A mysterious, otherworldly vehicle has appeared in the countryside and the locals want to know why. These locals send a crack team of scientists and heavies over to assure that there’s no threat to their community. Once there, they discover beings the likes of which they’ve never encountered before. These beings seem placid and peaceful, but there’s a major hitch: the locals can’t understand them. And when they can’t figure out what they want, the locals fear that the aliens may be readying for an attempt at occupation.
They need to be able to communicate. They need to learn their language.
They send for the linguists.
If Amy Adams has popped into your head, we’re on the same page. If not, go and watch Arrival, Denis Villeneuve’s 2016 film (it’s very good). If yours is a story of immigration, as is the case for so many Gippslandians, we’re on the same page too.
The broader our language gets, the broader our lives get.
Communication is essential, and we all have the ability to communicate — even if we don’t understand each other. The key to truly effective communication, to creating a shared identity and forging deeper bonds within our community, is sharing language. Of course, this isn’t to suggest that xenophobic ideals of unfair and unreasonable assimilation is the way to go, but rather that the broad church of a community’s language should grow in such a way that everyone is accommodated. I don’t want to sound ‘preachy, and we’re getting better at it, but as Gippsland’s history in being accommodating for alien languages has been spotty, we can’t deny it.
The different waves of immigrant groups who came to Gippsland are well documented. All have fought their respective battles and earned begrudging respect, which has then become true familial union. What, then, is the driving force behind this slow change of heart? What is it that needs to happen in order for the locals to get on the same page as the newcomers?
In Arrival, it is eventually discovered that the aliens (known as heptapods) experience time differently from humans. To them, the past, the present and the future are all happening simultaneously. Because of this, their language is constantly using their version of the word ‘time’ as a building block from which all other communication then stems.
It’s less obvious, but we can see examples of time working at the base of the slow acceptance of alien relationships and alien language in Gippsland. Relationships and language that evolve over time and become a shared experience. We can see it in people’s surnames, the food we eat, who’s hanging out with whom, and our slang — our shared language. “G’day” is for everyone. The ability to speak, or sign, or write, or type (or whatever your mode of communication may be) is our ultimate freedom, and Gippsland becomes freer the more language we have at our disposal. The broader our language gets, the broader our lives get.
With every new wave of aliens, our hesitations diminish somewhat. We still send the scientists and heavies over to make sure everything’s fine and that the rest of us will be okay, but the melting pot that Gippsland has become is more accepting of people from other planets. Our modes of communication are widening. We’re not there yet, but take heart, newcomers. You’ll become part of the family. Your arrival is a boon to us.
The Immigration Wall of Recognition in Morwell’s Gippsland Immigration Park doesn’t have space for new names, but it should. Think of that monument as a book, and its various walls as pages. We should publish a second, third and fourth edition.
Then we’d all be on the same page.