The right to speak out certainly isn't and hasn't been the norm in many
cultures, for instance among bush Aboriginal people. It makes them
really easy to suppress.
Political correctness means that a few visible people belonging to the
dominant culture and having the strings to pull can build a mould into
which they try to squeeze others with global, national and regional
consequences. Over time cultures outside of the mainstream become an
empty shell of practices acceptable to the wider society. Minority
opinions are suppressed.
Have a look at what happens with bird names. Now obviously the good of
having common bird names as with any term, is that everyone knows what
everyone else is talking about. But this works on a regional basis as
well. Members of my Kuninjku language group all know what bird we mean
by Djagana. But regional bird names are suppressed by names adopted by
the wider society, and that includes Aboriginal language names. Whether
that's good or bad depends on who you are. If you're a visitor or
newcomer to a region you probably want names you are familiar with. But
there are unintended consequences, namely the loss of legitimacy of
regional differences, and languages. Bird names are part of the total
process that causes national, regional differences that helped locals
make sense of their world, gave them a sense of identity, to be subsumed.
People down south may all agree on calling Jabiru, Black-necked Stork or
Owl-faced Finch, Double-barred Finch. Has anyone asked long-term locals?
Or bush Aboriginal people? When it was decided to name Grey Whistler,
did anyone take into account the fact that our bird is brown? Not only
that but the type was taken up here?
Luckily there are many speakers of Kuninjku and most live out bush where
the language is somewhat protected. The world would be far less richer
for the loss of names such as Kolarawikwik (little brown wader);
Dillegwegbe (skinny whistling-duck. There are other names for a fat
My son's baby Aboriginal name is Jungalu - Ngundi for 'little one, black
one, barrimundi' or saratoga (despite the fact that he looks more like an
advert for Hitler Youth with his fair skin and blonde hair). Only a
handful of Ngundi speakers are left and the world is poorer for it.
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