Wednesday, July 08, 2009
[ayer's rock] a question of repeated conquest
Tomorrow morning, a post is going up which will upset some people because it refuses to accept the social construct which has been foisted on our society.
Similarly, there is a social construct forced on Australia regarding Ayer's Rock. Again, I'm at pains to point out that I have nothing against the Pitjantjatjara and once picked up a hiker from this tribe on the way to Ayer's Rock, which is more than a local would do.
I don't even think it should have been named after the Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. Going even further, the name Uluru even sounds better.
I'll never call it Uluru though because of the politicking, the revisionist history of Australia trotted out since the 1970s and the way many tribes have cashed in on the perceived strangeness of the whites in relation to them, even once having a national Sorry Day.
Well I'm sorry too. Sorry it came to that. The history of those tribes, from the Negritos to the Carpentarians and Murrayans [western terms for the tribes] is one of warfare, bloodshed and very little sorry from any of those tribes towards one another. All right, a white tribe came in, in 1788 and this tribe, apart from Arthur Phillip, showed precious little understanding of the natives they encountered.
More than this, when the arrogant Burke and unassertive Wills expedition came a cropper in 1861, it was the Yandruwandha natives who gave food to the survivors. There are many other examples where, outside of a confrontational situation, the natives acted in a humane manner.
The introduction of alcohol to the native population was another scandalous act by the whites and the indignities by many missionaries of my own religion makes one pale. Maralinga was a disgrace and the treatment of the natives as sub-human was savaged in the referendum granting them the right to vote. I don't know of one Australian who condones what happened to the natives.
Having said all that, this is the nature of societies through the ages. The incumbents were displaced, they were vanquished, just as those tribes did to other tribes throughout the ages. To make out, in the revised history, that they are gentle souls, not unlike children, does not accord with the facts and nor are they one indigenous people - they are of different tribes with different origins over the millennia.
The whites were just the last in a long line. To lump all the tribes together under the one heading Koori and all the whites under the heading Honky is as racist, if not more than anything the so called Honkies have done because it differentiates on the basis of skin colour. The racists are the people pushing this fiction.
Similarly, do the Assyrians, Babylonians or Iraqis lay claim to upper Mesopotamia? Or even the Persians? Who owns the upper Tigris? It's not clearcut, is it, unless you say the current occupants own it.
Ayer's Rock is a national treasure, internationally recognized and visited. To stop visitors climbing the rock due to the danger and high winds is one thing - it is dangerous, I can vouch for that. To stop them on the say so of a tribe which does not "own" the rock at all but feels a spiritual attachment to it is not on. Ayer's Rock belongs to all Australians, not just to them.
Would you stop me standing on Hadrian's Wall because I'm not a Roman?
In the evening, the rock reverts to that tribe and they have their spiritual connection, with no interference. But during the day, it belongs to the world, just as all the earth does. If you want to get nationalistic about it - it belongs to the ascendant people of the age - the white Australians - and it is the good fortune for the Pitjantjatjara that the average white Australian's mindset encompasses allowing the native claim to be heard.
How many conquering peoples have allowed that over the course of history? Revisionist histories can be dangerous things in themselves.