When we think about science and what gives us life, we don’t often think of up in the sky or out in space, where there’s no trees to give us air, no water to drink, no earth to belong to. And yet within the western colonial culture the most prominent ideas of faith, god and heaven are so removed from the earth that it’s placed above us, above and unconnected to the literal giver of life, planet earth.
As a BirriGubba and Kungalu / Gungalu Murri, my creator is Mundagatta, the rainbow serpent, who is often said to be resting in waterways. This means that our creator resides within the scientific giver of life, earth. When I asked my Aunty, Dr Lilla Watson, about faith she said “faith may have a place, I don’t know, but we have a knowing.’
I believe the reason for this knowing, is intrinsically tied to the connections between science, natural law and our ontology. Having a creator that is within the scientific giver of life means that ‘Trust’ or indeed ‘a leap of Faith’ isn’t really necessary, because it doesn’t matter if the serpent is there or not, we know that life comes from this planet and so Mundagatta can be seen as a representation of the life giver that we are physically, scientifically and spiritually, without question, connected to, which only enhances the meaning of earth, Mundagatta, life and living.
‘a koala sleeps on a tree, like the ‘elected political representatives’ of so called “australia” sleep on climate change.’
One of the first things I like to do when asked to write about different things, is look into the history, find the context of where, how and why things exist in the world, when they came into being. For me this process of trailing back helps to understand why and how things operate and play out in the present. So thinking about faith, how it’s been used and is still used today takes me back to the very beginnings of colonialism in human history, slavery. My late father taught me about how slavery first required fear, fear of death, torture and other atrocities to scare people into compliance, there were other tools as well, used to degrade people and usurp their personal autonomy and will. Somewhere along the line, faith became one of those tools. Using fear to force people into compliance has its problems, I wonder, was faith introduced as a pacifier? Perhaps dreaming of a heaven might have given some comfort to the slaves that became restless and tired of living each day in such dehumanising and horrid conditions. The idea that through devote service to shepherds, masters, priests or kings, despite their own will, they were serving a higher purpose and pleasing an almighty god that would reward them with divine grace for eternity when the hard work of life was over has played out in colonial processes all over the world. Faith becomes a tool not only to stay subservient and compliant, but even to allow people to do horrible things in the name of god, without question or hesitation.
These days, faith as a concept is defined by google as ‘complete trust or confidence in someone or something’. I think faith, in this sense especially is naive to say the least, even disrespectful to the natural fluctuation and process of change that life creates, maybe thats my personal belief that anything is possible?
From what I have been taught my understanding is that in Natural LAW each person has their own autonomy and right to use their power over themselves to govern themselves in accordance to natural LAW and in cooperation with others.
I sometimes wonder, if each person in modern society lived in a balance with each other and country, would we require a removed concept of faith? Or more so, would it be completely obsolete? I find it interesting the way that faith relates to governance, it’s clear in history that both religion and governance has been tied in western colonial cultures. The dominant religions tell us that life is a constant set of tests to determine how we will spend the afterlife: either tormented for eternity in hell or enjoying divine grace in heaven. This reminds me of the dominant logic that is so prominent in western colonial spaces; there is no in between, its only good or only bad. This logic is also connected to the imposed system of governance.
In slavery, its live or die and in democracy its win or lose. Yet with a system based on competition, how are we to find the time to focus on and address serious issues if we are to be in constant opposition to each other? Would it not be smarter to work together?
‘could a resurgence of our governance systems see the sun finally starting to set on democracy?’
Furthermore, in democracy we are given only the choice of picking someone else to speak for us, it seems we cannot be a decision maker in the way our lives and these lands are governed but we can only chose to have ‘Faith’ in someone else, ‘Trusting’ another to make decisions for us, leaving us and the earth at their whim. And with democracy in this country it seems to be the only choice we have, a choice that gives us no choice but to have ‘Faith’ in another, faith that they won’t be pressured with fear or greed and will know enough and be strong enough to make decisions that truly have outcomes that create a better world for us.
Now, when we look even more closely at the imposed system of governance, and consider it from a knowing perspective, the idea of truth comes into play.
My old people have taught me that Land is able to tell truth in a very specific way. Land can tell us a lot about human history, the efficiency of governance, ontology, logic and philosophy that people have used while carrying out life. Land can show us what has happened, and indicate a history of proper civilisation and a healthy society on a mass level.
‘My mob place our creator in the Lands, often said to be resting in the Waterways, our governance was designed to respect and nurture our country and waters, as to respect and nurture our lives.’
I would like to invite you to just imagine what the Brisbane River: Maiwar might have looked like a couple of hundred years ago. The waters clean, there would have been a smorgasbord of healthy, fresh, accessible food. Which of course would have been enjoyed by the Sovereign peoples belonging there. Because even after almost 100,000 years of human existence, the land was still clean and healthy. Now it’s only been just over 200 years since the colonial onslaught of both genocide and ecocide and yet even in the 1990s, as a child I caught my first fish in from Maiwar, but we couldn’t eat it, out of fear it wasn’t safe. You only need to take one look at the colour of the water, to see that the river isn’t healthy. Sadly, this much can be said for most of the ancient River systems in the Great South Lands, now referred to as “australia”.
This colonial form of governance and ontology has required the degradation of land and people causing natural resources to be depleted and ongoing social and medical problems. The health of our Lands and Peoples today is devastating. The genocide has not ended and ecocide has not ended. This shows us that the imposed form of governance and the process of colonialism is not ecologically or even socially sustainable.
‘The dominant religions place their ideas the creator of life on earth, in the sky and unattached to the scientific creator’.
I wonder, do the people that live in this continent have faith in the democracy we live under or is it faith, born of not having a real choice?
Maybe those who benefit from it have always benefited from this form of governance and so have faith in it, but what of their futures on the planet it corrupts? What of their children’s futures? Knowing that we had a governance structure that worked so well before colonialism is a privilege i hold close to my heart, one that I wish more people had. The competitive system of governance that is occupying these lands, has shown that it simply cannot cater to sustain humanness. For if we continue this path it is much likely that We may be some of the last generations of people able to live on this planet.
So I wonder, how do we use our power to create a world that no longer struggles to survive with faith but thrives off knowing?
Image credit to Humanize Media
Teila Watson is a BirriGubba and Kungalu / Gungalu Murri.