Jan J. Wester
When Australia was discovered, reports about the inhabitants of that far away continent soon got through to Europe. The Austral negroes (as the Aborigines were called until recently) were described as being the most uncivilized people in the world. For they had not accomplished anything to measure civilization by, according to western standards. They walked around half
naked and had not even invented the wheel yet, not to mention buildings at all. A typical western materialistic way of judging, still used by many white Australians, by the way.
The Aborigines, however, have no need to cultivate the land or to alter nature. They believe that everything, including mankind, has originated from the earth and that human beings are an inextricable part of a greater natural whole. The only part of the earth that they cultivate is themselves. They practice (unfortunately, I should almost write “practiced”) a sort of hierarchy of Wisdom, in which the only true progress is in the mind. And the short-sighted colonists obviously did not see that.
The Aborigines travel through the desert, singing. The song they sing shows them the way they have to go; also in areas they have never been before. There are thousands of these songlines across Australia. The system these primitive people use is so complicated that western science still has not figured out how it works exactly. This also applies to many rituals, paintings and legends.
Meanwhile, they could not think of anything better to do than to shoot thousands of Aborigines like dogs. Their children were taken away from them and sent far away to school where they were beaten black and blue by nuns for speaking their own language. Providing the Aborigines with alcohol proved very effective too (similar to the extermination of the Indians in America). They become drunk very easily and are physically not very capable in breaking down alcohol. This way it was possible to turn them into drunken layabouts, which was another reason for continuing to exterminate them. All of this was still going on until approximately eighty years ago. In less than two centuries we westerners were able to completely destroy a very special culture.
You might wonder what this has got to do with population policy. Have a little more patience. The Aborigines are the only people who have lived in the ecologically vulnerable Australia for 50,000 years without ruining the land. For it was not their intention to become a large population at all costs. On the contrary, in times of extreme drought , when the chances of survival for a baby were small, they would refrain themselves from having sex or they would use a special kind of tree bark as a contraceptive. They had probably picked this up from a mechanism common to kangaroos. When a period of drought begins, the growth of the kangaroo embryo automatically comes to a halt. Its growth can only be re-activated by an ingredient in fresh green grass.
The white colonists have only been in Australia for two hundred years and the country has become tremendously overpopulated already. Twenty million inhabitants, with another seventy million elsewhere in the world that are kept alive with Australian food. So the ecological impact is eighty-five million people, which is way too much. The consequences like heavy erosion, salinity and loss of humus have become visible in many places already. This way the country will not even last another 500 years, let alone 50,000. The Aborigines knew how to live sustainable and they knew that it is all about the quality of the people, not about the quantity. In order not to disturb the ecological balance, they even practiced population planning! We are not ready for this hierarchy of the Highest Wisdom yet.
It is a pity that we have exterminated the people who owned this wisdom. Perhaps their ideas could have helped us now in preventing an ecological disaster. The question, however, whether we are too primitive to be able to cope with such a philosophy that lacks development, growth or progress (except in the mind) is still open for discussion.