Friday, October 12, 2007

Ready, Set, Reconcile

"He wants to keep breaking our hearts. He has had 11 years and he has failed us." Lowitja O'Donoghue

Do you know what I hate about politics? All the bloody politicians. Mr Howard has apparently had some gracious shift in his thinking on - gosh - the eve of an election in Australia. Apparently reconciliation is a good idea after all. He even points to the election-based thinking behind this:
"I sense in the community a rare and unexpected convergence of opinion on this issue between the more conservative approach which I clearly identify with and those who traditionally have favoured more of a group rights approach."
So if the conservatives want it, then it must be okay. But doesn't this barely veiled comment also dismiss the collective voices of those of us who have 'traditionally favoured a group rights approach'? Are we not 'traditional Australians' too? I can't help being highly suspicious of these steps towards 'symbolic reconciliation'.
But part of me wants to actually believe Howard is genuine in his humility. He's quite good at that, he strikes quite a pathetic figure, and increasingly a solitary one. Mr Howard is basically admitting here (in quite a vulnerable way, which is why it is compelling despite the blatant timing) that he is a product of a way of thinking that is no longer relevant when it comes to social issues. In other words, Howard seems to be admitting to a kind of historical racism.
"The challenge I have faced around indigenous identity politics is in part an artefact of who I am and the time in which I grew up."
Basically, elections strike me as ultimately flawed. All these shiny shiny words at election time and then years of slipping in the crappy stuff when no one is looking. I mean long live democracy and all, I am well aware of the position of privilege I write from - as a non-minority subject in a democratic country, who lives in a well serviced urban region. But I've always thought there was a huge gap between being a good politician and being good at running the country. As Howard himself admits.
"True reconciliation will become a reality only when it delivers better lives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. That, quite frankly, will be the work of generations."
But how can such a reality be achieved when it comes in sound-byte-sized pieces every three years, or as a set of competing policies between short term thinkers?