Saturday, October 1, 2011

Don't overlook them

Lately, I have come across several Australians that have good books.  Cordelia Fine is a psychologist.  Duncan J. Watts is a sociologist and physicist.  Quite recently, news has emerged that Australian aborigine people have DNA connections to very old human populations and migrations of approximately 60,000 years ago.

We visited Australia and New Zealand a couple of years ago.  We had heard the natural beauty of New Zealand praised and found a trip that included visits to both lands.  That trip and bits and pieces of experiences and knowledge have accumulated in our minds.  Personally, I want to keep my eye on both of these interesting nations and developments in them.  Visiting both countries, I was surprised at the fervor and esteem in which the British crown, king or queen tends to be held.  Both nations have a main language of English and both have a connection to the British crown.  Both were explored by Captain Cook in the 1700's.

I have read or been told that the French and the English, in their battle for lands and empire, were interested in Australia and that the British got there just ahead of the French.  
The book The Fatal Shore by the Australian writer and critic, Robert Hughes was in our ship's library and I started it.  The librarian was kind enough to give me the book and I still have it but I still haven't finished it.

Hughes quotes early reports of the people of Australia being terrified by the strange white people who arrived out of the sea.  A friend in graduate school told me he had found articles that described Australian white men having a Sunday afternoon sport of riding about in the desert and shooting aborigines for fun.  Our aborigine guide in Tasmania, the large island off the southern coast of Australia told us that his people were recognized by the Australian government as human beings in 1997. You may have heard of Sorry Day, the unofficial Australian holiday to express sorrow and apology for the treatment of the aborigines.  These are the people recently shown to have DNA connections that go back about 60,000 years to early human migrations out of Africa.  

Both the Australian people and the native Hawaiian people have a history of listening to and being impressed by Caucasians from Britain and the US.  Not so much with the New Zealand people, the Maori.  When Captain Cook lost one of his men to them, he managed to meet with the man's captors and ask for his return.  The natives told him they couldn't return him because they had eaten him.  The famous New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks, perform the Maori pre-battle display called "Haka".  If you have never seen them, it is worth Googling "All Blacks" or "Haka" to see the stirring ceremony.  In our culture, sticking out one's tongue is often considered childish.  Not so among South Pacific warriors.

On our visit to a New Zealand museum, the oldest man in our group stood in as our "chief" to take part in a demo ceremony that was used to test visitors.  He was given a large leaf to place on the ground in front of him.  A very muscular warrior, clad in next to nothing, but bearing a sharp spear, approached in a crouch and at the ready to stab our chief if he did anything suspicious.  Once the Maori was able to pick up the leaf, we were acceptable.  

One of the most famous aborigines is Evonne Goolagong, a world-class woman tennis player.  Maybe the most famous Maori is Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who has has been a world famous opera singer since 1968. (The title "Dame" is the feminine equivalent of "Sir", a sign of being knighted by the British Crown.)

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