Recently, and no doubt encouraged by people who know better but still find it useful to promote fauxboriginal Bruce Pascoe and his crackpottery, up to and including installing the shameless fraud as a Melbourne University professor, the author of Dark Emu took to the opinion pages of the Nine press under the headline “Dark Discovery: European mindset of superiority continues today”. Even by his loose standards this column is a piece of work, so appalling in the paraded venom of its ignorance that Quadrant contributor Patrick McCauley was moved to take it apart, paragraph by paragraph.
Pascoe’s piffle is reproduced below in italic, with Patrick’s commentary following. — rf
“What was happening in the European mind when they built ships big enough to cross oceans? The spread of Christianity, bringing light to the dark places? Or gold? Enough gold to gild a king’s palace or a priest’s church.”
The Industrial Revolution was happening. The European mind had absorbed the Enlightenment and listened to both Locke and Hume. Royalty was being replaced and, where it continued, rising democratic sentiment was curbing its authority. Habeus Corpus, the Abolition of Slavery Bill on the high seas. It was establishing the church of England and the Protestant Reformation and reducing the powers of Rome within the Christian Churches. It was invading Ireland. It was establishing education all over the known and civilised world. The that Western world, no matter how perverted, agreed in principle to live by the Christian law — the Ten Commandments — worked into civil law and lore. The European mind survived through the Dark Ages and countless pandemics and invasions and slaughters and genocides and totalitarian barbarities. The Europeans knew barbarity well. The spread of Christianity throughout Europe and Britain and Spain was the enlightenment of the soul and the recognition of individuals as equals before God.
It was education and science which developed the big ships that sailed to the edge of the world and found strange new lands still consumed with barbarism and tribal warfare, cannibalism, infanticide and short, brutal lives.
Of course Christianity thought it had a responsibility to bring the light of self-worth, forgiveness and redemption to savage peoples entombed in terrible and existential struggles for survival. European Christians knew how to grow and harvest food, they knew how to write, read and store knowledge. And because they had the weapons to defeat primitive peoples, they were able to impose order, the first necessary requirement for civilisation to emerge.
“After Columbus and his journey to the Americas, Pope Alexander VI provided the answer in his papal bull of 1493, The Doctrine of Discovery, which deemed that Christians could lay claim to the territory of other nations on the grounds that the Indigenes did not know the name Jesus Christ. If they resisted the right of this most reasonable test, they could be justifiably killed.”
It was never that “Indigenes did not know the name of Jesus Christ”, rather that Indigenes were unconscious to the possibilities of happiness available to the individual human being — the quality of life available through love and peace and agreement and forgiveness and the consciousness of taking responsibility for oneself. The indigenes who Pascoe exalts had little personal agency in tribal societies and lived often short lives of violence and fear.
“European thought and spiritual imagination were declared superior to all others. There may have been humanitarian moves afoot in England but the result was the same, robbery under arms. So, the plunder began. And the murder. The invasions of Africa, North and South America and Asia were vicious and contemptuous.”
The ‘thought and spiritual imagination’ of Western Civilisation is there for all to see, manifest in the high-tech worlds of the greatest democracies and societies the world has ever known. Look at the US, Europe, Britain and every country which has been touched by European thought and its spiritual imagination and you will see why it is superior to all others. This is not “White Supremacy”, it is just what happened and why — the truth exemplified in the evidence. It continues to invite all races and religions and non-Christian, non-European peoples – in to share in its bounty.
“By the time the Christians reached Australia, the colonial methods were refined to a ruthless edge. Backed by both the Church and Crown, invaders felt impervious to the claims of the Indigenous population. They refused to acknowledge the rights to land and even to their humanity.”
Yet today, over 60 per cent of the Australian mainland is covered by Native Title. This was largely due to Christian intervention and the genuine desire for reconciliation. Christian settlement continually offered Aboriginal peoples ‘their humanity’. Indeed, in most ways it offered Aboriginal people more humanity than did their own tribes.
“‘Explorers’ and ‘pioneers’ saw and recorded vast croplands of tubers and grasses. They reported dams and wells, villages and roads but the pope’s bull emboldened them in the certainty that they could take anyone’s land. And life.”
Pascoe here expounds his own fake theory of Aboriginal culture’s high civilisation, evoking villages and roads and dams and crops which never existed except in the imagination of an author with an eye for the main chance and a devious gift misquoting explorers’ journals. As Peter O’Brien and others have painstakingly explained, the explorers did not record ‘vast croplands’ at all, nor villages with livestock pens. Pascoe has not revealed what animals were kept in the village pens he mentions, but give him time. By the next edition of Dark Emu he might well be telling us that Aborigines domesticated wombats. That should be enough to earn him another professorship.
Australia’s settlers were instructed from the very first that anybody found to have murdered a native would be charged, tried and, if guilty, hanged by the neck until dead. It is a lie, a flat-out, blatant and shameful lie, to say white Christian settlers were given permission to take Aboriginal lives.
“Their confidence that any un-Christian abomination would be smiled on by the church and indulged by both the state and courts allowed explorer and pastoralist Angus McMillan to kill hundreds of Aborigines in Gippsland. Of course, there were many others involved in massacres all over Australia and these massacres are well documented, but even today, some Australians confect ways of denial.”
The taking of another life is considered the greatest of mortal sins by Christians. It is the first commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’. It was certainly not Christianity which was responsible for the ‘massacres’ of Aboriginal (and white) families. Christianity hates the sin but loves the sinner. Again, from first settlement any white man convicted of killing an Aborigine was subject to the law, the punishment for which was death.
“That denial produces confidence in today’s law to turn a blind eye to deaths in custody, to people being shot in their homes in Yuendumu, to the explosion of the world’s oldest art and for the shares of the nationally respected perpetrating company to rise.”
I don’t think that there are too many Australian citizens who won’t acknowledge that there were massacres and violence in the settlement of Australia. The journey from the Stone Age to the modern world has been long and full of suffering for all. Nobody has turned a blind eye to black deaths in custody; indeed, there was a royal commission which found Aboriginal death rates to be less than that for whites. Where a blind eye is useful for the likes of Pascoe is when it suits the narrative to ignore the crimes that land perpetrators in ‘custody’ in the first place. You might have noticed, for example, that news coverage of appalling violence in too many Aboriginal communities gets far less attention than dubious claims of massacres two centuries ago.
Oddly, Pascoe also lurches into a delirious sentence in which he says “and for the shares of the national respected perpetrating company to rise”. I have no idea what this means or implies, other than that editing standards at the Age and SMH are these days nonexistent.
“The rest of the world understands Australian theft and murder, mainly because of their participation in similar acts, but in Australia, we pretend bemusement or outright hostility to the mere suggestion.”
What ‘theft’ have I, my ancestors or anyone else participated in? If we have stolen anything from the Aboriginal people it is their pre-settlement barbarity and much of their suffering. We have relieved them of a constant existential fear of starvation and hunger. We have emancipated Aboriginal women from terrible lives of brutal and violent slavery. We have offered their children education and comfort. We have given far more than we have taken.
“While the public sentiment and colloquial banter maintain that Aborigines did nothing with the land and are just lucky that Europeans turned up, then that sentiment seeps subliminally into every school, every church, every court and every employment agency.”
We all know that, far from being shunned, qualified Aborigines and those recognised as such can enjoy a rails run to any employment position they want. Here Kerryn Pholi’s Quadrant essay detailing the advantage being Aboriginal afforded her comes to mind. In regard to jobs, where there is discrimination it is of the reverse variety. Nor are Aborigines discriminated against by any church or court in the land. Does anyone seriously suggest Pascoe would have gained riches and misplaced acclaim were he recognised for what he is — a race-mongering charlatan whose only impressive attribute is his beard.
“Doesn’t our democracy look efficient when you compare it to the COVID-19 response in the rest of the world? Don’t we look peaceable when you look at the Speaker’s chair in our Parliament and see there no vandal wearing horns?”
If it’s a choice between our flawed democracy and the tribal ways of the various Aboriginal tribes (or any ‘vandal wearing horns’), I choose democracy — and so do most Aborigines. The civilised choice is the only logical choice.
“Yes, we do many things well but we are selective and most of all, we are selective about what we believe about the entry of Europeans into this continent and why they entered.”
Europeans entered this continent because it was there. Because they hoped for a better world and a better way of life. They knew that with compassion and Christian heritage, which blesses believers and others alike, it was possible to build a nation which today feeds close to 26 million people, build great cities and live comfortable civilised lives. And we did.