Aboriginals · Australia Day Wars

Reconciliation or Revenge?

Ahead of Australia Day in 2017, Sherry Sufi has released yet another excellent piece for us on Indigenous affairs.

“Reconciliation or Revenge?”, The Spectator, January 21, 2017:

For a decade, a national apology was sought from Prime Minister John Howard. For a decade, he refused to provide one on the basis that most Australians were ‘sorry for past mistreatment but that is different from assuming responsibility for it’.

As our second longest serving Prime Minister, the last to leave behind a surplus and the last to survive a full term in office, John Howard’s position cannot simply be dismissed. His point about responsibility for past mistreatment has never been more relevant.

The City of Fremantle’s recent axing of Australia Day celebrations is not an isolated occurrence. The Rottnest Island Authority has recently considered changing the names of its various landmarks in an attempt to conceal aspects of the island’s colonial past.

These are direct consequences of a militant wave of post-colonial activism that has come to plague the way we imagine our past and present across the English-speaking world. Instead of having us all come together as Australians, Americans, Canadians, Brits and Kiwis irrespective of our ancestry, it seeks to plunge our national consciousness into a mythological struggle between imaginary Cowboys and Indians.

It seeks to divide and conquer our sense of cultural unity by characterising some as cruel oppressors and others as downtrodden victims. It offers no room for intellectual debate and voices of dissent are automatically construed as voices of bigotry.

The #BlackLivesMatter and #IllRideWithYou social media campaigns are cut from the same ideological cloth.

Sadly, symbolic fixes to imaginary problems are sought in place of actual fixes to real problems. If only similar efforts were invested in closing the gap on education, health and employment outcomes, we would be light years ahead in our quest for reconciliation.

The City of Fremantle’s replacement of Australia Day celebrations on 26th January with the made-up festivity called ‘One Day’ on 28th January is another example of hollow symbolism.It will achieve nothing except entail self-destructive legal and political implications for our nation. By establishing that 26 January – the day that marks the arrival of the First Fleet of British settlers – is a day of national mourning, the City of Fremantle has conceded that the founding of Australia was a shameful error.

Disregarding John Howard’s precaution that being sorry for the past is different from assuming responsibility for it, the City of Fremantle has set a dangerous precedent suggesting that current Australian government bodies can be liable to grant redress for historical grievances.

The question is, how far can this precedent be stretched? The reasons for axing Australia Day could technically apply to every institutional, political and cultural artefact installed on this land as a consequence of British colonisation.

It may be said that the Union Jack on our national flag is a ‘culturally insensitive’ symbol of British colonialism and should be replaced with a more inclusive flag. The Canadians opted for the maple leaf in 1965 on exactly these grounds. It cost New Zealand taxpayers $23 million to hold a referendum to work out that most Kiwis wanted to retain their current flag. Imagine the cost to Australian taxpayers if we were dragged down this path.

The Australia Act (1986) Cth established that Britain is a foreign power. It may be asked, why do we have a foreign monarch as our head of state who at best does nothing and at worst symbolises the same British Empire whose arrival on our shores is officially recognised as shameful by the City of Fremantle?

The national anthems of South Africa and New Zealand contain verses in precolonial languages. It may be suggested we do the same with Advance Australia Fair to make it more inclusive.

There is a $10 million taxpayer funded national campaign underway seeking to insert a race-based reference in the Commonwealth Constitution, despite the great irony that the document already recognises every Australian irrespective of race.

The reality is that this precedent could be used to potentially undermine every organ of our national machinery that happens to be of British origin.

This means our representative democracy, Westminster parliamentary system, common law and all else ranging from English as our national language to the game of cricket. These are all products of British colonialism.

Racial quotas in Zimbabwe and South Africa demonstrate that the world of sports is not exempt from post-colonial activism. Imagine if Cricket Australia and AFL were to replace merit with affirmative action. Just how far will we go to euthanise the pillars holding us together as a nation in the name of reconciliation?

If the triumph of Brexit and of Donald Trump are an indication, the English-speaking world is undergoing a cultural awakening. Like our British and American counterparts, Australians are ready to take a stand against this wave of post-colonial activism.

We know their problem doesn’t end with Australia Day. Their problem is with the British colonial foundations of this country. Zimbabwe and South Africa succumbed to the path of post-colonial activism. The end result was corruption, instability and reverse racism – all revenge and no reconciliation. Australia deserves better than that.

It is time we reject the idea that some must carry inter-generational guilt for historical actions they never authorised while others must remain aggrieved by the past instead of embracing the opportunities afforded by the present.

It is time we all join forces to foster a colour-blind society where each of us is seen as equally Australian without obsessing over whose ancestors did what or came from where.

The day we start focussing on policies that do good rather than simply feel good will be the day we can say we have achieved reconciliation.

7 thoughts on “Reconciliation or Revenge?

  1. “Yes I have no issue in addressing legitimate grievances where they exist. Problem is, that there is no end to this madness and this industry grossly exaggerates past wrongdoings.”

    Would this gross exaggeration include the right wing media in your opinion?
    Outlets like Brietbart, Limbaugh, Alex Jones, even press secretaries with
    “alternative facts”?

    1. Haha I know little about Limbaugh, whereas Alex Jones provides a good laugh sometimes, but I don’t take any of his commentary or opinions seriously as he is not exactly my go to man for credible opinion. As for Breitbart, they are certainly coming from a nationalist/ conservative viewpoint, which is probably fair considering the preponderance of Leftism amongst the mainstream media. Sean Spicer was a good fighter although not prepared, whereas I do generally admire Kellyane Conway, despite her task being difficult given the unpredictable nature of President Trump. It is quite ironic to see the feminist crowd so viciously take down a successful woman the second she doesn’t fulfil the necessary Leftist credentials.

  2. I’m curious what your opinion is of Aboriginal Protection Act, the Half Cast Act, and the Aborigines Act,
    do you think they warrant some kind of apology or reparations?

  3. I’ve long expressed the opinion that I don’t ascribe to a generational “white guilt”, but I do to a governmental guilt when it comes to long held government policies.
    Guilt is earned, it doesn’t pass from father to son or daughter, it is individual in nature based on opinions, bias, and deeds.
    Australia as I understand it was for the most part originally a British penal colony – a place for undesirables and those deemed a “problem” to be exiled to.
    This deportation may in part have had something to do with the size of Britain – in the United States, much larger in land mass, and this entire hemisphere, the approach was conquest, genocide, the theft of land and resources, and ultimately the American gulag system of reservations as the nations were likewise seen to be a problem – and in defense of our homeland, families, and resources branded savages and criminals.
    At the turn of the twentieth century there were an estimated mere two hundred and fifty thousand indigenous people left in the United States out of the millions that once inhabited in this land.
    Entire tribes, cultures, and languages had been driven to extinction, and those that remained had been hunted to near extinction like the buffalo.
    The land and resource grabs continue to this day, our people have fought in every foreign war the U.S has embarked upon, and yet it wasn’t until the 1940’s that the issue of voting rights had more or less been settled.
    Our communities, in fact the reservation system, were designed for four reasons – containment, assimilation, to create a dependency, and via that dependency a vehicle of submission.
    Our children were forcefully removed from their families and sent to schools where they were stripped of their traditions, language, identity, beaten for the slightest infraction, sexually abused, and even murdered.
    The treatment of indigenous people world wide has been predicated on racism and a sense of entitlement.
    That sense of entitlement in this country was referred to as Manifest Destiny, and it exists to this day among the conservative element in federal, state, and local government.
    Might has never at any point in history translated to right – the reverse is actually true. The unrestrained use of force to subjugate is in of itself criminal by nature and definition.
    If you as a “paleoconservative” feel your rights are threatened do you not understand others who feel likewise with ample reason and just cause?
    Has your community been sacked and pillaged, your children stolen from you?
    Have the breasts of your women been made into tobacco pouches, have they been sterilized without consent or knowledge?
    Has the Australian approach to the aborigines been praised by the Nazis and the formula adopted?
    Has a bounty ever been placed upon every man, woman, and child of your people? Have any been hounded to extinction?
    As nations it isn’t revenge we seek, we want justice, equal opportunity, and in a country that claims to be a champion of human rights to observe the treaties it entered into with our people that the Supreme Court has said are the law of land.
    The “founding fathers” are not our fathers any more than the “great white or black father” is our father, and if an argument is made that they are then it must be acknowledged they have been an abusive and dysfunctional father and we have the right to divorce ourselves from them.
    The world paleo by definition means old, even ancient – what culture in your country by this definition qualifies?
    The aboriginal people in Australia can be traced back as permanent residents for around seventy thousand years – isn’t that something to respect,
    something to honor, nurture, and break bread with?
    Seventy thousand years, long before supermarkets, lighting at the flick of switch, the ease and comforts of modern society, and yet they have endured to now be dismissed reviled.
    What people seem to fail to understand is all people began as tribes, all were hunter gatherers, and “civilization”, which a valid argument can be made isn’t so civilized with it’s major conflicts, greed, and egocentric pursuits has either ignored or forgotten their roots.
    I’m not nor have ever been impressed by titles or what a person owns, how many schools they went to, or how many awards and diplomas they may have hanging on the wall – neither have I judged another on the color of their skin or the language they speak.
    I envy no one what they have if earned honestly
    because in the end no one has ever seen a Hearst with a luggage rack, we leave with nothing but the reputation we have earned, the compassion and integrity we have displayed, our understanding that all lives matter regardless of ethnicity – and I submit there is nothing of greater value.
    You cannot walk in my shoes any more than I can your’s, nor can you walk in the aboriginal shoes of
    the original Australians.
    Were that possible I’m inclined to believe you would view the world, your world, through a different lens.
    I can understand your concerns, my people have had the same concerns for over five centuries with no end in sight, but a demagogue like Trump in any country isn’t someone to praise or celebrate, nor is an ideology that wears blinders and prioritizes only it’s adherents.
    I would ask what is this reconciliation you speak of? Is it an encompassing inclusion or tiered as a caste system and maintains the status quo?
    You say you are a freedom fighter, then we share a common if not diverse ground because it is freedom we want.
    When the past is prologue their remains much to be aggrieved over, and you’re correct in saying feel good words have little value, much the same as meaningless begrudging apologies.
    Nations are composed of people, and yet like people have their own history, if a nation cannot or should not acknowledge it’s history and where warranted issue an apology it is a sad commentary that speaks volumes regardless of how such a refusal is spun – a sadness that speaks of arrogance and indifference.
    I say and ask these things not with malice but of curiosity – be well.

    1. Yes I have no issue in addressing legitimate grievances where they exist. Problem is, that there is no end to this madness and this industry grossly exaggerates past wrongdoings.

  4. “It is time we reject the idea that some must carry inter-generational guilt for historical actions they never authorised while others must remain aggrieved by the past instead of embracing the opportunities afforded by the present.”

    Well said.

    Let’s remember too the many first fleet convicts sent here as felons, who probably had no interest in being so treated.

    The simple fact of the matter is this invasion and take-over happened. That racism and bigotry got out of hand, or was perhaps promoted in order to subdue the indigenous population is an institutional fault, a process of war, a psychological armament no longer relevant. Lingering in the past won’t change it. If there is a grievance both cultures should embrace one another and find common ground in values. The question is, particularly as some clamor for a Republic, what is Australia about then?

    As for symbols and flags, the Canadian situation was relatively straightforward. Our colors are red and white and our symbol is a maple leaf. Done.

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