Friday, February 25, 2005

There WILL be categories...

The other day I got to thinking about the world. Well, not really the world so much as the globe. We are on the surface of an orb, floating in a great fastness of space, right? Why is it, then, that we came to regard North as being "up" the way that we, you know, do? More specifically, why are globes always positioned with the northern hemisphere on the top?

These questions led me to another we geographically view the world in the way that we do because most of the conquering societies in historical memory have been from the northern hemisphere? (Greek, Roman, Abassid, Turkish, Mongol, British, U.S.,'s empires, tomorrow's ashes.) Was it simply a matter of self importance and therefore convenience that the globe is viewed the way it is? Did it just make more sense to not have to lay on the floor to look at the world? I should probably ask a geographer.

So, what this all really leads to is the question of social reform in colonized societies. (A long hop skip and a jump, I know...) Currently we are doing a unit on a Maori (from New Zealand...or rather, OF New Zealand)--at least half Maori--writer in my Post-Colonial Lit class and it has me thinking about the way different people, cultures, and classes interact. The author, Alan Duff, seems to be of the opinion that a failure to succeed on the part of the Maori is caused by internalized hatred, racism, and futile thoughts. Which would mean that he advocates the "path of least resistance" or, in this case, simply to allow yourself, as a submissive culture, to be assimilated and co-opted by the dominant culture. I, on the other hand, see it less as a domineering attitude on the part of the colonizers (generally European, white, male, etc.) but rather a disinterest in other cultures--or possibly an intense interest, depending on your POV--and their histories that allows them [the conquerors] to go about their business with little or no remorse. And so, in order to proffer understanding, or at the very least MY understanding, here come the categories:

Sociopolitical Unwillingness to Compromise
There seems to be a desire of people from the northern climes to move their selves and their cultures to more hospitable locales. To that end colonials take the creature comforts of the lives to which they have been accustomed with them all over the world under the protection of their home governments. When they arrive in these more palatable places and begin to live life as they have always conducted themselves, creating conversations with the pre-existing inhabitants that probably went something like:

EURO: "This is a real nice place you've got here. Lots of natural resources and whatnot."
LOCAL: "Yes, we like it. It's home, anyways. Say, where are you from anyway?"
EURO: "Yeah, reeeal posh...and LUSH. Bet you can grow a lot of good sturdy crops with this soil; it looks quite fertile."
LOCAL: "Actually, we are quite agrarian, now that you mention it. But, is there something I could help you with? I notice you have an awful lot of luggage on your boats there."
EURO: "What's that?"
LOCAL: "I say, you have a good deal of baggage there."
EURO: "Oh, yes. Quite right! We're moving in...going to take up residence here."
LOCAL: "I'm sorry, it sounded like you said you were moving in."
EURO: "I did."
LOCAL: "And where were you planning on living?"
EURO: "Well, your house looked kind of tempting."
LOCAL: "You're saying you want to move in with my family?"
EURO: "I daresay not! I never did get on well with flatmates. You'll be moving out."
LOCAL: "But where will that leave us?"
EURO: "Hadn't given it much thought, actually. Somewhere on the periphery I suppose. No matter, you'll get by just fine I sus."
LOCAL: "What!? That hardly seems fai--"
EURO: "You didn't have any sort of pre-existing culture or history that is going to be upset by our moving in and taking over, did you?"
LOCAL: "Actually--"
EURO: "Good, because that would be inconvenient. Now, if you wouldn't mind, those ships are not going to unload themselves. I'll be playing cricket over on the lawn...ring me when tea is served."

Essentially the Europeans have found that their system of government and society works for them, so why shouldn't it work for everyone else? The natives will be allowed to keep all the culture they want, but if it is success that they are after they are going to have to become Europeanized and follow the rules laid out in some dreary London board room for social and business conduct. Is that so bad?

Can Culture be Maintained?
Personally, I think there is nothing wrong, or evil, about maintaining one's culture and heritage while still moving forward with social evolution. Which is to say, "Although I am just a big dumb whitey, I think that people's history is important, and can be maintained while allowing the individual to progress with a more modern (albeit westernized) model of success. This does not mean that I favor demeaning people in any way shape or form because of the past proclivities of their families. Rather, it means that everyone...EVERYONE...should be judged on their own individual merits, desires, achievements, and ambitions. ("I can take responsibility for what I've done, but not for who I am.") Sure, it may mean jumping through some hoops, and it might not even be morally correct, but it seems alright to me. But that is partially because I am an American. We don't really have a sense of heritage anymore and therefore view it as an anchor keeping people from the future and success, rather than something to be cherished or valued.

Screwing for Justice and Equality?
(Preface: this is only very tangentially attached to the above topics...) Is it wrong that I think very practically about reproduction? For example, I am a very pale, balding, big person. Now, I know there are people who say that you cannot control who you fall in love with, it could be anybody that is "the one". Aside from the fact that I don't believe that there is a "one" but many "possible ones" that time and circumstance could put you into contact with, affording you a bright and happy future; there is the option of pragmatism.

As a child I got sunburned like the dickens. (Not Charles, some other, less famous, Dickens) Would it then be wrong for me to seek out a mate with darker skin and features so that my children need not go through all of that aloe-vera? Or how about the fact that my hair is not much longer for this world? Would it be offensive to as a potential partner about her father's scalp condition. There are many haircuts that I would like to try, but alas, my hair has not been co-operative. Shouldn't my kids have options? That's all I'm saying...think about the future. For god's sake, will someone please think of the children!

-A.R. Leith

p.s.- Kids, stay off the drugs. They're not good for you, and they're a real drain on your bank account. Just some friendly advice from your Uncle A.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is good to see that even the laypersons may post their comments in plain view for all to see.

Could there be any correlation between the orientation of the globe and the attitudes or values of the people who inhabit it?

For example, do the people in the Southern Hemisphere find themselves, both figuratively and literally, looking up to the cultures of the Norhtern Hemisphere? Also, could this be a subconcious motivator for their passivity?

And should the hemispheres be capitalized?

-Morgan Gilliland