Representatives of our First Peoples recently gathered at Uluru to discuss potential methods for recognition within the Australian Constitution. The final document is here and really worth a read, as it is an aspirational document that should be a roadmap for the future of all Australians. Sean Kelly from The Monthly recently wrote an article where a number of different ‘elders’ of society commented on how the Uluru Statement from the Heart was conceived and will affect our entire society going forward. Certainly there was politics involved in the process and seven delegates did walk out of the process, but in reality that was to be expected.
Our late colleague on this site, Ken Wolff, and blogmaster of The Australian Independent News Network, Michael Taylor, both have considerable experience in public policy in respect to the Australian First Peoples and, in all likelihood, will have forgotten more of the history and politics of the First Peoples than I will ever know, but it is ludicrous to suggest that there should have not have been a number of different groups suggesting different outcomes (or ‘pushing their own agendas’ to be blunt), because there is never a completely homogeneous group of people.
Those who manage fleets of mechanical devices (regardless of the device being vehicles, hospital beds or point of sale machines) will tell you that despite each individual device coming out of the factory meeting the same specifications, there are differences and some units will break down in different ways at different times. There are variations in the material used to construct the device, the actual methods used to build the device and the usage the device is put to. For example, a six-year-old Toyota Camry used as a taxi in a large city would exhibit considerably more distance driven and faults that a six year old Toyota Camry used by a private individual to travel around the local area.
If you think that any particular religion is completely the same around the world, consider this. ISIS recently claimed responsibility for a ‘terrorist’ attack in Tehran, Iran (which incidentally killed and injured more people than the similar recent attacks in London England). While the US issued a statement
in the President’s name that laid blame for the attack on Iran’s own “evil” policies. “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times,”
Iran also released a statement claiming
that Saudi Arabia and the United States were ultimately to blame, even as it acknowledged the claim by Isis.
Public opinion in the world, especially in Iran, recognizes this terrorist attack—which took place a week after a joint meeting of the U.S. President and the head of one of the region’s backward governments, which constantly supports fundamentalist terrorists—as very significant.” It charged that the isis claim of responsibility “reveals (Saudi Arabia’s) hand in this barbaric action.
Both Saudi Arabia and Iran are predominantly Muslim countries and, as such, follow the same holy book. In theory, they are the same religion, however, there are different ‘brands’ of the Islamic faith just as there are conceptual differences between the Christians who attend a Hillsong and a Catholic church each week. There are fundamental differences between the ‘brands’ of Islam the majority of the citizens of Iran and Saudi Arabia practice, as discussed in The New Yorker article linked above.
There is nothing wrong with difference. The world would be a very boring place if everyone that was 35 was married with 2 children, a Labrador and living in a suburban street in a city with over 1.5 million people. We recognise this in all sorts of ways. Toyota gives recommendations for maintenance on their products based on either time or distance driven so both the taxi and privately driven Camry’s can be kept mechanically safe and durability of the individual vehicle is to the level required by the individual owners. In a similar way, each of the 5 television networks broadcasting in Australia have a system where they multicast a number of different channels so you as a consumer can choose to watch either MasterChef or The Living Room on a Saturday at lunchtime – both broadcast by the same network. Others don’t drink coffee or like ‘smashed avo bruschetta’ breakfasts, some prefer to fly on Qantas aircraft, others don’t.
So why is it that we can tolerate differences in our choice of favourite beverage, breakfast, TV show, how we use our car (or in fact what brand of car we buy) but feel it necessary to hate or kill to ‘convince’ others to follow a particular brand of religion, determine that all living in an area have to subscribe to a particular set of cultural beliefs or follow a particular line of discussion when it comes to the current ‘hot button’ issue?
Logically we shouldn’t. Generally, people are the beneficiaries and victims of their upbringing. In the majority of circumstances, a person’s particular choice of homeland, religion as well as ethics and moral beliefs is that chosen by their ancestors. While some people actively choose to change religion, homeland or belief, most of us will generally conform to the standards, ethics and morals of those around us. Generally, a society will change values gradually based on compelling (to each individual) evidence being presented that there is a more logical or attractive view than the one previously held.
Yet some can’t see the forest for the trees. As an example, former Prime minister Tony Abbott came out swinging (pun intended) ahead of the release of the Finkel Report claiming as part of his motivation, “The last thing we want to do is let ‘electricity Bill’ off the hook”. Regardless of his views on the need to pump less carbon into the atmosphere, conserving a limited supply of fossil fuels by using renewable energy alternatives where possible is a logical argument. Abbott is obviously ‘out to get Shorten’ and if he gets Turnbull out of the way as well, that’s a bonus. Abbott has a history of being a bully to get his own way and you would have to suspect that his pre-emptive strike on the Finkel Report was really another example of his belief that he should have the keys to the Prime Minister’s Office, rather than any concern over the future of the environment we live in.
The human race should be better at the big things such as not stuffing up the environment to support those with interests in the mining industry, accepting that others worship a different ‘god’ or at least a different brand of the same ‘god’ or some groups have cultural needs that are not obvious to others – but are to the group concerned. We can happily accept that some people do purchase Toyotas over Holdens, or prefer coffee to tea but we apparently can’t accept that others have different cultural beliefs, skin colours or different opinions on fundamental issues. Ridiculous, isn’t it?
We all expect others to respect our culture, be it a culture of being in an alcohol induced haze or attending church services for the majority of the weekend. That’s fair enough and there is nothing wrong with it – however the reverse also applies. If you are the one attending church services you have no right be judgemental to those who choose to drink to excess. Both Turnbull and Shorten seem to be of a mind to bury the hatchet on emissions trading and while it obviously is a step too far for Abbott, it’s probably nowhere near far enough for Richard De Natalie of the Greens. If you drive a Rolls Royce or sit on a bus, you’re still going to get stuck in the same traffic jam on Monday if you take the same route to work. At times, you just can’t beat the law of averages.
When someone challenges your particular culture, it is normal to feel uncertain about the outcome and to attempt to defend it. Some changes have a greater ‘greater good’ than others and it’s probably fair to suggest that living in a peaceful society is one of the best reasons to accept that you have as much need to respect other’s culture as you need them to respect yours.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a roadmap to document that all citizens of this country respect the cultures of other groups that live here, as they should. First Peoples understanding of sustainable land management practices are just as important to the future of this country as the technology provided by the culture that immigrated here nearly 230 years ago. Australian First Peoples clearly can benefit from the benefits of ‘white’ civilisation and culture just as much as ‘white’ civilisation can benefit from First Peoples civilisation and culture.
We should all welcome and assist the Uluru Statement from the Heart to be gradually implemented, rather than obstruct it. There is a better option than political games to victimise and dehumanise others. How about we just respect each other’s cultures and beliefs, embracing everything that it will bring to all our lives? All our lives will be immeasurably richer as a result.
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