Germaine Greer’s just-published Quarterly Essay, Whitefella Jump Up, adds yet more credence to my theory that Greer has metamorphosised into a Barry Humphries creation: the eccentric old bluestocking aunt who loves to blather on in a colourfully opinionated, slightly shocking way about the great issues of the day. These, oddly enough, seem to always come back to the single greatest issue of all – herself. It’s kind of like a literary Tourette’s Syndrome aligned with the hectoring knows-bestism of a suburban domantrix – complete with nudie pix. The sort of rich, layered caricature that makes Edna Everage look one dimensional.
In Whitefella Germaine argues that Australian salvation can only be achieved through adopting “aboriginality” – or at least her somewhat unique interpretation of same. Greer’s aboriginality has less to do with race and genetics, it’s more about mindset – her’s, lest there be any doubt.
To precis, Anglo-Celt invaders disrupted the Edenesque idyll that was Australia and have separated people from empathetic communion with the land ever since. We are meant to be a hunter-gatherer culture according to Greer, nature thus intended it and thus it must be. We will never find peace, enlightenment or relief from buffle grass invasion until we accept that basic fact. Nor will Greer herself return to live amongst us permanently until we make it so. This was possibly the only encouraging insight offered.
Greer’s is an equal opportunity assault. Aboriginals themselves aren’t “aboriginal” at all in the Greerite sense. They’ve lost it in a misguided attempt to escape their destiny. Greens need not get excited either. Their’s is a foolish crusade to evade Mother Nature’s dictatorial will. Australians of Asian ancestry – and indeed any ancestry other than Anglo-Celtic – will find an equality of sorts in their utter absence from Greer’s narrative. They simply don’t exist. In fact I was left with the distinct impression that Greer’s vision of Australia ceases to evolve around 1960. Her major focus (if I might over-generously term it that) is on the Anglo-Celtic ascendancy that has tried – and deservedly failed – to create the sort of modern, urbanised nation-state that is anathema to hunter-gatherer culture aficionados everywhere.
This is the sort of self-indulgent “natural man” nostalgia-wallowing that makes Jean-Jacques Rousseau look uberhip, cutting edge. Here’s Germaine on her “adoption” by Kulin aboriginal women:
“Though I can claim no drop of Aboriginal blood, twenty years ago Kulin women from Fitzroy adopted me. There are whitefellas who insist that blackfellas don’t practise adoption; all I can say is that when I asked about the possibility of assuming Aboriginality, the Kulin women said at once, “we’ll adopt you.” “How do you do that?” I asked, hoping I wouldn’t be required to camp in some bleak spot for a month or two and be painted or smoked or cut about. “That’s it, ” they said. “It’s done. We’ve adopted you.”
You’d like to think that the Kulin women laughed like drains when Germaine drifted off but they were probably more likely to have been moderately despondent at the bewildering behaviour of whitefellas…..as usual.
Here’s a link to Greer’s interview with Jana Wendt on 9’s Sunday