Andrew L. Urban
There’s a pub somewhere in the Aussie outback which displays a worn and fraying sign that says “Free beer tomorrow”. The larrikin spirit lives on. But could it also be a warning to Australians that not all promises are kept, nor all hopes fulfilled. Perhaps the claims for the healing properties of the Voice would be as illusory as tomorrow’s beer.
It is a well known maxim that history doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes. Perhaps that’s because human nature remains as flawed as ever, making the same mistakes as it pursues similar ends. Cancel culture is one characteristic of a cultural revolution that is white-anting the west. The Cultural Revolution of the mid 60s in China produced the Red Guard, a civilian ‘army’ mobilized by the state under Mao Tse-tung, that was powered by a desire to destroy the remnants of the old regime and enforce ideological purity. Right-think.
With the backing of the enforcement apparatus as well as the ideology of the state, the Red Guard quickly became a feared thought police, free to trample on human rights. Their ‘bible’ was the Little Red Book, a collection of 267 aphorisms from Mao “correcting mistaken ideas” including the famous line that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”. It was mandatory reading … and quoting! (“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery. It cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.” The Voice is a backdoor revolution, I would argue.)
One of the key features of the Red Guard era was the destruction of ancient texts, antiques and Buddhist temples. History was filled with evil, had to be destroyed; sound familiar? (“Not to have a correct political point of view is like having no soul,” said Mao, a view echoed today in much of the hard left.) Another was the public humiliation and shaming of anyone even just suspected of ‘wrong-think’. In time, public shaming grew more violent…
A sign of the rhyme: Aboriginal leader and senior Voice proponent Noel Pearson’s public attacks on those who are critical of the Voice, goes beyond debating the subject. It is personal vilification, intended to erode the legitimacy of opponents. This is copied from the ancient text that teaches how to prepare for revolution: denigrate your opponents, herd them all into a single class (eg white supremacist colonialists) and hold them up for contempt. In the process, this class becomes the target of both ideologues and the violent elements in the culture war. If nothing else, it helps create division and chills open debate. For example, Pearson attacked Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price for failing to favour the Voice. He claimed she was caught in a “redneck celebrity vortex” and claimed that right-wing think-tanks like the Institute of Public Affairs and the Centre for Independent Studies were pulling the strings. He inferred she had no agency of her own.
Price had said the Voice advisory body would divide Australia by race and said calls to support the “failed model” amounted to “emotional blackmail”. Pearson suggested Senator Price, who is a member of the Country Liberal Party but caucuses with the Nationals, had taken over the “squalid little political party” and that its “kindergarten child” leader David Littleproud (“little to be proud of”) should just resign.
Pearson marked Easter by condemning the Liberal Party’s decision to oppose the Voice at the referendum as a “Judas betrayal”. Responding to Julian Leeser wondering how Aboriginals might be identified (eg to qualify for Voice committee membership), Pearson inferred that perhaps Leeser wants people to wear a tattoo identifying them as Indigenous or “our clothes should be adorned with some kind of badge identifying us as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander”. To aim that at a Jew like Leeser is despicable.
With such nasty bullying, inflammatory speech, proponents of the Voice turn debate into confrontation, argument into insult. What does that show about character?
And what does it portend if the Voice becomes a constitutional fact?
Will the vitriol turn into swagger? Will the newly anointed class of political overseers, unrepresentative of anyone but themselves, become the bloated new replacements of leadership, the pigs of Animal Farm? Where is the line that separates the Voice committee from giving advice to demanding new rules? If, as PM Anthony Albanese has said, “it would be a brave government who ignored the advice of the Voice”, it would be a brave local council or State government …or corporation who did so.
And if the country votes No to the Voice in the referendum, will the Professor Marcia Langton’s threat (!?) to end the ubiquitous Welcome to Country ceremonies be realised? Surely not …