[Linux-aus] Acknowledgement of country

Anthony Towns aj at erisian.com.au
Sat Nov 7 18:36:31 AEDT 2015

On Sat, Nov 07, 2015 at 12:32:48PM +1100, Donna Benjamin wrote:
> I found this crikey wrap up of opinions from 5 years ago to be an interesting snapshot.
> http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/03/18/welcome-to-country-a-token-debate/

The first three words of that article are name-calling. Would you point
to an article as "a wrap of opinions" that's "an interesting snapshot"
of views on gamergate if it started with "The feminazis once again
inflamed debate this week..." or anything like it?

> A community leadership summit unconf will be happeneing again as a
> miniconf at LCA, and I have actively invited members of some aboriginal
> organisations to come and share their thoughts on community leadership.
> I feel embarrassed about having done that now.

I don't see why you should. Are you treating them any different to, say,
members of an evangelical church who might have some interesting thoughts
on community leadership to share?

(At least, treating them any differently in any way other than choosing
where to direct /your/ time and focus, for which you're certainly allowed
to be as biassed as you like)

I mean consider what Noel and Brent actually said on the principle
rather than the actions to be taken:

 Noel: "there is no them and us, no black and white,
        we are all Australians"

 Brent: "Indigenous Australian recognition is a given"

Is that meant to be embarrassing?

> I reached out to a couple of indigenous leaders to encourage them to
> submit a miniconf proposal to explore open technology use in indigenous
> cultures.  I see now that may have been premature, and they were right
> to be cautious.

I'm not sure what you mean there; it seems unlikely to me that there'd
be enough speakers to fill up a whole day's worth of miniconf on that
topic at an lca level? Though I guess I'm already a bit surprised at
the astronomy and radio miniconfs managing to fill up two days' worth
of slots repeatedly, so take it with a grain of salt.

But just having a talk or three on the topic seems like a no-brainer

> I've had many international visitors remark that they found the
> acknowledgement or welcome to country to be a good thing.  I think it's
> a really lovely custom.  I don't see it as identity politics at all -
> but as something uniquely Australian, uniquely "local" to place, and
> a genuine, and open hearted way to welcome newcomers, and acknowledge
> even older customs about bringing people together.

It's like saying "open source is a meritocracy". That can come from
an open hearted place, as a way to emphasise that everyone's welcome,
and that it's what you do that matters. Or it can be (taken as) a way
of saying that if you haven't already made it, it's because you don't
deserve to, and that there are no systemic or unfair practices in place
that are worth addressing [0].

Personally, I think it's fair to take both interpretations into
account. Is the communicator trying to be welcoming? Then maybe cut them
some slack and don't interpret it negatively. Do people get the wrong
message from it? Then take their feelings into account and modify the
message, or at least don't harp on about it repeatedly.

I think having a conference organiser choose to do a welcome to country
falls mostly in the first half; I think making it an organisational
policy falls mostly in the latter half. YMMV of course.

The identity politics side of things, to my mind, comes in when you start
dividing groups into allies and enemies, and deciding who gets cut slack
based on whether they're your friends or not. Because, obviously, annoying
your enemies is a good thing, so when you talk about them you call them
names, and if you find an idea that makes your allies feel good and annoys
your enemies, you make it a policy to talk about it as often as possible;
because rewarding your friends and hurting your opponents is a good thing.

And it's also deliberately divisive, driving your enemies away.

Which is particularly fun, because the second half of that equivalence
is obviously good (especially if there are lamentations involved), but
the first half isn't something people are supposed to admit to being
these days [1].

aj, probably just putting himself further in the "enemies" camp

[0] eg http://garann.com/dev/2012/you-keep-using-that-word/

[1] Which in turn is most fun when people try coming up with caveats
    to make it not seem hypocritical, like "it's okay to be divisive
    against divisive people", or "you don't have to tolerate intolerant
    people", and then have to pretend recursion isn't a thing.

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