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Leaving aside the risk of conquest by stronger outsiders, there is the problem of how to adapt when a culture no longer works. Socrates and Plato were the tip of the spear for a generation of Greeks who found philosophy about Forms or essence more meaningful than stories about the rather petty gods of Greek religion. Everyone grasped that what Socrates was teaching the young to do (question everything) was ultimately a mortal threat to the increasingly shaky foundational myths of the culture.
A century ago, American culture was founded on a unity of faith, family, and patriotism. God had clearly blessed America. Now, a huge portion (quite possibly a majority) no longer believes in that three-part unity. But I suspect a majority does miss the certainty, positivity, and security of that previous state of affairs and will grope or be led towards that which looks like a viable replacement, one most likely offered by better liars than those now in control.
Because the issue of cultural recovery is of great interest, I find the efforts of native peoples to reestablish some cultural identity to be instructive. Consider the case of M. Kaneo Manuel, blamed by some for the delay in releasing water to be used to fight the Maui wildfires. He issues mixed references to Hawaiian culture and the quintessentially white social justice rhetoric. Would traditional Hawaiian rulers call for “conversations about equity” in a crisis or simply do what was in the interest of their own people but maybe not of their enemies?
Cherry-picked elements of a tribal culture bathed in the rhetoric and ideology spawned by the Frankfurt School is a Frankenstein monster of sorts—defiantly non-white but “non-white” as defined solely in terms and concepts provided by whites. Consider this excerpt from an articulate statement by a young Native American:
The lack of reciprocity within Western education highlights the uneven power dynamic embedded within both universities and settler colonial society at large. True decolonization means genuinely listening to Indigenous community members and creating shifts in the power dynamics that uplift Indigenous ways of connecting with the lived environment. Institutions, including both universities and government systems, need to provide more than seats at the table.
He says that decolonization requires listening to indigenous voices but if the dialogue they employ only uses the language concepts found entirely in white leftist academia and in old Obama speeches doesn’t that complete the white cultural conquest? It is a mockery of tribal peoples and cultures if they are reconstructed as white liberals conceive of them. It is at least a bit ironic that the statement cited above appears on the website of the Aspen Institute, the mothership of white liberal cultural colonizers.
I read somewhere that Australian aboriginal peoples did not use distinctions and categories like technology, religion, history, or politics but simply referred to the collective wisdom and practical knowledge of the tribe as “the Law.” Centuries ago, Polynesian visitors in the north of Australia introduced agriculture but the locals ultimately rejected that in favor of the old ways, which makes sense if method, belief, and social cohesion are tightly integrated.
In contrast, the tribes of the Great Plains built an entirely new culture from the killer app (horses) left by the Spanish and promptly made mobile war on each other with enthusiasm. In even greater contrast, Americans have tried (with mixed success) to create a culture in which innovation and technological change comprise the norm. Maybe the Australian First Nations People were onto something about the benefits of trying to make beliefs, social order, and technique a consonant and unchanging whole.
As we normals are pushed onto reservations in red states, watching history decide whether Hegel (there will be one all-powerful state) or Nietzsche (once everyone realizes everything is BS there will be anarchy) was right, we might want to reflect on the spiritual roots of true humanism and Western civilization. That is where the rebuild must start and not with a deconstruction and power analysis of our status as an oppressed people. The enemy has correctly focused on lies about “identity” as a main theater of their cultural war because universal recognition of the truth and intrinsic value of our shared humanity is the first line of defense against tyranny. If we become ignorant of who and what we really are, the enemy thinks they win.Published in