Valerie's Reviews > Walkabout

Walkabout by James Vance Marshall
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Sep 22, 10

At the time I read this, I didn't make a connection with the Burke and Wills expedition. I was once told a story about an Aboriginal man who showed up in an abandoned settlement during WWII, and, finding nobody there, led his family through the Outback to another settlement, arriving with all well-fed and healthy. His guide? Old stories told around campfires in his childhood.

Burke and Wills, on the other hand, died from having arrived at their appointed rendezvous a mere 9 HOURS too late. If they hadn't hooked up with a band of Aborigines, they wouldn't have lasted even as long as they did. The end came when they tried to strike out on their own.

Is the lesson that we drown our 'survival instincts' with our scholarly educations? Does that make any sense? How could humans from Africa have any 'instincts' for Australian life? There are some similarities, to be sure. But there are no native placental mammals in Australia except bats, and no monotremes anywhere BUT Australia.

The lesson, surely, is that 'education' is multifarious. We learn to live in the world we live in (more or less well). Can we survive in an alien (literally 'other' place?). Well, maybe. With help, and teaching, from the locals. Or a lot of luck. Or both.
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