Saturday, June 23, 2007

ZenTiger Aboriginal Emergency

John Howard has declared a national emergency [link] in the Aboriginal Communities of the Northern Territories. Horrified at the child abuse, he has taken a series of measures including banning alcohol and pornography. Naturally, it is these two specific measures that has raised the issue, and this in turn brings out the arguments around racism, the heavy hand of state intervention and all sorts of accusations against conservatives who can be seen to be flip-flopping compared to, say the recent protest against banning smacking.

Let me just say, up front, that I do not agree with Howard's approach. I think it wrong. I'll go into that later. For now, I'd like to spend some time defending these policies in the interests of getting down to a more sensible discussion, as compared to some of the arguments being bandied about on Kiwiblog. [Update: I take that back. There are now some very good points coming out. Redbaiter's and DavidP's for example.]

The difference between a smack and child abuse
Banning smacking was a blanket rule applied to all parents across NZ "to end child abuse". The liberal left could perhaps advance that as a solution to the aboriginal child abuse problem (ban smacking across Australia), and be rightfully laughed at. See the difference?

What is going on in these communities is outright abuse. Child abuse is against the law. It should not be tolerated. Any law breakers should, theoretically face the full force of the law, be locked up in jail and the key thrown away. However, that would not really be solving the problem in this case, would it?

Banning alcohol and pornography to a specific area is effectively targeting a group that has an extremely high proportion of law breakers may actually make an impact, as opposed to a complete country wide ban. Alcohol is banned at some concerts and sporting events, for example.

As I said, I don't agree with this approach per se, but it seems to me to be based on a modicum of common sense and reality (political views aside).

Racist Policies
I agree with the people arguing this is fundamentally a racist policy. It could also be described as a "culturalist" policy. The problem we are discussing here is fundamentally an aboriginal one, and invariably, to respond to it in that way does mean it will inevitably seen as a racist.

That being said, this unfairly lumps in the percentage of aboriginal people that are doing the right thing in these communities. We are assigning guilt where there may be none. There are lawbreakers, or there are not. That should be the focus, not race. So, consider race and culture when targeting the assistance, but frame the negative actions in the context of targeting lawbreakers. Find them, then prevent them from harming others and give them the help they need to turn their life around.

State Intervention
Howard seems to be rolling over the Northern Territories Government to get action. As far as I can tell, possibly a fair move. The issue has been around for years, and the Labour State Government have completely failed. Arguably, so has Howard, and it would be easy to assume that this is all politically motivated. Maybe it is, but at least the issue is now out loudly in the public arena. About time.

Ultimately though, I believe the heavy hand of the state is not going to solve anything. A blanket ban affects people that may be innocent. It is also untested. We don't know if, as people don't fall into their usual drunken stupor, they will suddenly become more violent and the abuse increase. The last thing the Government should want is to see the problem made worse. Prohibition means moonshine, smuggling in alcohol or people simply migrating into cities. Whatever restrictions are placed on alcohol and porn need to be with a lot of social services backup.

So what's my solution? I admit I'm not as outraged by Howard's suggestions, because I agree the problem is so serious, we need to try different approaches. They just need to be comprehensive.

Seems to me that people live in this way when they have no purpose in life, and no hope. Right wing secularists and atheists provide this by improving living conditions, encouraging property ownership, a job, accepting responsibilities. The right wing Christians add a faith element to that, because faith is needed when there is little hope, when the future looks bleak, and we wonder why we should continue to struggle on in life and hold tight to the belief that every life is valuable, every life a blessing.

The liberal left have had their chance - welfare with complete freedom. Free money to get drunk, abuse their children and wallow in depression.

John Howard needs to get together with people like Cardinal Pell and say "You guys have always done a great job and going out and giving people hope. What can we do to help? What resources do you need?" Bringing faith, jobs, property ownership, teaching the importance of family values, better education and learning the character building traits of restraint, self-control, avoidance of temptation, and love for others is the only way to solve this problem - in short - giving the aboriginal people the best of our Western Christian Heritage. Not the welfare driven, liberal freedom without any grounding in duty and responsibility socialist approach of the past. And I don't think that means they need to abandon their rich culture. It's still there waiting for them when they finally put down the bottle.

I don't think banning porn and booze is going to help, but I'd like to be convinced it could actually help. Whatever comes from this conversation, we all need to agree that the status quo cannot continue.

Comments anyone?

Related Link: No Porn and Booze on the other side of the rabbit wire fence

Related Link: Kiwiblog - Black and White Issue

23 comment(s):

KG said...

Zen, it's a huge issue and a proper response to your post would take up too much space.
"I don't think banning porn and booze is going to help, but I'd like to be convinced it could actually help."
Is absolutely wrong.
I spent years living in these communities, all across the NT and Queensland so I've seen what goes on.
Those communities with the strictest controls on alcohol and petrol are the least violent, by a country mile.
Noel Pearson is an Aborigine with a vast amount of experience trying to fix the problems in remote communities and he agrees 100% with Howard's plan.
Sure, some of your ideas may work in the long term, but when we have kids as young as two presenting with vaginal syphilis then drastic action is called for.
Howard is on the right track.The great pity is that this wasn't done years ago.

ZenTiger said...

I bow to your experience. I've been skimming material to get a better idea of some of the programmes that have been tried. I agree it is far too complex for a few posts.

It does look to me though that drastic action is called for. If there are communities where alcohol restrictions are already tightly controlled, and the outcomes have improved, then modelling from there seems a good place to start.

Some people see this a purely a political play by Howard, but you have to admire the hard nose stance he is prepared to take and defend in such a contentious issue. Are his critics so upset, because his stance is actually the right thing to do to attack this problem?

KG said...

"Are his critics so upset, because his stance is actually the right thing to do to attack this problem?"
I think in many cases, that's exactly right.
Throwing welfare at the communities since the days of Whitlam hasn't worked and the answer for a lot of people is just more of the same.
Welfare is killing them and these people can't see that sometimes it's necessary to make the hard decisions.
Not necessarily pleasant, but necessary.

Psycho Milt said...

"Sometimes it's necessary to make the hard decisions."

Howard's already proven himeself incapable of that. The hard decision would be to go down NZ's path - sign a treaty recognising the original inhabitants and establishing some basis other than theft for the later arrivals to be there, then set about using that treaty for either the return of stolen land or some kind of compensation for it. Throwing welfare money at the problem may have been an easy and poisonous decision, but putting the blame back onto the Abos and hitting them hard is also an easy decision, given that it plays perfectly to Howard's racist electoral base.

KG said...

PM. with all due respect, you're utterly clueless about both the problems and the solutions.
To even imagine that to "go down NZ's path" would fix anything is just..well,"naive and ill-informed" is the kindest term I'm prepared to use right now.
The return of what you amusingly refer to as "stolen" land has been carried out. Areas larger than the size of New Zealand.
Land and the ownership of it isn't the problem.

KG said...

And by the way--that "racist" electoral base has expressed it's racism in an interesting way.
A flood of people volunteering to go help for no pay, to donate their time and skills.
I get a little sick of the "racist" tag being used as a convenient label for anybody who thinks that throwing welfare money at Aborigines, treating Aborigines as some kind of special case when they beat kids to death, excusing Aborigines when they trade in porn and dope..all those and more..are dead-ends that have produced nothing but more misery and suffering.
Aborigines deserve better than feelgood theorists who promote feelgood so-called solutions which simply don't work.
Noel Pearson knows what he's talking about, he's an Aborigine who's lived there and seen it all in remote communities. Yet when a white Australian agrees with Noel, the white man is somehow a racist.
That charge won't fly here.

Psycho Milt said...

I get a little sick of this stuff being written about as though it was occurring in a social vacuum. Having spent a couple of hundred years shafting the natives, Australia now finds the natives are completely fucked. Forgive my lack of surprise.

KG said...

I can understand your nausea, PM. Yessir. I really can.
It must be truly nauseating to find that babbling about historical grievances (real, imagined or merely exaggerated) isn't saving the little kid who right now is being starved or beaten or sexually assaulted.
And doubly nauseating to find that a man so reviled by the left is ordering police into those communities right now to stamp on it and even the Labour opposition is supporting that.
And right now the historical reasons for the violence and drunkenness and abuse of children are utterly irrelevant when compared to the desperate urgency to end it.
Go have a look at the three little girls in the pic up at my blog on this subject (taken at Lajamanu community by my wife)and then come back here and tell me you could look them in the eye and tell them that it's all due to historical injustices and just as soon as you've formed a committee and written some more reports and worked out the wording of a treaty, you'll get right back to them and fix the syphilis and broken bones and empty belly.
Tell me--tell us all--what you would do RIGHT EFFING NOW to stop it, eh?
You're getting a "little sick" because this stuff is being written as though it's happening in a social vacuum.
Well, I'm getting a little sick of know-nothings prattling on about this stuff as though their political leanings are more important than these kids.

Barnsley Bill said...

I think that is the best BURN I have seen on a blog for a while KG, well done. However your words of wisdom are wasted on cardy wearing, self loathing whitey onanists like PM.

Psycho Milt said...

"Historical" grievances? And you're calling me clueless?

What would I do? Probably something along the lines of what Howard's doing, actually. Although I'd want to make sure the cops I used weren't the same ones who've been literally getting away with murder in these communities, that could be seen as somewhat hypocritical.

Here's the bit that Howard's really (deliberately) missing: at the same time, I'd want to start addressing the issue of my own culture's involvement in Aboriginal society getting turned into human wreckage, and do somethng concrete to start reversing the effects. Otherwise, I'd just be putting my finger in the dyke - not to mention, inviting everyone else to call me a racist, for reasons that are obvious to everybody who isn't one.

Danyl said...

So let's just get this straight, KG - if it transpired that you were living in an area with a high rate of reported child abuse you'd be more than happy for Helen Clark to send in Doctors to carry out compulsory medical examinations of your kids to check them for signs of sexual molestation? Or would your own 'political leanings' suddenly turn out to be a lot more important than the children?

David said...

Really Danyl, you do try to cheapen a serious argument with your what ifs and your attempt to politicise a real issue.

At least you should try to make your comparisons a bit closer to the situation. Try asking the question - "if 90% of the kids in your street were shown to have suffered sexual and physical abuse before the age of 6 and 60% were suffering from ongoing physical abuse, malnutrition, alcoholism and venereal disease at age 12, would it be reasonable for authorutiues to insist on evaluating the remaining 20%?"

Few would argue against regardless of their "political principles".

Well maybe Danyl and Keith Locke might.

KG said...

Danyl, after what I've written here about the plight of my friends I can't bring myself to dignify your profoundly stupid comment with answers to your questions.

KG said...

"Although I'd want to make sure the cops I used weren't the same ones who've been literally getting away with murder in these communities"

Name one police officer.

Psycho Milt said...

That would be unfair to the blog owners, expecting them to host libel on their site. Suffice to say, I'm sceptical of paralytic Aborigines' ability to hang themselves or beat themselves to death while in police custody.

Because you seem to just skip over what I'm actually saying to play up some "doesn't care about the children" strawman, I'll try and put it more clearly.

1. When people get treated the way these guys have been treated for 200 years, their society is eventually completely fucked. There'll be very little self respect left, and that only in a small minority of the population.

2. Having got to that state, yes, fairly draconian measures are required, but preferably accompanied by some recognition of how things actually came to this, and what you might do to try and restore some self respect to that society. White Australia doesn't seem to be able to get beyond either throwing welfare money at the problem, or cops.

3. Given the above, Howard is obviously not the man for the job: a) because he has no intention of addressing the underlying causes, and b) he is after all the man who's done more to sabotage any growth in self respect in that society than anyone in the last couple of decades. You may recall significant attempts by Aborigines to reclaim some self respect through the treaty movement, a movement Howard spent a lot of time and effort crushing. For him to be held up now as some kind of heroic saviour of the poor, benighted black children is, yes, nauseating.

Danyl said...

Danyl, after what I've written here about the plight of my friends I can't bring myself to dignify your profoundly stupid comment with answers to your questions.

A firm, decisive, 'I don't want to answer that!'. That's kind of what I thought.

Although I'd want to make sure the cops I used weren't the same ones who've been literally getting away with murder in these communities

Name ONE person who's been killed in the genocide in Darfur. You can't? I guess it can't be happening!

Try asking the question - "if 90% of the kids in your street were shown to have suffered sexual and physical abuse before the age of 6 and 60% were suffering from ongoing physical abuse, malnutrition, alcoholism and venereal disease at age 12, would it be reasonable for authorutiues to insist on evaluating the remaining 20%?"

Maybe they should just send in maths teachers?

Not only are Davids statistics nonsensical they appear to have no relation to those published by any of the enquiries into child abuse suffered by indigenous Australians.

KG said...

You get on with this debate without me, PM and Danyl.
I assume you're both Kiwis so I bow to your enormous experience in both Aboriginal/European history and dealing with with the problem of introducing a primitive nomadic people to the 21st century and modern norms of behaviour.
We Aussies are just too crude, too racist, too brutal to be able to plan a way forward. We lack your balanced and nuanced approach, utterly unable to see the obvious, how giving the original inhabitants a large slice of the radio spectrum and diverting freeways for the benefit of monsters and dragons would help them.
So we'll just carry on doing our poor best, throw another seven billion or so dollars at the problem, give them the other half of the Northern Territory and further vast areas of the States. Charter more fleets of medevac aircraft, employ hundreds more doctors and nurses and social workers and teachers and mechanics and builders and psychologists and all the rest.
And if those same murderous coppers who risk their lives almost daily (along with the welfare and lives of their families in many cases) could just be persuaded stop slaughtering Aborigines for a few years, who knows? We may see an improvement.
It's a little enough effort and that only due to cynical political reasons, but it's our poor best. Perhaps some small candle to hold up alongside the shining example of social cohesion and the law-abiding native people of New Zealand, who no longer feel the need to beat their children, to use drugs and thieve and lie and assault others. :-)

Psycho Milt said...

Indeed NZers are smug, arrogant bastards with no real basis for offering ourselves as some kind of ideal model for other countries' race relations.

On the other hand, your post above illustrates my point about White Australia seeming to be unable to think beyond throwing money or cops at the problem. Hopefully Rudd will be able to think outside that box.

Sus said...

"White" Australia? WTF? You've got to hand it to the left: they're only happy when they're putting people into neat little boxes to count and control. In one fell swoop, PM ignores the legions of migrants who presumably don't have a say in the matter, in spite of their taxes?

Know what, PM? In the instances of raped two-year olds, I hope to Christ Howard (of whom I'm no fan, by the way) throws *legions* of cops at the problem! Legions!

Or perhaps you'd rather form a committee that, after months of handwringing, calls for a Commission of Enquiry that's delivered overtime and overbudget - but as it's only public money who gives a shit - with results that only the truly stupid couldn't have picked, while in the interim even more toddlers are brutalised?

Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Off course you could also ignore the fact that many of these communities already have a self imposed ban on alcohol and much of the supply comes from neighbouring white communities. Possibly the next step will be fences and travel bans for the aboriginal people hmmm.

Also you could possible ignore the fact that much of the sexual abuse is being carried out by members of the white community who are supposed to be there to help.

Anonymous said...

"Know what, PM? In the instances of raped two-year olds, I hope to Christ Howard (of whom I'm no fan, by the way) throws *legions* of cops at the problem! Legions!"

Yeah, but will the be looking in the right places... I doubt it...

Sus said...

"Yeah, but will they be looking in the right places ... I doubt it".

Hi Anon .. if we're talking basic policing, then they're beholden to do their jobs properly.

I'm making the distinction between a police matter, as opposed to a political one.

There's no doubt that politics and political interference has openly fostered this appalling situation.

And if little children are being abused and neglected, the situation *is* appalling.

Psycho Milt said...

You may have failed to notice this Sus, but Aus is run by white people - has been for 200 years now. Are you sure you didn't notice?

As to the rest - try actually reading the thread.

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