The uproar over the use of the word “discover” is the latest skirmish in a war over two equally mythical views of Australian history. One the European view, and the other the Aboriginal view. The European view sees settlement as a benign and largely peaceful occupation by an intellectually, spiritually and technologically superior civilisation. The Aboriginal view sees it as a violent and unlawful invasion of a spiritually and intellectually superior civilisation by one that was merely more technologically advanced. Both views overlook how similar all occupations of this land were, from 60,000 years ago until the present.
We would go a long way to solving our antagonisms if both sides would stop playing semantics, and take an honest look at their own histories, and see through to our common humanity. This is particularly important with the federal government engaging Marcia Langton to write an Aboriginal studies syllabus to be taught to primary school children.
In the case of “discovery” the Europeans are being fitted-up with a view that they didn’t actually hold.
In its plain English usage today (and I can’t discover much change in its usage over the last 200 or so years) it means to find something, but not necessarily for the first time in human history. Otherwise the Discovery Channel would be a nonsense (particularly repeats), and Tourism Tasmania’s “Discover Tasmania” would be a continual dispossession not just of the indigenous inhabitants, but everyone who came there before the last tourist.
Discovery can mean “for the first time” – which is generally the way it is used with respect to scientific discoveries, but only with respect to scientific…
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