Now and again a comment comes along which really enriches a post, and that has been the case just now with my nephew Warren’s guest entry A Guringai Family’s Story. The commenter is an expatriate Australian living in Canada; his family stories appear on his site. I have given you a taste in my reply to his comment. Thanks, Cedric.
Of course there are some wonderful blogs out there, and I include in that some very unpretentious ones which are merely personal reflections, but written with a grace and honesty that make one want to know the writer. Comments too can, like Cedric’s, enrich a blog. On the other hand, they can descend even lower than talk-back radio; I am sure you know what I mean. Another thing, among many, that strikes me is that the level of discussion of things like moral or ethical issues can likewise be most uninformative — too often an often endless parade of fetishes and fixed opinions. Truly, one would be far better off reading even an introductory text such as Judith A Boss, Analyzing Moral Issues, than tracking through the half-baked nonsense that one too often finds. Indeed I wish many bloggers would read such a book; you can pick up the previous (2nd) edition cheap these days at remainder shops.
Don’t read into this that I want any other blog shut down. I don’t. Let variety thrive, I say. Without that variety, and without the dross, the crazy, the pretentious, the faux-messianic, the boring, the trivial, we would also miss out on the inspired and the informative. It’s all out there, and the responsibility lies with us as readers to find the good voices among the howls, rants and screams.
Back to Aussie stories.
Last night’s Message Stick reviewed fifty years of representations of, and latterly by, indigenous Australians on ABC television. A transcript will appear there early next week. Do look when it does. Among other things it was great to see again Paul Keating’s Redfern Speech generously featured. That speech, to me, is both a benchmark and a high water mark. All Australians, no matter what else they may think of Keating, should revisit that speech. It has never been improved upon.
We simply cannot sweep injustice aside. Even if our own conscience allowed us to, I am sure, that in due course, the world and the people of our region would not. There should be no mistake about this – our success in resolving these issues will have a significant bearing on our standing in the world.
However intractable the problems may seem, we cannot resign ourselves to failure – any more than we can hide behind the contemporary version of Social Darwinism which says that to reach back for the poor and dispossessed is to risk being dragged down.
That seems to me not only morally indefensible, but bad history.
We non-Aboriginal Australians should perhaps remind ourselves that Australia once reached out for us. Didn’t Australia provide opportunity and care for the dispossessed Irish? The poor of Britain? The refugees from war and famine and persecution in the countries of Europe and Asia? Isn’t it reasonable to say that if we can build a prosperous and remarkably harmonious multicultural society in Australia, surely we can find just solutions to the problems which beset the first Australians – the people to whom the most injustice has been done.
And, as I say, the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians.
It begins, I think, with the act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion.
It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us. With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds. We failed to ask – how would I feel if this were done to me?