August 18, 2008
August 18, 2008
MARCIA Langton has delivered a stinging rebuke to Germaine Greer, describing her views as outdated and simplistic and condemning the feminist for a “cleverly disguised” racist attack on Aboriginal people.
Writing in The Australian today, Professor Langton dismisses Greer’s claims that Aboriginal men suffer a rage they “can’t get over” and urges the expat academic and author to read more history.
“Taken as a whole, her arguments are racist,” says Professor Langton, the chair of Australian indigenous studies at Melbourne University. “They are also just plain wrong.”
Greer says in her provocative essay published this month, On Rage, that the loss of land, women, language and culture over 200 years has caused a rage among indigenous men that is at the core of problems in Aboriginal communities.
She also asserts that indigenous women who supported last year’s intervention in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities will be seen as colluding “with the enemy”.
But Professor Langton – herself a target of Greer’s criticism – says most Aboriginal women who have fallen victim to the “anarchy and violence” endemic in some communities have welcomed the intervention.
“What the children who have been victims of violence and abuse will make of all of this in the future, we cannot know,” she writes.
“But they will surely wonder why a feminist of such fame as Greer has come to the defence of those who destroyed their innocence and damaged their sense of self.”
Professor Langton accuses Greer and her publisher of “attention-seeking” behaviour, distracting from genuine efforts to ensure a dignified future for indigenous children. This goal does not interest Greer in the least, she says.
Professor Langton also backs the views of Cape York indigenous leader Noel Pearson and Perth-based indigenous human rights lawyer Hannah McGlade, who say perpetrators of violence should take responsibility for their actions.
“We are not in the mood for failed leftist excuses for the rising levels of homicide, femicide and suicide,” Professor Langton writes.
“Dr Greer’s panoply of protest slogans deployed as social theory was dismissed long ago by the research and policy community as incapable of explaining the present day levels of huge disparities in life expectancy, morbidity and mortality rates and other socio-economic indicators.
“While the ‘burden of history’ is acknowledged in much of this work, the everyday suffering in communities at risk is caused by a multiplicity of factors … all more complicated than Dr Greer would have us understand.”
Greer’s essay has been criticised by the first Aborigine elected to the NSW parliament, Fair Trading Minister Linda Burney, who asked how the British-based academic was qualified to make her assumptions.
“I think it’s quite presumptuous to say that you know what is happening in the minds of Aboriginal men,” Ms Burney told The Australian.
Greer was in no mood to discuss her claims when approached by The Australian at the launch of the essay in Sydney last week.
But she told the ABC’s Lateline program that the rage she identified among Aboriginal men could lead to the “annihilation of black communities”.
“All I’m saying is that unless we deal with the pathology that underlies it we won’t get anywhere,” she said. “We won’t actually stop the violence. We may even cause it to escalate.”
At the launch of the essay, former NSW premier Bob Carr endorsed Greer’s work as “one of the most powerful pamphlets ever written in Australia”.
He added: “I had hoped there would be some hope at the end of Germaine Greer’s essay.”
August 18, 2008
Back at the Guardian’s Comment is Free, Alan Johnson offers a brilliant reading of the Caucasus crisis:
‘Finlandisation is back. During the cold war the term described those states which had a formal independence but existed in barely disguised servitude to Moscow. Finland, Jean-Francois Revel noted in his 1983 book, How Democracies Perish, “preserved the inviolability of its territory, what was left of it, and the right to live privately in a non-totalitarian society” but was forbidden to accept Marshall Plan aid, join the EEC or sign trade agreements with Europe. It took its orders from Moscow in foreign policy
This is the fate Putin (and some in the west) now seek to impose on Georgia. And now, as then, Russia hopes to impose Finlandisation by a mix of hard and soft power.
Hard power, needless to say, is offered by Russia’s military, though, as Stuart Koehl explained at the Weekly Standard, there’s more than meets the eye.
Soft power is supplied, just like during the Soviet era, by “useful idiots” intent on defending Russia’s mischief in the name of a number of seemingly benign causes – peace, justice, dignity and so on.
Johnson has one particular such apologist in mind – Seumas Milne, the former comment editor of the Guardian (and currently a regular Guardian columnist) for writing one such apology for Russian adventurism. One must give Milne credit for being coherent and consistent in his writing, at least. It is tempting to say that his apology is genuine, the fruit of his devotion to defending anyone who hates America and the Western way of life. He is not just defending Russia – something that may have to do with his nostalgia for Communism. He is intent on advocating an alternative world order that will ‘resist’ not just American hegemony as he sees it, but also the spread of global capitalism and free market economy. Which is why Milne seamlessly moves from defending Russia’s aggressive imperialism, to a defense of Iran’s regime, to an impassioned paean for Hugo Chavez’ “left-wing nationalism,” and support for Hamas.
Throughout these arguments there is a common thread that unites the seemingly different players: of Chavez, Milne said that
his oil-rich government has not only spearheaded a challenge to US domination and free-market dogma that has swept through the continent. It has also led the first serious attempt since the collapse of the Soviet Union to create a social alternative to the neoliberal uniformity imposed across the globe.
Iran and its allies now offer the only effective challenge to US domination of the Middle East and its resources. It’s hardly surprising that the US is alarmed by the increased influence of an avowedly anti-imperialist state sitting astride a sea of oil, now making common cause with other radical, independent regimes in Latin America.
In his defense (or eulogy?!) of communism Milne hopes for a comeback much in the same vein:
With the new imperialism now being resisted in both the Muslim world and Latin America, growing international demands for social justice and ever greater doubts about whether the environmental crisis can be solved within the existing economic system, the pressure for political and social alternatives will increase.
And as for Hamas, oh well, they are the “resistance.” Need one say more?
So let’s get back to Georgia – yet another US puppet for Milne, who dubs the country (and much of the EU as well) “former Soviet territory” in order to explain that Russia is just breaking the capitalist pro-American encirclement to reclaim its own:
Over the past decade, Nato’s relentless eastward expansion has brought the western military alliance hard up against Russia’s borders and deep into former Soviet territory. American military bases have spread across eastern Europe and central Asia, as the US has helped install one anti-Russian client government after another through a series of colour-coded revolutions. Now the Bush administration is preparing to site a missile defence system in eastern Europe transparently targeted at Russia.
Anyone who understands anything about military matters would know that ten interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic are anything but “transparently targeted at Russia” and its several thousands nuclear warheads. The only transparent thing about this sentence is how faithful it is to the original found in the Russian. But what comes next is even worse:
As long as Georgia proper’s independence is respected – best protected by opting for neutrality – that should be no bad thing. Unipolar domination of the world has squeezed the space for genuine self-determination and the return of some counterweight has to be welcome.
That is what unites Venezuela, Iran, Russia and Hamas – or Hezbollah, China, and Zimbabwe – they could become, at least in Milne’s aspirations, an effective counterweight to the West.
It is not clear how forcing neutrality on Georgia – as Johnson aptly noted, Finlandization is exactly what Milne seems to have in mind – squares with Georgian self-determination. What if the Georgians want to be part of NATO, friends of the Americans, and offer their territory to bypass the Russian stranglehold on energy supplies from Central Asia to Europe? It is clear that Milne, like others, willingly offers himself to be the mouthpiece of any radical, crazy, authoritarian, violent, extremist, brutal and ruthless dictator or terrorist, as long as their brutality is directed at the West and their friends. Not only is Finlandization back, as Johnson writes, but also Lenin’s “useful idiots.”
August 18, 2008
Before this Saturday, many analysts were predicting that the fall’s presidential debates would be a wipeout, with Barack Obama conjuring the spirit of the young John F. Kennedy and John McCain imitating the aging Bob Dole.
In a recent article in the Atlantic, James Fallows declared that McCain “will look and sound old and weak next to Obama.”
But if this weekend’s forum hosted by Pastor Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church is any indication of how the two candidates will perform in the presidential debates, it’s time to recalibrate the existing expectations. The debates may still be a wipeout — only Obama now seems likelier to bite the dust.
The Saddleback event appeared to be the ideal opportunity for Obama to make inroads among evangelicals. While his social views make the Democrat anathema to most evangelical voters, the bar is low for Obama. In 2004, 78 percent of evangelicals voted for President Bush in his narrow victory over John Kerry, and they represented nearly one out of four voters. Obama can win the election by improving over Kerry’s performance by just a few percentage points, especially in the key swing state of Ohio.
At first, it seemed that Obama was benefiting from the conversational format, in which each candidate answered identical questions from Warren for an hour, without strict time limits or sharp follow-ups. (McCain went second, but was kept in a soundproof room so he wouldn’t have an unfair advantage).
Obama showed humility, talked about selfishness that led him to experiment with drugs as a teenager, and invoked Matthew in discussing America’s obligation to address poverty, racism, and sexism. This was classic Obama — trying to frame his liberal views of economic and social justice in religious language.
But within a few minutes of McCain taking the stage, it became clear that it was his night. While McCain is typically uncomfortable talking about his faith, he played to his strengths by discussing his powerful life story, showing his stature and experience, and flashing his sense of humor. He connected to the audience emotionally while Obama was academic and — dare I say it — boring by comparison.
THE MOST DRAMATIC CONTRAST of the night came when Warren asked each candidate to talk about the most gut-wrenching decisions they’ve ever made. For Obama, it was deciding to oppose the Iraq War. At the time, he was a state senator who didn’t have to vote on the matter and was representing an overwhelmingly liberal district. For McCain, it was deciding to reject an offer of early release while being held as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese. At the time, McCain was in horrendous physical condition and knew that rejecting early release would not only extend his stay in the prison camp, but lead to even harsher treatment.
Asked to name an example of when they took a stand against their own party to do what they felt was best for the country, Obama cited ethics reform. McCain, after referencing climate change, spending, and torture, focused his answer on his opposition as a freshman congressman to President Reagan’s decision to send U.S. Marines to Lebanon in 1983.
The example subtly did two things. It pushed back against the portrait of McCain as a warmonger who supports military intervention in all circumstances and it reinforced the fact that he has been involved in America’s national security debates for decades.
Warren also asked the candidates whether evil exists and what we should do about it if it does. Both candidates acknowledged that it exists, but from there the responses couldn’t have been more different. Obama didn’t mention terrorism as evidence of evil, vaguely said we need to “confront” it, but cautioned that “a lot of evil’s been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.”
McCain, meanwhile, spoke like a commander in chief, firmly stating that “evil must be defeated” and acknowledging that the “transcendent challenge” of the century is radical Islamic extremism.
“Not long ago in Baghdad, al Qaeda took two young women who were mentally disabled, and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace and, by remote control, detonated those suicide vests,” he said with refreshing moral clarity. “If that isn’t evil, you have to tell me what is.”
Aside from substance, McCain’s style couldn’t have been more different. While Obama gave long-winded and meandering answers (especially when he needed to obfuscate his views on abortion and gay marriage), McCain’s were short and to the point — so much so that he was left with extra time for additional questions.
Asked whether he would support merit pay for the best teachers, McCain simply responded, “Yes, yes, and find bad teachers another line of work.” The answer drew laughter and applause, and led Warren to remark, “You know, we’re going to end this, you’re answering so quickly. You want to play a game of poker?”
WHILE POLITICAL JUNKIES who have been following the campaign for nearly two years have heard many of McCain’s jokes and anecdotes, they appeared to be a hit with the crowd, as they consistently are in his town hall meetings. “My friends, we spent $3 million of your money to study the DNA of bears in Montana,” McCain quipped in one of his standard lines about government waste. “Now I don’t know if that was a paternity issue or a criminal issue.”
Most importantly, McCain managed to meet the most important challenge of his campaign by coming off as independent and yet conservative — on taxes, judges, and abortion (where he stated in clear terms that he believed that babies are entitled to human rights at the moment of conception).
Given that evangelicals are still overwhelmingly Republican, McCain did have a built-in advantage among this audience. And since it was broadcast on a Saturday night in the summer — the same night that Michael Phelps broke the record for most gold medals in an Olympics — the event itself didn’t garner enough attention to affect the outcome of the election. But if McCain can shine like this in his high-profile appearances between now and Election Day, he’ll be our next president.
Obama has proven himself to be a fast learner, and no doubt will find ways to improve before the debates begin next month. But in all honesty, Obama wasn’t that bad on Saturday — McCain was just that good, and largely because of fundamental advantages.
Obama can read all the briefing books he wants and go through hours of debate training, but he can’t simply acquire a life story as compelling as McCain’s, make up for decades of experience he doesn’t have, or buy a sense of humor.