Renowned for his exposés of injustice and exploitation, has returned to his former stamping grounds for his latest film documentary “Utopia”.
It’s a study of how the Aboriginal peoples, the First Nation, of Australia have been consistently and deliberately excluded from the benefits of living in one of the richest countries of the world.
He remarks during the film, that the people who named the area must have either been consciously ironic, or adversely affected by the intense heat of the region.
For “Utopia” is anything but what its name implies. One of the poorest parts of Australia, it is an object lesson in how to construct an anti-utopia, a dystopia.
Ill-health conditions include, for children, ‘glue ear’ leading to deafness, and blindness. These are exacerbated by non-existent sanitation, which causes multiple cross-infections.
One said he didn’t think the problems could be solved, and that Australia needed outside help, international aid, because the polarisation of debate rendered home-grown solutions unworkable.
Among indigenous people themselves, the movie portrays a smouldering resentment and anger, at the way they have been treated throughout the period since colonisation.
In fact, it was an official policy to ‘breed out the black’, by separating them from their cultural identity, and thereby provide a servant caste for white settlers.
Recently, Australian government officials made fabricated accusations against Aboriginal communities of sexual child abuse, sending troops in to enforce punitive measures.
The result is that this First Nation has, been made into refugees in their own country, and a law-and-order state erected to keep them in line.
Stunning, however, was the response of the white Australian men who, as government officials and elected representatives, either enforced this system or did nothing to end it.
They were simultaneously uncomprehending about the scale of the problems, which Pilger’s film depicts, and adamant they had done all they could to help the Aborigines.
But the movie not only dwells on their sufferings, it also points up history of resistance to colonisation and oppression.
The massacres and genocide of indigenous peoples, although whitewashed from official histories, are well-documented.
In addition, Pilger highlights epic struggles, like the eight year long strike by Gurindigi cattle men for fair wages and conditions, the longest strike in Australian history.
The only weakness was Pilger’s own interventions on camera. He has a hectoring, preaching, tone, and interrupts, even his own side, to emphasise his opinions.
Nevertheless, if we need prophets, to show up the injustices among us, then maybe they, like Pilger, need to be a little strident.