Indigenous peoples in many parts of the world have suffered a form of cultural death, whereby traditional coping strategies and redemptive acts in the face of crisis have lost their meaning. In his book on the terrible reality of a warrior culture's death in the context of the Crow tribe of North America, Jonathan Lear provides a harrowing window on to the fate of many aboriginal societies. His insights resonated with me when I considered the fate of warrior tribes in Australia, as amplified by Charles Taylor in his review of Lear's book:
"In the absence of effective countermeasures, the consequences of closing down a culture are obvious enough from the plight of many indigenous people, including many North American aboriginals: widespread demoralization, abuse of alcohol and drugs, domestic violence, and children who drop out of school, perpetuating the pattern in the next generation. Many well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) interventions from governments, such as setting up poorly run reservations, seem just to have made the situation worse.
One main reason for the failure of many of these interventions is that they don't manage to imagine the lives of the supposed beneficiaries themselves or engage with their feelings; and so they can't break the cycle of apathy, despair, and self-destructive behavior, and this induces further apathy and despair. A program imposed from outside can only help if it can support a project espoused by the group itself. And here is where Lear's book breaks new ground, in an extremely interesting way...
Lear sees the avoidance of despair as the indispensable condition in which a community can respond creatively to the plight of culture death. And it is only this kind of creative response from within—one that draws on the community's resources and traditions to come up with a new understanding of the ends of life—that can avoid the spiral of apathy and social decay which is the lot of so many such societies."
What a shame Brough & Howard could'nt be bothered to develop genuine bridges to these communities, built on an acknowledgment of the profound cultural loss and terrible hurt wrought by the demands of the mainstream political economy and enforced social acculturation.