Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How do we sleep while our beds are burning?

I’ve been thinking about how to approach this subject for a long time.  It’s obvious.  It’s strange.  It’s disheartening. It’s sad.  And above all, it’s the question that nobody seems to ask above a silent whisper.  Where are the black people?  

For everything that the Australians get right there is a glaring hole in this society.  I would encourage anyone that wants to read a great book filled with anecdotes about Australia and better writing than you will ever see here to find In A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson.  In it he addresses the “aboriginal problem”.  That was the first I had read about blacks in Australia.  Now living here the simple fact is that there aren’t any.  At least in Sydney, which is my only real experience thus far.  Seriously.  I have lived here a little over two months and have seen less than twenty black people total.  

At the Australian Museum here in Sydney, they have a wonderful Aboriginal exhibit.  It tells all about the history of the indigenous people of Australia and their struggles and hardships.  It actually made me cry walking through it. Maybe I was a little homesick, maybe it was humid, maybe it was that time of the month, I have no idea but I do know that it truly touched me and bothered me all at the same time. It’s not the greatest exhibit in the world but it was the simplicity that I found remarkable.  

It’s a collection of tv’s with people telling real stories in their own voices and artifacts of their heritage.  There is a group of rocks that you can sit under and hear someone telling a story of “the dreaming”.   There is a replica of a chapel in the middle of it.  You go inside and see how they already had their own form of religion and adapted to add Jesus into their stories. They believed.  What must they think of their God now?   

Dreamtime Sisters
courtesy of http://www.dreaminaustralia.com/
The beginning of time is called “the dreaming” or “dreamtime”.  The Ancestor Spirits came and created the land and everything in it. Once the spirits had created the world they themselves became trees, stars, rocks, etc.  This is why the land is so sacred to the Aboriginal peoples.  It is their ancestors. I love this idea because it forces you to appreciate the resources around you.  
In Genesis 3:19, it states,  "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." 
Your loved ones become the earth. Matter does not disappear.  So, the next time you throw a cigarette butt down and think it does nothing realize you just threw it on your loved ones.  Quite a change of attitude, don’t you think?

Meanwhile, the indigenous people have this beautiful past and heritage and the British naturally want to fix them into proper British subjects.  Interesting that it parallels what the Americans did with the Native American peoples.  Maybe God has been testing us over and over until we get it right.  But this time the Australians got it very wrong.  

The Eora (pronounced ‘yura’) people were the ones here in Botany Bay when the first ships arrived. In 1770, when Captain James Cook claimed the land for Britain they tried to help them so that they would go away.  When they left to tell Britain about the new land they thought that the ghosts had left for good.  Captain Cook and his party were only the first though.  The ghosts came back and brought more ghosts.  And it never stopped.  In the book, A Commonwealth of Thieves , author Thomas Keneally describes the Eora people standing on the shore waving their arms and yelling “Warre Warre”.  The British thought they were waving at them.  They were actually yelling at them to “get away”.  They had arrived nearly 70,000 years ago and the British came in and changed everything in a day. 

The Aboriginal people continued to become more of a problem for the new settlers as time went on.  From approximately 1869 to 1969, the government would remove children from the Aboriginals to integrate them into “white” society.  This is called the Stolen Generations. Can you imagine?  White strangers coming and taking your kids away and telling you it’s for their own good.  In some cases, they were told each other were dead. Obviously, this practice did not go over well.  

courtesy of creativespirits.com
In 2008, the Australian government finally made a formal apology to Indigenous Australians.  There is actually a “National Sorry Day” every year on May 26 to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the the indigenous population. But how much has actually changed? 

So that, in very small part, explains the treatment thus far, but where are they now?  I think they have to live in the poorer places of Australia.   That is not Sydney. Nor any other Australian city as far as I can tell.  But what about immigrants?  The British, French, American, etc?  No black people?  I don’t get it. 

It also makes me love and understand the Midnight Oil song Beds Are Burning even more.  The lead singer Peter Garrett is now a politician.  I guess he always was but now he’s actually running for office. 
The time has come  To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent  To pay our share

The time has come  A fact’s a fact
It belongs to them  Let’s give it back

How can we dance when our Earth is turning?
How do we sleep while our beds are burning?

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