Monday, May 17, 2010

Just Jottings

Somehow, yesterday escaped me! Today just a meander

Let me start with a gripe on something that continues to worry me.

Growing up, I met all sorts of people from different backgrounds. I came from a privileged background, but you could not live where I lived or where I went to university without mixing widely. Then in Canberra my cohort, while all specially selected graduates, came from all over Australia and from many different backgrounds. Later, as a political and community activist in a non-metro community, I necessarily mixed widely.

I liked and like this.

I was reminded of all this by a birthday dinner I went to Saturday night. It was a fun evening with nice people; lots to drink with flowing conversation. This was also a bit of a battlers' group. We were there almost by accident, a holiday connection at South West Rocks.

In modern city Australia it is, or so it seems to me, increasingly difficult to mix across socio-economic divides. I think that that's not just pity, but is dangerous.          

Turning to other matters, in Professor Asten, climate change and Australia's Aboriginal peoples I suggested that more research into Australia's past climates was a good thing. Here I was especially concerned with what has been called the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), a period of warmer climate in Northern Europe that lasted from around 950AD to 1250AD. It was followed by what has been called the Little Ice Age, a period of much colder temperatures.

In the post I noted the climate change linkage, the question of whether or not the MWP was a Northern Hemisphere or even Northern European phenomenon or global. Later I saw a story carried on Neil's Google Reader, What we can learn from studying the last millennium (or so).

I read the story with some interest, including the comments. At the end I wasn't a great deal wiser, just more confused! From my viewpoint as an historian, I am less interested in the climate change issue, more about what past climates mean for human life.

I have no problem with the idea that there might be regional variations in the pattern of past climate change. I just want to know what they were!

I finally found the on-line description of the Government's resource rent tax. I knew that there had to be something there, but the web structure makes it difficult to find. My word, it may be elegant as Ross Garnaut suggests, but it's also complicated.

This is not a criticism, just a personal description of my reaction. It makes me glad that I did not comment in detail just based on the press releases.

With this type of thing, I often go to the alternative viewpoint, in this case Cattalaxy Files. It's not that I necessarily agree, but those who oppose sometimes provide greater clarity than those who support. I will write something more in due course.

My current thinking is much enmeshed in New England, past and present. As a consequence, I appear to have let the latest version of the Australian national history curriculum go through to the keeper, along with the latest problems emerging in Australia's university sector; essentially more students, no more immediate money, together with the burdens of increasing complexity.

A week or so back I had an email from a history teacher seeking support in the development of on-line material for the local components of the new history curriculum. I provided advice as best I could for the request  was directly relevant to my current thinking.

There are a number of threads in my current historical obsessions.

I realised that I am now coming up on the deadlines for the paper I am to give in July in Armidale on New England's Aboriginal languages. Cheryl Riley who is the convener of a Facebook Page -  Aboriginal Language Revival Movement - dedicated to the revival of NSW's Aboriginal languages asked for some help. I as a consequence I am taking the opportunity to publish some of my background material to help me refine my thinking. So far one post up - Introduction to New England's Aboriginal languages.  

  I am also deeply sunk in aspects of New England thought. There is an interesting juxtaposition here between past and present, for with the slow revival of interest in New England and in the new state cause I am now writing more with a present audience in mind. That's quite helpful, for it means that in revisiting the past I am also looking at arguments that may or may not be relevant to the present time.

There are interesting complexities in all this.

Since  the 1921 The Guyra Ghost Mystery, over 20 films have been produced with New England connections. You can look at these films as part of New England history, but they cannot be thought of as part of New England thought because most were not even identified as New England. They had no influence on New England thinking.

Now that I and a few others are starting to record the films and look at their historical linkages, the films as a collection start to become accessible. If, for example, teachers start to refer to particular films in class that are relevant to their areas and can be linked to other aspects of life, then the films do start to enter New England thinking.

This is, I think, the totally addictive element in my present historical work.

As I have said before, history that is not presented and re-presented is lost. It doesn't matter a damn in the long term whether my specific historical arguments are accepted or rejected, although it would be nice to think that some might stand the test of time. What does matter is that one person here, another there, becomes interested and adds to knowledge and discussion.

When I look back over my career with its successes and failures, when I look forward to the time I have remaining, it would be nice to think that I have played a part in the revival and re-presentation of New England history and thought.      

No comments: