Thursday, June 21, 2007

Problems and solutions in Australia

The Australian government is banning alcohol and porn sales to aborigines in the Northern Territory. Australia's six states and the Northern Territory are too large for folks to just ride across state lines (only Tasmania and Victoria are even smaller than Texas), so this is basically an effective ban.

Australia's aborigines are easily identifiable: they're black. Indeed, there are extremely few African blacks who live in Australia. No shock -- until 1971 Australia had legal segregation. Even though one look in the face of an African black would prevent confusion with an aboriginal Aussie (bone structure and facial features are radically different), the black skin would be a ticket to humiliation.

Indeed, Australia's treatment of aborigines from white settlement in the 1770s until reconciliation in the early to mid-1970s, is a combination of the US slave system in the South before the Civil War, combined with the territorial restrictions the US imposed on Native Americans. Just watch the movie Rabbit-Proof Fence. Today, Aussie aboriginals are impoverished, separate from general Aussie society, and have the same rampant alcoholism that US Native Americans have suffered from.

The action by John Howard's government treats the symptom, not the disease that infects aboriginal communities. Only by greater integration in general Australian society combined with respect for tribal customs can the aboriginal population progress. That's going to take more than bans on porn and booze.

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