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Rebekah Copas
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An Essay for Permies in five parts: Part Three.

Posted by Rebekah Copas almost 13 years ago

More of the same essay, (which began as 17701 words providing a story for permies to more effectively engage among indigenous Australian society, and is increasing by including more stories teaching how indigenous Australians maintain bio-diversity)


Like with every culture, indigenous Australian culture is kept stable in its expressions, by basic good manners.


My basic premise in writing this essay, is that the answer to the question at the start, is that “yes” it is very important for all ecologist’s work to be in alignment with indigenous culture and economics.  However, it is no easier to just say so to convince many ecologists of this, that it would be easy for those same ecologists to readily realise how to interact politely within indigenous society.  Just as surely as it is for the best that ecologists like Bill Mollison to have simply got on with the job, rather than waiting for indigenous permission, (covertly being given in silences remember), it is surely difficult to ponder how the indigenous economy and land management practises are going to be incorporated into permaculture theory now.   But the first step is to listen and learn, of course, even if years of listening to silences, have so far not borne the fruit desired.


Indigenous voices are not heard by listening for the voice of the oppressed, with the ears of unduly oppressor linked guilt.  To hear indigenous voices, and interpret indigenous meaning accurately, non-indigenous listeners need to understand that the set of social behaviour which is regarded as good manners within indigenous society, is incredibly strict, and that having a voice at all within indigenous society, depends upon strict internal self discipline, and obedience.  Yet I am hardly the best informed person to be communicating what those codes of conduct are when among traditionally oriented people, since I live most of my life among the white Australian mainstream.  Well, this looks like the white Australian mainstream, but it is often a more alternative concept of who us white Aussies are, which I adhere to, and in fact my partner sitting next to me as I type, is much darker than I am, and might insist that I am within his black Australian reality far more than I might want to be impressing that upon you other white Aussie readers.  There is no way I could have sustained my personal and interpersonal integrity within indigenous cultural contexts, (and therefore, no way I could have sustained my safety among the many Aboriginal former gaol inmates who know me), unless I indeed have displayed the utmost of self discipline as often as possible.  Self discipline of the mind is a highly prized ability in every culture and every social context, but that is seldom as openly acknowledged within indigenous social contexts in any way that white people might expect it could be.  Yet indigenous families are acutely conscious of what self discipline of mind is, and I am made to be very sensitive to the fact, that just because my white skin is acceptable within many indigenous social contexts, will not mean I could invite any other white people into those same social contexts, since my ability to fit into such social contexts is extremely dependent upon sustaining a high level of self discipline of the mind, and therefore, a self consciousness that is seldom found comfortable by most folk.


The point is partially in that I needed to learn, and know, what kind of tendencies my own body has had, to fall into the social patterns of racial oppression which we grow up socialised into re-enacting, and I needed to be on top of those tendencies, preventing them in the first place, before beginning to communicate effectively among Aboriginal families.  But it is not just simple racism we need get in hand, to be displaying good manners within indigenous society, we need get in hand, and reject, enacting displays of any behaviour in which we can be perceived to be oppressive.  Within indigenous Australian culture, everybody is relatively adept at consciously interpreting the human communication patterns in our body language.  It is not unusual to find groups of Aboriginal people secretly laughing at what the postures of people in other cultures were communicating.  My own family also interpret and communicate by body language, and it often happens that Aboriginal people at first meeting me, presume me to be unconscious of certain ways of communication, yet then upon realising I know what is going on, include me retrospectively.  The fact is that making any accurate and intercultural interpretations of body language, depends upon inheritance of certain of the human genetic markers of matrilineal ancestry, and that specific genetic, to be able to sustain the conscious state of mind required, need be switched on, and keeping the genetics of interpreting postures switched on, requires good behavioural responses to posture.


Once I was roused on by a traditional man who knew me, for “talking over over” him.  It means that he was going to say something and I said it instead, but that he was who got to have to be who was supposed to say it, and I ought to have been sensitive enough to shut up.  He was right, I knew that.  He means that his body undertook the responsibility of expressing a shared thought, but then my body butted in and said it.  But what was the thought process which had happened in my own mind?  I had been feeling slightly excited, and been wanting to chat, but there were about four or five people present, and everybody was in that same state of mind, of slight excitement about the topic of conversation.  I spoke out of turn, except that it was not a “turn taking” way by which who got to speak next, was being settled between the men.  In fact, in many other social contexts, it would have been regarded that I had patiently waited until a gap between the many other things being said, before I had made my own assertion into the conversation.  I had effectively waited my turn.  However, as I am female, and all other conversation participants were men, and one of those men was considering myself to be in a temporary husband wife relationship with him, it was his choice to make when I spoke and when I did not, as it normally is the choice of the oldest men in every social situation, as to who speaks when.  It was in that I impatiently pre-empted his words with my own that I was in the wrong momentarily.  Nobody says not to, but this just is as it is, and I was roused on verbally.  I had talked “over over” an older man who was already wanting to say something more or less of the same sentiment as what I said instead, and in that I was showing the kind of bad manners which white people have a bad reputation among indigenous Australians, for spreading.  But only white people who have been involved intimately with traditional Aboriginal society, might even know what “talking over over” was, and yet here in the city, where city born and breed, (and educated), Aboriginal men live, it is just as rude to talk over over, even when nobody tells you so.


My weakness is being overly eager to prove that I am keeping up within the indigenous social context, and to prove myself capable of keeping up with the content of communication in many levels, I like to occasionally say my piece.  But in the context above it was considered very rude to.  As much because I was being rude to myself by expecting that other conversation participants did not already recognise me in my having been keeping up with the inner content of the conversation, as because I was being rude to the men in not having myself recognised their ability to substantiate my ability to keep up with them, as an ability quite distinct from my self assertion.  The subtleties of good manners within indigenous society, are the domain of very well trained minds.


However, the number one good manner, is no more than to be astute to your own feelings of what is right and wrong in any given situation.  Do not go with what your intellect might reasonably consider to be the most decent behaviour towards others, but trust in your own instinctive feelings and sensibility to what is the immediate communal necessity, as experienced in unison with your feelings and sensibility about what is best for your family, and you yourself, right now.  When you let your conscience, (which is like an instinctive feeling of what will be alright), take control of all your bodily behaviour in every way, from what you say next, to which direction you walk, and who you stand near, you can’t go too far wrong.  Every culture and every religion which is being sustained, will teach this as fact.  Yet as well as the overt lesson, as I teach it here, as something to hold onto for the belief of the external mind, the lesson is taught covertly, and experientially, and it is normally not believed until the experiential reality of the advantage of following one’s conscience, has really sunk in.  Many of us, in modern societies, in which the lesson is not taught openly, tend to be afraid to trust our true instinctive feelings about wrong and right, that is, not until we are given the experiential lesson.


Yet if you do not yet have that experiential lesson, how will you know? So I encourage you to think about what is the worst that can happen, particularly if you do not know the lesson, and are a newcomer into an indigenous social context.  I mean, the worst that could happen would be that your body might have the feeling it needs to act out a socially inappropriate behaviour.  Yet if you feel it is good to, then it is not your own true feelings defining the behaviour as socially inappropriate, but your mind, and that is exactly what the definition of “over intellectualising” is, within American social contexts, that have good Native American social management patterns build into the social fabric.  Even when a behaviour can be intellectually imagined to be embarrassingly silly, or overly demonstrative of something you don’t want to communicate, or even obnoxiously selfish, so long as the behaviour feels true to your heart, it will be happening in a way which is tolerable.  The worst that could happen is that your behaviour gives guidance to older indigenous people, about what matters you may be needing some guidance in.  You could enact the wrong behaviour, (such as speaking out of turn, or approaching the wrong people), but better to have let your conscience have guided you, than to have conducted your behaviour as though perfectly comprehensive of indigenous codes of conduct, yet within a feeling of guilt.  That is the bottom line within every indigenous social context, that the utmost of ill manners, in any people, was among those who were complacent about engaging in behaviour they felt guilt in.  So if you feel the guilt of the oppressors in your own ancestry, start to have a look around you and find out if anybody in your near vicinity was feeling oppressed by your posture, the position you are standing in, your attitude, your attire, etc, etc, etc.  I mean to say, just don’t.  Don’t let that fear of being counted among the oppressors get the better of you, otherwise you will be counted that way.  Your own unique conscience, is the feelings in your own unique heart, (and in a body of finer density matter, often called an astral body, and also named body Kesdjan, and by any title, a body of emotions and emotional energy, which the human biology is more accurately receptive to than the biology can be accurately receptive to higher Spiritual matter and bodies), by which your body really will be capable of being certain about what is the correct attitude and stance and position for you to be in at any moment in time, and at any place in anybody’s land.  Yet we mere mortal blobs of biological matter, tend to need a covert experiential lesson in this, before we can simply trust that our feelings know.  You will know you have received the lesson when your mind is sure of what your body’s consequences have been from any instance in which you failed to follow your conscience.  But prior to receiving such lessons, you will do well to remember not to act out fears of the guilt of white ancestral invader minded attitudes, and instead, act out your positive feelings.  If you have previously developed a habit of expression negative feelings, or fears, it can be turned around, for your own benefit as well as that of everybody around you, and even if you have to sit alone for hours on end, without saying anything to anybody, before you feel a positive feeling worth expressing, it is the best way.  It is the way recognised in every ancient culture of the Earth, and every original Religion, as how to enable the most accurate communication possible, and indigenous Australian men are who is world renown for the upkeep of the oldest living culture still teaching this lesson to everybody who is thought of as capable of adult responsibility.


Remember that guilt has no place at any negotiating table, and let your own honest opinions of yourself, take the place of any guilt about being a part of a white majority who a black minority have experienced oppression from.  Guilt is a ridiculously disabling complex of feelings, whereas responsibility is a feeling and experience, born in knowing that when we were in error, we need simply work to make amends, rather than fearing our errors, which is what guilt was.  To conduct myself in basic politeness within indigenous social contexts, I must be totally sure in myself, that if I am ever in error towards anybody, I am willing to pay the costs of making amends, and so need not bear guilt since I know I have intended no wrong.  Wrong ideals and wrong intentions are another matter, however, in this essay, I am presuming of everybody reading it, that we share the same ideal and intent of preventing global warming.  This is the basis within which the shared communication of this essay is possible, that of a shared aim.  So if you aim in reading this was to find fault with me, or to analyse my psychology for evidence of criminality, my advice is that you might only comprehend what I am expressing, when you believe me in that my aim is the prevention of global warming.  How else can human beings ever communicate anything relevant whatsoever, if not by agreeing upon the basis for communication.  This is why, when indigenous people secretly laugh about what the postures of people from other cultures were expressing, we don’t make what we notice overt, because we realise we could well be misunderstanding the conscious intention in the communication patterns of the person from another culture.  Being capable of perceiving the subconscious minds of others, is a skill that needs to be carefully delineated as distinct from being adept at intercultural communication, as we need be astute to the conscious intentions and aims of those who we communicate with, as well as astute to what their subconscious mind communicates by postures. When you are unsure of what social behaviour will be best in an indigenous social context, remember why you put yourself in the context, and follow you innate individual, and therefore also social, conscience, as to what may engage you better in enabling your own individual aim.  Often your individual aim is best engaged by simply listening and learning, and waiting your turn to be heard, but neither be afraid to assert what your individual aim is. But above all else, be honest within yourself, about what your personal aim really is, because any lack of honesty will surely be noted within indigenous culture.


One point which is often a larger hurdle to overcome that anybody normally realises outside of indigenous culture, is that asking direct questions can be rude.  It is the height of rudeness for a girl to ask anything of men, as I have been caught out at, from time to time, as a user of rhetoric whilst writing, but I learn to prefer not to, and rhetorical questions tend to only come into my writing, when I have a readership of those with European cultural bias in mind.  Don’t worry if, in your first attempts to communicate with indigenous Australians, you are not as polite as you could have been, because I may be able to promise you that I was just about as rude as anybody could have been, occasionally, but I know I am being enabled to make amends, and am still well considered and accepted within indigenous society, because of my work in making amends for my errors.  I ask nothing of men at all now, and am grateful in that my instinctive feelings always prevented me from asking anything of any man with real authority over me.  The only stories in which anybody is allowed to ask a direct question of anybody else, are stories in which a teacher is asking their pupil about what the pupil is already sure of knowing.  Questions are all about knowledge, and exchanges of knowledge, and so when asking, one needs be sure that we are not asking within any intention of thieving knowledge.  Is it knowledge we have a right to know?  Do I have the right to know what you know, and vice versa?  We may wonder, but never overtly question.  Essentially the question about what is asked by questions, is the quest for knowledge, a quest for knowledge which will benefit the person being questioned to have to relinquish to the questioner?  Within the culture of Great Britain, the role of the questioner, is quite alike to that of being on a quest, and it is in that questing, that the status of the questioner is given the right to ask questions.  So children are taught to ask questions of their teachers in schools, (at odds with learning patterns within indigenous society, and giving indigenous children the idea that they have authority over the school teachers of English language education), because the quest is like a quest for a riddle, and the riddle is to find the right question to be asking.  Maybe the only right question though, is “what is my name now”?  Before asking questions we need to self assess, is it knowledge I have already paid for the right to be learning, before I asked for it, and if so, if I have paid to know, why don’t I know already?   In fact, despite direct questioning being alike to an invasion of the human brain space, even the invader culture sustains clear traditions in which children are expected to not ask too much of their elders.  For example, in that it is said that children need to be seen and not heard.  In many instances asking a question can be regarded as rude, because the person being asked, might not want to answer it, or might not want to answer it accurately, in which case it is like the questioner has asked that person to lie.  If you ask me a question but I know that the answer will hurt you, then I must lie to answer.  It is more polite to answer with lies, than to answer with accurate information that can hurt somebody.  If the lie will hurt them too, then the question will go unanswered, and the questioner needs to be trained in how to engage in valid communicating. 


It will be who asks unanswerable questions who will be held at fault within indigenous society, and this is true throughout Australia, and even when loss of culture is at the extreme.  Direct questioning is normally not engaged in at all, probably because those with the real social authority to insist upon being given the information they have a need of, are the cleverest at asking very indirectly.  It is considered polite to provide as much information as possible to anybody who is older, or for some reason has a higher social status than yourself, in relationship as yourself, whenever that person is sort of fishing for information, or showing an interest that can be perceived as indirectly questioning you.  That might be by stating a leading statement, in which a fact that you know, was left out.  Within indigenous culture, even when a person’s sustains the social authority to extract information, the questioning process is almost always indirect, and stated as offering inadequate knowledge, highlighting a need to know, rather than as directly asking.  When you have a right to know something, you can state an only partially comprehended fact as a statement of friendship and intention to engage in reciprocally sharing knowledge, or you can avoid saying anything, if you are not ready to be sharing knowledge from within your own knowledge base.  The person who you are speaking with, might respond, also as a statement of friendship and intention to engage in reciprocally sharing knowledge, or, might avoid saying anything, because they are not ready to be sharing knowledge from within their own knowledge base.  Direct questioning is the worst way to ask anything of anybody, because having to give an answer the question is far harder to dodge, and so it is far harder to avoid lying in any instance in which the knowledge being asked for, was not appropriate to exchange.  If you ask me what I know, and I did not want you to know that I knew, and I have the social authority to deny you knowing what I know, then how could I respond to a direct question except by lying?  The anthropologist Diane Eades did a lot of good work in this area, which proved that many court hearings had failed to comprehend indigenous men’s replies to the court.  The judicial system has tended to presume that a lie equated with guilt, but in many many instances among Aboriginal defendants, being unclear in responses to questions, was no indicator of guilt, or of complicity with crime, but merely and expression f the defendants knowledge that their innocence ought not be in the firing line of being so questioned. Some knowledge hurts to get out, or put out, and other knowledge hurts to be kept in secret, and within indigenous culture, that difference is well understood, and understood to need the regulation of old men and women, with longevity of experience in what bears with speaking about.  Indigenous Australian culture regulates what knowledge is let out, and what knowledge kept in, better than any other culture I know.


One of the facts which is highlighted by my relating this information about questions in indigenous culture, is that few non-indigenous Australian people have offered indigenous families the kinds of solutions which we are able to use ourselves, in well educated mainstream Aussie contexts.  For example, it is OK to say “I don’t have to answer that”, and not be considered to be too rude, in many of Australia’s social contexts.  But many of those who are accustomed to interactions with Aboriginal people, have wanted to teach Aboriginal men a kind of subservient style of being well mannered, as though Aboriginal people were all only going to need the manners of servants.  Aboriginal women respond well enough, to being taught the manners of servitude, because good manners for women is having a more subservient attitude generally, within indigenous culture, and so Aboriginal women are capable of accepting a subservient social stature, without feeling disempowered.  Yet Aboriginal men will simply turn their backs on social expectations of subservience.  Only as is normal within any social context of invasion.  Who were those chicken shit invaders who expected our men to behave like their women, and themselves behaving only like boys controlled by women folk, and therefore not deserving of male respect? It is not even a question worth asking, as initiated men are very sensitive to non-initiated males being weaker when attempting to disempower an initiate into the world’s sacred traditions. Bearing this in mind, and bearing in mind that it is fine to tell people whatever you want to tell them, so long as you are not “talking over over” them, (and not disempowering anybody by telling tales that ought not be spoken), then we ought to all be capable of figuring out for ourselves, that Aboriginal culture is in fact highly receptive to the qualities in the good manners of other people’s cultures, which is why nobody much bothers to instruct anybody in what good manners in indigenous society are.  We’d rather get to the bottom of what your drill for good manners was, before introducing you to our own way.  But if you want to learn our way, remember that this is a nomadic hunter gatherer economy, in which gift giving is held in esteem.  Questions are not needed whenever essential information is simply given, just as women need not be more assertive than it is astute for women to be, whenever men are generous with women, as I find th majority of indigenous men to be.


Give to an indigenous person the gift of some of the comprehension you have of your own social biases, or a gift of knowing some of the rules of social etiquette that you know, of ways for engaging in human interactions among the social elite of your own social contexts, or maybe the gift of a relevant specialised dictionary, or something of that value, and you will find that the gift will be truly respected and equitably returned.  Perhaps it will not be returned as you had hoped and planned, but what will be returned to you, as reciprocal gift giving, is something which others have noticed about you, that you are in need of.  For example, a gift of the means to communicate within indigenous traditions, which is how a traditional Warlpiri woman asserted her inclusion of me, by giving me small ways of being able to communicate politely among her family and society.  In this way, by social reliance upon the regulatory capacities of social networks, and third party’s external points of view, we find ourselves becoming more receptive to the understanding, that when a need exists it will be fulfilled.  The Aboriginal economy is essentially dependent upon gifts given, which may or may not bear the fruit of what is exactly desired in reciprocal return.  But nobody takes from others without first giving.  Simply basic good manners.


Therefore, if anybody working in Permaculture, wants to learn more about local indigenous flora, the best place to begin, is in thinking about what you have, which the indigenous community may need.  Do you have a spare place in a Permaculture designers course?  Could you offer that place to an indigenous youth?  How could you?  You might need to approach the elders in the community of the young person in question, and provide them with information about what Permaculture is, and a story about how and why you teach a way of designing landscapes, that gives emphasis to the relevance in designing, of imitating the natural world.  And you would also need to disclose what you are hoping to gain out of having an interaction like that with indigenous elders.  They will wonder why you are giving them such a good story, and will probably be cautious about the potential for a young person to become hurt through involvement with your Permaculture Designers Course, but only because of not knowing the Permaculture community already, and not yet being fully fluent in what the motivations and intentions of all Permaculture teachers are.  Their suspicions may be no more than what every parent has as normal concern for their teenage children, and yet the suspicions of Aboriginal families, tend to be socially ascribed as paranoid thinking, while they get simultaneously branded as being bad parents, therefore bad families, and bad people.  Just be sensitive to the history of that kind of conduct towards Aboriginal families, from many other white people, and you may well find that Aboriginal families are very assertive in responding to any real need you have, of learning what they know about the shared local environment. The kind of parental care we expect from our immediate family, is exhibited within indigenous cultural contexts, among much larger groups of people, through the way Australian Aboriginal Kinship is categorical, and aligns everybody into familial relationship categories with one another.  So it will be important to be capable of settle yourselves, as Permaculture teachers, into that categorical system, in one distinct category, within which your relationships among indigenous families, and in particular with children and youths, will become more fluid and reveal much more potential.  You need to find your own way to express that you intend no harm towards the young person who might receive training with you, but you hope that the skills they learn will be beneficial for everybody, and how your expressions manifest, will help indigenous elders to find what category your biology itself fits naturally within.  Maybe an Aboriginal elder will look you in the face and start to figure out what you were really wanting out of the interaction, and you might feel a bit like squirming under the pressure, or a bit self conscious, but no need to fear, or to feel shame if you had been less than totally honest initially, and rather believe that such interpersonal examinations of honest motivation, are the step that needs to be taken, and a sign that you are beginning to become accepted.  You may wish to be able to express with real integrity, meaning such as “I have profound respect for the land care knowledge of indigenous Australia, and am hoping to learn from your example one day”, and if you can, you won’t be sucking up, so long you the sentiment is genuine.  But what the indigenous men may be looking into your eyes to know, is what you may have held against them, and if you were blaming them wrongfully, then next interaction will be a bit out of my depth to be teaching you how to display good manners within.  This is what will enable indigenous families to feel confident that their children and young men will be safe within the Permaculture community, a surety that nobody was wanting the company of indigenous people only so as to have somebody to blame.  If what is motivating you is real distress about the fact that indigenous families were not engaging young people in land care and a general distress about the loss of traditional land management knowledge, then it is better to be up front in saying so, than to blame anybody for that.  You will gain more respect and greater authority as teachers of Permaculture, if you can express your real honest integrity, whatever it is, such as “I have fears about the loss of land care knowledge in Australia, among indigenous Australians, and I want to play my role in maintaining knowledge of local species”.


Inside my own life story, social interactions within Aboriginal society, among persons with much darker skin than mine is, are now normal, but it was not always this way.  I got raised by my family not to question my elders, but then was also taught at school to want to be totally honest up front in asking for what I wanted to know, and then I learned the hard way, that giving my own knowledge away, is the far more expedient method of gaining knowledge within the indigenous community, as it probably is within every human community.  Gradually, over time, I began learning real and profound respect for the way of sequencing such interactions that happens within indigenous culture, and which also are maintained within my own family.  It was that I fell into disrespect of my own elders, because their ways were not being respected by the mainstream society around me, but then I relearned real respect for my own family of origin, in the ways it is different from the cultural mainstream of Australian life, by witnessing that how we communicate is more akin to how indigenous families communicate.  As I got taught indigenous ways, I relearned my own families ways.  The differences between the ways that indigenous families communicate, and how many other, (but not all other), Australians communicate, are not something which I could always readily explain, but which need to be experienced repeatedly, in many different situations, with a large enough variety of exchanges, before the indigenous way can really make sense.  A process of acculturation, as though beginning again as a baby in learning, needed to take place.  It is normal that gifts are given first, by those more recently arrived in a place, to those who have longer cared for the land at the place, but also normal for any suspicions held by those longer at the place, to focus upon the gift.  Yet is this not true also of many of the world’s cultures?  That people are suspicious of strangers bearing gifts, and so what I am asserting, is to simply let that suspicion be, let it transpire at the outset, and then be worked through, into its natural resolution, because once that resolution is reached, everybody will have a stronger basis upon which to engage in far more useful interactions.  Perhaps if a Permaculture Design Course teacher was to offer a place in a course to an indigenous youth, the youth’s community may consider the offer, and then place an older man in the course, and it could feel like the defeat of not being trusted, but will be the social acceptance that Permaculture is hard work.  It is also worth bearing in mind, that within the indigenous economy, if you are giving honestly, and nobody was immediately capable of giving to you in return, from within an up close and personable indigenous community context, that instead, someone may well do you a good dream, through which you may be able to gain what you need elsewhere, from other people in your whole extended social network, and in that way, prove yourself to be no burden on the Aboriginal community.  But start by giving.  You can be suspicious yourselves also, if you feel suspected, then be just as suspicious of the motivations of indigenous families in return, as it will be anticipated that all your suspicions are going to arise one day, and everybody will want to get each individual’s suspicions out of the way before real work can commence; but whatever the suspicions are that may arise, don’t be afraid of that coming out into the open, and instead, remember the gifts of stolen land in all our histories, and start by giving in return. 


In any small ways in maybe possible for you to give, give what you can, and in time it will be appreciated in one way or another.  Just as in time, the land uses of invaders, will be paid back to those who continue to accept ritual responsibilities for the outcomes of what happens on their ancestral lands.  Take this very seriously, even if it sounds silly, that many indigenous men, are still accepting the responsibilities for everything that happens on this land here, now called Australia, even when the control of what is happening, was literally forcible removed from their hands.  The traditional indigenous way is to continue to accept responsibility nonetheless.  That is why land rights slogans like “pay the rent” make sense, it is not as much an askance for cash from the government, as the implication to every land holder in Australia, that it is still now being held in good faith, that one day payments will be made.  This was my starting point in learning to accept myself within indigenous social contexts, that I knew I possibly and probably, am descended from a few black women, who were traded to European men arriving here in Australia, and taking the land away from Aboriginal people, and using it in strangely harmful ways.  Traded for a few bags of flour, some sugar and some tea, maybe.  But traded within knowing that the reciprocity of the Spiritual Kingdom in the Dreamtime, will pass down through the generations of men, and eventually be inherited by those of us who are conscious of the fact, that a few bags of flour, some sugar and some tea, were never going to be enough.  What will be enough one day, I don’t know, but as I worked to find out, I gave older women a dreamtime story for buckwheat, (I learned from a Russian and in Japan), and a bag of buckwheat flour, (then noted that the supermarkets in Alice always have buckwheat on the shelves, unlike my local supermarket), I gave my Warlpiri sister beadwork I have made, and I gave my own story of having received a Spiritual awakening which enabled a massive health recovery.  These gifts are not small, but are enough for me to know, that I am acceptable, and have always been paid back in return, if I had overpaid what was owing from my own family.  This way I have opened a way for my own offspring to engage within indigenous society, within their own right, as real men.


Another point which is relevant here, is in respect of the general way in which indigenous Australian culture instructs us in introducing ourselves to others.  To be acceptable within indigenous culture, I need be obedient to the sequences in which words come to mind. In other contexts, when I write specifically for indigenous readers, my grammar can be even more at odds with what is normally acceptable in English language academia, (shorter sentences), than it is in this essay.  When I write, I endeavour to keep myself honest within indigenous culture, by keeping the sequences in which ideas, sentences, and words in sentences, first come into my mind, in the exact same sequence, when writing.  Unbelievable isn’t it?  I would have thought so too, but I have had to learn to type fast enough to keep up with the speed at which words arrive into my brain, so as to be enabled in maintaining this basic fact of how real communication takes place within the indigenous world.  Just as it is rude to talk over over anybody, it can also be rude to think of saying something, then be given the space in a conversation to say that, but instead say something else.  Luckily I am well enough read in variations of English grammar variations, that I could bend the grammar of English words, back upon itself into my natural sequencing, rather than be stuck with the sequences of keeping sentences short and sweet.  Therefore often my grammar is awkward, so as to enable me to enable the sequences which my subconscious mind naturally spits forth words within. But perhaps this is because within indigenous languages, sentences really can be infinitely long.


Perhaps it is astute to define this matter, in respect of what are good manners, by defining the sequences in which negotiations take place in indigenous culture.  Major negotiations in fully indigenous social contexts, are lengthy processes.  Normally longer than anybody from the invading culture is prepared to sit and talk for.  The current state of play, generally, within international trade relations, and political negotiations, is tempered by work in the area of psychology, in respect of what are successful sequences in which to divulge information, so as to gain from a negotiation.  The same negotiation sequencing is used in the United Nations.  It is however, a culturally biased sequencing of negotiation, in favour of North American style of communicating, and most often modern psychologists, follow a pattern which is originally Native American, in how they evaluate what sequences are already proven to be present in all different kinds of positive negotiations, yet their studies have been mainly based on positive negotiations within the North American context. However, within indigenous Australian culture, the results of negotiations within such sequences as are recommended by trained psychologists, are still incomplete.  Why? Is because they lend themselves to a further need for future negotiation, in that there is no insistence that everybody leaving the negotiation event, will be in permanent adherence to the results of negotiations.


Native American styles of negotiation, start at the beginning, with putting a best foot forward, and thereafter, an evaluation is made of how long each party can keep up that best based outcome of achieving effective communication and negotiation.  At the end, when everybody has had their say, and an agreement has been sponsored and accepted, thereafter everybody winds up with more or less confessing any potential for further dispute to remain.  Indigenous Australian styles of negotiation, begin and the beginning, with confessing every possibility of failure.  Any possibility of further disputes remaining, between the parties negotiating, must be isolated and resolved, before a negotiation is allowed to continue.  So we all show our shit up front, get it resolved and our minds cleansed, and then, eventually, usually after as many more days as we knew we could all sustain ourselves in a meeting, we are left with no move to make except that of dispute resolution, or walking away with backs towards one another.  Anybody who continues to fail to admit an obvious fault, (as the Australian government has been doing in respect of the NTER), is regarded as either not wanting to resolve the dispute, or incapable of resolving the dispute.  One might as well be deaf and dumb as to have failed to recognise that the NTER was incurring a whole new debt cycle of apologies (at the very least), owing to Aboriginal Australians, and that if it was the NTER which enabled the apology, then our whole nation was emotionally bankrupt even before the apology was made.  What is wrong with the government, we have to ask, from within indigenous cultural contexts.  But perhaps all that was wrong was that their expert advice about how to conduct “consultation” and “negotiation”, took absolutely no account of the culture of those they consulted and then presumed to be capable of negotiating with.  The present day emphasis upon Native North American communication styles, neither benefits Native Americans, or any other Americans, as it has prohibited them from learning more about how their way is experienced from within other cultures.


Perhaps when we want to assess how adept we are at finding our own way through what may or may not be culturally appropriate in any given set of circumstances, thinking about how to respond to the NTER intervention, is a good place to start.  What would you do if you got made prime minister?  Where would you begin, to navigate through all the systems of social control in two cultures, and adequately communicate with indigenous elders in the effected communities, well enough to receive their input into a workable solution.  It could be a useful role play, to sit down in a meeting, as though it was a meeting of the Australian Cabinet, with the agenda item to discuss, of “How will we get indigenous elders to advise us in our land care practises, and carbon tax strategy, to help all Australians to prevent Global Warming, within the context of the NTER”.  Obviously not exactly the frame of reference that the actual Cabinet will be regarding, yet what would you do in their position? The best thinking in the matter I could find, is to be maintaining the kind of solution as the Alyawarr people have received so much support for initiating.  And it is within that example, that an example of reconciliation has begun between Permaculture in theory and practise, and original indigenous land care systems of maintaining ecological balances.   When we cannot reconcile ourselves to this kind of work needing to happen, we can hardly expect our government to begin to reconcile itself, perhaps not even to what the word “reconciliation” might really mean.  Yet we have begun.


All I am asserting, is that the most rapidly effective way to sustain the best work begun towards prevention of global warming, is more likely than not to include many among the various Permaculture communities in Australia, learning what good manners are within indigenous cultural contexts.  Learning at least good manners, because how will real reconciliation, of the costs of the modern mainstream international economy, with the ecological costs of modern living, happen otherwise.  And this is work we can all begin to accomplish more or less right now.  The first steps are small, but have no fear of those steps being imperfect, because indigenous Australians expect imperfections to show up at first glance, and will engage with almost anybody’s imperfections, so as to find out what good exists underneath.  We are almost radically different from the mainstream cultural etiquettes about how to communicate and negotiate in this, because we won’t collectively put our best foot forward, no matter how hard other people have tried to force us in this direction, not when the hidden agendas and hidden costs could bring despair upon us.  Better to witness what could bring despair up front, then have to work through it before proving ourselves.  That is not to say that we have no idea about other modes of communication, and anybody of the Emu clan will be quite proficient at North American styles of communicating also.



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