Archive for the 'Identity politics' Category

24
Sep
09

Marechal Rondon

RondonRecently I read The River of Doubt about President Theodore Roosevelt’s journey on an unmapped river in South America, also called the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition.  A friend lent me the book.  It is a fascinating account and coming from the desert the detailed explanations of the river, the amazon environment and its adaptive nature was intriguing given the stark contrast to my own environment.

My friend who lent it to me said that Marechal Rondon, the Brazilian Military Officer who led the journey with Roosevelt, was a remarkable figure so prominent in the history of South America.  In that region his name is recognised extensively.  The book gives account after account of Rondon’s philosophy and approach towards the indigenous peoples; how he refused to support confrontation despite being in the face of danger and hostility; how his practice was to leave food and goods as gifts; how his discipline and honour and strong sense of nationalism was highly regarded.  My friend asks why we don’t have similiar figures recognised by our own Australian history?  

Judging by our own account of history during the 1800s it seems Rondon’s philosophy and approach would have been quite a departure from accepted opinion.  His was progressive in the sense of accepting pluralism but different from many established opinions (such as responding to hostility with strength and force).  The fact that Rondon received such widespread recognition accounts to the fact that this position and philosophy was recognised as central to the development of general identity and recognition in South America.  My friends question opens up important thoughtlines!

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09
Apr
09

Pluralism as a policy paradigm

In social policy there are no absolutes.  Broad labels such as self-determination, mutual responsibility, etc. describe broad policies subject to an integrated and complex web of forces, powers and circumstances.  Certain labels might be ideal in theory but in practice fall short.  Some may describe in a broad sense a set of policies but in fact lack the substance for an accurate description.  An unfortunate aspect of the political market is that such circumstances lead to a postering for position rather than an articulation of policies and how they can be improved.  By its very nature politics is continually at risk of becoming an equation between different interpretations and positions rather than a collective articulation of ways forward.

An example of a convuluted term is ‘self-determination’.  The opposite is seen as ‘mainstreaming’.  Both describe the tension between the way Aboriginal identity is integrated into the broader and more dominant parts of society and the way it is protected as a distinct and seperate position.  One train of thought, put to me recently by an Aboriginal person strong in traditional culture, is that Aboriginal people exercise self-determination through retaining their identity: language, relationships, etc, and nothing else.  I am told that ‘this is self-determination’, meaning not some formal policy construct.  Contrast this with the policy label of ‘self-determination’ which was, in effect, the creation of thousands of corporate structures providing services exclusively accessed by Aboriginal people.  The two interpretations of ‘self-determination’ are quite stark. 

Continue reading ‘Pluralism as a policy paradigm’

02
Nov
08

an Obama election win

Barack Obama is at the cusp of an historic election win.

I first came across him at the Democratic Convention leading up to the previous election but didn’t take much notice.  Last year I visited the book store and found his Audacity of Hope.  It was an intriguing read and I posted here a piece about his approach to race politics.  This was a new and fresh direction and is, in my view, a topic seldom discussed yet entirely relevant to contemporary politics.  It presents a radical centre approach absent from any equivalent analysis from an Australian political perspective.

Shortly after reading Audacity I purchased Dreams from my Father.  Again I thought it was a fascinating account of his life and the detail and work of his Kenyan trip an important story. 

Later, I posted my observations of Noel Pearsons analysis of Obamas path. 

Whilst the work of a transformational President is yet to be seen the conditions for it are present.  I hope that the political and media environment in America will generate discussion in our own country on related issues, namely, identity politics and the integration of minority groups in national political decision-making processes.

25
Jun
08

Craig Emerson, Market Democrats and the IK economy

Craig Emerson delivered a speech to the Sydney Institute outlining a broad platform to further reform the Australian welfare state.  The speech presented a mainstream construct of an emerging yet well-founded philosophy: that social democracy is relevant where it can influence markets for the public good.  Emerson refers to supporters of this line of thought as Market Democrats.  

I’m a supporter of this broad philosophy.  My concern is the lack of debate in relation to the role of markets in indigenous policy.  My concern is the paucity of debate concerning the relationships between indigenous peoples, markets and social policy. 

Emerson claims that:

Governments must not imprison the disadvantaged by subjugating them to the state, robbing them of self-esteem and condemning them to a life of dependency; governments must liberate them by providing opportunity for all in a truly fair society. Let us not make the disadvantaged the experiments of social engineers yearning for a different social order but lacking the stomach to practise it in their own lives. It is this social experimentation of romanticising traditional life in the harsh outback that has caused Australia’s most vulnerable – indigenous people – to be trapped in misery.

Emerson is correct in asserting that the contemporary welfare state has ‘subjugated’ indigenous peoples to State dependance, but I am not convinced that it is the ‘romanticisation’ of ‘traditional life’ that has allowed welfare dependance to flourish.  In the post-Whitlam period indigenous people were entitled to welfare provision on the basis of equal rights and equal entitlements.  This formed part of an international process aimed at removing discrimination.  When the welfare state was reformed, and where mainstream welfare structures integrated notions of reciprocity and mutual obligation, indigenous-specific programs were excluded from such reforms.  I am not convinced that this exclusion was not confined to reasons of the ‘romanticisation’ of ‘traditional life’ argument.  For example, many conservative political forces sceptical of the ‘romanticisation’ argument supported excluding such programs as a way to stem Aboriginal migration to regional centres.   

Where Emerson is correct, and where other advocates lack focus, is the connection between the State, markets and social policy.  The benefit of adopting the Market Democrat notion to indigenous policy is to look at how to harmonise the relationship between markets and the pluralism of indigenous identity.  I refer to this as the Indigenous Knowledge economy.

More over the fold. 

Continue reading ‘Craig Emerson, Market Democrats and the IK economy’

01
Jun
08

The term ‘urban Aboriginal’

ABC News reports comments by the dean of Indigenous Research and Education at CDU, Prof MaryAnn Bin-Sallik, that descriptions like ‘urban indigenous, traditional indigenous and persons of Aboriginal descent’ are insulting in the extreme. 

ABC reports:

[that Professor Bin-Sallik] says the term ‘urban indigenous’ is racist because it being based on the colour of people’s skin.  She says even Aboriginal people have started identifying with the ‘toxic labels’.  She wants all levels of Australian governments to stop using racist language, and instead describe indigenous Australians as Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders.

I disagree on three grounds (over the fold).

Continue reading ‘The term ‘urban Aboriginal’’

15
May
08

Pearson, Steele & Obama

In December last year I posted here in reference to a review of Shelby Steele’s book, A Bound Man

Noel Pearson’s essay in the Monthly offers an intriguing analysis of Steele’s insight into contemporary race relations in America.  There are several compelling paragraphs that refer to responsibility, opportunity, and how uplift occurs in dominant-minority populations.  After reading the essay I was disappointed at what I saw as deficiencies in Pearson’s core argument.

Pearson argues that Obama has not pursued strongly enough the radical centre that integrates core notions (or a contemporary understanding) of responsibility.  Pearson contends that Obama should ‘radically revise’ his account of such issues at the Democratic National Convention in August.   

Obama is being misrepresented.  My observations are that he has pursued the radical centre by offering a style of politics that is untested at the national level in the United States.  This necessarily involves merging notions of opportunity (that inevitably give rise to questions of race and equality) and responsibility.  Promoting notions of ‘black responsibility’ (as Pearson refers) is why Obama has been able to attract such strong support amongst the African-American Democratic base, many independents and a number of Republicans (this strategy is more difficult to pursuit for a non-African-American candidate). 

Pearson holds that ‘the main shortcoming of Obama’s philosophy is that he does not recognise, as Steele has, that the nature of black Americans struggle changed fundamentally after the civil rights victories of the ‘60s’.  A reading of a number of Obama’s work, whether it is his original Dreams of my Father or The Audacity of Hope, or a number of speeches would reveal that he does.   

Pearson goes on to say:

Shelby Steele writes in A Bound Man: ‘despite the fact that Obama clearly seems to accept the importance of individual responsibility in social reform…he offers no thinking on how to build incentives to responsibility into actual social policy.’  There is time enough for Obama to correct his analysis and to move beyond the critical shortcomings of his Philadelphia speech. 

Obama’s work contradicts this assertion.  In The Audacity of Hope, Obama explains that affirmative action policies post 1960s have not displaced the primacy of responsibility amongst the uplifting black middle class.  He notes the true feelings of resentment felt by those excluded from affirmative action.  Obama argues that because it is the responsibility-uplifting paradigm (combined with the removal of institutional racism) that has served to enlarge the black middle class it is the failed complimentary policy, affirmative action, which has compounded the dilemma. 

Continued over the fold.

Continue reading ‘Pearson, Steele & Obama’




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