Say it loud - I'm elitist and proud

Monday, January 13, 2003

KEN PARISH gives the best summary I've seen about the Windschuttle vs Reynolds et al. debate on Aboriginal history. Like Ken, I'm doubtful that Australia's Aboriginal policy over the last 215 years can be called 'genocide', or that Aboriginal 'sovereignty' has much of a future, at least in most of Australia. But it's clear to us that something happened on the frontier in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries which helps to explain two incontrovertible facts:

1. There are vast areas of Australia where Aboriginal people used to live, but don't any more.
2. Those Aboriginal people who remain are often on the bottom rung of Australian society.

Note that I only say 'helps' to explain. What happened in early 19th century Tasmania is important, but a lot has happened since then. There's only one thing for it: more Aboriginal history! (Particularly of the period since the 1960s.) That's the great thing about History: it keeps happening.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

THEY. You know who They are: the people who are responsible for everything. Matthew Parris in the Spectator:

Used variously to hint at resentment, dismay, sometimes wonder and even admiration, it not only separates the speaker from the perpetrators of whatever it is They do, but also implies that they are almost another order of beings, inhabiting another world beyond our control. Recourse to the term suggests passivity in the speaker, as though he and his intended audience are mere onlookers to the march of history...

This habit of speech is ancient, and very English. It echoes from an epoch when most people (and especially the poor) lived much closer to the land, and all the great decisions were made far away in London. Then, They really were a different world...

I can think of no better unwitting guide to a modern individual’s estimation of his and his peers’ own powerlessness in the universe than his recourse to the third- person plural as a shorthand for other human beings. Do you think that we have set foot on the Moon, or that they have? Do you think that we are searching for a cure for cancer, or that they are? Can we fly faster than the speed of sound these days, or can they? Do we understand the origins of the universe, or do they? Will we — or they? — be cloning humans next?
Apply this to the actions of your government. Even if you voted for it, do you think it acts in your name? When it acts, do you think 'THEY are doing this', or 'WE are doing this'?

I'M IN A FISKING MOOD. And here's the Daily Mail's Simon Heffer, in the Spectator Diary, to give me inspiration:

When I first came to Australia in the 1980s the national sense of humour was less developed than now. Scarcely had I settled in my taxi at Perth airport than my driver offered, unsolicited, the following joke: ‘Mate, what’s the difference between a roo lying dead at the side of the road and an abo lying dead at the side of the road?’ ‘Er, I don’t know,’ I replied. ‘There are skid marks in front of the roo.’ Now, the Indigenous Peoples are revered, respected, fêted in an orgy of post-colonial guilt.
Ah, taxi drivers: the ultimate crutch for bad journalists trying to get a local feel.
In the Australian Museum in Sydney, on the way in to an exhibition of the life and culture of the Indigenous Peoples, a notice solemnly proclaims that if any visiting Indigenous Person should be offended by any sight or sound in the exhibition, he or she should make the offence known to the staff, who (presumably) will remove the offending object or silence the offending sound.
This sounds like the ABC's warning that a program may contain images of people who have died, which is offensive to some Aboriginal people; yet another example, not of PC, but CP: common politeness.
Australia loves laws and regulations — funny, when you consider how this place started...
Ugh, here we go again: convicts explain everything. (And, in any case, the life of a convict was nothing BUT laws and regulations.)
...and so when I got to Sydney and saw a sign ordering ‘Don’t be a Tosser’, I wondered what rule I would have to break to be so condemned. Happily, as a non-smoker, I was safe: it was about the evil of chucking fag ends in the gutter because they end up in the water supply. (Don’t ask me how: I’ve yet to see one coming out of the tap in my hotel bathroom.)
No, Simon, they just end up in Sydney Harbour and on the beaches.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s television channel is wonderfully Anglocentric, smelling of the era of Robert Menzies, Chips Rafferty and Don Bradman...Better still, it seems every night to show two or three proper British films between about midnight and 5 a.m., perfect for expat film buffs with hopeless jet lag. By ‘proper’ I mean they are in black-and-white, made in the reign of King George VI, and full of people who dress correctly and speak comprehensible English.
As it happens, I love the golden years of British film as well. But that period ran from about 1942 to 1960, while most of the films that appear on the endless loop the ABC runs (the same ones show up every three months or so) seem to come from the 1930s 'Quota Quickies' period. There's little of the Archers beyond a few favourites, and no Alexander Korda, Ealing or early Hitchcock.
One reason for my trip was to watch cricket here [Sydney] and at Melbourne. This aspect was something of a disappointment. I don’t say that because Australia retained the Ashes — good luck to them — but because of their most surprising achievement: the Americanisation of cricket.
NOW he notices?? It's been going on since 1977. We may not be very original, but we only copy from the best. If commercial vulgarisation was required to save cricket - and it was - of course we were going to copy the Americans.

But when we decided we wanted decent coffee, we showed good sense and copied the Italians instead.