Monday, December 14, 2009


"Kanyini" is an Aboriginal word that means, "unconditional love and responsibility for all things".  Seems like a good recipe for life.  So, my brain has accepted that, "yes, I would like to live with unconditional love and be responsible for my connection to every living thing"... now what??!!  My Western brain starts in with the questions, "well, what does 'living' mean?  I mean, in some First Nation ideology, rocks are considered to have spirits, and, of course, the ground- that's Mother Earth.  Right.  O.K., now I'm in my car and someone cuts me off... well, my first thought isn't unconditional love.  

So, there's the rub, then- how do you move from your head to your heart? 
I know!!!  

A most humbling experience happened to me, quite unexpectedly, in a white, country town in Australia. I won't use names, but not to protect anyone.  This could have happened to anybody (and hopefully will again!).

I took a road trip to visit a friend from school and ended up in a town famous for a 15 metre tall sheep.  After a brilliant dinner of Thai food (naturally) we ended up playing pool into the wee hours.  My friend's husband is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, and he's also a real bloke.  A man's man (I think I still have bruises from where he kept slapping me on the back).  We got into a deep conversation (as is wont to happen when wine might be involved) and it came up that I had experienced a home invasion, and the trauma involved (not something I normally bring up at parties, but, it felt like something I was supposed to tell).  All the emotions that came up for him, should something like that happen to his wife, were intense and quick.  He then stated he would find the guy and kill him, and asked how I could even talk about it without being drunk all the time.  *As a side note, another friend, at the time it happened, couldn't understand why I wasn't in a corner with a bottle of vodka.  He lit up a cigarette and we went back to playing pool.

Later in the evening, under a starry Australian sky, three of us got into a debate about politics and the Aboriginal "issue" (which I have issue with, because people are not an "issue"- though I'm not surprised because before the 1967 referendum, Aboriginal people were classified under the "Flora and Fauna Act").  My new friend said, "wasn't that all sorted out, like, fifty years ago?", and though I normally would have gotten indignant, an amazing understanding settled over me and I calmly said, "actually, no, it's violence, racism and devastation, happening right now".  Then someone said what usually makes me crazy, that favourite of shell-people everywhere, "but aren't they drunk all the time and lazy".  Yep- I've heard this statement in many countries, including my own, and it is usually referring to homeless people, those on welfare or minorities.  Hello opportunity for unconditional love.  

I asked him to remember his earlier reaction to hearing about my traumatic experience (but just a horrible moment in time, through which I had incredible support, unlike so many Indigenous men and women who deal with life-shaking trauma every day).  I didn't understand how it was o.k. for me to potentially use alcohol to deal with stress, and not people who are Aboriginal.  Maybe they have a story like mine- but no one to help them, and a government that systematically disempowers and alienates them.  What if a black man had his woman attacked?  Wouldn't he want to fight?  

My friend, who happened to be born white, said, "I hadn't thought about it that way".


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Katie Goes...: Screening Aboriginal Film in New York City!!!!!!!
By KatieK
June 2007 saw the Federal government pass a law for Northern Territory banning all Aboriginal men from alcohol and enforcing a compulsory medical examination to exclude sexual abuse of all Indigenous children under 16 years in rural ...

Far from accurate. You need to actually look at the NTER (Intervention) legislation and its application, Katie, whoever you are. This is inaccurate in the extreme. It's far from perfect, but so is the dire situation of Aboriginal people in Central Australia. Clearly in your world travels you have had little time to research properly what you purport to write about. VG