The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who lived to be 92 and spent much of his life in the aristocratic splendour of Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, famously opined that the life of primitive man was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. Jacques Rousseau, on the other hand, in direct contradiction to Christian theology, was convinced that man had been born good, and that primitive man was indeed the “noble savage”.
Rolf de Heer, a maker of small, quirky and interesting films (“Bad Boy Bubby”, “The Old Man Who Read Love Stories”, “The Tracker”), probably doesn’t subscribe to either notion. In this exquisitely photographed tale from the mythical past he lets the Aborigines of the Arafura wetlands, Arnhem Land, tell their own story. Apart from David Gulpilil, who provides a gentle, teasing voice-over, and his son Jamie, all the parts are played by non-professional actors from the district. Apart from the voice-over, all the dialogue is in the local Aboriginal language (don’t worry, there are sub-titles).
While on a goose egg hunting trip, Older Brother, who has noticed his younger brother’s interest in one of his wives, tells Younger Brother a story from a much earlier time, of another younger brother who yearned after his older brother’s wife. Without giving the story away, the moral is “be careful about what you wish for, you might get it”, but much happens in between. It becomes evident that these “savages”, as well as possessing a robust sense of humour, have a legal system that minimises the damage done by crimes. It seems that neighbouring tribes, whose language our tribe scarcely understands, will play by the same rules. Once honour is satisfied, the matter is at an end. The story gives us an insight as to how Aboriginal society remained stable for so long prior to contact with Europeans.
It is hard to comment on the acting, other than to say the characters seem completely authentic. The tribe’s sorcerer, for instance, likes to choose a bone to wear in his nose to suit his mood or the occasion, just as your local GP might like to select a bow tie before opening his surgery. But I have to mention Crusoe Kusddal as Ridjimiraril, the older brother in the myth. His language means little to us, but his expression everything.
The scenes on the goose-hunt, which book-end the main story, are in black and white, a tribute to earlier photographers in Arnhem Land, but most of the film is in colour, which does full justice to the landscape. This is no Garden of Eden and the necessity to build tree platforms while camping in the swamp is evidence of that (though we see no actual crocodiles). Yet the Aborigines manage to live within the environment without despoiling it or each other. Theirs is a patriarchal society but women are protected by the rules as well as by their menfolk. The movie is a fascinating glimpse into the culture, told in a disarmingly humorous fashion, by the people themselves. One should not be too misty-eyed about this since the cast probably watch “The Simpsons” via satellite at home, but they have given us both a droll tale and some food for thought.[Australia, 2006]
Author: Philby-3 from Sydney, Australia
How blessed we are to have Nature’s bounty ─
The rolling seas, the boundless sky, the Earth
Which provides us with food and shelter
And yields untold riches for use by Man.
No need to ask; no need to beg or grovel or plead.
The bounteous Earth just gives and gives and gives.
Yet, if we do not have respect for the Earth
And use and destroy in the name of greed
Mother Earth unleashes her fury.
The crux is in the balance ─ the ability to take
With respect, to make amends when we can,
To know that Earth’s gifts are irreplaceable,
To acknowledge our puniness in the face of Might.
We know too well the dangers and horrors
Of vengeful Earth, the unruly consequence
Of Man’s pride, greed and arrogance.
We need to find a different way.
With respect for Mother Earth and all Her gifts
We can live in harmony with the Earth
And with all the creatures She upholds.
God grant that we change our wasteful ways.
We’ve all heard about the environmental disaster that is gripping the world and bringing it to its knees. But what about that other disaster that is taking place inside us in that mysterious, unquantifiable, inner environment – our spirit, our consciousness?
Because for every poisoned sea and ripped down forest around us in this world, there is a spiritual equivalent here within us, in this land of our imagination. Think about it – what happened to that innocent little creature you were when you were born, who seemed to know itself, that was happy in the moment? How has it changed? Haven’t our inner worlds transformed in parallel with the world around us? Who amongst us is still happy? Who amongst us even believes in the simple happiness of just being alive?
And what about these thoughts that choke up our inner skies as surely as any CO2-emitting chimney – that harangue us endlessly with guilt trips, anger, self-glory, alternating with self-loathing and a string of endless and insatiable desires? What about these lusts that break our societies and our families apart, and in the process our children’s hearts until, like us, they too are filled up with yet more pain and insecurity?
We can see the world around us as it suffers, we hear about the flora and fauna that are being destroyed in our wake and we are spurred on to try to curb our wanton consumption of life in the hope that the cycle can be reversed. But how can we hope to bring a balm of peace to this world when our hearts are swamped in toxins, our guts have been mined with unfillable pits of greed, our inner skies are choked by the smoking factories of our mind and our innocent desires are fanned into fierce fires that consume the brushwood of our morality?
Yes, let’s try to save the world! But as we do, let us remember what we are saving this world from. We are saving this world from ourselves, nothing more. We are saving the world from what we have become.
And if we really want to make a difference, then the struggle must be a twofold struggle – both an outer and an inner one. A simultaneous battle to save the animals of the Brazilian rainforests and also the bare-footed angels that live in our hearts. We’re fighting the Environmental disaster but we should not forget about the IN-vironmental disaster that is the root of all our present ills.
Editor: Jeremy would like to start an email action group on this topic. If you would like to join the group, please write to me at [email protected], and I will send your message to Jeremy.
Dear Beloved Mother Earth, Our Holy Guru,
Since the timeless creation of Your very first breath,
You have been The Great Evolution, the grand source of all,
And humankind has been walking, perplexed, by Your side.
You have given us the powers of five sacred elements,
And we have created our own laws distant from their command.
You have given us soaring mountains to climb,
While we have merely made the ego our ascent.
You have given us deserts to inspire dreams of eternity,
And we have chosen an insatiable quest for all that is mortal.
You have given us your seas to embrace and rock us gently,
While we have taken comfort in our conquering nature instead.
You have given us cool soils to calm our weary feet,
While we have marched on and on, victims of our own polarity.
You have given us Your skies to open up our every inspiration,
But we have failed to overcome the feebleness of our thinking.
You have given us the splendour of flowers as a muse,
And we instead have revered material things.
You have given us all the creatures to teach harmony and difference,
While we have practiced prejudice and distrust amongst ourselves.
You have given us the joy of Your peaceful attention,
And we have remained distracted by the ticking clocks of our minds.
You have given us whispering winds, the desire for our seeking,
While we have been lost in a search for mere desperations.
You have forgiven us time and again for our ignorance and our deeds,
But we continue blindly flirting with absurdity and danger.
You have trusted us as the guardians of Your delightful creation,
And we have brought it now to the edge of devastation.
May we learn to make with our hands what is hidden inside our hearts,
Learning to live with less, with satisfaction and charity in our souls.
May we swiftly abandon all falsely created needs, our greed,
And discard all illusions of richness, vanity and self-indulgence.
May we sense the urgency to make changes in our daily actions,
To discover the Metascience of Your nature and to share it with all.