Weekly salon 15/11

1. Aboriginal philosophy

Every week Waleed Aly and Scott Stevens bang on at ABC RN’s The Minefield for about 40 minutes on what they see as profound ethical and philosophical questions inherent in our politics and our culture, how we see the world and how we live in it. They always have a guest to help them.

This week they asked the question Can Aboriginal political philosophy and political liberalism be reconciled?

They had two guests, Mary Graham, a Kombumerri person (Gold Coast) through her father’s heritage, and affiliated with Wakka Wakka (South Burnett) through her mother’s people. She is Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland.

The second guest was Morgan Brigg, who is Director of the Rotary Program and Associate Professor in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland.

The short answer to the question posed is, with great difficulty, because according to Mary Graham Aborigines do not do philosophy, rather they have a Weltanschauung.

In addition, she said place was of little importance to the settlers who followed Captain Cook, whereas the land was totally important and sacralised for Aborigines. They had no other god(s).

Weltanschauung, a word used as such in English but often translated as worldview, is a term made prominent if not invented by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant and then taken up by the German idealist philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The Wikipedia article says Weltanschauung (pronounced velt-un-shau-oong [ˈvɛltʔanˌʃaʊ.ʊŋ]) is:

    a concept fundamental to German philosophy, especially epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it.

So not to overcook this, it’s how you see the world, and then what you see having perceived it the way you did.

Graham and Brigg have written a series of articles, linked at the Minefield site. I’d like to read them and have another go, but on an interim basis I would apply Florence Kluckhohn’s concept of value orientations. (Warning: she was writing in the 1950s before gender neutral terminology became a thing.)

Kluckhohn poses five question arising from the human condition, one being:

    What is the relation of man to nature?

She says we have three possible orientations:

  • Man subjugated to nature
  • Man in nature
  • Man over nature

The Innuit and the Tibetans may be typified by the first, European colonists definitely the third. Green philosophy would tend to see the second as the only sustainable approach.

It seems to me that the Aborigines would see themselves in the second category, but not inactively so, more embedded with curatorial obligations to land and nature as a whole, which is sacred. They often say they belong to the land, the land ‘owns’ them. This goes beyond what Kluckhohn had in mind.

They also discussed the individualism of liberalism, which they see as problematic and in the end a false binary.

They spoke of a robust sense of self, but social interdependence within ‘Country”.

So it is not a matter of Aborigines people becoming like the settlers through a series of accommodations, it’s whether we are going to continue a 65 thousand-year project or forever be strangers in this land.

Having said that, what I see is one of the most urbanised countries on the planet, which is not going to change any time soon.

This is where we need the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the Makarrata Commission, constitutional change and indeed a treaty.

The citation is Kluckhohn, F.R. Dominant and Variant Value Orientations. In Kluckhohn, C, & Murray, H.A. eds. Personality in Nature, Society, and Culture. 2nd ed, New York, Knopf, 1962, pp.342-357.

I’ve used the term Aborigines rather than First Nations people, because I’m not sure Graham and Brigg were speaking for Torres Strait Islanders.

2. Always was. Always will be.

That has been the theme of NAIDOC Week 2020.

Many things have been spoken and done, including about the appropriateness of our national anthem. I think the choice was not our finest hour. It’s best sung by people with classical voice training, and sung straight as the notes on the page, not the mucked about versions we often get.

I know there are many more important issues, but some day the anthem will change, because in its present form it is simply unacceptable in view of our 65,000 year heritage.

Judith Durham’s version (lyrics here) would be an improvement, so it would only be second rate rather than third rate compared to NZ or South Africa.

In this clip Judith Durham talked about how she came up with the version, with a bit of help from her friends. I think we need more than one word (“one” for “young”) to change.

Waltzing Matilda is a song rather than an anthem. The same is true, I think, for The Seekers’ I am Australian, and Peter Allen’s I still call Australia home.

Does anyone have a better idea?

3. Women show how

The Queensland men got beaten rather badly in State of Origin, losing 34-10.

That link was mostly about what passes for biffo these days. I do think there should have been suspensions, because punches were thrown that hit the heads of opposition players, never mind that no harm was done.

However, harm was done as reported like this:

    The Maroons had their backs to the wall from the kickoff with five-eighth Cameron Munster ruled out through concussion just two minutes in after being dragged down by Tyson Frizell when he marked the ball in-goal.

“Dragged down” my **se. Frizell tackled Munster when he was in the air, going for the body, not the ball, a big no-no. So Munster cracked his head on the ground coming down, Qld were a man short, one of our best, and Frizell was not even penalised.

The bottom line is that the Blues played to their potential, and when they do they are hard to beat.

The Queensland women did better, winning 24-18, highlights here.

It was actually four tries a piece, but Queensland never looked like losing after pulling ahead 24-6 – until the last few seconds.

4. Biosecurity policy – is there any?

Back in 2018, Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced the Government would raise $325 million over three years through a biosecurity levy. They never got around to legislating it. In May they simply dropped the idea.

Now the CSIRO has warned that threats are increasing and the system needs an overhaul.

In the five years to 2017, the amount of biosecurity risk materials intercepted in Australia increased by almost 50 per cent. Looking forward, tripling investment in biosecurity over the next 10 years would still result in an increased risk.


    This year Australian farmers have already dealt with one of the worst outbreaks of avian influenza, an incursion of fall armyworm, which destroys crops, and a new weed is detected every 18 days.

    The increase in biosecurity risks is fuelled by global trade and travel, urbanisation, climate change, biodiversity loss, and antimicrobial resistance.

Then there is this:

    At least 75 per cent of emerging human infectious diseases originate from animals.

Hands up everyone who feels safe, given the quality of our government.

35 thoughts on “Weekly salon 15/11”

  1. I was going to do Porter, Tudge and systemic government hypocrisy, Geoff Raby on China and Joel Fitzgibbon’s attempt to blow up the Labor party, but one can’t do everything.

  2. Thanks Brian.

    Weltanschauung is one of my favourite German words.

    (Of course everyone like Schadenfreude !!)

    Political liberals, social democrats, revolutionists, Libertarians… so many world-views contend, clash; and have difficulty comprehending fully the other world-view(s).

    I hope those Maennen Tot und WeiB dead white males *Kant and Hegel* had some suggestions on ways of crossing the apparent boundaries……

  3. I haven’t discovered my favourite German word yet but it’d have to be whatever means “ surrender “ ( you know, the 2 WW things )

    I’ve looked it up and there are quite a few but I’m not sure what is the most accurate.

  4. Brian: “In addition, she said place was of little importance to the settlers who followed Captain Cook, whereas the land was totally important and sacralised for Aborigines. They had no other god(s).”
    Traditional culture had a strong influence on the behaviour of the Groote Eylandt when we lived on Groote Eylandt. The traditional culture was radically different than the culture of our society. (Wife commented that, after 8 yrs she would think that she had things worked out then something would happen and the Aborigines would do something very different to what she expected.) Few general comments:
    1. Aboriginal culture can be very secret with the secrets being revealed starting near initiation and being added to has the person grew up. This could include special language that could only be used amongst people who had the required level of initiation. By contrast, Christians try to foist their religion on the people they meet. I am skeptical of people who have not grown up in traditional society claiming to know a lot about those beliefs and practices.
    2. Most Aborigines spend most of their time on what can be a very small amount of country. However, changes did take place from time to time because groups were wiped out or negotiated a move when a place became short of food. (One of the Bickerton Is groups moved to Groote and merged with another clan when women’s food became short in their part of Bickerton. There was also a group that had been wiped out because they disobeyed marriage laws.)
    3. Aborigines did things to maintain their land. Some of it was physical like firestick farming. Other parts were things like increase ceremonies.
    4 . A lot of the local stories seemed to be about deeds of ownership. (People associated with particular totems would have stories of the totem heroes, their travels to the place where people lived and the relationship of various landmarks to the totem story.
    5. The religion was not static. Cultural stories include stories about some cultural hero travelling long distances teaching the people along their songline new ceremonies and ideas.
    6. I would have thought the Wadjina would have been similar to our god concept. There are plenty of others that might fill this bill too.
    I think Aboriginal culture made sense in the circumstance that Aborigines lived under and should be respected. However, the past is not the only option available to Aborigines.

  5. Gemuetlichkeit is a much friendlier word, thanks Brian (liked the link you gave us).

    Jumpy, back in schooldays a teacher of German told our class that when she was living in Germany in the Thirties, a German friend insisted she should attend a H*tl*r rally one evening. She did. We were enthralled by her story.

    A French teacher had lived through Occupation. Most family and friends’ parents had WW2 experiences to relate. Yep, I’m that old.

    The Dutch father of a friend served in the “Dutch East Indies” army attempting to put down the nationalist uprising in Indonesia; and would never speak about it.

    Closer to home Australia has veterans of Malaya. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, South Africa and exiles from countless wars and dictatorships.

  6. Ambi, growing up as a teenager and young man we had quite a few workmen on the farm. It included a returned soldier from PNG and a German soldier.

    At uni there were quite a few students ex continental Europe, many with amazing experiences.

    Jumpy, I’m not sure the Germans had a Germanic word for surrender, but they import a lot of words and Kapitulation seems to be what they use.

    How about Blitzkrieg (lightning war)?

  7. Ambi, I remember a Dutch student who grew up in Indonesia.

    Yuck alert: I recall him saying they never used toilet paper growing up, so he used to carry an empty bottle in his bag and always felt stupid filling it up at the hand basins in the toilets, and then surreptitiously disappearing into the cubicle.

  8. John, interesting info from Groote.

    I’m aware that there is considerable cultural variety across the diverse peoples, and much mixing now, so it’s a journey and I guess always was.

    I think the people like Marcia Langton who are working on a legislated ‘voice’ to parliament are doping a good job. I’m impressed with Ken Wyatt, Linda Burney, and of course Pat Dodgson.

  9. Thanks, zoot.

    John Monash has a special place in Victorian hearts. We have the Monash Freeway in the eastern Melbourne suburbs (at peak hour called “the Monash Car Park”), Monash University – our second university, and in Gippsland a main road called Monash Way.

    After WW1 Monash headed the State Electricity Commission which began to use Latrobe Valley brown coal for power generation. He was also Jewish.

    (For a Jewish friend of ours in NY, he was just about the only Australian she knew of.)

  10. I’m not especially knowledgeable about Monash, but checking a bit now, it appears his parents were ethnically Jewish, came from Posen, at the time a province of Prussia after the partition of Poland in the late 18th century. The name at that time was Monasch, with emphasis on the second syllable.

    German, rather than Polish of Yiddish, was their native language.

    They came from Krotoschin (Krotoszyn), Posen province (Poznan, Poland), Prussia, near Breslau (Wroclaw), where a third of the population was Jewish. It would be interesting to know whether they had the rights of Prussian citizens. My understanding is the Marx’s parents converted to Christianity, and thereby were able to vote, whenever they did.

    The ADB entry says:

      His father Louis migrated to Melbourne in 1854, prospered as a merchant, was naturalized in 1856 and was secretary of the Deutscher Verein. He returned to Europe in 1863, married Bertha (of Dramburg, near Stettin (Szczecin)), and next year took her back to Melbourne.

      John was brought up bilingually (but never acquired any Yiddish); his parents spoke good English. For three years he attended St Stephen’s Church of England School, Richmond.

    Later he went to Scotch College, and:

      His parents had largely abandoned religious practice, but John sang in the choir at the East Melbourne synagogue and celebrated his bar mitzvah there. His mother attracted a wide circle of friends to her Richmond home; they were musical, German or Jewish but included the Deakin and Hodgson families. Bertha was a proficient pianist; John had begun to play by 5.

      Classically Jewish in their expectations for their first-born son, John’s parents drove him hard. In her husband’s absence, Bertha talked much with the boy who developed a precocious articulateness and ease in adult company.

    Still later it talks of Monash’s “consciousness of being an outsider—doubly so as a Jew of Prussian parentage”.

    Obviously he was quite stumm about his German heritage. The English and the Australians never understood that in the lands that were roughly historically covered by the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation you fought for whoever was the ruler, or whoever paid you.

  11. Thanks for all those details, Brian.
    A double whammy for John: a German family background while fighting against the Kaiser’s army; Jewish ancestry in Australia, which harboured some prominent anti-Semites, though we never reached Russian-pogrom levels of barbarity.

    (George Orwell’s essay on English anti-Semitism showed me how widespread that hatred was in Europe. After WW2 of course, it became rather unfashionable for 6 million reasons.)

    “Try to stay clear of History’s Meat Grinders!” is my advice to the unwary.

  12. Footnote:

    Orwell’s essay was called “Antisemitism in Britain; written in February 1945 and published in April that year.

    It can be read at the Orwell Foundation website.

  13. Further Footnote

    Also named after John Monash is the Federal Electorate in Gippsland, similar in its placing to the former electorate of McMillan.

    John Monash led thousands of troops in a declared war. (Angus McMillan was a frontier settler, more of a “weekend warrior”, it is said. Raiding parties on indigenous persons, that sort of cowardly action.)

  14. Yes, Ambi, there is still work to do on recognising that some honoured were less than honourable. A quick Google on ‘Robert Towns slavery’ tells us Towns of Townsville fame:

      was the major exploiter of blackbirded workers in Queensland prior to 1867. He was also well known for paying his Kanaka labourers in trinkets instead of cash at the end of their three-year working terms.

  15. Brian: “The short answer to the question posed is, with great difficulty, because according to Mary Graham Aborigines do not do philosophy, rather they have a Weltanschauung.” Bit hard to say given that a lot of Aboriginal thinking was tied up in various “secret business” that, at times, would have been shared by very small groups. In some cases I suspect that some thinking would have been be done by and individual and may not have been shared with anyone but may have influenced the actions of a particular old man.
    My wife commented after all the years she spent with Aborigines that she would think she knew what would happen under certain circumstances and then was surprised when the Aborigines reacted in a completely unexpected way. She tended to blame not knowing enough detail but what she may have missed was the scope for decisions to be made that to go against the normal rules. (Older Aborigines who were respected may have had this power.)

  16. PEDANTRY (Exclusive)

    There’s been a bit of turmoil at the revered and ancient Victoria Racing Club, famous for hosting the Melbourne Cup and GG Sir John Kerr in his cups.

    The details need not concern those of us who are not Members.

    However, a Nine newspapers masthead (“The Age”) has run this up the flagpole:

    The email sent by the board sent a lightning rod through the Flemington club’s membership in a section detailing why the board has decided not to endorse former four-term director Elisa Robinson, who is seeking to return after resigning at the start of the year.

    Pedants Anon wishes to suggest that a lightning rod is the least likely item. Lightning rods are designed to avoid shocks, injury and indeed deaths. They are most efficacious in every case when installed and maintained properly.

    (Many a high dray has been saved in a storm because it had a sturdy and tall lightning rod thereto affixed.)

    A shocking statement, on the other hand, might send a “lightning bolt” or a “flash of lightning” or “an electric jolt”, or “shock waves” etc. through the membership. But not a rod, Heaven help us: not a rod, forsooth!

    I will leave it my fellow pedants to ruminate upon the matter.

  17. I did read that James Cook used a lightning chain ( a very modern innovation for the Poms of that time and not fashionable or popular) to save his ships and crew on more than one occasion.

    Once at harbour during a vicious lightning storm among other ships, his ship, crew and himself survived whilst many others did not.

    Pretty good with nutrition too apparently.

  18. Vale Alan Ramsey, veteran journalist and political commentator.

    This is from an interview with the ABC in 2005:

    “I see the press’s role particularly in politics as being not part of the cheer squad. You’ve got to question everything, you’ve got to be sceptical about it, everything that’s done and everything that’s said. That treads on a lot of toes over time and politicians don’t like it, they like ciphers…”

    “You’re always sucking up to them, just as they are sucking up to you. You’ve just got to be careful and you’ve got to know when they’re doing it, and you’ve got to make sure you don’t sell yourself short.”

  19. Good work Jumpy & zoot!
    (Will I ever write that again??)

    Cook was a remarkable man, and must have had very good crews.

    It took sadly, so long to sort out that problem of scurvy on long voyages. Not only bad in terms of death and distress, but a sick crew isn’t a productive or efficient group of sailors. (Just introducing a fairly heartless managerial perspective….)

    Again, well done gentlemen.
    “Lightning chain” was new to me, I confess.

  20. I’m currently following on YouTube a channel called “ Sailing into Freedom “ ( thank you BilB for bringing Plukky and Margarida to my attention) that just got struck by lightning and blew a hole in his hull.

    Not being an electricity buff, why don’t they have a large cable from the bottom of their aluminium mast to the bottom of the keel and mount another sacrificial anode there ?

    Would that not “ earth “ the vessel ?

    I probably think outside a box that I don’t even know the contents of again. But at least I’m thinking, I think…..

  21. I’m not an electrician either, but I reckon many metals are excellent conductors of electric current, the best being copper.

    So if it’s a wooden hulled boat, yes a metal cable from alumimium mast to deep sea water would be the go. I think.

    Water is a better conductor than dry wood.
    Sea water is a better conductor than fresh water, etc.

    We just had a new “earthing rod” installed on a 1970s house. Pure copper rod, almost a metre long, into the soil. I asked the electrician if damp soil was a better conductor than dry soil? He said “yes”. The house is now officially and literally ‘earthed’.

  22. There were plenty of storms in the spring and summer where I grew up in the bush. I don’t think we had a lightning rod, but we had an aerial from our radio to a high pole in the yard. When storms approached it was always unhooked and detached.

    Three time I experienced a strike within 100 metres of the house. Scared the bejesus out of me. You don’t know how close it is at the time, but a few seconds later you realise you are not dead, so basically that’s OK.

  23. Pity about Alan Ramsey. He was only 82!

    Damien Murhpy does well in the SMH in Herald legend whose columns were a mix of insight, venom and grace:

      His columns, elegant mixtures of hard-headed insight, soft-headed loyalty, anger, venom, sentimentality and grace, were loathed and loved but they were compulsive. They made reading the Saturday edition an anticipated joy. He wrote fearlessly – and sometimes erroneously – but the beauty of his high wire act was waiting for him to fall or make it to the other side.

      He gave enemies no quarter. His only good word for John Howard was goodbye. Some of his favourites were bad calls: Mark Latham, Bob Collins. He could be chivalrous and romantic and retained a long memory: in his last column in 2008 while genuflecting to the great and good friends attending a Canberra dinner in his honour, he also tipped his hat to the Australian Associated Press executive who defended him against Menzies government moves to kick him out of Vietnam for embarrassing reportage 43 years earlier.His columns, elegant mixtures of hard-headed insight, soft-headed loyalty, anger, venom, sentimentality and grace, were loathed and loved but they were compulsive. They made reading the Saturday edition an anticipated joy. He wrote fearlessly – and sometimes erroneously – but the beauty of his high wire act was waiting for him to fall or make it to the other side.
      Advertisement

      He gave enemies no quarter. His only good word for John Howard was goodbye. Some of his favourites were bad calls: Mark Latham, Bob Collins. He could be chivalrous and romantic and retained a long memory: in his last column in 2008 while genuflecting to the great and good friends attending a Canberra dinner in his honour, he also tipped his hat to the Australian Associated Press executive who defended him against Menzies government moves to kick him out of Vietnam for embarrassing reportage 43 years earlier.His columns, elegant mixtures of hard-headed insight, soft-headed loyalty, anger, venom, sentimentality and grace, were loathed and loved but they were compulsive. They made reading the Saturday edition an anticipated joy. He wrote fearlessly – and sometimes erroneously – but the beauty of his high wire act was waiting for him to fall or make it to the other side.
      Advertisement

      He gave enemies no quarter. His only good word for John Howard was goodbye. Some of his favourites were bad calls: Mark Latham, Bob Collins. He could be chivalrous and romantic and retained a long memory: in his last column in 2008 while genuflecting to the great and good friends attending a Canberra dinner in his honour, he also tipped his hat to the Australian Associated Press executive who defended him against Menzies government moves to kick him out of Vietnam for embarrassing reportage 43 years earlier.

    This is sad:

      Ramsey’s personal life suffered hugely due to his commitment to his craft. Perhaps a childhood troubled by family rupture, war and the Depression did not help, but he went on to two failed marriages (the second to journalist Laura Tingle) that produced four alienated children and a number of affairs. By the end, he had turned from most old friends and spent his last years alone. He died on November 24 after a long illness.

  24. I’m pleased you are enjoying Sailing into Freedom, Jumpy. That poor couple have been through hell. Plukky is a real character and Margarida is a total darling. The lightning strike has brought that danger to prominence. It is a real worry, and I am doing as much research as I can. I’m looking for confirmation that https://sertec.com.py/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/BROCHURE-EN-Comp.pdf this works well enough to rely on. I’m also looking for ways to optically isolate the navigation system so it can’t get knocked out. A lot of the instruments these days communicate via wifi so if the server and the navigation hub are isolated then a boat should be able to survive a strike.

    Plukky’s problem stems from the drift away from a marinised engine body being electrically isolated. The block is connected to earth (-) these days, even Yanmar do this. Some years ago when our factory took a lightning strike we lost a bunch of things, but the factory behind lost several high power Laser cutters because the lightning struck a concrete pad and the reinforcing was connected to the building earth stake so the charge entered the machines through the earth connection, I was told. this is also why the lightning blew a hole in Plukkys’s boat. Mast, wiring harness, engine, propshaft, water. You’d think the lightning would continue down the shaft, but Stainless Steel is a relatively poor conductor so it seems the charge found a shorter path.

  25. From somewhere on the worldly webbing, we find

    Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916) may have coined the phrase when he wrote “when I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.”

  26. And here are some applications to the Hunt for Reds:

    1. “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.”

    Senator Joseph McCarthy,
    in a 1952 speech, suggesting a method for identifying communists and communist sympathizers.

    Joseph McCarthy …… was a lawyer and a judge before serving in World War 2 as a marine. On completion of his war service he became a politician and hunter of communists, both real and imagined. He was not, however, the originator of the saying or the first to use it.

    2. Emil Mazey (1913-1983), the secretary-treasurer of the United Automobile Workers for 33 years, said at a labour meeting in 1946 when he accused someone of being a communist:
    I can’t prove you are a Communist. But when I see a bird that quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, has feathers and webbed feet and associates with ducks—I’m certainly going to assume that he IS a duck.

  27. Much appreciated BilB, the worst things that happen at see.
    I don’t know if you follow an Airlie Beach couple on “ Life in a Nutshell “ but Magnus almost kill himself with a can of degreaser that blew most of the cabin apart.

    Folk that have it in their imagination that sea life is a bludge,cheap, and safe are kidding themselves, but it’s a common misconception that Darwin will take care of eventually.

  28. Jumpy: “Folk that have it in their imagination that sea life is a bludge, cheap, and safe are kidding themselves, but it’s a common misconception that Darwin will take care of eventually.”
    The tin canoe my father built me was definitely cheap and definitely exciting to keep afloat in a strong westerly.
    My tinnies were also cheap and could be exciting fishing in the open sea and crocodile infested waters. (Definitely exciting when a 2m hammerhead leapt into the tinnie and insisted on thrashing about until I managed to grab its tail and flip it back into the sea. Then……
    In my dotage I simply paddle my canoe in relatively protected waters.
    On or under the water is a good place to be even if it isn’t completely safe. I used to tell my old mother that the most dangerous part of skin diving was driving to the fishing spot.

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