There has been something of an apparent running debate between those who argue that hunter-gatherer societies were essentially violent, while others argue that warfare as such came with farming and state power. You see the second in some of the discussion on traditional Aboriginal life where it is argued that Aboriginal society was essentially peaceful. A contrast is then made with the European invaders. I have always thought that this debate was a little a-historical with a fair degree of semantic confusion. For example, what is meant by peaceful or warfare?
Meantime, since I wrote The Sulawesi discoveries: where does Australian prehistory fit? John Hawks has had a useful perspective piece, Somebody was on Sulawesi before 118,000 years ago, while University of New England's Dr Mark Moore who analysed the stone tools recovered from the excavation, reports that the tools were finely crafted with a high degree of skill involved.
Neil Whitfield had an interesting companion post, The state of Australian culture, to my last post, That Australian Life - has Australian culture entered into decline? There he quotes Myf Warhurst's review of Brilliant Creatures:
When the small screen and broader media only reflects back at us who we already are rather than challenging or educating us, surely we’re in a spot of bother? If Brilliant Creatures has a message, it’s that ruffling of feathers and robust viewpoints will be remembered. The rest is wallpaper. And currently, we’ve got plenty of that.
Australians are in danger of disappearing up their own self-reflexive, but thoughtfully designed and padded, backsides. Sadly we’re all too high on the paint fumes of home renovation to give much of a toss.
As part of my train reading, I am reading Clive James Cultural Amnesia. It's a very good book but also very large! Consequently, I am reading it in bits, mainly delving just before I go to bed. The characters selected and especially the arguments presented reflect the author's times and especially European history and thought before, during and in the decades immediately after the Second World War. This covers the period when his views were formed and when he rose to prominence, something clearly indicated by the subtitle on the English edition of the book, notes in the margin of my time.
Early in the book, Clive James refers to common language that used to provide a degree of unity in intellectual traditions across European cultures. He had poetry especially in mind, the way that memorised poetry provided a linking from Australia to Germany to England to the US to Italy, but it is also a broader point. As sharing declines, understanding becomes more difficult. Reading Cultural Amnesia, I actually wondered how many people in 2016 might understand some of the essays without a knowledge of history and culture.
I digress, but this is a muse. Considering the discussion, I concluded that I had been guilty of sloppy wording, a heinous sin for one who strives if unsuccessfully for clarity in English. I have previously argued in a different context that Australian culture has not declined, that it remains as strong as ever as a unifying element despite growing diversity in Australian society. I am using the term culture here in its broadest sense. What I really meant to say, I think, is that certain aspects of Australian culture have lost their influence in Australia and beyond.
Even here, I could be (and indeed was) challenged. Part of the problem lies in time and overlap effects. If the genesis of something lies in the 1960s and 1970s but continues into the 1980s or beyond, then how do you attribute it? Pub rock is an example. This clearly dates to the 1970s, but peaked in the 1980s. How, then, do you classify it?
I will continue this discussion in a later post. For the moment, I have run out of time.
Since I wrote this post, Legal Eagle has pointed me to this Economist piece that bears upon the discussion of the peacefulness or otherwise of hunter gatherer societies as compared to farming communities.