This is a different type of Monday Musings, but its relevance will become apparent, I promise you! It’s inspired by Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence which I read a couple of weeks ago. In my review, I mentioned that one of the book’s four main sections is devoted to failure and imperfection, but I didn’t share much about this section, which is titled “We are all wiggly”.
Its opening chapter, after her usual intro, is called “The activist’s attic”. In it she tells of 9 boxes of papers she’s carried around with her for decades. They relate to her “spectacularly unsuccessful endeavour”, when a young woman, to win ordination for women in Sydney’s Anglican church. It’s a failure that has hung heavily on her, and that brought her to ask, in this book, “how to think of these years of effort?”
She shares the stories of other activists, like William Wilberforce who fought against the slave trade for forty-six years, and Nelson Mandela “who spent much of his life, including twenty-seven years in prison, fighting apartheid … “
And then she talks about climate change:
… think of all the scientists who have been warning of the dangers of extreme climate change since the 1960s, and of all the criticism of their work and the dismissal of anything resembling agitation and or activism as the lunatic alarmism of the left. The public burying – or attempts to discredit – the crucial findings of thousands of our finest climate scholars will prove to be one of the greatest (if not the greatest) acts of political and intellectual corruptions of our age.
But then comes the paragraph that is the focus of this post, because this week is NAIDOC Week, and in her book – in this Activist chapter – Baird also writes about Indigenous Australians’ long fight for recognition:
And what of the Indigenous people of Australia seeking constitutional recognition, truth-telling and a voice to parliament, those people who have been mistreated, stymied, rejected, ignored and discriminated against and who continue to ask non-indigenous Australians to walk with them in a makarrata, a Yolngu word meaning peace-making, a coming together after a struggle? The grace of this approach after more than two hundred years of suffering racism, along with their patience, strength and resilience, is astonishing.
The lesson is: you don’t walk away until the work is done.
I should explain here that NAIDOC Week is usually held in July, but it was deferred this year to protect, wrote the Committee, “our elders and those in our communities with chronic health issues from the disastrous impacts of COVID19. I post most years for this Week, and did write two posts back in July, anyhow, to align with Lisa’s ANZLitLovers’ Indigenous Literature Week. But, I wanted to also honour this year’s actual week, so decided to let Baird be my inspiration.
Finally, this year’s theme is “Always was, always will be”, which recognises that “First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years”. It also asks
all Australians to celebrate that we have the oldest continuing cultures on the planet and to recognise that our sovereignty was never ceded.
C’mon, Aussies … let’s get this thing done!