Thursday, June 23, 2005

Eminent Domination of the Noble Tribesman

The stories today are threaded with the theme of other people deciding what's best for you, especially if you don't happen to be as influential or educated or as collectively civic-minded as they.

1) In a truly HORRIBLE ruling, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that forced sale of people's property under eminent domain is even justified if the proposed development is primarily for private gain. I've posted before about my dread of environmentally-justified eminent domain hurting property owners. I rail and rant about other countries' hopeless backwardness in ignoring individual property rights. And then SCOTUS does this. The "conservative" justices dissented, augmented by O'Connor, whose childhood among the ranches of the West might have inculcated a deeper understanding of the essence of territory ownership for Americans.

For years, developers have been cherry-picking pretty parcels of land with ugly or impoverished dwellings upon them, romancing municipal councils with the promises of increased tax bases and property values, and helping people out of their homes with the flimisiest application of the "blight" and "public use" provisions. Now, holy Christmas in June, they don't even have to restrict themselves to targeting the poor and unrepresented.

Developer/Council Member: (Looks at your backyard swingset) That's where we're going to put the duck pond and the bike path. The smoothie franchise is going where your neighbor's garden shed is.

You: I like smoothies, but...

D/CM: Isn't it great? We've already got a chiropractor and a drycleaner signed up for the strip mall next to the office complex. But don't forget we'll have chamber music in the gazebo twice a year. For the children. (Begins blubbering and retrieves tissue from pocket of sharkskin suit) We all care about our community's children, don't we?

You: I was sort of thinking about my own kids. Having a home to grow up in. Using a second mortgage for their college. Leaving them an inheritance when I pass away...

D/CM: Well, it's just lucky for all of us that the judges aren't so small-minded and selfish.

2) Daniel Akaka, Democratic Senator from Hawaii continues his efforts to liberate native Hawaiians from the tyranny of the Constitution. Legislatively segregating 20% of Hawaii's population, he wants to reorganize a separate tribal government that the U.S. can deal with as a peer entity, and that will not be required, of course, to give its members the same protections under the law they already have as American citizens. (hat tip: Townhall) Oh sure, lots of existing tribes haven't loved their liasons with Indian Affairs. But maybe casinos among the macadamia trees will ease the pain. Reading the bill reveals what will be gained are fat government jobs to administrate this travesty.

It establishes the Office of Native Hawaiian Relations in the Department of the Interior to serve as a liaison between Native Hawaiians and the United States. It establishes the Native Hawaiian Interagency Coordinating Group to be composed of federal officials from agencies which administer Native Hawaiian programs. Both of these provisions are intended to increase coordination between the Native Hawaiians and the federal government. And third, the bill provides a process of reorganization of the Native Hawaiian governing entity.

To get the proposal even this far, the Hawaiians had to swear they weren't taking from the piggy banks that already serve (and I use the term loosely) the indigenous peoples of the mainland. No, our taxes will pay for brand new line items to segregate people. If I said that blacks or Buddhists or the colorblind had to form their own sub-government reporting to a single, unelected bureau within our government's bowels, wouldn't it be seen for an outrage?

3) Arts & Letters Daily put me onto this wonderful Commentary article about the willful misjudgement and condescending paternalism that intelligentsia impose on primitive cultures, in this case, South American tribes. Here's what an older, wiser Margaret Mead said, trying to dissuade one young, cultural savior from his romantic views.

The main point that annoyed [Mead] was the concept, unstated by me, that primitive peoples were any better off as they were. She said she was “maddened by antibiotic-ridden idealists who wouldn’t stand three weeks in the jungle” . . . and the whole “noble savage” concept almost made her foam at the mouth. “All primitive peoples,” she said, “lead miserable, unhappy, cruel lives, most of which are spent trying to kill each other.” The reason they lived in the unpleasant places they did, like the middle of the Brazilian jungle, was that nobody else would.

While Mead acknowledged that the dances and art and music should be preserved or at least recorded for their granchildren, she wanted to preserve the people themselves not because of some inherent cultural value or hope of capitalizing on rainforest cures, but on absolute moral grounds. " was bad for the world to let these people die, and the effort to prevent their extermination was good for mankind even if it failed.” ...She also claimed emphatically that they all wanted one thing only, and that was to have as many material possessions and comforts as possible...if they could possibly get hold of any aluminum pots they would use them.

I regurgitate my previous post from March about Africa where Kenya's Akinye Arunga puts it this way: "Cute indigenous lifestyles simply mean indigenous poverty, indigenous malnutrition, indigenous disease and childhood death. I don't wish this on my worst enemy, and I wish our so-called friends would stop imposing it on us."

I wish the self-professed enlightened of this world would stop assigning spiritual superiority everywhere material inferiority exists. Hoarding history's advancements while saying it's for primitive peoples' own good dooms the less-developed to cruel hardships. Stop confining people to living as exhibits, professional anachronisms to bulwark your feelings of superiority and bolster the assumption that the spirituality you've discarded is a necessary fatality of progress. Cultural preservation efforts should come from within the said culture. I find it massah-style repulsive to deny anyone the hopes of their own future potential, trapping them in time like insects in amber, clapping while you force them to grin and dance in their funny ancient outfits for your pleasure.


April said...

Well, first up, because I really don't give a flying fuck about 99.9% of the people on this poor kitten. It will very probably die. This woman is involved in breeding "miniature" cats...which probably involves line-breeding which involves genetic mutations of the un-pleasant variety, as presented here.

Hence poor little Gemini, who, in my opinion(and you know how much I love cats, I have a *few* of them)should probably be put down.

There's this stupid twunt in texas who breeds "twisty cats" The cat's front legs are so deformed and useless that all these cats can do is hop around on their back legs. Twisty cats are a genetic mutation of the mutated polydactly gene in cats. Her website has been kicked off multiple internet services, but I'm sure you could still google twisty cats and get something.

I agree, for the most part, of your read of the SC eminent domain issue. Personally, I can see getting rid of houses in environmentally sensitive areas...I can't see getting rid of them to make way for rich bastards and their $500K + townhomes.

Henway Twingo said...

The problem is whether corrupted, interested parties are deciding what's environmentally sensitive for their convenience or profit. Sometimes, environmental significance magically appears in a site that's already contested. That reason to take people's property is not quite as overused as "blight", which is also liberally defined when someone else wants your stuff. In this Kelo decision, the houses are far from wrecks; they're just unfortunately located on desirable waterfront. Anyone that can pay the municipality more taxes than you gets preference now because it's in the "public interest." This kind of unfairness in seizure has happened before, but I seem to remember shame, not endorsement and encouragement.

Deliberately malformed animals shouldn't be encouraged (does my Boston terrier count?), but if Gemini's not exhibiting pain or severe metabolic disorders, I'd tend to let her go it her own way.

April said...

Most distinct breeds of animals are the results of genetic mutations that had desireable affects on the usefulness of that specific breed. Especially if they're "working" breeds. Which was basically the definition of a pure-bred animal...if, in the olden days, it couldn't perform a function, there was no need to have it around...Even in my mothers day, on the farm,the cats and dogs were not pets, they had jobs to do. The cats were mousers and their dogs were all terrier mixes, to take care of rats. They couldn't afford "pets" Maybe a pet chicken, but that was it.

Some of these genetic defects produce really desireable attributes...but they can have their downsides, too, Like HYPP in quarter horses, SCID in arabian horses, hip dysplasia in it seems about every breed of dog, polydactly and bob-tail syndrome in cats, etc, etc, etc.

April said...

...Cultural preservation efforts should come from within the said culture. I find it massah-style repulsive to deny anyone the hopes of their own future potential, trapping them in time like insects in amber, clapping while you force them to grin and dance in their funny ancient outfits for your pleasure..

Well, there's that. however, I don't recall ever forcing someone to display their culture for me. Then there's this other really disgusting stuff our government has done, which involves completely denying and forbidding people their culture, language and rituals.

As in the case of native the 1800's, native american children were forcibly removed from their parents and sent to "indian schools" to white-ify them. They were not allowed to speak their native language, or practice their rituals. This doesn't count the blankets puposely infested with small pox that american soldiers gave to the indians.

And damity-damn..wouldn't you know that those Cherokee code-talkers(they had escaped the governments efforts to turn them into white people, having their own written language helped)helped us win WWII.

Indians were not impoverished alcoholics before white people invaded the continent. Sounds to me like they had things pretty well in hand. The buffalo flowed. Sounds to me like the government("the only good indian is a dead indian") fucked it up pretty good.

Henway Twingo said...

I agree that the forced assimilation of Native American cultures has been craptacular, however, the recent trend that tries to keep "primitive" cultures untouched and sets up tourism as their only allowed sustenance isn't righteous either. That's where my massah comments come in. I don't think primtive peoples should be "managed" as museum pieces for the wealthier. I also think it could be argued that not only loss of culture but forced segregation into distant and forgettable pockets of poverty hurts Native Americans today. When the cultural dictates come from the outside, it's a mixed blessing at best.