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The Forum > Article Comments > Another angry, confused, condemning white voice > Comments

Another angry, confused, condemning white voice : Comments

By Robert Chapman, published 8/8/2008

Paul Toohey's 'Last Drinks' Quarterly Essay assumes that outsiders have a better understanding of the problems and solutions involved in contemporary Indigenous life.

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The basic problems being faced by Australian Aborigines are not unique, but are also problems being faced by many cultures in many countries.

How to maintain your culture when the world is slowly becoming a giant McDonalds, where everything is the same and eventually becomes totally bland.

Whether Australian Aboriginals have some inherent connection with the land is questionable. That connection is not genetic, and can easily be lost in 1-2 generations. My relatives came from a country in Europe, and my relatives lived there for 10,000ís of years. However I have minimal connection with Europe, and its only been 2 generations since my relatives left Europe.

So to maintain your culture, you have to be living that culture. Iíve seen aboriginals shooting turtles with rifles. I donít think that is maintaining their culture.
Posted by HRS, Friday, 8 August 2008 10:01:01 AM
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HRS,

I don't think the fact that aborigines use guns rather than spears to catch turtles to eat has any relevance whatsoever.

Are you seriously suggesting that there is no place for modern technology in aboriginal culture? Because that would be truly daft.The American Indians took up rifles and other western implements without losing themselves.

I do tend to agree with your point that culture must be lived, however. This unfortunately is at complete odds with modern western life. Adequate standards (ie at least white levels)of KPI such as health, education and housing are almost impossible to achieve for remote communities where there is no work and no hope of any in the future. Those communities which cannot sustain themselves should not be permanently inhabited. Keeping a connection with your land is a vital part of aboriginal culture, but if you want western style benefits your community needs breadwinners who have real jobs. Its as simple and as complicated as that.
Posted by Paul.L, Saturday, 9 August 2008 10:04:23 AM
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Robert Chapman is the prototypical bleeding heart. Two things characterise bleeding hearts:

--Self-righteousness; and

--The fact that collectively they have caused as much human suffering and misery as Hitler, Mao and Stalin combined Ė all with the very best intentions of course.

So let's have a reality check.

I am a Jew. I belong to a culture that has sustained itself under difficult circumstances for centuries.

But here's the thing. Some men in black suits and women in wigs notwithstanding, Jewish culture in 21st century Melbourne is very different to the Jewish culture of the East European Shtetl's. That was in turn different to the culture of Moroccan Jews.

Living cultures are dynamic. They adapt to changing circumstances. They vary across space and across time. That's what Jewish culture does.

As a Jewish kid I learned Hebrew, had a bar mitzvah and learned to conduct a prayer service. That was, if you like, the "ceremony."

But that was IN ADDITION TO, not in place of, secular education. We never tried to adapt our secular education to Jewish culture. Instead we adapted to the secular world in which we lived.

In the end, if Aborigines want to preserve their cultures, that's what they have to do. They have to adapt their cultures. No matter what bleeding hearts like Chapman say, Australia's diverse 22 million non-Aboriginals are not going to adapt to Aboriginal cultures.

Probably that means Aborigines have to learn to be aboriginal in towns and cities where the jobs are.

In the end it's up to the Aborigines themselves. If they value their culture they will find ways pf preserving it. If not, then it will vanish. But it will be their choice.

Outsiders like Chapman can no more save Aboriginal culture than they can save Jewish culture. But by holding out false hopes, by trying to preserve an unsustainable status quo, they can prolong the agony and condemn many people to lives of needless suffering.
Posted by stevenlmeyer, Saturday, 9 August 2008 11:52:57 AM
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I'm with Steven on this. In fact, I must point out that more than 80% of Indigenous people live in towns and cities - barely 8% live in remote settlements, and almost none of them engage in hunting or gathering. As Steven says, culture - which, after all, is created, fashioned, modified, replaced, by PEOPLE - must be permitted to keep changing. Indigenous people have as much right as anyone else to hunt with rifles from the backs of Toyotas, or to use motorised boats, jet-boats even, to go fishing in - but don't call it hunting and gathering, call it what it is, a shooting trip, or a fishing trip.

Another thing: More than 20,000 Indigenous people have now graduated from universities around Australia, most at degree-level and above. A record 9370 Indigenous people were enrolled at universities last year and probably more this year. By 2020, there could easily be 50,000 graduates in total, with another 3,000 graduating each year, and another 20,000 enrolled. Two thirds of students and graduates are women. The vast majority are studying on-campus, in cities. Since 1980, more than 75,000 Indigenous people have, at some time, been enrolled at universities. The equivalent of half of the population has, is, or at some time will be, enrolled in tertiary courses. Indigenous people have achieved mass tertiary participation, on a par with Europe's. Graduates have far better health, are usually employed, rarely in trouble with the law, rarely addicted to grog or drugs, and will tend to have a far longer life-span.

Check out DEEWR's web-site if you are in doubt, on its URL:
http://www.dest.gov.au/sectors/higher_education/publications_resources/statistics/publications_higher_education_statistics_collections.htm

Joe
Posted by Loudmouth, Saturday, 9 August 2008 12:35:57 PM
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Loudmouth,
The laws keep changing and can vary from state to state, but at one time aborigines were allowed to hunt certain native animals because they were a native food. This was not allowed of non-aboriginies.

Shooting them is a lot easier to hunting them by spear or catching them by hand, but shooting them means that traditional hunting skills and expertise will be lost in time.

Next stop is McDonalds.

I think you are correct in that very few aborigines now have much connection with the land. To have much connection with some land you have to be getting your food, water and shelter from that land, but living off the land is very difficult.
Posted by HRS, Saturday, 9 August 2008 6:47:01 PM
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"Looking at the oldest continuous civilisation in the world, its very longevity would be a pretty good argument for its inherent stability and capacity to provide for its membersí needs."

This is a pretty breathtaking assumption.

As there were never any major communities or structure, the term civilisation can only be applied in the very loosest sense.

As there are no records beyond 1788, the assumption that the existing culture is the same as thousands of years ago is also difficult to substantiate.

The cobbled together collection of common practises based on verbal recollection has so many holes that it cannot be seriously considered as a body of law in itself, and as such has only been used as a guide to the judge in applying Australian law.

Recently it would appear that the main purpose of cultural law has been to mitigate sentence for rape, paedophilia, wife beatings etc, and such has attracted a review. To then propose further application of this law would only perpetuate the subversion of justice.

I deeply sympathise with the aboriginal citizens of our country, but personally see the attempt to cling to the old ways as the source of their woes and not the cure.

I can see that those that cleave emotionally to the nobility of bygone cultures will attempt to rebut my comments by attaching the "racist" tag. I would challenge them to actually point out any flaws in my argument.
Posted by Democritus, Sunday, 10 August 2008 7:52:48 AM
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