We have had a lot of discussion in Australia about the situation of remote Aboriginal communities. When I was a much younger man a women from mixed Torres island/Aboriginal descent who had sons my age told me that welfare was the biggest ‘evil’ in their society. Later this idea became the main message of one of Australia’s prominent Aboriginal activists, Noel Pearson. Last year the Australian Government sent in the troops in an emergency response to child abuse in the Northern Territory. Noel Pearson supported this, as did a number of organisations such as the National Rural Health Alliance which I am a board member. However our motivation for this is so we could support the government moving from a passive to active response, in the hope we could encourage that active response to progress into the engagement many of us had been arguing for many years. There has since been a change of government in Australia and the new government is making increasing overtures in the direction of a better engagement with those communities.
However the difficulty the Australian society is having, bringing the Aboriginal community along as we progress into a post-industrial world; and other issues such as the flouridation of water I have previously mentioned, has had me pondering on the idea of cul-de-sacs in human society. Evolution theory predicts that any individual mutation within a species, while initially successful, might lead down a cul-de-sac.
There are some who believe that the homo sapien has moved beyond natural selection, and will only physically evolve through our own acts upon ourself. Even if this is so, the primary condition of evolution must be met – the species must be adapted to succeed in whatever environment the future holds.
We can only be sure about one thing about the future – that it is precarious and likely to change in big ways. So it is important that humans are able to adapt in any direction that our physical and social environment moves. If we cannot, we have moved into a cul-de-sac. Once in a cul-de-sac, the next change in environment – physical, social, psychological – may be the last we see.
The main way to build a cul-de-sac for society or any sub-section, is to create a passive system. Mainstream society has herded Aboriginal Australia down a cul-de-sac of welfare – well more of a box canyon. It is so difficult for such communities to find their way to a new footing. I mentioned flouridation, because in health this is also a cul-de-sac. It gives a small health benefit and then it stops right there. It is a passive system and leads nowhere. It is in our own best interests to ensure that we rail against any attempts by governments or paternalistic organisations foisting passive sytems on us. Our life depends on it.