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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Greer: indigenous dispossession, sexuality, rage « Previous | |Next »
August 16, 2008

There seems to be a failure in the responses to Germaine Greer's essay On Rage to deal with her focus on rage. That essay was about hunter gatherer violence which has a particular shape involving self-destruction, high levels of suicide but also high levels of extraordinary violence against the people closest to the perpetrator, the perpetrator's own children and the women folk in his own family. Aboriginal male rage, she argues, is a response to the appalling outrages and abuses of white settlers.

The reaction has been very critical:

LeakGreer.jpg Leak

The various commentators in the media want to talk about the federal government's intervention in the NT, individual responsibility, Noel Pearson, the rights of the children etc etc. It's almost as if the commentators are uneasy at Greer's linking the dispossession of land in colonial Australia with sexuality associated with white men taking black women then dumping the women and the kids back on the aboriginal men.

Greer on ABC Lateline says:

It's strange isn't it? We apologise for taking away the children of the stolen generations but we didn't apologise for anything else. And it made us feel good. We had finally acknowledged we were at fault. We are only on the edge of what we have done to these people. We have ripped away everything, language, culture, land, self-esteem, you name any of the things that make you a human being and they have all been stripped away from Aboriginal people. It's not that they're powerless to overcome, that it's just that it's unhuman of us to expect them to do it without no assistance.

For The Australian Greer, in blaming white men for black men's anger, displayed her sexism, racism and ignorance. After effectively denying the violence of colonial history in Australia and reducing rage to anger the editorial adds:
What might come as news to Greer, however, is that the debate has moved on since she left in 1964. The views she espouses are no longer progressive but regressive...The emerging consensus, driven by the thinking of Noel Pearson and others, sees welfarism rather than colonialism, and separatism rather than assimilation, as the reasons why indigenous Australians are trapped in a cycle of disadvantage .... commentators such as Pearson and Sutton see education and employment as the way to break the destructive intergenerational welfare cycle. Greer correctly diagnoses the rage of Aboriginal men as a problem, but fails to recognise its cause - the disempowerment and loss of identity that comes with long-term unemployment and a welfare-supported existence.

The long-term unemployment and a welfare-supported existence is the result of colonial history and the way hunter gather people have been treated by settler Australia.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:45 PM | | Comments (15)


Just nipped over from Larva Prod, where the capable Kim is running a similar thread.
Even the Age has gone a bit reactionary on the topic; given the op ed from Tracy Hutchinson ( yes, I know I spelled the name wrong; it's all she deserves! ).
It never fails to astonish me, press and media in this Hansonite little Arkansas backwater of a country remain incorrigibly relentless in their hostile, mendaciousness pursuit of this exceptional woman and when it comes to the shabby truth about the Aboriginal Australian downfall..
We'd better hope what goes round doesn't come round

Tracee Hutchinson's op ed was odd. She says about Greer:

While her observations about the cultural and social crisis in Aboriginal Australia are astute, her cause-and-effect arguments fail spectacularly.

Hutchinson turns to the Apology by Rudd to argue that
the TV coverage of the event was enough for Greer to get some traction on her thesis on rage and Aboriginal men.
Had she been there, she would have been consumed by the unmistakable grief emanating from the shadows. Grief, not rage, Germaine. Sheer bloody grief. It might manifest as rage but in its purest form it is grief.Increasingly, Greer's commentary on life in the colonies is done at arm's length from the comfort of her English garden.

So Hutchinson denies that the destruction of hunter gather society by Settler Australia lead to rage--just grief. That undermines Hutchinson's earler statement that Greer's observations about the cultural and social crisis in Aboriginal Australia are astute. They are not---they are way off beam.

"White men" have a unique sexuality? Wow, do tell! Can we see it on the snowflake chromosome?

Ah no, not Jack Greenfield....Aaaahhhh!!
I see the OZ has decided to meddle, publishing a story on what appears a rather shallow and teacherous esentialist attack by Marcia Langton on Greer.
Is Langton identified generally with the Pearson/ Labor Right push as to NT Intervention style approach?

BTW, thanks for helpful response.

Germaine Greer is NOT a “scholar”. She is an ill-informed termagant, who is projecting HER rage onto aboriginal men. She just had the unbelievably good fortune to be able to trade on her cheekbones and her polemical masterpiece The Female Eunuch for fifty years. Her decision to abandon scholarship in favour of celebrity and op-ed bloviating has proven to be extremely shrewd given her limited scholarly potential; she has made a motza and good luck to her!

She is the very worst of Luvvie - an English teacher-type Marxist - who does not seem even to realise just how clulesss she is. She knows three-fifths of fuck-all about aborigines - let alone aboriginal male rage - largely because she is clueless about men fullstop.

On Q&A, she was like a car accident, horrifying to behold but we can’t help craning our necks to gawk. The dopey bint knew nothing about the Russia/Georgia contretemps and revealed a child-like ignorance of geopolitics in general.

Her comments on aborigines are ridiculous, ignorant, and racist.

Thank god she lives in England!

Bit late to jump on board, gary. I've listened to the predictably shrill response to Germaine's position and cannot but shake my head at the immaturity (is it because she bagged Steve Irwin?). The in vogue position of the consevative press (given credence by Noel Pearson) is that Aboriginal peoples should take responsibility for their actions. Simple. Easy. Just like you and I do. One problem: We have been trampling these poor people for genrations, have taken away their land, their dignity and self respect and now we are essentially saying to them "get up and take responsibility for yourself" as if the disposession of the past 200 years hasn't occurred. The stupidity and lack of imagination of this standoint makes my blood boil. It is a sad day when even these issues are viewed, as if by reflex, through the prism of individualism.

Greer may be all the things that you say she is as a person, but we still have an argument about rage amongst aboriginal men on the table.

That is Greer's linking the dispossession of land in colonial Australia with sexuality associated with white men taking black women then dumping the women and the kids back on the aboriginal men.

That doesn't strike me as that outrageous.

I read Marcia Langton's piece on Greer---'Greer maintains rage of racists' in The Australian and I could not follow it.Langton says:

During the course of her little treatise on rage, Greer lays out some of the evidence of the crisis of alcohol and drug abuse, violence and suicide in the Australian indigenous population, albeit in a crude fashion. Then she attaches to this medley of statistics a few notes from randomly selected anthropological studies and proposes a universal theory of hunter-gatherer society patterns of violence. This is the foundation of what she calls black male rage. We proceed then to a 1970s style argument attributing the causes of Aboriginal male alcohol and drug abuse, violence (especially against women and children) and the misery of their condition to a string of slogans used in the many Aboriginal street marches of the past 40 years (while Greer was abroad).

Langton then comments
These sweeping generalisations concerning invasion, genocide, stolen land and so on explain, she suggests, the humiliation of the Aboriginal male. And it is this past, Greer asserts, that fuels their inherent tendencies to rage and violence. This is a circular argument, one that marshals evidence to support a preconceived proposition.

How is a circular argument racist? How? Is it a preconceived argument? I heard Greer speak on ABC Radio National and what she said was that the aboriginal women spoke to her but the men didn't. They kept silent. Hence Greer's thesis that Aboriginal males are crippled by what she calls rage.

Langton's racist argument is this:

Racism and the highly evolved strategies that some white Australians use to dismiss, obstruct and trivialise Aboriginal people are like a virus: just when you think you have inoculated yourself against it, another version of the attack hits you when you are unprepared. Germaine Greer's astonishing attack on me in her slight essay, On Rage, struck me as one of these mutant attacks.

I don't see it.Nor do I see Greer baiting Aborigines for a response to her essay, which is what Langton claims.

the responses are shrill. Marcia Langton's was:----"we are not in the mood for failed leftist excuses for the rising levels of homicide, femicide and suicide". Langton implies that Greer is defending Aboriginal men for raping and sexually abusing aboriginal children. I never got that from listening to Greer at all.

Miranda Devine in the Sydney Morning Herald is more considered. She does understand Greer's rage argument:

Her argument is that Aboriginal women have colluded with white men through history to emasculate and dispossess black men because they preferred an easy life with Whitey, who didn't make them carry their spears. Without the women, Whitey couldn't have conquered the frontier, and what a pity he didn't stuck to buggering his cattle.Thus Aboriginal men are full of rage and therefore domestic violence is inevitable and inescapable, and Aboriginal women who support the doomed (she claims) Northern Territory intervention to protect women and children from abuse are further humiliating their men and thus perpetuating the cycle of rage.

She comments that even if her theory were correct, that all Aboriginal men are consumed by ancient, generational rage, she does not allow for the possibility they might be capable of the willpower she was unable to muster at that 1989 dinner party.Fair enough question. Devine then asks:
Why, for instance, do the Aboriginal women in her bleak account of the nation's history not also suffer rage - she says they were beaten and enslaved by their men and raped by white men.

Good question. Greer never really talked about that as far as I know in her public comments. Devine then says:
But her premise has been used as an excuse for indigenous dysfunction for 40 years by progressives trying to justify their own destruction of prevailing social mores .... Greer, while fun at a dinner party or on a chat show, ultimately offers nothing. She is a true sophist - constructing fine arguments for a specious premise. They are of no use, like infertile seed thrown on fallow ground. Everyone is expectant, delighted that such fine seed has arrived, only to be disappointed when it turns to nought.

Which specious premise is that? Devine never says.

most of the over the top attacks on Greer are coming from those who defend the Howard Government's intervention in the Northern Territory. They are defending it from Greer's criticism by attacking the Left.

it's all the usual suspects, Gary. Not one person that I have read (including Greer, I must say) has drawn on Amartya Sen's 'capabilities' approach to disadvantage as a model to frame this debate.

Indeed, Nan. It's the Howard defenders who have gone troppo over this. But others who should know better have caved into the conservative Thatcherite position on this.

BTW. Did we all enjoy 'Keating' last night?

Nasty, nasty stuff from tabloid press and academia, indeed!
And it IS because coitus interruptus has occurred during the bedding down of the Right's preferred "heroic" metanarrative of Intervention as rescue, so beautifully depicted in Pryor's Howard "Mangroves and Crocodiles" cartoon of last year, that Gary provided.
This is continues to frustrate, because the ALP has seemed to become interested in covertly acquiring this fairy story- for reasons involving a purportive neolib atack on a) the left b) welfare in general. Emerson's nonsense in the OZ follows a parallel line; this time on environment: the arrogance concerning Helen Clark demonstrates the tactics riskiness, but that will not deter the ALP right factions employment of it, simply because they lack the imagination to come up with anything better.
As Gary decribes it in replying to Luke, it becomes really about complicity; complicity right throughout society- and this is why the Pearson collaborationists and certain subspecies of middle class types moving under the camouflage of the Feminism banner, are also wriggling uncomfortably.

Yiou people who defend this ignorant rancid racist bint should be ashamed of yourselves. She is a narcissistic halfwit and a fraud.

I thought the article by Prof. Larissa Behrendt in today's ( Mondays ) online Age; "
"Rethinking indigenous policy",
was a good balancer.
Apart from that, a depressing weekend.

thanks for that. I missed it. Behrendt gets it right on Howard:

Howard's agenda to fix the "Aboriginal problem" was a series of ideologically led policy approaches — assimilation and mainstreaming, mutual obligation and shared responsibility, unlocking Aboriginal community-controlled land so that it could be accessed by non-Aboriginal interests, the beliefs that home ownership is the panacea to intergenerational policy, and that all the "real Aborigines" live in the north.

And she is right about Rudd when she says that Rudd still follows a policy of mutual obligation and shared responsibility and then adds:
The philosophy behind this works on the premise that the root cause of all problems in the Aboriginal community can be found in the behaviour problems of Aboriginal people and that forcing change through a carrot or a stick approach is the way to fix things. This is not just seductive to those whose prejudices are fed with this simple characterisation of dysfunction; it helps governments deflect attention from the fact that they continue to underfund basic health services, provision of education and adequate housing in Aboriginal communities.

Spot on.