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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

When I was in Melbourne some government body or other put on a display of ‘Aboriginal culture’ in Federation Square and advertised it all over town. I guessed in advance that it would consist of a bunch of primitives sat around bashing drums while metropolitan white folk looked on as if they were visiting a zoo. Child-like art would on display wrapped in copious quantities of mumbo-jumbo. I passed by one Saturday afternoon and sure enough, that’s exactly what it was. A more patronising exhibition I couldn’t imagine, and it must have been soul-destroying for any Aborigine who aspires to be something more than a museum piece for liberal whites.

Tim Newman

23 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Fraser Orr

    I thought this was a great piece. The thing about it is that these supposedly endangered cultures take it all so seriously.

    You know I am Scottish, and I like and enjoy that fact. I have even been known to indulge in some of the cultural ceremonies and shibboleths of my culture. “”Tae a haggis” have I recited on a few occasions before enjoying a delicious meal, and I have spun many a reel before enjoying a whisky to “rehydrate” me. I’ll belt out “Flower o’ Scotland” which particular emphasis on sending proud Edward home tae think again. I might even take some joy in the rare occasions that the Scottish lads beat their English brothers at some sporting event. But you know when I do it, I have a lot of fun. It is all for a laugh, and nobody, well very few bodies, take it all that seriously. (Sports excepted, because, you know, the human race has lost its collective mind when it comes to competitive sports.)

    It is the sullen faces of people practicing their rituals that I find so depressing. And the idea that these rituals somehow trap people into a situation that is damaging to them (as often happens in many Native American reservations) is a bad thing. I might be from Glasgow, and were many of you to sit in a pub with my brothers and I drinking beer, no doubt you would have a very hard time understanding our dialect. But you know what? I also made sure I can talk properly, so I can engage with the rest of the world, and I usually eschew my kilt for a business suit in most of my dealings.

    You’ll often see these pictures of some aboriginal tribe in New Guinea or Amazonia, and the cultural elites will go nuts trying to protect this little cultural island as if they were some endangered species of bird, or insect. However, it is such a bunch of patronizing nonsense. These tribes are composed of actual people, with the same hopes and dreams as you or I. Were a white family to keep their child in similar conditions to those of many of these tribes I assure you that it would be the DCFS not National Geographic, that would be knocking on their door.

  • Paul Marks

    Good post.

    To pretend that ordinary level art (say a childlike drawing, or banging on a drum) is special, is evil on two levels – firstly it insults aboriginal people by implying that this is all they are capable of (which is NOT true), and it is evil on a general level by undermining the very concept of high art.

    By pretending that everything is on high level the “liberal” establishment really destroy the very concept of high art – and THEY KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THEY ARE DOING.

  • Fraser Orr

    Paul Marks
    By pretending that everything is on high level the “liberal” establishment really destroy

    But the art world does that with western art too. I have attached a great video on this subject below. It includes a reference to one art teacher that had his students critique a Jackson Pollock painting. After their cogent, drooling, effusive analysis he revealed that it was in fact not a Jackson Pollock painting, but actually a close up of his paint apron, splattered with various colors.

    But the interesting thing about this is that I have discussed this matter with serious artists and they are perfectly ok with it, because to them art is really rather more about its cultural context (it was created by the Great Pollock) than it is about the actual skill of execution or visual stimulation it provides. So that view, which of course I think is insane, is readily extended to the sophomoric scratching of some of these ethnic shysters. And perhaps it is a good thing, after all, the stupid and their money really should be parted.


  • Chester Draws

    There’s a bigger issue also, which is whether a culture is for that culture or not.

    Western culture is a wide church — it will take from others and will welcome new entrants. It doesn’t say “you can’t do this because you are aboriginal”. It does say that it is going to move forward, and welcomes change.

    Other cultures are exclusionary and largely stationary. Not everyone is invited into aboriginal culture, and there’s the devil to pay when it’s found that others have been making a buck off it without the correct origins. In which case it should be kept to the people themselves. If they wish to have a particular dance, music, story-telling etc culture, then it’s theirs, and we others shouldn’t have any part in it. We apply this rule very happily to religion — it would be considered rude to wander into a synagogue to have a bit of a look-see at how it works with no intention of joining in.

    If Aboriginals wish to preserve their culture, then they need to withdraw it from the public eye. They need to explicitly demonetise it too, because nothing will devalue a culture more than being sold.

  • bobby b

    Many “endangered” cultures were so bad – so toxic to their own people – that they didn’t deserve to continue, much less be “celebrated”.

    But those seem to be the cultures that get the most attention from the “preservers”.

    On my side of the ocean, look at the Native American cultures. Subsistence vengeance-based cultures, in which death was the answer to everything, from crimes and insults to simply being from a different group. The strong killer ruled all. The weak were slaves or sacrifices.

    That “noble savage” iconic face – far-away look, emotionless, stoic – was mostly what was left after most new babies suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome once their wars on the whites were lost and they were penned on the reservations.

    Just assimilate them into real culture and let them be part of what works. That’s the only positive future for them. (But then, the “preservers” would need a new hobby.)

  • Fred Z

    bobby b wins.

    I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and have dealt with enough Indians, especially as an employer of construction labour, to know that he is 1000% correct.

  • Watchman

    I was working at a university and helping an academic and we began chatting about her job and she was trying to preserve the native language of a aboriginal population that was gradually dying out. She wanted funding to allow this language to be preserved and reinvigorated by teaching it as a first language in the schools to the children so that it would remain an active language, then English would be taught as a second language.

    I tried to gently convince her that one of the problems in aboriginal communities was the woeful state of their education (in any language) and an huge handicap to ever join the middle class without an good education. I tried telling her that there is only so many hours in a day to learn, and for every hour they were being educated in their dying native language then there was one hour less to teach them skills that might be useful in non-native society.

    Obviously this was completely useless (I tried!) and she seemed to think that forgoing being able to integrate with non-native society was the a thoroughly worthwhile price of preserving a dying language, as she seemed to believe that not doing so would permanently cripple the culture of these natives. She believed their unique spoken language had to be faithfully passed on to save their culture, even if it meant that these natives might be forever trapped in that culture with no options to join the non-native one except as unskilled and uneducated workers.

    i honestly don’t know what the solution is: to force a group of people to remain like zoo exhibits carrying out their culture and language, or allow a dying language to die and then have these natives possibly feel like they were cast adrift from a millennial heritage by the actions of white people. Who has the right to decide for these natives, and do they have enough understanding to understand the ramifications of their decisions?

  • A triplet of thoughts.

    Firstly, I am at least equally interested interested in the engineering, technology and medicine of ancient ‘civilisations’ as I am in their various arts (not that I am totally uninterested in those). I am also interested in the historical ‘progress’. For example, I recently learned that native American Indians did not ride horses before the arrival of the Spanish (and other Europeans) – because there were no horses in America. Visiting the ruins of a Jesuit mission and associated village in Northern Argentina, I noted there was no mention of where the three and a half thousand people went to the lavatory (presumably daily or thereabouts), or what special arrangements (if any) were made for sanitary management. Our guide and the local curator were unable to provide any information.

    Secondly, on philosophy and all forms of art, religion forms a very important (perhaps dominant) influence: the hunt for the meaning of life, the universe and everything. I get the increasing feeling that defining and refining the questions about these things is nowadays much less important to most people in modern (westernised) civilisation. Likewise, the historical influence of religion is thought much less important for the modern world than are far less sophisticated scratchings and daubings of civilisations that have either died out or are well on the way to it. That is not to say that there should be no interest in those dead or dying civilisations (compared to the most successful continuing ones) – but it should be in balance with contribution to the now.

    Thirdly and lastly is the terrible modern enthusiasm for saving species threatened with extinction (the panda springs to mind – symbol of WWF, once the much more obviously named World Wildlife Fund). Pandas look cute to humans, as do tigers, though neither is. Who mourns for the uncute – eg Dicrogonatus Gardineri? Would it be better for humans if Tyrannosaurus Rex roamed wild across Richmond Park: no! Maybe just wolves? IMHO sadly, it is forgotten that evolution of species is dependent (in a resource-limited ecosphere) on extinction of the less successful in the competition for those scarce resources (not least for land). Do we love the native American Indians and/or the Australian/Pacific Aboriginals more or less than we love the panda – or poisonous snakes?

    Best regards

  • Fraser Orr (December 16, 2017 at 5:26 pm): ”Tae a haggis” have I recited on a few occasions before enjoying a delicious meal.

    Of something other than haggis, I deduce. 🙂

    OK, I’m being harsh – well-cooked haggis can be OK. ‘Orchard Haggis’ (haggis with embedded layers of sliced apple and cream) is quite good. But I remember too many school-cooked Burns-nights dinners – an ordeal that those of (on that day, envied) English ancestry were spared. 🙂

  • On a more serious note than my haggis remark above:

    “The savage is one who has either forgotten or never learned what the rest of mankind knows” (C.S.Lewis, quoted from memory)

    Cultures are means of achieving things. They are rules for prioritising some values over others. If your aim is to eliminate slavery, for example, western Christian culture will greatly outperform Islamic culture, which will still outperform some savage cultures.

    I recommend Thomas Sowell’s trilogy: Race and Culture, Migrations and Cultures, Conquests and Cultures. The errors are very few, the insights many. (The time required to read is long. 🙂 )

    Nigel Sedgwick (December 17, 2017 at 12:26 pm): I recently learned that native American Indians did not ride horses before the arrival of the Spanish (and other Europeans) – because there were no horses in America.

    There were horses in America. They were hunted to extinction by the early native Americans. The Spanish reintroduced horses.

  • As Niall writes, there were indeed horses in America, but not for over seven thousand years before the (main) arrival of the Spanish (and other Europeans) – so I read. Thus, I deduce, this makes the pre-European cultural impact of horses, if any, distinctly dated; likewise the important economic aspects of horse transport.

    As for the extinction of the earlier (truly wild) horses, if their demise is down to humans, I presume (I hope not too strongly) they were over-hunted for food rather than merely ridden too harshly into their demise. Though I suppose a lack of breeding in captivity (for riding) might have made a contribution – indicating a less developed agriculture.

    Best regards

  • Paul Marks

    Fraser Orr – OF COURSE the “liberal” establishment do this with Western Art. The objective of the left is not to help aboriginal people (they could not care less about them – other than to use them as a weapon). The objective of the left is to pretend that what is not good is good – in order to DESTROY the good.

    Destroy the good – because it is good. In art and everything else. That is the objective of the left.

    Yes Ayn Rand noticed this – but other people had noticed it long before.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    A thought: how about using future AI to preserve primitive cultures? No native villages, but simulated natives in simulated villages. It probably can’t be done yet, but give AI another twenty years….

    Then a culture can continue in zombie-form, and its living former members can get educations, jobs, and mortgages.

  • Thailover

    Paul Marks wrote,

    “By pretending that everything is on high level the “liberal” establishment really destroy the very concept of high art – and THEY KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THEY ARE DOING.”

    This is precisely the purpose of postmodernist AKA “modern” art. Piss-Christ in a jar, elephant dung on the virgin Mary; the American Flag on the floor at the door of museums… This is not meant to be actual art, rather it’s counterfeit art. It’s an attempt to inflate and thus devalue the concept of art itself. Yes, it’s an act of destruction of “high” art in concept. Their goal is to destroy that which holds western society together so they can meld sheeple into their vision of society…livestock. Remember, the only “justice” they recognize is equality of outcome, which means that all forms of excellence must be destroyed. As Yaron Brook has pointed out, no amount of training and practice can turn me into Michael Jordan, so to make me and Jordan “equal” on the court is to break his arms and legs.

  • Thailover

    Fraser, it’s about time (due once again) for “art experts” to be duped by paintings made by elephants or chimps and told that rather it was painted by a genius. First, they faun and drool, then are told the truth, at which point they insist that said elephant et al is a genius. Such “news programs” type fodder is displayed on network television about once every two years or so in the US.

  • Valerie

    The vast majority of equine evolution took place in the America’s, but horses either died out or migrated elsewhere by the time American Indians themselves migrated from Siberia. The truly “wild” horses in the U.S. today are the descendants of the original Spanish stock, who have been genome typed and who were separated into their own single band. All other “wild” horses extant today are escapees from ranches over the years.

  • Tedd

    Valerie is correct, and that’s why they’re having a problem protecting the wild horses in Alberta. Legally, they’re feral, not wild, and therefore aren’t covered by wildlife legislation.

  • Watchman

    After many years working in an Arts college, I came to the reasonable conclusion that postmodern art is not only meant to devalue traditional art and critical abilities, but more to ensure that the arbiters of what is good art is limited to a select few at universities and associated art critics so as to ensure their paid careers. I have met some extremely talented artists however, so it is not all artists preserving their art critic jobs.

    Anyone can look at an Old Master painting, a Turner landscape or a Michelangelo sculpture and see beauty. The public being able to do this themselves makes an art critic somewhat superfluous as they are not being fêted to tell the credulous public why this art is beautiful and valuable. In contrast, much of the postmodern art requires the services of an art critic or academic to tell the viewer why this is good art, thereby ensuring their continued employment and fame.

    The cases where a piece of unskilled art is lauded until it is revealed the complete lack of skill and intent in the creation of that work embarrasses the art world, but they can’t fix this without revealing that there is often no actual difference between unplanned and planned art. They cover this up by claiming to be the only people who can detect the difference, or that the artist is unconsciously revealing their subconscious.

    Some of the native art would seem to fall into a category that I would describe as simple, childish and unskilled, yet is lauded as examples of native artistry on par with the best of all contemporary art. I am still willing to be convinced that it is but think I’ll need a lot of convincing though.

    Postmodern art is the equivalent of Bitcoin: it only has value because people think it has value. For some critics that fact is art itself.

  • bobby b

    I’m just thankful that Impressionism made all of us into artistes.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Dear Tedd, just add ‘Feral and’ to Wildlife service, and the problem is covered!
    As for the question of natives and assimilation, I am for it. We have a beautiful singer and actress here called Jessica Mauboy, who is of ‘mixed’ race parentage. If she just danced and sang at corroborrees, that would be a waste.

  • Fraser Orr

    but more to ensure that the arbiters of what is good art is limited to a select few at universities and associated art critics so as to ensure their paid careers.

    I think this is spot on. I disagree with Paul Marks’ contention that it is some plot to equalize and consequently devalue everything. I think it is rather a simple part of human nature. It is an anti-conservative (in the strictest meaning of the word), a desire to change for changes’ sake. Or perhaps better, change for the sake of being on the edge of change, for the sake of being able to be a “thought leader.” It is being out of the box for the sake of being out of the box. Being different and then gathering round oneself a group of people who are “in the know.” And perhaps tinged with a flavor of being “accepting” unlike these religious nuts that demand everyone be like them.

    Basically it is exactly the same human condition that causes chanting and fights at a football match, and goes back to our religious sensibilities to the gnostics and further back. It is raw tribalism.

    At the heart of tribalism are some of the key tenets: an understanding and sharing of secret knowledge, a lauding of the priest or priestess (who often turns out to be a shyster) and a mechanism of exclusion to enhance the them-verses-us barrier that keeps the group’s cohesion.

    BTW, I think modern art is not the only thing subject to this. A perfect example is Van Gogh. Out of the top ten most expensive paintings in the world his number close to half the list. But I think his work is almost childish in form. Compare it to another Dutch painter like Vermeer or his contemporaries in Paris such as Renoir. The difference in skill and execution and just raw beauty is like night and day. And yet, especially now he is dead, he is feted as the greatest painter or all time.

    But I am not sophisticated enough to be in that in crowd to understand. Or so claimed the Emperor as he wore his fabulous new suit of clothes.

  • NickM

    P from P,
    You are suggesting the holodeck. Recall Star Trek’s Voyager had an “original, authentic” Oirish village of vaguely Edwardian vintage. “Top O’ the mornin’ to ya Mr Paris!” And all that Bollockia leprechaunium. Why not? I mean I use a computer to be a fighter pilot or pirate all the time.

    On further thought, whilst the funding for this sort of shite done for “real” exists that is what they have anyway. Difference is when I play make-believe I do it on my coin in my gaff. Nobody need know I am Captain Kronos of Downtown 05, Terror of the Tunnels of Titan. And no I ain’t virtue signalling there and if anyone says otherwise I’ll see them in Midway and they’ll feel the meanest plasma kannon in Mis Op.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    As for the Holodeck- I always thought they shot themselves in the foot with that. Why not have the whole ship fitted out with that equipment? With control panels that grow where you are, and adjust themselves to your dimensions? Individuals wouldn’t even need to move anywhere- life-like simulations of other beings could be reproduced, and your room could change into whatever was needed! Lack of vision there…