Friday, October 21, 2005

Whales and leftists

Jogo writes:

This is not exactly the burning issue du jour, but I have been thinking about it:

Mother Jones, champion of an enormous catalogue of "rights," shows its insensitivity to the Makah people's right to hunt the whale.

Here -- from their own mouths -- you can see the inability of most of the Left to conceive of spiritual realities. There is a reason why the cultural/poltical war is taking place along this peculiar faultline. It is not the doing of Karl Rove. Karl Rove did not invent this divide. If anybody "invented" it, Marx is more the culprit than Rove.

Read carefully and see the CONDESCENSION shown by the communist to the Indian. As they put ironic quotes around "terrorism," the communists put implicit ironic quotes around the Makah's "spiritual realities." They even put implicit quote marks around the Makahs' "culture." Yeah, read carefully. You'll see.

It is true, as the article points out, that some Makah are also opposed to the hunt and see it as spiritually void. This is a deep argument, on Makah terms. An important, majestic argument. If the communists understood the terms I could support their taking part in the argument. But they don't understand.

Pathetically, the Left is trying to co-opt spiritual themes, but the religious people see through it. One of my closest leftist friends, who long ago abandoned every shred of the faith he was raised in, and is now hostile to it, and is as close to an absolute dialectical materialist as it's possible to be,
says "I consider myself a person of faith." Well, see, that's exactly what I mean. There is a **meaning** to the term "person of faith." It doesn't just mean what you WANT it to mean (cf Alice in Wonderland).

Bob’s view:

I think that the article is enormously condescending. This was one simple passage that irritated me:
It's estimated that the Makah have lived in Neah Bay for at least 4,000 years, but Alberta Thompson, a Makah elder, says simply that the Makah have been there "forever." Thompson is 74, and these days she feels her age.
IT IS ESTIMATED, passive voice, not by anyone in particular, must be true. Alberta must therefore be wrong - quaint, primitive, foolish. Then, the facetious segue from"forever" to feeling her age.


Is this indicative of leftism? No, the issue deals with two conflicting values WITHIN the broad leftist worldview: environmentalism (or, rather, white liberal environmentalism) and multiculturalism (or, perhaps, cultural relativism or a cultural politics of recognition). The Mother Jones writer, Richard Blow, clearly comes down in favour of the environmentalist side, whereas other leftists wouldn't.

I don't like this sort of white liberal environmentalism, partly because it puts some abstract idea of the planet's needs (an idea which can be generated from either rationalist scientific thinking or from irrationalist mystical thinking) above the needs of humans - so rides roughshod over concerns like justice or cultural recognition. This criticism of environmentalism is, however, a fundamentally leftist criticism, based on older leftist and humanist values of social justice and cultural respect.

Nor do I like relativist forms of multiculturalism, which say that any cultural practice is OK (if it is practised by someone other than white westerners). I don't even agree with the idea that we can talk about 'cultures' as distinct entities to be respected (there are clearly different views among the Makahs, rather than 'a' Makah culture. Again, though, my criticism of this sort of multiculturalism stems from leftist, humanist values.



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