The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

Noel Pearson on the denialism of the reactionary Right

Some Lax Cats have been arguing that the appalling state of indigenous Australia is entirely the fault of the left by cherry-picking a speech made by Noel Pearson at Griffith University in which he clearly states that both [Left and Right] need to take responsibility for the fact of racism, and work to answer and counter it.

The author, self-styled writer/philosopher Rafe Champion, sought to gain the moral high ground over the left by selectively quoting Pearson’s speech to suggest that white Australia’s failure to address the problems of indigenous Australians has been caused by the ‘moral vanity’ of the feft.

The second major constituency in contemporary Australia is morally vain about race and history. Its members largely come from the liberal left and are morally certain about right and wrong and ready to ascribe blame. For them, issues of race and history are a means of gaining the upper hand over their political and cultural opponents. The primary concern of the morally vain is not the plight or needs of those who suffer racism and oppression, but rather their view of themselves, their understanding of the world and belief in their superiority over their opponents.

As the quote mentions only the second major constituency in contemporary Australia I clicked though to the text of Pearson’s speech for its proper context.

The conveniently omitted first major constituency in contemporary Australia is the conservative right as Pearson elaborates:

There are two important things to understand about this constituency. First, most of them are defensive about their own identity and heritage. The accusation that they are racist and their colonial heritage is a catalogue of shame and immoral villainy – and they should therefore feel guilt for racism and history – makes them defensive. If race and history are raised in such a sharply accusatory and unbalanced way, then people who may otherwise be prepared to acknowledge and take responsibility for the truth end up joining the hard-core ideologues. There is some truth in the proposition that “political correctness” has had this effect. There is also truth in the proposition that the political right has deliberately and wilfully galvanised this defensiveness by mis-characterising the progressive position as being about guilt, rather than what former Prime Minister Paul Keating referred to as “open hearts” in his landmark 1992 Redfern speech. This has provided great fodder for the right in their prosecution of the culture wars.

It is clear that Pearson is critiquing both the left and the right sides of contemporary white Australia – pretty much a pox on both their houses. He continues on the moral vanity of the left.

Moral vanity is perhaps an unfair characterisation. There is a broad spectrum of views within this group, and many within this broad spectrum have decent motivations. They empathise with the plight of Indigenous people who face racism and other real injuries; they acknowledge what has happened through history and recognise that the present is not unconnected with the past. They understand the hypocrisy of the prescription to forget the past, especially in a country whose most famous lapidary exhortation reads: Lest We Forget. But at some point empathy and acknowledgement turn into moral superiority, and the relative failures of one’s cultural and political opponents become the basis of accusations of insensitivity or racism At this point, race becomes a useful club to beat the Neanderthals from the right, and racism serves the cultural and political purposes of the progressive accuser rather than the humanity of those subjected t it.

In other words, it is Pearson’s view that the ideologues of both left and the right are engaged in political and moral point-scoring as part of their ongoing political and culture wars while indigenous Australia continues to suffer the consequences of racism. He directly exhorts both left and right to acknowledge racism and to act to counter it.

Rather than denial or moral vanity, the optimum position for non‐Indigenous people to take is that of acknowledgment – of the past and its legacy in the present, recognising that racism is not a contrivance, that Indigenous people endure great hurt and confront barriers as a result of racism. They need to take responsibility for the fact of racism, and work to answer and counter it.

As with my past efforts in serious discussion with the Lax Cats the thread immediately descended into ad hominemal abuse – anything but considered discourse.

Any lingering doubt that the purpose of the Lax Cat post was to be morally vain about the moral vanity of the left was quickly dispelled by regular commenter JC’s astute grasp of recent history:

The left has basically f*cked over the aboriginals for the last 30 years seeing that most of the existing policies are essentially socialist in nature.

And my personal favorite:

It’s not all our fault, as you seem to imply, Slimey. It’s your fault the indig are screwed up. Unpleasant as that sounds, it would be a good thing if you absorbed that get lost: all of you ratbags.

Perhaps the pithiest observation came from FDB:

For you, Rafe, to turn a speech on what must be done to eliminate pointless point-scoring into an exercise in pointless point-scoring is pretty lame.

You can always count on quality debate from the Lax Cats!

Since Howard’s decision for a military/police response to the state of emergency in indigenous communities was announced everyone has welcomed the belated recognition that some serious action is required. The MSM commentary so far has spun the government’s ‘you’re with us or you’re a kiddy fiddler’ response to any form of questioning or criticism, aided by Pearson himself who sees any action, even if fundamentally flawed, can be turned to indigenous advantage, and any criticism as ‘madness’ and the left willing the invasion plan to fail.

Yet as events unfold it is clear that Howard’s plan is being made up on the run and it is far from clear what it actually entails other than emergency intervention. Howard and Brough admit that land ceased under the emergency powers may never be returned (but compensation would be paid – after mining leases have been secured?). Howard is not prepared to commit any long term funding (estimated to be in the order of $5 billion) for community health workers, doctors, teachers, police, counselors, etc. Brough was lamely muttering something on the radio the other morning to the effect that we can’t afford to do those things because we’re too busy paying for the emergency intervention!

And in the same week, there is news from around the country of successful indigenous community employment and training schemes losing their federal funding! Policy coherence? It may not be a political stunt, but it has the hallmarks of knee-jerk policy making, lacking understanding of the problem and even less coherent plans for its solution.

58% percent of those polled by Gallaxy this week are dubious and less than convinced of the sincerity of Howard’s newfound sense of urgency in indigenous affairs – a man whose political legacy includes the shameful legislative destruction of Native Title, an unprecedented landmark in Australian Indigenous history. At best, Howard still has the mindset of a 1950s Methodist Missionary, at worst it’s a cynical ploy to combine electoral advantage with opening up uranium rich Native Title lands for our new uranium mines. Remember Maralinga anyone?

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Filed under: Ideology, Indigenous, Media, Nonsense, Politics

2 Responses

  1. AV says:

    The author, self-styled writer/philosopher Rafe Champion, sought to gain the moral high ground over the left by selectively quoting Pearson’s speech to suggest that white Australia’s failure to address the problems of indigenous Australians has been caused by the ‘moral vanity’ of the feft

    Right-wingers quote-mining? Never!

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The Dog’s Bollocks

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