The 27 strings of victimhood’s puppets

Promoting the meme that Aborigines are inevitable casualties of white injustice enshrines the victim/enemy mentality as a bogus but sacred truth. The ongoing tragedy is that this sadly palatable cliche diverts attention from the need to “just get on with it”.

Convince a person that he or she is not responsible for their own life, that they are victims, and you make them your puppets. Too many Aboriginal people are being kept as puppets because those pulling the strings persist in feeding them this seductively delicious message: “Someone else is responsible for fixing your problems.” This message serves to shape individuals’ attitudes and blight entire communities. It is my wish to expose these ploys, which I have listed in shorthand form below:

Indigenous Victimhood’s Articles of Faith

  1. They are victims of the government.
  2. They are victims of the past.
  3. Racism is everywhere.
  4. A white person not agreeing with them is racism – worse if they dare criticise.
  5. The rate of violence among the Aboriginal population is no higher than that in the non-Aboriginal population.
  6. The rate of child abuse among the Aboriginal population is no higher than that in the non-Aboriginal population.
  7. The words of other people can hurt them.
  8. Other people’s opinions of them are more important than their opinion of themselves.
  9. Aboriginal people in custody die at higher rates than non-Aboriginals.
  10. Symbolism, such as adding an Indigenous motif to  the Australian flag, and constitutional recognition are vitally important.
  11. “It’s always someone else’s fault.”
  12. Aboriginal people are suffering because January 26 is Australia Day.
  13. Aborigines cannot move forward unless all Australians steep themselves in the past.
  14. Their ancestors lived happy, peaceful lives and treated their women with respect before the British “invaded”.
  15. Deploy academic gobbledegook — ‘white privilege,’ ‘whitesplain,’ ‘oppression,’ and ‘sovereignty’ – and nothing more need be said. Everything has been explained. There is no solution.
  16. Aboriginal salvation lies in having a treaty.
  17. Non-Aboriginal people are living on stolen land and Aboriginal people are owed rent.
  18. People should identify only with their Aboriginal ancestry and discount any non-Aboriginal ancestry.
  19. Aboriginal people are vastly different to non-Aboriginal people and, as such, have vastly different needs and require special provision.
  20. An Aboriginal person who does not buy into the victim mentality is a sell-out and deserves to be despised.
  21. There needs to be a separate system of Aboriginal law.
  22. The perpetuation of Aboriginal cultural mores and practices is far more important than engagement with Western culture, knowledge, and practice.
  23. Any Aboriginal child removed from an unsafe living environment is ‘stolen’.
  24. Aborigines should be living off royalty, rent or “compensation” money.
  25. Any Aboriginal person who is well educated and successful is assimilated.
  26. Only Aboriginal people can fully understand other Aboriginal people.
  27. Suggesting what an Aboriginal person can do to improve their lives is ‘blaming the victim.’

If Aboriginal people want a solution to their problems, then they need to switch their attention from blaming government, the past and “the white man” to what they can do personally to improve their own lives. This does not mean they need to do everything themselves. It simply means doing what they can reasonably be expected to do. Further, it does not mean that non-Aboriginal Australians are exempt from helping Aboriginal people or modifying their own behaviours, or that governments are exempt from making systemic changes. It means Aboriginal people will be better off only after focusing on what they can do for themselves and their communities, rather than focusing solely on what others should or could be doing for them.

The Good Book warns us to look out for wolves in sheep’s clothing. Obviously, a wolf in sheep’s clothing looks like a sheep and not a wolf, which makes it easy to be fooled. There are many wolves out there who play a significant role in keeping Aboriginal people down. They do not use the tools of overt racism or oppression, as then they would surely look like wolves and be exposed. Instead, they are subtle in their approach. As many are of Aboriginal ancestry themselves, they can and do present themselves as having “their” people’s best interests at heart, but they do not. Puppeteers only care about their puppets to the degree that it serves their self-interest.

The puppeteers’ core message is that Aboriginal people are victims. Sadly, this is a message their audiences want to here. Why? Because victims are not responsible for their own lives. The victim will always have a convenient excuse for any failure. There will always be someone else to blame.

This article would need to be the length of a fair-sized book to adequately explore and dissect all 27 points listed above, but allow me to address what I regard – indeed, any rational person must accept – as the five key Articles of Victimhood.

Tell the people the government is responsible for them

In It’s OK To Leave The Plantation black American Mason Weaver writes,  “It is time we stop believing we need government to take care of us and stand up to take care of ourselves.” Weaver is talking, of course,  about black Americans. Closer to home, Aboriginal politician Alison Andersonsums it up very well:

Too much of the public discussion about Indigenous people has assumed, whatever the problem, government is the answer. It has been assumed that any problem can be solved with the right policies and the right amount of money.

Similarly, from Warren Mundine:

There is an absurdity in looking to government to help to overcome learned helplessness. Indigenous people should be able to decide what they want for their communities and … just get on with it.

Mundine’s advice is not hypothetical. There are many thousands of Aboriginal people who not only “just get on with it” for themselves and their families but lend a helping hand to others and are solid members of the broader community. They get little attention in the media but are outstanding role models all the same as they go about making their own way and Australia a better country.

Sadly, many Aboriginal people have been brainwashed into believing that government is responsible for them. Consider the words of University of Canberra Chancellor Tom Calma , who had this to say in the lead up to the release of the 2016 Closing the Gap Report (emphasis added):

The lack of progress should never be interpreted as a failure by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It’s a failure of bureaucracy and a failure of the politicians to keep an even course and to keep the funding and the policy direction consistent.

Calma is a man for whom I have respect and admiration, so I take his words seriously. His message may be soothing to the ears of those who feel that they have failed or are struggling, but is such an opinion really helpful? Aboriginal people have been hearing messages like this for a long time. If Tom really wants to be contribute, then Aboriginal people would benefit if he instead explained his own formula for success: the work and effort that has seen him attain the title of professor and be honoured for his many other achievements.  That would be a valuable contribution from someone who “just got on with it”.

Feed the people bad news stories

Promoting the meme that Aboriginal people are always victims of white injustice elevates the victim/enemy mentality, a theme particularly evident in social media fora. The administrators of these pages are quick to silence and ridicule anyone who dares to point out that it is not the white man who causes the problems facing Aborigines today. While success stories illustrating that many Aboriginal people are thriving are not unknown, the far more common theme is to paint Aboriginal people as perpetual victims of the white man, whether it be government, racism (particularly “institutional racism”, a term so vague that it can be bent to mean just about anything), or colonisation.

Very rarely do these online discussions and social media outlets show images or provide statistics that highlight the horrific rates of violence and child abuse or neglect that occur in some Aboriginal communities. The aim, as always,  is to paint the white man as evil and divert attention from problems to which Aboriginal people themselves are the chief contributors.

Tell them that they are victims of history.

There is no shortage of sources that love to promote this myth and do so at every possible opportunity. Chris Sarra observes that many Aboriginal people had “come to be seen as, and in turn see themselves, as victims of history.” These advocates of impotence delight in showing images of how poorly the First Peoples were treated by the invader and in the years that followed the arrival of the First Fleet. Focusing on events from the past — a past which which cannot be changed — diverts attention from the real problems, the same problems about which it is actually possible to do something. How can anyone move forward if they persist in looking only over their shoulder? The simple fact is that Aborigines are not victims of our past. Rather, what makes us victims is our fixated view of the past.

That is not to suggest the past must be wiped from the slate, that it should not be remembered. Rather, that it is a huge mistake to spend more time and energy lamenting history than in making tomorrow’s history. By all means let us remember the past, but not to the extent that it sabotages the present and poisons the future.

Keep attention off the urgent issues.

The following problems are not rare in some sectors of the Aboriginal population (and I do emphasise ‘some’): child abuse, neglect and violence. Consider that in one community alone, “more than 200 children under 16 years of age and 29 under 10 were being treated for STDs.” With respect to violence, the authors of the Little Children are Sacred Report state, “It should also be noted that the level of violence and aggression in many contemporary Aboriginal communities is significantly greater than would be considered acceptable.” These are problems which Aboriginal people can and should play a significant role in addressing. Encouragingly, many are doing that.

Yet, as the puppeteers know, an easy way to distract attention from vital and pressing issues is to promote alternative issues that grab and mis-direct the audience’s attention. Whether it be outrage at some or other politician’s choice of words, budget cuts, or real or imagined racism, these are distractions from the need to remedy the important, aforementioned problems.

Offer Only Counterfeit Solutions

In relation to the problems previously discussed (child abuse and neglect), it is important to ask how a treaty, changing the Constitution to “recognise” Aboriginal Australians, or changing the date for Australia Day for that matter, will address these problems? If your reply is “Well, it boosts confidence” or “It promotes pride,” what you are actually saying is that the source for Aboriginal people to feel good about themselves lies outside themselves and beyond their control. Basically, that Aborigines must remain helpless and hopeless until and unless their alleged oppressors change their ways.

It may seem strange to conclude an essay on the plight of Aboriginal Australians with the words of an American, but Martin Luther King might have been addressing Aboriginal Australians when he penned the words reproduced below. Written in 1958, when black Americans were victims of gross, officially sanctioned and endemic injustice, he takes up a universal truth about personal responsibility:

… the Negro himself has a decisive role to play if integration is to become a reality. Indeed, if first-class citizenship is to become a reality for the Negro he must assume the primary responsibility for making it so. Integration is not some lavish dish that the federal government or the white liberal will pass out on a silver platter while the Negro merely furnishes the appetite. One of the most damaging effects of past segregation on the personality of the Negro may well be that he has been victimized with the delusion that others should be more concerned than himself about his citizenship rights.

… the Negro must come to see that there is much himself can do about his plight. He may be uneducated or poverty-stricken, but these handicaps must not prevent him from seeing that he has within his being the power to alter his fate.

This article was originally published at Quadrant Magazine and has been reproduced with the permission of the author. 

Anthony Dillon

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