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.

6 comments:

dearieme said...

"I don't know of one Australian who condones what happened to the natives." Indeed; but nor are you likely to know an Australian who knows with any accuracy what did happen. When we lived in Oz I thought the Abos a very sad sight, but I wouldn't have the bloody cheek to recomend to the Aussies what should best be done. All sorts of things have been tried, many entirely consistent with the Political Correctness of their eras, but the upshot is pretty grim.

Michele said...

Well James - I live in Australia and have done for 40 years; and I have to agree with you.

DearieMe - How long did you live in OZ - and where was your connection with the Aborigines (calling them 'Abos' is now considered to be racist so I don't suppose you have been here for some time)

The tribe that lays claim to the rock were not the original owners -it was (so to speak) a trophy of war!

The revisionist history also makes telling the truth about the activities of the aboriginal peoples in the gold fields dangerous. Pauline Hanson told Australians that these people had been cannibals, and she was driven out of politics and eventually jailed on trumped up charges for doing so.

Unfortunately some of us have actual writings from people who lived through this era and the story is true. But whisper it softly or I might be next.

Good to hear someone telling it the way it is.

James Higham said...

Dearieme, I've highlighted twice articles which do seem to ahve a fairly accurate view.

There've been advances in understanding as a result of dialogue with the aborigines but it can only be taken so far.

There is also the written record of what the whites found upon arrival, if one takes out the coloured descriptions and looks at what behaviour was observed.

Michele - yes. It is so. The advances in anthopological understanding of the various tribes can't be pooh-poohed and yet an agenda came into it, a political agenda of one point of view they were trying to impose on Australian society and all else had to be rewritten to conform to that.

My own bona fides? I've spent almost all my life, barring about fifteen years, shuttling from Britain to Australia and back.

xlbrl said...

I have always been struck in viewing Abos, a term I only just learned here, that they are incredibly similar in appearance. Closer even than what I expect to see in a single family of any race. But I read they all decend from no more than sixteen people who made the crossing those eons ago. And still we separate immediately into groups and languages and war. Having close relatives of our own, we can see how easily that might happen.

It was not different for our very own noble savage in America. There were no tougher or cruder people on earth, we thought, than French trappers in the wilderness. But they became reticent and embarrassed at describing Indian atrocities against their own. To read those accounts is to get a real idea of what lies beneath the skin of humanity. Like a polar bear toying with its prey, there is not even real animosity, just good fun.

Real animosity is a side-effect of civilization.

dearieme said...

We left Oz 17 years ago. All I knew about Abos then was what I saw in the papers, plus occasional personal observation. I learnt a bit more recently when we lived in NZ and I came across Windschuttle's book.
http://www.sydneyline.com/Fabrication%20of%20Aboriginal%20History.htm

His Girl Friday said...

as xlbri mentioned, there is the same with the Amer. natives. Though the one thing I did learn that the early whites didn't understand, was that of
'counting coup' amongst the Natives was much more a victory against the enemy than killing him.

This subject reminds me of the apologists for the black slave trade. They don't often bring up the fact of the warring African tribes. (nor of the current situation in the Sudan)

human behaviour and man's inhumanity to man.