When I was at university four decades ago, debate raged about the evils of racism, capitalism, colonialism, orientalism and of course, the biggies, sexism. The problem with the various isms was that they contradicted each other. Thus if blacks were oppressed by whites, did that mean that white women oppressed black men — and if all homosexuals and lesbians were oppressed by straight people then were black straight men and white straight women jointly participating in the oppression of black lesbians?
It is a problem which has bubbled away for half a century and, until now, there was really no answer to the problem of overlapping forms of oppression. Until, that is, last night when the ABC’s Q&A progamme finally put together a team of feminist intellectual giants who have wrestled long and hard with this vexed problem.
It took them no time at all to determine that all the problems in contemporary western civilisation are caused by a patriarchal system in which old white men control and ruin everything for everybody. The team had minor differences of opinion about this and that but by and large, they were five hearts beating as one in regard to what the appropriately named Mona Eltahawy called “the colonialist, misogynist white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy”
One of the team pointed out that it was wrong to use the term “old white men” as it could be construed as ageism. I think they danced around that one but I can’t be sure. When very fine minds are examining oppression with breathtaking insights it is sometimes hard for us old white men to keep up with the richness of their thoughts.
If sometimes in the white heat of the debate they lost the thread of their argument, it is only to be expected given the levels of oppression these women have experienced throughout their lives. Thus the “Gunai/Kurnai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta” writer, Nayuka Gorrie, after an incoherent outburst stopped and said, “I’m rambling”. It was one of the most succinct and honest moments on the show. One must make allowances for Ms Gorrie who told us that she was pregnant with twins and asked: “what if I raise a cis straight man?”. But Ms Gorrie must be optimistic about the future. She has previously written that “I marvel at the fact that my big black family still exists. We’ve lived through massacres, rape and stolen generations”. But exist it does and, as another speaker said, the Aboriginal people had “survived and thrived for 65,000 years” until the white men arrived, raped and abducted the women and imported the violence.
This sort of simplistic nonsense is so common now that it is taken as truth by most of the Q&A audience if the onscreen twitter comments are anything to go by. “Absolute killer femmo panel” “Most honest Q&A ever” were typical of the online responses. But this killer honest femmo panel is guilty of exactly the same thing that they claim we white supremacist patriarchal old men are doing. The panel had no qualms whatsoever about saying unequivocally that old white men are the cause of all oppression in Western society. This sort of generalisation surely parallels the sort of “all women are this or that or “Aboriginals can never be etc, etc” generalisations made by male racist chauvinists.
The problems that inhere to the concepts of race, class, gender are real. They have been debated for over a century and will always be central to our understanding of who we and of what sort of society we want. Yet time after time, absurd generalisations were allowed to pass without query by Fran Kelly.
When one panel member made the point that all over the world people are rising up against the patriarchy and cited Chile, Hong Kong, Lebanon and Iraq as proof of the claim, not one person queried the absurdity of linking these disparate struggles. All of them were the fault of the patriarchy. I’m not altogether sure what the old white men have to do with the problems of Hong Kong and Lebanon but I have no doubt that if someone had asked Ms Eltahawi she would have had a good answer. In a recent twitter comment she said “Patriarchy is the most dangerous ideology globally: 100 women have been killed by a partner so far this year. According to government figures, a woman is killed in #France by her partner or former partner every three days” No one denies that male violence towards women is a problem which must be eradicated but to claim that patriarchy is a more dangerous ideology than Islamic fundamentalism is absurd. Equally absurd was the claim by Ms Gorrie that the only solution to the inherent racism of the police is to get rid of the police force. Apparently all they do is oppress blacks.
The problem with Q&A, and its stablemate The Drum is that they constantly recycle the same sort of left-wing ideologues who repeat the same arguments surrounding the issues of gender race and class. When their comments fail to have any impact upon the problems they address, they see it as proof that the system is inherently biased against their solutions. The possibility that their ideas are wrong is never seriously considered.
Thus, in the panel in which five purse-lipped harridans recycled the same sort of cant that was pushed in the university seminars I attended four decades ago, no one seemed interested in the claimed lack of progress over the past half-century in these issues.
Watching the programme I was reminded of the way that officials in North Korea and China scrupulously absorb the wisdom imparted by Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un. As the two great leaders make their pronouncements their claques scrupulously record everything in notebooks. Truth is whatever the great leaders say it is.
In the same way the panel on the Q&A program denied the complexity of the issues they were addressing. They and they alone were possessed of the truth and debate with opposing ideas was unnecessary.
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