February 1, 2006


Textbook case of making our past a blame game
(Janet Albrechtsen, The Australian, February 1st, 2006)

And, after last week's address by the Prime Minister, wondering what all the fuss is about when it comes to teaching our children about Australian history. So on Sunday I picked up a brand new history text book for first year high-school students.

And, there, in chapter nine, under the heading of Australia 1788-1900: Colonisation and Contact are more than 30 pages devoted to the politics of shame. So this is what all the fuss is about.

Students learning about the colonisation of Australia are given a black and white portrait, so to speak. Black is good. White is bad. The textbook quotes a speech by Pat Dodson to describe the idyllic way Aboriginal Australians lived at the time "white invasion is just about to occur".

"About three days in every week would be devoted to gathering your food," he says. "Hunting, collecting - a bit less in places of plenty, a bit more in the hard country. The rest of your time would be spent socialising, or in religious observances of different kinds." There is a "rich and complicated legal system" and the "children are more deeply loved than perhaps any children on earth".

Then, into this world comes the "white invader. Their first act is to say the land is terra nullius, that no one owns the land, that it is not used ... Thus begins the Australian Civil War." And that war continues to this day, Dodson says.

The author of the text is on Dodson's side, complaining that "the myth of terra nullius" has been "left out of the history books". It is bad enough that this account is factually inaccurate. Terra nullius is not in the history books because, as Michael Connor has shown in his book, The Invention of Terra Nullius, it was a recent concoction. A bogus legal theory propounded to justify political objectives in securing Aboriginal land rights.

But even worse than the promotion of this legal mythology is the continued peddling of the romance of the noble savage. A pre-1788 utopia where much of the week is spent chatting among friends, bowing before spirits and loving children.

Even for an alpha male such as Dodson, this is a stretch. One would have thought that, in between recounting the sense of community and sharing - and the bucolic pleasures that filled daily life before "the invasion" - students would also be told of the less sharing side to tribal life - the inter-tribal violence or the brutal treatment of women.

But there is no rounding out of history here. Just a one-sided Disneyfication - more Fantasia than Mickey Mouse - of the noble savage. This is not just a dumbing down of history. This is ideology - inculcating a sense of shame in young students about Western civilisation.

It is fascinating to watch how quickly so-called progressive efforts to separate historical fact from myth in the name of “objective truth” descend simply into a self-abasing and uncritical embrace of other peoples’ myths. Even many modern conservatives seem to have great difficulty in seeing two thousand years of Judeo-Christian tradition in other than undiluted marxist terms–-one big cruel social exploitation and mind control program. The leftist addiction to West-bashing stems in part from the fact that, in order to deflect us from confronting directly the spiritual barrenness and material oppressions of the brave new world they promise us, they must inflame and shame constantly by convincing us we are in the grip of organic tyrannies and exploitations that our unprincipled ancestors wrought for cruel and selfish reasons and which cannot be thrown off until we disown our pasts completely. Whatever is actually going on the world (or whatever was), these folks spend 24/7 marching at Selma, confronting absentee landlords or acting as Galileo’s defense lawyer. Were our students protected from their anti-intellectual indoctrination and taught an honest history, particularly an honest 20th century history, the leftist project might be as authoritative and popular as social credit.

Posted by Peter Burnet at February 1, 2006 6:02 AM

Despite having four days a week of free time, the Aboriginal Australians never managed to do anything useful - even their output of social production, such as stories, songs, and artwork, was very meager.

If no Europeans had ever landed, eventually some natural disaster or plague would have greatly reduced the population of these Lotus Eaters.

Posted by: Michael "Low Sympathy" Herdegen at February 1, 2006 8:24 AM

Which is why Mark Steyn approaches the level of prophet....

"The great thing about multiculturalism is that it doesn't involve knowing anything about other cultures--the capital of Bhutan, the principal exports of Malawi, who cares? All it requires is feeling good about other cultures. It's fundamentally a fraud, and I would argue was subliminally accepted on that basis. Most adherents to the idea that all cultures are equal don't want to live in anything but an advanced Western society. Multiculturalism means your kid has to learn some wretched native dirge for the school holiday concert instead of getting to sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or that your holistic masseuse uses techniques developed from Native American spirituality, but not that you or anyone you care about should have to live in an African or Native American society. It's a quintessential piece of progressive humbug."

Posted by: Andrew X at February 1, 2006 8:52 AM

Hatred of Western civilization is the natural province of witches, homosexuals and bad Indians. We all knew that.

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 1, 2006 9:06 AM

When Pocahontas first came out, I was in McDonald's with my kids. There was another family at the table next to us, and the two kids were opening their Happy Meals and playing with the movie marketing material.

I overheard the little girl explaining to her littler brother that "Indians are different from us. They can talk to animals and trees and stuff." That's when I realized that multi-culturalism is the new colonialism.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 1, 2006 9:33 AM

David: They probably got that in school. Our district uses basal readers replete with selections blatently tending to establish pagan religions.

We even saw a selection extolling the life and times of the fun-loving Aztecs.

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 1, 2006 10:34 AM


My most memorable comparable experience was in the early eighties when I was an advisor to the national Inuit political body. My first trip north was to a small hamlet in the very High Arctic--late May, 24 hr. blinding sun and minus forty degrees. Having barely survived the ride from the airport, I was alone staring out the bay window of the hostel watching the whole community zipping around on snowmobiles, playing hockey, chatting,etc. Based on the politically correct line and some vague memories of grade four geography, I was marvelling at watching a whole community that spoke neither English nor French and who did not feel the cold. A marvel. This rich multicultural experience was rudely interrupted when the door opened and a hulking Inuk emerged from the cold steam, slammed the door, flashed me a huge grin and said in flawless English:

"J---s C----t it's cold out there!"

Posted by: Peter B at February 1, 2006 11:29 AM

On a related note, there was a PBS show about conquistadors last evening (www.pbs.org/conquistadors/), wherein a history professor was interviewed and gave his theory that the only reason the Natives could not defeat the Spaniards, despite outnumbering them 80,000 to 200, was because they couldn't write (due to isolation and geography) and the lack of gunpowder (due to geoegraphy, again). The moral of the story is white men are evil and lucky in terms of geography.

Posted by: JT at February 1, 2006 12:43 PM

I don't judge nomadic peoples, but they tend to not do much that's interesting.

Speaking of odd multiculturalism, there was a miniseries on TNT last year, called Into The West, following the exapansion of settlers into Indian lands, and I had to laugh out loud when they revealed a major plot point to be mystical Indian visions treated as if they were undeniably real and prophetic. It's one thing to say, a guy had a vision, it's another to suggest it was real. I couldn't complain that much, I mean I liked The Passion of the Christ.

Posted by: RC at February 1, 2006 3:21 PM

Peter B:

That's hilarious, thanks for posting.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 1, 2006 7:58 PM

WSJ ran a story last week about how various religious interest groups lobby text book manufacturers to get their religion's history told in a positive light. It focused mainly on Hindu immigrants who wanted the negative practices of their religion, past and present, such as Suttee and the Caste system, either left out or whitewashed.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at February 2, 2006 1:35 PM