As society becomes more narcissistic, as we push ourselves harder and harder in the name of status at the expense of everything else, society starts heading towards the unknown. It has now reached a crevasse; on the left side of the crevasse stands the mirror of truth, on the right stands the mirror of self-deception and the moral right.
Like all things self deceiving, the mirror on the right is narcissistic, a seductive, facile and flattering reflection, requiring no introspection or self-analysis. Just like Narcissus, those who fall in love with their own reflection are likely to wither and die and take the community with them.
Its sibling, the mirror on the left is gnarled and worn by truth; probing, complicated and brutal. Only a soul capable of honesty and compassion can comprehend the images reflected therein.
As society approaches the siblings, it has on its lips the basic questions of human existence and identity: life, health, liberty, work, dignity, privacy, the freedom to choose one’s own path. Free from the destruction or intrusion of government, groups, or persons; free from oppression, discrimination, exploitation and experimentation.
Gazing left, what does society see? A politician speaks with moral integrity, a public servant gives courageous, unbiased advice, a police officer in starched uniform upholding the law, a journalist writing with force and honesty, all humanity living in harmony with no fear of loss of freedom, life or property.
Gazing right, traditionally the side associated with moral right, society sees: a politician insisting on his ‘god given right’ to lie, a sycophantic public servant speaking with a hundred flickering tongues, a police officer pocketing the contents of the wallet of a slain ‘criminal’, a journalist receiving an award for stories contributing to the moral good of a politicians right to lie, humanity reverting to an age of fear and oppression, the casualty of the self-adulation of seductive flattery.
When I think about what freedom means to a marginalized person, I hear the blackness call to me. Across the land I hear its cry. I do not know how I know, but I know I need to listen. The calling tells me where to find the ones like me, those who have been discriminated against through no fault of their own; their only crime the colour of their skin, their ethnicity, their religious preference, a disability or sexual orientation. At first I tried to close my mind to the cries, but my soul always heard the call.
It wasn’t always from the same direction, and it certainly wasn’t always from the same person, but when I finally gave up my fight and started listening again, a new voice cried out to me, loud and pure and strong. I was surprised to hear it so clearly when I had spent years doing everything I could to block my ears. I thought that when I gave in at last to the calling, I would only hear the weak cries I had been working so hard to ignore for so long. Much to my amazement however, that one pure tone of anguished need cried out to me, long and loud and pure.
When a man is discriminated against based on skin colour, over which one has no control, it causes him to lose hope. Aborigines who take their own lives do not kill themselves, but rather reach a stage where they simply no longer care whether they live or die. It is that bad, despite what our legislators say about our wondrously harmonious relationship.
Though we live side by side, communication between the races has simply ceased to exist. Neither really knows what goes on with those of the other race. Aborigines will simply not tell the white man the truth; he long ago learned that if he speaks a truth unpleasing to a white, the white will make life miserable for him.
On many occasions because of my Aboriginality, I have been invisible in a room observing a scene of which I was not a part. It has allowed me to ponder the feeling of oblivion. The whites seem far away out there in their parts of the city. The distance between them and us is far greater than the geographic distances that separate us. It is an area of unknowing. I wonder if it can really be bridged.
If we took the time to ponder on certain undeniable realities we would observe that a young white kid can go through school and college with a real incentive, knowing he can make good money in any profession when he graduates. An Aborigine knows no matter how hard he works he never quite gets there. Education won’t earn us the same jobs; any kind of family life, any decent standard of living seems impossible from the outset. These young ones then seek what will offer them the most pleasure. They make a grand and wild gesture, for what have they got to lose if they die in a car crash or fight?
What Australia needs is a conversion of morals, not just superficially but profoundly in all Australians.
I am the same person with the same appetite as anyone else living in Australia. With the same appreciation and even the same wallet as my fellow Australians, but no power on earth can make me equal with middle Australia. The signs of disapproval and petulance, the gracious smile followed by the gracious rebuff at the restaurant, the university; bugger it, even in my employment.
Our (the Aboriginal) problem is a lack of unity. Until we as a race learn to rise together we will never get anywhere. That’s our problem. We work against one another instead of together. The white men know this and use it to their advantage.
Racism – the hidden plague
There is an extremely widespread perception within the Australia that racism died back in the 1960s or 1970s with the referendum allowing for Aborigines to be included in the census. The consequence is that ‘racial’ discrimination and ‘racial’ humiliation go unchecked and unchallenged. Australians are led to believe that allegations of racism are all hype and nonsense, an excuse to justify, Aboriginal ‘laziness’ and ‘criminality’.
Indeed, Entman (1992) argues this is part of a syndrome he labels “modern racism,” proposing that the older biological and genetic versions of racist belief no longer have any real purchase on the public’s mind and that their collapsed credibility is another element in the mistaken perception that white racism is effectively dead and buried. However, this effortless poorly considered process of denying continuing ‘racial’ discrimination to be in force bypasses regularly appearing reports and studies documenting its vigour in such varied areas as policing and the judicial system, the film industry, mortgage and car loans, TV news, medical practice, educational provision and much more, not least the Northern Territory. It also reflects the signal, a lack of honest everyday communication between most people of colour and most white people in Australia (enabling the residential segregation typical of Australian cities).
Entman & Rojecki (2000) and Heider (2000) conducted a series of studies of US television, especially of local news program content, which suggest that some of the most influential sources of these perceptions may be US media representations of people of colour. In local television for example, from at least the end of the 1980s onwards, shots of people of colour being arrested and led away in handcuffs quite often formed one of the leading evening local news stories. Little else regularly surfaced about communities of colour, save in Heider’s research findings, once-a-year coverage of “colourful” ethnic festivals. This steady diet of race = criminality suggests that despite all obstacles apparently having been lifted from black progress, black capacity to participate in civilized social intercourse is hopelessly limited. What is true of America is reflected in the day to day realities of Australia.
As Entman and Rojecki (2000: 58) write:
“We do not mean to suggest the media consistently promote a particular racial mindset. Still less do we want to imply that media workers are fully aware of their contributions to public thinking…given their conventional Downing: hemispheric cultural unity? Assumptions and practices, it is probably impossible for media to offer explanations, at least not with enough clarity, frequency, and vividness to challenge the sway of the deep-seated culture.”
To some degree this refusal to acknowledge the energetic persistence of racism also derives from variations in the uses of the term ‘racism’ itself. For many US and Australian citizens, racism signifies pogroms and active persecution, powered by a vitriolic ideology of racial hatred, exemplified by the Nazi Holocaust and the KKK. If you absent those segregation laws, then racism is dismissed as an occasional individual pathology.
Yet, concepts such as ‘institutional racism’ (Carmichael and Hamilton 1967,) and (Heider 2000) notion of ‘incognizant racism’ both address dimensions of ongoing racist practice, a practice with disproportionate effects on people of colour, but also with an impact on the quality of the democratic process. These do not depend upon pogroms to have their impact, or indeed on even any explicit intent to treat someone differently by virtue of their race. The institutional racism of the IQ-score testing system that effectively defines many people of colour, preventing participation in higher education, the bias of racism of reporters who regularly call upon the same white sources for expert opinion without beginning to think of diversifying their sources, the last-in-first-out rule in employment lay-offs, are just some illustrations of this level of racism. All the more tenacious and hard to challenge for not being initially framed with direct persecutory intent or malicious aforethought.