February 27, 2009

Dumbest discourse since "niggardly"?

Russell:  The dark side of tribalismI’ve read a couple of things that might be pertinent, a report about current students’ attitudes toward college grades in the New York Times and a reaction to President Obama’s inaugural speech in Indian Country Today that was the dumbest political discourse I’ve heard since the civil rights establishment in the District of Columbia got up in arms over a public official using the word “niggardly” to mean what it means--“cheap.”After a long discourse on academic "tribalism," Russell gets to the point:Now we are governed by a man who went from food stamps to Harvard Law based on what he did. He now tells us to forsake the part of tribalism that puts familiar idiots in charge of people with ability who may not be exactly like us. He is a tribal person, one generation removed from Kenya--where tribalism is still at the killing stage--and his remarks do not offer us harm but rather prosperity.Comment:  As one of the people who got the ball rolling on Obama's tribal remarks, I object. ;-)

C'mon, Steve...I get into hundreds of controversies every month that are dumber than Obama's "lines of tribe" comment. The intent of a brief scene in a 1994 episode of Babylon 5, for instance. Are you seriously suggesting that Obama's address to an audience of billions is less significant than that?

True, I wouldn't say this controversy is a big one. But I wouldn't put it in the bottom 20% of Native controversies either. It's significant enough to merit one or two (or three) postings.

The nays have it

I agree with the comments on this essay rather than the essay itself. Here you go:2:49 PM Queens wrote ...

With all due respect, I found this to be rambling, disjointed and somewhat incoherent. What is described as "tribalism" sounds more to me like "elitism" and "nepotism."

12:19 PM Another POV wrote ...

To many people, “lines of tribe” is not a negative. Good communication is not just what you say, but how you are heard. I know what Pres. Obama was trying to say, but no passing grade. It was a poor choice of words. Nothing more, nothing less.

12:04 PM Rob wrote ...

Steve Russell is presumably talking about this article:

‘Words matter’

Steve's argument is basically, "Obama meant the bad kind of tribalism, not the good kind." The critics' argument is basically, "Regardless of what Obama meant, some tribal members think he chose his words poorly." In other words, the critics considered what Obama meant before they said "regardless of what he meant" or the like. Therefore, Steve's argument isn't persuasive.
For more on the subject, see Settling the West in the Inaugural Address.

Below:  One way to "dissolve the lines of tribe." Bang, bang...they're dissolved.

4 comments:

Stephen said...

The Obama speech is classic globalism which is summed up as 'anyone who has a culture or identity outside the banal monoculture is an idiot'. In other words it's not just anti-Indian; it's an insult to quite a few people. Afterall what's positive about cultures being 'dissolved'?

Rob said...

Your statement presumably includes your Scots-Irish "tribe." Yes, let's dissolve their tribal ties too. No more St. Patrick's Day or highland games...too divisive!

I agree that Obama was talking about more than just Indian tribes. But how many ethnic and cultural groups in America identify themselves as tribes? If we asked the Scots-Irish if they belong to a "tribe," how many of them would say yes? And how many would recoil at the thought of being lumped together with "primitive" Native American, African, Arab and Muslim tribes?

One interpretation of the "melting pot" theory is that people are supposed to give up their "tribal" ties and become plain Americans when they join the country. Another interpretation is that they can retain their ethnic and cultural ties while being full-fledged Americans. Naturally, I favor the latter interpretation: America as a multicultural "stew" or "salad."

Stephen said...

"Your statement presumably includes your Scots-Irish "tribe." Yes, let's dissolve their tribal ties too. No more St. Patrick's Day or highland games...too divisive!"

Oh I'm sorry was that supposed to be funny or something? And BTW I don't identify as Scots-Irish but as multi-ethnic.

"I agree that Obama was talking about more than just Indian tribes. But how many ethnic and cultural groups in America identify themselves as tribes?"

My point is that 'tribe' is typically used by globalists to refer to various ethnicities.

"If we asked the Scots-Irish if they belong to a "tribe," how many of them would say yes?"

None; but quite a few probably consider themselves members of a clan (ie the border reiver Armstrong clan). And a clan and a tribe are very similiar groups.

"And how many would recoil at the thought of being lumped together with "primitive" Native American, African, Arab and Muslim tribes?"

I honestly don't know but I do know that they're already portrayed as savages (ie backwards hillbillies).

"One interpretation of the "melting pot" theory is that people are supposed to give up their "tribal" ties and become plain Americans when they join the country. Another interpretation is that they can retain their ethnic and cultural ties while being full-fledged Americans. Naturally, I favor the latter interpretation: America as a multicultural "stew" or "salad."

Well what do you know? We agree on something.

Rob said...

Re "Oh I'm sorry was that supposed to be funny or something?" No, it was supposed to be sarcasm: "a form of irony that is bitter or cutting, being intended to taunt its target." It doesn't have to be funny to make its point.