Monday, February 24, 2020

Truth will prevail

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe deserves a wide audience.  It’s already sold well over 100,000 copies. Professor Pascoe explains that “Some people are so fixated with Aboriginal incapacity that any thought of a sophisticated Aboriginal civilisation undermines the validity of the colony itself.”

The central thesis of ‘Dark Emu’ is that pre-invasion, Aboriginal Australia had a thriving and sustainable economy based on collectivised agriculture and extensive land management. This alternative history of Indigenous Australia has been erased both physically, intellectually and spiritually from the Australian psyche as a post-factual justification for the systemic genocide of the nation’s First People in the rush to plunder the natural wealth.

Bruce Pascoe’s second – and more dangerous – thesis is that a return to Aboriginal land management systems might actually be beneficial for Australia economically, spiritually and ecologically. This is the idea that really sparks faux outrage. Any suggestion that current intensive agricultural practices should be replaced with the gentler Indigenous methods of harvesting native grasses and native animals is horrifying to those with vested interests, or those  who see their role in the media as defending the same vested interests.

There is a whole underground industry devoted to disproving both the claims made in ‘Dark Emu’ and the Aboriginal identity of Bruce Pascoe. The website Dark Emu Exposed claims to be a group of self-described “quiet Australians” who refute the thesis of ‘Dark Emu’ but who also fear “retribution” for their politically incorrect views. A second site, Australian History – The Truth Matters, also devotes an extensive series of posts to Bruce Pascoe’s ancestry in an attempt to refute his claim of Aboriginal heritage.

Why would they go to all the trouble and expense just to prove that Pascoe doesn’t have Aboriginal heritage? The answer doesn’t come easily, but there are several factors and they ultimately rely on a view that if Pascoe is not Indigenous, then his views about Aboriginal history, agriculture and animal husbandry can be dismissed. Secondly, the doubters argue, if Pascoe has consistently lied about his Aboriginal heritage then he is also lying about the research and conclusions in ‘Dark Emu’Pascoe’s greatest "crime" is that he is “anti-white”.
The only sensible conclusion is that the complaints are not directed at correcting the historical record by disproving Pascoe’s claims about Indigenous farming, community building and settlement patterns. Instead, we can confidently suggest that the real battle is to silence any attempt to rescue Aboriginal Australia from the false narrative of savagery, ignorance and superstition that is the basis on which white Australia colonised the continent. This is why they hate ‘Dark Emu’ and vilify its author so relentless. 
The Murdoch media has also shown its willingness to recruit dubious characters into its relentless culture wars. In recent weeks, The Australian has given space to a wildly offensive suggestion that Indigenous Australians should be placed on a register and have to somehow prove their Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage. 
‘Dark Emu’ is an important book because it forces us to look at Australian history with fresh eyes that are not half-closed by the inherent bias that white history brings to our past. It also confronts us with ideas about Australia’s future transformation in the wake of climate change. That scares the denialists even more.

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