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Subject:

Re: Utopian Channel

From:

Lachlan Whalen <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Fri, 20 Oct 1995 00:42:15 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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A chairde,
        While I agree in part with Ray Parker's sentiment that we should
judge/view people as individuals, I wonder what use it is then (following
this line of thought to an extreme) having a line that defines itself as
"Celtic?" Is this not in fact a generality? Furthermore, (a benevolent
flame to follow), I would like to point out that although Mr. Parker's
message critiques generalities, it also uses the rather vague term of
"Native Americans." The United States alone has over 500
federally-recognized indigenous nations within its borders, each with
differing languages, religions, cultures, etc. I have come to know about
this first-hand, as I have been adopted by a Dakota spiritual leader who
lives on one of the nearby reservations.
        In the time that I have spent with my adopted brother, I have
indeed found some of those similarities with which Mr. Parker seeks to
bind the world: for, unfortunately, imperialism works in similar ways
worldwide. Conquering nations seek to remove those generalities which
bind the subject cultures together (one definition of a culture might be
religion, language, experiences, or beliefs held in common) in order to
control them.
        Perhaps it is shared experiences that bind a culture
together tightest. While I was walking down the streets of Grand Forks
several weeks ago with some Lakota friends, the occupants of a passing
car shouted that "these prairie niggers should get a haircut." This is an
experience that traditionalists who choose to wear their hair long face
frequently, an experience which white Americans are excluded from.
Similarly, the experience of being denied a job in Belfast
once the employer discovers that you are Catholic is one in many
ways unique to our community. Shared experiences, positive and negative
forge communities, shape them in ways that outsiders to that community
cannot completely partake of. Although there is great variation within
attitudes/outlooks within cultural groups, some bonds unite all the
individuals. I can empathize with the experiences of my Lakota friends
and my Dakota brother (and I am bound to him in a sacred manner), but to
claim that I perfectly understand their experiences would be cultural
imperialism: I didn't grow up on a reservation/in North Dakota/being called
a prairie nigger/etc. "Taigs" speaking Gaelic in Belfast and "prairie
niggers" speaking Lakota in North Dakota can be brothers, but not the
same individual. And that's ok, because differences don't lessen the love
or the connection.
        All too often, the cry for individualism comes from those
who have barely experienced institutionalized oppression and who: a) would
like to deny that it exists at all (the argument of some white male
Americans who wish to do away with Affirmative Action), or b) want to
appropriate that suffering for themselves for whatever reason (i.e. New
Age gurus who make money by attempting to sell "Native American"
spirituality- as if identity and religion is available in twelve easy
steps for $10.95).
        What, in the end I am trying to say is don't claim a culture you
haven't experienced deeply, first-hand. The generalities that form that
culture are those of great joy and great pain, the sum total of aeons of
individual and collective lives. Culture is not something that can be
bought and put on like a pair of trousers. It's a combination of blood
(whether your own, or the result of metaphoric transfusion), soul, and life-
all not easily come by.
                                        Sla/n,
                                        Lachlan


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