Tony Abbott's argument against the formal acknowledgement of traditional owners at public gatherings is that it's 'tokenistic'. (Note to Tone: the people who do it do usually actually mean it. If they didn't, they wouldn't bother to do it. QED.)
He seems to be offering this, as so many concern trolls do, as a good argument for not doing it at all. I note that, monarchist and Catholic that he is, he's not making the same argument for acknowledging any monarchs or vice-monarchs present at the beginning of a speech, or for Parliamentary prayers.
Yet surely the same argument applies. I bet there are more people in Australia working hard for the improvement of Aboriginal people's lives than there are working hard in the cause of retaining the monarchy, for a start. And I bet there are a lot more people who find the prayers and the nods to governors that they are obliged to make 'tokenistic' than people who feel the same about acknowledgement of traditional owners.
But that line isn't really worth arguing with anyway; nor do I have anything to say about Wilson Tuckey except that he and people like him are the price we pay for democracy. I'm more interested in the widely-held assumption behind Abbott's pronouncement that 'mere' words are worth nothing.
This from a politician, and one who's worked as a journalist and written several books to boot, is particularly ironic, but that's by the way as well. What floors me is that even people whose stock-in-trade is language seem to feel quite happy about trashing language as essentially worthless. It's nothing more than intellectual laziness: an acceptance of the notion that words and deeds are somehow the opposite of each other, each with a clear moral value and no prizes for guessing which is which. The lure of the false dichotomy is strong, I know -- it makes opining so much easier -- but you'd think a Rhodes Scholar would have been taught at some point in his education how to avoid its simplistic snares.
Because speech is an act, and so is thought, and so is decision-making about how you will behave. To acknowledge traditional owners at a public function is to remind everyone present of Aboriginal history and culture. It's a small reversal of erasure and a little raiser of consciousness. Recognition is an act, and so is the expression of respect.
In which the pond turns to the Caterists and Dame Groan ... - The pond is never sure whether the reptiles are mocking the Donald, or mocking themselves for admitting that they're the Donalds of down under journalism...
15 minutes ago