Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Civil Cult

There is a little scrap of civil religion that has appeared in the last five years or so, at least in this part of the country. Before a public speech of whatever sort, anywhere within the education sector- even if it is to open a stop work meeting- the speaker will recite a formula something like this:

"I wish to acknowledge the ##### people, the traditional owners of this land."

Frequently followed by:

"...and show my respect to all Elders, past and present."

I suppose this does as little harm, or as much harm, as burning a pinch of incense at the Emperor's altar. I would however like to proffer the following more extended litany:

"I acknowledge the ### people, the traditional custodians of this land, who love this land, who know the stories of this land and the names of its hills and rivers.

I acknowledge the many peoples who came before the ####, who also loved this land, whose names and stories are forgotten.

I acknowledge the people of the British Isles who crossed the world to learn to love this land, in whose words I am speaking, and who have made their own names and stories here.

And I acknowledge all men and women, in whatever time, and from whatever place, who have loved this land, for anyone who loves this land belongs to this land.

I wish to show my respect to all men and women of good faith who have sought truth as they understood it, and virtue as they understood it, in every age and every land. And I wish to show my respect to the many sages and prophets of East and West who built the civilisation we share: who taught us to seek for law in the universe, and in the way we live; to love our neighbours as ourselves; and to strive to live according to the principles of liberty, fraternity, and equality. For the Earth is but one country, and all of us its citizens."


Marco said...

I am so going to use this at the start of a speech if I am ever asked to speak in an educational context!

Dave said...

Well, it's a touch on the wordy side, but it's a sentiment I can get behind. Laudable as acknowledgement of Aboriginal land occupation is, there are still the odd few facts that tend to be overlooked, like pre-European massacres.

I think these matters tend to the pendulous - for a long time the prevailing social and political attitude was one of disdain and contempt, right now it's probably a little on the overwrought side as a direct reaction to a decade of governmental inflexibility. With any luck and assuming no significant crisis event to again polarise opinions, Australian society should approach a balanced and well-adjusted attitude to its past and present cultural attitudes within a generation or two.

Dr. Clam said...

*pleads guilty to prolixity*

Will have to compose a zippier version!

I am less sanguine than you about a pendulum swinging back and forth around a mean of relative niceness... history seems to me more a chaotic trajectory through idea space...