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Friday, 7 November 2014

Black Armbands and White Blindfolds - The Truth About Australia Day

Black Armbands and White Blindfolds - The Truth About Australia Day

Black Armbands and White Blindfolds – The Truth About Australia Day

By Nick Kenny

“White man came across the sea, he
bought us pain and misery, he killed our tribes, he killed our creed, he
took our game for his own need”
– Iron Maiden, “Run to the Hills”

Australia Day has become a day that divides. Two loud voices shouting
across a great divide, one representing the “black armband” view, the
other, the “white blindfold”. The former see it as a day of mourning, a
shameful exercise in arrogant nationalism at the expense of aboriginals.
“Invasion Day”, it is said, ought to be the moniker for the day the
evil white man set foot on this island and set about doing his evils
deeds. Blind to the reality of history, they have isolated our own
experience as some horrible aberration, a millstone of shame forever
upon our necks. The latter, by contrast, deny the history books, seeing
Australian settlement as a morally triumphant day, the first step in an unblemished and proud history to be celebrated with reckless abandon. The truth, as always, lies in the grey area between.

Let’s call a spade a spade – white settlement was an invasion.
Whitefellas came, took the blackfellas’ land, wreaking havoc and
spreading disease as they did so. This is a fact denied only by a
handful of die-hard revisionists.

However, it is also a fact held in unjust contempt by many modern
aboriginals and guilt-ridden apologists. Take a quick glance at history,
and you’d be hard pressed to find a corner of the globe that hasn’t had
something similar happen – it was the primal nature of humanity until
the twentieth century.

Never before in human history have we had the binding international
peace treaties, human rights conventions we have today, nor the general
inclination to avoid war, colonial conquest, and imperialist violence.
The entire narrative of human civilisation, up until very recently, has
been that “might is right” – one either conquers and grows, or perishes
at the hands of those who do.

Australian settlement occurred at the pinnacle of the imperial
European age, when empires clamoured for colonial conquests, with the
ultimate goal of global domination. The biggest threats to our European
forebears were their own neighbours, frantically building empires of
their own and warring amongst one other incessantly. The alternative to
building an empire of their own was to perish at the hands of whoever
else beat them to it.

We would do well to remember that one year after Arthur Phillip set
foot on Australian soil, the French overthrew their monarch, and set off
a chain of events that would lead directly to Napoleon Bonaparte, a
decimated European continent at the hands of the French imperialists,
with the tiny British isles desperately clamouring to mount a defense.
This was, quite bluntly, the dog-eat-dog world of the eighteenth

Were it not the British who conquered aboriginal land for their
crown, then without a doubt it would have been the French, the Spanish,
the Portuguese, or the Dutch. This was the reality of the age in which
we were settled. It was grim, it is nothing to reflect upon with any
sense of pride, but it was the unavoidable nature of the world at the

Finally, an inconvenient truth ignored by the apologists is the fact
that we have brought a great deal to aboriginal life. The myth of the
“traditional” way of life, being some peaceful and prosperous Garden of
Eden, has no substance in fact. Our health services, housing, and social
welfare have all been bulwarks against the unforgiving life in the
Australian bush. Life expectancy has improved dramatically, infant
mortality has plummeted, and life overall is a more comfortable and
stable existence.

This may or may not be an ideal substitute – no one wants their
entire culture overhauled and replaced – but the balance sheet of rights
and wrongs now sits well in our favour. Moreover, we did not introduce
violence – tribal warfare was prevalent here long before Britain even
existed as a political entity.

It is the height of arrogance to judge the brutality of the past
through the enlightened lens of modern values and institutions. Rather
than anguish over the violence that has governed our existence on this
planet since the dawn of time, we ought to be proud of our ability to
transcend it. Enjoy Australia Day – I know I will.


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