Saturday salon 19/11

1. Visions of infinity from Aboriginal women artists

I suspect that in 50 years time the best of Australian Aboriginal art will be seen as some of the most significant in the world during our time.

An exhibition of art by nine Aboriginal women, Marking the Infinite, is running at the Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane University, New Orleans. This is from the blurb:

    Hailing from remote areas across the island continent, the nine artists in this exhibition are revered matriarchs, commanding leadership roles and using art to empower their respective communities. Their works are steeped in ancient cultural traditions, specific to each artist, and yet speak to universal contemporary themes, revealing the continued relevance of Indigenous knowledge in the twenty-first century.

    The subjects of the works range from remote celestial bodies and the native bush plum’s tiny flowers to venerable crafts traditions and women’s ceremonies. And yet, each work grapples with the most fundamental questions of existence. Every mark bears testament to natural and cosmological cycles that put one’s being into perspective: whether the ebb and flow of sacred waters and ancestral sands, or the simple passage of a brush against canvas. Theirs are marks upon the infinite, asserting both our shared humanity and differences in experiencing and valuing the same planet.

Here are two samples. First a detail of Angelina Pwerle’s “Bush Plum”:


Then Regina Pilawuk Wilson’s “Sun Mat”:


The works appear to be from a private collection in the USA.

2. When Greeks became white

Commonly Europeans are thought of being white. This article suggests that six ancient European civilisations were mistakenly thought to have homogenous white populations. The degree of black varies, but this is what they say about the Greeks:

    A 2001 genetic study out of the Universidad Complutense in Madrid also concluded that modern Greeks had African origins and were genetically closer to Ethiopian/sub-Saharan groups than to any other Mediterranean groups such as Macedonians, Iberians (including Basques), North Africans, Italians, French, Cretans, Jews, Lebanese, Turks (Anatolians), Armenians and Iranians.

Fotis Kapetopoulos asks when did the Greeks become white?


He says:

From the mid 19th and early 20th centuries we were seen as ‘semi-coloured’ and were prohibited, later restricted, from entry to Australia. This was the same in the USA and Canada.

He says the White Australia Policy was definitely meant to keep Greeks out, among others. Still they came and:

    by the 1980s we graduated to sort of white in Australia, due to our numbers, changes to our names and the pluralist policy of multiculturalism. Our ‘success’ in education, business and politics played a role as well.

Also the influx of immigrants from the 1970s who were less white than they were.

3. Richard Rorty predicted Trump in 1998

Here it is:


Rorty says:

    Nor would the strongman who comes to power do anything but worsen economic conditions. He writes next, “after my imagined strongman takes charge, he will quickly make his peace with the international superrich.”

As predicted in 2000, a Trump presidency will be followed by Lisa Simpson, who says:

    “As you know, we’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump.” In fact, the country is “broke,” she learns, after Trump’s presidency.

4. Scrambling to come to terms with Trump victory

Meanwhile, in Australia politicians scrambled to come to terms with Trump and Trumpism.

Labor has revived a race ethics code, first invented in 1998 by Labor and the Australian Democrats to counter the racism of One Nation.

You can say it’s just Bill playing politics, but why wouldn’t LNP politicians sign up to truthfulness and tolerance? Does Turnbull want to retain the right to tell lies?

Labor is also rebadging the 457 visa policy it took to the election as Australia First, to address the fears of those who feel they may be left behind.

The LNP too is tweaking its 457 visa policy, allowing visa holders only to stay 60 days instead of 90 if they lose their jobs.

Peter Dutton reckons Malcolm Fraser let in some of the wrong people back in the 1970s, who are now responsible for radicalisation and gang warfare.

Malcolm Turnbull thinks we need to double down on globalisation, not react away from it, so he’s extending the definition of ‘fairness’ so that having losers as well as winners is seen as normal.

However, there’s been a bit of a political earthquake in the NSW Orange by-election, where on latest count the Fishers, Shooters and Farmers are ahead by 55 votes – a recount on Monday will decide. Apparently the swing against the Nats was 60% in some booths.

Introduction to Saturday salon

Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

    The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

23 thoughts on “Saturday salon 19/11”

  1. It’s been a while since I read the transcripts but if memory serves, Eva Cox in her 1995 Boyer Lectures made some suggestions which would have stopped Trumpism in its tracks had they been implemented.
    I will revisit them as the rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.

  2. Greeks speak a language derived from an ancient branch of the Indo-European family. That means they are “white”, just like Punjabi speakers of northern India, West Indians who speak what is definitely a fair dinkum English dialect, Lithuanians, Norwegians and most Aborigine Australians and Torres Strat Islanders.

    Sadly, no matter how hard they try, Hungarians, Estonians, Finns, Israelis, Turks, Tunisians and Basques speak languages derived from barbaric tribal grunts, unlike respectable Indo-European languages, and therefore cannot possibly be considered “white”

    The jury is still out on the speakers of Maltese and of Tok Pisin, which is still popular in PNG.

    So let’s not have any more idle chatter about the undoubted “whiteness” of our Greek brothers and sisters. Regardless of how readily some outside workers acquire an admired tan in the blazing Aussie sun, the Greeks are “whiter” than their finest ancient marble statues.

  3. zoot, I look forward to what you can dredge up from Eva Cox.

    Graham, language is one thing, genes another. In Britain the Angles, Saxons and Jutes came, and we got English as a Germanic language. But they didn’t replace the peoples who were already there, just added and to some extent interbred.

    The Normans came, conquered and stayed, but only contributed an overlay to the language.

    In France the early inhabitants were Celts. The Romans came and the language changed. Later they were conquered by the Franks, and penetrated by the Normans, the Burgundians, the Alsations and for a while in the south the Visigoths, all Germanic tribes but the language remained a romance language, or languages, until standardised on Parisian French by Napoleon (so I believe, I’m not an expert).

    I’m not sure how the Australian Aborigines get into the act, because their dispersal from Africa was about 50,000 years ahead of the origins of the Indo-European language.

    Any way see my Deep origins:language post, which BTW remains the most viewed post on the blog, although it came across from LP, just ahead of JD’sPhase change materials.

    In the end, though, racial differences are rather trivial genetically. I understand there is more genetic diversity in a troupe of chimps than there is in the whole human race, essentially because of a genetic choke about 70,000 years ago, when we almost went extinct.

  4. BTW I understand “whiteness” might be an inherited from interbreeding with the Neanderthals. They were in Europe for a very long time and adapted to the climate to enable greater vitamin D absorption.

    Really though, we wear way too much clothing much of the time.

  5. Yeah Brian. I was just poking fun at all those who let race dominate their thinking. So far as I’m concerned, culture and the like have a far greater bearing on our differences than do genetics. (I mentioned Aborigines and Islanders simply because English is now almost universal among those communities).

    By the way, I’ve recently read stuff about the so-called Minoans and their successors. The older inhabitants of Greece were indeed mixed in their origins – and there is some doubt about the Dorian invasions; perhaps they were there a lot longer that previously suspected.

    Another thing is the intermingling of people, especially slaves, during the Roman and Byzantine Empires, and later, during the Turkish occupation. Genetically, I suppose the Greeks are a bit like the Chinese (and us too nowadays): a packet of genetic hundreds-and-thousands.

  6. Thanks, Graham. The linked article talks about the early Phoenicians as being black, and black emperors and popes in Rome.

    For interest, I looked up two earlier posts. Pushing back the African exodus cites genetic evidence that humans moved out of Africa way earlier than thought, Aborigines as much as 130,000 years ago.

    The other one Our deep origins in Europe and Africa suggests apes earlier in the evolutionary scale, moved out of Africa, and then later moved back again.

    I think the last word has not been said.

  7. It is indeed an ongoing saga.

    Unfortunately, a combination of Windows 10 and our local pre-decimal-currency internet gave me problems with the linked article.

    ABC-TV’s “Quantum” program had two items in the past year on the wide genetic diversity among the Khoi-San peoples of south-west Africa. Gained the impression that if you stuck to home instead of gallivanting into new hunting grounds (like on the other side of the Red Sea and Sinai) you too would keep your genetic diversity.

  8. Thanks Brian.

    We saw a wonderful painting of The Seven Sisters (star group) in a Hahndorf gallery, by an Aboriginal woman, some years ago. At $5,000 it was beyond our budget, but well worth the price.

    (BTW, I think subaru is the Japanese name for The Seven Sisters.)

    On invasions and conquests, schoolkids in NZ in 1950s were taught that the Maori had arrived in Aotearoa about 700 years ago, and had proceeded to wipe out the previous inhabitants, the Moriori. Only recently I learnt that the Moriori are Polynesian (Maori?) inhabitants of the Chatham Islands, and were not massacred on the NZ mainland islands at all!

    There was a bit of fighting a few hundred years ago.
    There has been a NZ Govt apology to the Moriori.

    In Te Papa museum in Wellington, it’s mentioned that DNA has been used to trace the origins of Maori in a couple of valleys in Taiwan !!

    Sorry, Thor Heyerdhal, Kon Tiki, etc. Not the Americas at all….

  9. Hi again Brian, your:

    I think the last word has not been said.

    should appear as a large poster in every science lab, every humanities institute, and every medical research place; all over the world.

    Good on you.

  10. Just to stir the pot, Ambigulous, I wonder how many of those in Taiwan, from whom the Polynesians descended, had relatives who decided to try their luck heading west,
    back in Mainland Asia? The genetics of prehistory is a touchy subject in China and almost a no-go area in Japan.

    I’m just glad that I’m a mongrel mix of Celtic/Pictish, English/Scandanavian, Prussian/Slavic and heaven knows what else. It’s my genetic diversity that makes me so rich, good-looking, wise, clever, a terrific athlete, great dancer and outstanding singer; just ask me; I’ll tell you. 🙂

  11. Good points, Graham Bell.

    I am astounded at your versatility and achievements; your modest and thoughtful comments here belie your amazing stature.

    Brian said some conversations need body language. If only your superlative dancing could shine through your prose!!


  12. Alas, Ambigulous, jealous rivals have kept me off youtube and facebook. I’m afraid you’ll just have to come along to one of my concerts: my deputy assistant bookings secretary’s clerk can forward you tickets at my personal concession price of USD 135 each or 2 for USD 250. See you there. ((exeunt stage left chuckling and counting money)).

  13. That’s great news, Graham.

    Ticket price very good, considering the superlative quality of the performance. Happy to attend. What do folk have to pay for the premium seats?

    Do you dance the entire Ring Cycle or only the excerpts which show off your singing voice?

    I was never a Wagner fan, but doubtless your own interpretation is widely admired, nay treasured, by the most stringent of critics.

    I must close now. Don’t want to interrupt your negotiations with Peter Jackson for the film rights. I’ve heard it’ll be filmed at Kosciusko, Tongariro, Mt Bogong, Gunung Agung, Mt Etna and Pinatubo. All locations essential to the plot and cinematography.


  14. I’m moving the discussion initiated by Ootz on the Trump and post-truth politics thread to here on Saturday Salon, so as not to further pollute the Trump thread. I tried a post last night but couldn’t get it to work.

    I’m here today because my work day has been cancelled. No rain, no grass growing.

    Here in Ashgrove back in 1999 we had our backyard remodelled and a swimming pool installed. Such a project requires a great range of trade skills and for six months we had diverse tradies and workers coming in and out of our place. Jumpy reminds me of them. As such, he is differently located in socioeconomic terms than the mostly university educated people you find around a leftie blog. This is welcome. Jumpy has also frequently supplied interesting and valuable links, and clearly posts with the commenting rule book in one hand, conscientiously trying to conform.

    In effect, what was happening, however, was that posts and comments were continually being ‘corrected’ from a different philosophical position, apparently a form of libertarianism. No or minimal argument, mainly a ‘slicing and dicing’ style.

    We ran into this problem a few times at LP (LarvatusProdeo). What you have said is cut to ribbons. The problem is that if you ignore it, as Ootz suggested, than it stands as the last word, and silence is complicit agreement.

    If you disagree, you either have to be clever and respond in kind (not available to me) or find yourself writing 500-word comments arguing from first principles in response to a phrase.

    Also other potential commenters may be inhibited from commenting, remaining silent rather than risk the treatment.

    So Jumpy, I don’t want to put you in permanent moderation. I’m not here for a lot of the time, and I don’t want to devote the head-space to vetting every comment. However, I’d ask you to reflect on your commenting practice. I think Ootz was right in deeming the comments on that thread troll-like behaviour.

    The only thing I’d disagree with is that I don’t think you are doing what you are doing for amusement – rather just setting us all to rights reading from a different script. I think there is an underlying sincerity, but what you’ve been doing could create a different perception.

    Comments on this comment are welcome.

  15. Thanks Brian, your reaction to my comment is exemplary and your thoughtful comment above a testimony to your integrity and much better than anything I could muster.

    Of course with my comment I did not intent to get Jumpy moderated out of Climate Plus and much less silenced at all. I only once, early in my LP commentary, I pleaded for you to remove a particular regular and obnoxious commenter, only to gained an insight into your integrity and learned from that experience.

    In dealing with other people as indeed with myself, I live with the dictum, that we all try to do as best as we can under the circumstances and that we all are capable of learning, changing or adapting our behaviour or attitude given the right situation. In deed this is one of the reasons I participate online in political discussion, to create opportunities to learn to expand our social horizon collectively for mutual benefits.

    To gain such mutual benefits we need to adopt certain respect for the other and adhere to certain rules of engagement, not unlike in sport where these key components are crucial for a good game. Where would cricket be if teams would solely rely on sledging, ball tampering and playing the person not the ball? Like wise, I can handle my political position being challenged, if such a challenge has integrity or is in the spirit of ‘a good game’. Off course I am not against occasional personal banter or odd larrikinism, what I mean is blind tribalism, which constitutes the winning at all costs attitude and the baseless arguing and games, which we became so familiar within the climate change debate and was epitomised by the LP neologism of “Hannah’s ball”.

    I do wish Jumpy would engage in serious debate, provide us with sincere and solid arguments backed up with reliable and valid information. Even if I could not agree with them, but at least if I could engage with with him with a distant hope that one of us may learn something. Diversity of opinion is a key ingredient of a well functioning democracy. I even can handle his humour and eccentricities. Hell, I will discuss my chooks with him, but as it is, there is too much ‘look over here’ strawmen arguments, playing the person and tampering with the ball and not enough effort for a good game for me. In particular despicable is his total disrespect for you as the host, as demonstrated by his final comments re abortion on the offending thread. Perhaps there is an explanation for it in the DSM IV or he never had an opportunity to gain the appropriate social skills, but as I said on my initial comment, he has been roused on for similar reasons over at Catallaxy and that should say something.

  16. Ootz, I’m not capable of writing what you’ve just written, so thanks.

    I know nothing about what happened at Catallaxy, and wouldn’t comment on his social skills. That’s a bit further than we should be going. However, Jumpy did have problems at LP, which I shouldn’t talk about.

    I’ve often thought of writing to him to tell him he’ll almost inevitably get into problems on an open forum with lefties on guns, abortion and women’s issues generally.

    I can appreciate that abortion is a red hot issue. Twice I’ve been partner to someone who has had a miscarriage, and have some understanding of the emotions involved. I’ve discussed abortion with my wife, and we are both exceedingly grateful we haven’t had to face the issue personally.

    I’ve also dealt with animal liberationists when working in the Department of Education, and know how passionately they feel about how animals are treated. So I can understand why people feel impelled to make a call, but I repeat my view about the utility of discussing the issue on a blog thread. Mostly I think it is indeed counterproductive.

    My personal irritations on the thread came from things like unions being stereotyped as “greedy”. There are 109 at last count, and we only ever hear about three.

    I had a friend who was in an unusual employment category, with a wonderful employer. She wasn’t in a union.

    The management changed and her life was wrecked. She needed legal support, but didn’t have any. BTW, she’s OK now, but…

    No teacher with half a brain would undertake playground duty without being member of a union.

    And then whatever Rudd thinks about scientists. Just not relevant to anything.

  17. I’m a little time deficient this evening ( Pay the men and juggle banking ), so a full disclosure will have wait till tomorrow.

    Just a sample of my overall attitude is to try and understand how and why others think what they do, test it a little within the bonds of the rules.

    For instance

    No teacher with half a brain would undertake playground duty without being member of a union.

    I would try to find out how many teachers that do playground duty v how many of those are in the a union to find how many have half a brain. Then see if that matches other criteria.

    No time now but as I said, I visit many places outside my positional comfort zone in an effort to grow a bit. Challenge my position intentionally, sometime that requires challenging others. Others challenge my perceptions and perspectives, this I appreciate as much as Brians facilitation.
    ( I try to string a few big words together to improve my substandard education, still working on grammar too as all can tell )

  18. No teacher with half a brain would undertake playground duty without being member of a union.

    It’s pretty simple, Jumpy. If a kid is injured, say loses an eye under your care you can be held legally responsible. You can’t 100% rely on the employer to support you. Being a member of a union will entitle you to legal support.

    If a kid loses an eye you could lose your house.

    Or losing a kid at the Ekka.

    It’s actually the same with me when I work on lawns and footpaths. I have public liability insurance to $20m, which costs me a bit. One day a woman walked right up behind me with a kid in a stroller before I saw her. Luckily nothing happened.

  19. “I visit many places outside my positional comfort zone in an effort to grow a bit. Challenge my position intentionally, sometime that requires challenging others. Others challenge my perceptions and perspectives, this I appreciate as much as Brians facilitation.”

    Thanks Jumpy and good on you, much reassuring to hear this.

    As it is, we all can do better, better communication, better debating, provide better arguments and support for them and we all come from different backgrounds which more or less facilitates that “grow a bit” process. Further, as the data re Republicans and Democrats perception of each other in Brian’s Trump and Post Truth post suggests, we all need to “grow a bit” in order to sort out the political mess we have collectively found ourselves. This involves some serious challenging of each other, but at the same time we also need to give each other opportunities and space to grow.

    Opportunities for growth and change come with coherent debate, solid arguments with credible backup. Global and broad statements like unions are bad just don’t fit the complex work place and employment situation of today. Just bashing a ‘bad’ thing does not make it go away unless one addresses the roots of the problem which sustains it. Global and emotive statements in relation to abortion won’t solve the problem nor protect the vulnerable, including the women. Such simple global and emotive statements force the debate into a black and white discussion which is not helpful in finding common ground and agreeable solutions. Of course I agree, that unborn life is vulnerable and has to be protected. However, what about protecting the women, what about protecting young men and not forcing them into manufactured wars and so forth. In other words, with a highly charged topic it is essential to provide an argument which is consistent across the field and considers all the related important players and issues. We all do occasionally fall into the trap of black and white thinking, because humans are cognitive misers. So, particularly when debating complex and emotive issues with people which generally have a real or perceived contrary view to oneself, it is extra important to flag an awareness of the subtleties within that issue, unless one is only interested to get a rouse out of the people.

    With regards to your previous question about my chooks, it is remarkable the difference between breeds. My significant older English Game are still hanging in there, still laying the odd egg and wanting to sit. Where as the younger highly breed ISA Reds have all died off and only few Australorps left to enjoy their retirement. Needless to say I need new blood, but with the extended overseas stay and now catching up with everything just not had the time to get to that.

  20. Well said, Ootz. I neglected to say yesterday that I too find Jumpy’s efforts at self-improvement commendable.

    Life is a project we need to work on, and if we do it brings rewards.

  21. Thanks for all your admiration, Ambigulous, but given the thoughtful nature of the comments just above, by Brian and Ootz, perhaps we could leave our light banter until next Saturday Salon.

  22. Fair enough Graham.
    I was just overwhelmed that you had offered me such an enormous discount over the advertised price of tickets.
    🙂 😉

    I too have been thinking about Ootz’s and Brian’s comments.
    I trust we all have been.

Comments are closed.