Noel Pearson's back! No sooner had I posted on the subject of his recent bizarre radio comments on Australia's Jewish community (Zionism Goes Native, 11/2/10), than he's come out with an amplification of same in today's Australian: Aborigines can learn from Jews how to preserve culture and prosper. While his radio rave was but a brief aural strip-tease - Did I just hear what I thought I heard? - his op-ed can only be described as the Full Monty. And as with many a Full Monty, some things are best left to the imagination - or in this case, unsaid.
While I appreciate the need for debate over the struggle of Australia's indigenous people with the consequences of dispossession and settler-colonial racism, I found Pearson's piece both acutely embarrassing and fundamentally dishonest. Embarrassing, on the one hand, because he essentialises Jews in true reverse racist fashion, substituting positive stereotypes for the anti-Semites' negative, and dishonest, on the other, because he studiously ignores the elephant-in-the-room - Zionism's ongoing project of wiping Palestine (and Palestinians) off the map.
Without beating further around the bush, here are the relevant chunks with my comments in bold:
"I sometimes ponder the peoples of the world, their relative qualities, their contributions to the contemporary world and their role in history. I sometimes ask myself which peoples I most admire, and so from time to time I compile a top 10 list. Not just admirable people, but also awful people: when one is awe-filled by a people. [Doesn't he have anything more productive to do?] Therefore the English make my list out of a grudging respect for their extraordinary qualities. [Their extraordinary qualities? Please convince me that Pearson is not pushing the kind of racial essentialism first (?) expounded by Gobineau and later taken up by the Nazis.] Once, while we stood gazing down at Westminster, my friend Peter Botsman gave a moving evocation of the sheer toughness of a people who could produce the likes of James Cook, Oliver Cromwell [Tell it to the Irish] and Winston Churchill [Tell it to the Arabs]. I could no longer deny how truly awful the English were as a people... [So Pearson is in awe of those who dispossesed his own people? Go figure.] At the top of my list are the Jewish people. [The Jewish people? Pearson is here deploying the standard Zionist fiction that Jews the world over are not just a faith community, but constitute a distinct 'people' or 'nation' who, unless resident in their Israeli 'homeland', are deemed to be living in a state of exile ('diaspora') even if that is their choice.] No people have contributed more to civilization than the Jews. [Civilization? Civilization? Not only is civilization a loaded word, but it seems Pearson would have us rank alleged contributors to same in the manner of those pathetic individuals who hawk around the internet lists of Nobel Prize winners, who may or may not identify as Jews, as a mark of supposed Jewish-Israeli superiority over Arabs. If as Jose Ortega Y Gasset once wrote, 'Civilization is nothing else but the attempt to reduce force to being the last resort', then that surely rules out kick-arse Israel and its amen chorus around the world.] Many of the greatest thinkers - Jesus Christ, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein - were Jews. [Surely 'great thinking' (as well as its opposite) is common to all human beings.] They have led or played decisive roles in developing or powering philosophical movements. At all points of the spectrum, from liberalism to socialism. From Ayn Rand to Joseph Stiglitz. From Paul Wolfowitz to Paul Krugman. Their ancient committment to education and high learning is of course fundamental to their success. It is often said that their persecution and oppression is also an explanation for their resilience and seriousness as a people. Beleaguered peoples such as my own mob could do worse than draw upon the example of the Jews. They offer some lessons about how a culturally distinct people might hold their own and succeed in a world that is often without pity. First, there are lessons in the way they deal with the past. They have never forgotten history and they never allow anybody else to forget history; they fight staunchly in defence of the truths of history, but they never make their history a burden for the future. They have worked out how to deal with the past without cultivating and nurturing victimhood among themselves. Too many peoples turn victimisation in history into the victimhood of the present. [What a bumper crop of cliches and sweeping generalizations he trots out here. They have never forgotten history? Why do I get the distinct impression here that Pearson thinks the Bible is history? They fight staunchly in defence of the truths of history? What, like Alan Dershowitz? They never make their history a burden for the future? As distinct from a burden for the Palestinians? They have worked out how to deal with the past without cultivating and nurturing victimhood among themselves? Doesn't Pearson read The Australian Jewish News? This week's chronically unfunny Kron cartoon had that awful bully boy, Ahmadinejad, kicking sand in poor little law-abiding Israel's face at the beach. Just as well that burly lifesaver Australia, calling out 'Hey you!', was there to protect him.] Second, there are lessons in the way they deal with racism. They staunchly defend themselves against racism, but they avoid making racism their problem. [Given that, according to a 2009 Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (Monash University) survey approximately 80% of Australian Jews regard themselves as Zionists, can we not infer that they are helping, each in his own way, to make Israeli racism a problem for the Palestinians?] Properly understood, racism should be a problem of the racialists, not the burden of those against whom it is directed. Of course the effects of racism are real, but the point is to not succumb to its psychological effects. Racism ultimately succeeds when it destroys the psychology of its victims and leaves them defeated. A people subject to racism have the difficult challenge of not succumbing. The Jews are such a people. [A people subject to racism? You want experts in this field? People not merely subject to the odd bit of racist graffiti, but to dispossession and apartheid and exile and occupation and pogroms and massacres and death squads and land confiscations and home demolitions and pauperization and arbitary arrest and torture as well? The kind who've been copping that and more for over a century now without succumbing? Try the Palestinians.] Third, there are lessons in the way they have maintained their identity as a people while engaging in the wider world into which they have dispersed through the diasporas [Ziospeak alert]. They have maintained an identity as a community and a sense of peoplehood, religion, tradition, culture and history while at the same time engaging at the cutting edge of whatever the world has to offer. Their peoplehood has survived diasporas [x2] probably because they have maintained an orthodox heart [meaning?] at their centre while the rest of their community engages in orbits around that gravitational centre, and they engage according to their own choices with the rest of the world. This is a vision for an Aboriginal future in my part of the country. We want Cape York to be the point of gravitation, to be home, to be the hearth for our people. But we want our young members in the future to orbit around that hearth and to engage in the world. We can maintain a sense of peoplehood and common identity and religion and language."
OK, I can dig "our young members in the future orbiting around their Cape York hearth and engaging with the world," and I wish them well on their journey. But Pearson's current orbit, or should I say trajectory, now frankly that's a bit of a worry. Earth to space cadet Pearson... Earth to space cadet Pearson...