A welcome touch of modesty

18 May 2013

INDIGENOUS policy remains one of the shoutiest areas of Australian public life, with views seldom held tentatively or modified in the light of observation or experience. Among certain non-Indigenous critics, opinions are gripped as a marker of ideological correctness to the point of whitening knuckles. Among Indigenous intellectuals and activists, attitudes towards such controversial matters as the federal Intervention are a marker of something like Aboriginal authenticity, with the urban– rural divide playing a fundamental role. To criticise the Intervention is supposedly to reveal that one is a privileged urban Aborigine, out of touch with the problems of people in the bush. Or, if you’re white, you’re an intellectual wedded to “leftist” policies aimed at appeasing your conscience rather than solving real-world problems. Sometimes, the accusations are even less restrained, so that Boris Frankel’s criticisms of Marcia Langton’s recent Boyer Lectures were greeted with the dubious accusation from Langton that they reflected “racism…”

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