Australian Functional Ingredients Pty Ltd

Closing the Gap? Dumb answers to Complex Questions

Another insightful, poignant, reflective dispatch from a mate, Frank Barda who has lived in a remote Aboriginal community on the edge of the Tanami Desert for what must be over 45 years now. He provides some unique insights into the ‘management and administration’ of Aboriginal people all over the country. It would be funny if it were not so depressingly true.

Frank’s dispatch:

Things continue to get curiouser and curiouser. If only they were getting better….

When those in authority can convincingly assert that we definitely should do nothing to try and save the planet lest it “hurt the economy” and large sections of the public fail to see that the Emperor has no clothes and lives in a house of cards. The inmates are in charge of the asylum. Like Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, the plot is lost, but unlike MH370 there is no serious effort to find it. The cart is firmly placed in front of the horse.

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Japaljarri (a close friend) sent me a book “Debt- The first 5,000 years”.

At the beginning of Chapter Two, David Graeber quotes H.L.Mencken: “For every subtle and complicated question, there is a perfectly simple and straightforward answer, which is wrong”

I don’t know the context in which H.L.Mencken uttered those words, but they describe in a nutshell what remote Aboriginal society has been and continues to be subjected to.

The Northern Territory Emergency Response (the Intervention)’s Government Business Managers (GBMs or Ginger Bread Men) have been rebadged GECs (Government Engagement Co-ordinators) under the Stronger Futures (Intervention Mark II) legislation. Engagement has replaced Consultation. When you Consult you ask Subtle and Complicated questions, when you Engage you provide perfectly Simple and Straightforward answers…… which are wrong.

When I read these words out to Nangala, without hesitation she came up with the same example I first thought of: School Attendance.

Not long ago the current Minister for Indigenous Affairs did a “whistle-stop” tour of remote communities to cajole Aboriginal Australia into sending their children to school.

He saw the question as to why Aboriginal children were “performing below the standards” as having a Simple and Straightforward answer: “Send them to School”
stronger-futuresOne of the Northern Territory’s claims to fame is that the rate of incarceration of black people exceeds the rate of incarceration of black people in South Africa during the Apartheid era. The two prisons in the NT are filled to capacity. To the question of what should be done about it the NT Governments had and have a Simple and Straightforward answer: “Build another gaol”

During the Whitlam/Fraser era, a baby was born. They named it Self Determination. The baby ‘failed to thrive’, it was given few opportunities to do so.

When the question as to what should be done about this situation was posed a Simple and Straightforward answer emerged: “Throw the baby out with the bath water”. Stolen Futures.

End of dispatch.

Frank has a great turn of phrase and his loaded sentences should make all Australians think and act.

I went to a lecture last night given by UK Professor Gerard Hastings on the insane power of marketing today. We are sold so much rubbish and trained to be good consumers from a young age at an unparalleled cost to the planet and a threat to our own survival as a species.

He was addressing the topic: How do the food, alcohol and tobacco industries shape the consumption choices of populations?  The question he posed was: How do we handle the fact that 63% of Australians are over-weight or obese? Simple and Straightforward answer: Avoid processed food, excessive alcohol consumption and don’t smoke. (And take Metformin to treat your diabetes, statin drugs to lower your cholesterol and stay on aspirin to safeguard against cardiovascular disease).

As readers of my blog know, even choosing a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables won’t make you healthy these days. In addition, some processed food (frozen and canned produce, for example) can be better for us than the unprocessed ingredients. We also need to embrace game meats and wild fruits and herbs. The plant food group is best in a blended, whole fruit form where super-sour components are matched with sweeter superfoods for palatability and the more the merrier as we also desperately need to expand our dietary range.

One thing is for sure. The solutions to our woes will not come from the corporations or government.  As Prof Hastings also illustrated, we need to make informed, intelligent, personal choices and support products that are sustainable – environmentally, socially (culturally) and economically.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

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