Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Enduring Myth

Native American Russell Means died the other day and I was not sad. Once I thought he had something valuable to say, so I cracked his autobiography. That's how I discovered, in the first few pages, that the man was a racist.

And hey, I understand. If I grew up in poverty on the Pine Ridge res, I might hate white people too.

It doesn't make it right...but I understand.

I have to say, though, that I can not countenance ignorance such as this:
Being is a spiritual proposition. Gaining is a material act. Traditionally, American Indians have always attempted to be the best people they could. Part of that spiritual process was and is to give away wealth, to discard wealth in order not to gain. Material gain is an indicator of false status among traditional people, while it is "proof that the system works" to Europeans.
Oh bullshit.

This is pure myth-making "noble savage" nonsense. We've heard it all before. In the film, The New World, Colin Farrell's John Smith waxes poetic:

They are gentle, loving, faithful, lacking in all guile and trickery. The words denoting lying, deceit, greed, envy, slander, and forgiveness have never been heard. They have no jealousy, no sense of possesion.
You see, Native Americans were perfect and the white man ruined it.

But here's the truth:

Native Americans are human. I know, it's shocking, but they are just as capable of greed and deceit as anyone else in our species.

This idea that they did not seek status or material gain? If you were still alive, Russell, I would invite you to study your own history. Not the stories your grandma told you, but the actual history.

Learn about the civilizations in Mexico. Read up on Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde and Cahokia. Learn about the Aztecs and the Inca. You're going to tell me that "material gain is an indicator of false status among traditional people?" Well I guess you never heard of Montezuma...

One of the key reasons Cortes was able to defeat Montezuma was because his Spanish cohorts had legions of native allies who were pissed off about paying too much tribute to the emperor.

And you're going to tell me "traditional people" have this "spiritual process" where they "give away wealth?" Nut-uh.

Let me show you the ruins where kings reigned and the common people knelt before them. You think that's a European innovation?

Better educate yourself. Especially if you're attempting to educate me. I've done my homework on this one....


Anonymous said...

I saw Russell Means at the Churchill trial. He was all decked out in costume.

James said...

Pink feathers and everything?