Noel Pearson and the 'radical centre'

Noel Pearson

FJK - October 31, 2010

... my major disagreement with Noel is his lack of looking at, or attempting to understand, that poverty is mostly not self-induced and that there are underlying causes that mitigate against the struggle to leave poverty ...

I have been witholding the posting of this article [Link] by Noel Pearson as I read it and reread it, again and again.

This is Noel at his passionately academic best as he takes us on a circuitous journey as we trawl through the landscape of his dialectics to the point of his proof of why he is right, the liberal party are nearly right, whilst all of us others are so blindingly wrong.

We begin, in my opinion, with nostalgia thence on to some remarks on his literary understandings that leads to an explanation of his hard interpretations of the so-called left-labor, (any such entity died many many years ago during the second Whitlam government), the 'true' meaning of social justice - both from a left/right paradigm - and natural and structural leadership. on this last point we are at least in agreement.

He then moves on to explain to us his 'ten classic dialectic tensions of human policy'. Discussion is then held on the radical centre and the method of reaching that golden end-point, the tri-stairs phenomenon. following that is some analysis of the three isms, socialism, liberalism and conservatism and the 'class' system which only proves that we all are bourgeois.

And finally he postulates that the only way forward is to accept responsibility for our own lives and circumstances. we need not the centre left nor the centre right. what is needed is the radical centre.

There are of course some agreements and disagreements throughout Noel's dissertation, which is not surprising, but overall my major disagreement with Noel is his lack of looking at, or attempting to understand, that poverty is mostly not self-induced and that there are underlying causes that mitigate against the struggle to leave poverty. this fits all Australians in poverty, Aborigines or non-aborigines.

But for Aborigines it is extremely pertinent that after 222 years of being forced to live in poverty, and on hand-outs, that struggle becomes almost insurmountable. I say almost because some too few do manage to move out of poverty but only because, like Noel, they have been assisted to do so.

Had Noel not been picked up by the Lutherans and become well educated, if he was left at Hope Vale and the mission school, would he be as articulate as he is now. I very much doubt it. Look at our 'middle class' brothers and sisters who where put through the white education system whilst their peers were either not schooled at all or very roughly schooled.

It was not that long ago whereby white parents could object to our kids being in white classrooms and they, our kids, would be removed.

We all recognise the true value of a good education but I do not see how those receiving a poor education can be judged as being unwilling to move out of poverty. Noel went on to become a corporate lawyer, what chance his mission educated peers. Include a lack of employment and much hostile racism and the poverty web or trap held, and still holds, great sway.

Whilst alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling and other social problems are not just restricted to the poor, they are not, nor are they just an Aboriginal issue, the use and abuse of such addictions take a far heavier toll on the poor than the other social classes.

I have argued for many years that those who decry the situation of our people cannot take the simplistic view that it is all the fault of our people alone that they are in poverty. they must, we must and Noel must, recognise the underlying causes of that poverty. I know the powers that be, and Noel, will not accept the collective trauma that has been the lot of our parents, grand-parents, etc., etc., etc., and that is still within their children and grand-children up to today.

I do not need to review the invasion history of this country. Aotearoa, Canada, the USA and other areas all suffered, in varying degrees, the deadly scourges of colonialism and capitalism. all the traditional owners of the invaded lands are still going through the suffering to this day. we are all still second or third class citizens in our own lands.

Having said that however i most certainly do not agree that our mobs should abrogate their responsibilities to themselves, their children, other family members or their communities and elders. that was the old way and it must still be the way today. the old way instilled within our growing several levels of responsibility as appropriate to our age and understanding. That old way must once again be reinforced into our psyche to allow our strength to be regained.

As I said in a previous post relative to Gary Johns and his view of the nobility of poverty, there is no such thing and to Noel I would aver that people do not choose to live in poverty, unlike some monks and nuns. Noel did not choose to live in poverty. I am told that he and his family are quite comfortable, thank you very much. other middle-class blackfellas also do not live in poverty.

They must not deprecate against those who have not had their good fortune. and they must also use lots of intellectual compassion.

Whilst some of our self-appointed leaders appear to suffer from a messiah complex that complex most certainly does not include or entertain intellectual compassion.

If I was to continue to disallow Noel's view of social justice, the class structure, among other points that would be me merely pontificating my socialist views and this post is neither the place nor time for such a personal diatribe. suffice to say that i totally disavow Noel's arguments as being more self-serving to his own conclusions than to valid points of argument.

We have an innate duty of care to our society at all levels. why that should be denied to those living in poverty is not to my understanding.

and Noel, I am most definitely not bloody bourgeois!!

Ray Jackson
Indigenous Social Justice Association