The Pascoe Stain on the Academy of Science

Tony Thomas

Britain’s science reputation took a blow in 1953 when the fossil of the famous Piltdown Man turned out to be bits of an orangutan glued to a small-brained human skull. Let’s hope the Australian Academy of Science doesn’t come a similar cropper for tying its reputation to self-described Aboriginal Bruce Pascoe, author, seer and would-be overturner of the entire corpus of Aboriginal historiography. Of course, the Academy will be in the clear the minute Pascoe names his Aboriginal forebear, thus smiting us doubters with his irreproachable Aboriginality.

Future Earth is a woke subsidiary of the woke Academy.[1] Future Earth and the Academy hosted a three-day “summit” about Reimagining Climate Adaptation on zoom last April. Its opening plenary speaker was Pascoe, giving what co-sponsor, the loopy Sydney Environment Institute, called a “perfect introduction” to the gabfest.

I’ve often wondered what flights of rhetoric Pascoe delivers at his innumerable speaking events. Future Earth has obliged by posting its Pascoe recording here – see my part-transcript here pro bono. It includes the following gems from this Aboriginal shaman:

# “We” were camped on Bass Strait until a whale warned us circa 12,000BC to scamper to higher ground north and south, and “we” took our language and culture with us

# In Australia “we” were made welcome by our peace-loving southern “cousins”, demonstrating for today’s Western nations how wars are unnecessary. (Someone please let Xi Jinping know).

# “Our” cultures have always eschewed organised violence (I assume the shields to be found everywhere in museums were to ward off enraged wombats)

# Australia’s irresponsible white farmers should cease emitting CO2 in ploughing for wheat and cotton, and instead plant roo-grass and murnong yams. (Mmm. Delicious).

# These farmers should also run kangaroos as livestock on fenceless expanses – sharing the profits in ways that do not actually involve Communism.

# He intends to do some “illegal” shooting of tender young male kangaroos as an improvement on his classic dish, roast lamb with sage and herbs (Aborigines like Pascoe are, apparently, above the white man’s law).

# It would be useful to overturn “contemporary political and economic systems” in favor of Aboriginal ways and Aboriginal sexual mores.

This nonsense was brought to you by the Academy’s Tim Flannery and his 550 brainiac colleagues, who “support excellence in Australian science”. It was also brought to you by the Academy’s Future Earth, with its 10,000 scientists wedded to the crooked UN’s 17 “Sustainable Development Goals”. Future Earth, I read, is “the largest organised group of universities, industry and government in the world working towards achieving global sustainability … to accomplish societal transformation.” Funny, I thought we elected governments to do the societal transformation: wankademics and corporate CEOs can get the hell out, I say.

Pascoe’s opening words, possibly protesting too much, was that he is a Yuin, Bunurong and Tasmanian man. Genealogist Jan Holland has found that every one of Pascoe’s ancestors on both sides of his family was of British descent. Pascoe is yet to name an Aboriginal forebear who can be checked out.

He’s Yuin? Josephine Cashman, an inaugural member of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, has tweeted: “Pascoe is not Aboriginal. My son is Yuin and his father doesn’t know who [Pascoe] is.”

He’s Bunurong? Boonwurrung Land and Sea Council says it does not accept Professor Pascoe “as possessing any Boonwurrung ancestry whatsoever”

He’s Tasmanian? Michael Mansell, chair of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, says Pascoe’s not one of theirs: “For political reasons, journalists of the left wanted to believe Pascoe was genuine and put up the blinkers to any contrary view. Now they must eat humble pie and admit they got it all wrong,” Mansell told the Tasmanian Times.

Pascoe told the larger New York Times last August he is both “solidly Cornish” and “solidly Aboriginal”. I hope you can make sense of that. He’s now upped the ante by telling the Future Earth followers he’s more Cornish than Aboriginal.

Pascoe gained fame in our Marxist-minded education establishment for claiming Aborigines lived in towns of 1000, sowed, harvested and stored their crops, and kept their livestock in pens (Wallabies? Koalas? Dingos?). My fellow Quadrant Online contributor Peter O’Brien has dismantled all those claims in his magisterial Bitter Harvest, which can be ordered here. Pascoe, meanwhile, has moved on to a newer shtick: how peaceful Aboriginals were towards tribes around them.

How does he know they were so peace-loving? It’s because of his blood-memory of Aboriginal lore of millenia ago. Trigger warning! After describing his talk, I’ll provide examples of not-so-peaceful pre-contact Aboriginals.

Pascoe claims Aborigines have been in Australia for 120,000 years – mere Pascoe hot air, but a claim now believed by millions of schoolkids whose teachers are thrusting Pascoe profitable fantasies down their young throats. He cites archaeological research from Warrnambool, but even those research leaders tell the ABC that it’s inconclusive.

Pascoe continues that Aborigines have survived in situ through many cycles of genuine climate change, from desertification to glaciation (as distinct from that past century’s beneficial 1degC warming).

As for the whale that recommended “we” depart Bass Strait, this must have been before the seas rose, since otherwise they’d all be in the swim together.

 The academic community, he complains, has yet to “engage” with this impeccable sourcing. Anyway, the Atlantis-style languages of Bass Strait-land blended with mainland Victorian languages of the northern “cousins”, and this proves that Aboriginal tribes were welcoming to new arrivals and didn’t do horrid warlike things like bashing their heads in with nulla nullas. Drawing the longest bow imaginable, he rhapsodises,

[Thus] humans can cooperate. It is not absolutely necessary for us to go to war, we should be able to conduct ourselves to meet adversity such as climate change and do so without another group losing. In our adversarial political system, our adversarial economic system and social media system, we presume we have to fight each other. Aboriginal life is telling us that is not the case, we can cooperate. Human has proven that she can cooperate with other humans. I should have said ‘he’, because in the past it would be ‘he’ who chose war or peace.”

The academics glued to their zoom screens must have squirmed with pleasure over his gendered correctness.

Anyway, Pascoe says this whale-led peaceful immigration from Bass Strait is a “hugely important indication of diplomacy — diplomacy that should be manna for the world.”

Drawing an even longer bow, he fantasises that the sea level rises following the last ice agewould have driven “massive” numbers of land dwelling Aborigines off the North-West Shelf to inland and, again, the incoming tribes blended amicably with local tribes, languages and cultures intact.

When I was last up on the Kimberley coast (about 2010), the cave art fell into two types – “Bradshaw” or Gwion Gwion art involving delicately drawn figures and animals, and cruder Wandjina art by people of more recent origin, involving stylised crowned “god”  figures. Our guides were certain that the newly arriving Wandjina artists and culture wiped out the older Bradshaw artists and culture – Bradshaw figures were defaced or demolished many millennia ago. As usual, the truths are concealed within that vast expanse of time. Pascoe is just trying to wow his pals on zoom. His conclusion is the need to overturn “contemporary political and economic systems” along with Australian agricultural know-how that has helped feed the world for a century.

Pascoe, Melbourne University’s enterprise professor in indigenous agriculture, went into Rousseau-like rhapsodies:

Aboriginal people believe earth is our mother. The British adversarial system and economic system which is profit at all costs, mean that we would indicate to people from outer space, ‘These people despise their grandchildren: they don’t care what the planet will look like in another generation’s time, they don’t care what they do to the country as long as they make profit’. And as long as they get their huge ugly house, their huge ugly car, and then everything will be OK. We can do better than that and Aboriginal Australia has shown that humans can operate in better way.

He also banged his kangaroo drum – thanks to Pascoe, credulous kids at Williamstown High near Melbourne are convinced “soft-footed” roos are the future of the Australian livestock industry. As he told his Future Earth acolytes:

I am suggesting we eat roos instead of cattle and sheep, which are incredibly destructive of soil. I personally bought a lamb roast because I know how to cook it, I have sage and herbs making it beautiful. I also eat roo. People argue against (killing) roos, saying they are beautiful and very soulful. The sight of a female roo nurturing her young, both asleep in the sun in my front yard really warms my heart. It is not disturbing to think at some stage I will shoot a young male roo illegally to get meat. [Tut tut: TT]. A young roo is only as beautiful as a young lamb, they are still animals.

Capitalist accounting systems legitimise tax avoidance in the Bahamas, so it’s no worse to shoot roos broad-scale and share the roo dividends equitably among the farm-holders, he says, venturing into the field of what might be dubbed Pascoenomics:

I don’t see that sharing the dividend of the country is descent into Communism, it’s asking us to cooperate. We should not allow some of our right wing politicans to say it is Communism and Socialism, it is co-operation because we don’t despise our grandchildren. We sensibly start looking at those things that would allow us to continue as a species.

He’s been reading some book called Sapiens[2] and was profoundly shocked that the author predicted our probable extinction in a thousand years from planetary neglect.

I am not pretending Aboriginal people are all good and all wise, what I am insisting on is to look at the longevity of Aboriginal cultural advance and see the cultural, political and economic stability and see that is a good model for the human race.

He scoffs at criticisms that we – i.e. Pascoe and “his” fellow Aboriginals – didn’t invent the wheel, but he points out that roos can’t pull carts and, anyway, nasty Westerners hooked the wheel to cannons and, with the help of wheels, are sending rockets into orbit and further and “destroying outer space”. But back to Pascoe’s favourite subject, himself:

I can’t think of another civilisation which managed the human spirit and problems of geography, economics and cultural life as successfully as the Australian Aboriginal people. My attachment to Aboriginal life is fine, I am more Cornish than Aboriginal, but investigation of my background dragged me into contemplation of these things.

He exampled the Yuin and Gunditjmara, insisting they eschewed being warlike or being ambitious to get other people’s land. The land owned the people not the other way around [blah blah for another sermon]. He claimed that, although “we” Aborigines might be individually violent, “we” didn’t do warlike violence. This leads him to suggest human society re-organise itself to divide labor between the sexes in a civilised, Aboriginal-style way, along with sexual relations.

Like any good speaker, Pascoe’s has learnt to end on a high note, like a tenor hitting that high “C” in Nessun Dorma. Pascoe: “It is not an irrational wish, not beyond the human soul, reimagining our future. I think our species is capable of enormous cooperation and, dare I say it, love.”

David Schlosberg, director of the Sydney Environment Institute, went beyond normal “thank you” to Pascoe and said his talk was “beautiful, really amazing and a perfect introduction” to the conference about adapting to climate change. He’s spot on, there. Just so you know, Schlosberg’s fortes are “Enviro justice, just adaptation, sustainable materialism.”

I HATE to rain on Pascoe’s “peaceful Aborigines” parade but I warned you earlier and here ares some extracts.

Historian Geoff Blainey concluded that annual death rates from North-East Arnhem Land and Port Philip, were comparable with those of countries involved in both world wars, although some might say Blainey’s estimate could be somewhat on the high side. Many such violent incidents are in a peer-reviewed 2015 paper, Proving communal warfare among hunter-gatherers: The quasi-rousseauan error,  by Profess Azar Gat of Tel Aviv University. Some extracts, starting with escaped convict William Buckley, who lived from 1803-35 among Port Phillip Aborigines.

Buckley recounts some dozen battle scenes, as well as many lethal feuds, raids, and ambushes, comprising a central element of the natives’ traditional way of life. There was fighting at all levels: individual, familial, and tribal. Some of the intertribal encounters that Buckley recorded involved large numbers: five different tribes collected for battle; a battle and raid against an intruding enemy tribe, 300 strong; several full‐scale intertribal encounters, the last one a raid with many dead; two other encounters, the second against a war party of 60 men. Ceremonial cannibalism of the vanquished was customary. Buckley reported that the large‐scale raid was the deadliest form of violence and often involved indiscriminate massacre:

The contests between the Watouronga, of Geelong, and the Warrorongs, of the Yarra, were fierce and bloody. I have accompanied the former in their attacks on the latter. When coming suddenly upon them in the night, they have destroyed without mercy men, women and children.

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May 21, 2021 at 03:43PM

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