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. "...it 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.