Romancing the Native: A Study in Ecofascism - Part 1

holly stang jannistang at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 8 23:02:16 MDT 2002


Months ago, when Jim Craven first hurled his challenge
at me: who are you to question native spirituality?,
he also uttered the following curse: You come from
nowhere.

Since then, I've spent some time reading Louis
Proyect's
ecology papers at his homepage; and I find this
curious
curse repeated. Over and over, the rootlessness of the
European invaders is counterposed to the aborigianl
peoples and their supposedly morally superior intimacy
with their territory.

"The European invader viewed these practices as
wasteful. From the very beginning, the North American
Indian innate conservationist existence was in
conflict with the goals of farmers, hunters, miners
and ranchers who sought to make money from the land
and from animals. When they exhausted the land, they
simply would move elsewhere. The only way they could
carry out such predatory commercial activities was by
removing the Indian."

"As herds of such animals left the soil exhausted, the
rancher simply moved elsewhere since he thought that
land was limitless. The damage left by the sheep led
John Muir, the 19th century conservationist and
founder of the Sierra Club, led him to describe the
animals as "hoofed locusts."

"Part of the enormous job in allying all the diverse
sectors of the American population against an
increasingly reactionary and violent government is
explaining that the Indian comes first. This means
that Sea-Shepherd and Greenpeace activists must
understand that preservation of the "wilderness" makes
no sense if the Indian is excluded.
        
The best way to restore the United States to
ecological,
economic and spiritual health is to reconsider ways in
which the pre-capitalist past can be approximated in a
modern setting. Just as it makes sense for the Makah
to use whatever weapons they deem necessary in pursuit
of the whale, it might make sense for the entire
northwestern plains states to be returned to the bison
under the stewardship of the Blackfoot Indian. They
have a much better track record on taking care of
resources than do the agribusiness corporations who
despoil the land for profit."

There are some very unMarxist formulations here. The
whole mass of European ethnicity is counterposed to
the whole mass of Indian culture. Where is the class
formulation? Where is the recognition that the vast
majority of these farmers and ranchers were as much
victims as perpetrators of policies serving no one but
the ruling class. The story of the building of the
railway here in Canada (and I gather in the States as
well) is a story not only of the virtual slavery of
the Chinese immigrants who laid the rails, but also a
story of the systematic bilking of Proyect's
much-maligned farmers and ranchers by those very same
raliroad companies. In fact, there are many here who
are of the opinion that the Dominion of Canada was
formed largely at the behest of rail
magnates who wanted a free hand in this. If the farmer
"simply moved elsewhere" as Proyect contends, it was
largely due to bankruptcy that resulted when he was
unable to pay the exhorbitant interest and freight
rates charged by the railroads. It was not due to "bad
character".

"The Indian comes first" ... So, the ecologically
superior
Indian has replaced the proletariat as the dynamic
agent in history? Do the bison need stewarding? In
this return to aboriginal purity, would women be
relegated to the secondary role of rawhide
manufacturer?

This is all very puzzling. Can Louis Proyect possibly
be
unaware of the disastrous use made of the stereotype
of the "rootless, cosmopolitan Jew" in recent history?
Can he possibly be unaware of the dangers of touting
the moral superiority of one race over another? Yet
that's exactly what he does over and over in his
ecology papers. Native people are cited for their
"restraint" in their approach to "nature", for their
"wise" use of resources, for their thriftyness in
avoidance of waste. To listen to Proyect, you'd think
the Native Americans had been veritable paragons of
the Protestant Work Ethic. One is left to surmise that
this wonderfully superior character of theirs is a
result of some mystical connection to the land.

In other words, we have the classic "blood and soil"
doctrine being touted on a Marxist website. let's take
a
closer look at this doctrine, straight from the
horse's
mouth.

"The conception of the nation has become meaningless.
We have to get rid of this false coception and set in 
in its place the conception of race. The New Order
cannot be conceived in terms of the national
boundaries of the peoples with an historic past, but
in terms of race that transcend these boundaries.. .I
know perfectly well that in the scientific sense there
is no such thing as race. But you, as a farmer, cannot
get your breeding right without the conceptioon of
race. And I, as a politician, need a
conception which enables the order that has hitherto
existed on an historic basis to be abolished, and an
entirely new and anti-historic order enforced and
given an intellectual basis.. And for this purpose the
conception of race serves me well." Rauschning,
-Hitler Speaks-

"There are two closely related factors which we can
time and  time again trace in periods of national
decline: one is that for the conception of the value
of personality there is substituted a levelling idea
of the supremcacy of mere
numbers -- democracy -- and the other is the negation
of the value of a people, the denial of any divergence
in the
inborn capacity, the achievement of individual
peoples."

"National Socialism takes as the starting point of the
views and its decisions neither the individual nor
humanity. It puts consciously into the central point
of its whole thinking the volk. This Volk is for it a
blood-conditioned entity in which it sees the
God-willed building-stone of human society. The
indivdual is transitory, the Volk is permanent. If the
Liberal Weltanschauung in its deification of the
single individual must lead to the destruction of the
Volk, National Socialism, on the other hand, desires
to safeguard the Volk, if necessary even at the
expense of the individual. It is essential that the
individual should slowly come to realize that his own
ego is unimportant whencompared with the existence of
the whole people... above all he must realize that the
freedom of the mind and will of
a nation are to be valued more highly than the
indiviual's
freedom of mind and will. pg 401.

The above citations are taken from Bullock' biography
of
Hitler. He sums it all up as follows:

"But it is also a passage characteristic of Hitler's
way of
talking: a staightforward claim to unlimited power was
dressed up in the myth of a 'pure' race, just as on
other
occasiosn Hitler gave it a Wangerian colouring and
talked of founding a new Order of Knights." Alan
Bullock, Hitler: A study in Tyranny, 1964.

Let's look a little closer at Bullock's conclusion,
that
Hitler's racial doctrine is a "claim to unlimited
power". Is
this merely Bullock's prejudice speaking - he doesn't
like
Hitler/Nazism - or is it a justifiable conclusion
inherent
in the ideology? Because I'm a synthesizing kind of
person,  I like to start with points of unity. I can
agree with the first sentence of the third quote: as
Marxists, our starting point is also neither the
individual nor humanity. We are not idealists, but
materialists; and we take as our starting point the
material universe. For us, humanity is an integral
part of that universe and our consciousness is a
product of the real world.

At first glance, it may seem that the blood and soil
doctrine is an expression of a similar materialist
philosphy. "the Volk community, rooted in the soil and
bound together by the common bond of its common
blood."

"Indeed, the possibility of preserving a healthy
farming
community as a foundation for the whole nation can
never be valued highly enough.  Many of our
present-day woes are simply the result of an unhealthy
relationship between our rural and city population.  A
solid stock of small and moderate-size farmers has at
all times been the best defense against social ills
such as we possess today." Mein Kampf

"Today the age of raceless thinking is being displaced
by
the ideals of human variability. Values are rooted in
origin
and territory, and each group has a historic mission
based on its own unique and eternal values." Mein
Kampf

The Aryan Myth: The Ideological Background of the
Third
Reich
Eva Talmudge:
"Ideologies emerge not only from the official
philosophical
schools, but are also generated through an
"underground" whose leading representatives are often
barely noticed by later historians. Heinrich Riehl
(1823-97), a man who left no trace in any history of
philosophy text, was a seminal theorist of Volkisch
ideology. His book Land und Leute [ Places and People]
argued that the inner character of a people is
completely intertwined with their particular native
landscape. Central to Riehl's thinking and to Volkisch
ideology thereafter is the concept that certain
classes or ethnic groups have an organic relationship
to the land and are thus "rooted" whereas others are
"rootless" and cannot be assimilated to the Volk. The
historian George L. Mosse in his definitive history of
Volkisch ideology, provides a summary of this aspect
of Riehl's ideas:

"Yet for Riehl a third class, dangerous to the body
politic
and unfit to be accommodated within Volkisch society,
had come into being. This group, identified as true
'proletariat,' consisted of the totally disinherited
...

"What precluded the integration of the proletariat
into the
system of estates was its instability, its
restlessness.
This group was a part of the contemporary population
which could never sink roots of any permanence. In its
ranks was the migratory worker, who lacking native
residence, could not call any landscape his own. There
was also the journalist, the polemicist, the
iconoclast who opposed ancient custom, advocated
man-made panaceas, and excited the people to revolt
against the genuine and established order."

This identity of character with landscape is by no
means a novel idea. It is at least as old as the
Sumerian Epic of
Gilgamish, and as new as the Hollywood portrayal of
the
American West.

In the Sumerian legend, it is the strength of
character of
Enkidu, the Wild Man of the Steppes that ensures the
success of the quest undertaken by the hero, who is
himself a product of the civilized cities. This
success comes at a price: the impetuosity of the
wildman leads to his untimely death at the hands of a
female deity, who subsequently ensnares and seduces
the hero. The moral of the story is very clear:
civilization weakens the moral and physical strength
of man. These themes are echoed in the Cain and Abel
story in Genesis, and in the myth of Hercules.

German culture developed its own version by eulogizing
its mystic ties to the forest:

"In his book Landscape and Memory, Simon Schama
contends that in Germany, as elsewhere, there was a
"long tradition that imagined the forests as the
primal birthplace of nations; the beginnings of
habitation" and that the immortality of the nation is
personified by the continued health of their forests.5
 He believes that the subliminal awareness, recognized
but not investigated, of the special nature of the
forest in German culture had its inception in the
ancient the Roman era.  The Roman attempts at
subjugation of the Germanic tribes of the time, which
were thwarted with the defeat and decimation of the
army of Varus at the Teutoberg Forest in 9CE by
Arminius, gave birth to the German sozialen
Gedächtnesses (social memory)6 of the forest as the
site of the birthplace of the German people7 and the
identification of the nation with the forests even as
the US identifies with its 'purple mountain
majesties.'
 Thus is engendered the concept of Heimat (homeland),
which incorporates not only the physical place, but
also the cultural concept of belonging to that place,
as residing in the forest.8  Further, this ancient
conflict with the Romans inaugurated a continuing
clash within the German psyche between their concept
of forest, nature, and the north on the one hand and
the artificiality, decadence and urbanization
represented by the Latin (Rome and, later, France)
south on the other.9 ....
  
In 98CE Cornelius Tacitus described Germans as
inhabitants of the "bristling forests, formidable
warriors who relentlessly sought war even in time of
peace, clad in furs or fabric made of tree bark" and
"ferocious primitives" with a certain "nobility" that
could not be corrupted by the luxury and civilization
offered by Rome.11 He described their independent
attitude which ranked each according to his abilities
and how they lived in individual dwellings, but prized
community and hospitality.  Tacitus intended  this
work as an implicit critique of the decadence of his
own people, but when rediscovered in the medieval era,
it was incorporated in the German's self image.  A
constituent of this image was that of the German as a
nomadic warrior and hunter who did not work the land
as the Romans and their
subject peoples did.12 The self picture that the
German
people have internalized is substantially informed by
this
identification with the woods and the self-sufficiency
that
it requires and symbolizes." -The Forest in German
Consciousness-, M.R. Mulfordic

I will return to this seeminly anomalous idea of
self-sufficiency, which is not so anitpathetic to the
homogenizing concept of the volk as one might think,
in a future post.

Let me first entertain you with a charming little tale
which, so Proyect assures us, contains the Blackfoot
world view in its entirety.

"One of the collected stories, titled "The Fast
Runners,"
has the merit of being a succinct statement of the
Blackfoot world-view. Here it is in its entirety:
  
"Once, long ago, the antelope and the deer met on the
prairie. At this time bath of them had galls and both
dew
paws. They began to talk together, and each was
telling
other what he could do. Each one told how fast he had
run, and before long they were disputing as to which
run the faster. Neither would allow that the other had
beat him, so they agreed that they would have a race
decide which was the swifter, and they bet their galls
on race. When they ran, the antelope proved the faster
runner, and beat the deer and took his gall.
  
"Then the deer said: 'Yes, you have beaten me on the
prairie, but that is not where I live. I only go out
there
sometimes to feed, or when I am travelling around. We
have to have another race in the timber. That is my
home, and there I can run faster than you can.' The
antelope felt very big because he had beaten the deer
in the race, and he thought wherever they might be,
could run faster than the deer. So he agreed to race
in timber, and on this race they bet their dew claws.
They ran through the thick timber, among the brush and
the fallen logs, and this time the antelope ran
slowly, because he was not used to this kind of
travelling, and the easily beat him, and took his dew
claws.
   
"Since then the deer has had no gall, and the antelope
no claws."  -The Balckfoot and the Barbarian-, L.
Proyect

Whatever floats your boat, I guess. Me, personally, I
outgrew Aesop's fables type stories when I was a small
child. Evidently, Proyect is unable to recognize a
just-so
story when he sees one. Folklorists recognize that
stories such as this - how the leopard lost its spots,
how Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt - are
designed for the
purpose of drilling small children in simple moral
lessons,
in other words, to teach children conformity. That
Proyect  finds this to be a flight of sublime
philosophy is truly shocking.

Here is the lesson Proyect draws from this fable:

"This story is what one might call a statement on the
need to live within limits, for species--including
human
beings--to live in an environment that is suited to
them.
This sense of belonging to a suitable place was deeply
rooted not only in the Blackfoot civilization, but in
all
Indian civilizations. The ecological sensitivity of
the
American Indian does not come from a scientific study
of
earth chemistry or biology, but from careful
observations of one's immediate surroundings gathered
over thousands of years. This wisdom is as valid in
its own way as the wisdom of Newtonian physics. The
reason for this is that it tied to an ethical
understanding of the relationship between living
creatures and the rest of the natural world. To
respect nature means to understand one's place is
within it, not above it."

This paragraph deserves an entire post in rebuttal.
For now, I will simply note that the confusion of
understanding (a function of the intellect) with
respect (a function of emotion) is much more revealing
of Louis' slide into reaction and mysticism than you
might think. Understanding is not a matter of the
heart. It is merely given that designation in
patriarchal ideology in order to devalue the human
understanding it requires of the underling gender. Men
have intellect; women are allowed only intuition. The
patriarchy has it's reasons for setting this false
dichotomy. It needs women for the crucial job of
socializing children; but, it can't afford to share
power with us. As I have shown in my "Love" series,
the values that women are expected to instill in their
children are deeply conservative.

End Part 1


The Comrade That Dare Not Speak Her Name


 
 





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