Saturday, June 07, 2008

What gets recognised?

The Rudd Government has announced that the Myall Creek massacre site is to be heritage listed. Back in 1838, 28 Aborigines were murdered at the site; seven convicts were later hanged for the crime.

The heritage listing of the site is part of a longer term trend in which one aspect only of race relationships in colonial Australia is recognised, namely white violence toward Aborigines.

I spent a number of years reading colonial era newspapers and it gave me a fuller picture of the reality of the era. The most common attitude of white settlers toward Aborigines was one of curiosity, particularly about Aboriginal language and customs.

As for violence, the situation was more complex than is usually recognised. Yes, there was violence by whites towards Aborigines on the newly settled frontier. But there were also occasions when whites helped to prevent violence between different groups of Aborigines. There were some Aborigines who helped rescue white settlers. There were other Aborigines who murdered white settlers.

The last point usually baffles those white Australians I mention it to. They find it a difficult thought to process as they are so used to the idea that violence went the other way. So I'll give just a few examples of Aboriginal violence toward white settlers to help illustrate the situation.

In colonial Tasmania, in the short period of time between January and October 1828, there were 68 separate attacks on white settlers by Aborigines, resulting in 26 European deaths (including women and children).

The records of the Adelaide Gaol show that between 1843 and 1861 there were 12 hangings, all for murder. Of these, three were cases of violence between whites. Of the other nine, only one was a case of white violence against an Aborigine. The rest, the large majority, involved Aboriginal perpetrators and white victims. There were 10 white victims altogether (5 men, 3 women and 2 children).

After one of these hangings of an Aborigine for murdering a white, a newspaper editor used the occasion not to demonise the Aborigines, but to express doubt about the use of capital punishment:

If transportation for life is the full penalty in England more ought not, we think, to be inflicted here...

The above list of white South Australians murdered by Aborigines doesn't include the victims of the Maria massacre. In June 1840 the brig Maria hit a reef; the passengers and crew were evacuated safely in a life boat. They negotiated with a local Aboriginal tribe to escort them back to Adelaide; however, this tribe wouldn't go further than their tribal boundaries. The shipwreck survivors were handed over to the neighbouring tribe who massacred them, stuffing the bodies down wombat holes.

Twenty-five white settlers were killed in the Maria massacre, including five women and six children.

There has been a filtering of Australian history which has created a false picture of the times; there is a one-sided account of race relations in which it is only white violence against Aborigines that is recognised and in which only the most negative and unsympathetic of white attitudes toward Aborigines is publicised.


  1. Top post Mark! and I have written a plug for it at mine.

  2. Why do liberals perpetrate these kinds of distortions whilst conservatives seem to be less likely to? Before anyone jumps in I did say "less likely".

    I think it has to do with conservatives acknowledgment that humans beings have innate natures and that these are complex, contradictory and not always pretty. Liberals deny that humans have innate natures and as such tend to see the world in terms of power structures. Such incidents as you have mentioned which do not fit the model are not exactly covered up, they just end up being left out of liberal-influenced accounts.

    Since mainstream culture is overwhelmingly liberal in nature this can mean that the only information some people ever see is biased in this way. You really have to investigate something to find more that "the standard narrative".

    An good example in a thread on VFR a while back was that the US air force ran missions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki dropping leaflets advising the populace to leave prior to the bombings. I had never heard of such a thing. This information isn't hidden as such, but you have to look pretty damned hard to find it. The "war crime" as many on the left have tried to paint it, takes on a different aspect in the light of this information.

    Such selection bias in news, education and even fictional representations limits the scope of arguments against a liberal viewpoint for all but the dedicated researcher. In any argument the liberals have the talking points to hand - you have to spend hours searching for counter points.

  3. peter b wrote

    "In any argument the liberals have the talking points to hand - you have to spend hours searching for counter points."

    This is so true. The left-leaning seem to be ever spring-loaded with emotive noise meant to push the opponent off-balance before any meaningful dialogue can get started. A corollary might be that libs really don't aspire to engaging in earnest conversation with those who hold more conservative views.

    That is why it is more rewarding to attack directly the foundations underlying their positions. On what basis do they reject human nature? How can top-down coercion be justified in the pursuit of the ideal individual or the ideal society? My favorite tweak is to present the idea, new to most liberals, that the proper role of government is to protect us from the bad (by way of the courts, regulatory apparatus, fire & police, military, etc.) and not to promote the good per se-- public education, welfare, etc. If you can get them to thinking on points like these, their ammunition becomes largely obsolete.

  4. BTW, over at Iain's site I've had a short debate with someone claiming that the worst ever massacre of Chinese in world history took place in 1857 in the Buckland Valley in rural Victoria.

    To this point he hasn't conceded that he is wrong.

    It's an interesting example of the way in which some Australians rush in to assume the very worst about their country's history.

    See here.

  5. "It’s just a tad too defensive … and divisive."

    From "Ray Dixon's" comments on that site, this was hilarious. Not "divisive" to memoralize crimes against non-whites but IS "divisive" to commemorate crimes against whites. PS this is the same thing that happens in the US. We never hear about the numerous atrocities committed against white settlers by native Americans.

    PS -- I am surprised there is no post here about Rudd's plan to create an Asian version of the EU with completely open borders between Oz and several billion Asians.

  6. PS -- as regards Ray Dixon's bizarre behavior, you have to understand that white guilt is one of the most potent weapons the Left has in its battle to destroy the West-- at this point, practically their only weapon. Of course they will fight tooth and nail to preserve its potency.

  7. I posted a comment on the Ian Hall blog but it's awaiting moderation. In the event that it dosen't make it, here it is FYI:

    "The reason why you chaps are at odds is because you misunderstand the one fundamental rule of postmodern debate:

    "The quotation of history and data is only legitimate if that information is used to undermine the Western legacy. Every time a non-liberal makes a comment and backs it up with a citation, historical reference or any evidence what-so-ever, he is a priori “selective” and his argument illegitimate, invalid and unworthy of recognition. It’s quite simple, really. I’ve learned this lesson well after about nine years at Australian universities. Another thing I learned there is that it is utterly futile to reason with liberals as a result.

    "That’s why people like Dixon are a completely lost cause. They don’t think, they hate, and respond emotionally (negatively) to their own people’s history, no matter that that history may have been presented to them in a fraudulent manner by educational elites. Dixon et al are suspicious of everything, but not those elites. A nice warm cup of irony, anyone?

    "It shows them to be either plain stupid, or unhappily naive. Either way, [it's] all very amusing…"

  8. I'm confused.

    Do you think that the Myall Creek Massacre shouldn't be commemorated?

    Do you think the Maria massacre hasn't?

    Or is this just another call for "balance" - that in aggregate you think too much attention has been given to white-on-black violence?

    You might in that case want to consider that virtually every incident against whites would have been reported and recorded. Do you think this is the same with violence aginst blacks?

    Lastly, you might want to consider what might be your response to the systematic removal of your people from their land.

    You're right that it's a complex issue. Unfortunately you have represented it in a hamfistedly partisan way.

  9. Fdb, I thought the point I made in the post was clear enough. There is a distorted view of Australia's colonial history brought about by a focus on only one aspect of colonial race relations, namely white violence against Aborigines.

    Fdb, it's true that Aborigines were dispossessed of their land across much of Australia. I do sympathise with this loss, as did many colonial Australians.

    What I don't understand is the double standard people such as yourself often take on these issues.

    When it comes to Westerners, we are supposed to regard ourselves as individuals only, without any connection to a tradition. When our tradition is recognised, it is rejected as a boring multiculture.

    Yet Aborigines are treated as a real people, whose loss of peoplehood is to be mourned.

    There is no consistency in the posture we are supposed to take on these issues. I'm therefore uncertain how seriously I'm meant to take your concern for the well-being of the Aborigines as a people.

    Do moderns like yourself still believe in upholding the existence of the different peoples of the world?

    How can you support peoplehood for Aborigines, but a globalised world marked by open borders for everyone else?

  10. Well Mark, you've just sheeted home to me a whole steaming pile of positions I don't hold, so I doubt this conversation is worth continuing. I articulated a fairly clear and limited position, then you started shadow-boxing. I'm over here, dude.

    Who are people "such as myself"? Perhaps if you point me in their direction I can get some explanation of why I think all these things.

  11. Fdb, your point wasn't clear and limited.

    Obviously you don't agree that there is a one-sided focus on white violence against Aborigines.

    Instead of openly saying so and explaining your reasons, you pretended not to understand the argument I had made, before posing a number of rhetorical questions.

    You then put the question of how Aborigines would feel about a loss of peoplehood, clearly assuming that I as a Westerner would have no experience of such a thing - which is why I quizzed you about a double standard.

    Finally, you told me not only that I was being partisan, but hamfistedly so.

    Presumably you did so defensively because my own argument was critical of the partisan treatment of race relations in Australia - you were throwing back at me my own accusation - with an adjective attached.

  12. i would like to know why australians are divided into two called indiginous people and torres straight islanders and everyone else..even if your indiginous bloodline is so far back you have blue eyes and blonde hair you can get government assistance without any means education and an incredible amount of funding not available to other australians. when did these policies of segregation actually come into play..aboriginals for thousands of years killed and fought over land in australia and forced weaker tribes out of land they wanted..why do the decendants of european colonisers have to apologise for taking land because they were stronger and more technologically advanced..? i am sure the different races of aboriginals dont think they should apologise for taking over other tribes land throughout the history of human civilisation in australia. the tasmanian aboriginal was a different race of aboriginal to the mainland aboriginal and the desert tribes were different again. this was due to wars fought over land by successive waves of nomadic tribes pushing for territory as they extended down over the land bridges linking australia to the asian sub-continent. having laws in australia that segregate and treat people different purely on ancestrial grounds are demeaning to the rest of australians who are trying just as hard to create a future for their families. why is education free if you happen to " have a little black in ya"? how many teachers and other university graduates working in diverse fields across australia are trying to raise families, pay bills, and their hex; which the government adds interest to, what a disgrace..yet if you are even a little teeny bit indiginous you get it all free and a definate job placement, nice.. why are they still whinging..
    laws which create segregation and which treat citizens of one country different based on ancestry will lead to division in communities and racist resentment, jealosy, and violence.