Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, RIP

Age 46, a Torres Strait Islander, here are various obituaries.


he's probably not the only one we've lost today. so sad.

Such a sad loss. Hey US friends, our indigenous community have asked us to be respectful of their tradition not to post images of the deceased. It's hard, because we so want to honour and remember. But there it is.

Yes, and you should not name the deceased either, from Google: (WaPo obit) "Mr. Yunupingu is now referred to by local media as Dr. G. Yunupingu because of cultural sensitivities among northern Australian Aborigines around naming the dead"

And the transgendered "community" wants us to be respectful of their fantasies, too. Or else.

@ Rich Berger: I hope people treat the things you hold sacred with the same disrespect.

Now now, let's not assume that he cares about anything.


Torres Straight Islanders are an actual community.

Nonsense. There is nothing sinister, harmful, or reflecting a "fantasy," about this particular aboriginal tradition.The transgender community, in contrast, are a bunch of mentally ill bullies who want to force everyone to think in their mentally ill fashion and who promote mutilation and other harmful behaviors.

Not sure what I find more unbelievable. That there is someone who is so lacking in balls they have managed to be bullied by a transgender community or that they are so lacking in self respect they are willing to admit it.

But if you are writing from India, I take this back.

The responses to my comment are about what I expected. Although there are individuals who are born with male and female sexual characteristics, there is no such thing as a "transgendered" person. What you have are those who wish they were other than they were born and different degrees of illusion to appear to be the other sex. It could be as superficial as wearing the clothing and hairstyles of the opposite sex or it could advance to surgical mutilation or treatment with hormones. None of these methods change the person's biological sex.

The progressive orthodoxy of "transgender" is defended by a moat of outrage and vitriol heaped on anyone who dares to point out its falsehood. People who want to be what they are not may be deserving of our sympathy, but we do not have to share their delusion. It's very similar to the story of the emperor's new clothes, from Hans Christian Andersen -

Reality is not optional, no matter how much totalitarians of all stripes wish to replace it with their illusory worldview.

Given that the community is now dated at about 65000 years old, I wonder when it was decided that it was disrespectful to "post images of the deceased".


And we should also remember to not make political cartoons featuring Muhammad. Let's bend Western Civilization to every cultural superstition out there!

Does it matter? When did sticking a middle finger up become offensive?
If it was only 50 years ago, does that mean it isn't really offensive?

The tradition was originally not referring to the recently deceased person by their alive name - once imagery became available, it's not a big stretch to say that you don't use a picture of them during 'sorry time'.

I learned two new things from those links. First, Wikipedia now has trigger warnings for anyone upset by reading the name of a dead person (or at least this dead person). Second, I'd not previously heard of "long-grassing". I'm trying to imagine the sadness that would follow if the lost citizens of Atlantis reappeared from wherever they've been hiding, decided we were, sadly, very distant and somewhat retarded cousins, took over the operation of things, put us on food stamps and welfare, and then went about building Emerald Citys; in them living beautifully incomprehensible lives, all while we looked shabbily on. Long-grassing doesn't seem too unlikely an answer to such circumstances.

It is considered a mark of respect in the Australian indigenous community to not use a person's name or look at their photograph for a period after their death. That is why many TV news reports about dead people here in Australia are prefaced with short warnings about images of deceased people being present. I doubt Wikipedia would institute such a thing, but I'm happy to accept it this time because the person was indigenous Australian himself.

As for it being a "trigger warning"... you still get to read it, so why do you care?

Some people seem to get upset at any public acknowledgment of religious belief.

Note too the assertion in T.S.'s analogy that modern civilization is "incomprehensible" to aboriginal people.

Thanks for that T.S., this is found in the Taboo on the Dead section of Wikipedia (Taboo sounds Pacific Islander btw).

"Among the Guajiro of Colombia to mention the dead before their kin is a dreadful offence, which is often punished with death; for if it happens on the rancho of the deceased, in presence of a nephew or uncle, they will assuredly kill the offender on the spot if they can. But if they escape, the penalty resolves itself into a heavy fine, usually of two or more oxen.[9]"

And: "The Maasai of East Africa resort to the device of changing the dead person's name immediately after their death; the person may then be mentioned freely under the new name while all the restrictions remain attached to the old one. They assume that the dead person will not know their new name, and so will not answer to it when hearing it pronounced.[7] Among the Kaurna and Ramindjeri tribes of South Australia, the repugnance to mentioning the names of those who have died lately is carried so far that persons who bear the same name as the deceased abandon it, and either adopt temporary names or are known by any others that happen to belong to them.[8]"

And, no offense taken if you refer to the dead guy as "what's his name": " In some Australian Aboriginal culture the dead are not referred to by their name directly as a mark of respect. In Pitjantjatjara, for instance, it is common to refer to a recently deceased person as 'kunmanara', which means "what's his name".

And finally, weird names are not common because: (Wikipedia) "This presents some challenges to indigenous people. In traditional society, people lived together in small bands of extended family. Name duplication was less common. Today, as people have moved into larger centres, with 300 to 600 people, the logistics of name avoidance have become increasingly challenging. Exotic and rare names have therefore become very common, particularly in Central Australia and desert communities, to deal with this new challenge."

If I had to put my two cents on it, I think this taboo is less a sign of respect than the traditional animist superstition (found in Greek culture too, at least in the countryside) of not upsetting the dead so they come back to haunt you.

Tangentially related and interesting, Wikipedia on avoidance of people:

"In what is the strongest kinship avoidance rule, some Australian Aboriginal customs ban a person from talking directly to their mother in law or even seeing her. A mother-in-law also eats apart from her son-in-law or daughter-in-law and their spouse. If the two are present at the same ceremony, they will sit with their backs to each other but they can still communicate via the wife/husband, who remains the main conduit for communication in this relationship."

A possible reason is given for this custom:

"The age of marriage is very different for men and women with girls usually marrying at puberty while a man may not marry until his late 20s or even later. As mothers-in-law and sons-in-law are likely to be of approximately the same age the avoidance practice possibly serves to circumvent potential illicit relationships."

Back to death taboos, in the West I guess we make holograms now to honor (i.e. monetize) the dead. And speaking of deceased indigenous musical islanders, I seem to recall visiting the Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole statue on Oahu built after his untimely death at 38.

Call me when John McCain assumes room temperature, as H.L. Mencken used to say.

If you cross the line and start selling tickets to your concerts you don't get to retreat to your pre-Modern social arrangements just because you're dead.

I'm just cranky because I don't like singer-songwriters - in whatever language they sing. It's James Taylor all the way down.

When people die in Australia, the corpses are sent straight directly to pet food companies. This is because we don't retreat to pre-modern superstitious funeral and burial rites out of the middle ages.

No complacency there.

Some pretty piss-poor contributions in the comments today. You lot really have a talent for finding the bottom of the barrel and then going a bit further.

Yes, shameful. Sorry I bothered on a thread of simple respect for a worldview not our own.

MR would be a great blog if Tyler Cowen could be bothered to invest in comments moderation.

Kate, I'm afraid some people are simply curmudgeons, while others think it is actually good and virtuous to mock a cultural practice that occurs all the way on the opposite side of the planet and of which they were previously unaware.

I think the logic of it goes something like this:

1. My political opponents are extremely evil.
2. Which means I much be extremely good for opposing them.
3. At some point, somewhere, a person I regard as my political opponent said we should respect another culture's beliefs.
4. Since my political opponents are entirely evil, respecting other culture's beliefs must, therefore. be evil.
5. Mocking other culture's beliefs is good and opposing evil by doing so makes me virtuous, Q.E.D.

This blog has a lot going for it, but I'm particularly grateful for posts like this - introducing us ignorants to beautiful things. Better late than never.

Thanks Kaiser. Restores my faith in human nature. K

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