Friday, 8 February 2008

The black economy

By black economy, I refer to the economy (or lack of it) in many Aboriginal communities.

I blogged a while back on how 26% of Aboriginies live out in the sticks somewhere. My guess is that they are living in places that have no natural driver of employment. By that, I mean that the townships are not underpinned by say a mine, tourism, the pastoral industry or some other form of activity that generates employment throughout the wider area. In short, they would not exist unless government money was rained upon them like fertilizer in a greenhouse.

I got to thinking about this after reading an article on ghost towns in the US last week. There are thousands of ghost towns in the US. Something happened to attract people (a mining strike, opening of a factory etc) and a town was built. Then things changed, the mine closed over whatever and the town evaporated. All the people moved away, and the houses were also carted away to places where someone could make use of them.

Many inland towns in Australia are shrinking as farms get larger and larger with each passing generation. With larger farms, there are fewer families out on the farms, so demand shrinks in the towns for services like hair dressing and so on and the businesses slowly fold up and move away, and the place goes into a downward spiral until perhaps only a petrol station or roadhouse is left where there was once a thriving town.

That's life. It's the impact of creative destruction.

I imagine that when the iron ore up north eventually runs out, people will abandon towns like Mt Newman as soon as they can. Without the mine, the town has no purpose. No reason to exist. Who the fuck would want to live there unless the mine was paying them $100,000 a year to drive a truck?

So the natural pattern for white people is that if it is not viable to live in an area, then you don't. You up stumps and move to somewhere that is viable, like the city. Cities have been sucking in people from the countryside for about 5,000 years now. Just look at the enormous migrations in China, where hundreds of millions of peasants have moved in to the big cities from the countryside. It's a normal process in most societies. Tokyo and Mexico City didn't get to have 10 million people each by the residents having lots of kids. All those people moved there from somewhere else, generally as increases in agricultural productivity displaced surplus labour from the land.

I sometimes wonder whether Aboriginals are the only society on the planet that are immune to this phenomena. Why the hell are they staying put in dumpy shit holes in the back of beyond where the social services are crap, there is never a hope in hell of having a proper job, and the future for the kids is bleak.

For a group of people that like to go walkabout, they are the most stubbornly immobile people on the face of the planet.

Hell, look at non-Aboriginal Australia. There are about 19.5 million of us. Where did we all come from? Some of us were born here, but an awful lot of us are here because we moved from somewhere else in search of economic betterment and freedom. My in-laws came here from the other side of the planet. I've worked with people who came from an uncountable number of countries - people are always on the move from here to there and back again.

Except blackfellas it seems.

And don't give me this crap about being attached to the land as an excuse. I just don't buy it (and I will blog on that at some later date). I like my possessions, but if I had a choice between losing everything I own (in say a fire) and losing my family, I'd say "bugger the possessions - they are not that important". I would happily sacrifice everything I've got for my family.

I don't love the stuff I have that much.

The blackfellas have a choice. They say they are attached to their land. But their kids are growing up in shockingly shit conditions. So what do they care about more? A bit of dusty dirt or their offspring?

If they really loved their kids, they'd close down and abandon every back of beyond non-viable township tomorrow and move to a place where work is a possibility, schools are a-plenty and hospitals and all those things dot the landscape.

No patch of dirt is worth the future of my family. Fuck the dirt. They come first. So what the hell are these blackfellas thinking?

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