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Gone Walkabout

The Aborigines who've walked for 40,000 years | The Observer


Aborigines have handed down songs and legends about their lands for generations. Today they form an unbroken link to a mythical past – and a key to the future

The open landscape, the incomprehensible sweep of time, these men who have something none of the rest of us have, a continuous tie to songs, to stories, to art, to law, to a country and a path all going back at least 40,000 years. No other humans can claim this. It's difficult to believe that anything can pass down unchanged, though, for a thousand generations. Is that really possible? I also have trouble disengaging my modern critical mind.

Probably best not to disengage, stories like this need a healthy dose of scepticism. And quite what we are meant to learn from a culture that hasn't progressed in 40,000 years I'm not sure.

Comments

It's difficult to believe that anything can pass down unchanged, though, for a thousand generations. Is that really possible?

No, it isn't.

These stories, fascinating as they undoubtedly are, are no more a description of anything real than the book of Genesis or the Works and Days or the Mahabharata. Over a very few generations the stories change out of all recognition, at least with regard to any useful details. They serve a religious function, justifying certain behaviours and outlawing others; an identifying function, giving people a sense of themselves and their history and importance; an entertainment function, the evenings can be very long and tedious there; a political function, giving a natural and unanswerable rightness to the customs of the group, which is very useful to those who want to control it.

Every change in the leadership, every battle won or lost, every time a part of the group fought with another and left to make it's own way, every migration, every alteration of the accepted circumstance, needs a new set of foundation myths, which some- call them shamans, call them politicians- will be happy to provide. No, these stories, myths, customs, laws etc have not survived intact through 1,000 generations.

I know it's a bit much to expect a journalist to consult someone who knows something about the subject before writing an article, but a bit of input from an anthropologist would have stopped him making an idiot of himself. Or, indeed, a bit of thought.

There have been humans in Australia for at least 40,000 years, that much is true, but linguistic and other evidence suggests very strongly that for much of that time they were concentrated in the northwest, close to the coast. A thousand generations ago the ancestors of 'John', who, despite being an adult Australian educated by missionaries speaks English like a Hollywood indian of the 1950's (not the only example of casual racism in the article), certainly did not live anywhere near Alice Springs. It is highly unlikely that anyone did.

Why does he think that 'no other humans can claim this'? As I have said, 'John''s tribe can't claim it anyway, but people have lived in East Africa since there have been people, and in Southern Africa for far longer than they have lived in Australia.

Better told, it would have made a good story, but no more than that. There is nothing it can tell us.

What is so great about songs? Even if there is any proof ,rather than pc assertion, that they existed.
Maybe if they had invented the wheel and such like they would not need so much welfare these days.

"And quite what we are meant to learn from a culture that hasn't progressed in 40,000 years I'm not sure."

A lot apparently:

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/politics/curriculum-puts-dreamtime-first/story-e6frgczf-1225834964274

"SCHOOL students will learn about Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, Chinese medicine and natural therapies but not meet the periodic table of elements until Year 10 under the new national science curriculum."

Doc,

Perhaps it's got something to do with the fact that without modern science, the settlers and missionaries found it so much easier to beat the aborigines into submission.

Maybe the modern day missionaries from the Holy Church of The Blessed Marx are preparing the way for thier successors, so they can complete the sacred mission to reshape mankind in the image of the perfect Soviet Man.

"And quite what we are meant to learn from a culture that hasn't progressed in 40,000 years I'm not sure."
All the best recipes for roast lizard. Sans stuffing and spices, and ungutted.

"It's difficult to believe that anything can pass down unchanged, though, for a thousand generations. Is that really possible?"

No.

Next question please.

They have progressed significantly over the past few decades.

They very quickly grasped the concepts of social security and cultural guilt.

A collector of Aboriginal dreamtime songs was present when a 'secret men's business' ceremony was held and a song he had not heard before was sung. A complex dance was performed. He copied it all down and sought a translation from an Elder. It turned out to be a very good description of the crash of a light bomber in the desert in WW2.

"It turned out to be a very good description of the crash of a light bomber in the desert in WW2."

Hmm...

Why does all this make me think of the film "The Gods Must Be Crazy"?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gods_Must_Be_Crazy

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