Indigenous Greed?

Bret Diamond (diam9018@TAO.SOSC.OSSHE.EDU)
Mon, 6 Mar 1995 15:24:04 -0800

example of pre-contact capitalist greed by an indigenous group, all
attempts so far have failed to meet the criteria that I put forth.
Mike Lieber made reference to Native Americans stealing each
others horses, but to my knowledge, Native Americans didn't utilize the
horse until the late 1700's, early 1800's, this would certainly not
qualify as "pre-contact." He also made reference to Pawnee raids on
neighboring tribes to steal food, while one could question the morality
of stealing, I still don't think that stealing and then consuming a
commodity falls under the tenets of capitalism. In simple terms, I see
capitalism as a purposeful attempt to produce a surplus, so that the
surplus can the be "reinvested" to produce an even greater surplus. Also,
capitalist ventures tend to focus on the needs and wants of the
individual, rather than the community.
Danny Yee responded by pointing out that indigenous cultures have
wreaked havoc on the environment, they just did'nt have the technology to
do it on as large a scale as we do now. I find this argument flawed for
a couple of reasons. First of all, it doesn't take a lot of technology
to "fish out" a small lake, stream, or pond. Nor does it take a lot of
technology to hunt a species to extinction. Secondly, indigenous
environmental failures are often gleefully made reference to in order to
somehow justify our destruction of the environment. Did Coban (and other
Mayan cities) fail because of greed, or because of poor planning? Did
the Mayan rulers bail themselves out with a "golden parachute" and retire
to Switzerland? Many Native American tribes traded buffalo hides for
goods etc. but did they hunt them to extinction for short term profit?
I have been admonished by several people for establishing the
parameter of "pre-contact" for this challenge, people have wondered if
I'm insinuating that the Euro-colonists brought greed with them and
"contaminated" the pure societies that were living here in harmony with
nature. Let me make it clear that I'm not insinuating, I'm
hypothesizing. In much the same way that Native Americans had not been
exposed to diseases such as smallpox prior to the arrival of the whites,
I conclude that neither had they been exposed to the "disease" of
capitalism. Capitalism always has and always will seek to stamp out
subsistence-based economies because A) there's no profit in subsistence,
and B) the last remaining resource rich areas in the world are currently
controlled by subsistence based societies, they have'nt squandered their
inheritence the way that we have.