[Marxism] on being sacred

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Sun Nov 22 03:14:55 MST 2015


Recently I was in a remote Indigenous community and was reflecting on the
presence of a sacred mountain nearby.  There are sacred mountains in the
APY lands of Northern South Australia and in the Northern Territory. The
concept of a sacred mountain is not that new to me.  When in Tromso, Norway
for a Critical Realist Conference in 2006, I remember with fondness a
dinner where my 64 birthday was celebrated by many of the leading critical
realists including my dear departed friend Roy Bhaskar. We were met in the
shadow of a sacred mountain of the Sami people.



As I sat meditating on all this I thought of  how Indigenous Australians
had still a concept of life and nature as being of value and, as Bhaskar
put it, enchanted. I then thought of the absence of sacred sites for
Non-Indigenous Australians.  There seems no part of this land that
mainstream Australians won’t have nuclear bombs set off on it or dug up for
minerals.



Immediately, though, the thought came to mind that, if non-Indigenous
Australia had a sacred site, it was in Anzac Cove, Gallipoli Turkey, where
Australian and New Zealand troops (The Anzacs) were defeated by the Turkish
Army in WW1 1915-1916.  I asked myself how could it be that the sacred site
for White Australia was somewhere thousands of miles from Australia, and
the site of a WW1 disaster.  The answer came much later when re-reading the
following poem by Rupert Brooke (1887-1915), who died of sepsis on his way
to Gallipoli.


I recall admiring this poem as a high school student.  I also recall a
university tutorial where we all declared that we thought it was a great
poem.  Then our tutor set about a close reading of the poem.  He asked each
one of us to consider what the words ‘a richer dust concealed” might mean.  I
know now that the tutor was rechannelling Leavis’ criticism of the Georgian
poets.  But at that time the tutorial had a profound impact on me. The
conclusion, that English dust was richer than foreign dust could only
spring from a colonial racist mentality, was shocking for me, at the age of
18.  That a foreign land was made more valuable because an Englishman died
there spoke wonders about the imperial mindset and my education which until
then had failed to point this out.



Now my mind takes me to Anzac Cove and I wonder to what extent it is sacred
to Australians because there is within that dust a richer dust concealed.

He wrote



If I should die, think only this of me;

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is for ever England.  There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;

A dust whom England bore, shaped and made aware,

Gave once her flowers to love, her ways to roam,

A body of England’s breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.



And think ,this heart, all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;

Her sights and sound; dreams happy as her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,

In hearts at peace, under an English heaven



I recall admiring this poem as a high school student.  I also recall a
university tutorial where we all declared that we thought it was a great
poem.  Then our tutor set about a close reading of the poem.  He asked each
one of us to consider what the words ‘a richer dust concealed” might mean.  I
know now that the tutor was rechannelling Leavis’ criticism of the Georgian
poets.  But at that time the tutorial had a profound impact on me. The
conclusion, that English dust was richer than foreign dust could only
spring from a colonial racist mentality, was shocking for me, at the age of
18.  That a foreign land was made more valuable because an Englishman died
there spoke wonders about the imperial mindset and my education which until
then had failed to point this out.



Now my mind takes me to Anzac Cove and I wonder to what extent it is sacred
to Australians because there is within that dust a richer dust concealed.



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