There has been an interesting debate on the Southern Horror discussion group over the last few days, one that has kinda wriggled under my skin and taken root.
The first inflammatory comment was by a fellow writer who wanted to hire a skywriter and scrawl ‘Sorry’ over the skies over Melbourne next Australia Day (or as he termed it ‘Invasion day’).
Other than a comment about the inappropriate posting of political views on the forum, I chose to abstain from comment in that forum. However, it has kinda built up and annoyed me for a few days, so I warn readers now – what follows will be a rant.
As the years have passed, I’ve found myself becoming an increasingly nationalist Australian. We Aussies live in a fantastic country, with natural abundance, great lifestyle, and with some of the best social policy in the world. Unlike places like the US, our medical care is freely available to all citizens at no (or minimal) cost, and there is a comfortable unemployment safety net that also comes at no cost, and has no time limit. I know these things because I have worked in the Federal government for several years – in Centrelink (the agency responsible for employment and social security), and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.
I am also a middle-class white male, whose ancestors can be traced back to the First Fleet colonists (convicts). As far as ancestry goes, you don’t get much more (modern)Australian than mine.
My views, and/or prejudices are founded on my years of compassionately dealing with the marginalised edge of society – the unemployed, refugees, migrants, and indigenous.
Okay… now I’ve set the background, let me stray back to the point. Writing ‘sorry’ in the skies, on our national holiday, as a FORCED apology to the indigenous population is an absolute disgrace. Yes, some very poor practises were enforced by the modern Australian nation against aboriginal society – namely the ‘stolen generation’ in the eary-mid 20th century, where aboriginal babies were taken from their families and raised in orphanages and elsewhere. But has anyone considered the social policy of that time? Sure, in hindsight, the practise of taking children seems dumb, but the lawmakers of the day were honestly thinking they were doing the right thing.
The government saw babies raised in absolutely atrocious conditions – shanty towns, hovels, etc, that by white man’s standards was neglect. So they acted, trying to instill ‘civilised’ values. I won’t go into the details, as yes, mistakes were made. But it’s the INTENT here, people. Consider this – many of our current social policies may seem barbaric to future generations, who may decry our poor decisions in the future. But this hypothesis, like the ‘sorry’ situation, fails to take into account the INTENT of the social policy. We believe we’re doing the right thing, just like the government of yesteryear believed they were doing the right thing. I just can’t understand how supposedly free-thinking people of today get sucked in by the media hype and proclaim the previous generations as evil, without truly examining the motives.
So, the whole concept of apologising for my ancestors mistakes is not only utter bullshit, it smacks of a poorly-thought-out knee-jerk reaction. In fact, if the government, or anyone else for that matter, apologised on my behalf, for the mistakes of the past, I would be not only offended, but extremely enraged.
Mistakes were made. Get over it. Mistakes will continue to be made. Until the day civilisation crumbles. Look to the future, not the past.
Now.. back to part two. The conversation on Southern Horror then deviated into using aboriginal myths as part of a story. The discussion was divided – most people agreed with my views, that yes, freedom of speech should prevail and use of mythology should not be an issue. A vocal minority did also put across some strong views.
Here’s my thoughts:
Why should aboriginal mythology be treated as somehow more ‘special’ than the mythology of other cultures? Why seek permission from aboriginal tribes to draw on their stories – no matter how slight the reference, when other mythologies can be freely used or plundered with absolutely no consultation. Above all else, I value equality.
The whole ‘oppressed minority, gee, they get sensitive about it’ thing bugs me. Think of the north american native tribes. They’ve been a helluva lot more oppressed than the Australian aborigine. Their mythology is used in books, stories and movies (hell, they have a whole sub-genre of movies devoted to them). What of the Kurds – they were being exterminated – fully exterminated – in northern Iraq. Their stories have been used for compelling fiction. Think of Asian mythology and the oppression there – Cambodia, Vietnam, China – these places have been the site of many historical atrocities, and yet their spirituality has been used in stories and movies.
What it comes down to is bleeding-heart middle-class whites who think they’re out to save the world with their politically-correct, higher-than-thou attitudes. They don’t analyse INTENT, they go with their gut, and their very limited world view. Over seven years, I’ve dealt with horrendous social situations at work. Guys with their heads smashed through glass windows, teenagers overdosing in the office toilets (and dying), drug addicts, violent attacks, chronic glue/paint sniffers who are destroying their brains before your eyes. I feel qualified enough to say I have witnessed the worst humanity has to offer in a civilised country. I shudder to think of the capabilities of those in war-torn or underdeveloped countries.
So I say with conviction that the main reason for raising aboriginal mythology as different from the rest of the world is this infuriating victim mentality whites are impressing upon aboriginal Australia. Too many indigenous folk believe this attitude, and live accordingly.
I have taken a decent swipe in my stories about Judaism and Christianity (Sobek’s Tears, Genesis Six, Due Date, Harbinger series), but I’ve used Egyptian, Greek and Norse mythology (among others) as well. I sure as hell will not ease off with aboriginal mythology – especially not if the incorporation of the myth is both educational and adds to the story. In this vein, keep an eye out for The Beast of Boundary End (aboriginal myth). Just so I don’t appear one-eyed, I’m also writing The Angel of Jihad (Islam), and will be revisiting several others mythologies as well.
You have been warned. I make no apologies for it.
The use of mythology can be informative, and a way to retain those myths for future generations. Everything else is (to me), just a wasted exercise in politcal-correctness gone awry. The true humanist thinks in terms of equality.
Equality is not singling out a particular mythology or religion and safeguarding it from a writer’s pen.
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