Archive for January, 2008

que cherchez-vous ?

January 28, 2008

“L’homme est fou par ce qu’il cherche, et grand par ce qu’il trouve”

-Paul Valéry 

 I read this quote today and have been pondering it ever since. If we are considered insane for seeking grand things but great if we finally find these things, what does that say about our dreams and dreaming them? What about those who seek the seemingly impossible? Are they insane or are we for not trying? 

What is it you seek? 

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Like a ‘Sorry’ in the Sky

January 28, 2008

So we’re sitting around the table tonight and discussion turns to the enormous ‘sorry’ that was written across the sky on Australia Day. The ‘sorry’ story made the headlines briefly and was removed abruptly, as if it had just evaporated into thin air. It’s rather symbolic really.

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You see, saying ‘sorry’ has been a matter of contention in Australian culture for quite a few years now.  Many Australians have thought that saying ‘sorry’ to the Aboriginal people would be beneficial, would aid reconciliation. However, some of our population, indeed our last Prime Minister, John Howard, thought that there was no point in saying ‘sorry’. Their argument went along the lines of, “well we didn’t kill your family, steal your children, give you grog or keep you uneducated so why should we apologise for things that the generations/governments before us were responsible for? Why should we say sorry?” In my opinion, we have a lot to say sorry for: invasion, the stolen generations, inequality in health and education, deaths in custody, the introduction of alcohol…and I could go on. These things still affect the Aboriginal people of Australia today, regardless of who instigated them. 

 

Kevin Rudd has stated that he will say ‘sorry’ on the 12th February 2008, so long as there are no legal ramifications – which, by the way, there aren’t. Saying ‘sorry’ has no real consequences. We don’t have to give land back, reunite families, offer equitable access to health or education, or provide rehabilitation. There will be no compensation – which is lucky for how would we ever compensate for these life-shattering losses anyway? –  Isn’t that great. Ha! A sorry without consequence.

 

As my dad said rather facetiously, “We can say sorry and Cathy Freeman can carry the Aboriginal flag if she wants…as long as she carries the one emblazoned with the Union Jack as well. Archie Roach can sing from time to time…we kinda like his tunes – he’s a good Aussie.”

 

Let’s say sorry, what can we lose?

 

Today I’ve been reading Saussure in preparation for teaching this year. You probably know Saussure, he was the French guy who revolutionised the study of linguistics. He was of the view that language was a system that consisted of a signifier (the word or sound) and a sign (the object to which the signifier referred). The signifier never was the sign. For example you don’t get much of a sense of what a dog is by reading or hearing the word ‘dog’ in isolation to the object to which it refers. ‘Dog’ doesn’t tell you anything about what it is to be a dog. In this way language is arbitrary. But Saussure argued that it is this very arbitrariness of language that makes it so important to use language correctly. If I start calling a dog a ‘dooshka’ communication is going to be limited, hindered because you will not know what I am talking about.

 

All this, and the discussion of the significance, or lack thereof, of saying ‘sorry’ has left me with this question: what does ‘sorry’ actually mean? To us? To the Aboriginal people? Because if it means “sorry bad stuff happened to you, but it wasn’t our fault and we’re not doing anything about it,” then I’m mad about that. What kind of sorry is that? What does it signify? What is its sign? And what does it say about our culture when our most potent words are emptied of meaning? I want to know exactly what kind of ‘sorry’ we’re offering before I start applauding politicians on the 12th Feb. How will a ‘sorry’ aid communication between disparate people if we don’t have a clear understanding of what ‘sorry’ means?

 

I know I’m sorry. Sorry I belong to such a racist and discriminatory society that is afraid to speak meaningfully into the hurting lives of its citizens – even if they were only recognised as citizens of their own country in 1967.  Sorry we don’t have a language to express what we mean. Sorry our words are empty. Sorry I fear our ‘sorry’ will evaporate into the ether like the words that appeared in the sky so briefly on Australia Day, or Survival Day – the day we are supposed to celebrate the tenacious endurance of a race that our ancestors tried to erase like an inappropriate news story.

 

On the upside: It will be so nice of us to make Aboriginal people “full participants” of society…after over 200 years of abuse and deprivation!

 

[end rant]

 

I’m still mad.

Thanks if you stayed with me through that. 🙂

 If you’re still game, here’s a question:

What does ‘sorry’ mean and what should ‘sorry’ look and sound like? 

Yesterday…

January 27, 2008

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Watching the Tall Ships Race.

Sydney Harbour, 26th Jan 2008

 

It was swell.

January 2, 2008

Just when the temperature finally heats up, all Sydney beaches are most miserably closed! It’s just not right! It’s just not summer! High winds in Queensland have severely affected Sydney beaches. The news reports that all beaches from Queensland to Sydney are closed! 

 This is completely bad news for my beach faring family! So far this season we have cancelled a couple of trips down to the beach due to the rough surf and hazardous conditions. We have sensibly resisted the powerful urge to swim in the unrelenting heat, till now.  Today we finally succumbed.   

My brother took the boys to see the first day of the second test at the SCG while I met up with a friend. It was a hot day. So hot that you couldn’t sit in your car for a minute without the aircon on. So hot that your clothes stuck to your skin, the air felt thick around you and sapped your mind of rational thought. Perhaps that’s why the promise of cool water was too much to resist. By 4:30 we had all found our way to Bronte.   (Photos of Bronte here).   

 The beach was mush. Most of it was white water. Churning white water frothing on the surface hiding the terrible undertow. The beach was closed. I had walked down earlier in the day and had checked out the state of the surf. The beach was certainly too dangerous to swim in. Despite the hot day, no one was in the water. Actually, when I say “no one was in the water”, I mean no one was in the surf. Some people were paddling in the areas that were protected by the rocks. However the tow there was still quite strong and most people only went in up to their knees. The dangerous surf sign was up and the flags were down.*sigh*However, the Ocean Pool was open! 

Waves periodically crashed over the walls turning the usually calm lap pool into a wave pool but it was safe. I walked down the steps and dipped my toes into the water expecting it to be refreshing but warm. It might as well have been ice. The water was sooooo cooooold but so enticing.   

 As I said, by 4:30 we were all at the Ocean Pool and while it took us some time to jump in, once we were in it was divine! Oh how I love the sea! We swam across the pool and climbed up onto the wall closest to the surf. Holding onto the ropes we braced ourselves for the crashing waves that splashed a spangled shower of salt and bubbles over our heads and into the pool. While the waves were of a frightening size they were not as strong as I expected them to be once they reached us having lost a lot of their power on the rocks (they would push you into the water if you were not holding on but were not strong enough to pull you free of your grip on the rope). Thus we spent the afternoon splashing but mostly being splashed by the beautiful ocean. [Ooh! and I just found out Rebecca’s theme for the month is weather! I guess now I can safely confess to having a few weather widgets on my dashboard! ] 

Happy New Year!!!

January 1, 2008

NYE Fireworks Sydney 2008 ptI

 

These are the fireworks I would have watched had I stayed awake. Oops.We had a very nice family celebration at home, eating delicious food, waving sparklers and watching the 9pm Sydney fireworks. After desert it was bedtime for little men and a tired mama fell asleep next to them. It was a nice way to usher in the New Year in my opinion. Happy New Year all! May 2008 be a year in which you grow in your love for God and those around you!! Love to all! 

 

NYE Fireworks, Sydney 2008, ptII