Better to write nothing and have people question your intelligence than blog away and remove all doubt, might be the paraphrase occasioned by Noel Pearson’s blog which was – until British car bombs hit the wires – featured at the top of The Australian’s website on the weekend. In its sentimental borderline-messianic quality, it confirms what Pearson’s most recent Lateline interview suggested – that he doesn’t have a clue.

Alarm bells really started to ring at the end of that interview, when Pearson remarked, almost casually, that he thought it would be wonderful if we could get to a situation when there was no child abuse in aboriginal communities.

That may look admirable. It’s actually mad. Adult-child s-xual contact – across the spectrum from inappropriate to violently depraved – is simply a feature of all societies, everywhere (one possible exception being, by contrast, intact tribal cultures). You can minimise it, punish it, etc but to think you can abolish it is just irresponsible utopianism, the necessary consequence of which is to pass from the muck and difficulty of politics to the fantasies of a blurred crusade.

Pearson’s blog doubled that impression, dating his decision to really go in hard on the issue from the report of a standard appalling death of a small boy in Victoria from the assault and negligence of his parents, who were heroin users. The most amazing this was Pearson’s reaction:

My unexpected grief was the culmination of my turbulent emotions about my home town….I wished I could hold this boy’s small body, on which his stepfather had inflicted so much damage and giving him some relief from his living nightmare which he had apparently endured for months.

Gawd almighty. Readers may recognise the pose Pearson is imagining himself into – it’s the Pieta, Mary holding the broken body of Jesus. So Pearson doesn’t think he’s God, he thinks he’s his mother.

It’s this fantasising that seems to lie at the basis of Pearson’s belief that the deep-seated social problems can be solved by the short sharp shock of the army. But could we suggest that all societies must confront this problem, as I suggested last week, and that we can learn something from the comparison?

Apparently not. According to Pearson:

If we harbour a relativist view we could point to suffering in other societies or at other periods of history (such as Victorian england or countries of the former Soviet Union).

So there you have it. Compare one society with another, try and observe some general patterns, and you’re a (moral) relativist. What a pathetic nadir of anti-intellectualism that reduces us to. No thinking permitted. Just show us the quality of your emotions.

The tangle you get into with this sort of thinking is the belief that what can be seen is what can be solved. That gets him into a predictable circle – decades of state intervention has failed. So lets have more state intervention, of a different type.

It shouldn’t really be surprising that the right – in Iraq and the NT – has taken on this messianic politics. It’s designed to give form to a very wobbly set of ideas, which is why The Oz is talking about the ‘Berlin wall’ of aboriginal affairs, calling Pearson’s distinctly average Lateline interview the akin of the ‘I have a dream’ speech. It’s political kitsch which always ends the same way – the extension of state power, and the search for enemies – Trotsky-fascists, Jews, progressivists – who must to be blame for the failure of an otherwise perfect plan.

Given that much of Pearson’s blog entry is an implicit reply to my piece here last week, it will be interesting to see whether he has the guts to reply in this forum. Or whether he prefers to stick to forums he can control.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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