Re: AniaLian post

Tibor Benke (benke@SFU.CA)
Sat, 4 Mar 1995 10:27:02 -0800

On March 1, 1995 casrter pate wrote

> The tendency
> of most people who have domesticated plants and/or animals to expand into
>adjacent (or accessible) territories which they can exploit, and eventually
>to push out or dominate those who practice other forms of subsistence therein
>is pretty evident in the cultural record. "Accidents" of particular cases lead
> to variations, but there is extensive evidence of extensive "colonialism" of
>this sort. Similarly, urban life styles have tended to expand their control ov
>er adjacent or accessible areas with resources they would like to utilize--the
>wider colonialism of which recetn "western" forms are merely a variation, much
>more intensive because of industrial technology. Ability to remain in some per
>manent "residence" and relatively higher birth rates have been among the
>factors promoting the "domestication" pattern; specialization and an acceler-
>ation of technolgical and other types of change have been among those which
>have urban "colonization" to be so rapid, so massive, and so destructive of
>whoever we define as "aborigines" --and despite the limitations of reaching
>limitation in their exploitation of environment, of intrusive "nomads" who
>sometimes remain to assimilate and lead, of differential demographic factors
>which mean that the central cities of enduring states seldom replace them-
>selves by their own reporduction. (I won't go into other arguments now, for
>this concept of a "natural logic of human experience," except to sug-
>gest that it operates not through deterministic "cause and effect," so much as
>through environmental, social and cultural pressures, ussually from multiple
>sources, which sometimes combine strongly enough to OVERDETERMINE not the
>details or outcomes, but the occurence of significant events.)
> Rather than "aborigines" or "Native Americans," I rather like the term
>"First Nations" now widely used in Canada to refer to peoples descended from
>the preColumbian inhabitants of the Americas. Civility and humanity seem to
>require that we respect the identities and ways we vary in doing things purely
>within the boundaries of our own societies, that we struggle to remove the
>remaining barriers against those who have been pushed aside and exploited in
>the past, and offer correction or restitution for many grevious ill-treatments
>which have occurred. But complete "aboriginal sovereigny" is no more a
>solution, than is "national sovereignty" which continues to lead larger powers
>into destructive warfare! Let's get on with the business of how we can all
>all coexist, negotiate the conflicts which will arise out of some of our
>differences, and survive as a species in a multicultural and increasingly
>global society.
> Anybody else thinking along similar lines?

I like the term "First Nations" as well.

It is true that "sovereignity" , much like "property" is a difficult
concept. The good Christian Europeans who claimed, purchased, conquared,
etc. land in the Americas and the South Pacific, used property concepts and
political concepts that were the product of thousands of years of
development. The question for us now is whether, as we see that these
concepts are relative, we are capable of giving equal weight to
conceptualizations which are different ? In British Columbia, the G'itskan
case seems to indicate that we are not yet able to move beyond capitalist
concepts of who is entitled to property and on what grounds and what
soveirgnety means. There are, of course other developments in the legal
sphere that point the other way: maybe the land claims issue will be
settled some decent way. In any case, although the pattern of demographic
expansion you discribe was undoubtedly what took us to where we are,
continuation of that pattern is no longer feasable - after the Holocaust,
genocide has gotten a bad name. Perhaps we can evolve property and
political concepts that will lead to biological sustainability, perhaps we
will evolve a way to colonize the rest of the solar system according to the
pattern we have developed, then again, we might exterminate ourselves.

My question is, how can we learn from what might be termed "fourth world"
cultures so that we neither romanticise them, nor illegitimately
appropriate their intellectual property, nor discount their past and
potential future contributions to our common survival? It seems to me
that some (I sudder to use the term) *universal* concept of human rights
needs to be formulated. Such a concept would have to go beyond the one the
UN occasionally pays lip service to and would need to recognize the right
of some people in some circumstances to be obstinate in the face of
"progress". For some irrational reason, I find the human genome diversity
project frightening. Somehow (to decend to using a "new age" term) it has
the same vibes as the Mannhattan Project and its successors.

>@> Tibor Benke / (^)%(#)
>@> Graduate Student (MA program)
>@> Department of Sociology and Anthropology
>@> Simon Fraser University,
>@> Burnaby, B.C., Canada. V5A 1S6 >@