Sunday, February 17, 2008

Smooth the pillow?

Inge Glendinnen is a widely-respected intelligent writer who has described with great care and sensitivity the workings of cultures as distant from our own as the Aztecs. She was recently a strong supporter of the Federal Government 'intervention' in Northern Territory. Her post-Howard article in The Age is cause for some concern.

She writes about the harsh and violent conditions in the most remote Aboriginal communities. Invoking the term 'self-modernisation', she sees intervention as a matter of giving Aboriginal people the choice to either stay with their isolation or become more like everyone else. She admits, this might see the end of Aboriginal culture:

The next decade might see the end of that most obdurate element of Aboriginal "resistance": their determination, sustained since first contact, to remain themselves by living among themselves. Should that happen, it will become our duty to measure and mourn what we, and they, have lost.

It's an extremely sensitive issue, but lurking at the back of Glendinnen's remarks is the idea that the responsibility of whitefellas is to 'smooth the pillow of the dying race' -- expressing sadness at the loss of these people, but complying with a positivist model of civilisation and the ultimate dominance of Western culture.  That may seem harsh, but is there another way to look at it?

1 comment:

David J said...

Yes of course there is another way to look at it...

Things seem different depending on where you are looking from.

I recommend (and am in the process of beginning my self) taking the opportunity to learn another language. At Charles Darwin University they teach Youlngu Matha as part of their Yolngu Studies program: (copy and paste this URL)

Although this is only one of many languages spoken in the NT if our friend were to get a glimpse into the living culture she may realize the wealth and strength within these cultures as they exist and will continue to exist.