Expat Magazine

I, the Aboriginal

By Thebangtoddowenwaldorf @BangLiving

I, the Aboriginal

First, lets go over a few things.  In 1770, British captain James Cook was the first European explorer to find the continent now known as Australia.  Aboriginals had been on the continent for tens of thousands of years.  Nearly twenty years after Cook came upon Australia, Britain would send ships to colonize the continent for no other purpose than to have a place to send their unwanted because their prisons were bursting at the seams.  On 1788 those ships arrived, and with them came the lack of understanding and respect for the arid land that would soon kick the living crap out of them. Oh, and they didn’t know anything about those black fellows that were already there either, but they kept their distance, so… ya, whatever.

It doesn’t take much research, or imagination, to get a clear idea of what happened next.  The Aborigines were primitive in the eyes of the English.  Things went the same route as they did with the North American Indian when Europe “found” that other place just a little while earlier.

Aborigines don’t live like we do.  They didn’t have concepts of possessions, scholastic education, or following anything close to our customs regarding marriage.  They had no concept of currency either.  They didn’t understand “cleanliness” in any way that Europeans had become accustomed and they didn’t have doctors and certainly not vaccines.  But I put to you, did they need them?  Europeans were scouring the globe in short amounts of time.  They were entering lands in which their bodies and immune systems were encountering elements they had never seen.  The Aboriginals had been on their land for thousands of years and had adapted to living, you can easily say, ‘with’ the land.  It wasn’t until the Europeans showed up that they would be exposed to the worlds petri dish.

When the Europeans showed up many of them died.  The land was too harsh for them.  It wasn’t easily arable like that new ‘other’ colony.  In America anyone could put up a border, claim a plot of land, and there you have the beginnings of singular capitalism that can be vibrantly witnessed today in all of its “glory”.  In Australia the Europeans would have to learn to work together or perish, and the result can also be seen today, but in the form of Aussie ‘mateship’.  Interesting, ain’t it mate?

As the Europeans began to figure out the land the Aborigines were viewed as lesser beings and likened similar to animals.  They didn’t value trade and that was what Europeans thrived upon.  In exchange for land, tracking, and women, the Europeans tried giving items like tents, clothes, and canoes.  The Aborigines left the items though and just simply moved on.  They had no sense of ownership.  They just lived.  It’s quite simple really.  It only gets confusing when you apply our Western accustomed minds to it.  They didn’t consider one plot of land belonging to one person or another.  They lived by hunting and moving, hunting and moving, hunting and yep, moving.  The Europeans couldn’t understand the ‘rationality’ behind any of it, and so they labeled the Aborigines as a lesser and because of it they were disregarded in terms of decency.  Soon the numbers began to disappear.

The Aboriginal is connected with his land.  He believes that the land that provides for him on a deep spiritual level.  The land is dwelt by the spirits of his ancestors.  He believes that he came from the Dreamtime and there are animals to each individual and tribe that are considered totems and respected to such a degree that those animals can be praised, honored, and are untouchable.  They are masters at using the land to its maximum potential.  They can track and find water sources that you or I would perish before finding.  Its one way of life vs another.

In a book that I just read called I, The Aboriginal, there is an aboriginal by the name of Waipuldanya who merged into Australian (European) society and became known as Phillip Roberts.  He was a man who lived during the more civilised period of when the white men were still on a mission to assimilate the ‘black’.  The assimilation still goes on today by the way.  When I first arrived to Australia I went to Maidenwell where I worked on a horse ranch.  They had television piped in via satellite from the Center, Alice Springs.  That is where Uluru is, or Ayers Rock, a beautiful spiritual monolith and treasure to the Aboriginal people.  Instead of typical commercial programming the advertisements displayed daily instructions for aboriginals to bathe and to send their children to school.  I have never seen anything like it.  There is a great divide between one culture and another and it is very present.  Clearly one culture has made up its mind that they are the one who is right.

This book was a great find.  It helped open up my perspective into one of the worlds great, and some might say one of the last primitive, cultures.  I found the book one day at an op-shop in the small town of Mt. Barker.  I like the op-shop stores.  I like them because I never know what I might find.  They are basically second-hand stores.  In that Mt. Barker op-shop I saw a small book printed in the nineteen-sixties.  I am fully aware of the scarcity of useful Australian literature in the States.  It is incredibly hard to come by and very expensive because of it.  With that in mind I snatched up the book.  I was excited about my find.  I paid the woman at the desk with a dollar coin and I left the store and not long after Mt. Barker altogether.  When I arrived in Australia I had only read about the colonization of the country from the perspective of white men.  This was my first experience reading a book from the counter of that perspective.

Phillip Roberts was accepted by both societies.  What made it more interesting was that this man was not only an aboriginal man, but a man who had become so accepted by European-Australian society that he was given Australian citizenship and eventually became a medical assistant.  The book provided me with a fresh perspective.  It deepened my appreciation for ‘what we don’t know’.  I think I feel comfortable in saying that everyone has their own argument about living and I pose the question, who is right?  Delving a little bit further perhaps I should ask, does anyone have to be wrong?  The Europeans settled on the Australian continent and hunted down the aboriginals because they didn’t follow similar ‘advanced’ societal methods such as trade or bathing.

Let’s modernise the argument a bit.  Someone recently pointed out that I was traveling around Australia and working (volunteering) and that I wasn’t getting paid.  This does not include the vineyard and some carpentry work I’ve done.  I explained to them that I might not get a cash payout, but that I get to meet so many people and do things which are all off of the typical tourist-track.  I explained that this is my form of ‘pay’ and it is a pay that makes me feel richer than having money in my bank account.  They didn’t agree and it was obvious that they thought it was absurd.  I think that is what makes life so interesting.  There are so many ways we can choose to live it.  A stack of notes would made a European feel wealthy, but to an Aborigine it would have been nothing more than paper to kindle a fire.

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