We have a new Labor Government here in Australia and one of their aims is to enact the Uluru Statement. The policy implications of this statement are not entirely clear, but the general aim is to recognise Aborigines within the constitution as a separate people and to give them a separate voice within parliament.
This raises the issue of the incoherence of modern politics. The Aborigines are being treated here as a traditional ethnic nation. If other groups were to claim the same status for their own identity they would be condemned in the harshest moral terms as being racist. This is true even when these groups are themselves the indigenous population, such as the ethnic Swedes in Sweden. The expectation for the mainstream population in countries like Australia is that rather than seeking to preserve their own ethnic identity that they should welcome diversity as a strength and reject "distinctions" (i.e. discrimination) on grounds of race or ethnicity.
If anything, the expectation is that a truly progressive individual would not take a communal identity for themselves seriously and would instead adopt the position of being a neutral observer of, or partaker in, other cultures. How seriously, for instance, does this person take the idea of upholding a homeland of their own?
In this view, we should only ever belong to voluntary associations that we can choose to enter or leave, rather than to inherited, longstanding traditions. But when it comes to Aborigines, the tune changes, and the length of their history is considered a virtue to be extolled rather than a vice to be personally liberated from.
The same sort of contradictions can be found elsewhere. Moderns often see themselves as belonging to the party of science but then claim that it is impossible to define what a woman is. They claim that gender is socially constructed and that femininity is oppressive, but that trans people are born with a feminine identity that is their positive, authentic self. And so on.
Why do moderns unthinkingly accept these contradictions in their beliefs? Years ago, someone (I think it was James Kalb or Lawrence Auster) made the the point that if your beliefs do not truthfully represent reality they will inevitably be contradictory. This is a good point, but I think the explanation can go further than this.
From what I have read of the history of ideas, it seems to me that the modern mind is made up of several different currents of thought, none of which were ever able to establish supremacy over the others. Therefore, these currents of thought have melded together into a modernist mindset, despite being in certain respects incompatible.
One of these currents of thought is the voluntarist, subjectivist one which emphasises the freedom of the individual human will to self-create in whatever direction it prefers. From this current derives the idea that a woman is whatever a person defines it to be.
Another current is the empiricist, materialist one. This is the current of thought that insists that all knowledge must be verified along the lines of the natural sciences and that knowledge is a matter of qualified expertise. Someone drawing on this line of thought might claim not to know what a woman is because they are not a biologist or ask you for an academic study if you claim that a woman is an adult female.
The empiricist, materialist tradition is also connected to the organising of modern life along technocratic lines. It emphasises efficiency and managerial expertise over more private, informal and personal social relationships. (Technocrats would see traditional family life as being too opaque, closed off and amateurish to be an adequate basis for social life and they would criticise the lack of standardised outcomes.) There is, superficially at least, a contradiction between this technocratic intrusion into formerly private realms of living (think of the social credit system) and the modernist emphasis on liberation from all social constraints, though it may be that moderns would see the increased role of the state as "liberating" individuals from institutions like the family.
There is also a contradiction in the two attitudes toward human nature inherited by moderns. The first emphasises lower aspects of human nature, such as greed and the individual pursuit of pleasure, believing that these can be utilised for positive social outcomes. The second, in contrast, believes that human nature can be perfected through social reform. This second current of thought is, at times, utopian, believing that an Edenic existence can be restored through the eradication of power structures in society and via educational programs. The belief is that human nature will be regenerated, the end of history will arrive and humans will no longer have to work, but will live in Arcadia, showing only kindness and beneficence to others, in a world without distinctions but based instead on perfect freedom and equality.
These two approaches to human nature coexist uneasily, but nonetheless both have influence in the modern world. There would be feminists, for instance, who would see a woman pursuing her own sexual pleasure in her own way, without constraint, as positively demonstrating empowerment; whilst at the same time believing that the patriarchy needs to be defeated as a power structure in order to usher in a world in which sex distinctions would no longer matter and in which there would finally be freedom and equality. Feminists holding these beliefs are, in practice, drawing on two very different traditions of thought based on opposing views of human nature.
Why are moderns content to live with an incoherent view of the world? I suspect the reason is that it suits the purposes of the dominant social classes. The moneyed classes in modern society draw their wealth from corporate capitalism. The technocratic organisation of society, based on the logic of the market, and without competition from older loyalties and commitments, strengthens the position of these classes. At the same time, the intellectual classes get to think of themselves as the experts leading humanity forward toward the end of history and the realisation of humanity's ultimate purposes.
But why then are Aborigines given a pass from all this and allowed to exist more traditionally as a type of ethno-nation? The political reason is that Aborigines are thought to have the least power and privilege (the Uluru Statement emphasises that they are "powerless"). This confers upon them the most validity as a people and as an identity.
It seems as well that Aborigines fill an absence within the modernist mind, namely that of the sacred. It is notable that Aboriginal issues are sometimes framed in ways which suggest a secularised expression of Christianity. Is there not, for instance, an expression of atonement in sorry days? Germaine Greer once wrote an essay in which she combined the idea that Aborigines have the only valid identity with religious concepts drawn from Christianity. She wrote that she earnestly desired and hoped (prayed) that one day all of Australia might adopt an Aboriginal identity "as if by an act of transubstantiation".
Increasingly the solemn, formalised rituals of Australian life are focused on Aborigines. We have welcome to country ceremonies, the paying of respect to Aboriginal elders, and cleansing and purifying smoking rituals. The connection of Aborigines to the land is also a rare acknowledgement of the sacred within modern Australian life. (The bending of the knee, not to God and altar, but to the BLM is similarly a kind of secularised expression of Christianity in the USA, but I don't think the process has gone as far in America as it has here.)
None of this is to attack Aborigines maintaining their own identity and traditions - this I fully support. It is to highlight (and to attempt to explain) the incoherent thinking characteristic of the modern mind.