American Samizdat

Tuesday, August 14, 2007. *
Savagery
I'm surprised that no one has bothered to comment on my last post besides Trevor. Likely, the frequent posters to this blog have noticed my draft response.

Trevor, you commented with what was possibly the most racist utterance I've seen aired on AmSam, and in light of the "scientific" articles you've posted arguing for voluntary segregation, I think it worth examining. In response to my having written...
other peoples [...] have maintained traditions and economic practices which have fostered their survival for hundreds of thousands of years.
...you wrote the following...
As long as 'survival' means living into your twenties; having 12+ children because only 2-3 will live; never travelling more than a few miles from where you are born; no literacy; infanticice and geriatricide; overt human slavery... as long as 'survival' means that, then yes, hooray the noble savages.
I am not an indigenous person and cannot argue from the perspective of one. All I can do is express my support for the right of indigenous peoples to continue to exist and to choose how they wish to live. (If you are a libertarian, as you have hinted you are, and if you are consistent with the doctrine, I imagine you can do no less.) In this, I am not so much advocating for a return to a way of life which is largely lost but for a respect for a people who are currently living between two worlds--between a set of practices which are vaguely remembered but largely destroyed and a modern civilized world which demands they assimilate but which is largely hostile toward them. In other words, these are not abstract points of a distant history argued by a white primitivist and his libertarian detractor but indicative of the very real political struggle engaged in by real people to thrive despite the continuing onslaught of powerful forces.

In short, I feel uncomfortable speaking for a group of living people who have for historical reasons specific grievances with the United States government when I am not a member of that group. They should be able to speak for themselves and do, though within the white-dominated news media, there is little attention paid to their ongoing struggle.

As to the individual points you bring up, we must separate out the anthropological data on people who lived from 200,000 years ago to the advent of the Encounter and those people whom I was expressing support for in my post. For while the latter are certainly the strongest and most legitimate advocates for a return to what some white theorists call "primitivism," I suspect that the current conditions of their lives are such that a collapse of "the State" would be in some ways as challenging for them as it would be for the average SUV-driving soccer mom or you or I.

But, wait, you're saying, I'm getting totally ahead of myself with this idea that the state is going to collapse, because, you know, through the power of the imagination, all things are possible, and we can create a newer and better world by the application of some new paradigm of technological goodness which will influx the capacity of the (trans)human zero hour threaded through the just-in-time singularity of FOX IN SOX, SIR!

Well, I'm saying you can still play all those sorts of head games--who am I to say what you can and cannot think--but there are also other factors to consider in the real world which are in dire need of attention. (PKD's definition of reality and all that.) Imagining that there is a solution to our present set of conundrums is not the same as IMAGINING THE SOLUTION. Or "a" solution. You know what I mean.

But maybe you're skeptical that there is a set of conundrums at all. Maybe you're of the mindset that nobody "really" "knows" "anything," "not really," so "quit complaining." To which I can only say that a significant number of people feel oppressed by the current state of affairs, and they're not going to be convinced otherwise simply by an appeal to scientific skepticism. Maybe you think they are therefore stupid, but you'd be thereby denying the empirical method.

As for the anthropological data concerning those peoples whose practices are largely lost to history (or who still more or less exist in small pockets scattered throughout the globe), Jason Godesky of the Anthropik Tribe has compiled a majestic mountain of research. I'm going to simply defer to him on the individual topics. Life expectancy, infant mortality and infanticide can be read about in his Thesis #25: Civilization reduces quality of life. (I've linked to the Google cache because the original is crashing my Firefox.) Geriatricide is addressed here.

As to the term "noble savages": White supremacism in the service of empire has documented historical manifestations. It is not simply a phantom created by leftists who want to abstractly claim that Western civilization is evil. Perhaps it would be interested for you to learn that the term "noble savage" was popularized by a white supremacist in the course of arguing for the manifest destiny of England's dominance over the American continent?

Given your concern with ridiculing religion, I feel it necessary to point out that science has a likewise mixed track record when it comes to public policy. For instance, less than 50 years ago it was the height of scientific fashion to regard homosexuality as a disease. The contemporary Christian theory of the viability of homosexual reeducation camps is based largely on the once-current psychoanalytic theory that gays could be "cured." These contemporary forms of discrimination can be traced back at least as far as the eugenics movement, which held that homosexuality (like race mixing) weakened the robustness of the white race.

It is from just this tradition of scientific bigotry (albeit one bolstered by religious bigotry) that the arguments against acknowledging the rights of the "noble savage" come from--as well as the poisonous characterizations. (Sure, it's bad science, but it's still science.)

What we need to cure our addiction to authoritarian religion is not so much science but democracy.
posted by the thistle at 2:17 AM
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