Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Threat of the West (to itself)

Keith Windschuttle in this address is speaking about the attack on the West by Westerners, by intellectuals and academics so stuck in the radicalism of another time that they are capable of the most absurd assertions.

This is Sunera Thobani, former president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. Women must, she said just after 9/11,

reject this kind of jingoistic militarism and recognise that as the most heinous form of patriarchal racist violence that we're seeing on the globe today… There will be no emancipation for women anywhere on this planet until the Western domination of this planet is ended.
Presumably, it would be the Islamists who would enact this emancipation for women.

He gives a very good example of the self-hate and sloppy thinking that dominate our universities: the end of Aboriginal society in Tasmania. If you asked most people, they would probably say that the British settlers slaughtered them. And it is not a huge step from that to speak of genocide. In fact,
The Australian academic journal Aboriginal History in 2001 published a special “genocide” edition. In their introduction, the editors argued that European colonialism was an even more intrinsically genocidal process than that of Nazi Germany...

The worst-case scenario in Australia is widely regarded as the island of Tasmania, where a Black War was supposedly fought in the 1820s and 1830s and where the last full-blood Aboriginal person died in 1888, though significant numbers of part Aboriginal descendants survive to this day. The historian Lyndall Ryan says in her 1981 book The Aboriginal Tasmanians that they were the victims of “a conscious policy of genocide”. This is the orthodox opinion among Australian academics.

In 2001 and 2002 I undertook the task of checking the footnotes of the major authors on Tasmania to verify their original sources, I found to my surprise that their interpretation of frontier warfare and genocide was based on invented incidents, concocted footnotes, altered documents and gross exaggeration of the Aboriginal death toll. I could find credible evidence that white settlers had killed a total of 121 Aborigines, mostly in self defence or in hot pursuit of Aborigines who had killed or assaulted white settlers. The rest of the population of about 2000 natives had died from diseases to which their long isolation on their island had given them no immunity, principally influenza, pneumonia and tuberculosis. On top of this, venereal disease rendered most of the women infertile.

The Tasmanian colony had been founded in 1803 in the middle of the British campaign to end the slave trade. Its longest-serving governor was George Arthur, a supporter of William Wilberforce, and who in his previous post in British Honduras had set the colony's indigenous slaves free. His sensitivity to the native question, in fact, was what got him the job in Australia. He wanted to civilize and modernize the Aborigines, not exterminate them. His intentions were not to foster violence towards the Aborigines but to prevent it. The charge of genocide is not only wrong, it is maliciously wrong — the defamation of a good man and a wilful misrepresentation of the truth.
A footnote that will not amaze American readers:
the assertion by the editors of Aboriginal History that the British settler societies were more intrinsically genocidal than Nazi Germany was based on an analysis of colonialism by Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado.
He passes on, via Rushdie, Ibn Warraq and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, to the cartoon ruckus.
Muslim rage over the cartoons is not an isolated issue that would have been confined to Denmark and would have gone away if nobody had republished them. It is simply one more step in a campaign that has already included assassination, death threats and the curtailment of criticism. And our response, yet again, has been one more white flag in the surrender of Western cultural values that we have been making since Khomeini's fatwa against Rushdie in 1989.

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