradual and now almost complete demise of the implicit social contract”. She claims that such actions undertaken by the government “undermin[es] the idea of a universal health service” and that the “proposing universal co-payments and decreasing the value of base pensions and the minimum wage all add up to a serious attack on the public role of the state” (Cox 2014) and are actions that seriously detract from any goals of becoming an ethical society.

The degradation of Australia’s current welfare system society has moved toward an immoral standpoint where, under the continuance of increased financial and service related hardship, targeted on the lower socio-economic population, the preexistent gap continues to widen between the have and have not’s. Australians like many others now appear to reluctantly live in an economy rather than a community, a world without citizens in favor of consumers, and while speculations seek to relocate the median, it is no longer an issue that revolves around the population, but how figures add up on paper.



Cox, E. 2014. The state of Australia: welfare and inequality, The conversation, From:

Marston, G., Larsen, J.E. and McDonald, C. 2005. The Active Subjects of Welfare Reform: a Street-Level Comparison of Employment Services in Australia and Denmark, Social Work and Society International Online Journal, From:

Murphy, J, Murray, S, Chalmers, J, Martin, S & Marston, G. 2011, Half a citizen: life on welfare in Australia, Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW, pp. 1-21.

Must Australia accept Asylum Seekers?

Do you believe the government treats asylum seekers and refugee’s ethically considering most of them travel to Australia illegally?

There has been great controversy as to whether to ban asylum seekers from crossing the Australian boarder, do you believe that we should ban them altogether?




From an ethical point Palmer and Mathews (2006) make a valid point in their opening statement that, Excising territories is an ethically irresponsible act, undertaken with the express intention of differentiating asylum seekers as either ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’ so they can be granted different visas and subsequently different levels of protection and assistance. Such that this provides an ethical dilemma, attempting to ban refugees diverges away from the realm of making an ethical decision, and more into the legalities of which stance under the law that individual nation states are able to prove adherence to. While I have been mulling over this question the last week or so, a couple of issues are frequently found, in alternating occurrences, to float to the surface. The first is the idea that while it is not illegal to seek asylum, as a result of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, ratified by Australia, and its 1967 Protocol, the means through which individuals frequently travel, particularly in using people traffickers, is.

It is these documents which provide the foundational legal instruments responsible for defining and protecting the rights of refugees, and describe the criteria for the determination of refugee status grants, legal protection, assistance and rights entitlements, and a clarification of the obligations of both refugees and host nations. In focusing on one particular aspect, and this is where the second point returns to surface particularly in Australia and the controversy revolving around detention, Article 14 of the 1948 Universal declaration of human rights which proclaims that “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

Think about the wording. It is in the wording of the article section that provides an interesting question. Although these documents set out that refugees have the right to seek asylum, they do not state that states are required to accept these refugees nor do they delineate a time frame within which such a decision must be arrived at.It is likely, in my opinion, that it is this ambiguity in the wording of the law that states fixate on and allows then the stance that they are under no obligation to accept, or provide equivalent lifestyles to those who have been identified in need of asylum or granted refugee status. As such creates this kind of limbo time that is frequently spent in places like internment camps. The problem that this poses becomes both an ethical problem and a legal one. As a signatory to the United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees it becomes a point in contention since prolonged detention is viewed as being contrary to the convention and as a measure of last resort to be used only when national interests are threatened.

While I certainly don’t believe that the decisions carried out by the Australian government relating to the treatment and detainment of refugees is morally ethical, I find myself leaning, almost deontologically bound, toward their stance through the letter of the law.



Palmer, V. & Mathews, J. (2006). Excising Democracy: Ethical Irresponsibility, Refugees and Migration zones. Vol. 25. No 3. Pp. 26-31

Ethical Vegans

If you were a vegan for ethical reasons, would it be ethical for you to force your children to become vegan as well? If you believe your children should make their own choices, is it ethical to educate your children on the graphic and violent manner in which animals are used for human consumption, such as is depicted in the movie Earthlings (2005), in order for your children to be able to make a realistic and informed choice?




Humans live in a society where they are often asked to both make and provide choices or decisions. For most people, the most common reason for choosing a vegan diet outside of health issues is that of moral or ethical standing, but this is perhaps the point here “choice”. This prompts the question, is it ethical to deprive anyone of their right to choose? Would this deprivation not constitute a selfish act devoid of all moral and ethical standing (the depriving people of choice – not the being vegan)? Some may argue that, as the parent they have an entitlement to make decisions, and endeavor to convince the child that this is simply the way of life, no fuss no questions no argument. Does this seem at least a little hypocritical? To make for yourself a choice, then to inflict that choice like it or not on another individual, regardless of age.

To take this a step further, would you enforce your choice of veganism on your dog? While this relatively simple and likely gets a short no, it is not so strange a question as it seems. Humans are animals. They are diurnal and omnivorous by design and nature. They are a predator, and sorry predators’ kills prey and most often eat it. Ethics and morals aside for a minute, since this is not talking about a right to life simply a right to eat, it is humanity evolutionary position, sitting at the highest point of the food chain to account for all those below them as prey. If this is wrong then why are humans biologically designed in this way? Why don’t other animals such as dogs and cats also become vegan? Mostly, because they can’t. Humans can adapt, they have choice. While it is not always the strongest who survives, it is almost always those that make the right choices and choose to adapt who lives the longest. To deprive anyone of that choice adult or child is depriving them the right to live, choose, change, and adapt to their surrounds. If, after being educated of the facts, they choose to become a vegan in their own time that’s their choice. Their Choice!

In regard to the second aspect, while we should portray the facts to children, movies such as Earthlings (2005) aim heavily not at simply portraying facts but rather using a select (while often truthful) version of the facts to shock viewers into agreement of the statement that they wish to provide. Think about some of the worst images there such as putting a live dog into the dumpster. How many times have you seen this? Other such instances in the film use a recurring image, usually the worst or most graphical, that like subliminal advertising it retains a heavy impression. I do believe that children when they reach an age to deal with such issues should be shown or informed of all the details to be able to make a conscious educated decision as to their choice. When is that time? Depends on the child. What is the media? Hopefully something more neutral that provides both sides of the argument.



EARTHLINGS is the single most powerful and informative documentary about society’s tragic and unforgivable use of nonhuman animals, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix with soundtrack by Moby. Directed by Shaun Monson, this multi-award winning film by Nation Earth is a must-see for anyone who cares about nonhuman animals or wishes to make the world a better place.

Poverty, Competition and Over-consumption

Do you believe EPL is actually ‘more ethical’? And if so, what are the implications of increasing our definition of the poverty line?

Furthermore, is over-consumption an issue that needs to be addressed in the developed world? Why/why not?




The Historical poverty-income relationship is a notion which remains fundamental to contemporary concepts. Its meaning, dependent on the asker, its perceived understanding and the respondent, creates a situation in which “income” as an independent ideal is an equally problematic concept as “poverty”, both of which require careful elaboration. Resources such as assets, income in kind, subsidies to public services, and employment should be considered in calculating a comprehensive measure of income. Based on this, is it possible to assume that “people [experience] … poverty when … deprived of income and other resources needed to obtain the conditions of life—diets, material goods, amenities, standards and services— that enable them to play roles, meet obligations and participate in relationships and customs of society” (Townsend 2006).

Individually, I don’t believe that any one framework is “more ethical” than another. The EPL does not overcome problems inherent of other existent income-poverty line indicators, namely the oversimplification and reduction of global poverty complexities to a monodimensional monetary appraisal. Furthermore, while noting that the EPL provides a morally defensible basis for setting a line, I would argue that the determination of a poverty line cannot be based on an arbitrary selection of a low level of income.

Poverty does not end with resource acquisition. Perception of status is a comparative mark reliant on competition. From evolutionary perspectives, stronger individuals possess greater opportunity, whilst maintaining a receipt of communal protection. Competition and consumption are close allies, and together cultivate social hierarchies dependent on group members capacities to secure resources. Over-consumption patterns intensify relative to social position, and often has limited correlation against satisfying living requirements. Notions of “us” and “them”, though important to concepts of self, are frequently exploited by advertising and marketing professionals to maintain, or increase, current levels of over-consumption.

Over-consumption is an issue that should be addressed in the developed world, and as Jarred Diamond (2003) states simply “the biggest problems facing the world today are not at all beyond our control, rather they are all of our own making, and entirely in our power to deal with”. The problem as noted though is that in all likelihood this will only occur out of necessity.



Diamond, J. (2003) Ted Talks, Why Do Societies Collapse,
Gondor, D. (2009). Our World, Why Do We Over-consume? United Nations University.

Townsend, P. (2006). What is Poverty? In Poverty in Focus. International Poverty Center, United Nations Development Center.

Language and Ethics

How does the modern understanding of particular words, for example happiness, influence the understanding of the frameworks? How does it change the outcome?


Just as we, and many others, may argue the idea that ethics is derived from notions of attachment toward an individual’s perception or outlook on the subject matter at hand, Edward Sapir, back in the early 1900’s essentially proposed a hypothesis that connoted, similarly, that different language implies different systems of perception and the difference between societies’ cultural behaviors is communicated by and codified in the structure of its linguistic meaning (Moore 2012:81). That is to say that the study of a specific cultures or peoples language is more than just a study of the words that they use it is a study of their existence which encompasses their morals, ethics and practices – in effect their total being.

Mindful of this connection it is then possible to set out an assertion that despite relative differences based on who we are as individuals with in various culturally collective identities, a generalized understanding of the frameworks provided in Mill (1863) would appear to hold true. A popular example provided of this is that pleasure is the absence of pain. Notably, these are structuralistically categorized across most cultures as direct binary opposites, similar to good- evil, black-white, and are the result of humanistic needs or desires to impose a sense order on aspects of nature.

As humans of this generation and successive generations, like those of past generations, we will continue to attach varying senses of oppositional worth to aspects of nature and life which surrounds us. In doing this we are emphasizing the appropriateness of our structuralist values. This we could argue has the resultant effect that; while language content may change, linguistic meaning remains constant and it is this constant linguistic meaning that stresses our structuralistic values which form the attachment to the ethical frame work defined. In this sense modern usage of particular words holds no difference to the outcome.


Mill, J. S., 1863. “Chapter 4; What utilitarianism is”. In Utilitarianism, 1863.

Moore, J.D., 2012. Visions of Culture. Altamira Publishing. Maryland, USA.

Mortuary Archaeology

Over the last week I looked into 3 very different burial practices that from both different ages and different countries. The first was that of a recently discovered unmarked grave site, ‘suspected’ as a vampire burial in the town of Gliwice in southern Poland. The article claims that there were 4 skeletons uncovered that had had their heads removed and placed between their legs during the burial practice. Such treatment according to Slavic folk beliefs would prevent a possible vampire from returning to the land of the living. Archaeologists believe that these bodies may also have been hung on gallows to rot before they were buried. The article references makes little reference to their age or gender but rather stipulates that at this stage more testing is required to determine this along with the ‘official’ cause of death. Other clues possibly suggesting a vampire burial included the skeleton’s lack of any personal items, such as jewelry, ceramics, belts or buckles. Despite the lack of grave goods, researchers believe that the burial took place in the early modern period likely around the 16th century and have also not ruled out the idea that the tomb may be a relic of human sacrifice. It is interesting to noted that the last recorded instance of vampire burial within Polish borders was as recent as 1914.

Another possibility is that these individuals suffered from tuberculosis which resulted in a paling of the skin and lead to a reinforced belief that they were vampires.


The second was the mummified remains of a sacrificed woman of the Moche culture which was discovered by archaeologists at the El Brujo complex, 570 kilometers north of Lima. The article writes that for the lead archaeologist, “it came as quite a surprise to find a woman, and even more to see she was buried in the prone position with her head toward the west in the direction of the sea, and with one of her arms extended, a very abnormal position”, one that perhaps shows and indifference, likely socially orientated, toward the person or subject. Life on most accounts was expendable so much as it pleased the gods. Archaeologists also added the supposition that the woman, aged between 17 and 19 years old, died as a result of “her swallowing some toxic substance or being strangled with a cord, the usual method with young women who accompanied Moche dignitaries to the tomb” and that following her demise her body was deposited into a pre-prepared pit” with no marking. She was uncovered in an area that now lay beneath the floor of the ceremonial courtyard which was constructed toward the end of the Moche occupation of the region, between the 7th and 8th centuries AD.

The third case comes from Egypt where on January 11th 2010, reports emerged recalling the finding of a series of modest nine-foot-deep shafts that each held a dozen skeletons of pyramid builders. Although the tombs themselves were devoid of any material objects, which probably safeguarded them from tomb-raiders, the remains were found to have been buried in a fetal position — the head pointing to the West and the feet to the East according to ancient Egyptian beliefs, along with jars that once contained beer and bread meant for the workers’ afterlife. What this importantly shows is that, contrary to popular belief, the workers who constructed the pyramids were not recruited from slaves. Hawass claims that the proximity to the pyramids and the way in which they were buried in preparation for the afterlife reinforces the notion that “the builders came from poor Egyptian families from the north and the south, and were respected for their work — so much so that those who died during construction were bestowed the honor of being buried in the tombs near the sacred pyramids of their pharaohs”. “No way would they have been buried so honorably if they were slaves,” he said.

Hawass notes that evidence found at the site appears to indicate that there were approximately 10,000 laborers working on the pyramids at any one time and that these laborers ate well and regularly a diet that included meat ( in the form of 21 cattle and 23 sheep sent to them daily from farms) and worked in three months shifts. Despite this and in addition to the fact that they were not slaves, it remains undeniable that the pyramid builders led a life of hard labor, such that their skeletons frequently exhibited signs of arthritis, and/or deformation of their lower vertebrae. Okasha remarks that “their bones tell us the story of how hard they worked”.



When is a fake a fake?


 Humans it appears have long held a macabre fascination toward skulls. As a powerful symbolic icon within many cultures around the world, it is closely associated with death. Interestingly though, the fascination for such objects, despite the negative associations, has from the nineteenth century, only become more pronounced. A little before 1863, the first of dozens of skull sculptures, purporting to be pre-Columbian, Mesoamerica artifacts surfaced on the open market for trade or purchase. Typically these, according to Jane McLaren Walsh are “small, not taller than 1.5 inches… The earliest specimen …in the British Museum, about an inch high. Three such skulls appear in the extensive collections of artifacts housed in the collections of major museums on both sides of the Atlantic. The first exists in the British Museum in London, whose skull may have been acquired in 1865 by the British banker Henry Christy. The second in the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, from the collection of Eugène Boban, a controversial antique dealer who sold the piece to Alphonse Pinart before it was donated it to the Museum of Ethnography at Trocadéro, Paris. There is some suggestion that either the British or French skull may be a copy of the other. The third example belongs to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., who bought a small crystal skull from Augustine Fisher, who had been Emperor Maximilian’s secretary in Mexico. The Smithsonian skull, it was noted, had been carved with a modern lapidary wheel, and between the 1950s and 1973 was exhibited as an archaeological fake when it disappeared from the collection completely. Another skull was delivered anonymously to the Smithsonian during the 1990s.

 As early as the 1930s, some experts began to have doubts about the authenticity of the skulls, quite probably on the grounds that a) the skulls didn’t come from documented archaeological sites and b) that the skulls’ teeth were linear and perfect, in contrast to the teeth depicted in other Aztec art which reflected a lack of Aztec dentistry. Researchers however, didn’t have the scientific means to scientifically test, or prove their suspicions. This has changed over the past two decades and now researchers’ at all three museums have capitalized on analytical science innovations to show that these peculiar skulls are not unusual Aztec artifacts but post-Columbian fakes. Margaret Sax, a British Museum scientist examined both the British and the Smithsonian skulls under light and scanning electron microscopes. Following the discovery of traces of tooling preserved in the highly polished surfaces of the skull, she conclusively determined that both were carved with relatively modern equipment, which for obvious reasons, was unavailable to pre-Columbian Mesoamerican carvers. Furthermore Spectroscopic analysis of skulls showed that the rock crystal possessed “green, wormlike inclusions” characteristically suggestive of rock crystal materials sourced from Brazil or Madagascar crystal during the nineteenth century (Sax, 2008) The final piece of evidence uncovered through X-ray diffraction, revealed a coating silicon carbide residue, a synthetic abrasive used in stone-carving workshops only starting in the mid-20th century, affixed to the surface.

Is this fake in any way harmful? Are fakes ever interesting in their own right? These questions pose more difficulty in answering and really it depends on what you are looking for by viewing them. Though they are no longer truly harmful, not now that they are understood as fakes and are no longer attached to the archaeological or cultural record of a particular civilization, they are interesting in their own right for the craftsmanship and beauty of the item. They are also interesting in that they trace back a period of modern human history when such things were in high demand and the lengths and prices people would pay to be in possession of such an item. Is there any ‘truth’ to this fake? Sadly, the most likely answer to this is no.


Walsh, JM. 2012, ‘Crystal Skulls: The real story behind the world’s most mysterious fakes’, Archaeology Magazine, The Maya Special edn., Long Island, NY

Sax, M., Walsh, JM., Freestone, IC., Rankin, AH. & Meeks, ND. 2008, “The origin of two purportedly pre-Columbian Mexican crystal skull” Journal of Archaeological Science