Absolving Change the Date of Andrew Bolt's sins

28 January 2017
With the recent passing of the date variously noted as Australia/Survival/Invasion Day, it was gratifying to note that ever year, the Change the Date campaign grows louder and more visible. Seems it's going the way of the campaign for marriage equality - from those wanting change being a fringe movement, then going mainstream until those who don't want the change are a fringe movement (though still controlling the law in Australia, alas).

Of course there is the inevitable backlash from the cranky, condescending and confused. Australia's most urbane and sophisticated frothing right wing nut job, Andrew Bolt, has published his latest missive pompously proclaiming the "Seven sins of the change-Australia-Day movement". Now refuting Andrew Bolt is like confusing Malcolm Roberts; it seems too pitifully easy to be fair. Nevertheless, we'll just quickly dispense with him here.

First of all, the ABC has not "thrown its weight" behind the campaign to change the date; they have merely reported on it. Are all news outlets in favour of what they report on? And the protesters who marched on Sydney on January 26 were not "violent". An intense police presence characterised by attendees as menacing shadowed the marchers every step of the way. When one protester exercised his legal right to burn the flag, the police moved in immediately, causing a melee and arresting the person involved. Even the police admit the march was peaceful apart from that "isolated incident" - hardly the terror on the streets it was portrayed in some sections of the media. (And yes, policing protocols vary between states, but it is interesting to note that NSW police immediately pounced on an attempt to burn the flag; Victorian police were unable to prevent a man doing donuts in front of Flinders Street Station from then mowing through the Melbourne CBD killing five people).

To the seven "sins":

1. Bolt claims changing the date solves nothing as it won't change the fact the "invasion", as he put it, happened. Exactly! The invasion happened and it's not a day to have a party. Change the date.

2. Bolt claims changing the date will never appease the "grievance industry", who have already had a formal apology. But the work of reconciliation doesn't end there. Of course changing the date won't make everyone happy. But it's a start. Anyway, what evidence does he have of this grievance industry? Do they pay people? Can I get paid? Seriously, it's just a characteristic slur to demonise those who devote their time to the fight for equal rights. In 1955, Mississippi columnist Tom Ethridge attempted to blame the murder of 14 year old Emmett Till on the NAACP, "handed a trump card" over the incident. The grievance industry. The eternal backlash against marginalised people fighting for their rights. Nothing changes. Change the date.

3. Changing the date will encourage fake history, Bolt grumbles. He repeats his very favourite lie that no one can so much as "name ten" Aboriginal children stolen for being Aboriginal, ignoring that Robert Manne has spent years trying to do just that. He then argues that Aboriginal people today lead better lives than they did prior to invasion, as if working class white people still live in the slum conditions they did in England prior to 1788, as if two hundred years of dispossession, wars and slaughter are worth it to have WiFi. The legacy of colonialism is not uniformly 100% awful. But that doesn't change the fact it's been pretty crappy for the first inhabitants of Australia. It's not something to celebrate. Change the date.

4. Bolt whines that changing the date will encourage more division on the grounds of race. How? It's simply a mark of respect, that people aren't out partying and wishing each other a happy day that represents such pain for so many other people. January 26 is not a date people of all races can celebrate. We can still have a fun day where we can all celebrate what's good about Australia. I personally would love that. But not January 26. Change the date.

5. Bolt argues that what makes Australian society "so free and rich" is the legacy of British settlement; there is virtually nothing from Aboriginal settlement.

Are you shitting me?!

Colonists did everything they could to wipe out Aboriginal culture, laws, society, connection to the land. Aboriginal people were removed from their homelands. They were moved to missions. Forbidden from speaking their languages. Their children were taken from them and sent to institutions and families to forget their Aboriginal heritage so they would grow up white. To this day, governments are trying to close Aboriginal homeland settlements. And Bolt has the cheek to complain this devastated society has been unable to influence modern Australia to the degree he deems sufficient? Surely that is proof itself of the ravaging effects of colonisation. Change the date.

6. We shouldn't change the date because "many Aboriginies" see no problem with January 26. It's interesting to note that throughout this article, Bolt repeatedly uses the term Aboriginies rather than Aboriginal people, even though the former is generally seen as offensive these days. I'm sure Bolt would argue the terminology doesn't matter, so if I ever meet the dude I will exclusively refer to him as Andy-Pandy and complain he's being too PC if he objects. Anyway, it's no surprise Aboriginal people are not a monolith. There's 700,000 of them, and there's going to be a very broad diversity of opinion. So instead of cherry picking examples, why not ask Aboriginal people themselves? Something that has happened far too rarely. Get the consensus from Aboriginal people on whether to change the date. 

7. This might be even worse than the lack of culture thing. Having tried to position himself as anti-racist with the "we're all just people" line, Bolt now states changing the date won't do a thing to fix the problems of Aboriginal people because...they have a fundamentally inferior culture. 

The evidence Bolt gives for this is Peter Sutton's book "The Politics of Suffering", which has been widely discredited as scientifically and anthropologically invalid. But to Bolt, the problems of Aboriginal society can be traced back to their simultaneously violent yet lazy culture. Aboriginal people, by inference, just don't care about their kids or themselves enough to fix their own problems, which are not caused by racism and generations of dispossession, violence, slaughter, being used as slave labour, child removal, loss of land and kinship ties...


And even if it were true, changing the date wouldn't fix those problems. You know what else won't fix these problems? Whacking on a pair of flag boardies on January 26 and drunkenly proclaiming you love Australia and no bleeding heart fuckwit is going to take it away cause of Aboriginal people (you know, the ones with all the special privileges).

No, it won't fix anything. It won't make everyone happy. But not celebrating our national holiday on January 26 might just show a little bit of sensitivity. It might start some people thinking about the true nature of Australia today and how we got here.

Change the date.



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