Re: Reparations for aboriginies in Australia
Robert Gentel wrote:
Australia is a country whose cultural frictions have been significant and I'd like to applaud them today not just for their PM Rudd's apology to aboriginies
but because of the fact that the Australian public has come to want it so.
But on to what I really want to know about.
I am already detecting signs of a subsequent reparations rift that I really hope doesn't spoil the moment. The more debatable moral question of cultural burden of responsibility across generations (what a mouthful!) isn't something that should ruin this milestone and the important thing is that an overwhelming majority of Australians have repudiated the previous governments' policies.
Yet just like in other swings of the pendulum there is controversy over how far it should go the other way before it settles in the middle. And I know this period can be pretty ugly. In extreme cases like South Africa it is downright violent. In less extreme cases like the United States it can turn into a "neo-racism" where the conflict over reparations generates new racial discord and resentment among new generations. No matter what the case, it is rarely pretty.
My curiosity is how big an issue this is for Australians? In the US the scope of the injustice was of a different magnitude and as a race-obsessed country (for better and for worse) it was all over the place and I wonder how this is playing out on the street in Australia.
Uncertain. This is very personal and doubtless very flawed, but this is how I see it, with all the distortions created by my neuroses.
One of the things that (allegedly) stopped the previous government from apologising (I think this was an excuse, but I could be wrong....but I really don't think I am. More on this later.) was the fear that apologising would open the way to massive compensation cases, that would potentially cripple the finances of the country.
Rudd was careful to apologise in Parliament, which carries all kinds of legal privilege....(are you familiar with the notion of Parliamentary privilege in supposedly Westminster systems? Some call it "coward's castle).
Prior to the election of the Howard government in 1996, and as a result partly of key Labor leaders' ideological commitment to improving the lot of aboriginal Australians, and partly as the result of the key High Court decision re Mabo (familiar with it????) and partly as a result of national awakening, AND conservative leaders' enlightened actions, there was a strong impetus towards justice and understanding and ACTION re the massive problems faced by first Australians.
This coincided (not exactly, but within a couple of decades - 1966 to 1996....with the opening of the borders to large numbers of Asain, African etc immigrants.
For many, it all happened bloody fast, and coincided with economic rationalism and lowered or annihilated tariffs, pressure for free trade, and the death of multitudes of Australian industries, with subsequent trauma, grief and anger.
In a way, it is as though there was a top-down (in part) dragging of the country towards a transformed future.
It was hard. I found parts of it hard, and I was bloody cushioned from its effects. Change is hard and scary. Some people found it utterly annihilating.
The horror of the experience of Indigenous Australians was a thing about which Australia, en masse, was (in my view) in toxic denial.
My personal experience was of gradually discovering some of the truth.....reacting with utter horror, and protecting myself with denial, then facing it again.
This, I think, engenders defensive anger and and a mess of emotions.
It feels as though Oz then entered a period of reaction (dialectically speaking).
It felt as though the dark side needed to be expressed.......thesis/antithesis.....(please...synthesis.)
I cannot describe (to me) the horror of the ensuing "rough beast, slouch(ing) toward Jerusalem to be born".
Yet......to some extent, the beast was me. I coiled and roiled upon the realities of history. I got angry and defensive and cynical ( I was seeing the very worst - constantly - of aboriginal abuse of aboriginal people). I did the blame, cynicism, reaction, denial, projection...all of it. I STILL do it sometimes. What did I do? How dare they **** on me? On my wonderful colleagues.......on the innocent kids? ELDERS, goddammit!!!!!!
Howard came to power surfing, in part, on the dark underbelly of Oz racism, fear, trauma, defended against guilt, ignorance and desire for the old safeties.......
NONE OF THIS HAS GONE.
Yet, perhaps, the Howard years allowed the expression and lancing of a national boil??????????????? They allowed many of us to "catch up" and begin to demand previously feared changes?
The apology was done specifically in a manner to not support compensation.
I cannot predict how big and divisive it will become.
As I understand it, stolen generations can individually sue.....thing is, the precedents say that, if practices reflect best practice AT THE TIME, there is no blame. This leaves a lot of leeway for compensatory damages awards.
I would hope that, possibly, aboriginal people may accept intelligently and graciously targeted money, aimed at, and assessed as addressing, the ills of the stolen generation, as compensation independently of this process.
If they do not. I get it (and I think millions of us do).
But it could get nasty. Sigh.
Sorry for the rambling.
I utterly understand if folk have difficulty with this