Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Secret River and Encountering Conflict.

Some brief thoughts after second, or third reading of the text. Nothing special. Just some stuff I'll share with my current students to stimulate a bit of discussion and writing, I hope.

The most significant conflict in the text was incurred because Thornhill, and the other settlers, took land that belonged to the aboriginal people. This is so fraught. What else could they do, given who they were? They were ignorant, uneducated convicts, transported to Australia at a time when the average human hadn’t evolved much. (The average person’s mind still functions at a base level and is racist, territorial and often morally savage. Can’t pretend to be nice and all embracing of my fellow humans. This is just the truth for me.)

Thornhill struggles to recognize the humanity in the aboriginal people even though he sees their intelligence and their similarities to himself. (This isn’t a text response essay, but think of him noticing the shape of the poisoned child’s skull; consider him pondering the ease with which the blacks found the food they needed yet still had time to play with their children. Think of your own prejudices and be honest about them. I’m not going to confess my own here, but I had to bite down on a racist reaction to a woman who won a lot of money on Deal or No Deal during the holidays. BTW, speaking of dumb, I’ve only watched it once in my life – my son had to explain how it worked – and I was recovering from flu.)

Given who Thornhill was, and his lack of opportunity in England, he couldn’t return. He had to stay on his land, even if it meant being involved in the slaughter of the aboriginal people who lived there before him. (And how gormlessly did he go along with that?? Pity he wasn’t more like his son, Dick. But there you go. He didn’t have his son’s perspective. He couldn’t have it.)

So this conflict, however terrible, was unavoidable for the types of people involved, with their very human nature. It changed the world, decimating a race of people. And how many times throughout history has that happened?? It wasn’t so much survival of the fittest as survival of those with superior weaponry, cunning, and immune systems.

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