Those who did not pay attention in primary school may not be aware of the fact that Australia was discovered by Captain Cook in 1770. Some of you may be suffering from the delusion that it was discovered some 40,000 years earlier by a bunch of blackfellas. Some may believe it was Willem Janszoon, purportedly the first white man to set foot on this land, in the vicinity of Cape York way back in 1606 would you believe, or maybe Dirk Hartog who mapped the west coast in 1616, or William Dampier in 1669. But you see, the problem with all these people is they were not Englishmen and we all know that Australia was discovered by the English, the very pinnacle of human evolution according to the social Darwinism that was all the rage at the time. So there fore logically speaking they could not have discovered Australia because they were Dutchmen weren’t they? But hang on, what about good old Able Tasman who discovered Tasmania several times, way back in 1642. Well as luck would have it, bad luck as it turns out he has the dubious honour of circumnavigating the largest island in the whole world without an inkling of its existence. After circumnavigating Tasmania he set his compass due north in the hope of coming across the fabled Great Southern Land, alas, a wild storm cropped up in the night and the woke up in Aetearoa (the land of the wrong white crowd) renowned for its bloodthirsty savages. They didn’t stay long but headed north again, eventually ending up in the Philipines, then heading south-west to Batavia, (Jakarta) then returning to Drizzle & Fog a broken man where he lived out his days telling anyone who would listen: “Australia doesn’t exist, l know l’ve been there.”
Some time later Captain Cook did actually stumble across the place. Some of you may not be aware that he sailed all the way up the east coast without once setting foot on terra firma. It was not until his boat sprung a leak on the notorious Great Barrier Reef that he came ashore to fix it. There he encountered the Guugu Yimidirrh people.
He offered them gifts of cloth, nails and paper all of which they obviously found completely useless, but they were delighted when he gave them a fish, which they regarded as a symbolic gift.
He pointed his index finger at a large fury beast and enquired:
“What is that?”
Unaware that the loclals point with there nose (no doubt because they usually have their hands full) The fellow said gungurru, which is of course the Guugu Yimidirrh word for finger.
After repairing the boat, which took 6 weeks, Captain Cook bid a fond farewell to the Guugu Yimidirrh and set sail for the Cook islands which had a different name at the time, where he did not receive such a warm welcome.
He wrote in his log:
‘From what I have seen of the natives of New Holland, they may appear to be some of the most wretched people on Earth, but in reality they are far happier than we Europeans, being wholly unacquainted not only with the superfluous, but with the necessary conveniences so much sought after in Europe. They are happy in not knowing the use of them. They live in tranquillity. The earth and the sea of their own accord furnish them with all things necessary in life.’
This is a very important statement. A description of the first encounter with people living in the Stone Age. They were obviously as happy, if not happier than we are today. So that begs the question ‘what is all this development for? All this technology, all these gadgets, all this stuff. Obviously not to make us happier, we were already happy. The only advantage to all this technological development is that we can support more and more people. But is the world a better place for having more people in it? Are we happier because there are more of us? This is not a rhetorical question? This is a very important question, at the very nub of the paradigm shift we face. The only advantage to an ever increasing population is that it is good for business. An ever growing population is an ever growing market. It keeps wages down and prices up. It keeps the economy growing and an economy that is not growing is not an economy at all.
Now where was I before I drifted off course into that diatribe. Ah yes, Captain Cook was sailing off to meet his grizzly fate. A friend of mine was teaching at a school in Aukland a place much frequented by auks and Cook islanders. She innocently asked of her 5th graders ‘what do you know about Captain Cook?’ A little girl, of no more than 8 years old pipped up with:
“My great great grandfather ate him”
Aparently Australia wasn’t always called Australia. When Captain Cook first arrived in his boat, he spied a group of natives involved in some sort of ceremony involving fire and animal sacrifice. Ignoring the caution of his less intrepid companions he strode purposefully up to them and asked:
To which the natives replied in surprisingly good English:
”Barbeque area, bro”
Captain Cook promptly claimed all of Barbequearea in the name of the king and returned to England forthwith to tell said king the good news. The king however was not impressed, having delt with cheeky natives before.
“They were pulling your leg mate, having a lend of you, taking the piss”. The good Captain was blank with incomprehension till the king said “Jimmy, they were being faceacious.”
Ben Boyang 2010