Aboriginal People and War?

26 Apr

Last night Mark Lumley and I were yarning around the fire in the Womijeka Reconciliation Garden. In discussing ANZAC Day and the present state of the world I had noted that James Hillman suggested human beings have an insatiable appetite for war. Mark then raised the question, “Why does there not seem to have been major war amongst our people BCP (Before Cook and Philip)?

We tossed around a few ideas, but none seemed to do the trick in answering this question. Overnight I gave it more thought and wonder if war is the product of a system oriented to defend what it has and desiring more than what it has. It seemed to become a part of cultures that embraced the concept of nation states, even in the most primitive of forms. Nation States have borders, they own what is inside those borders and lust after what is within others borders. Any perceived threat to borders and the rights bound within results in a pushback with the name war.

World orders, empires and nation states are, one would suggest, driven by violence of which war and preparations for war, play a significance role in daily life. The language of war finds its way into the corporate, academic, social, church,  and sporting life. A cursory look at our media in all its forms affirms this. This month we have been faced with several violent public events, suicides of young people and the continuing acts of violence against women.

There is more I could and will probably say on this later.

Getting back to Mark’s question, Aboriginal people prior to colonisation were not residents of nation states. They had no borders, possessions or an economy that required the protection of property, nor did they have a desire to take others land. Land and all in it held them and no other land would do that, even the one close to theirs. They lived out of the custodial ethic of respect, responsibility, and reciprocity, even to those who they shared space with. Yes, there were skirmishes but there were no wars as we know them. Nor were there a desire for such.

We were small groups of people (30 -50 some suggest) with no capacity for sustained violence. We found ways to resolve issues around a fire or circle or ceremony. War was not an option.

As individual groups our polity was designed for wholeness – repairing the circle – and this was how we treated each other. Some will say that does not seem the case in modern Australia where groups seem to be in conflict. Unfortunately, the empire and nation state of Australia has drawn maps with hard borders, designated what belongs to whom with little or no consultation. These borders have been weaponised by those in power thus forcing groups into competition (war) for resources such as government funding.

Being unable to live and move in harmony with country as our ancestors did, we have taken on the way of life of the colonisers and now squabble unseemly over the crumbs under the master’s table.

Again, there is more to be said, but that’s enough for now.

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