Another Victim of the New Inquisition!

Deary me. Another one sent to the stake by the New Inquisition of the New Orthodoxy. This time it’s poor old Rolf Harris – yes, he of the wobble-board and paintbrush fame. His crime? Questioning the New Orthodoxy on Indigenous Issues. The news of his heritical statement broke yesterday (see “Time to get off your arses: Rolf’s advice to aborigines”), and today the sentence was pronounced (see “Harris remarks spark outrage” and The Age editorial).

I’m not saying whether what Rolf said was right or wrong, although I do think that he might have said the same thing without the help of the colourful colloquialisms he employed. What I’m commenting on is the fact that he has been treated in exactly the same way as Warwick Marsh of the Fatherhood Foundation. He has questioned the rules of the New Orthodoxy, and it’s straight to the stake.

The fact is that when his comments are engaged and not simply rejected as an outrage, even his indigenous detractors have admitted some element of truth in what he said: Lowitja O’Donoghue (who thought that Harris has “some bloody cheek” to make such a suggestion) admitted that “Aborigines must help themselves” (which is what Rolf said in stronger language). “There are lots of people who get off their butts, as he says, and do things,” she said. And this is not to be denied but applauded and encouraged for the whole people.

But Ms O’Donoghue goes on to say that “colonisation [read: you non-indigenous people being here] was the root cause for much of her people’s plight” and “Australia [ie. you non-indigenous people] needed to lift its game in how it dealt with indigenous issues”. Thus while admitting just what Rolf said, she continues to sing from the old song sheet of blame and victimhood.

Former national Labor president and indigenous leader Warren Mundine also “agreed that it was up to Aborigines to instigate change. However, he said Harris’ language was a “bit tough”.” We at SCM agree. He went on to say

“It’s not as simple as (Harris) thinks it is,” Mr Mundine said. “I agree that we have to get up, take responsibility and drive forward, but at the same time I reject that it is our traditional values at fault … It’s actually the whole process of invasion, colonisation and government policy.”

So while agreeing with Mr Harris in the first part of his statement, he too eventually falls back upon the old song sheet and starts singing of victimhood and blame.

As I said in a short Letter to the Editor published in the Age today:

WARWICK Marsh, from the Fatherhood Foundation, said: “I hope we’re in a free society that still allows us to speak our mind” (The Age, 27/11). Well, you found out the answer to that question, didn’t you?

David Schütz, Boronia

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Another Victim of the New Inquisition!

  1. Louise

    I reject that it is our traditional values at fault

    The traditional values may not be at fault, of course. It might be those other “values,” like raping their own children which might be part of the problem. I have never understood how Whitey can be blamed for that kind of thing, much as I think we can own up to various injustices.

  2. Schütz

    Be careful, Louise, about how you use the pronoun “they”. It can be a little to sweeping. We take your point, though.

  3. matthias

    I think it is interesting that Noel pearson does not yet to have made any comment.afterall he has been saying for a long time that Indigneous Australians need to start taking control of their lives and moving from being victims to empowerment. All O’Donoghue has done-as per usual her modus operandi- is to reinforce the victim view.

  4. Paul

    Whenever aboriginal issues come up, I think of 2 questions I have never heard answered. Now, I concede that I have no special knowledge of the issues and I am probably culturally insensitive, but still I would like to hear a considered answer to:

    1. Where in Australia today is a traditional Aboriginal lifestyle being followed? I thought that before the colonisation that Lowitja O’Donoghue speaks of, the inhabitants of this land were nomadic hunter gatherers. Why is the lifestyle in a place like Wadeye any more traditional than say, being an aboriginal student border at St Joseph’s College in Sydney, or living in a suburb of a city?

    2. What is the goal Aboriginal and other people are aiming at? If I gave Ms O’Donoghue a pencil and paper, and told her that there were infinite resources of money and goodwill, could she please write down her vision of the ideal Aboriginal community?

    Would it be a large hospital and school at Wadeye? Would Wadeye be supported by the Government, or would it be self-supporting?
    Would there be an Aboriginal hunter/gatherer community in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney or along the Yarra river in Toorak?
    Would there be an Aboriginal person on the High Court or in the Lodge?
    Would any Aboriginal people be Christians or would they follow only traditional beliefs and customs?

    It seems to me that until we can answer some of these questions, we don’t know what the goal is, so community behaviour and public policy will be a confused mess.

  5. Louise

    Be careful, Louise, about how you use the pronoun “they”.

    Yes, David, it could certainly be more sweeping than I intended it.

  6. Tony Bartel

    With regard to the responsibility/victim dichotomy it is probably not a case of either/or, but of both/and.

    Our indigenous people have been treated appallingly in our past and the ramifications of that treatment still impact on the current generation of aboriginal people.

    At the same time, every person is responsible for their own actions. Noel Pearson and those like him are right to emphasise the need for accountability.

    From my perspective the comments of Rolf Harris were unhelpful as they are likely to polarise the debate further rather than focus on how we can help the aboriginal people to help themselves.

    However, I also take the point that simply trying to shout Rolf down will also polarise the debate.

  7. Anonymous

    Indeed be careful of sweeping generalisations about ‘they’. Is what we are witnessing in Wadeye the fate that awaits european culture if the forces of dissolution at play in it reach their logical conclusion?

    I’d be wary also of linking ‘PC orthdoxy’ on aboriginal issues with the gay marriage and abortion debates. They are not comparable. The cetnral issue in the ‘Stolen Generations’ debate is that the removal of children was a gross breach of natural law and the natural rights of the family. I’d prefer the moral leadership John Paul II gave us in Alice Springs in 1986 to a Quadrant editorial any day.

    Speaking of political orthodoxy, am I alone in sensing that Turnbull is getting off much more lightly for his views on abortion and stem cell research than Catholics with similar views in the ALP, or even Catholics who fully support the Church’s teaching? I wonder whether a Catholic who became Minister for Hetlh in a Labor government would get the same tolerance for his hand-wringing about being the minister responsible for Medicare funding of abortions as Tony Abbot did. Where, for example, is Margaret Tighe, who once made a sally north of the Murray to campaign against Michael Maher, a Labor MP whose record on life issues was examplary but who presumably was still unacceptable because he was to the left of the far right?

    We need to be careful of importing the assumption curent in parts of the US that God is a right-wing Republican.

  8. Schütz

    I’d be wary also of linking ‘PC orthdoxy’ on aboriginal issues with the gay marriage and abortion debates. They are not comparable.

    Quite correct, of course. I wasn’t intending so much to link the issues as to link the reaction. A person says something that is counter to the prevailing opinion on that issue, and they are burnt at the stake (with newspaper and wireless hot air for fuel) rather than engaged and answered.

    We need to be careful of importing the assumption curent in parts of the US that God is a right-wing Republican.

    Indeed. But by the same token, he isn’t a left-wing subscriber to the communist manifesto either.

  9. matthias

    When ever I hear people put God itno their politics i am remidned of then poem from World War One
    “The German said “Ja Gott mit uns”
    The Englishman said “We are doing God’s work”
    God said “I am going to be busy”

  10. Louise

    Is what we are witnessing in Wadeye the fate that awaits european culture if the forces of dissolution at play in it reach their logical conclusion?

    Yes, certainly, and I condemn that as vocally as I condemn it in Wadeye.

    We need to be careful of importing the assumption curent in parts of the US that God is a right-wing Republican.

    I don’t think anyone *here* is doing that.