MDFF 10 June 2017

Today’s dispatch is  ‘Glass’.  Originally dispatched on 30 May  2016

Lets raise our glasses to the survivors of ethnocide,

On several occasions I have quoted Martin Flanagan from an article he wrote on his Sports Weekend visit to Yuendumu in 1987:

To visit Yuendumu is to have the glass tower of your preconceptions shattered into countless brilliant fragments….

I never tire of rolling those words in my mouth.

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heaven espy.

-Teach Me, My God and King (Sandys) · Cardiff Festival Choir & Owain Arwel Hughes

As my mother used to say:

Ik ben niet protestant, ik ben niet katoliek,
Maar toch ga ik naar de kerk voor de mooie muziek!

(I’m not Protestant, I’m not Catholic, but still I go to church for the beautiful music- In Dutch it rhymes)

When the Nickel Boom took us to Leonora/Laverton, we came across big piles of mostly broken glass. Included were old Pickaxe beer bottles, these I was told were all different in that they had been made by a process that included hand rolling and branding.Untitled 58.1

Also occasionally you’d find purple tomato sauce bottles.

Another occasion took me to the Bancannia Trough north of Broken Hill where the Planet Oil Company was drilling a couple of structures delineated by seismic surveys and which had been interpreted as being possible ancient Devonian reefs. They turned out to be ancient volcanic structures. We had occasion to call into the Silverton Hotel, now famous for its appearance in countless movies including Mad Max. On the shelves was a collection of old bottles including rare purple ones. Upon remarking on these, the barmaid regaled us with an explanation of the purple colour…. Small quantities of manganese dioxide in the glass would combine over time with potassium and oxidize to purple potassium permanganate (condis crystals) under ultraviolet light. So there was I, a young geology University graduate, not devoid of some tickets on myself, getting a chemistry lesson from a barmaid in a remote pub. Goes to show, be wary of preconceptions, never judge a book by its cover…

Bo Diddley – You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover

Some travellers pass through Yuendumu, who ask intelligent questions. These remote communities have been subjected to so much politically opportunistic propaganda, so much stereotyping and stigmatization, that I think it my duty to shatter their glass towers of preconceptions, and offer a few brilliant fragments.

Recently I had occasion to carry out this duty and simultaneously practice my mother tongue. The Dutch tourist, in a subsequent email exchange pointed out that he disagreed with a certain premise I’d made about Warlpiri life. We all have a right to be wrong.

Joss Stone-Right to be wrong-

But…I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken  Oliver Cromwell 1650… Yes, I was mistaken.

(the ethnocentric assimilationist interventionists by contrast almost never admit they’re mistaken).

Al deze gesprekken hebben toch wel een verdieping en nuancering gegeven van het eerste wat sombere beeld dat je als buitenstaander snel krijgt van de Aboriginal gemeenschap, wrote my new Dutch friend (these conversations have deepened and nuanced the rather sombre first impression into Aboriginal society you get as an outsider)

Kieran Finnane’s book ‘TROUBLE: on trial in Central Australia’, has just been launched.

Untitled 58The front cover photograph by Mike Gillam is titled ‘Glass Midden”. Just like the glass middens we came across in Western Australia those decades ago. Perhaps I will make an exception and judge this book by its cover.

I’m yet to read the book, but reading Kieran’s article in which she writes about writing the book, I definitely intend to:

My goal has not been to add some other level of judgment to the adjudication of cases but rather, by reporting on them with attention to detail and context, to offer a more nuanced account than is generally available… There it is again, that word: nuanced.

To visit Yuendumu is to have the glass tower of your preconceptions shattered into countless brilliant fragments….

Alas …the ethnocentric assimilationist interventionists see only broken glass….

They wouldn’t recognise ‘nuance’ if it stared them in the face.

…and I’ve got so little left to loose,
That it feels just like I’m walking on broken glass.
-Annie Lennox: Walking on Broken Glass



2 thoughts on “MDFF 10 June 2017

  1. Mea culpa:
    In the last Dispatch (Glass) I was guilty of ambiguity. When I said that I would make an exception and judge Kieran Finnane’s Book ‘TROUBLE: on trial in Central Australia’ by its cover and then juxtaposed the ‘glass midden’ with …the ethnocentric assimilationist interventionists see only broken glass…. I left out that I thought the description of scattered broken glass as a ‘glass midden’ was very clever and evocative. As a result of this omission some would have misinterpreted and understood that I disapproved of the book. Quite the opposite, I think it is a must read for anyone interested in the complexity of Central Australian societies and the manmade disaster that is the NT justice system. …..Trouble in mind- Lightnin’Hopkins.

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