[No-one else wanted to publish this last week, but it’s still worth saying.]
The 3-part TV series First Contact and its follow-up panel discussion drew some strong responses from indigenous commentators, for example here and here. Clearly some very raw feelings were touched, understandably enough. But the show was not directed to Aboriginal audiences. It was for Whitefellas who know bugger all.
Unfortunately there are still plenty of those, thanks in large part to our miserably deficient media. While I can imagine it is harrowing for Aboriginal people to be walked yet again through the same old same old, here was a media program actually intended to inform the ignorant. By that measure, and despite significant flaws, I think it has a lot of value.
How should non-Aboriginal Australians relate to our indigenous people and their culture? Should we bother? What should we “do” about Aboriginal “problems”?
I have learnt over a longish life that when we get to the essence of seemingly difficult or intractable issues there can be simple answers. Simple, though not necessarily easy. Challenging perhaps, but ways forward can be readily identified. So it is proving with my own, fairly recent experience with Aboriginal culture and people.
Australian indigenous people: a Chief of Bathurst Island, and friends, 1939. (Personal photographs of C L A Abbott during his term as Administrator of the Northern Territory. Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’ve had lies on my mind.
How our governments and politicians lie, and lie, and lie, and how we let them. How much damage that has done. How much damage it still does, day after day.
I’ve been thinking to write about it, but knowing it’s another downer, and we can’t just dwell on what’s wrong because we lose hope and become numb and cynical. It’s cynicism and numbness that creates the space for the liars.
Then a video came along, a video of a man speaking the painful truth about his country, speaking from his head and from his heart.
[We happened to witness a demonstration last Thurday, “Australia Day”, which commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet, with convicts, and so of course also marks the beginning of the dispossession of Aboriginal people. I gather pictures of our Prime Minister being dragged by a security man have gone around the world. I have sent this account to media, we’ll see if it gets a run.]
The bias, hysteria and divisiveness of our public political conversation is never far from view, but this week I encountered it first hand. I watched the Aboriginal protest unfold at The Lobby restaurant. The event reported in the media and reacted to by many commentators is a lurid parody of what actually happened. Perspective and balance are hard to find.