The Grievance Industrial Complex and Me

I was five years old when Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was sacked by Sir John Kerr on November 11, 1975 — too young to deal with the political upheaval the dismissal caused in my working-class family. I guess I absorbed and internalised that resentment, as it wasn’t until I entered university in the summer of 1987 that I began to conscientiously “maintain the rage”. If this was to be the age of equality, I concluded, then it was up to working-class people, like me, to agitate for change.

When the Berlin Wall came down and the West appeared triumphant in defeating Communism, my academic colleagues and I, safe in the sanctuary of a taxpayer-funded university, remained unmoved and defiant. While studying Soviet politics, my lecturers never introduced us to dissidents and critics like Solzhenitsyn or Koestler. Even if they had, such warnings of state sanctioned brutality would have gone unheeded by the likes of me.

One time in the Flinders University Tavern, another student, Dave, brought up in an affluent suburb, took exception to my class polemics. I dismissed his criticism as a manifestation of the bourgeois conspiracy to protect his upper-crust privilege. Socialism has glib answers for everything and anything, you just need to memorise them. That’s what made the ideology so appealing and, at the same time, made dealing with its useful idiots (like me) so infuriating. The logical consequence of such rationalisations meant the very existence of tranquil suburbs, like that from which Dave hailed, offered offence in and of itself. Those jacaranda’d streets were an affront to my class consciousness — not that I was about to take to the trees with an axe. That would have been beneath my supposed intellectual capacity and, anyway, I was too lazy to do more that hold forth with an elbow propped upon the bar. But according to the class theories I then embraced, I would have been justified if I had. Anything can be justified under the rubric of Marxist ideology and the waging of war on class enemies. At the time it didn’t occur to me that the same ideology provided the Bolsheviks with a rationale to slaughter the Romanovs at dead of night in a gore-splattered basement, to impose a genocidal famine on the Ukraine or destroy a nation’s heritage, as the Red Guards had done at Mao’s instruction.

Truth be told, Dave really could play the guitar and make the young girls swoon. I hated it when he got that guitar out. Pitted against him in love’s competition, I came off second best every time, and I knew it. If equality meant anything, then everybody would need to receive the same music tuition. Socialist ideology relies on subjective rationalisation and wilful blindness. To achieve ‘real’ equality, would everyone need to share the same teacher? The same instrument? How would the State begin to legislate all these changes? Even so, as I think I knew even then, I’d still have known in my heart that Dave’s singing and guitar-picking would always be better than anything I might achieve.

Thirty years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall I am no longer part of the working-class oppressed. Having failed as an economic system, Marxism has switched its focus to race, gender and general ‘otherness’. Now I am given to understand that I am a member of the privileged white heterosexual elite. What has happened in the intervening years to so transform my identity, at least as defined by others? Well, these days, a state-funded bureaucracy of grievance grows and sustains itself by denouncing whiteness and Western heritage, particularly capitalism. The articles of its faith: that reverence for market economies reflects racism and its legacy (colonialism), gender injustice (the patriarchy) and, ultimately, of course, the planet’s destruction (climate change). Cultural Marxism they call it. The sin of wealth has been replaced by the sin of whiteness.

A history class in an Australian school will focus on the ‘original sin’ of the Australian people: the dispossession of the Aborigines, this being contrasted with their heroic struggle for survival in the face of an Anglo-Saxon ‘invasion’. When I was going to school it would have been a flog opera focusing on the treatment of convicts; on the miseries and perils aboard the prison ships that took them into permanent exile on the other side of the world; on the obstacles and hardships that saw a nation arise from a penal colony. Nowadays, the ideological perspective has shifted from the colonists’ point of view to a post-colonial indigenous one, where the landscape is native, hence ideal, and those transported alien to it, with their heirs after no matter how many generations no less so.

At the same time, the class will be taught to celebrate successive waves of immigration. There is more than a bit of cognitive dissonance at work here: we are racist, irredeemably so, yet gloriously multicultural at the same time. On the one hand, migrants ‘of colour’, we are told, are confronted with a variation on the same sort of systemic bigotry that allegedly oppresses Aborigines, yet they are themselves the beneficiaries of a qualified ‘privilege’. In the pyramid of grievance, Aborigines rank a degree of greater victimhood higher than non-European migrants. Logically examined, it is nonsense, but the narrative is immune to criticism because there is now a thriving bureaucracy that calibrates degrees of oppression and profits from its chart’s dissemination. Here it is instructive to recall the late Bill Leak’s cartoon of a black police officer admonishing a black father over his black son’s mischief-making. When the luvvie legions howled ‘Racist!’ on Twitter, the grievance machine launched an outreach campaign to rustle up complainants. That’s how the game is played.

Ceremonial occasions no longer pay homage to the Queen but prefer to celebrate the tradition (invented yesterday) of the Welcome to Country. Why ‘traditional custodians’ would wish to welcome hostile invaders remains a mystery, especially given the more than 230 years of alleged genocide being promoted by academia and the grievance bureaucracy. Again, this is where the Marxist perspective comes in handy: just put your brain in neutral, parrot the cliches and click ‘like’ under every utterance from Gillian Triggs or Tim Soutphommasane.

As if aware of this hypocrisy, the apparatchiks double down on calls for a treaty and changing the date of Australia Day, or perhaps abolishing it all together. It would seem the only migrants who can no longer celebrate an autonomous identity within our multicultural society are the Anglo-Saxons, whose labours and Enlightenment principles laid the foundation for the modern nation. Beg to differ and, well,  you’re a racist throwback to the White Australia Policy.

Any lesson focusing on the dispossession of the Aboriginal people will leverage indigenous disadvantage to bolster state authority and demoralise with inherited ‘shame’ those descended from the Australian settlement. That is the method and the intent, with the vandalism of Captain Cook’s statues, along with the woke punditry’s sympathy for the perpetrators and their cause, showing us just how effective it is. The reality that the overwhelming majority of indigenous people are today of mixed racial background is of no consequence to our cultural elites. Indeed, it’s beyond the ken of polite society to question the percentage of someone’s indigenous heritage. You might be of sufficiently pale skin to have sat unbothered and unnoticed at a lunch counter in America’s old South, but somehow a few drops of indigenous blood make for eternal victimhood. In the case of Dark Emu’s  Bruce Pascoe, being “indigenous” requires no more than a big bush beard and red headband.

Nowadays, there are incentives for Australians to identify as Aboriginal, with a raft of government services and specific benefits targeted at those with Indigenous or Torres Strait Islander heritage. This has seen an exponential increase in the percentage of the urban population claiming indigenous ancestry since 1971.The level of hypocrisy required for the various branches of the public service and academia to demonise colonialism whilst continuing to reap the rewards that accrue from decrying it is astounding. In relentlessly pursuing a narrative that qualifies and undermines Western civilisation’s gifts to this nation, ideologues short-sightedly sabotage the institutions they administer. Has the mandated emphasis on aboriginality in the schools curriculum done anything to improve the grades of indigenous kids or of their white classmates? Not at all, except for the arbiters of grievance, whose careers and empire-building flourish. Yet in identifying people only as members of a group, rather than individuals, they are the ones most guilty of patronising and genuinely racist condescension.

Witnessing Marxist dogma’s switch to apportion privilege on the basis of race and sexual identity, rather than  the class struggle of yesteryear, led me to reconsider the legacy bequeathed to us by Western civilisation. So what did this former red-ragger conclude? It’s simple really: the source and mainspring of justice for all is and must always be equality before the law. We have seen the dystopian consequences of doing otherwise playing out on our TV screens as flames light American cities and innocent truck drivers are hauled from their rigs to be kicked senseless for the crime of being white.

Resisting the temptation to assign guilt based on collective denunciations of class, race and/or gender protects us all from anarchy — an anarchy dangerously encouraged by the ideological underpinnings of the  grievance-industrial complex. Before we see America’s ordeal repeated here, our elected leaders really should do something about it. But they most likely won’t, more’s the pity.

Damien Richardson lives in Melbourne

7 thoughts on “The Grievance Industrial Complex and Me

  • PT says:

    Marxism is a materialist doctrine that is based upon economic issues as the main driver of history and human development. Exploitation is thus economic and hence based upon economic class! The fact racial, ethnic and religious affinities and loyalties crossed this was dismissed by Marxists as false consciousness! Ultimately unimportant as history’s tide rolled on to the inevitable revolution.
    So where does this current nonsense fit into Marxist theory? It doesn’t. The point about Aboriginal poverty is that far from being the exploited workers, with the major exception of the pastoral industry in the north, they were largely excluded from it! Reduced to picking up odds and ends and living on handouts. Ridiculous claims are also made about the contribution of slave labour to America’s wealth too. All this ignores the reality that most of the labour that built Australia and America, plus that that kept the economy and society running was overwhelmingly the now demonised “white males”! How to solve this conundrum? I’ll put my thoughts in the next post.

  • PT says:

    In my view, Marxism was taken up by those who weren’t the ruling class, but believed they should be, and deeply resented not being so. I’d fit Engles into this – he was wealthy, but not truly Junkers. Lenin and his family were upper middle class; Trotsky’s family were wealthy, but outsiders as they were Jewish (Jews were very prominent amongst Marxists, and I suspect this is why). It also appeals to academics who as an “intellectual elite” resent not being the economic and political elite too. Need I go on? Marx seemed to provide a coherent and intellectual doctrine for these people as to why the existing system was “bad” (and thus had to be swept away) and also why it’s destruction was “inevitable”!
    The common denominator was that these people were NOT “working class” and in most cases were not even raised in “working class” homes! Take John Pilger. A book once made much of his “commitment” to the “underprivileged” due to his Irish labourer great great grandfather (whom he clearly never met); but there’s a photo of his mother at her graduation ceremony at Sydney University in the early ‘20’s – clearly her family had sufficient means to send their daughter to university at a time when 1% or less attended! Pilger clearly never experienced the challenges of his great great grandfather!
    Now this is the point. Many Marxists merely took up the cause to demonise society for not giving them their appropriate position, and achieve the revolution that would provide them with it! When championing the working class is not going to work, it’s very easy to switch horses for these people. They apply the Marxist theories of “the oppressed” to other classifications without regard as to whether it truly fits into Marx’s theory of economics! But this should be a warning to any and all “promoted” by these people! Today’s “victim” can easily become tomorrow’s oppressor! An obvious possibility are the alphabet soup: gays and lesbians have relatively high incomes – and certain immigrant groups also championed by these people are hostile. In the not too distant future I can well imagine cultural Marxists dropping gays and lesbians as “oppressors” for imposing upon these “non-white” “victims”! We can already see this with attacks on feminists who don’t see that a man is a woman simply because he says he is!

  • PT says:

    To my mind this is all insane. Class can be changed, but race (the likes of Pascoe not withstanding) cannot! So white academics tweeting that they want a “white genocide” are certifiable. If they succeed in mobilising “PoC” to this glorious revolution, they won’t be kept on to run things! I’ve heard leftists claim that Nazi murders were worse than Communist ones as you cannot change your race, but you can change your class: but they’ve now adopted this same metric!

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    The rule of law, democratically made law, and equality before the law, these are the only things that matter and that keep a society coherent to all of its citizens when push comes to shove. Otherwise civilisation will fail. We are not there yet, in that failure, but the signposts are worrying. Once religion had a strong place in social coherence; far less so now, with the rise of the pseudo-religions of socialist Marxism in the new guises of Diversity and Climate Change, with their increasingly linked mantras of ‘privilege’ and ‘extinction’.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Damien, having reached the SU Ivory Tower in 1964 by a circuitous seven year route since I was fourteen, I used to sit in University confabs in those golden years of my early twenties and sometimes be overcome by the sheer assurance of those who had never had to struggle in life, children of comfortable homes.. These people often said how much they cared about ‘the workers’, but most of them had never been near any real ones. I once overheard two very ‘Vaucluse’ social work students drawing up a budget for a disadvantaged family on the dole, such as it was in those days. One razor blade a week should do it for the husband, commented one of them, and I was filled with righteous anger at their very condescension. And I now live in Vaucluse in my later years. Tempus fugit and life’s path has many twists and turns. 🙂

  • DG says:

    Apart from all the other criticisms of the farcical ‘welcome to country’/’acknowledgement of country’ mentioned in the article, one I’ve not heard but is mine is the implicit humiliation of Aboriginal Australians in the gestures. They indicate acceptance of Aboriginal marginalisation, the putative loss of possession (not that ‘possession’ might have been an Aboriginal concept), choosing exclusion, and the manifest reality that the ‘lands’ are no longer what they are claimed to have been.
    OTOH, something of tangible historical viridity would be signs indicating where various Aboriginal tribes were thought to have lived.

  • rod.stuart says:

    “The rule of law, democratically made law, and equality before the law, these are the only things that matter and that keep a society coherent to all of its citizens when push comes to shove.”

    This is true, Elizabeth, but where does this statement stand relative to John Quigley’s op-ed in the Financial Review, in which he attempts to justify the legality of WA’s recent denigration of Clive Palmer. He contends:

    The first principle is that it is within the power of a state Parliament to expropriate property without providing just compensation.

    The second principle is that it is always within the power of Commonwealth or state parliaments to alter the rights and liabilities of a person, even in respect of pending litigation.

    The third principle is that legislation can always be specific to particular individuals or corporations.

    If this case is ever heard by the Supreme Court, where will it place the Rule of Law?

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