Part 1: HYMNS
We must ourselves burn, to know the agony of fire.
Ladies and gentlemen, first-world globe-trotters and back-packers : As you contemplate your next holiday destination : Consider for a change an experience in africa, in south america, in asia; or even a heartland of one of your own cities. You may need to steady your mind a little, pack your own toilet paper, some antibiotics for security, learn how to watch your back. You could consider by-passing the hilton and the royal, and take a back street instead to the old commercial hotel, or a tatty pension. You can risk the markets, the hawkers, the hookers, the thieves, the snotty kids and break-down taxis, and the roads all wrong on the map.
And go to see some of the greatest people of the world, and the great creatures and plants of their great land-forms.
We can spend our up-market blue-chip dollars on their tottering bus services, swallow back our snorts at the colour of their coffee, choke down our distaste for their smelly fish markets, our complaints about the hours we had to wait for jam-packed trains (as they do, every day), the queues at barricaded bank tellers, the sight of unsightly and unsighted beggars, the people worn old with fourteen-hour work days. And talk, and see, and Recognise the universal ailments of Love : the parents sick with worry for their children, the passionate graffiti calls for peace, the lone muttering of aged orphans.
(Today, about 15,000 kids under five die of starvation daily: over 3 million each year. And ten per cent of our human brothers and sisters live in perpetual hunger.)
We can take a third world holiday of absurdly cheap services, handcrafts, spectacular landscapes, exploratory journeys; and Realise the imperial horsepower of our exclusive blue-chip currencies, the devaluation of their own by daily decree; our harsh power to buy a man’s week’s work with a single modest note, to buy a single serviced lunch worth clothes and warmth for all his family. (I’ve met him: third world zulu air traffic controller, whizz-kid juggler at a tired console: paid like a strawberry-picker.)
And we can take a journey deep into the more shadowed alleys of our own nation, too, with straight gaze and open heart, and undertake to See. We will see and hear and feel the same world-story, the tale of dark pains and bright satisfactions, of hollows and spikes and pinnacles and pits.
And meet with myriad other earnest searching travellers, ever growing numbers of passionate people with illuminated eyes, muscled with their effort, toughening with their fearful growing knowledge.
And feel at last the Ache sink through the body, and deeper,
right into the Heart ;
where the traveller can Experience at last
the exhaustion of our kindred peoples,
And Cry at last for the sickness, the suffering,
the world-wide shame :
Cry for World Iniquity.
Cry for World Injustice.
And in australia we cry for our own national sorrow – the suppressed, ignored, unaddressed Injustices and Sufferings of Aboriginal peoples here, for 240 years : the very First People of the Earth, the most ancient, spiritually attentive, self-controlled, conservationist cultures on Earth. Grand quiet sovereign peoples, whose cooperative independence guided their great journeying lives for over 60,000 years.
Late 2023 – the mass public refusal of consent to even a tiny indigenous advisory ‘voice’ in the australian constitution, which would only be noted anyway if the parliament ‘chose’ to listen. The referendum ‘No’ result – a shameful exposure of a settler culture of ignorance, grudge, denial, fear, mean-spirit. And of deliberate refusal to learn the truths of a cruel settlement history, with its living trail of marginalisation, poverty, incarcerations, grief.
To this day, no Voice, no Treaty, no Truth-telling : the refusal to start these three foundational steps towards reparation of invasion history, of communal recovery, and national decency, self-esteem and shared respect.
The renowned ‘Uluru statement from the Heart’ from Elders in central australia in 2017, is one of the most beautiful, restrained and powerful appeals for Voice ever called out, by some of the most land-lost and despairing of peoples.
Across the hundreds of Aboriginal countries on a huge dry continent, their lands tended over millennia with love and cooperative management – their guardian voices have been overwhelmed and silenced, their lands forcibly commandeered by settler squatters, without regret, apology, thanks, or any reparation at all. These lands are largely given over to urbanisation, agricultural clear-felling and rangelands, and massive industrial ore excavations : with an occasional nod to ‘consent’, often from paid indigenous representatives rather than traditional senior Law People : who are fast dying away.
Aboriginal First Law comes from the Earth herself : that our primary human duty of care is to the living mother Earth who gives rise to us, loves and sustains us all, and delivers life for all future generations of all species.
This is their Foundation Law for Life, and all human-made laws are made in the light of this beautiful First Law. Hence the Aboriginal traditions of equitability and restraint as humans living respectfully with all other life : of ancestral commitment to care for next generations ; of refusal to exploit some deep beauties, special resources, and powerful spiritual places, for the sake of mere greed.
The Earth – with all her living things – is now deeply sick and threatened, by our own heedless exploitations and self-interests.
Never before have we so greatly needed to listen to the First Voices, to guide recovery from the consequences of our dominations and destructions.
Cry for World Iniquity.
Cry for World Injustice.