Say it loud - I'm elitist and proud

Friday, December 06, 2002

I DIDN'T write this, but it sounds like the story of my life. The link comes from my daily Jobnet email.

SYDNEY IN FLAMES. And, in the depths of winter, millions of Brits get news even worse than the cricket.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

THE MASSACRE OF HISTORY. I can’t say I'm waiting with baited breath for what Paul Sheehan describes as Keith Windschuttle’s ‘landmark new book, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History’.

Sir William Deane's reply is here.

Debate continued in the SMH letters column on Wednesday. Note Allan Tegg's comments.

Windschuttle's response came in Thursday's Letters.

Then yesterday came Henry Reynolds' retraction:

"It gives Keith a free kick. It's a bad mistake and I have to acknowledge that and thank him for pointing it out. Clearly, it will have to be changed in a new edition," he said.

"All historians are fallible and make mistakes. They are usually mistakes and not conspiracies."

At least he admits his mistakes. (Hello Janet?)

'Stolen generations', 'invasion', 'massacre', 'genocide', '10,000 dead', 'sorry': these are emotive terms, and one can pick holes in all of them. But what are we doing if we do that?

Reynolds and others have been trying to get recognition for what was done to Aboriginal people, and to offer an explanation for why they occupy their current position in Australian society: the bottom rung.

One of the key themes of Reynolds' work is that of organised Aboriginal resistance: that Aborigines did not simply give in to white domination, and that therefore the belief that the settlement of Australia was uniquely peaceful was the result of what W.E.H. Stanner called a "cult of forgetfulness practised on a national scale". There was extensive frontier resistance which deserves to be called "war".

Windschuttle has spoken of "people working with the same assumptions, methods and objectives" inevitably coming up with the same results, all of which need to be challenged. As Reynolds describes it in his autobiography Why Weren't We Told?, his own assumption was that Aborigines were on the bottom of Australian society, economically and socially, and that there had to be a historical explanation for this. His method was simply to go back over the historical record - contemporary newspapers, books, government reports, diaries and memoirs - and report the themes that he found. His objective in all this was to explain the position of Aborigines in Australian society today.

I can't help feeling that all Windschuttle's current work is an act of revenge on the leftist he once was: the author of Unemployment and editor of New Journalist back in the 70s. I’m glad he’s abandoned Marxism - I just wish Aboriginal history weren't part of his collateral damage.

If it makes Keith feel any better, Green Left thought Reynolds’ last book, An Indelible Stain?, was far too timid.