Sunday, 10 February 2008

Some comments on Aboriginal culture

I think the next time someone says the words "Aborginal culture", I am going to lose it.

There never was a single "Aboriginal culture". There were dozens, if not hundreds of cultures, and I bet they were all pretty different from each other.


Because there were hundreds of different tribes, all speaking different languages. My bet is that if you speak a different language from the mob in the valley next door, you'll have a different culture.

Don't believe me? Then think about the French and us. Do we speak the same language?


Do we share the same culture?


Then why on earth would we think that all blackfellas would be part of this all encompassing "culture" of Aboriginality? It's bonkers.

If you want to take the French example a bit further, consider the fact that France is made up of many regions (or Departments if you want to use the right term) and each Department has it's own distinct culture. Consider say Burgundy vs Alsace. The French state has been around now for a few hundred years, and it is one of the strongest states around (and the most centralised), yet France still has a multitude of cultures. How can one think that in a country with no state, and therefor no centralised control, that a single culture could develop?

In other words, the use of the term "Aborginal culture" is frogshit.

Then we have religion. Different tribes followed different gods. Some worshipped a snake, others a croc and I guess some were into fish. When I think of how those religious practices must have co-existed, I think of Iraq today. It's bad enough with just shia and shiite. Imagine what it must have been like with a couple of hundred different deities. Constant religious warfare I would imagine, which might account for the lack of technological development. It's pretty hard to invent the wheel or writing when you're fighting fulltime with the Catholic nutters down the creek.

Then we have other cultural things, like dancing. Soft headed floppy brains always go all mushy between the ears when describing Aboriginal dance. To me, it looks like a bunch of Parkinson's patients shuffling around a ward. Or should that be Alzheimer's patients? Whatever. I am not impressed. I often get the feeling that most of those participating actually have no idea of the steps, and they are all keeping an eye on the one person that they think has some conception of what they should be doing in terms of footwork etc. Anyone that has participated in a school dance or musical would recognise the look.

Don't get me started on rock paintings. I took one look at the paintings in Arnhem Land and went "they're maps". There's nothing particularly special about most of them - ok, they look nice and all that, but they are in the main purely functional directions as to where to get a feed.

Or how not to become a feed for a croc.

If you don't believe me, try this. Imagine the route from your house to say the local bakery (or cafe or pub - whatever takes your fancy).

Now, try to describe how to get there without using any words. You draw pictures which are symbolic markers along the route.

So if there are plenty of barra in the waterhole that has three trees and an egg shaped rock next to it, you draw something like that. It's so simple, even I can understand it.

As a concept though, it seems to go right over the heads of the tilty-headed crowd. Maybe I'm used to the symbol idea because everytime I try a new bike route, I have to look out for bike symbols that have been stenciled on the tarmac.

If you're so bloody primitive that you don't have an alphabet, then drawing crude pictures of plants and animals as a guide to how to get fed is the next best thing. I could see the sense in climbing up onto a rocky outcrop in the middle of a broad valley and painting all the larder objects around me so that they could be explained to the next generation. I stood on a particular outcrop in Kakadu a couple of years ago and looked at the paintings and instantly had a pretty good idea of where to go fishing. And where not to go fishing.

I am sure that some soft-brained numbnut will get upset at me describing Aboriginal "culture" as such, but I fail to see why it has become off limits to take the occasional poke at it. Leftist commentators feel free to constantly have a go at US culture, or Australian culture, but as soon as you start prodding or poking at Aboriginal culture, the cry of "racism" goes up. It's not racism - it's criticism or analysis, and I see no reason why some "special" cultures should be off limits to a reasoned critique.

The problem with the tilty-heads is that they get all wrapped up in the "mystique" of these "ancient" cultures. I don't - I look at them in the same rather hard headed way that I look at the Catholic Church and Mormons and Scientologists. It's funny that the same people that go apeshit at Mormons and their "mad beliefs" in some sky fairy are the same people that go apeshit if someone dares to poke a stick at an ancient, mystical and wonderous emu dance, or tribal marriage ceremony.

My ancestors, who were Celtic and the like, ran around naked and painted their bodies with woad and sacrificed virgins in forest glades and worshipped the sun and were ministered to by druids and all that. I don't see that as mystical or magical or as being in harmony with Gaia and ley lines and all that - I just see a bunch of naked savages running around doing what naked, unlettered, unsophisticated savages do. It's not that long ago (in geological terms) since the rather sophisticated and civilised Romans turned up under Caesar and dragged most of my lot kicking and screaming into the "modern world" (as it was back then).

There are some nutters in western society who look longingly at Stonehenge and want to run around playacting as druids, dancing naked in the moonlight and muttering mystical chants in a long dead language, but they are rightly seen as nutters. Why is it then that as soon as a black man does it, it becomes a ceremony that is cloaked with reverance and awe? I am awed by a cathedral like St Paul's. I am not awed by a bunch of naked people shuffling around to some drums in the moonlight, no matter what the colour of their skin. Anyone that goes all misty-eyed at the thought of it should be stuffed in a straightjacket and locked in a rubber room.

Hell, I've run around naked in the moonlight with my mates, and I can tell you what it is. It's a hoot, particularly when you are drunk and 18. It's a great way to blow off steam and yahoo around like idiots. It's also a great way of keeping those annoying women away when you just want to hang out with the boys and do boys stuff.

That's about as mystical as it gets.

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