The Aussie elites are in meltdown

The mass public rejection of the Voice to Parliament has come as a rude shock to the cosseted intelligentsia.

Nick Cater

Topics Identity Politics Politics World

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The emphatic result of last weekend’s Voice to Parliament referendum has left the intelligentsia struggling for words. Nothing short of profanities could express their fury at the voters who had sabotaged their latest project. ‘Fuck today. Fuck this racist country’, posted writer and TV producer Kara Schlegl, warming up for a display of moral acrobatics. ‘I have never felt more ashamed to be an Australian.’

Australia has overwhelmingly rejected Labor’s proposal for an ‘Indigenous Voice to Parliament’. Had the referendum been successful, it would have given the government a mandate to amend the constitution and create a body exclusively for Aboriginal Australians to advise parliament. After a long and divisive campaign, 60 per cent of Australians voted No to the initiative.

The emotional response displayed by the cultural elites on social media came from a deep place. The Yes supporters’ image of themselves was suddenly at stake. These are people who pride themselves on having the judgement and wisdom to diagnose social ills and prescribe solutions. The No result was as much a rejection of them and their worldview as it was of the Voice proposal itself.

As we have seen following similar acts of popular insurrection, like Brexit and the 2016 US presidential election, the elites reacted like cornered cats. ‘Fuck Australia’, wrote ABC broadcaster Jonathan Green. ‘I mean seriously. What the fuck? How can you say No?’

According to the Yes campaign, Aboriginal Australians deserve special status. Why? Purely because they are the descendants of the nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived on the Australian continent before the British laid claim to Sydney Harbour. The primacy of indigenous people in the hierarchy of cultural identity is seldom challenged. But it should be, as ethicist Nigel Biggar sets out in his recent book, Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning.

According to Biggar, the argument that the descendants of native people, or of African slaves, suffer ongoing trauma from wrongs visited on their distant ancestors is buttressed by sentiment, not facts. Classifying people as vulnerable at birth, on the other hand, is undoubtedly disempowering and dispiriting. This view is supported by countless examples of lives that have been poisoned by the tyranny of low expectations and the fatalistic conviction that one’s chances are forever constrained by genetic inheritance.

As the referendum result became clear on Saturday, a Sydney Morning Herald headline read: ‘Australia tells First Nations people “you are not special”.’ In fact, what Australians were saying was that they wouldn’t allow themselves to be divided by race. This is a nation that believes every human is unique, but that no individual or group is more special than any other.

For many Aboriginal leaders, the challenge to their position as exceptional citizens was more than they could stand. The enhanced moral rights they already enjoy, which provides billions of dollars in grants and sinecures to run mostly ineffective programmes, were suddenly placed in serious doubt. When counting in the referendum confirmed their worst fears, a self-appointed group of indigenous leaders issued a discourteous statement blaming ‘newcomers’ who refused to acknowledge that ‘the brutal dispossession of our people underwrote their every advantage in this country’. ‘That people who have only been on this continent for 235 years would refuse to recognise those whose home this land has been for 60,000 and more years is beyond reason’, it added.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the oldest person in Australia is Catherina van der Linden, who celebrated her 111th birthday in August. Yet even she has only been a resident since 1958, when she arrived as a migrant from the Netherlands. Van der Linden has never dispossessed anyone or anything, as far as we know.

The prosaic truth is that no one currently alive occupied this continent much more than a century ago. And this explains why so many Australians regarded the Voice as unjust. Sadly, their once uncontroversial view that every citizen’s rights and responsibilities are the same is out of step with the elite Zeitgeist.

According to the ideology of identity politics, only some lives matter – namely, the lives of those granted the status of victims. Moral rights are unequally distributed between the oppressors and oppressed, colonisers and the colonised or the powerful and the vulnerable. This belief is so infused in new morality that it apparently needs no justification.

Since the fate of individuals who challenge this dogma is brutal, few are prepared to do so in public. Yet, while dissent is pushed underground, it cannot be extinguished. Last Saturday, in the privacy of the ballot box, Australians had a rare opportunity to speak their minds.

Their answer came as a rude shock to the Australians living in the coastal, metropolitan Tesla zone. Their narrow circle of acquaintances had lulled them into thinking that only a handful of dimwits or right-wing nut jobs thought any differently to them. For people who have led such sheltered lives, the referendum result left them lost for words. ‘I’m perplexed by this referendum result and devastated for all of us, especially First Nations people, but all of us who share this land’, posted Guy Pierce. ‘Are we so confronted by our history that we can’t face it?’ Pierce was indeed confused.

In reality, the referendum was not about facing history or lightening the burden of colonialism. Only the delusional vision of the anointed could ascribe a constitutional amendment to our system of government with such cosmic significance.

Nick Cater is an Australian writer, broadcaster and publisher of Reality Bites on Substack.

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Topics Identity Politics Politics World


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