Tyson Yunkaporta: Sand Talk

How much more could we discover if we listened more intently and made a deeper connection with the land from an indigenous perspective?

My guest today is Tyson Yunkaporta. Tyson is an academic, an art critic, and a researcher who belongs to the Apalech Clan in far north Queensland. He carves traditional tools and weapons and also works as a senior lecturer in Indigenous Knowledge at Deakin University in Melbourne.

We explored indigenous economics, systems reform, colonization, accountability, healing, ritual, and a variety of other topics with one another. A must listen!

Tyson Yunkaporta: Sand Talk Introduction

Well, my passion of mine is lessons from the past. I think we have so much to learn from traditional cultures, from the way we have evolved. I mean, we’ve been on a human journey for millions of years and really since the agricultural revolution, it is literally not even one percent of our journey. So there’s a lot to be learnt from our ancestors and from indigenous cultures.

Today is such a day to what our focus is on. My guest today is Tyson Yunkaporta. He is the author of Sand Talk. He’s an academic and art critic, a poet, and a researcher who belongs to the Apalech Clan in Queensland, Australia. He’s also a senior lecturer in Indigenous Knowledge at Deakin University.

Tyson looks at the global system through an indigenous lens. Much of society’s problems today stem from our worldview. I think we can all agree on that. And from how we think and relate, how we behave, not just to ourselves, not just to each other, but to the whole planet. And, dare I say, the whole universe. That gives us a clue when Tyson writes, I’m not reporting on indigenous knowledge systems from a global audience perspective, I’m examining global systems from an indigenous knowledge perspective, and that is what we are here to discuss today. I hope you enjoy this wonderful conversation I had with Tyson Yunkaporta.

Podcast Transcript

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:00:00] For a start, I would like to acknowledge the custodians of the land on which I am recording this podcast, The Gadigal People of the Eora Nation and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

Hello and welcome to Unstress. My name is Dr Ron Ehrlich. Well, passion of mine is lessons from the past. I think we have so much to learn from traditional cultures, from the way we have evolved. I mean, we’ve been on a human journey for millions of years and really since the agricultural revolution, it is literally not even one percent of our journey. So there’s a lot to be learnt from our ancestors and from indigenous cultures.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:00:49] Today is such a day to what our focus is on. My guest today is Tyson Yunkaporta. He is the author of Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World. What a great title and something will gonna definitely be exploring today. He’s an academic and art critic, a poet, and a researcher who belongs to the Apalech Clan in Queensland, Australia. He’s also senior lecturer in Indigenous Knowledge at Deakin University.

Tyson looks at global system through an indigenous lens. Much of society’s problems today stem from our worldview. I think we can all agree on that. And from how we think and relate, how we behave, not just to ourselves, not just to each other, but to the whole planet. And, dare I say, the whole universe. That gives us a clue when Tyson writes, I’m not reporting on indigenous knowledge systems for a global audience perspective, I’m examining global systems from an indigenous knowledge perspective, and that is what we are here to discuss today. I hope you enjoy this wonderful conversation I had with Tyson Yunkaporta. Welcome to the show, Tyson.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:02:00] Yeah, it’s good to be in the show, wherever that is, so in two different locations.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:02:06] We’re in two different locations.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:02:09] Lands of the Kulin people specifically the Bunurong here. Yeah, where I am now in, Melbourne. Yeah, I’ve been here for a few years now.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:02:17] But you are originally from Queensland? Or you know your… 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:02:20] Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s where I am. From the last two years, it’s been hard to get back, though, with all the lockdowns and border closures and everything. It’s still tricky, you know? So that’s really taken a toll on me. Connect with family like that. But you know, it’s alright. We’ll get through it. It’s like three and a half thousand kilometres away, you know, like my place.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:02:42] I think this whole I mean, this whole thing has put people under huge stress. I mean, you know, mental health and stress were an issue at the best of times whenever that was and these last two years are definitely not been the best of times. Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting to consider how indigenous knowledge might have changed that journey. That’s all relative, really, isn’t it?

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:03:03] Yeah.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:03:03] When was the best of times?

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:03:05] That’s it. That’s the question. And I guess that would be the answer to your initial question. What the hell did things look like before?

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:03:13] Yes. Well, that’s right. I mean, you know, we get pretty impressed by, say, a Roman Empire that last one thousand years. But indigenous people here have been around for 65000 years. I mean, perhaps 80 or even more than that. I mean, the complexity of Australia’s first people and the way it was all… What was it like before invasion?

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:03:31] It’s certainly more than 65000. It’s just that. I mean, there are every year, there are more archaeological finds and these are announced.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:03:40] Yes.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:03:40] Of or maybe, you know, but it’s I don’t know how many data points you need before you can… (laughs)

But I mean, here’s the thing it’s just you can’t say more than 65. You can’t say more than 65 because then the out of Africa theory becomes very, very difficult. And all of the migration of modelling that’s been done in archaeology, that which is the narrative that we have cobbled together from very limited data. 

And, you know, very like dodgy data sets. Had to put that story together. It can’t stretch. Like beyond 65, you just can’t stretch it. It’s just all the modelling starts to fall apart. So we’re, you know, we’re perching here on 65 for now. But it’s really, uhm…

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:04:30] Well, this whole new area that I’m reading about called archaeogenetics.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:04:35] Yeah.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:04:36] You know, where we’re not looking at fossils and stuff like that, but we look at genes to track that. And I know that in your book, you talk about seven sisters, constellation and the seven stories, and there are the seven sisters of Eve in other cultures, you know, so. But what was it? Look, what did I mean? Even at six, let’s acknowledge, at least, 65000 years is still pretty impressive if we take the lowball figure.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:05:01] Yeah, that’s it.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:05:02] Yeah. What did it look like before the invasion?

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:05:05] Well, different over different ages, of course. You know, we’ve had sea levels rising and falling and asteroids and volcanoes and, you know, even people going the wrong way with different cultures and societies. We’ve had all these same upheavals and cataclysms, you know? I don’t know if we’ve had our arms here as well, you know. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:05:28] Yeah, but 250 nations as the map is drawn now, that’s, you know, is huge. It’s pretty impressive too.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:05:37] Here’s when you know, if you know, here’s when you know, the people have had good governance and without hierarchies and without, you know, power imbalances and people doing the wrong thing inland and spirit and creation. 

You know, when you look at a map and you see lots and lots and lots of small, you know, language group boundaries, tribes, whatever you want to call them, lots of small sort of provinces or regions or whatever you want to call them that tend to, like have these really random looking kinds of boundaries to them that obviously haven’t been formed by conflict and imperialism and invasion and war, but have been formed by the landscape themselves. So they tend to conform to, you know, the semi-permeable edges of different bioregions.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:06:26] Yeah.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:06:27] You know, so each region sort of has its own kind of spirit, of place, and the language that comes from there comes from that spirit of place and perfectly describes everything within it. And that becomes like, I mean, that’s a permanent ledger that you can’t change.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:06:43] I mean, that’s such an interesting point that the straighter a border is on a map, the more likely it is to be imposed by man.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:06:51] Yeah.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:06:52] I think I’ve never thought of that.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:06:53] I mean, and everybody keeps blaming agriculture as, oh, that was the point when everything changed to agriculture requires hierarchies and power imbalances and imperialism and, you know, stockpiling and artificial scarcity for control and all that kind of thing. 

But I mean, it doesn’t. The oldest architecture on the planet in New Guinea. Not architecture. Older stuff, agriculture, you know, that they’re doing before anybody else had been doing it for tens of thousands of years there. But you know, when you look at that, it’s there’s more diversity of language, you know, per square inch than any other place on the planet.

So when you look at that, you look at the amazing diversity there and so many different languages and cultures in a compressed into one place. You know, they haven’t been doing imperialism there. You know, they haven’t been doing sustainable hierarchies, et cetera. It’s just evidential.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:07:49] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think languages is… Are they really that so distinct? Like one clan to another… 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:07:58] They really are. It’s just an anomaly on the planet in terms of, you know, I mean, Australia is amazing. If you look at the Australian indigenous map, it’s just this patchwork quilt. And yet lots and lots of small, small groups and all quite very different languages, but New Guinea is just this outrageous diversity and linguistic diversity than just, you know, it’s something that linguists anthropologists have been puzzling over forever. Yeah. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:08:28] I mean, one of the things you mention the agricultural revolution, and I don’t mean when it happened, it seemed to push us into a more patriarchal structure. How does that play out in indigenous culture? I mean, women, you know, equality. Women’s role in society. I mean, that’s been thrashed out over the tens of thousands of years. Is it an issue in indigenous culture?

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:08:55] Not particularly. We have both matrilineal and patrilineal cultures in Aboriginal Australia. You don’t often hear that, but there are, you know, so I belong to a patrilineal culture, which means you take your father’s name and father’s totem. Is a matrilineal one you take your mother’s totems, you know?

However, in both, the mother and child are the centre of everything. You know what I mean? I think the main difference between patrilineal-matrilineal Aboriginal cultures is that patrilineal ones tend to do more adoption. They’re sort of more open in terms of bringing all different kinds of people in and sending others out. So there’s more embassy with the patrilineal cultures, whereas the matrilineal cultures tend to have more protected bloodlines, you know? Yeah, that they’ll maintain, you know, a single bloodline for tens of thousands of years, whereas the patrilineal ones are keen to mix it up. 

But I guess, you know, that’s the difference between the sperm and the egg, I suppose. But in both, there is always, you know, a core of women’s business and a core of, you know, very powerful women. So, you know, there’s a difference between patrilineal and patriarchal. Patriarchy is a very different thing.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:10:18] Yes.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:10:18] Yeah

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:10:19] And that’s where we’ve been, really. I mean, I think one could argue that it hasn’t played out over the last 10000 years. It’s probably too early to call, but it’s not looking good.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:10:29] Yeah, I don’t know, there’s something about the I think it’s about scale. It’s when a culture chooses to descend to the mother. To devalue the mother, and that must be done in this society, so women must be devalued and taken from the centre of power and authority, which are two different things, by the way. 

Yeah, women’s authority must be diminished in order for people to begin insulting and assaulting Mother Earth. You can’t do that to the land while you have the mother in her centre of power and authority. You know, in your society she has to be removed, devalued, debased, owned, extracted from in order for your society to take the shape it needs to begin the project of growth and growth is where it happens. 

So where the problem, where the problem began is in, it’s been a problem of scale and you can see that with the early civilisations. So you’ll see that in the Fertile Crescent. You’ll also see that in Africa, you know, Africa did experiment with Empire. Pretty much, yeah. Some of the oldest empires in the world are from Africa. But, you know, as within the Middle East, these were gradually abandoned after they completely ravaged the place. And then people find a return to, you know, other models like pastoralism and, you know, a migratory.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:12:05] Migratory but sort of seasonal movement, you know, around a sort of a territory, you know, people will return to some kind of it’s not even really a return because it’s not exactly as it was before. But the patterns of sustainability and […] cool models of being, you know, are retrieved forward to create new ways of life. Ways of living within our landscape that has been altered horrendously.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:12:37] Yeah.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:12:38] In the Middle East, you see where all the early civilisations were and I mean, it’s desert now. So the culture that arises from the ashes of the civilisation, now that it’s desert, the culture has to be quite different. And you know. Yeah. So you sort of see that. You see that everywhere.

Yeah. You think, I mean, there was a lesson in itself calling it the fertile crescent. And yet when you visit it, you kind of think, OK, where is that? Where is that now? But it’s interesting because growth has become just a buzzword that is equated to a healthy country, a healthy economy. Well, what role did growth play in the journey, the indigenous peoples?

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:13:18] Look, it’s that question of scale again. And every culture has its cautionary tale about communities that attempt to scale in order to accrue power, accumulate power, et cetera. You know, yeah. So we have those stories here and Tower of Babel kind of stories, you know? So I do talk about one of them in the book, which is a go-end story from western New South Wales. 

Bittangabee people, everybody, you know, figured out that if they stayed in a place of abundance and became sedentary and just started building up and concentrating all of their collective efforts, you know, in one site that they could achieve just massive things, you know, that would like rival the power of gods kind of thing.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:14:04] So they create this kind of egregore of, you know, people there. And so of course, like that’s where your media wasn’t going to fall. And just to sort of break that backs up. So all the people there started speaking one language even, you know, they’d forgotten. They start to forget all of their different languages. So, you know, of course, the land set them straight again, and it usually takes a few centuries. Took a thousand years for the land to sort roam out and break it back up again.

And when you look at Italy now, you can see that map of the Peninsula with all the different regions and they all have their own dialects, you know, at least 21 on a tiny peninsula, a little small than New South Wales. 21, 22? I can’t remember. There are lots of different provinces, all with different languages, you know, and you sort of go, OK. So they all speak Italian, but at the same time, they don’t speak Italian at home. Italians, it’s the same sort of thing. I guess. 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:14:59] Gradually you will move back towards diversity. The land forces you to do this. You can’t escape it, you know, so this sort of cultural uniformity, this creation of monocultures and massive machines like self-organising entity of a city or a large community that ends up on that arrow of growth that upwards turning arrow, that exponential growth wants to harness that big illusion. Yeah, they think they can last forever, but they really don’t have. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:15:30] You also mentioned you take on your father’s, you come from the patrilineal and you take on your father’s totems.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:15:37] Yeah.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:15:37] Totemic culture and animistic culture are very much… Could you explain those two terms?

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:15:46] It’s almost impossible to explain. I mean, it’s almost impossible. If I feel like if I could explain that in a way that it would go in, everything would be fine. But it’s almost impossible to know it unless you’re in it. If that makes any sense. I mean, the most accurate way I could describe it is it’s like spirit animals and spirit guides, but for grown-ups, if that makes any sense. 

Like, you know how people say, “Oh, that’s my spirit animal.” Or whatever, you know, I am the eagle or something like that because I see far. It’s nothing like that at all. I mean, it’s usually you don’t have one totem, you know, you have several. And these are inherited and they are usually part of a story, you know, so like I take […] from my father side at the same time. So that’s why that comes with a whole heap of other ones that are attached to that, you know, like mud shell and black cockatoo and all these different ones that are all in that same story.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:16:59] Mm hmm.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:16:59] So, you know, all these things that are in the same story, which is about places, which is a map. And you know, and that map is that, you know, you care for all of these places and all of these things and all of these entities. And you are them, you’re part of that living system, not just of knowledge and history, but of, you know, maintenance of that country and not just maintenance, but increase. That’s different from growth. And that’s another hard one to explain.

Well, that’s just the other side to it. You still have another side. Right? You know, so you have cup way and you became y grandmother things that you reference and that you are in your awareness, you know, for your family and your kin because you’re in that sort of network of relational obligations in each clan. 

Sort of, you know, has that where everybody has their focus on different particular sites, that is their main responsibility. And then you gather in this sort of collective sense-making and everybody is saying different things and you’re bringing those data points altogether and they kind of aggregate into a collective, you know, one belly. 

You might describe it in a sense of what the land is doing and therefore how your society must move with the land and how you know your activities and your ceremony and your governance. Even everything is directed through that. You have that open communication with the landscape that can only happen if you are embedded in it collectively if you know what I mean. 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:18:39] And that’s what the totems do. They’re not your individual guide, like Spirit Guide or something like that. And that then is networked in with the other clans, you know? So your totemic system might centre around a particular season, nor is another clans might centre around a different one and a different ritual complex and everything else. 

And these must be in dialogue together as well. And so then you start to see this kind of nested fractal governance structure that’s sort of, that can scale. That keeps going up from the individual to family to clan to tribe with all the clans, but then to a regional group of tribes who were also in a collective relation.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:19:24] But then beyond that, you know, collectives of regions that are also in that relation and then it goes up again until then. And all these different levels of role have different names until you arrive at a continental common law and that’s sustainable and regenerative and prevents imperialism because your most sacred knowledge is also stored by somebody or a group of people in another tribe, maybe thousands of kilometres away. You know what I mean? 

There are people who keep your most sacred law there, and then you keep the sacred law of another, other groups of people in your place. So that if anything cataclysmic happens there, that knowledge can go back to that place and that can be repopulated there. But also it prevents imperialism. You know, you can have battles, but you can’t have war and you can’t take anybody’s stuff. You can’t take anybody’s land as a result of war, either because you’re prevented from doing that by that big, interconnected, interdependent system of laws where you’re trusting your most sacred law to other people. 

So you end up with that to really, truly interdependent, scalable system of governance in which every single person is completely free and can’t be bossed around. But at the same time, you are so bound up in a network of relational obligations that you also can’t do the wrong thing and start to pollute the commons or extract more than you should or do something that will create disharmony.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:21:04] I mean, overriding, what I came away from was the connectedness of everything, you know? I mean, I can see, I looked at the coat of arms, for example, on the Australian coat of arms, the emu and the kangaroo, I always looked upon them as iconic Australian animals.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:21:21] Yeah.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:21:22] But you had a whole story behind the difference between the emu and the kangaroo and what lessons we can learn from them, the echidna. Who knew? Who knew the echidna? Yes, a little bit about some of these. You know, we just look at these things like they’re animals, but they’re so much more than that.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:21:38] It’s called the echidna is amazing, and it’s actually really hard to find the research. So doing the fact check on that, like I couldn’t find the papers that are originally read about that. But yeah, but I still had the notes I’d taken, but I didn’t have them written down. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:21:57] Yeah, but the… When you think of the cultural…

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:22:01] The people since dug those things up for me and said, no notes here, and there’s an entire book about it somewhere as well, you know? So the research has been done, but it’s just amazing because the echidna has the biggest brain in relation to the body size of all mammals.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:22:17] Yeah.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:22:17] And it’s just an outrageous amount of that is the neocortex and the, you know, the abstract, high level reasoning and an executive function and everything else that is a bigger percentage of their brain is used for that than even as is. Yeah, that just makes me go, Wow.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:22:37] I mean, who knew?

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:22:39] What are they doing when we’re not looking, you know? 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:22:41] Yeah. So I think you said something like, I think 50% of the well, anyway, whatever… A big proportion of their brain is the prefrontal cortex for reasoned thinking. And that’s it. You know, they’ve been around for a while. So, you know, yeah, they must be doing something right through a whole lot of changes in the environment and all that. But what about the emu? I mean, look, I’m never going to look at the coat of arms again in the same way. 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:23:06] Yeah. Well, when we look at that coat of arms, it’s I mean, we can see a [Inaudible 00:23:12] most moiety, two moieties. So it’s a kinship system where you have two arms, then that also breaks up into different groups as well for marriage law and all this sort of thing. But yeah, so you might have, you know, Emu totem on one side and kangaroo totem on the other and you’re only allowed to marry across. You can’t marry someone in your own side. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:23:33] It was something about the sort of arrogance or something of the emu compared to…

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:23:37] Yeah, there’s absolutely that. The way I chose to go with it was the narcissism side. But then I also make sure that people understand that’s my prejudice as well, because, you know, emu people might say, Well, they do like people with Emu Totem see the stories very differently. But for me, because I’m like, you know, busted emu, you know because it was an emu around us. 

And so so I yeah, there’s this that idea of this narcissistic game here who wants more and wants to uplift themselves above everybody else and sort of is vain and is proud. And it’s just crazy and showing off and trying to bust everybody and all that sort of thing.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:24:23] It made sense to me because when you watch an emu run, they almost look like they’re better than anybody else.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:24:30] Yeah, yeah. They really do. I had a female emu try and seduce me once. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:24:37] Wow.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:24:38] They have a very explicit and specific sexual display. They do. This was when it came right up to me and just did that, and it was. I don’t think I’ve ever been more disturbed by anything. I was just like, this is wrong. There’s something really wrong going on in this place. I’m like interspecies erotica with me as it’s like you need to…(laughs)

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:25:06] But the echidna, you never had that experience with the echidna? 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:25:09] No, I’m pretty sure I remember it if I did.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:25:15] Another thing that’s really… The word ‘country’ is means, you know, like for us, would mean a nation or, yeah, you look out on that. But what a country means a whole lot more in indigenous communities, doesn’t it? Tell us a bit about what ‘country’ and the other word that comes to mind is ‘time.’ Those two words are very different. Hmm. What do they mean? You know, we talk about that.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:25:37] Well, I mean, in a lot of the modern languages of the world that sort of come out of this in this global system that’s developed, you know, the language reflects the core principles of that. So you end up with a lot of abstracts separated out from each other, you know, so you have words for things you don’t need words for, like nature and economy and society and government and all of these things and spirituality, like all these big abstract, nouns that you pretty much never existed in human languages. Because we don’t need them, because they’re all one thing. They’re all one thing and that’s country.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:26:18] Yeah.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:26:19] If that makes any sense.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:26:20] Yeah, it does make sense.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:26:20] And if you have country, then you are a country as well. You embedded in it. You know you’re a node in there and you have free will, but you’re part of that system. And you know the land what people refer to as nature often now that’s the patterns of nature that these things in the movements in that they direct you in your governance, in your trade and in your family structure, your values, all of these abstract. 

So the country is just it’s something we’ve tried to use an English word to express something, but it’s the same word, but we use it differently. Hmm. You know, when we say a country or that country, it’s got no definite article or indefinite article in front. You just say country.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:27:10] All encompassing.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:27:11] Yeah.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:27:13] All-encompassing in time? I mean, time is another one, isn’t it? 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:27:18] Even then, you might greet relatives that you refer to that person as country. You know, it’s “Hello country.” And a country when you see somebody who’s you know from the same place.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:27:29] Yeah, yeah. And the whole concept of time as well. I mean, that’s the difference. That’s a different way of looking at the world too, isn’t it?]

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:27:38] Yeah. Well, we don’t have separate words for time and place. You know, it’s one thing. And often it’s not even a word, but like a suffix that you put on the end of a word, you know, like you’ve got all these sorts of suffixes that come in the end of the word in the meantime or place, but saying that it’s the same suffix, you know, so there aren’t separate words for those things.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:28:05] And tell me when we talk about another thing that I heard you talk about was the indigenous law. You know, indigenous justice. And I loved your, you know, there’s law, L-A-W, and L-O-R-E. Yeah, and they’re very much connected. Tell us a little bit about, you know, how indigenous justice is seen.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:28:27] The justices, you know, I can’t say it’s not punitive. Basically, it’s just human. It’s just human justice. You know, we as humans, do feel that urge for payback. And you know, we’re discouraged from that in a lot of the religions and ethical frameworks and laws and all that sort of stuff in modern times. But you do feel that urge for payback and you feel that urge for that person has to answer. But the idea is to bring everybody back into the right relation again.

Because if the law is broken, that also breaks the relationships and community cohesion. And so punishment is all about everybody making sense of what’s happened and then carrying away a good story from that cautionary tale. 

And you know, and it’s kind of like you, the transgressor is somebody who holds that story, and then they’re able to they take up an important role of somebody who has that story. You know, that they become, you know, they’re able to pass through that punishment and come back into respect, come back into their dignity. You know, but then also, you’re a victim,. 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:29:40] So you’re a victim and transgress. So they said they might fight. And that might be the resolution that might be the legal action that happens. And it’s not like with my beloved Vikings where, you know, it’s like, Yes, well, we let the Gods decide, then we shall have the combat. And you know, we might have one little skinny do one massive guy with an axe and like, Oh, well, the gods decided the skinny guy was wrong. It’s not like that. It’s not about like the fight doesn’t have a winner or loser. You know, when it’s an illegal issue.

The fight is all about, it’s just about the fight. It’s just about, you know, a victim being able to hold the head up. And it’s not about one of them coming out on top in a decision being made in one in the favour of one or the other. Because when you have a completely transparent society, there’s no argument about who the wrongdoer is. You know, they can’t say not guilty but be lying because everybody knows what everyone’s done. You know, so you have a victim and transgressor. 

They slug it out and the victim gets to walk away with their head held high, no matter what the outcome of the flight is, because they, you know, they were able to stand up for themselves, they were able to, you know, participate in that justice and everyone can participate in that. Yeah. And everybody makes sense of what’s happened, you know, through that. And there are all kinds of punishments like shaming, temporary banishment, spearing, you know, spear the leg, traditionally all kinds of things.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:31:11] Punishment. I did get a punishment cut once, and that wasn’t for something that I did wrong. Personally, like individually, that was for something that the elders said. That was something that one of my ancestors did. A long time ago, there was never that was never addressed. And then I had to have that. And that was something that I did. I mean, that would be intolerable in a Western legal system, wouldn’t it? Sort of individual. It would be like, “That’s not my fault. I can’t be held to account for some system of slavery that some distant ancestors did. I’m not responsible for that.” And it’s like, well, in our way yes you are. You know. 

I had an ancestor who was a rapist and an abductor of women and a murderer, and he was never, he got away with that right. And it was like, Well, you, you’re coming to this place where that woman died and you’re going to have a punishment cut for that. 

And that’s not about we’re going to make you the scapegoat and now your life’s over to pay for that. It’s like, no, this is a ceremony and it’s justice, and it’s something that brings us all together. It’s something that settles, you know, something that’s been an imbalance and causing problems for hundreds of years. And we’re going to resolve that together now, and we’re all going to heal together from it.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:32:41] And I mean, while it’s punitive, it’s also forgiving. You can move on.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:32:46] Well, the elders, immediately after they cut me they were then responsible for healing. Healing, that cut as well. And but it was also there was a kind of a ceremonial action in there as to whether or not that would be accepted. The punishment was accepted by the spirit of the female entity in that place. 

And so after the cut, which was pretty deep and horrific, you know, they had to put my blood in my hands on this rock and watch the wind to see what would happen. And it was pretty miraculous. You know? You don’t film it so we don’t have data or anything because you don’t do that, but, you know, it just closed up, you know, closed up and it was just this tiny, thin line, you know, it was to the volume of the cut, but then it just closed right up until it was like a scratch.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:33:41] Yeah, yeah. I mean, on a physiological level, if your autonomic nervous system is working for you. Yeah, you know, you’re healing will work better. 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:33:50] Yeah. If you well, I mean, it’s this the placebo effect is really an undeniable thing, and it’s the problem. I mean, it’s really funny. You can only deploy the placebo effect in Western science as a control. Yes, you know what I mean. And even it’s just an annoying thing that’s sort of messes with your controls. 

But at the same, yeah, exactly. It’s very powerful, but it is of the land and spirit, and it can’t be harnessed. Like medical science. I mean, they can prove that it’s there. They know it’s an effect, but nobody has ever attempted because scientists aren’t silly.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:34:34] You can’t harness magic. You can’t harness the power of the placebo effect in science because you know it doesn’t work like that. You know, you can’t tell people, are we going to prescribe you a placebo? And so you can believe yourself into wellness, you know, collectively with your family. It’s a no, it doesn’t. It can only be, you know, collective. It can only be embedded in the landscape and it can only be through the ceremony. It’s the only way that can work.

But that doesn’t work at scale, but nothing works at scale. You know, there is community health, but then this public health at a national scale which, as we’ve seen, it doesn’t scale well, you know. The ceremony doesn’t scale well as a wellness thing because you just get cults. You get cults that are really unhealthy and that are usually based on a hierarchy and damage a lot of people.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:35:35] Well, I think one of the things we’ve learnt from this pandemic is local. There’s a power in our local community. You know, kind of globalise everything. Globalise the world is everywhere. We’ve got friends everywhere. What’s around us in our immediate circle? That’s what’s so powerful.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:35:51] That’s it. But this is what makes the wellness industry problematic. It’s the scale. Well, industry for a start, you know, you industrialise wellness in response to, you know, a massive juggernaut of public health that leaves a lot of people behind. You know, in response to that, you end up with a wellness sort of industry. But when that scales, it’s just a mirror of the other thing. And it’s neoliberal in that it’s like Margaret Thatcher. 

There is no society only in the individual. The entire wellness industry is focussed on self-help. What you do for yourself. You make yourself this ubermensch who you know, through supplements and through testosterone therapy and breathwork and mindfulness and meditation, you become this fabulous well thing, a tool that sharpens itself, never mind who’s holding that tool and what’s being done with it, you know.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:36:51] So you have this wellness industry that does not focus on the only way that you can have health, which is in the community. Because you can be this amazing bloody person who’s, you know, done a thousand crunches and a bunch of hot yoga and it’s just like, you know, ready and fit to be a tool of whatever you like – Hindu nationalism, frickin neoliberalism, whatever you want. You’re this perfect, you know, being who’s ready to, you know, be a warrior for the, you know, your national identity or, you know, your corporation or whatever, but you’re not an island.

People forget that they will need care. All of these fit, healthy, supplemented. Awesome. “Oh, my immune system is bloody amazing.” You know, that’s great. But one day you’re going to need care. In fact, several times in your life, you’re going to need care and eventually, you’re going to need like a lot of care. Hmm. And who’s going to do that? And it’s sort of like you might think, “Oh, well, it helps if everybody’s looking after their own health. 

That means there are lots of healthy individuals who’d be able to provide that care.” And it’s like, “Well, no, because those healthy individuals are out in the world, you know, pursuing their personal development.” They’re running around manifesting abundance for themselves. And they’re not going to be, you know, burning their life in a task that has no value and is not paid economically. 

They’re not going to be caring for people. So if you don’t have a healthy community that prioritises care and this centres the woman and child, the mother and child, if you don’t have a healthy community, you don’t have health.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:38:34] If you have healthy community then you have care and you have an aggregate of health that sorts you out. But anything that you’re doing yourself for yourself, that’s an illusion. You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. Your Tarzan’s swinging from vine to fine. You can’t stop and hold on to one of those vines for a second or snap and you’re going to break your neck. 

Wellness has to be about community, you know, clan, family, village. That’s the only wellness. And you can’t have it at one end with the individualised wellness industry, and you can’t have it at the other with the massive juggernaut of public health in both of wrong story.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:39:09] Hmm. Mm hmm.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:39:10] And I feel like when I look at your book, I feel like that’s where you’re headed to. Yeah, that’s where you are, and that’s where you’re drawing our attention.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:39:21] Absolutely. And I think one of one of our most popular, all important themes is globalisation versus localisation. Yeah. You know, we talked to Helena Norberg- Hodge.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:39:32] Yeah, me too.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:39:33] She’s great. She’s a legend.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:39:37] Yeah, she’s and that message is so powerful. It’s so important. And interestingly, Harvard have done, well, the longest official study, the longest official study on health, wellness and longevity. And the greatest predictor is relationship.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:39:54] Mm hmm.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:39:54] That is the greatest predictor of longevity and health and wellness in relationships. It’s not cholesterol levels, not blood pressure. It’s not even, you know, it’s a relationship. So, you know, I mean, this whole idea of localisation and community is the lesson. I mean, I was going to ask you, you know, about this pandemic and what lessons would the traditional knowledge given us and how would we have done it differently if indigenous knowledge was in charge? What would you say to that?

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:40:24] Oh, well, it just wouldn’t happen. With an indigenous governance system, you know, in. I mean, you know, similar to what noble colleges is talking about, you know, when people are really focussed on their being embedded in their local landscape and place, and that’s their culture and language and governance and everything else. 

And that doesn’t mean that you’re just staying put there forever and you never see the world, you know. You actually are travelling out and interacting, but you have and you have trade relations with everyone else. But if your governance is not about governing millions of people, all speaking one language altogether who is supposed to be as similar as possible, otherwise, it doesn’t work. You know, when instead you have true diversity, then you can only ever have an epidemic. You can’t have a pandemic. Pandemic only happens within pan structures, you know? 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:41:21] Yeah.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:41:23] Yeah, so that’s it. So I mean, it just wouldn’t happen for a start. But I mean, you know, I don’t know. There’s pretty much and here’s the problem with indigenous knowledge, just looking at a globalised system of just individuals all pinging around under like a really horrendous placeless economic system just struggling for survival, you know, suddenly going, “Oh my God, now there’s a pandemic and is killing everybody.” Going like trying to apply indigenous knowledge to that. 

And within that, it doesn’t work because all you can do is lift bits and pieces out that don’t work outside of their context. And therein lies the rub everybody’s seeking these answers from indigenous knowledge, indigenous wisdom. And it’s like, Well, if we can just apply this bit, if it’s like, “Oh, OK, well, Native Americans.” you know, they have a verb-based language instead of a noun based language. 

So perhaps if our systems of accounting incorporated measurement of verbs of action relations instead of just nouns, you know, measurable quantities. If we could somehow quantify that and, you know, develop an accounting system for that, then that would change the economics. And it’s like, well, kind of. But not.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:42:40] Yeah, but I think where it comes in is that it impacts individuals and communities. Hmm. And when you stop that, then you start from the ground up, you start to have a society that looks a little healthy and that’s how it is.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:42:54] And this global system is a self-organising system now. It’s that big in that complex now that it’s actually self-organising and it does have a very good immune response. It has an excellent immune response to anything that could be a challenge to it. 

The moment you get any kind of, you know, grassroots sort of, you know, gathering of people around. Let’s say they all go to Byron Bay. I say 10000 people in Byron Bay, like all, decide to go with Helena’s noble conscious sort of, you know, localised futures model that would be that’s destroyed immediately. 

And one of them is in one of your four pillars – communication, human communication, which has always been our strength. At scale, it’s not a strength anymore. It’s a weakness. So very quickly there that could be that’s always just completely shattered and divided. Everyone’s divided, but it’s very simple just for communication. It’s like, you know, you just throwing off. 

So what does everyone think about trans kids in sport? And then immediately there’s factions, so it can be just the tiniest bit of disinformation, rumour, anything. Suddenly, everyone’s in splinters, splinter groups and you’ve got your [Inaudible 00:44:13] over here and then you’ve got your narco communists over there and you know what I mean?

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:44:18] And then we’re arguing about the long lines because… 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:44:21] Then we’re arguing about like, what’s the definition of sex and gender? They’re arguing about, yeah, just to go with that, like most silly, divisive debate. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:44:31] Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:44:32] You know, when it’s just like, Yeah, it’s been nice to people. It’s, you know, it’s… Anyway, it’s just a silly debate, but I mean, everything. It’s funny because when these things happen at scale, everybody personalises it. So I mean, and I think that’s a really good example. Is that way that you know, that trans activism and trans rights have been co-opted by everybody to be part of their personal branding? 

You know of any issue. Yeah. So that immediate something can happen like, you know, in like Ukraine, you know, recently this year. I mean, horrendous stuff, kids just being scarred for life and killed and horrible things going on. And immediately, everybody personalises it to whatever their issue, their signature issue is so, you know, anti-trans warriors, culture warriors and stuff for immediately. “Well, there you go. That’s what you get when trans kids are allowed to play sport.” Holy crap. What are you doing? What are you doing?

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:45:46] You know, but this is the problem. I mean, this is like one of your four pillars is communications. And so that’s what happens when you scale it beyond the local, you know, communications in terms of sense-making, you know, once you try and scale so that everybody is supposed to be lock in the thought when data and have a general agreement on what’s real, that it’s just this immune response of this global system is just amazing at breaking up something like that. 

There’s like all kind, you know, there’s all kinds of antigens and things going on there and this and there are memory T cells and all kinds of, you know, things there that people remember the structure of just undermining each other and debating and arguing and competitive dynamics and that that will easily break it up. But if it’s really strong, then you’ve got to send in some killer T cells. 

And so it’s very easy to just send an agent in there undercover who can just, you know, try and reignite some debate or sabotage things. The whole thing just falls apart. It’s got a very good immune response. So, you know, that’s the problem with the idea, this faith that people have in grassroots emergence of new systems.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:47:03] Yeah, I must have admit…

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:47:04] …at the same time revolution on the other side doesn’t work any better.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:47:07] I mean, I’ve come away from this false. I’ve come away from this whole pandemic more committed really to local.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:47:16] Yeah.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:47:17] Because I kind of feel… I’ve been shocked by what I used to refer to as news services. I now refer to them as media outlets. They’re not news services at all. Are media outlets for corporations and the size and the power of that immune system. 

And I think you’re referring to is quite staggering, even to someone who has been following it for at least the last 30 or 40 years. Yeah, I’m just shocked. So I kind of think, OK, where do I go from there? I can only go local. I can only go with my community, with my clan, with my family, with, you know, those around me.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:47:54] Could you imagine if that was that was the global sort of response?

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:47:59] Well, that’s why I think…

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:48:00] Instead of us having to lock ourselves for two years, yeah, rooms as individuals. You know what, if what if it was more about, OK, you’re going to stay local, you’re going to stay in your county, in your shire, whatever it is, we cannot do that for six months a year. You know, here, like let’s break all the work down to part-time. And you know, you can all do some, you know, make some permaculture gardens together because supply chains will be disrupted. So yeah.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:48:29] And an awful lot of grass outside my home…

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:48:31] Exactly. Grow some of your own food from, yeah, you know, read some goats, make some cheese due to whatever you need to do, but hang be local and really just connect with each other. It’s the mental health issues that wouldn’t have happened, the spread of COVID. 

I mean, you wouldn’t have all the variants that you’ve got right now. So it’s funny. It’s like these opposite actions happened in having to try now to do these massive, large scale monocultural interventions, you know, which have been, you know, people didn’t want to do that. Everyone wants that. Every nation wants to have their own thing. Every state wants to have their own thing. But that’s still too big in scale. You know, in doing that, it’s kind of it hasn’t united anybody and it’s kind of broken everybody up.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:49:17] But I think it’s too early to call, I’m an optimist.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:49:20] They could have gone the other way, you know? And the funny thing is that the only diversity that has come out of that, this isn’t the virus itself. It’s doing really well. It’s got all kinds of variants. And I don’t know, I just feel like if people could have been on a lockdown in their regions rather than in the houses or in the neighbourhoods, even then that would have been a very different outcome

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:49:42] And it would have been a very positive one, a very positive one. We would have come out of it going, “Hey, maybe this is the way to go.” Let me. Maybe what we should be doing is this. Instead, they locked us up, scared the shit out of us, made us anxious. I think they call it a mass psychosis. I’ve been reading about that, and I think there’s a point to that.

But listen, another thing that I wanted to ask you about was because in 20, I know it wasn’t 2020 was 2008. Kevin Rudd’s 2020 Summit you came with you came up with the idea of indigenous knowledge centres and you described it. And I thought it was brilliant. And obviously, they did at the time. I think it was brilliant too. Tell us about that vision and how did it turn out? 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:50:22] Well, as with most things, the lowest common denominator tokenism, window dressing. So the idea was about having places that would kind of researching and coming up with the solutions for global problems but utilising indigenous methods of enquiring indigenous knowledge. So indigenous knowledge systems, you know, to study all the other systems that are going the wrong way in the world and actually try and do some innovation from that. That was the idea.

What we ended up with were indigenous culture centres. So they put millions into it and then they did a consultation nationally. Like at the national level, they must have spent millions just on the consultation. You know, every community indigenous community. Consulting in this sort of aggregated that, and they just picked out the parts that were in common right across the board for every single group. 

And so of course, these were the simplest ideas and which are always going to be the ones that are in common when you’re trying to get a consensus. That’s not actually aggregating everything, but it’s just kind of just finding data points in common. Yeah. So it ended up just a series of culture centres. 

I visited one in Brisbane when they happened when they finally came out, and it was just art and Aboriginal art on the walls, artefacts and glass boxes and sort of someone curating collections. There was a display that had and it was a lovely, lovely display there that had all records and memorabilia of famous Aboriginal country music artists. Stuff like that. And it wasn’t. Yeah, it wasn’t what I wanted envisioned.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:52:02] But anyway, that’s I mean, a final. I have finally realised that, and we’ve started by an indigenous knowledge systems lab at Deakin University, you know, and it’s, you know, it’s weird coming into our second year now. And yeah, it was starting to attract a bit of funding. And so we were able to sort of grow our activities there. 

And we’re doing some really cool stuff. We’re consulting on a heap of different projects from designing affordances into public parks that will create micro-economies, but just through the design of the park itself, like stuff like that. And from that to like mental health astronauts where we turn that kind of thing, which is really cool. 

Yeah, we’re messing around with algorithms. We’re doing right. We’re right across a whole heap of different and different areas. Yeah, just really looking at a lot of big problems.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:52:55] I got that the knowledge centres didn’t come off, but I thought it was really important. You know, that strict protocol that you pointed out in your book about four full levels. You know, respect. Connect. Reflect. Direct. Mm-Hmm. Yeah, the non-indigenous approach is exactly the opposite. Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about give us an example of respect, connect, reflect, direct and how we got it so wrong? I mean, I guess the invasion was one example, wasn’t it?

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:53:26] Yeah. Well, it’s just a process. It’s a protocol, I guess. Yeah, it’s a sequence of relations and you know, everybody has it. It’s just that. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because the northern hemisphere spins the other way, but for some reason, you know, people started doing it backwards. And not starting in respect, everybody finishes in respect in the end, everyone comes back to that, but often it’s too late. 

You know, people come in to direct in their name. So it’s, you know, they act, they intervene. You know, they start doing things, building things, making things, and then it all goes wrong. And then so then they kind of start to connect, asking people, Why is the why isn’t this working and the start, you know, connecting with people? 

And then that brings them into reflection, the reflection phase where people start to come together and make sense of what’s happened together. Now that these big disasters occurred and it’s all gone wrong and people end up here in good relation at the end and they start to have that respect to them. Would be great if you learn from that and then start doing it back the other way, which is the right way.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:54:37] You know, you still have respect and you connect and build good relationships and do your thinking together. You know, then with the reflection set aside, you do that collectively and then, you know, direct, which you do collective actions. Yeah. Never. If you do it that way, it’s impossible for unilateralism to occur. You can’t have one person going, “No. I know that leaded fuel, another lead in petrol will work and I’m going to make it happen.” That guy was a real dude.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:55:12] I know I’ve read about it in the press. I’ve read about him. Thomas Midgley. Thomas Midgley, I think.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:55:17] He had more of an impact than any other organism that’s ever lived on this planet.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:55:22] I think we’ve read the same book because it’s just a story…

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:55:25] You know, I haven’t, I didn’t read it in a book. A lot of people talking about it. Yeah, I come out of those yarns, probably from people who read it. Yeah. But that’s what really struck me about it, though that, you know, he had severe depression and he was very unwell. 

He had a lot of stress-related illness, brother. And because it was, but he was single-minded in pursuing this goal and he was, you know, very positive thinking, you know, he never gave up. He followed his dream. He followed his dream to pursue it to the end. And in the end, he was successful and he died alone and in massive amounts of pain.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:56:01] Yeah. 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:56:03] And but he was successful. He painted this thing. He got it done. He got a leaded fuel out into the world and nearly killed it.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:56:12] And while he killed a lot of other people and then…

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:56:15] It took a lot of people together to work together to figure out how to get the lead out of the fuel again.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:56:20] And you know, that same guy actually invented CFC and the fridge and refrigeration as well. So he was respected. He was it, you know, that was the ozone layer, as well.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:56:29] I didn’t know that one. So you put a hole in the ozone, you put a hole in the ozone, everybody and everything. Yeah, unbelievable. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:56:38] Yeah, yeah. But I think that is such an important message to leave us with because we come to the end now. But you know, to think about indigenous knowledge is as a process of respecting, connecting, reflecting and then doing, yeah, wow, what a different world we would have now.

But Tyson got to thank you for writing the book. I mean, I loved it. I enjoyed it. I just there’s so many parts to it that it just took me to another place. Yeah, the two of us, us two. 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:57:10] Well, I’m writing another one now.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:57:12] You are?

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:57:12] Faster, bigger, better, more.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:57:16] Are you really writing another one?

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:57:18] Yeah, yeah. You know, I’ve been halfway through it. I’m really struggling with it. But yeah.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:57:23] What do you do, what you… Wait. Tell us. Give us a preview. 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:57:25] Yeah. The working title was 12 Ways to Avoid Lisps in the Anthropocene.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:57:30] Ahhh. Very good idea.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:57:32] So this idea of trying to get people away from these, these heuristics and these gurus and these cults, and just that kind of bad science of trying to package everything up into respect, connect, reflect, direct. 

Yeah, for example, and just realising how much of my thinking has been co-opted by that, whereby I’m spitting out these same frickin things as well. “Respect, collect, reflect, direct. That are the four things that you have to do.” You know, you do those four, and I tell you, you’ll be right. You know, your personal development will just be, you know, really accelerated.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:58:07] Well, well, you know, Tyson, I’ve written a book called A Life Less Stressed and I have to tell people. “It’s aspirational, not autobiographical.’ And you know, we should collaborate, Tyson, because I’m writing, I’m halfway through a book too, and my working title is Evolution Bikes Back.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:58:25] Oh my god, that’s so cool.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:58:29] Don’t you dare use… (laughs)

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:58:29] We definitely have to work together. No, but I have to tell you what, I mean, I told you the working title.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:58:33] Yeah, yeah, I told you mine. No one’s listening anyway.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:58:37] The actual title now it’s called The Tree That Kills You Back.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:58:41] Oh, okay.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:58:42] So I think we’re on a similar kind of idea.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:58:46] Yeah. Yeah, yeah, we’ll have to… Listen, I told you before we came on that, you know, in that last chapter where you wrote this, Be Like Your Place and you said, here’s a section, it’s about five or six pages or something. I forget how long. And you said, Look, read it out loud to someone who’s got their eyes closed, and that’s exactly what I did. 

My wife lay on the couch and we spent about 15 or 20 minutes. I read it very slowly. I think you would have been proud of me. And she loved it and I loved it, and I wished I was lying on the couch having it read to me because the imagery about connection was so powerful. 

You know, I mean, in the Western medicine, we get excited that there’s a gut-brain connection, even within the same body. Wow. How amazing. Something within the same body is connected. But that piece was just all connecting, and it just took us to places we haven’t been. It was fantastic. 

Tyson Yunkaporta: [00:59:45] It’s great. But I’m concerned about that too, because I just feel like that was audience capture for me and that I was leaning towards guru stuff. No, that’s it’s there’s so much in that book that just makes me cringe because I look at it and there’s a patterning that’s happened that I wasn’t aware of where I was running guru programming. 

You know, I find it amazing that the things that people quote the most back at me are the stupidest things like, I have one sentence that starts with the words The battle between good and evil. I’m like, and I just roll my eye. I can’t believe I said that. Like what I what a tool. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [01:00:22] But listen, I gotta tell you, I got it anyway. By the time you get to the end of the book, you know, the voice is there, the voice is there and I didn’t take it as a guru thing at all. I just took it as a, “Hey, listen to this. We’re having a young, you know, the two of us two. We’re having young, as I said, just the beginning. Yeah, I just was listening. But with this guy, I’ve had the opportunity to talk.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [01:00:44] I turn onto that now by de-guru-ing in my discourses, so I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s very difficult to ride outside of that voice.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [01:00:53] OK, well, listen, thank you so much for joining me and thank you so much for the book. And hey, maybe we will connect and talk about our books to show you mine if you show me yours.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [01:01:02] Yeah, yeah. But just don’t laugh.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [01:01:05] All right.

Tyson Yunkaporta: [01:01:06] Okay, See ya.


Dr Ron Ehrlich: [01:01:09] Well, I just knew that was going to be a great conversation, and really, it’s such a lovely book, it’s such a, you know, Tyson was saying that he felt he’d become a guru, but it wasn’t bad at all in the voice, the two of us as two. He uses the term ‘us’ to write throughout the book, a plural first person. I think it’s… Anyway. 

It’s an unusual turn of phrase, but it’s one that definitely connected with me because as to having [Inaudible 01:01:39] and I was listening to his perspective and his stories, and I just thought they were terrific. And if you haven’t had a chance to read Sand Talk, I would suggest you do, and we will have to put a… We must put a map of all the nations, the 250 nations that make up Australia and also recognise I thought that was so interesting about borders when they’re not straight. 

It kind of tells you that there’s something very organic and geological, geographical about how they’re all laid out and the fact that all those languages evolved in individualism is amazing. And that whole connect like the whole protocol to firstly respect something. In the protocol of indigenous knowledge, to first respect something, to then connect with it and explore it, to reflect on it, and then to actually direct action about it or not. 

I thought that was just so powerful and such an important message. And it’s a theme that I think we have a lot to learn from. Lessons from the past, and that’s the theme we’re going to be exploring a lot more this year. I hope this finds you well. Until next time. This is Dr Ron Ehrlich. Be well.



This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.