Germaine Greer on “Rage”

Germaine Greer, with more than a little help from the MSM and their inability to render complexity, has set off a bit of a firestorm in Australia with her essay on rage in aboriginal communities.  Here’s part of an interview:

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: And with me in the studio now is Professor Germaine Greer. Thank you for coming in. What I would like to do is take you through points raised in that story so we could hear your responses. But if I could start more generally, for people who have not read your book, what is your central objection to the Federal intervention?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER, ACADEMIC AND AUTHOR: It is not about the Federal intervention. It is about rage, it’s an essay on rage itself. It begins with a white example of somebody who feels his people have been unfairly discriminated against by government policy. I am talking about Bob Katter trying to deal with what’s happened to his people in the Northern Territory and in Queensland in particular who have been disenfranchised and driven to the wall in fact by government policy. The farmers who are killing themselves. What it tries to do is look at the spectrum of hunter gatherer violence, not just Aboriginal violence but hunter gatherer violence which has a particular shape. It involves self-destruction, high levels of suicide but also high levels of extraordinary violence against the people closest to the perpetrator, the perpetrator’s own children and the women folk in his own family.

LEIGH SALES: And this is what you think is happening in indigenous Australian communities?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: I don’t think there is any doubt about it. If you read the women’s task force report on violence, they talk about these extraordinary levels. This is not the same as free floating violence in a football crowd, for example. This is different and it’s, we’ve had, you know, clever essays about do we need a new sue Sinology [sic] to understand what is happening in black communities and I say no. If we begin to understand that suicide is caused not by grief, you can live with grief forever but you can’t live with rage because rage involves body chemicals that literally rip you to piece pieces. And everything you do will be made part of that self-destructive scenario. So you will abuse alcohol or petrol or your car or anything. So I am trying to talk about why these levels are there. I am not actually, most of what is extrapolated is wrong. I think the intervention will fail, unless the problem of rage is addressed. And then you have to ask how do you address it. I would say first of people all people have to find a way to express it because it’s never been said that it’s so particularly noxious and poisonous. So what we need is a political structure. What I’ve argued for is a treaty. What is so tough about that idea?

LEIGH SALES: Why would that allow people to express rage? Wouldn’t it just be something symbolic?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Well, I don’t think Aboriginal people are uncomplicated and I do think that many things that appear symbolic to us do not appear at least in symbolic to them. That they’re real things. If you believe this is your country, if you believe it’s your bauxite they’re taking out or your uranium, then to have somebody to say we need to talk to you about what we’re doing to this country is not merely symbolic.

LEIGH SALES: OK, but surely isn’t the first step that the violence has to be controlled and some sort of intervention is the only way to do that in the short term so you can look at the bigger, long-term issue?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Look, if what you’re talking about mainly self-destruction and we have to take into account para suicide, the extraordinarily high number of accidental deaths that afflict Aboriginal communities, we’re not even going to deal with them because there is no criminal profile there. You see, one of the things that bugs me is that a lot of the mischief is still being done by white men and we could fix it. We could stop them. For example, lorry drivers abusing under age girls in Nhulunbuy. We know about that. There is not an auto train in this country that we can find whenever we want to, 24/7. Why have we never arrested those people? Why have we let them go on and doing that? Why in dry communities for the last 10, 15 years, boot legers have brought in booze after dark? Dumped it in the bush and all that kind of thing. They’ve left a paper trail a mile wide. Why do we never pick them up?

LEIGH SALES: If I can look at some of the points raised in the package and have you respond to them. You write that Aboriginal women humiliated their men by seeking the white fellas help in the intervention.

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Hang on a minute. That is not how it’s put.

LEIGH SALES: Well, page 86, ‘once more the white man was being chosen over the black man as the protector of children, the defeat of the black man was absolute’. In those circumstances what option did the women have?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Well, what I am saying there is that when we had all the sort of black meritocracy saying, yes, yes, we have to ride in now and rescue women and children from their own men folk who, by the way, are their children. Remember the book is dedicated to Mum Shell, and remember Mum Shell dealt with young men in prison in Sydney. What I am saying is that’s how it’s set up to appear. It’s set up to appear as if the black man is disenfranchised yet again. He is seen as the perpetrator of the violence.

LEIGH SALES: That might be true.

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: And there are plenty of statements about that.

LEIGH SAKES: What other option did the women have? They couldn’t go to the men for help because those men were the perpetrators of the violence. What else could they have done other than ask for government and ask for outside assistance?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: It’s also view true that there are other men in the community who are managing and there are male elders in the community who are managing. Well, I do see that it was a recourse in emergency here. All I’m saying is that unless we deal with the pathology that underlies it we won’t get anywhere. We won’t actually stop the violence. we may even cause it to escalate. But it’s not a viable proceeding unless you look at the pathology. It’s, I don’t think it’s a simple situation at all. I also in my worse moments I think we might be way too late.

LEIGH SALES: And what does that mean?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Well, it probably mean s annihilation of black communities. But there are some people who would say to you that they’re pretty well annihilated already, that everything that’s happened has gone wrong, that even allowing black communities to acquire land rights and to have their own territory and to have a system of self-government has been totally undermined. And is now, now it’s all to start again. What do we do now? We already had a problem that black land rights were not like anybody else’s. You could rescind them if you felt like it and there was a problem in international law which we never got to grips with about that. And, again, this very dubious title that people struggle so hard for that cost them more in resources than they had to spend is suddenly whipped away from them again because they’ve been set up for failure. And this has happened again and again and again. We have to think of something different. Now I quite understand that we cannot leave children in danger but those children and the young men are not a dis continuum. They’re the same people.

The rest is here

Sure wish I could ge holda that essay.

Hold Tory Feet to the Fire

On June 11th, Stephen Harper made an apology on behalf of all Canadians to Canada’s Indigenous people for the abuses they suffered as a result of our hideous policy of forcing their children into residential schools.  Many people were critisized for expressing scepticism about the apology in light of our government’s continuing abuse of our people.  It seems that they weren’t sufficiently grateful for words in place of action.

There is no better example of Canada’s ongoing abuse of Indigenous people than this:

Over the past months (here, here and here) I’ve been writing about the fight by the Cree community of Attawapiskat to get a new school to replace their long since condemned building. So far, that fight has fallen on deaf ears with the Conservative government, despite the amazing efforts of the parents and especially the children of this community and the thousands of children from other communities, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, from all across the country. If you want a good primer on the story, check out the piece written by the Toronto Star’s Carol Goar, because it really does the situation justice.

northwestern lad has issued a challenge to Canadian bloggers to help the kids of Attawapiskat get their school for gawd sakes.  Here’s the website the Cree community has set up to spread the word about their cause. 

And at Peterborough Politics, you’ll find more information about the community’s efforts, as well as these suggestions for things you can do to help:

Write a letter to Chuck Strahl , Minister of Indian Affairs

  • Sign the petition online
  • If you’re a student, teacher or parent, join the many schools that have started their own campaigns of support for the kids (read here about the campaign of St. Edmund Campion Secondary School in Brantford, Ontario)
  • Show the video created by the community to show the conditions in which these kids live.
  • And finally, and probably one of the best ideas that I have seen yet, write a letter of support to the children of Attawapiskat. Let the kids know directly that you are with them. Letters can be sent to the following address: J.R. Nakogee School
    Attawapiskat, Ontario
    POL 1A0

Bogus US War on Drugs Comes to Canada

Canadians fail to notice as the US exports its drug war to this country:

This month an invasive species crossed the border from the US into Canada with the introduction of the draconian omnibus federal crime bill (C-2) that no opposition party dared oppose. This law seems designed to fill Canada’s jails beyond capacity, with its minimum sentencing and tough parole provisions. It could even lead to a call for private prisons, which have always been a pet project of Justice Minister and Attorney General Rob Nicholson, a former Mike Harris crony.

Along with the American-style get-tough-on-crime approach C-2 embodies, its less-heralded invasive cousin is the War on Drugs. This War has been an even more spectacular waste of lives and money than the War on Terror.

The War on Drugs has filled America’s prisons with black, young and poor people. It has enriched and engorged organized crime, the prison industrial complex, police departments and their suppliers, while driving US foreign policy and military action in lethal directions. No one seems to think it’s done anything to reduce drug use.

Bill C-2, however, introduces the War on Drugs to Canada. Roadside drug testing — framed as the moral equivalent of keeping drunk drivers off the road — opens the door to many abuses of power. With no form of drug testing able to distinguish between recent, driver-impairing drug use and drug use in the past by drivers, the new police powers will be used as a fishing license.

Anyone who police think looks fishy can now be shaken down.  […]

American and Canadian experience indicates it is far more likely these kinds of observations will be made about people of colour, young people, poor people and Aboriginal people than about middle-class, middle-age white folks. And since we know a high proportion of Canada’s population uses marijuana — especially the young, the poor and the non-white — and half of Canadians actually approve of its use it’s easy to predict the outcome. There will be more searches, yielding more arrests, charges, convictions and people in Canada’s prisons under our tough new law.

Our roads are safer because the drunks have been removed from them. There is inconclusive evidence, however, that anyone is safer due to these new police powers and plenty of evidence pointing to problems down the road.

The Canadian federal party that has the guts to take on the Harperites over the War on Drugs and insist on an end to it will be rewarded by voters who want the left to stand for something rather than waffling to the centre.

Remember that Bill C-2 was passed, not just by the Conservatives in the House of Commons, but also by the Liberals, who were afraid to face the electorate.  The Bill contains provisions for mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes which will have the effect of increasing the numbers of Canadians in prison without accomplishing any increase in safety and security.  The study of the impact of mandatory minimum sentences is complex and very little Canadian research is available.  So we go ahead and implement them, based on ideological and mythological notions of crime prevention, of course.

With respect to drug crimes, there is research that shows that mandatory minimums don’t work[download pdf] and this [download pdf]  And see this (where you’ll also find an interesting discussion on the provision which raises the age of consent for sexual activity).

Here’s what the Sentencing Reform Committee at the Department of Justice had to say on MMS:

Criminologists agree that the likelihood of apprehension and conviction can deter offenders, but not the severity of the penalty they might face. Most offenders have no idea what penalty they might face. That is why the police community, so well represented here today, needs more resources in the detection and apprehension of those who would use guns in serious crime.

We know that the U.S. uses mandatory minimum sentences more than all other western democracies combined. If mandatory sentencing worked, America would be the safest society in the world. We know it is not, and that there is virtual consensus among American sentencing scholars that mandatory minimum penaltieshave had no discernible impact on crime. They have unintended consequences, which are negative: long sentences for less serious crime; wide prosecutorial discretion, resulting in uneven and unfair application of the law; huge financial costs for trials and custody; and, in the United States, racial disparity, with something like two out of five African-American males between the ages of 18 and 24 being in custody among the 2.1 million people in jail in the United States.   [download pdf]