One key for the composition of this present piece of writing is to attempt to do so from an orthodox indigenous Australian perspective which takes peoples+countries as the normal position, and looks at other positions as abnormal.
The NSW Office of enviroment and Heritage website has a NPWS Statement of Reconciliation which includes the following:
” As a guiding principle, we acknowledge that the Aboriginal peoples of NSW do not recognise the distinction between the natural and the cultural in relation to heritage.”
Not just heritage, but to all matters of policy and practice.
We are witnessing the decline of the hold which European life has had over life for some centuries now. The centre of balance is shifting – and this is a good time to generate some alternative life-designs in contrast to those head spinning designs fashioned by Western modern master narratives.
Of course, I am not an indigenous Australia with living country. My Being is unearthed. So anything I have to say on these matters can only be the result of the workings of my imagination.
As a conceptual craftsperson I see this as a good challenge to address – to attempt to restore some balance to the forms of representation that we craft and to attempt to open up some spaces for the voices of First Peoples themselves.
This is all part of life’s journey and we are a long way from that destination at this time. I do not have ‘all the answers’ – but aspire to be part of a healing process – one which restores links between Being and Country.
Country, I believe, governs itself when life’s messages flow properly. Ultimately, country will chose people despite attempts of some to forcefully impose their narrowly defined will upon such matters. We can learn to better relate to life, we can never control it.
By ‘throwing a new light’ on some familiar views this should, to some degree at least, bring some otherwise hidden features into better relief.
Part of my thinking over several years has been to regard Western understanding (and elsewhere) as having undergone a ‘split’ which separates people from country and country from people.
This split in understanding has ‘neolithic’ foundations, and has been a process which has unfolded in part of life over many centuries. It is the conceptual counterpart of a socio-political process in which people have been separated from country.
One example of the way the split works is that we have branches of knowledge which, on the one hand, deals with ecology but not with social systems and, on the other, branches of knowledge which deal with social systems but not ecology. The two areas are regarded as standing alone.
A more familiar example is the nature culture opposition of the 20th century. In that case nature can be conceived of as being separate from culture and culture can be conceived of as being separate from nature.
More recent thinking (even in physics) accepts that culture is part of nature and nature cannot be conceived of without some form of conceptual apparatus – some form of culture. There is no privileged position from which we may directly access reality. A whole host of social factors operate in the way our experience is constituted. This applies to everyone, without exception.
So we need to fashion a new language so we can think and talk about these matters without conceding ground every time we try to communicate.
In my own work I regard the recombination of nature+culture as producing “cosmos”.
We, as part of Being, inhabit cosmos. And we can approach our ‘cross-cultural’ challenge as one of dealing with different cosmologies rather than with the tools of naturalists and the natural sciences.
Where they limit may their ‘well-formed’ view of the realities of country to the ‘physical’ features, we have to insist that the ‘metaphysical’ features (including life’s existential dimensions) are also included for any form of representation to be judged adequate.