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Statement from the Mind

Die ich rief, die Geister,
Werd' ich nun nicht los.

The spirits I summoned -
I can't get rid of them.

Der Zauberlehrling | The sorcerer's apprentice [0]

The Australian Government has decided to hold a referendum on the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (also referred to as First Nation) peoples. The Uluru Statement from the Heart [1] is the document outlining the demands by First Nation peoples to have a voice (referred to as the Voice) in federal parliament. It calls for a "clear rejection of symbolic constitutional recognition" [2] and as such seeks to align governmental policies with Australia's indigenous cultures in a practical manner. Since Australian parliaments deal with contemporary issues in any case, the apparent need for the additional inclusion points to substantial differences between indigenous people and the rest of the nation which presumably cannot be dealt with under the existing framework. Note that indigenous people represent just above three percent of the entire population (see The naked culture under Further reading... below).

We also have the text Design Principles of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, eventually released in March 2023, meant to present more details about the position of the Voice in relation to parliament [3], from now on referred to as the Principles.

Updates: Update - 2 August 2023, Update - 1 September 2023.

Want to cut to the chase? Finally ...

What follows is an analysis based on an approach applicable to nonlinearity under the Otoom model (human activity systems are, above all, nonlinear), and the resultant functionalities. Over 360 examples demonstrating its validity can be found under Parallels. See also Further reading on this site. Since the focus is on functionalities, and since in human affairs initial words do matter, the action which follows the words however characterises the event in a functional sense; what actually happens. For example, the Uluru Statement uses the word 'call', whereas in other associated statements (whether on web sites or comments made in the press) its practical nature is emphasised as well as the nature of actions already performed (hence their practical side). Therefore, those actions in terms of how they have been initiated and the results they led to, qualify for the characterisation of 'demand' in this case.

Australian society is made up of people from over 230 countries [4], none of whom have required any special constitutional treatment. Australia's Constitution [5] is essentially a procedural document, outlining the manner in which governance is performed and how federal and state bodies are meant to interact with each other. In their wisdom the authors foresaw potential problems and in the main the document is as relevant today as it was over a hundred years ago [6]. The Constitution defines the nation's intrinsic nature, its ultimate characteristics and livability. It is an administrative tool, and since any tool can be used properly or improperly, there are safeguards.

The Voice proposal is highly problematic, and for a number of reasons.

First Nation peoples already participate in the administration of governance, from the local, to state, to federal level. In the article The clock is ticking ... towards 2050 mention is made of the well over 100 programs specifically related to the indigenous population and the associated expenditure. More detail is found in The naked culture, dealing with an annual Closing the gap report.

Participation on a definitely practical level occurs when mining companies need tribal elders to point out "sacred sites" in the outback and negotiations result around ancient beliefs which then require a 'culturally sensitive' approach.

The practical impact was also felt when Aboriginal Elders managed to disrupt the light rail project on Queensland's Gold Coast because one of their gods has been asleep for thousands of years in that area (Democracy: out in the cold?). Or take the secretive denial of access to Mt Warning (an area in northern New South Wales), where Aboriginal custodians have decided "access to the mountain is not culturally appropriate or culturally safe". The walking track there has been closed for almost three years, no-one can find out who the members of the responsible Wollumbin Consultative Group (WCG) are and its members refuse to be interviewed. The New South Wales environment department does not reveal their names either; instead it tells us that the WCG represents different family groups and Elders [7]. On Australia Day (26 January) a group of protesters climbed Mt Warning anyway, claiming they received the blessing of "local Indigenous custodian Elizabeth Davis Boyd from the Ngarkwal people". She made headlines before when she "broke down in tears at a public rally sharing her pain at the ongoing drama surrounding access to the beloved site" [8]. A scenario common to populations in their earliest stages: Tribal interests, dubious sentiments, high emotion - the kind of situation explorers used to come across in their travels away from civilisation.

Any human action rests first and foremost on the mind. It is the overall mindset which defines the activity, why and how it is being performed.

Over thousands of years humanity on this planet has evolved. The results vary and can be seen on all continents.

Regardless of race or culture there are common factors that have been recognised and alluded to over and over again when it comes to describe what a civilised state of being means. These factors have contributed in a fundamental way to the state of their society.

There is the intellect which seeks to explore, to understand, to expand one's knowledge, to challenge the status quo. It culminates in the questions "What if ..." and "Why is this so?", no matter what some authority has declared to be untouchable. It also includes the rest of society which appreciates the efforts by the few and recognises their value and cherishes the newly found insights.

There is the sensitivity to detail, the awareness that reality is multifaceted and requires the ability to encompass not just the big picture but its smaller components because in the end it is those that create the whole. That applies not only to the material side but also to human relationships making life bearable for the individual.

There is the appreciation of beauty and elegance reflecting the harmony within nature, whether in architecture, in machines, in mathematics, in art. The striving to recreate that harmony through whatever available means and perceive the outcome as deeply satisfying. To know the beauty of an abstraction reaching its fulfilment.

Above all there is language, because without the myriad of words to describe, to explain and to nuance, the ideas in anyone's mind can never be articulated and shared in order to enrich us even further. The richness in someone's mind, compacted into words, and those words having the chance to unfold again within the recipient. Being able to write them down means they can also be shared across the generations. How many young people have come across a book that suddenly lights up their mind in a way they had never expected?

Such are the factors so necessary for a civilisation. They are and have been continually referred to by members of any society on earth that calls itself civilised, however indirectly they may be used as a means of comparison for example (one of the more recent ones being Figuring Out The Past [9] under the Seshat Project [10]). They are alluded to in advertisements. Sadly, they may not always be implemented by everyone but at the very least they are held up as an ideal. There has never been a single innovation without these factors in some form. In their absence life becomes brutish and human actions move towards the ferocious.

Yet during the earliest days of humanity "What if ..." did not exist; the imposed identity ruled with no opposition permitted. The perception of one's surrounds was crude; details were neither understood nor responded to. Beauty and elegance require a mental abstraction process which was unavailable to the primitive mind as it was subject to the tides of raw emotions. There was no literacy, no numeracy; spoken words were never more than endless repetitions of some simplistic expression. The language with its limited vocabulary could not convey any depth of meaning.

Francisco Goya The Sleep of Reason img
"The sleep of reason produces monsters", 1797-1799, Francisco Goya [11]. It also symbolises the age-old struggle between the coarse and the refined.

That prehistoric mindset is the direct opposite of what is required in a competitive world, especially now with its enormous challenges. To obstruct progress and exploration through the demands based on outdated tribal beliefs is to push us back towards the cruel darkness that once prevailed on this planet.

Why an entire nation would allow itself to be influenced by a mentality most of the world had left behind many thousands of years ago is a question in itself. Cowering before barbarism would be part of the answer. Healthy countries tend to favour advancement. If any society had clung to the sentiments of its primeval ancestors to dictate its day-to-day affairs there would have been no progress. In most cases those ancestors had disappeared long ago to begin with, either through war or assimilation (we all have our origins). Some exceptions occured due to geographical isolation or protective policies, rather than the imaginary resilience of indigenous people.

To rely on oral tradition only, especially coming from such a limited environment, is a haphazard approach to history at best [12]. We still labour under a number of superstitions, those leftovers from the past; a sordid enough situation as it is. To add even more would turn us into an anthropological museum, a kind of zoo (although some tourists love the experience - as long as they can return safely).

Apart from the cowardice just mentioned, the impact of a special kind of catharsis is not insignificant either. While humanity has evolved over the millennia, remnants of earlier violence still exist (to be expected since the brain's regions for processing emotion constitute some of its earliest evolutionary developments [13] and have been part of the feedback loop ever since). Painted over by civilisation and mitigating social standards, they can still be seen in the attraction stories and movies containing violence hold for the general public. For someone situated within a milieu of comfort and tolerance - and now political correctness - it is possible to align oneself with the symbols of tolerance while at the same time flirting with the brutishness so vehemently rejected towards the outside for general consumption. In the current context, by calling for the acceptance of indigenous culture (an officially desirable stance) one can invite its violent aspects (consciously denied but existing nonetheless) at the same time. The result is a pleasing social status for the individual as well as the importation of brutishness into wider society, with neither challenged by the other. Or take the dandy with his avant garde hair style gazing adoringly at an objet d'art primitif, yet wouldn't survive a week if dropped into the location where the piece is in actual use. How perilous to stir the beast in man (with due respect to Zola [14]).

The functional reality

In the past humans branched off into various types of societies, from agricultural to industrial versions. At the same time certain demographics remained at the level of hunter-gatherers, nomads, or just above. For thousands of years they survived in the face of a harsh environment exacting its toll. There, a man had status, with animal teeth around his neck, his scars from combat, beautiful girls demonstrating his sexual prowess. The weak were eliminated, either at birth, through initiation rituals and disease, during fights. Life was brutal, but whoever remained was a fully fledged adult respected by his peers.

Clashes occurred when other demographics came along and changed the ground rules. Now there was agriculture and later industrialisation here and there with their own administrative systems, there were shops, and eventually the commercial activities drew their products from far and wide. Life had changed - status and respect were measured differently.

It happened virtually everywhere: in the Austral-Pacific region, in Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean.

The new arrivals, at first colonisers from Europe, later many East-Indians and Chinese, fashioned the political and economic environment their way. Although the age of colonisation had passed, the entrepreneurial spirit of the newcomers continued to create distinct classes, and the warrior of old with his symbols of proud manhood held no sway. For him the new framework and all those products simply represented the other side, with no clear understanding of why and how it all worked. And so that 'other' was seen as the oppressor.

Had the tribal community been broken through territorial realignments and urbanisation, the need for identity congealed into gangs or subordinated itself to some outside ideology should its leaders serve the purpose.

As a result, shops need iron grilles to protect the staff behind the counter; residences of the newcomers have walls with glass shards embedded on top and watchmen posted 24/7 at the gates. Many of those 'others' carry guns concealed on their bodies just in case. Whenever the tension becomes too great their shops are attacked and looted. Gangs of various kinds assert themselves by disrupting their host society. Sometimes the world's media are present, but usually it is just another day in the life of these communities.

Most visiting politicians, representatives from organisations and industry, and tourists never see that reality because they are protected by measures they are hardly aware of. It remains for the serious traveller to step outside the cocoon and experience the reality face to face. There are risks, but taking the necessary precautions it can be done.

The injection of money and facilities from abroad may help a few but essentially represents an ever-reiterated imposition from the outside. In that context the Western concept of 'poverty' does not mean so much a lack of something; it means an entitled elite vs the underclass. Moreover, the local elite becomes richer, exacerbating the difference.

What the innate violence means at ground level can be gleaned from the riotous behaviour seen in towns like Alice Springs and tribal warfare in remote communities, examples of which are given in The naked culture. We also had the moment when fire was set to the Old Parliament House in Canberra (Democracy: out in the cold?).

In January 2023, Alice Springs in the Northern Territory had been in the news once again. Domestic violence, assaults and property damage rose between 43% and 60% in the 12 months to November 2022. 2,653 assaults over the period in a town of roughly 25,000 [15]. Mostly the crime wave had been sheeted home to the recent lifting of an alcohol ban, although that still doesn't explain why a mind would seek this kind of outlet. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese went there and conferred with politicians, police and community leaders. The town's mayor wanted the Attorney-General to send in the Australian Federal Police or the military, which was however "vehemently" rejected by the Territory's police commissioner [16]. The Army against Aborigines - this doesn't look good. When a business owner said he has had his bakery broken into 41 times, one would think the situation doesn't look too flash from that angle either.

The prime minister spent four hours there. Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley mentions some of the incidents he would have experienced had he taken the time to do so [17]. To quote from her article, "The woman locked herself in the toilet to get away from the perpetrator. He then poured petrol under the door and set it on fire, she was immolated in the toilet", "People have had their heads hit against door frames and with rocks", "Women and children have been beaten with iron bars and poles; attacked with axes and machetes, molested, raped and murdered". A far cry from the view entertained at a safe distance by so many who never had the courage to observe what primitivism means at ground level, preferring the neatly choreographed performances put on display at every opportunity. (By the end of January the alcohol bans had been reinstated [18])

A doctor, wanting to remain anonymous, said, "It's extreme violence. We had a patient in here the other night who tried to decapitate his wife and he cut his own throat. We had both of them in. I've never seen anything like it" [19]. In another article a lawyer once told its author how experiencing such violence first-hand "does change your perspective" [20]. A realisation applicable to any place where similar demographics play their role, in Australia or anywhere else. For the traveller (less likely for the tourist at a resort) observing a situation like the following is an unfailing indicator that civil standards do not apply: "A seemingly orderly gathering can suddenly combust as angry shouts and denunciations rapidly evolve into blows from fists or weapons." A scenario played out day after day with or without the media present.

What doesn't seem to be recognised in the public debates is the fact that tribal societies never had police forces, prisons, counselling services or social services departments. Yet they managed to pull unruly members into line for thousands of years. Their means where different; see The naked culture.

There is another important aspect. The fundamental nature of the proposal, modifying as it does the country's constitution, no less, in favour of one particular demographic for the latter's practical purposes, shifts the text into the political. As the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code [21] states on page 9 ("The nature of the ceremony"):

"Citizenship ceremonies must be non-commercial, apolitical, bipartisan and secular. They must not be used as forums for political, partisan or religious expression, for the distribution of political material or the sale of souvenirs." (Emphasis as per the Code)

Implicit in the ceremony's address is the nation's constitution, what else.

Perhaps some sufficiently perambulatory legal mind can tease away the political implications of a modified Constitution from the intent behind a citizenship ceremony. Otherwise it does seem the very pledge of commitment by aspiring Australian citizens would have acquired a distinctly political and partisan hue. Exactly the opposite of what Australia is supposed to stand for.

The functional imperative

Living systems exist in a state of conflict. Evolution takes place when one side manages to improve itself and therefore wins against another. No matter what feelings an observer may have, the outcome takes two: a winner who could, and a loser who could not.

Tribes, and later larger-scale demographics, fought each other, and if the destruction had been large enough the loser disappeared and it remains for the anthropologist to discover their bones.

Slavery for example happened because one party was able to enslave while the other let itself be enslaved. Only an emerging empathy, derived from a more complex mind, eventually rejected slavery and under the former's influence it has largely disappeared (but not everywhere - in Africa it is still possible to buy a slave although they come under different labels). Dialectical notion building is not available to everyone.

Whether through physical strength, or political or financial resources, the conflict is played out regardless. Any individual or group, if given additional means, will make use of them in order to improve their position - whatever that may mean in terms of cultural, political, and economic perceptions. Likewise, should one side deteriorate the other will have gained by default and act accordingly.

The Principles, published by the Australian Government's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice [3], lists what is considered to be the appropriate format for a constitutional framework serving indigenous culture. To summarise: The Voice will be a permanent body to advise on matters deemed important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and by doing so further their self-determination; the Voice will be independent and proactive; its membership will be chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, not by the Executive Government; it will be representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; will be empowering, community-led, inclusive, respectful and culturally informed; will be accountable and transparent; will work alongside existing organisations and traditional structures; will not have a program delivery function; and it will not have a veto power.

The individuals responsible for the Voice proposal and its details make up three groups: The First Nations Referendum Working Group (21 members), the First Nations Referendum Engagement Group (42), and the Constitutional Expert Group (8); on the face of it, most of these are not the ones who would eventually advise the government as per the Principles [22]. The ulurustatement.org web site also has a paragraph Post-Referendum Process, which reads, "After the referendum, there will be a process with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the Parliament, and the broader public to settle the Voice design. Legislation to establish the Voice will then go through standard parliamentary processes to ensure adequate scrutiny by elected representatives in both houses of Parliament" [23]. The ulurustatement.org web site has 13 members [24], three of whom also belong to the First Nations Referendum Working Group. It can be assumed therefore both entities are in agreement with each other.

Note the functional layout. First we have a policy-producing element, anchored within the country's Constitution, defining itself through what essentially are emotionally laden platitudes with no specific steps offered. Once that element has been locked in after the referendum, the process of actually defining the steps will be negotiated. Imagine someone walking into a car dealership and being told, "First sign the contract and hand over your money, then we'll talk about what a very good car we can offer you". The members of that policy-producing element are not elected by parliament (although the purpose of the Constitution is to ensure parliamentary procedures are protected from misuse), and as the examples in the previous paragraphs have shown, decisions by indigenous bodies are often surrounded by secrecy and unencumbered by outside criticism, while at the same time using resources from the rest of society.

Apart from those obvious reservations, the proposed design is contrary to the nature of the Constitution itself and undermines its very purpose. Already concerns have been raised. One of the members of the Constitutional Expert Group, Professor Greg Craven, has resigned from the group within days when the initial limit placed on the circumstances in which courts could review government decisions in relation to the Voice was overridden by the working group. Now there are no limitations. Professor Craven said that decision was a "huge mistake" and would empower activist judges [25]. So much for the separation of powers.

Given the open-ended format of the Principles, there is no guarantee the current and future participants will have anything other than indigenous issues in mind - whatever in the political arena can be made to fit indigenous issues. Already there are radical individuals waiting in the wings. Lidia Thorpe for example, at present a Senator not avers to crashing gatherings and making her stance clear inside and outside of parliament [26]. Her "Blak sovereignty" policies include demands such as property owners paying rent to indigenous groups, a rewriting of Australia's Constitution, and an Aboriginal-led republic in which First Nations people have "real power" [27]. So far, rigorous political debates, even stunts, are checked by the parliamentary process which prevents the nation from sliding into anarchy. Yet the Voice seeks to undermine those very processes.

Amongst all the words coming from the indigenous quarter there has never been anything that refers to the challenges the country as a whole faces on so many fronts. Climate change impacting the economy, the ageing of the population, belligerent geo-politics, declining educational standards, these are just some of the existential threats already in the making. In addition, the recently signed AUKUS pact between Australia, the UK and the US, represents a far-reaching commitment spanning the entire economy [28]. In the words of Arthur Sinodinos, Australia's ambassador to the US, "Failure is not an option. This is a multi-decadal commitment" [29]. A White House briefing tells us about robotics autonomous systems, investment in generation-after-next quantum capabilities, artificial intelligence and autonomy; quite apart from the nuclear submarines mostly mentioned in the press [30]. How will the mechanism of the Constitution, adjusted to prehistoric preferences, cope with such ambitions? Furthermore, soon any ensuing discussion might be handled by AI-based entities, such as OpenAI's ChatGPT, where certain generalisations give succor to whoever is asking the question (the responses are of a very high quality which is precisely the reason why they would be found useful by many). Here is what it has to say about this referendum.

As for climate change with its own ramifications, the global developments are in line with the predictions made in 2050: Age of the Silverback. Indigenous activists may well push their personal agendas expecting they will be indulged. In years to come they might realise just how different the world of today is compared to fifty thousand years ago.

At the extreme end we have the threat of a nuclear war. The late American author and visiting fellow at Yale University Jonathan Schell gives a minute-by-minute account of what happens when a strategic nuclear device explodes [31]. No indigenous cultural scope comes even close.

Behind it all stands identity. As Lebanese-born French novelist Amin Maalouf writes (In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong [32]), it is one's personal and cultural identity that can be both glory and poison*). In our context, when it comes to the interactions within a society it is the functional distance between one identity and another that ultimately determines the outcome. The greater the distance the harder any reconciliation will be since identity is formed on the basis of one's genetic framework as well as legacy, neither of which can be changed at will. Australia's prime minister is moved to tears when talking about the Voice ("It's the right thing to do") [33], but that doesn't change the reality of the situation (he may reflect on his own cultural heritage which includes a Michelangelo and a Verdi, but it also features a Machiavelli).

*) Activists on either side of the debate could do worse than reading carefully what Maalouf has to say. Of course, as insightful as his discussion of the role of identity is, he doesn't go into the functional details behind the unfolding 'glory' as well as the 'poison', as he stresses on several occasions. That's where the Otoom model comes in.

A further issue of concern is the meaning and interpretation of property, particularly in relation to Native Title. For example, a High Court decision (cited on an Australian Law Commission web page [34]) refers to Native Title as "neither an institution of the common law nor a form of common law tenure but it is recognised by the common law". Yet as is also pointed out, the difference between state laws (New South Wales being one example) can mean that "any transfer of lands to an Aboriginal Land Council under the Act 'includes the transfer of mineral resources or other natural resources contained in those lands'", while in the case of other lands rights legislation "minerals occurring on land owned or held by Aboriginal groups under land rights legislation are owned by the Crown, not the Aboriginal group".

As the current form of legislation has given rise to 301 Native Title determinations [35] (2014 figures, with 13 of them resulting in no Native Title claim), it can be assumed the wording of the law is not entirely unambiguous (note the significant increase in the number of cases from 1997 to 2014). If the status of indigenous people is anchored within the country's constitution, the weight given to claims wholly derived from oral tradition, a 'say-so' reference at best, would make juridical processes even more complicated; and all at the expense of the Crown in one way or another. Which in the end means us, the tax payers.

To be sure, there are a number of analyses and reports dealing with Australia's current status and what to expect in the future. The country is not devoid of individuals who are more than capable of understanding a problematic situation for what it is and draw the necessary conclusions (see Australia's Comparative Advantage report - an analysis below). One wonders though how their efforts will fare once an ancient belief system is looking over their shoulders.

And who decides who is indigenous and who is not? Being the only - minute - section of society which is given a special status under the Constitution creates a minority elite where membership becomes highly desirable. Going by examples from history, the decision rests with that elite and its top tier resorting to racial and cultural profiling. A standard procedure representative of tribal societies that has survived into the 20th century. So much so that within that very time frame such an exercise was able to turn a nation into a tribal culture with all the instruments of despotism available to the rulers.

The test currently used in Australia consists of three elements, "all of which must be proved by the person claiming to be Aboriginal: the person must identify as Aboriginal, the Aboriginal community must recognise the person as Aboriginal, and the person is Aboriginal by way of descent", as outlined in the paper Aboriginality Under The Microscope: The Biological Descent Test In Australian Law [36]. The paper also deals with the history, the international context, and the ambiguities, especially those created by modern science when it comes to definitions of race. As its authors note, "This test reflects a misunderstanding of the scope of genetic science", while also pointing out, "The issue of descent is a matter of vital importance to Aboriginal people for it provides the framework in which rules are set regarding obligations to one's land and one's kin". Beginning with the very definition of Aboriginality, there is already a significant discrepancy between the indigenous perspective and how such issues are handled today.

On a similar note, the Australian Law Reform Commission page, Legal definitions of Aboriginality [37], cites several judicial decisions not in exact agreement with each other simply because the definitions as stated can be seen from various angles. Note also what the Commission has to say in terms of Genetic information and ethics [38], highlighting the ethical problems underpinning this type of decision making process. The situation leaves the door wide open to subjective interpretations, convenient exceptions, and political machinations.

There is a reason why the expression "The School of Life" is so meaningful. There are constant challenges and the time to master them is limited. Some do well, some do not. Like in a classroom, a child who is always behind creates a problem. The rest will be held back in their own development and the child becomes alienated and angry. Unlike the classroom, in life the teacher is reality, and reality doesn't care who succeeds and who doesn't. The consequences in either case do not touch the teacher, they affect the players and no one else. Remedial action is possible but can only go so far. The ultimate determinant is the degree of backwardness in relation to the ambitions of the rest.

Finally, a right, however derived, implies ownership; effective, practical ownership. Then who gets to do what had better be good at it, or else we all suffer. How unconscionable would it be to encourage someone to cross a river when it becomes obvious they can't swim? Yet this is what the Uluru proposal does. Political leaders who dismiss the concerns raised by the accomplished do so at their own and society's risk.
Back to the text.

Over the years some companies have seen fit to include a reference to indigenous people on their web sites. An example is the following, on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's [39] main page: "We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn and work." Sometimes 'Custodians' has segued into 'Owners' [2]. While it could be seen as symbolic, should the referendum pass, its meaning would acquire an additional, if not altogether different, meaning. If it is deemed necessary at all to pay tribute to people of the past, there is nothing similar regarding those without whose contributions something like a broadcasting service in this case could not exist in the first place. Perhaps those writers don't know about science in history, the risks so many discoverers took and the attacks, the tortures, the deaths, that awaited them simply because they had found themselves on the opposing side of the superstition of their day.

The functional traps

In dealing with one's societal environment, whether person-to-person or interacting with groups and demographics, there are certain traps awaiting the unprepared. They can lead to disastrous outcomes. In no particular order:

What one person means is not necessarily understood by the other. Often the difference is obvious, but sometimes the words used by both are virtually the same, yet stand for vastly different concepts. In such cases the difference only becomes apparent after the words had been acted upon, and by that time it can be too late.

Culture represents a conceptual space which processes information under its own auspices. It almost never disappears but may be overshadowed by mannerisms of convenience. What is on open view may not be the same as what happens out of sight.

Hospitality is a powerful driver of behaviour. Generally speaking, the more intricate and the more rigid cultural mores are, the greater the degree of hospitality; in other words, the more tolerance will be shown towards a stranger. It is up to the stranger to tread carefully and never test the boundaries (in fact, never even get close to them). What 'stranger' means depends on the length of stay. The longer the stay, the more the newcomer is expected to observe the local customs. So, either leave before it is too late or immerse yourself in that culture and bear the consequences.

Social pyramids. At their apex is the activist, then come the direct supporters, then more distant ones, followed by the wider participants (for example, in sport we have the players at the top, then the clubs, then stadium functionaries and such, with the spectators at the base). Just about any activity has these pyramids. Hence the performance by some (even an individual) usually means there are so many others following the same mindset, although hardly noticeable at the time.

High emotion on display means just that: high emotion. It can be in the positive with smiles, laughter and handshakes all around, but if triggered by something deemed unacceptable the same intensity is applied to the negative. A handshake can turn into a fist to the head just as readily.

Update - 2 August 2023:
Since the posting of this article on 14 April 2023 a number of developments have taken place that are worthwhile mentioning (although what follows is not exhaustive). There may well be more to come, and hence more updates. The actual referendum has not taken place yet, nor has its date been set.

Perhaps a few words on the thematic scope of this article. Under the Otoom model the functionalities - ie, types of behaviour - to be observed in any given scenario need to ascertained and compared with each other in order to understand the entire situation; just as describing the effects of an electrical current requires the inclusion of volts, amperes, ohms etc to get the full picture. In the case of the Voice the sheer disparity of its contextual elements demands a scope wide enough to accommodate them all. Without that range the significance of such an idea would prove elusive. Here we have a society of the 21st century with all its modern-day complexity, its sophistication, its provenance, and making a connection with conceptualisations stemming from thousands of years ago. Imagine walking into a bank to address certain problems and discovering so many of its staff can't count. How does one explain an error in a statistical equation when even a reference to simple arithmetic doesn't go far enough? Moving on ...

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has released the advice of the Solicitor-General on the practical effect of the Voice to parliament [40]. The report by Dr Stephen Donaghue seeks to make clear the Voice will not impede the workings of governments, countering some of the concerns raised so far. That advice would be based on the legal technical detail but does not cover the psychological aspect of indirect pressure that can be applied, forcing individuals to comply with overall expectations. Such pressure exists already and is widespread. For example, there is no legislation to force event organisers to stage an indigenous 'Welcome to country' ritual at their start, yet it is done in so many cases; there is no law requiring airlines to cover their aircraft in indigenous colour schemes (using a 20th century invention to symbolise a culture which didn't even have the wheel), yet they spent their money on it anyway.

Also interesting is Prime Minister Albanese's assertion that the report proves any claim the Voice will lead to the abolition of Anzac Day is "absolute nonsense". Such responses to criticism are a well-known means to ridicule the other side when facts are unavailable; use the silliest example and pretend it is representative of the whole.

Terence Cole, a former judge on the New South Wales Court of Appeals and described as "one of Australia's leading jurists" expresses his opposition in a submission to a joint parliamentary committee on the Voice [41]. In part, "The Voice is critical to the objectives made clear in the Uluru Statement ... that Aboriginals wish to establish ... sovereignty over Australian territory, ownership of Australian land and surrounding waters ... monetary and other compensation ... (and) truth telling", "To achieve (these) objectives, it is necessary to split the Australian people permanently into two groups based solely on race ... this is wrong in principle". Australians need to understand, he wrote in a separate paper, that the Voice will be used to produce a treaty and monetary compensation and a rewriting of Australian history.

In May it is announced the Voice will cost Australian taxpayers almost $365m [42]. Households will also get pamphlets outlining the Yes and No arguments.

The Queensland state government has passed the "Path to Treaty" legislation [43]. This means a "major truth-telling inquiry" will investigate the massacre of indigenous people, the effect of the Stolen Generation (see The Stolen Generation, Track the History Timeline: The Stolen Generations) and the impacts of colonisation on First Nations and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Queensland. A First Nations treaty institute will be set up within the next three months, to run for at least three years and consist of a five-member board called the "Truth-telling and Healing Inquiry". Its purpose is to establish a framework for negotiating treaties and is given the power to establish the base for financial reparations, health reforms and curriculum changes, and to replace offensive terms in existing laws. Since this is a state government initiative, one can assume it will proceed regardless of the Voice referendum's outcome (it also shows a constitutional change is not needed, running counter to the argument by its proponents).

Ongoing polls show the support for the Voice is waning [44]. Whether that is due to voters becoming more focused or are becoming more doubtful because of the lack of detail, is unclear.

The impact indigenous demands have on general infrastructure has come to a head during a Bush Councils Convention in Goondiwindi, Queensland [45]. During emergencies such as floods and cyclones councils must have access to quarries for the gravel needed to repair roads. That access has become increasingly difficult because of indigenous land use agreements concerning 'cultural compliance'. Hundreds of quarries have become off-limits to council workers. One road project first estimated at $176,000 will now cost $5.6m because getting gravel has been made so difficult. Another typical example of an ancient mindset interfering with the here and now.

In a similar vein farmers around Australia are increasingly worried new rules imposed in Western Australia (WA) will be applied around the nation [46]. These new rules "require permission for any activity that involves digging more than 50cm deep or moving more than 20kg of soil on any property larger than 1100sq m", where that permission has to come from local Aboriginal groups. Individuals who damage a spot which has been declared a cultural heritage site face penalties of up to $1m, while corporations can be fined up to $10m. Since there is no written language in indigenous culture and hence no historical record keeping, the final decision rests on the say-so of this or that tribe with no objectively identifiable measures available. Naturally, the National Farmers Association is concerned and as its vice president David Jochinke said, "Everybody is now hyper aware and hyper sensitive" and "If the WA model was to be rolled out, there would be immense uproar".

Such vague definitions (which are no definitions at all) are already used when it comes to Aboriginality itself - and all in the service of advancing a cause detrimental to contemporary society at large. There is Margo Neale, an Australian National University adjunct professor and head of the Centre for Indigenous Knowledges at the National Museum of Australia who claims "Aboriginal descent from Kulin nation with Gumbayngirr clan connections..." although genealogy checks show she is 100% of Irish, Welsh and English stock. Or, based on such intangibles, a Queensland University ad seeking a lecturer in math and physics stipulating "the occupant must be of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent" would have the desired benefit [47].

The examples mentioned here are the functionalities as part of an overall mindset. They are instrumental in forming society, a demographic, a group of people, in line with the rules of nonlinearity. So much so they can be used in order to define the nature of a society, demographic, and so on. If an outcome needed the functionality 'empathy' to reach its fruition then in its absence that functionality did not exist. Likewise, if an outcome depended upon 'diligence' and the result demonstrated its lack, then that aspect is found wanting. Something to think about when it comes to a company intending to establish itself in another country for example. The approach also proves useful for the individual visitor. If you want to get an idea of the kind of place you're in, check out the inside of small shops, observe how they treat their children, and visit a public toilet. Shops (especially the smaller kind) provide generally desired goods and how they are packaged, in what lots they are available, and what kind of security measures the shop keepers use is a fair indication of how the society runs. The treatment of children is a reflection of the attitude towards the weaker and smaller. And public toilets tell you something about the general standards of hygiene.

All in all, those developments are in line with the assertions made in the main article. A mindset in tune with the requirements of a hunter-gatherer culture for tens of thousands of years, made to align with the framework of a modern, industrialised society with its own myriad of contingencies. In the latter case, even practices a mere decade old can pose problems and need to be updated - extend the discrepancy over millennia and it is virtually impossible unless something has to give. The players demonstrate their own subjectivity without considering (or being able to consider) the effects their position must have on the other side. Motherhood statements advanced by the parties do not address the reality of the situation, rather like children embracing fairy tales as a nice bedtime story; but that's all they are, a nice bedtime story while in the meantime the parents take care of real life. When it comes to the Voice, who will be the parents?

Update - 1 September 2023:
The referendum will be held on 14 October 2023 [48]. The Australian Government's Electoral Commission published a pamphlet outlining arguments for and against the Voice [49] side by side, as well as a booklet [50] which in addition includes a guide on how to fill in the ballot paper. For the referendum to pass a 'double majority' has to be achieved: a national majority (more than 50%) from all states and territories, and a majority (more than 50%) in a majority of states (at least four of the six states) (page 22). Both versions are available online and the print version of the booklet has also been distributed to all Australian households. The points made in the NO section include much of what has already been mentioned on this page.

In a democracy the reliance on a majority to arrive at decisions is at once its strength but can also be its Achilles heel. For the results to be livable the citizens need to be sufficiently informed, otherwise ideology, emotion, or compliance with arguments due to ignorance can bring a society to its knees. For example, if a society generally believes in burning witches, majority rule may be adhered to but life becomes hell on earth for many. As the pressure builds, radical changes are required for which a democratic system is ill equipped.

In the YES section under "KEY FACTS" (p. 12) we find the following summary of what the Voice is meant to represent:

•  Idea comes from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
•  Recognises First Peoples in our Constitution.
•  A committee of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
•  Gives people a say on issues affecting them.
•  Listening will mean better results - and better value for money.
•  Representatives from all states and territories, the Torres Strait Islands and remote communities.
•  Will include young people and a balance of men and women.
•  Parliament and Government still responsible for laws, programs and funding.

The rest of this section (pp. 12 to 18) deals with the above points in a more general manner. And that's the first problem. Despite wanting to have these ideas locked into the Constitution (from which it is virtually impossible to be removed) nowhere is there any detail about how they are going to be implemented; in direct contrast to all the rest in that document where the procedures are outlined in precise terms - which they have to be because the Constitution serves as an over-arching rule set applicable to all Australians, including not only the citizens but also the political parties as they go through the motions of governance. Such precision is the very basis for a stable society, regardless of what political persuasion may prompt this or that initiative. Yet here we have an agenda, free to be formulated on the run, determined by a small group of people, explicitly defined by race, who instructs (advises is the word used) the government on how to run the nation's affairs, whether such 'advice' is against the entire nation's interests or not. A formal process of electing the indigenous representatives is not provided, the other 26 million simply have to trust them, and that small group answers to a mindset tens of thousands of years out of date.

Much is being made of initiatives worth billions of dollars every year not producing results because the recipients are not listened to. A valid point, until one considers the practical side. Firstly, one would expect the giver of substantial amounts of money wanting to have some say in how the money is going to be spent - it would fall under the heading of responsible administration. Secondly, in case of desirable adjustments they are feasible if the giver as well as the recipient are similar in terms of their essential perspectives. Should these be considerably different, any reconciliation is difficult if not impossible due to that discrepancy. For example, if traffic is organised along the lines of cars, trucks and buses, someone using horse and buggy would hardly be satisfied with such rules. And if horse and buggy are taken care of, what about the cars, trucks and buses? Yet the Voice insists on the practical aspects of a hunter-gatherer way of life to be recognised, opening the doors to radical proposals when it comes to dealing with the rest of us ("7. IT OPENS THE DOOR FOR ACTIVISTS", p. 17).

Although Parliament and Government are supposed to be responsible for laws and funding, the pressure applied behind the scenes (since there is no formal process) already affects the laws and moneys even without the change in the Constitution (see also the previous Update). As the NO section mentions, in the current year the government has provided $4.3 billion for the National Indigenous Australians Agency with its 1,400 staff (p. 19). The article The naked culture lists some examples of additional assistance available to indigenous people right now. In the NO section, under "3. IT DIVIDES US" (p. 13), it is recognised that the proposed changes are bound to divide the nation into two distinct categories based on race only. This is supposed to send a "powerful message to the world about Australia's unity" (p. 12)? The YES section drives home that very point: the idea came directly from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, not the politicians (p. 12). Why wouldn't it come from the indigenous side - they argue in line with their ancient views. Why not the politicians - they need to consider the rest of society.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's remarks, "it's why we have to hold the courage of our convictions", is telling [51]. Throughout history the courage of their convictions has allowed people to visit untold misery upon each other, whereas a - largely - rational society is able to safeguard itself and others against the excesses of human emotion. To be rational requires an appreciation of facts, and in its absence the wild takes over. No wonder Albanese's words resonated with his audience at the indigenous Garma festival in Gulkula, some 1000km east of Darwin in the Northern Territory. The 'truth telling', reiterated over and over in support of the Voice, is of a distinctly Orwellian character. Using platitudes in place of facts provides the groundwork.

For facts one needs education, the very thing which is elusive in remote - speak indigenous - communities. There a school attendance rate of 80% is deemed a success [52]. Since the schools do exist as well as the teachers, it would be the parents who are the problem. If 'truth telling' is meant to be our guiding light, why isn't the tribal approach to misbehaving juveniles for example explained - after all, for thousands of years there had been no recourse to courts, jails, and counselling services because all such frameworks didn't exist. Car thefts, home invasions etc are virtually endemic in certain areas that have a substantial indigenous population; this is one area where traditional ways may well provide a solution.

Comparing the YES and NO sections with each other, the contrast is stark. The former contains mostly basic assertions and wishful thinking without any concrete outlines how such visions are going to be implemented on the ground. The latter provides examples from reality and practical misgivings, expressed by individuals who deal with reality day by day. Two examples are Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO and Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, both having ample experience with the situation on the ground, but there are many others. These are people one can work with.

How ironic if the YES vote turns out be the winner: An initiative compelling us to address problems in a practical manner, yet the very people who know about the practical side not having been listened to.

Further reading on this site:

The naked culture
A more detailed analysis of the indigenous perspective.

Democracy: out in the cold?
How governance is becoming unstable, includes examples of indigenous activism.

Australia's Comparative Advantage report - an analysis
Deals with Australia's current status and what to expect in the future.

The not so hidden costs of feminism
The effects of the female mindset on society overall, includes examples of brutality towards the child in the name of culture and/or beauty.

The clock is ticking ... towards 2050
About a National Commission of Audit report which includes programmes and expenditures directed towards Australia's indigenous population.

About the validity of the approach used on this web site, ie, analysing society as a human activity system under the auspices of nonlinearity.

The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
A detailed enumeration of the mistakes in the 2003 Iraq war and published in 2016, confirming what the Otoom model had identified all along.

The 10 axioms of Society
The fundamental rules governing a society - expressed through the quality of the society's members, their resources, their associative perceptions.

Don't read this...
Some observations stripped of emotion.

Mind test
Find out how rational you really are, part of A guide to an enigma (ie, nonlinearity), but relevant nevertheless.

Back to the text.


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42. A Bharadwaj, Vote for the Voice to cost $365m, The Courier Mail, Brisbane, 10 May 2023.

43. J Hall, 'It will be a path to hope and justice', The Courier Mail, Brisbane, 11 May 2023.

44. J Morrow, Voice support 'running scared' after Pearson warning, The Courier Mail, Brisbane, 13 June 2023.

45. M Madigan, Quandary over quarries, The Courier Mail, Brisbane, 27 July 2023.

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52. P Carlyon, 'It's a different world here, mate', The Courier Mail, Brisbane, 29 August 2023.

14 April 2023

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