1950 – L. Ron Hubbard publishes “Dianetics”

“Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health” was first published by L. Ron Hubbard in 1950. It is a canonical text of Scientology, often referred to as “Book One” of the Scientological holy books. One of the best-selling self-help books in American history, it is also one of the most widely reviled, as the Church of Scientology, like all churches, does not lack for enemies.

“Dianetics” itself is a mixture of biology and psychology, none of it more recent than 1949, and most of it soundly debunked – in some cases, even before the book was written. In particular, the book is frequently criticised for its lack of either qualifiers to its claims or evidence to support them.

No doubt all these critics are merely dupes of Xenu and his thetans.

Referenced in:

U.S. Forces — Midnight Oil

1975 – The Whitlam government is dismissed by the Governor-General

On November 11, 1975, then Governor-General John Kerr dismissed the ALP government of Gough Whitlam and installed Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Fraser (of the Liberal Party) as a caretaker Prime Minister until a double dissolution election could be held.

The precipitate cause was the inability of the ALP government to pass Supply (Budget) bills in the face of a hostile Senate. However, Whitlam, unaware of Kerr’s decision when they arranged to meet that morning, had planned to call a half-Senate election, which would likely have solved that particular problem. Kerr, however, had already made his decision. While, under the Australian Constitution, he had the legal power to take this action, he was widely seen as lacking the moral authority.

The double dissolution election was held on December 13, 1975, and delivered a massive victory to Fraser, allowing him to govern in earnest. (Under the terms of his caretakership, he had not been permitted to introduce any legislation other than passing Supply bills and calling the election.) Ironically, December 13 is also when Whitlam’s planned half-Senate election would have taken place.

Referenced in:

Gough — The Whitlams
The Power and the Passion — Midnight Oil
Do It In Style — Keating! The Musical original cast

1911 – Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Tent begins at the Ardlethan Show

Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Tent is perhaps the best known – and most notorious – of the various travelling outback boxing shows that once went from town to town in Australia. It put on displays of bare-knuckle boxing as well as occasional bouts where locals could try their luck against the professional boxers.

It was a brutal sport, and often exploitative – but it was also one of the few ways a black man could make a living, albeit a dangerous one that might leave you maimed. The outback boxing circuit flourished for a few decades, but it largely faded away by the time of World War Two.

Referenced in:

Yesterdays — Cold Chisel
Jimmy Sharman’s Boxers — Midnight Oil

1945 – The Bomb is dropped on Hiroshima

The Enola Gay left its base on Tinian with two companion aircraft on the morning of AUhust 6, 1945. It flew for the Japanese mainland, aiming for the city of Hiroshima. Its payload was the nuclear bomb codenamed ‘Little Boy’, which was dropped and detonated over the target at approximately 8:15 local time.

Of the 340-350 thousand people who lived in Hiroshima, about 20% were killed in the blast itself. Another 20% died of injuries sustained in the blast or its aftermath, or from radiation sickness. Still more died later of related medical issues such as a cancer. All in all, about 200,000 human lives were ended by the first use of a nuclear bomb as a weapon of war. Hiroshima itself was devastated – the few structures that survived the inital blast were damaged or destroyed in the resulting fires.

Along with the detonation of another nuclear bomb, ‘Fat Man’, over Nagasaki three days later, and similar destruction and death there, the attack on Hiroshima was the proximate cause of Japan’s surrender to the Allies, thus ending World War Two.

Referenced in:

Mrs. O — The Dresden Dolls
Short Memory — Midnight Oil
Enola Gay — Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

1885 – The Congo Free State is established by King Léopold II of Belgium

The Congo Free State was founded by King Leopold II, basically transforming the entirety of this territory (encompassing all the land now claimed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo) into one huge raw material extraction area.

This being the 1880’s in colonial Africa, the extraction was performed by native slave labour under the aegis of the Association internationale africaine – a company of which Leopold was both the chairman and the sole shareholder. For 23 years, it was a private fief of the King, and the site of terrifying cruelties and deaths so numerous that they could reasonably be considered a genocide.

With the end of Leopold’s rule in 1908, the territory became known as Belgian Congo, a colonial territory held by the Belgian government until 1960. Humanitarian policies gradually gained in importance over the five decades of Belgian rule, although the rule of the Belgians remained exploitative and frequently brutal.

Referenced in:

Short Memory — Midnight Oil

1519 – Hernan Cortes lands in Mexico

Hernan Cortes was 34 years old when he led the Spanish Conquistador invasion of Mexico. The initial landing took place on the Yucatan Peninsula, in what was then Maya territory. Cortes’ force was only 500 strong, but they were armed with muskets and cannons, as compared to the arrows and spears used by their opponents.

Although initially peaceful, Cortes’ mission was one of conquest, and would eventually result in the destruction of the Aztec nation and its tributaries, and the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Referenced in:

Cortez the Killer — Neil Young
Short Memory — Midnight Oil
Monetzuma Was a Man of Faith — Andy Prieboy

1981 – Trevor Chappell bowls underarm in an international match

It is one of the most scandalous incidents ever to have disturbed the televised narcolepsy that is Professional Cricket: on this day in 1981, Australian captain Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor to bowl underarm to New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie.

It was a one day match at the MCG in Melbourne, the third of five in a series, and so far the series was tied 1-all. And on the last bowl of the day, McKechnie, if he hit a six, could tie the game. The infamous underarm bowl was intended to prevent this from happening. It was legal under the rules of the game, but it was widely seen as unsporting behaviour, not living up to the spirit of fair play.

The rules of One Day International Cricket were changed after the end of the 80-81 season to prevent a recurence of the event, and the bad reputation it gave them has dogged the Chappell brothers (more Trevor than Greg) ever since.

Referenced in:
The Power and the Passion – Midnight Oil

1897 – Lasseter finds his elusive gold reef – or does he?

It’s one of the great legends of the Australian outback: Harold Lasseter’s lost gold reef has inspired blizzards of writing and several expeditions.

The story is that Lasseter discovered a large gold reef somewhere on the border of West Australia and the Northern Territory, while travelling overland from Alice Springs to Perth in 1897.

But here’s the thing: no one even looked for it until 1930, when Lasseter finally managed to persuade some backers to return to the Northern Territory. Lasseter was secretive, by all accounts, and eventually wandered off by himself, to die in the desert.

No gold was ever found in the area – and later surveys showed that the gold Lasseter had claimed to find there actually came from Kalgoorlie, thousands of miles to the south, and that it was geologically impossible for gold to be found in the area Lasseter claimed it was from.

Referenced in:

Warakurna – Midnight Oil

1521 – The Aztecs surrender to Cortes

After a war that lasted for nearly two years, the Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire was finally completed with the destruction by fire of Tenochlitan, the Empire’s capital (which stood on the site of modern Mexico City). The last of the Aztec Emperors, Cuauhtémoc, surrendered to Cortes and his men.

The Spanish ruthlessly eradicated whatever traces of Aztec culture they found, considering it barbaric and cruel. The religion of the Aztecs was replaced by Christianity, their language of Nahautl by Spanish, and so on. In particular, almost all documents the Aztecs had kept were destroyed, often by Spanish missionaries.

Over the subsequent decades, the Spanish would defeat and destroy the other nations of Mexico: the Tlaxcala (who had been their allies against the Aztecs), the Zapotecs, the Maya and the Mixtecs all fell before the might of Spanish gunfire, although the complete conquest of Mexico would take until 1697 to be completed

Referenced in:

Short Memory – Midnight Oil
Montezuma was a Man of Faith – Andy Prieboy

1788 — The First Fleet lands in Botany Bay

An advance party for the First Fleet to colonise Australia entered Botany Bay on this day. The Governor of the colony, Arthur Phillip, sailed the armed tender Supply into the bay, and weighed anchor. Two days later, they were joined by the other ships of the Fleet. However, the poor quality of the soil led to the entire fleet decamping, and landing instead in Port Jackson 8 days later, at what was named Sydney Cove by the Governor.

The French explorer La Perouse entered Botany Bay on the same day, January 26, too late to claim the land for France. The British penal colony was, of course, never heard from again.

Referenced in:
Who Can Stand In The Way? – Midnight Oil

1879 – The Anglo-Zulu wars begin

A series of border disputes between British settlers and the Zulu people escalated to the point where, in late 1878, the British sent an ultimatum to Cetshwayo, the ruler of the Zulu nation, requiring among other things that he disband his army, pay reparations and once more allow Christian missionaries into his lands. Cetshwayo ignored the ultimatum, which expired on January 10, 1879. The following day, a British and allied forced under Lieutenant General Frederick Thesiger, the 2nd Baron Chelmsford, invaded Zulu territory.

The Zulus had a massive numeric advantage over the British (over two to one), and were also fighting on their own land. The British, on the other hand, were better armed, with rifles and cannons as compared to the Zulu’s assegai (short spears). The Zulu nearly succeeded in overwhelming the British at Rorke’s Drift, but were turned back with enormous casualties on both sides. Another Zulu attack, at Islandwana, was more successful, and turned back the British. However, less than six months after the war’s commencement, the British had triumphed, and the Zulu nation’s power was broken forever.

Referenced in:
Short Memory – Midnight Oil