Essays: Noel Pearson |
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Noel Pearson

White guilt, victimhood and the radical centre

Classified among the most prominent Australian Aboriginal leaders, Noel Pearson is beyond classification as a political theorist and commentator: for his historical sense, plain style and power of argument, he simply knocks spots off everybody else in the country, which can be a bit of an embarrassment for some of those white experts who have chosen Aboriginal affairs as their bailiwick. It was probably owing to Pearson’s influence that John Howard modified his previous resistance to the idea of a symbolic recompense for Australia’s unfortunate history on that matter, although it was also probably Howard’s long-time insistence that practical recompense should come first which made Pearson decide he respected Howard. The two men got on. In fact Pearson made it clear just before the general election at the end of 2007 that he got on better with Howard than he did with Kevin Rudd. It will be very interesting to see how that latter relationship plays out, because Rudd, like any white politician or political pundit in Australia, has to get past Pearson before he can be seen to be talking sense on the issue that has burned so long. For just how formidable Pearson can be, the appended long essay can be recommended for study. I thought, at the moment it was first published in the Griffith Review, that Pearson's essay would be, in itself, a turning point in modern Australian history, and I suspect this is already proving to be true.

Read Noel Pearson's article “White guilt, victimhood and the quest for a radical centre.