Sunday, August 30, 2009

Piers Akerman, Noel Pearson, James Anaya, the Calma report and point scoring as a lifestyle ...

(Above: credible rumors suggest that James Anaya flew around the Northern Territory in a specially chartered UN black helicopter).

Piers Akerman in the Sunday Telegraph under the header Right to a future free of UN meddling - it wouldn't be sunday in one small part of Australia without the mind rot of the Sunday Telegraph - moaning about the naughtiness of UN rapporteur on indigenous human rights, James Anaya, turning up in country and being critical of the NT intervention:

As for his call for greater self-determination, Ms O’Donoghue nailed that one, too, when she said that self-determination had set Aboriginal Australians on the downward spiral.
Her people, Anangu Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara, were better off when missionaries looked after their welfare, she said.
Professor Anaya’s report notwithstanding, missionaries would still offer a brighter future that any UN human rights formula.

Noel Pearson in The Australian under the header Calma approach proves too timid:

Those on the liberal-conservative side, on the other hand, have also failed on responsibility, for two reasons. First, when it comes down to it, Australian liberal-conservatives are still big believers in government. They think overwhelmingly that it is government that needs to be the main actor in the salvation of the indigenes. Like their social democrat opponents, they see it largely as a matter of state service delivery rather than what we have come to call in Cape York Peninsula supported self-help.

Second, while they are keen for individual responsibility, they would prefer to ignore any group, community or people as holders of responsibility. Their aversion to collectivism makes their position too extreme. So they want to abolish indigenous organisations, and replace them with what? Large, mainstream, welfare-delivering non-government organisations like the Smith Family, Mission Australia and so on? As if they do a better job of delivering welfare.

Well yes, Piers says so. More Piers Akerman:

Forget the reality of the situation which Australians can witness with their own eyes, a reality in which every move toward Aboriginal self-determination has led to more rapid self-extermination ...

...The naivety is staggering. Professor Anaya _ who has spent a total of 11 days visiting the Northern Territory to look at the effects of the intervention _ says he was impressed by the ``strength, resilience and vision of indigenous communities despite having endured tremendous suffering at the hands of historical forces and entrenched racism’’.
It’s a fair bet those ``hands of historical forces’’ inflicting tremendous suffering were not black in Professor Anaya’s politically correct report, though some violence in the black community now and historically has been caused by other blacks.

Noel Pearson:

It is true that the great majority of indigenous Australians, including those who have been closely involved in contributing to Tom Calma's blueprint for a new national indigenous representative body, largely function as individuals in the Australian mainstream. These are said to number 400,000 while another 100,000 live in discrete communities, usually in remote areas. While vast gaps in social and economic conditions exist across this spectrum, it is plain that the crises in the discrete, remote communities are of a particular kind.

My point for the moment is this: the liberal-conservative Right cannot just wish away the people dimension when it comes to discrete communities in particular. To continue to insist on utter assimilation is madness, and it's the wrong idea anyway.

The fact is that rather than there being two choices: individualism or peoplehood, what has to happen to Aboriginal society is what has happened to all traditional societies on entering the modern era. Aboriginal individuals need to split in two: part of their life must be conducted as individuals pursuing their lives in the modern world. They must be animated by their own self-interest and their families must be their first priority. They must be able to have access to opportunity without going through collectivist procedures and they need to have a private life that is separate from collectivist politics. Their pursuit of their individual interests must be fully legitimated as the best (and only) means of social and economic uplift.

The other half of the Aboriginal individual's personality will constitute their identification with their people: their lands, their languages, their traditions, their heritage. This is not a sphere of life that provides any chance for socioeconomic development. It serves those more intangible human needs for culture, spirituality and identity.

Of course Akerman really isn't that much interested in black culture, spirituality and identity. He's more interested - in no particular order - in slagging off the black helicopters of the United Nations, the Rudd government's alleged push for an Australian bill of rights, Rudd and his UN-obsessed minions, the UN's self-important bureaucrats, UN human rights protocols, Professor James Anaya, the Greens and the difficult blacks, not to mention ATSIC and all the other examples of the difficult vexatious blacks causing trouble for Australia. And of course the Calma proposal for a new body to represent Aboriginal Australians. While of course defending Mal Brough, John Howard and quoting Tony Abbott as if he were god, when in fact all Abbott does these days is refract Noel Pearson through his own peculiar Catholic sensibilities.

By way of contrast, Pearson takes time out to slam both sides - progressives alongside liberals and conservatives - and sees the Calma proposal as a failure of nerve:

The recognition of indigenous Australians as peoples should be a matter for commonwealth legislation at the least. If there were problems with the arbitrary interferences and changes by governments, then the search should have been for solutions that protect against such events. In any case the need for government funding still leaves the most decisive power in the hands of government. The erstwhile representative company may still survive, but without government funds?

The position of indigenous Australians is reduced to that of a representative function of approximately the status of the Australian Native Grasslands Protection Association or the Australian Philatelic Society (if there be such organisations). Except that it will have the formal role of complaining about the torment of powerlessness afflicting Australia's first peoples.

Pearson gets up the nose of a lot of people, but he does it for a reason. He cares, and he thinks about the issues, especially those confronting people living in remote communities. And he doesn't write with the ideological zealotry of an Akerman. So if you're going to read something this weekend online, why not try Pearson and forget about Akerman?

There's only so far you can go on the journey of life if point scoring is seen as the main or only purpose ...

(Below: apologies to the United Nations and Professor James Anaya. Information from Snopes suggests that UN black helicopters are an urban myth. Or are they? xkcd!)

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