I have to confess, my own knowledge of the history behind today's apology by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is sketchy, but as Tim Blair suggests, I have to suspect "the effect of the apology on those it’s aimed at is a secondary concern. This is more about smug white folks feeling nice about themselves. That’s why, despite it being an apology for allegedly terrible events, everybody is smiling." Whatever the truth of historical claims, this is people apologising for things they didn't do to people to whom those things weren't done. That always makes me suspicious.
On the face of it the whole act is backward looking, and likely to engender the same backward-looking sense of entitlement engendered here in New Zealand by our own indigenous grievance industry. Tim quotes John Howard's favourite aboriginal Noel Pearson, who makes good sense when he says,
One of my misgivings about the apology has been my belief that nothing good will come from viewing ourselves, and making our case on the basis of our status, as victims.
We have been—and the people who lost their families certainly were—victimised in history, but we must stop the politics of victimhood. We lose power when we adopt this psychology. Whatever moral power we might gain over white Australia from presenting ourselves as victims, we lose in ourselves.
My worry is this apology will sanction a view of history that cements a detrimental psychology of victimhood, rather than a stronger one of defiance, survival and agency.
I think that's true whatever the actual history is-- and while I do take note of historians I admire like Keith Windschuttle, who suggests much of the 'stolen generation' history is fabricated, I note too that despite the many gaps in my knowledge I am aware that the history of European settlement in Australia is far less benign than it has been in New Zealand -- for all sorts of reasons, many of which remain to this day. Despite that, to paraphrase Thomas Bowden, "today's Aboriginals, to whom this apology is directed, enjoy a capacity for generating health, wealth, and happiness that their Stone Age ancestors could never have conceived. From a historical perspective, the proper response to such a gift is not resentment but gratitude."
That the apology offered today was brought about by resentment and likely only to engender victimhood is telling. As Ayn Rand liked to say, don't bother to examine an obvious folly, ask only what it is designed to bring about. In this case, expect visions of taxpayer dollar bills to begin floating in front of those apologised to very soon, and the rumble of "compensation" to begin.
UPDATE: I like this comment on Leighton Smith's show:
Who would be saying sorry now if someone in New Zealand had stolen the Kahui twins from their parents. Or Nia Glassie. Or Lillybing.
Makes you think, huh.