The whole kerfuffle re Bruce Pascoe’s cultural identity seems to have got a lot of knickers knotted on the Net. This is the main reason I don’t do any social media, though I have thought of putting up some of my better photos on Instagram occasionally. Most of what is written in right wing blogs online is what academics call “confirmation bias” – the tendency to interpret new evidence as endorsing one’s existing beliefs. In other words if you are already prejudiced against another race or religion it’s very hard to keep an open mind when presented with conflicting evidence. Dark Emu may contain some minor discrepancies but it is the gist that is important. The mere fact that Indigenous people have survived here through much worse climate catastrophes than the present makes them as advanced and adaptable as any modern human.
Having read Bruce’s book some years ago & skimmed again last week I don’t think he is insisting the first Australians were all sedentary farming types. It’s a horses for courses country and seasonal variation makes it impossible to keep to one type of lifestyle only. Only once in the last 5 years would we be technically described as farmers, the rest of the time we would be referred to as graziers. We still have farm machinery, silos and fallowed paddocks but haven’t grown many successful crops lately due to lack of rain. Why is it so difficult to imagine pre 1788 Australia any different except in scale and technology? Lifestyle definitions like “hunter gathering” are just dated anthropological drivel that people associate with prehistoric savages. Indigenous Australians lived not as barbarians but in an advanced mobile society that pursued different survival strategies at different times in different locations.
Another academic term I have found myself googling this week is “abductive reasoning”. It works like this… if something looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck – then it probably is a duck. I have recently had the pleasure of meeting Dr Bruce Pascoe and the Blackfella film people. I found him to be interesting, contemplative and Aboriginal. My Kamilaroi mate Allo took him to be a blackfella whatever his birth certificate may read. We have Indigenous people out here of many different skin shades depending on their genetic roll of the dice. Most of the local Aboriginal surnames come from white station owners, managers and employees a century and a half ago. Figures from the Return of population and livestock in the district of the Liverpool plains (Jan 1st 1846, Archives Office of NSW) show that in 1845 there were 73 white people in the Walgett area of which 71 were male. You can draw your own conclusions from this fact but I find it very unAustralian to be questioning other people’s DNA. Do you know your own?