14 May, 2018

Walkabout: Fragmented Spiritualism

Ethnocentrism is a bit like racism, and is often a concept confused with it. Technically, where racism focuses on the physical appearances and differences between people on the surface, ethnocentrism is about the customs and mannerisms of people. Ethnocentrism covers times when someone has prejudice against another person due to them speaking a different language, or having religious differences. It's the Imperial British "bringing order" to the Indian Subcontinent, it's the Spanish conquistadors converting the natives to Catholicism at the point of sword and musket, it's the Han Chinese in Beijing imposing their customs across the other ethnic minorities in China, it's the Jews driving out the Palestinians under the belief that Yahweh is the rightful god of the region, it's the ongoing pogrom by Australian governments against the Aboriginal people over generations.



Ethnocentrism has led to many problems in the world. Each culture has it's own stories, defines itself according to those stories, and builds an identity based on them. Even if those stories began as allegory and metaphor, once they become a part of a people's culture, few want to admit that those stories might not be true, and that their cultural identity might be built on a faulty foundation. This manifests in effects like confirmation bias (where an individual will have a stronger tendency to accept things that match their existing worldview), and cognitive dissonance (where new input conflicting with an existing worldview is ignored, or considered a "test of faith"). This can be seen in the polarity of opinions in the US between progressives and conservatives, neither wanting to back down...but this isn't a game about America.



In Australia, the central enthnocentrism comes from the British descended dominant discourse. The White Australia policy ensured non-White immigrants did not come to our shores for the majority of the 20th century, meanwhile the Indigenous population had no rights of their own and no way to control their own destiny under Australian law until a 1967 referendum. For generations it was expected that they would die off, be "bred white" over time, and be converted from their savage ways to a more civilised existence as servants of the wealthy. Young children, if they were white enough, were systematically removed from their families; though ironically most of these lighter skinned children were born from the rape of Indigenous mothers by farmers, landowners, and white authority figures who wanted their sins hidden in the regulatory systems they controlled. Regardless of whether they lived in missions, on reserves, or in urban communities, Aboriginal Australians were banned from their religious practices and lore if they wanted to receive any benefits from the predominantly church-based welfare organisations, and in many cases they were banned from speaking their native languages if they were to be treated as anything other than subhuman by the communities that were claiming their lands and dispossessing them from the territories their people had held custodianship over for millennia.

Yes, this game is political. It doesn't hide the fact that it's political, I'm going to be sending a regular percentage of the profits to local Aboriginal groups.

The local Tharawal people southwest of Sydney have completely lost their language. The only evidence of it lies in certain words unearthed through linguistic archaeology. A few dozen words have been identified in neighbouring languages where phonetic conventions didn't quite match other words in the lexicon. And just as the languages were lost, the rituals and folklore were similarly lost, this happened to numerous groups across the continent. And just as the spiritualism was lost, the ethnocentrism and hubris of the colonial groups and settlers destroyed knowledge on how to look after the land. In turn, this has led to rivers drying out (due to decades of dams and corrupt water allocation policies from government departments getting paid off by corporate interests), severe bushfires (due to not understanding Indigenous firestick procedures that kept dry wood fuel in check and constantly revitalising the bushland with regular controlled burning...although this is changing), loss of animal habitats (again from corrupt government practices where clear cutting and monoculture farming are devastating the land), open cut mining, ripping apart chunks of the Great Barrier Reef (to allow passage of ships bearing the loads from generally unwanted coal mines).

This has always been a part of Walkabout.

The custodians of the land have been removed, their knowledge suppressed, and their ritual cycles broken. The land has been desecrated. Any way to restore the natural balance has been lost, and the spirits who would make short work of it...no one knows how to contact them any more because that knowledge was outlawed by the church. That's why the apocalypse occurs. 


Australian Aboriginal characters in this setting aren't magical shamans able to fix the problems of environmental holocaust, they're just as screwed as everyone else. The only advantage they have over the Europeans and other newcomers to the land is that fact that they don't need to apologise to the spirits for the devastation that has been dealt to the land, or for their loss of the rituals. They could have lost their rituals or their lives...and if they lost their lives the rituals would have been lost anyway. The spirits were always watching.

I guess it's a bit Werewolf: the Apocalypse in it's outlook, except that it's more Werewolf: the Post Apocalypse. The shit has already hit the fan, and now it's a case of placating the spirits and cleaning up the mess to start again, all the while there are individuals and groups in the setting who refuse to make apologies, who are still in a position of power even though the world has gone to hell around them, and who actively resist anyone who might want to bring balance.
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