Friday, July 14, 2006

Three Faces of Love

It is amazing that (going by my own personal experience) the average Australian knows very little about the cultural practices or beliefs of his/her neighbours! Rather than learning more to and gaining a better understanding of each other in order to develop better relationships small pieces of knowledge are often used to form stereotypes and devalue other cultures.
If due to my lack of education I appear to be ignorant to many things I can rest assured that I am not alone in this country. I think there's a good chance that most of us wouldn't even understand the roots of our own culture and so don't really understand our place in the world. To venture out from that flimsy base and learn about others may be too much to ask of us.
I like living in Darwin which is a fairly open and culturally diverse place because although it is still an Anglo dominated society, there is a cultural openness that is free of the commonplace bigotry I knew as a kid.
How cruel to tell people they must assimilate, but no matter how hard they try they are never really accepted anyway.

I'm not going to write a thesis about this and don't want to ramble but I have to say that even as a native born white Australian I felt excluded and that there was something seriously lacking in the culture of my upbringing. Maybe that's because I didn't fit either I was never interested in Ausie Rules Football so was in a sense a social outcast in the microcosm of Melbourne sport obsessed culture.
So here I am living in Darwin at the opposite end of a country I really knew nothing about. And life here is much different but there are still huge voids between people who really should know a lot more about each other. In a way sport does cross that boundary, howeverIt is still based on assimilation to a singular defined set of rules rather than an apreciation of diversity. I try to open my own mind, which brings me to the purpose of this whole post.
Books & literature. I have recently come by some great books of and about Aboriginal culture in Northern Australia. It is amazing how much has been documented and how extraordinary the stories are that have been collected; yet they are unknown to most people. I am currently reading a book called 'Three Faces of Love' which has some remarkable stories (translated) from the people of East Arnhem Land. The book is an abridged version of stories written in a book called Love Songs of Arnhem Land and is just one of several I have acquired.
It is amazing how much exists within other cultures that we could share and learn from yet we continue hold these things in contempt and prefer our own ldeas born from ignorance.
I guess as a person who is somehow dissatisfied with the value systems I have inherited and the modern consumer culture that dominates my society I like to find alternative belief systems that are more acceptable to my spirit. Although I am quite aware that there is no ideal culture and every system has it’s shortfalls I am also quite concerned that as a collective we may be sacrificing the very things that make our humanity so special. So absorbing as much as I can of this stuff is a great distraction and education for me. It helps me to understand the gaps in my own world view and validates my feeling that all is not well. In doing this I am able to take on or adopt values that are acceptable to me and allow me to live in good conscience knowing my beliefs are based on a broader pool of human experience….

So anyway I’ve got a pile of books that were destined for disposal and have already discovered some very discriptive and personal accounts of lifestyles I previously knew nothing about.
One other book 'The Gaia Atlas of First Peoples' by Julian Burger provides a brief and slightly idealized view of indigenous people from around the world and describes various aspects of their traditional practices, how they've been affected by colonial powers, how indigenous people are dealing with change and various other issues they face.

It's funny I had only just put this book down when Message Stick appeared on the TV. The whole episode featured the thoughts of several prominent Aboriginal men speaking about issues of personal empowerment and leadership within Aboriginal Australian society. The program was introduced by former Democrat senator Aiden Ridgeway; who also carried a message of hope that young Aboriginal people would take up the cause to enrich and contribute meaningfully to the culture of their people and in fact all people.

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