Australia's Dark Secrets and Dishonest Politics
By John Pilger
Australia is a
version of apartheid South Africa? Ask a black South
African who has looked behind the facades.
January 2016, John Pilger spoke at a rally at Sydney
Town Hall on the hidden meaning of 'Survival Day'.
Why are we
here? Why are we doing this every 26th January -
year after year? Of course, we know why - Indigenous
people are saying to Australia: 'Look, we are still
here. We have survived the massacres and the
cynicism. We have survived.'
But is that
enough, I wonder? Is survival without action ever
of power in Australia - especially political and
media power -- draw both comfort and delusion from
the very idea of Survival Day.
they say, we understand. We have a place for you on
the great Australian facade, next to Qantas and
Anzac and Fair Go. Their delusion is that as long as
Indigenous people have a token role in the theatre
of Australia Day, then all is well. As long as
there's a bit of dancing and a smoking ceremony down
by the Harbour Bridge, then all is well.
like Australia - with dark secrets and dishonest
politics - feed off image and tokenism. They admire
their own image of gormless, unthinking patriotism,
while secretly admiring their capacity to silence
and divert dissent and to control and co-opt people
and never to change. It's a clever system of
divisiveness. How does it work?
idea of 'reconciliation'. It sounds good, but what
does it mean? What is there to reconcile between
oppression and suffering, poverty and privilege?
Does it include 'justice'? Of course not.
Reconciliation is to make the majority feel good
with symbolic gestures and symbolic speeches.
acceptable to us, here today?
acceptable to those of us who know that Australia is
a version of apartheid South Africa? Ask a black
South African who has looked behind the facades.
Is the idea
of Survival Day enough for the young Indigenous men
who die before they reach the age of 40?
enough for those who succumb to terrible sadness and
violence in prison and police custody?
enough for a 22-year-old Indigenous woman from
Western Australia - her name was Ms. Dhu - who died
in custody and who was laughed at by police officers
as she lay in her own vomit?
enough for the children who go deaf and blind from
diseases of poverty?
enough for the hundreds of families who are raided
in the early morning and their children stolen from
Australia Day banners out there in George Street,
Sydney, tell us to: Chill. Enjoy. Reflect. I would
add another banner, blood-red in colour, on which is
printed the following: 'No country since apartheid
South Africa has been more condemned by the UN for
its racism than Australia.' It's time to tear down
the facades. The image is a lie. No other settler
nation has done so little to come to terms with its
indigenous people. No other settler nation has done
so little to discharge the colonial mentality that
imprisons all of us in the past.
What I find
especially tragic is the unspoken fear instilled
into the tiny Indigenous educated class. This fear
says that that, unless they wave the flag, however
defensively, they'll be dropped off the bus of white
privilege. For until a moral and legal treaty is
signed with the first nations of this country,
there'll be only pockets of privilege, and no
I mean an historic series of laws that return to
Indigenous people power over their own lives and
communities, and a rightful share of the vast wealth
of Australia... a treaty that carries the legal
obligation of education and housing and health care.
will happen only if every day is not just survival
day, but a day of action. Direct action. The kind of
direct action that horrifies the media that guards a
system of divide and rule.
you must not be afraid. Direct action is the only
reason we have certain freedoms in Australia. Read
the high court judgement of Lionel Murphy, the great
reformer and jurist, who in 1982 said that
Aboriginal people had every right to fight back.
Murphy quoted Oscar Wilde that without what he
called "agitation" - direct action - "there would be
no advance towards civilisation." It's up to you how
you take action. But you must do it. There is no
is absolutely certain: no matter how many flags are
waved today, until Indigenous Australia can take
back its nationhood, the rest of us can never claim
John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger