Pilger’s Utopia feeds an industry going in circles

NATIONAL Reconciliation Week finishes today. The Aboriginal industry can put away its ideological bunting for another year. Only those paid to do so, and the ideologically committed, will continue the dreary business of, among other things, reading out a welcome to country message.

‘’I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting and pay my respects to their elders past and present.’’

Why do otherwise intelligent people do this? No one believes it, it does no good, and it perpetuates the myth that land is everything. Land is a platform for the brilliance of humans to perform upon. Without skills and willpower, it comes to nought. Unless, and until, the Aboriginal industry learns this, the blighted lives of the smallest part of Aboriginal Australia, those sitting in the dumps of Aboriginal settlements such as, Utopia, in the Northern Territory, will never change.

Right on time for Reconciliation Week, the broadcast of John Pilger’s latest excoriation of Australians, Utopia, proves the point. Not a single, sensible, answer to the plight of Aborigines at Utopia was evinced in two insufferable hours of bile. The one bright ­moment was the interview with Warren Snowdon, for 23 years a Labor federal member from the Northern Territory. ‘’Why haven’t you fixed it’’, Pilger berates. “What a puerile question,’’ Snowdon responds.

Puerile indeed, because Pilger and Snowdon share a cause: Aboriginal self-determination. Snowdon has been a foot soldier in the cause his entire career. He has spent more of your money, and mine, on the failed experiment than any 1970s activist thought possible.

Puerile, because Snowdon should have informed Pilger that most Aborigines live in the city and are doing well. They are making a contribution on their land. Land that they have purchased as freehold. They are secure, healthy, moderately wealthy and wise beyond John Pilger’s, and any trad­itional Aborigine’s, imagination.

Snowdon should have informed Pilger that Australians give more than $25 billion per year to Aborigines — $45,000 per head, compared with $20,000 for other Australians.

Aborigines have three times the amount spent on their schooling, and five times the amount spent on health services and housing, as non-Aborigines.

Pilger would not have cared for such facts, because the film is not about Utopia the place. It is about an imagined society in the mind of John Pilger.

Despite 40 years of evidence that self-determination kills its own, Pilger persists.

Other than professional Aboriginal leaders, Pilger did not interview any successful Aborigines. He did not seek to understand the pathways by which Aborigines become successful. He did not inform viewers about scholarships, or about removing children from harm. He did not inquire why some children are brutalised and not taken into care. He did not ­acknowledge that in 99 deaths in custody not one showed police at fault. He did not acknowledge that the leading case in the Stolen Generation’s cause failed.

Pilger’s utopia of the mind is a “genuine’’ treaty between black and white. The object is to “share resources’’. Aborigines can be landlords and the white man can toil and produce wealth, build the skyscrapers and the beach houses that, in the film, Pilger disdains, but in logic tolerates, so long as the Aboriginal overlord gets a cut.

John Pilger’s mind seems to grasp economics in other contexts. He had to raise funds for his film. His backers, unless philanthropists, expected a return for their investment. Presumably he sold the rights to screen the film to SBS. It sold advertising time to Telstra, Optus, Origin, Officeworks, Energex, Eclipse Mints, Galaxy 5, Medibank and K Mart.

For these companies, a commercial decision is based on an estimate of the audience numbers, incomes and spending habits of viewers. Or, at least, I hope that was the basis of the calculation.

I sincerely hope that no executive bought advertising as its contribution to reconciliation. Because, dear executive, John Pilger, and most of the characters he interviewed, are the problem.

These are architects of a machine designed to screw money from the likes of you on the basis of guilt. These are architects that deny the lessons of their own lives: how they came to be educated and earning. They did so without a treaty or mention in the constitution. They broke free from foul circumstances, or were taken, to be given a second chance. Some made it.