It was 245 years ago when Lieutenant James Cook first stepped foot on Wangal land (DOFA 2015), land which would soon become known as Eastern Australia. Claiming it immediately as a colony of the British Empire, he completely disregarded the fact there were already natives residing there. Natives whom had occupied the desolate continent for up to 70,000 years previously (DOFA 2015).
It was around 2.45pm when I approached the group.
The story hadn’t changed much, Western man approaches the natives of a barren land. I suppose the only difference in the tale is that James was carrying guns and I was carrying goon.
4 litres of cheap Australian wine, which some locals would attest, is just as lethal.
Now, some may state that supplying alcohol to a demographic that is generally seen as having an alcohol problem is irresponsible and only going to worsen the situation and to those people I present two fingers and say ‘Fuck you’.
It’s called immersive journalism, or at least, it is now.
By all accounts I was mad rocking up to a group of wild aboriginals in the city . . .
‘They’re all alcoholics’
They’re aggressive and dumb’
‘They were here for thousands of years and they didn’t even invent the wheel!’
Goodness gracious, where to begin with all this prejudice.
It’s true, they didn’t invent the wheel but as a people who hadn’t started farming due to the arid nature of their mainland they had literally no reason to, living harmoniously within a nourishing coastal ecosystem they enjoyed a semi-nomadic existence. Moving from sites every couple of days within their territory allowed the environment to recuperate and provided a varied diet (Val 2010).
Though they didn’t strictly develop agriculture by our standards they did manipulate the environment to their advantage by setting fires to clear the bush for ease of travel, to allow fresh grass to grow for other animals/prey to eat and encouraging the growth of certain fruits and yams which wouldn’t have been able to survive in a dense bush terrain.
They were, if you will, the very first free-range agriculturalists.
Aboriginals had a rich culture steeped in artwork, dance, song and an extremely close relationship with the land, all of which developed over thousands of years – making theirs the longest surviving truly uninfluenced culture of our species.
They lived within a population of around 250 nations across Australia (Broome 1991). Each hosting several tribes, all trading and living in a civilised manner before foreign disease swept in on the back of ignorant imperialists, killing thousands.
Something which early colonists noticed was their high quality of life, James Cook himself wrote of the Aboriginals:
‘They may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon the Earth, but in reality they are far more happier than we Europeans. They live in a Tranquillity that is not distrurb’d by the Inequality of Condition: The Earth and sea of their own accord furnishes them with all things necessary for life’
It’s intriguing that they are stigmatised as being dumb and not merely because it contradicts with the paragraphs above.
Historians speculate that one of the main factors in the development of civilisation and cognition was the agricultural revolution. It put us all in one place for prolonged periods of time and forced us to interact with each other within these parameters in much larger group sizes than those we could maintain as hunter-gatherers. Add to that the mental development which is said to have been born out of the need to worry about next season’s crops, the introduction if you will to understanding time on a linear scale and you have yourself the basis for a racist manifesto.
That’s not to say that farming was beyond them, aboriginals were known to remark to early agriculturalists that the farming process depends very much on the sun and the rain, just as they do, the aboriginals however just did less work. (Flood 2004)
The issue is that knowledge, like everything else, is relative and just as an aboriginal would’ve been considered dumb through the eyes of western culture for being unable to complete simple maths equations or dress themselves in a waistcoat and breeches any Western man of the time would have been deemed, by any aboriginal, as retarded for being unable to find fresh water or track, kill and prepare a kangaroo for his family.
Nonetheless no one stopped to debate these issues and an inherent knowledge of the land was quickly becoming unnecessary as the very subject of their intellect was cleared to make way for housing and imported agriculture.
This soon led to an Aboriginal dependency on European wares for survival, placing them subordinately at the feet of their somewhat war faring invaders who were then free to write the history books as they pleased.
Ainsley was the first chap I met. Quiet and lanky with thick dark curly hair. He was happy to share my goon and introduced me to his in-laws. Three women aged between 20 and 50. We spoke very briefly about the fact he didn’t have a job and was living in the city when another couple loudly entered the small inner city park we were occupying.
‘FUCK YOU, YOU BLACK CUNT, I DIDN’T SLEEP WITH HIM’
‘YOU FUCKING WHORE, I’LL MAKE YOU PISS. I’LL MAKE YOU BLEED’
‘Never a dull moment’, I quipped to Ainsley just as the bloke sort of half jabbed the girl.
I started up and got involved. Obviously his rage then turned to me.
‘I’LL MAKE YOU BLEED CUNT’ etc etc.
‘Calm down mate, I’m here peacefully, just don’t hit your girl’ I said anticipating a right hand.
There was a bit of a stand-off, then he eventually walked off to roll a cigarette.
After a while, I poured another glass of goon and walked over to him, presenting the Semillon Blanc as a peace offering.
‘There’s no trouble here brother, just don’t get involved with my business’
‘I didn’t mean to disrespect, but you can’t hit women mate’
‘I never hit her, she’s just too much sometimes’
His name was Lawrence, everyone else called him Donny. He must have been 40. Wild curly hair and a piss stained moustache were his chief characteristics. We got chatting about bicycles, American sniper, sharks, his 15 years in prison, boxing, and his time growing up in the bush. Unlike Ainsley he preferred the bush to the city and said he would move back if it weren’t for his kids being in school. He seemed pretty genuine and got a little nostalgic when he spoke about the mandatory 3 months each child has to endure on their own in the bush as a rite of passage.
I spoke to Mandy, a friendly woman of about 35. I asked her what her plans for the day were.
‘I got my heart beat and my two feet. Im’a get drunk and then the adventure begins.’
She said with all the enthusiasm of a university fresher before they experience their first come down.
‘I’ll go wherever my foot falcons take me’
She checked her phone, which was charging on one of the many free ports dotted around the city.
The police crawled around as I was told they often do, I flung my goon into a bush under instruction and watched silently as they had an awkward stop and chat with my new mates.
We still had a couple of hours before the Salvation Army’s café opened. A free three course meal which everyone agreed was delicious. So we changed location to a shaded patch in front of a games shop, opposite a hostel by some fountains so as to evade the police. Lawrence was pretty distant and kept pottering about the perimeter, which seemed to set his girl off. They were in and out of bickering and I was half counselling his missus whenever she came back over to the group as I talked with Ainsley about his time in prison, his girl and his ‘evil laugh’, which he seemed very proud of.
I was just about to ask for the big group picture when Lawrence scatted over kicking off with his girl again. It seemed a bit more serious this time as he clawed at the brick work trying to find a loose one.
Eventually he settled for a plant pot as his weapon of choice.
‘DONNY YOU WEAK CUNT, I’LL MAKE YOU BLEED YOU BITCH’ I chimed in.
The plant pot shattered on the pavement as he bowled over.
I backed off with enough intent to keep him interested, until eventually he calmed down.
Two weak punches hit my upper lip and left temple as Ainsley diligently attacked me for starting on his uncle.
He couldn’t see past the fact I was distracting Lawrence from his mother in law.
For some reason I restrained myself from hosting a knockout work shop as he opened his arms wide presenting his chin, ready and waiting for any of the innumerable punches engrained in my muscle memory.
I guess I just didn’t feel that threatened.
Before I needed to act though, two of the lads who’d been stood outside a café sprang into action.
Setting the scene on fire.
Lawrence had gone back to his girl and I was numb enough to take a picture. He never hit her though, bless him.
Soon after, I separated the two of them and was in the midst of trying to calm the miniscule race riot which was brewing as the police arrived.
I shared a look of remorse with Mandy, the only one who’d seen sense in the whole thing as I slipped off into the city.
That was my time with the natives of the land. A lot of time has passed between James’ and my separate excursions and of course I met a small group of individuals who cannot be seen to represent a whole race.
Australia’s current situation just seems so reminiscent of post-civil war America (not that I was there). A stigmatised race are considered dumb or dirty, which in turn loses them the opportunity for education and jobs, placing them in a position more likely to commit crime, which in turn adds to the stigma.
They’ve been forced into an alien culture they had no preparation for. Of course a young child would struggle at maths if in their upbringing they had no interaction with money, or time, or calendar days, or any of the numerical quantifiers that bind our society. It’s like they were thrust into another world, which they literally didn’t see the importance of, the bush was their home, their world. They’ll return to it one day.
That is until someone sticks a bottle under their nose and like most of the people I know they enjoy a drink, they just don’t have a 9-5 to go to once the weekend is through.
Reminiscing on my day out I see no real motivation for an aboriginal to pursue a job. One of the main reasons I’d get a job is because my culture and society deem it a necessity, we literally frown upon those who don’t have one and finding a potential mate once we pass 30 is as much a financial affair as it is a swipe to the left on tinder. Coming from a separate culture built around survival and socialising perhaps it isn’t particularly high on their to do list. I mean the weather is fucking glorious. It’s not exactly testing to sit outside and drink all day with your family with easy access to amenities as you wait for a free meal.
The main trouble they face, as far as I can see, is the aggravation they cause themselves. They were all sound, just irrational as fuck.
Which you can’t attribute to a gene. I suppose it’s that good old leveller alcohol. Believe me, I’ve met many upstanding, rational Aboriginals in my time here.
So is it even an issue of race?
Maybe I should have called this article ‘Piss Heads of Australia’ and gone around all the bottle shops and bookies and got in fights with the Westerners.
No, it’s an issue of racism.
That’s why I wrote this fucking thing.
Don’t be racist.
Attenbrow, Val (2010). Sydney’s Aboriginal Past: Investigating the Archaeological and Historical Records. Sydney: UNSW Press. pp. 152–153.
Department of Foreign Affairs: http://www.dfat.gov.au/about-australia/land-its-people/Pages/history.aspx
Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J.B. Publishing, 2004
Richard Broome (1991) “Aboriginal People of Victoria”, p. 7 in Aboriginal Australia, produced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC)