A three-week graduation ceremony

Ed Raymond

When a Spear and a Boomerang Equals a Computer and a Smart Phone    

Eighteen years ago I wrote a column “Graduating for Life” about Australian aborigine teenagers at age 13 either dying during their graduation ceremonies or surviving the dangerous environment and becoming an adult in their tribe. With the battles about the role of parents in education of their children roiling millions of teachers and administrators in school districts and universities presently, I am usind most of the old text and then commenting on what constitutes a basic education.    The first step in his graduation “Walkabout” is painful circumcision and a purification ceremony usually involving fire. Then one of his front teeth is knocked out. It is a double sign of beauty and bravery in his culture. After these initial rites, he is given a spear and a boomerang and wearing a loin cloth, taken to a remote spot, and told not to return to the tribe for three weeks. With just these two tools he must find his food and water. If he doesn’t return to the tribe in three weeks, he has failed his lessons in a harsh climate and area. He is considered to be dead. His parents are blamed for failing to teach him arts of survival and are cast out of the tribe for a time. If he returns on time, he completes the graduation ceremony, is declared an adult, and shares in the leadership decisions of his tribe.  

Here Are a Few of the Lessons He must Learn to Survive in Australia    

First, the graduate must know history. There are approximately 500 tribes and a counted 948,000 aborigines in 2021, or about 3.8% of the population. He must know who his friends and enemies are. There is an East-West conflict among the tribes. If he trespasses on another tribe’s land, he may be killed in battle for his trespass. Second, he must know his geography and political science to carry on trade. He has to understand the culture of the white man so he can avoid confrontations. Over 200,000 aborigines were murdered in the 1800s—for sport, land, and power. Third, he must know his biology and zoology. He lives off the desert, so he is extremely careful of his environment. There is no waste and he must leave something for growth.  Most white men marvel at the ability to live in a country where nothing edible or drinkable is in sight. Fourth, he must study language. There are over 700 dialects in the Australian culture, but no writing. The young person must learn to communicate in hundreds of dialects. This is very similar to our culture, where teenagers come up with hundreds of new words each day. Sometimes elderly have difficulty communicating with young. Fifth, he must develop his physical skills with the boomerang and the spear. He spends more time with the spear than our javelin throwers because his life depends upon it, not a medal on an Olympic stand. Sixth, his course in family relationships must be thorough. In order to keep warm at night the aborigine family curls into a family ball around the fire. The kid who leaves the family ball during the night, thus breaking the coil of body heat, is in serious trouble, much like our teenagers who break the family ball and run away from home.  

The “Civilized” White Family Meets the Aboriginal Family    

They may appear to be the most wretched people on earth, but in reality, they are far happier than Europeans and Americans. The entire possessions of an aborigine family weigh less than 20 pounds: two rubbing sticks to create fires, two knife-shaped stones, one container of dried worms for protein and snacks, one boomerang, one spear, a spear thrower called a woomera, and a few baskets and wooden bowls.   Their diet is simple. Insects, kangaroos, worms, birds, snakes, and rabbits are staples. Locating water in desert-like conditions is always a serious problem. Aborigine families will follow clouds for days hoping for a quick shower.  If the clouds do not release water, aborigines will sometimes calmly dig their own graves and lie down in them and die. Almost all tribes in Australia do without the following: metals, bow and arrow, pottery, wheels, arithmetic, and writing. They do not farm.   The aboriginal culture is one that welds and melds man, nature, art, belief, and life and death together. Thought itself can be very powerful. If an aborigine points a human fibula at a victim, the person may pine away and die. Most of the tribes have artists who have left thousands of artistic images on rocks and in caves in 60 areas where they have lived for thousands of years. This is great evidence that they have time to dream and to ponder, and instead of full-time survival.   A “civilized” person in the same terrain needs a four-wheel drive vehicle, extra fuel and water tanks, food for twice the expected stay, two spare wheels and tires, an extra battery, tools of all kinds, medicine, cooking gear, fly and mosquito nets, maps, compass, radio, and countless other possessions. After all, he is an educated man.    

Our High School Walkabouts are very Different Today—And Yet Much the Same    

The Australian aborigine faces death during his three-week walkabout, but so does our high school senior walkabout in his three-week graduation ceremony. He may die by drug overdose, driving while drunk, from a successful suicide, or the present leading cause of death for children – a firearm at a party, or at the mall, or at a church. If today’s graduates do not learn the real history of their time, they will make the same mistakes their ancestors made in the past. If they don’t learn the language and know how to write it they won’t be able to communicate with their society and relate to other people. If our walkabouters have not learned what beauty and ugliness is, whether in art, music, literature, or life –their lives will be barren and frustrating.  So, although our two societies are separated by thousands of miles and vastly different cultures and environments, and by the essentials of a “primitive” society as compared to the glitter, greed, and grandiosity of a “modern” society, the basics are somewhat the same. Even in aborigine tribes there are philosophical differences and in our “tribes” economic differences where more than 60% of workers are living pay-to-paycheck.   In a book The Great Australian Outback an anthropologist describes an exploratory trek across 4,000 miles of desert and wasteland. His staff figured out it would take about 20 tons of vehicle equipment, food, fuel, and other supplies for each “civilized” man involved in the complex exploration. As the expedition got under way, members noticed an aborigine trudging a parallel course. He had a spear, boomerang and loin cloth. When asked by a member who knew his dialect what he was doing, he said: “I’m going with you.” He completed the same journey by walking the trail of the expedition, but never asked for food or help. The explorers used up their ration of 20 tons per man, while the aborigine enjoyed the luxury of his loin cloth.  

Education Will Determine Whether We Have a Third Reich or a Democracy    

Adolf Hitler started the Hitler Youth in 1926, knowing he needed to start with the young if he would succeed in establishing the Third Reich to last a thousand years. When named chancellor of Germany in 1933, he immediately nationalized the public schools, restricted the private schools, burned the old textbooks, approved new Nazi-approved “textbooks” and materials, and required every class to start with a loud “Heil Hitler!” He divided the members of Hitler Youth into two groups: boys and girls of 10-14 and 15-18. The older group of boys went through military basic training for four years while the older girls were taught how to become attractive women who would raise Aryan children to become good Nazis to lead the Third Reich. Ages 10-14 were spent being indoctrinated and groomed with Nazi philosophy while being seduced by uniforms, swastika flags, badges, weapons, and heroic stories about Hitler and his henchmen. Hiking, swimming, singing around a fire, and camping were emphasized during the summer months.   Florida Governor Ron DeSantis evidently has studied the real history of Nazi Germany because, by using Hitler’s methods, he wants to turn the United States into the Florida he is desperately trying to turn into another Third Reich. The Republican legislature is passing every cruelty that he throws at them. He has Oval Office and Reichstag ambitions. He is trying to turn Florida children into DeSantis Youth. DeSantis is a Yale and Harvard Law School graduate with the charisma of a rabid Doberman. As a legal “advisor” at our “black” prison at beautiful Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, he added to his reputation as Vlad the Impaler by laughing at an Afghan “detainee” who was being tortured in a forced feeding program by a smiling American psychologist.  

A Fellow Republican: “I Think He’ an Asshole. I Don’t Think He Cares about People.”   

DeSantis served three terms in the House of Representatives and had a reputation of not caring a crap about other Republican reps. Former Republican Representative David Trott of Michigan said this about Mr. Charisma: “I sat right next to DeSantis for two years on the Foreign Affairs Committee. I go to my first committee hearing early and DeSantis showed up right at the gavel time and didn’t say hello or introduce himself. And then the next hearing, the same thing happened. I think the third time it happened, I thought, ‘Oh, this guy’s not ever going to say hello to me’.” Eventually Trott introduced himself: “He’s just an arrogant guy, very focused on Ron DeSantis. In short, I think he’s an asshole. I don’t think he cares about people.” One of my favorite columnists, Maureen Dowd of the NY Times, knows assholes when she spots one: “Even in a world made crueler by social media and Donald Trump, DeSantis seems mean’ punching out at Mickey Mouse, immigrants, gays and women; pushing through an expansion of his proposal to ban school discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity to include all grades, as well as a draconian ban on abortion after six weeks.   For many reasons, he reminds me of two other people. One wore a moustache, screamed into microphones, castigated Jews, homosexuals, the mentally and physically handicapped, and ended up being responsible for a world war that killed between 60 and 80 million people. The other one is diagnosed as a malignant narcissist asshole who cares more about his golden hair in the wind than five children he fathered with three “trophy” women. He loves only himself and anything that his name on it, such as golf courses, tower, and steaks. With his oft-displayed cruelty, bigotry, cowardice, ignorance, greed, and prevarications, he has soiled the fairways, byways, and education systems while poisoning bipartisanship in government, destroyed the idea of the common good, and turned the entire country into a gutter with an OK Corral. Trump has added cruelty, bigotry, racism, greed, and lying to the national mores.