Thursday, March 7, 2013

Why would anyone want to destroy this?

Why would anyone want to destroy this?:
If you travel to the far north-west of Australia, you’ll find a town called Broome waving casually at Asia atop blushing red cliffs kissed by turquoise sea. You’ll see a town inhabited by powdery people. They have red dirt stuck in the cracks of their feet and eyes that crease like dry river beds. The first thing you’ll notice is that many of these people are in love with the land.

Dave Smith's photo
Not love in that cliched "nature lover" kind of way. I mean love in the sense of something torrid, exquisitely painful, and strewn with obstacles. A love that makes people surrender the self for a higher good. Love lies behind one of Australia’s most extraordinary local battles against global resource companies. It’s a battle for the soul of Broome fought on the beaches of James Price Point.

Would you want a gas company digging up the graves of your parents? She told me that James Price Point is a source of bush food and a part of their song cycle; a dynamic law governing relations between people, and people and land that has survived colonisation. Speaking in non-native English, Teresa was eloquent in describing her connection to country.

Where Teresa was lucid, the people of Broome simply blubbered. Eyes were brimful or splashing with tears, lips quavered and deep intakes of breath were drawn. Unlike Teresa, the non-Indigenous inhabitants I interviewed lacked a vocabulary to describe their connection to land. Why? Because Western civilisation has done a fantastic job of separating us from nature. We have no language to describe the transcendental forces that our connection to earth can summon, and so we turn to a culturally validated form of spiritual connection. We turn to the language of love.

The people of Broome cry because words fail. They weep in the same way as lovers weep when asked to describe their emotions at the prospect of separation. "Words cannot contain my feelings" we say. And so the body steps in. Tears speak feelings that words diminish.

And yet the task of love is to attempt description. Louise, a local campaigner, asked me to forgive her for her scattered thoughts, as she looked away and then lovingly described the body of her amour. "When I think of James Price Point" she said, "I can smell the tea tree, feel the shade of the remnant rainforest. I can taste the fish. I could dream it from wherever I was in the world. I knew I was safe there." She told me of the contours of dinosaur footprints etched in the rocks and wept at the thought that Woodside could take this from her. Love is always set ablaze by impending loss.

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