Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Respect and Guilt

I will attempt to get through this post without intentional innuendo.

Australia 2020 Summit: Day 1There has been an uproar in Australia recently over a book accused of encouraging girls to take up the didgeridoo. It seems that there are those among the aboriginal leaders who argue that the instrument is a male one and forbid women from even touching it, let alone playing it. [original story via BBC News Online]

The publisher has apologised for this "extreme faux pas", but I've heard nothing regarding what - if anything - they plan to do about it. I'm hoping it will stop at an apology, but would not be surprised if the book were retracted, edited and reissued to remove the offending section.

World Youth Day Cross Arrives In SydneyThere is an automatic respect accorded to these ancient tribal customs which is comparable to (and indeed is in places literally) that accorded religion. I don't think I need to necessarily go into why this is unwarranted, especially where oppression based on gender is concerned. Why is sexual discrimination alright when it's done for reasons based on tradition alone?

But further to this, there is often a degree of racial guilt when dealing with the indigenous peoples of Australia, North America, and other such places where they have been less than generously treated in the past. There is a terrible fear of offending these aboriginal societies in the West, lest they bring up that touchy subject of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Now I'm not saying we need to stop respecting them - quite the opposite; I'm saying we need to respect them enough to tell them when they're doing something unjust. Irrational beliefs should not be accorded respect simply by virtue of their antiquity. This even applies to those cultures whose ancestors our ancestors greatly wronged.

Basically, if an aboriginal girl wants to give that big stick a damn good blow, she should be perfectly free to do so.

Damnit. So close.


Andrew said...

"Harper Collins Australia apologised for inadvertently offending anyone, but said there was a "divergence of opinions" within Aboriginal culture on whether girls should play this ancient instrument."

Doesn't make sense. So there's a 'divergence of opinions' - why choose one over the other? Possibly because one is totally stupid? Publishers aren't as good at this as you'd hope.

Darkwinter said...

It's all bloody PR as far as I can see; they're happy enough to print the stuff with the underlying assumption that the opposing view is complete (oppressive) nonsense, but they wouldn't dare come out and say so in public - not even in a guarded, subtle insinuation. There's far too much timidity when it comes to these things.