Sunday, October 26, 2008

Australia continued



I have learned this week that Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia, speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. Very cool. And very practical, considering proximity and considering the growing role of China in the world.

Maybe being bilingual ought to be a requirement for a US president.

Something else about the man:

"Researchers looking into Mr Rudd's family history discovered that his fourth great-grandfather, Thomas Rudd, was transported to Australia in 1801 to serve a seven-year sentence for "unlawfully acquiring a bag of sugar".

However, his crime is eclipsed by that of the prime minister's paternal fifth great-grandmother Mary Wade, a London street urchin who made a pittance by sweeping streets and begging.

In 1788, aged 12, she and an older girl coaxed an eight-year-old girl into a toilet where they relieved her of "her dress, petticoats, a linen tippet, and a cap and absconded".

Wade was sentenced "to be hanged by the neck til she be dead" after a trial at London's Old Bailey in January 1789 but the sentence was commuted to transportation to the colony of New South Wales.

Another relative of the prime minister was convicted of forging coins. Mr Rudd's paternal fifth great-grandmother Catherine Lahey arrived in Sydney in 1800 after forging one shilling and sixpence to pay her rent."

The article notes that convict ancestry is fairly common in Australia, and is today a badge of honor, not shame.

6 comments:

citizen of the world said...

Hanging a child for stealing clothing! My God, we are brutal creatures.

Chase March said...

Our Prime Ministers need to be bilingual here in Canada. In fact, anyone who works for the government is expected to speak fluent English and French.

The only problem with bilingualism is that it isn't enough. There are so many languages in the world. Knowing two might be good idea. Knowing them all would be amazing, although it is pretty much impossible.

Janice Thomson said...

Guess one could say: you who have not sinned can throw the first stone.
Oops guess that includes any human alive doesn't it...our judicial systems really don't teach or address the right issues do they...

Molly said...

In Irish history many irishmen were sent to "Van Diemian's Land" for "crimes" that incurred the wrath of our English overlords.....

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Looking forward to more of your wonderfully researched posts on Australia. I have always been interested in the Aussie worship of the criminal Ned Kelly as a hero.

Eastcoastdweller said...

Citizen: Yes, we can be. In few things has man shown more ingenuity and variety, than in coming up with ways to torture, hurt and kill each other, from the human torches at Nero's garden parties, to the Iron Maiden of the Middle Ages, to the gas attacks of World War I and the unspeakable cruelty of the Shoa (Holocaust).

Chase: But what if you did have the gift of knowing all the world's languages? Imagine being able to hunker down with the Hopi and celebrate their ancient ceremonies, then pay a visit to Zibo, China for a discussion of Buddhism with a wise old monk, then wrap up your day over fish and hot soup in an Icelandic farmhouse.

Janice: Man is flawed, therefore justice will always be flawed. Even our vaunted trials by jury of our peers,while certainly an improvement over, say, the Star Chamber, can be problematic -- the idea is to find a group of people who pay no attention to current events and have no strong opinions about anything -- and then entrust your fate to them.

Molly: The English tyranny over Ireland is one of the great crimes of history.

Lone Grey: Alas, I am running out of month. But I will have one more post at least.