News March 2012

The Emperor’s new clothes

Often people are afraid to criticize something because everyone else seems to think it is good or important. They play along in order to belong, somehow desperate to be part of something. They deny themselves and their beliefs in order to be accepted – often into a realm, an area they don’t really want to belong to or be part of – however, they do it in the belief that it is expected of them by society, family and friends.

People who point out the pretensions of powerful people and institutions are often compared to the child who says that ‘the emperor has no clothes’. It refers to a situation where people who are unwilling to risk looking ignorant or stupid by admitting they cannot see the value of something, going along with the ‘experts’ who extol its value. It goes hand in hand with pride – pretending to be and be seen as something they are not.

The Aboriginal people have not done so. They were expected to change, submit and accept a way of life that was foreign and seemed senseless to them. Becoming part of a society that expected them to change their view of the world and everything they believed in. Like the child in the story, they stood up for what they knew to be right rather than agreeing with the idea that Western ways were the one and only way to survive. Their strong relationship and connection to the land telling them to hold steady with what they believed in and were taught over thousands of years. This stance did not detract from the wisdom of the Aborigines, able to use and adapt to concepts that were useful. There was no wanton disobedience out of defiance to the new ways, where they made sense – rather through observation the dissemination of the information, then discarded or re-assembled in a way appropriate to the Aboriginal culture. To throw all knowledge away as senseless is to adopt an attitude of pride rather than one of intelligent inquisitiveness.

The strength lies in knowing where you are coming from. Not just in habitation but in a depth of history. This gives us the security and power to know where we are going. The direction we want to take. The indigenous people of Australia are highlighting for us the human determination to survive against all odds and turn adversity into victory – not afraid to criticize something because everyone else seems to think it is good or important. Nor discarding what makes sense to adopt into their culture, which is the very essence of man looking to improve himself. This offers a nature of robustness built on what works rather than on what is said to work. And gives the momentum to advance from adversity to victory.

‘Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.’ (Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884 – 1962)


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