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Film Review: 'Utopia' by John Pilger

The important movie “Utopia” by the outstanding expatriate Australian humanitarian journalist John Pilger exposes the horrendous circumstances of the Indigenous (Aboriginal) Australians. The following review summarizes the main points raised in “Utopia” and in doing so attempts to quantify and document these horrendous abuses of the ongoing Aboriginal Genocide by what John Pilger describes an Apartheid Australia.

Before detailing the substance of this important movie, it is useful to summarize the main features of the ongoing Australian Aboriginal Genocide and Aboriginal Ethnocide. Before the British Invasion in 1788, Indigenous Australians had been living in Australia for about 60,000 years. There were 350-750 different tribes and a similar number of languages and dialects, of which only 150 survive today and of these all but about 20 are endangered. After the brutish British Invasion, the Aboriginal population dropped from about 1 million in 1788 to about 0.1 million in the first century through introduced disease, deprivation and genocidal violence.

The last massacres of Aborigines occurred in the 1920s but no Treaty has ever been signed. Indigenous Australians were only counted after a referendum in 1967 and were finally given some protection by the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act. In the 20th century up to 1 in 10 Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their mothers, the so-called Stolen Generations. In 2000 about 9,000 Aborigines out of an Aboriginal population of 500,000 died avoidably every year but this had declined to about 2,000 annual avoidable deaths out of a population about 670,000 by 2011. Indigenous Australians are far worse off than White Australians in relation to housing, health, wealth, social conditions, imprisonment, avoidable death and life expectancy [1-4].

There is an ongoing Australian Aboriginal Genocide and Aboriginal Ethnocide, noting that “genocide” is defined by Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: a) Killing members of the group; b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Javier Sethness-Castro comments in relation to “intent” in relation to the related phenomenon of “climate genocide” that similarly arises from racist First World greed and depraved indifference: “Dominant relations can hence be characterized as governed by what Chomsky calls “depraved indifference” to human life. Australian scientist Gideon Polya has termed the current situation “climate genocide”, while Bangladeshi climatologist Atiq Rahman similarly labels it “climatic genocide”. The phrases are accurate if the word genocide is to be understood as murder of persons belonging to particular classes and social groups, as originally formulated by Raphael Lemkin, the concept’s inventor. If the definition is extended to membership or residence in particular geographic regions – a collective of sorts – the term fits better, even if the question of intent for such eventualities is left unresolved: Under the internationally accepted definition, acts of genocide occur only if governed by conscious intent. Against this view, Chomsky is right to suggest that those concerned with such problems focus on “predictable outcome as evidence for intent”. Not to work to undermine global capitalism is effectively to be complicit with the genocide of southern peoples. Jean-Paul Sartre put it well in a statement he issued as president of the International War Crimes Tribunal on Vietnam: “The genocidal intent is implicit in the facts. It is not necessarily premeditated.” [5]. It is clear that the knowing, deliberate introduction of disease, dispossession, deprivation, massacres, ethnocide, and forced removal of children were (a) realities for the conquered Indigenous Australians, and (b) knowingly intentional as are the continuing Aboriginal Genocide and Aboriginal Ethnocide today in an Apartheid Australia [1].

Finally, one notes that a politically correct racist (PC racist) racist White Australia has extensive Apartheid policies applied not just to its Indigenous subjects but also variously to non-Indigenous and overseas Australian subjects as detailed by Gideon Polya [6] and by John Pilger [7].

“A picture says a thousand words” and, as outlined below, the movie “Utopia” by John Pilger provides a shocking account of the appalling Aboriginal living conditions and the unforgivable maltreatment of Aboriginal Australians by one of the world’s richest countries (my comments below are given in parentheses).

1. The movie begins with video footage of the late mining magnate Lang Hancock making the seriously genocidal suggestion that drinking water should be doctored to sterilize Aborigines unable or unwilling to assimilate (this was an explicit, racist call for Aboriginal Genocide and Aboriginal Ethnocide).

2. We are then confronted with appalling, dirty, crowded, unhygienic, worse-than-Third-World living conditions of Aborigines in “Utopia” in the Northern Territory of Australia in makeshift humpies or derelict housing that would be condemned in White Australia (these conditions - that greatly saddened and angered great African-American singer and humanist Paul Robeson on his visit to Australia in 1960 - are still prevalent).

3. The appalling Aboriginal health conditions and differential life expectancy linked to poverty and crowded housing are revealed and contrasted with luxury Australian holiday accommodation for $30,000 per week (currently Aboriginal health problems are variously 2- 7 times higher than for White Australia and male and female life expectancies are 12 and 10 years less, respectively, than for White Australian.2, 000 Indigenous Australians die avoidably every year [1, 4]. John Pilger: “In the town of Wilcannia, New South Wales, the life expectancy of Aboriginal people is 37 — lower than the Central African Republic, perhaps the poorest country on Earth, currently racked by civil war” [7] ).

4. “Utopia” reveals the scandal of how a public servant made incorrect and horrifying assertions about child sexual abuse in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities that were broadcast by the ABC TV Lateline program. These incorrect assertions led to a media frenzy that horribly defamed Indigenous Australians and ultimately led to a military invasion of Northern Territory Aboriginal communities and removal of Northern Territory Aborigines from the protection of the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act (a subsequent expert report entitled “Little Children Are Sacred” found (p57) that “it is not possible to accurately estimate the extent of child sexual abuse in the Northern Territory's Aboriginal communities”, while reporting (p235) that 34% of Australian women and 16% of men have been subject to sexual abuse as children [8], a matter scrupulously ignored by PC racist Mainstream media in Australia).

5. “Utopia” reveals from a health and welfare perspective that the racist, military intervention in the Northern Territory that was backed by the 2 major political groups, the Liberal –National Party Coalition and Labor (aka the Lib-Labs or Liberal-Laborals) was not helpful (communities were not consulted and were grossly defamed e.g., by signs have been erected outside “occupied” communities indicating that “pornography” was banned by the Federal Government).

6. “Utopia” reveals that Aborigines are hugely over-represented in Australian prisons (while Aborigines represent 3% of the Australian population they represent about 30% of the Australian prison population [9]).

7. Deaths in custody of Indigenous Australians led to a national inquiry but this tragedy continues. “Utopia” deals movingly with the search for justice for their dead son by an Aboriginal couple (in an appalling example, an Aboriginal leader was literally cooked to death while being transported across hundreds of kilometers of hot desert in an unventilated prison van by staff of the G4S organization that was subsequently involved in running Australia’s privatized off-shore concentration camps for refugees).

8. “Utopia” deals with the Stolen Generations and reveals that the rate of removal of Aboriginal; children from their mothers is now higher than before the “Sorry” for the Stolen Generations delivered by PM Kevin Rudd to the Australian Federal Parliament in 2008 (one notes that PM Rudd ruled out any compensation and failed to mention “racism” or “genocide” in his apology [10, 11]. Paddy Gibson, University of Technology Sydney: “For each of the last five years, approximately a thousand Aboriginal children have been coming into the ‘out-of-home care' system long-term. This is a higher number than were removed during any time in the twentieth century. Half of the children have not been placed with kin or relatives. We are fast approaching the Stolen Generations removal rate cited by Rudd: between 10 and 30 per cent of all Indigenous children. A 2011 annual report from the Department of Family and Community Services found that 9.6 per cent of Aboriginal children in NSW were in out-of-home care. Across Australia, nearly 6 per cent of Indigenous children are in out-of-home care. If current trends continue, the figure will exceed 10 per cent by the end of the decade. While Kevin Rudd was apologizing for the past Aboriginal children were being taken in numbers greater than at any time in the 20th Century” [11]).

9. “Utopia” gets to the heart of Australian indifference to the Aboriginal Genocide with a segment about “Australia Day” that White Australia celebrates as the anniversary of the British Invasion on 26 January 1788 but which Indigenous Australia marks as “Invasion Day”. White Australians “patriots” interviewed by John Pilger come out with the usual Australian indifference and jingoism e.g. “Aussie. Aussie. Aussie, oi, oi, oi” , “get a job”, and expressions of patriotic disgust (no regard for the extraordinarily complex pre-Invasion Indigenous culture).

10. An extraordinary part of “Utopia” deals with Rottnest Island off the coast of Western Australia where a tourist holiday resort has been created out of what was formerly a deadly 19th century concentration camp for Indigenous Australians (just imagine the outcry if the cell blocks of former Nazi death camps were refitted for luxury tourist accommodation).

11. In “Utopia” John Pilger interviewed many people including ordinary Australians, European and Aboriginal community and health workers, politicians and journalists. In particular he interviewed Chris Graham (former editor of the National Indigenous Times) and researcher Paddy Gibson (who exposed the ongoing creation of the “new”, post-“Sorry” Stolen Generation [11]).

12. “Utopia” finally deals with the long-standing issue of Aboriginal land rights that came to prominence with the 1966 walk-off by 200 Aboriginal stockmen, house servants, and their families from the UK Vesteys’ Wave Hill cattle station on their traditional land as a protest against discriminatory low wages. Australian pastoralists historically used Aborigines as effective slave labor, paying them in tea, flour, sugar and tobacco. In the famous Mabo Decision in June 1992, six months after Eddie "Koiki" Mabo's death, the High Court of Australia upheld his claim that Murray Islanders held native title to land in the Torres Strait and thus struck down the English invaders’ claim of Australia as a “terra nullius” (“an empty land”). However John Pilger trenchantly criticized the Hawke Labor Government for not adequately supporting land rights. Thus, according to the Sydney Morning Herald’s review of “Utopia”: “Pilger reminds the viewer that Bob Hawke in the 1980s walked away from genuine land rights in the face of a racist scare campaign from the mining industry” [12] . (Labor in 2010-2013 similarly walked away from climate change action and budget surpluses in the face of a concerted Mining Industry and Big Business campaign. Labor and Coalition Governments have made provision of decent housing for Northern Territory Indigenous Australians conditional on their leasing their hard-won land. Thus University of Technology Sydney Jumbunna: “Following consistent failure to secure these leases, the Commonwealth compulsorily acquired all Aboriginal township land through the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007, for a period of five years. This required the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975” [13]).

Conclusions

John Pilger’s “Utopia” is an important, must-see film about the continuing Aboriginal Genocide and Aboriginal Ethnocide by an Apartheid Australia. What can decent people do? Decent people should (a) inform everyone they can, and (b) urge and apply Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all people, parties, politicians, companies and corporations complicit in this ongoing, genocidal and ethnocide Apartheid Australian maltreatment of Indigenous Australians. We cannot walk by on the other side.

References

  1. Gideon Polya, “Ongoing Aboriginal Genocide And Aboriginal Ethnocide By Politically Correct Racist Apartheid Australia”, Countercurrents, 16 February 2014 .
  2. “Aboriginal Genocide” .
  3. Thomson N, Burns J, Burrow S, Kirov E (2004) Overview of Indigenous health 2004. Australian Indigenous Health Bulletin, 4(4), October-December 2004 .
  4.  MacRae A, Thomson N, Anomie, Burns J, Catto M, Gray C, Levitan L, McLoughlin N, Potter C, Ride K, Stumpers S, Trzesinski A, Urquhart B (2013).Overview of Australian Indigenous health status, 2012.
  5. Javier Sethness-Castro, “Imperiled life: revolution against climate catastrophe”, AK Press, 2012.
  6. Gideon Polya, “Open Letter To Australian Human Rights Commission Condemns Pro-Zionist Anti-Jewish Anti-Semitism In Apartheid Australia”, Countercurrents, 4 March 2014 .
  7. John Pilger, “Mandela’s gone but apartheid lives in Australia”, Green Left Weekly, 26 December 2013 .
  8.  “Little Children are Sacred” Report .
  9. “Aboriginal prison rates”, Creative Spirits .
  10. Gideon Polya, “Australian Aboriginal Genocide Continues Despite Historic Apology”, Countercurrents, 19 February, 2008.
  11. Paddy Gibson, “Stolen futures”, Overland, Spring 2013.
  12. Julian Drape, “John Pilger’s damning new film about indigenous Australia:, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 December 2013 .
  13. UTS Jumbunna, “No to township leases” .

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