Noel Pearson has a column in The Weekend Australian attempting to find common ground in the national “identity wars”. I think this is a very poor effort because it is cast in the divisive language of collectivism and this undermines the possibility for progress that emerged since John Howard’s Headland Speech in 1995 and the new approach forged by Pearson himself and Howard’s inspired Minister for Aboriginal Affairs John Herron. The idea was to address the real issues of disadvantage instead of dwelling on grievances.
Pearson delivered many good speeches in that vein, one in particular at a CIS event that prompted an excited post on Catallaxy that I think was lost when some of the archives went down. This is another in the same spirit.
Given his roots in the labour movement there was always a bias in the collectivist direction and this burst into full flower in his Saturday column. While purporting to seek a middle ground for unity in diversity or vice versa he has trashed the position of people who do not line up with the left and the new anti-white racism of progressive identity politics with a strong dash of anti-Semitism that is driving the ALP at present.
He uses the favourite and most effective weapon of the left – the alleged dichotomy of Left and Right with reference to the culture wars between the Left and Right that raged through the world since the 1980s. He noted the Right’s “penchant for patriotic correctness” vs the Left’s political correctness. He wrote:
Pogroms against political correctness became effective weapons for the right in the ensuing wars as hapless leftists gave their opponent easy target for their often silly on campus predilections.
What are these pogroms waged on the hapless leftists? This is the language of old time Soviet agit prop. Pogroms originally referred to murderous attacks by anti-Semitic mobs on Jewish populations in Russia and Poland. In what way are the hapless leftists (helpless victims?) comparable to people murdered by mobs?
He went on The political left is associated with identity politics and the political rights rails against it. (my emphasis) What is this
railing? More agit prop. We object to it, with reasons.
Broadly the left seems to exploit identity politics by marshalling its discontents and agenda items into a progressive rainbow coalition and the Right seeks to demonise it as a blight on national cohesion.
What is this demonising? More agit prop? This is projection of the genuinely demonising practices of the left that are directed against people who disagree with the thrust of the grievance industry, the corrupted human rights industry and the whole package of identify politics.
Identity fundamentalism is the problem…[with a dig at the Left and Right}..identities are raised as bulwarks against opposing identities and our shared nationality.
Very well, who are the putative Right identity fundamentalist and what are the bulwarks they have raised against other identities? It is not hard to see the bulwarks of the progressive left and the obscene language and behaviour they feel entitled to employ against people who have different views. Who is Noel Pearson talking about?
The collectivism that underpins his case becomes clearer in the next paragraph.
The [Rightwing] form of identity fundamentalism demands that we are all the same, there should be no recognition of difference and no recognition of rights that have been denied to groups because our liberal democracy is colour, gender and sexually blind – and groups that seek to remedy injustice should just suck it up and pay obeisance to the one nation.
Well for a start justice in a liberal democracy does mean that the law is colour blind. As Martin Luther King put it
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Or he might have added, by their qualifications for the job, their performance in the test, whether or not they are innocent or guilty according to the evidence before the court.
As Karl Popper put it equalitarian Justice means equality before non-discriminatory laws
An aspiration of course but no worse for that. Collectivists take justice as a group or community concept and so the sins of fathers and forefathers can be visited on the current generation by way of affirmative action and other divisive (and ultimately self-defeating) policies.
Much more can be said about this piece and the unhelpful references to group identities and his suggestion that we might “trash our achievement by trying to demonise multiculturalism (agit prop) as the bad source of identity fundamentalism.” I think that the programs and policies designed to engineer multiculturalism that were/are driven by collectivism and the human rights and grievance industries indeed contribute to identity fundamentalism and the sharp end of that stick is now the identity politics that some reasonable leftist have belatedly recognized as a great evil of our time.