I have recently been reading a book on the prehistory of Britain and Ireland and it has revealed to me that so much of what I was taught in history at school was only one theory among many competing ones. Yet for convenience or time constraints it was presented to me as if this was fact; the Truth. There were of course facts embedded in what I was taught but the theory, published in the school text, was only one story woven around these facts to try and explain them and other stories were and are possible. Some of these stories have been told for so long that it is hard to distinguish them as such. For example, we assume that the shift was made from hunter gathering to land cultivation and animal domestication because this was an ‘improvement’, a moving forward in civilisation. However, new stories are being woven which see this shift occurring out of necessity, due to changes in weather or food availability. This explains why it happened at different rates in different localities and why in places such as Australia the indigenous people never made this shift. Not because they were backward but because it wasn’t required to achieve quality of life. Why do the hard work of cultivation if food is plentiful and easily available? Adaptation is a different story to progression and has implications for how we see ourselves and the world.
The theme for this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival is “we need new stories”. There are many modern Australian stories that we seem to have accepted as fact that may benefit from a new weaving. Just a selection for you to ponder:
- Australia needs a coal industry for jobs and future prosperity,
- You can’t have a manufacturing industry in a high wage environment,
- Longer working hours in order to get ahead are just the new reality,
- Your work defines who you are.
Let’s discuss the last two next month!