Warily opening the newspaper I came upon the following passage, quoted in an essay authored by Aboriginal leaders. I found it unusual.
“What Aboriginal people ask is that the modern world now makes the sacrifices necessary to give us a real future. To relax its grip on us. To let us breathe, to let us be free of the determined control exerted on us to make us like you. And you should take that a step further and recognise us for who we are – Aboriginal people in a modern world – and be proud of us. Acknowledge that we have survived the worst the past has thrown at us, and we are here with our songs, our ceremonies, our land, our language and our people – our full identity. What a gift this is that we can give you, if you choose to accept us in a meaningful way.”
This cri de coeur from the pen of former Australian of the Year, Galarwuy Yunupingu, distils the Letter from the Heart, which is the statement of Aboriginal consensus on their future. There’s a Jewish saying, words that come out from the heart (will) enter the heart.
Thanks for sharing the quote and your own wary comments. I think there is a lot to be learned by modern Australians from indigenous Australians. They know the land and its shape, resources and fragility in a different way of knowing than most of we recent arrivals ever can. That is not to say that governments and businesses will want to hear – even when phrased in English the differences in terms of presupposition, priority and philosophy are so disparate that it is hard to find a common reference point. (Even the notion of land ownership presents a major philosophical barrier to dialogue.)
Some years ago I studied the book of Genesis with men who were ‘indigenous’ to Hebrew and Torah study. I had always approached the text via its translation into English by western scholars. It struck me then the enormous arrogance and presumption on the part of Christian bible scholars to not engage with the indigenies to better understand the culture and thought processes that framed the text in the first place. Perhaps there is a similar arrogance and presumption of right-ness hindering real dialogue between old and new Australians.
Good morrow good Stephen
You provoke me to thought and to wry smiling
The bush- I mean the Australian bush
The entire land was bush before we non- indigenes arrived
Don Watson’s ‘the bush’ is breathopening and eyetaking in his mastery
He looks at the bush and he reads the lore of his- our – native land
He is the whitefella who can read the land as scripture
He is Rashi in his exegesis of ecology
Of sacrifice, yearning, dreaming,remembering,
Honouring and forgiving
What struck me in galarrwuy’s words was simplicity
He spoke directly, with a persuasive power
The voice of the poet-prophet
I thought, I hoped these words from the heart might pierce the heart of white australia
Somewhere in scripture the prophet(?) is bidden: speak to the heart of Jerusalem
Thus spake Yunupingu
And wrily smiling
Did it ever occur to your havering in that Torah study group that they too might learn from a tradition younger than their own?
The best of modern rabbinics since the Enlightenment have urged us to learn from the wise of all the world
To embrace all learning
To investigate how it might marry with
And enrich our own old stuff
Thus too Jonathan sacks
Finally please send again your four seasons
I barely got into it before losing it