aboriginal, children, culture, future, knowledge, population, the past

Australian aboriginal culture

In July, 2014 p 9) the last tracker is retiring from the Queensland police force, which highlights the fact that few of the younger aboriginal generation are learning aboriginal culture – which includes tracking, spatial know-how, finding desert food and water, making temporary shelters, weaving dillybags, knowing the southern stars – all of which are more important for the future of white as well as black than being good at football and painting pictures for white buyers, and specific aboriginal languages.

This is the aboriginal culture that can be taught by aboriginals to whites, thus raising their self-esteem. The time will come when we will be glad of it.

The very terms <indigenous> and even <aboriginal> cannot be spoken by aboriginals, much less written by them.

Aboriginal children stupefied by white imports of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, petrol for sniffing, and gambling cannot benefit from white imports of education. Fetal alcohol syndrome produces a next generation that is not capable of either aboriginal culture or white culture.

Different languages are claimed to be important, as they are dying out. Their importance is really how they carry practical as well as legendary knowledge which is dying out.

Different aboriginal ‘nations’ have different knowledge which should be kept.

Even the older white records are being lost, which record some of it – .e.g. how to make and throw boomerangs – a better weapon than guns which require a supply of bullets.

At present the aboriginal settlements in the far outback are losing the ability to survive in it without constant supplies from the white shops. At the same time, they are not keeping their numbers down as in the past to the numbers that can survive in the desert and semidesert; they multiply, when in the past they kept their numbers stable.

They eat out the traditional foods, like turtles and fish.

They have far too many among them, from babyhood to adulthood. who are disabled by white imports, Diabetes and other disorders they never had before have been imported or developed in response to white food, as well as diseases like trachoma which are eradicated elsewhere in Australia, but the young aboriginals still catch to make them blind.

Parts of the old culture which are harmful still remain. Mothers in Palm Island still tickle straws in babies’ ears to quieten them – and introduce germs for deafness. Then the deaf or semi-deaf children cannot respond to teaching, either white or black.

Who can do anything about this? The aboriginal elders that are recognized by the aboriginal people themselves, who may even have some of this passing knowledge themselves. The aboriginal leaders that are recognized by the white people. The publishers of books for the youth and educational market, white and aboriginal. The remaining custodians of the aboriginal culture, who will die out within a generation unless they can transmit it now.

Aboriginal children still attend kindergartens in Western Australia who if asked where they live can point accurately in the right direction while their white peers can give an address, but do not know where it is.

There are still blackfellers who can sleep out in the cold of a desert night without suffering, and who can find water where nobody else can.

There are librarians and scientists who have collected bodies of knowledge that should be more widely known.

There are gardeners now interested in aboriginals’ plant foods that were extirpated by our cattle.

Who is collecting this knowledge?

 

When I was a child in Blackburn, then a rural suburb of Melbourne, there were aboriginal campers up on the hill at the end of our street. We were taught to keep clear of them – nobody thought they could teach us anything. Now they are gone – and what they knew then, nobody knows now.

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aged, children, death, parent, population, the past

Past solutions to the problem of the aged – Japan

Past solutions to the problems of the aged

 

In the past, how did tribes solve the problem of their aged?

The nomads left them at the rivers that they could not cross.

In settlements, at constant edge of survival, what did they do with unproductive old folk?  As in many undeveloped countries today – what might they do?

They did not have the resources of modern medicine to keep them alive longer than they remained healthy enough to stay alive – though as Ecclesiastes and Shakespeare’s Ages of Man show, the elderly did not enjoy life, and suffered the slippered woes of The sixth age that shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank;
and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everyt
hing.

The Ballad of Narayama” is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty, in our eyes, about life trying to survive in a medieval village. The village kept itself off starvation by a tradition- among other strategies- that people over seventies went up the mountain of Narayama to die. Seventy was the latest age to remain healthy at that time. Almost everyone, including the elderly themselves, accepted this.  The film showed an elderly woman planting out seedlings before she was willingly carried up the mountain by her loving son. Her only hope was that it would snow, so she would die quickly. She had had a long life, with everything she had lived for, and needed to live no longer.

The Ballad of Narayama” is a 1958 Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens up between its origins in the kabuki style and its subject of starvation in a mountain village!  It shows among other things the village enforcing the tradition of carrying those who have reached the age of 70 up the side of mountain and abandoning them there to die of exposure.

Orin, a 70-year-old widow has resignation in the face of her traditional fate is in stark contrast with the behavior of her neighbor Mata, who protests violently against his fate. Their family attitudes are similarly opposed; while Orin’s son Tatsuhei loves his mother and doesn’t have any desire to carry her up the mountainside, Mata’s family has already cut off his food, and he wanders the village as a desperate scavenger; Orin invites him in and offers him a bowl of rice, which be gobbles hungrily.

In contrast with her resignation and her son’s reluctance to carry out her sentence, Orin’s vile grandson Kesakichi  can’t wait to be done with the old woman, and begins singing a song mocking the fact that she retains, at 70, all 33 of of her original teeth. This is taken up by the villagers, who materialize as a vindictive chorus, their song implying she kept her teeth because of a deal with demons. Eager to qualify for her doom, Orin bites down hard on a stone and when they see her again her mouth reveals bloody stumps. The fearful neighbor Mata appears soon after bound head and foot, dragged protesting by his son (“Don’t do this!”).

The sets and backdrops reflect the changing seasons with lush beauty: Spring, summer, the red leaves of autumn, then the wintry snows on the slopes of Narayama. On the mountaintop, blackbirds perch on snowy crags as the camera uses lateral moves to sweep across the desolate landscape. Finally depositing his mother in an empty place on the mountain, Tatsuhei greets the snow with relief: She will freeze more quickly. This he can sing only to himself, because the journey up the mountain has three strict rues: (1) you must not talk after starting up Narayama; (2) be sure no one sees you leave in the morning; (3) never look back. His adherence is in contrast with the adventures of the fearful neighbor Mata, who appears soon after bound head and foot, dragged protesting by his son (“Don’t do this!”).

Orin’s goodness and resignation are at the center of the story. In particuar, notice her kind welcome for Tama (Yuko Mochizuki), a 40-year-old widow she has decided will be the ideal new wife for her widower son. Known for her ability to catch trout when no one else can, she leads Tama through the forest on a foggy night and reveals a secret place beneath a rock in the brook where a trout is always to be found. This secret was never revealed to her first daughter-in-law. She even wants to die before her first grandchild arrives. She wants to rid the village from a hungry mouth.

Tatsuhei’s second bride Tama tells him: “When we turn 70, we’ll go together up Narayama”,

Some will find Orin’s behavior strange. So it is. Perhaps, in the years soon after World War Two, she is intended in praise of the Japanese ability to present acceptance in the face of the appalling. You can attach any set of parallels to the parable and make them work, but that seems to fit.

This scenario fitted the Japanese willingness to sacrifice for the good of everyone else, which is also seen in the kamikazi suicide flying in the 2nd world war.

The Japanese are very pragmatic, and have a history of self-sacrifice and stoicism.  Their attitude to death is not that of the West.

They may well solve their ageing population now not by increasing the total population with more young people to care for them – a growth policy which must reach disaster point at some time – but by decreasing the numbers of the elderly, who must be cared for, as a source of employment by the younger group.

Decreasing the numbers of the elderly could be by the voluntary deaths of the demented and painfully-dying, two very costly groups. The Japanese people could very well be willing to do this for themselves – (and bring the numbers of adult nappies in landfill down to the numbers of child nappies.)

Up to 1950, Japanese population was under 90 million. I was there in 1950, and the place seemed just right regarding population, ability to feed itself after the war, and beautiful countryside. What further population did it need?  Now in 2015, 65 years later, the population is 127 million.  Will the growth stop at any time?

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