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George Orwell said “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

History should be written objectively as it occurred, and time alone should be the judge, not contemporary writers.

Pharaohs in ancient Egypt were well-known for stone-chiseling history. The incoming pharaoh would have the name and exploits of his predecessor chipped off the obelisks and walls, so that it was as if he never existed. It would have been difficult to actually re-write history, as chiseling into sandstone over obliterated cartouches, would have been an undisguisable task.

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This presented no problem for Josef Stalin, who was not content with merely bumping off any perceived competitors for his job, but actually had  Soviet history re-written to his own edification. Not stopping at physical elimination, Stalin had images expunged of those photographed alongside him who had fallen from his favour. Western history was not taught in any depth, or was distorted by the Soviets, and so the historical lily was gilded heavily in their favour.

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When I was at school, the history books taught us that WWII commenced when the Nazis invaded Poland. There was not a word about the Soviets invading from the other side and linking up with the Nazis in the middle.

However, while the Soviets were the first recently, others are similarly selective. While Stalin et al wrote the book on distorting history, the practice by many contemporary writers is to ignore what is unpalatable to them, or otherwise to comment subjectively.

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Such subjectivity is to be found in some modern history books, and in films.

In movies about the Spanish Civil War, Hollywood excoriated Franco’s Nationalists who were supported by the Nazis, and portrayed the opposing Republicans as idealistic heroes fighting the evils of fascism. It was ignored, and is seldom reported, that the anti-clerical Republicans were supported by the Soviets and international leftist brigades, and killed thousands of priests and many nuns, and destroyed churches.

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Spain Catalonia Barcelona: Spanish Civil War Pillaging and desecration of church institutions by supporters of the Republicans; the corpses of nuns from a monastery in Barcelona were ripped out of graves and displayed on a wall

Rick of Casablanca fame fought with the Republicans. There is even a memorial in Lennox Gardens by Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra to Australians who fought with the Republicans. There were massive killings on each side, but history has been re-written to make the Republicans the idealistic good guys, and not the mass murderers which they were.

Closer to home, I recently spent a week on Norfolk Island and went to see the place where such appalling cruelty had been visited on the convicts.

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I was surprised to find that at Kingston, the site of the old prison where there is only a wall or two standing, there is nothing to identify how the prison had been set out, or to describe the atrocities which had occurred within. An information sign overlooking Kingston merely refers to the jails, and nothing further. It is as if the sadistic cruelty had never happened.

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Norfolk Island was described as ‘The Hell of the Pacific’.  The punishment was severe, including lashings (up to 500), dumb-cells (which were with no light or sound), very heavy workloads and very poor rations, sometimes just bread and water.  Many of the convicts worked in leg irons that were riveted onto their ankles

Now of course history is not taught at all in school, as it is considered racist. How many children would know about Burke and Wills, Alexander the Great, Christopher Columbus, Napoleon Bonaparte, or Boadicea? None.

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History should be written objectively as it occurred, and time alone should be the judge, not contemporary writers.

Of course, time can be unkind to reputations, as Shelley reminds us in Ozymandias, where he refers to a statue of Ramses the Great lying broken on the desert, with its shattered visage bearing a sneer of cold command, half sunk into the sand

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“And on the pedestal, these words appear –

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

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