I’ve been toying with a different approach from my usual snarkrants. I’ve been exploring the coloniser world view, getting into the brains of those who are perpetuating the ongoing invasion. And I must say, it’s icky in here. No way this is going to last more than one post; skating this close to the sociopath mindset is kinda scary. Maybe to fight them, you have to understand them. But now that I’ve written this, I don’t know that I want to understand them. Meh, I’m sharing it anyway. Please bear in mind that the described mindset is not the way I think, and it’s pretty darn offensive stuff. The thoughts are half-formed, and the analogy imperfect; I welcome elaboration and extension of the ideas.
So. Vestiges. Evolutionary remnants.
Here’s a list of vestigial body parts. A few examples:
- EXTRINSIC EAR MUSCLES: This trio of muscles most likely made it possible for prehominids to move their ears independently of their heads, as rabbits and dogs do. We still have them, which is why most people can learn to wiggle their ears.
- PALMARIS MUSCLE: This long, narrow muscle runs from the elbow to the wrist and is missing in 11 percent of modern humans. It may once have been important for hanging and climbing. Surgeons harvest it for reconstructive surgery.
- APPENDIX: This narrow, muscular tube attached to the large intestine served as a special area to digest cellulose when the human diet consisted more of plant matter than animal protein. It also produces some white blood cells. Annually, more than 300,000 Americans have an appendectomy.
- WISDOM TEETH: Early humans had to chew a lot of plants to get enough calories to survive, making another row of molars helpful. Only about 5 percent of the population has a healthy set of these third molars.
- ERECTOR PILI: Bundles of smooth muscle fibers allow animals to puff up their fur for insulation or to intimidate others. Humans retain this ability (goose bumps are the indicator) but have obviously lost most of the fur.
Other examples of vestigial parts include whale leg bones, crab tails, dandelion petals, and vestigial gene sequences or “junk DNA”.
Some vestigial body parts may have borderline uses – lymphoid (immune system) tissue in the tonsils and appendix are examples. But they’re generally considered more or less irrelevant, and at worst irritating or actively harmful. A tonsil might get infected and ache, wisdom teeth might come through wonky or get impacted, a cervical rib might block blood flow, and an appendex can get clogged with crap and become life-threatening. But we’re stuck with these vestiges, for now. Down the track, they might persist as they are, they might repurpose and develop another function, or they might evolve out of existence if there’s enough selective pressure. Vestiges are used, often humorously, as one piece of evidence against the notion of “Intelligent Design”. Who in their right mind would invent sinuses?
Functionalism, in sociology, includes the idea that a human society can be compared to a human body. The different classes of people are like organs and tissues of the body. It’s just fine and dandy to have a quite rigid social hierarchy, because the collections of roles are interdependent, performing specific functions to maintain the homeostasis of the whole. The theory is, as you might expect, not readily able to cope with ideas such as social change, individual agency, and conflict between classes (defined in the broader sense: including gender, race, sexuality, disability as well as socioeconomic class.) It’s pretty much inherently amoral.
John Howard presents as a dominant rich white guy utilitarian functionalist (DRWGUF). He’s down with the ideas of functionalism, with the proviso that he and his cronies get to be the brain. This is a supreme and unquestioned primacy, the ultimate in unexamined self-centredness. In his mind, it’s Just The Way Things Are, and the Way Things Are is the Way Things Should Be. Every other organ in the body exists only to to be of use to the brain, their only functions to maintain cerebral viability. And, arguably, to the reproductive organs, but whether John Howard is best compared to a cerebrum or a scrotum is left as an exercise for the reader.
DRWGUFs think of Aboriginal people as vestiges hanging around here and there on the fringes of our real society, the conqueror’s society. To them, Aboriginal people and Aboriginal society are relics; degenerate, obsolete. They might sometimes be seen as useful, irrelevant, annoying, or downright harmful; but they are always viewed solely in terms of their relationship to the rich white guys who are running the place. They are only understood in terms of their status as the subordinate, the vestigial.
Through the DRWGUF lens, indigenous peoples are vestiges of a former, “primitive” time. They’re not current-day human nations going about their lives and co-existing with other peoples. They wouldn’t be here, if a society was the product of DRWGUF intelligent design, but we’re stuck with them for historical reasons. To DRWGUFs, the idea of Aboriginal people being autonomous is simply unthinkable. Ideas of self-determination, notions that Aboriginal peoples belong to sovereign nations, are as unthinkable as the idea that an tonsil should have a voice in its own fate. The idea of treaty with Aboriginal people is as bizarre to DRWGUFs as entering into negotiations with their own junk DNA. Who reconciles with their grumbling appendix?
Aboriginal communities are only thought about either in terms of their utility to the DRWGUF brain – or, on the flipside, as pathology to be managed, suppressed, removed. When Howard says that “we need to move Aboriginal people into real jobs”, he might as well be talking about a tendon transfer to repurpose his useless palmaris longus tendon to something that can be of service to him. When Howard talks about a unilateral decision to cut off porn and booze and impose unreasonable and racist punitive welfare systems, it’s as if he is mentioning that he has a bit of a smoker’s cough that he needs to take a course of antibiotics for, and that should clear it right up. When he talks about storming in to steal land, he may as well be talking about having surgery to cut off a few pesky skin cancers at risk of ulceration and metastasis. (The analogy doesn’t quite hold unless those cancer cells, once bottled, have a large untapped capacity for commercial exploitation, but work with me here.) He has convinced himself that his crimes are just him doing what is necessary to maintain homeostasis for the whole. Bleaching people of their personhood, their communities, their heritage, and their autonomy is necessary to maintain the “national interest” and “common destiny” myths in the DRWGUF brain.
DRWGUFs, listen up. Your worldview is broken beyond repair. Aboriginal peoples aren’t withered obsolete organs, to be seen only in terms of their utility or troublesomeness. You don’t get to do whatever you want with them. You don’t GET to decide whether to keep them, treat them, or excise them. They are human beings to be respected, not irritating vestiges or evolutionary curiosities. They have societies and a dynamic heritage of their own, as well as being part of a broader Australian society. They form sovereign nations.
Start listening to equal humans, to equal nations. Treaty, now.