R J H <[log in to unmask]> writes:
>Every generation re-invents what is "traditional".... I don't see why
>anyone would begrudge we "crass Americans" our fun at the Highland
>games. We are, most of us, many generations from our ancestors.
Actually, it is a recent phenomenon for societies to "reinvent"
tradition every generation or so. For the most part, change in
society followed a pattern of punctuated equilibrium: long periods
of relative social stasis interrupted by dramatic events (the
Reformation, for example) that forced people into new lifestyles.
A great deal of stress in today's society stems from a lack of
constancy. In only a few years, the basic assumptions of family and
profession can change dramatically as technology evolves at an ever-
increasing pace. Families no longer stay together; there is little
or no passing of tradition or knowledge from generation to
generation. And that lack of cohesiveness is a threat to the
stability of civilization.
I'm not saying that societies shouldn't grow and change -- but I do
see substantial evidence that change is coming too rapidly. Values
such as loyalty, honesty, and charity seems to be falling by the
wayside as people scramble to survive.
>The point is simply that ANY connection we feel... Any cultural
>heritage we can relate to... is good. We've been accused of lacking
>roots, we Americans. A large number of us are the descendants not of
>one culture, but of many. One of my great grandmothers was Irish.
>Another was a Russian, and Jewish. To which culture do I belong?
>Neither. I 'm a child and a product of both.
The whole concept of racial purity is wrong. Tracking backward, we
double our ancestors with each generation; depending on how far back
we go, any of us can be from any racial stock.
Heritage in the "old world" was easy; we lived and died where our
ancestors had been. We knew who we were because of who we lived
with and how we lived. Today's mobile society sends us across the
planet, leaving us to find a generic path that fits any locale.
Culture is what you believe and who you are. Tossing cabers and
wearing kilts does not make one Scottish; it is a hobby. To be
Scottish in a cultural sense involves more than just activities;
it involves a philosophy, spiritual beliefs, and ties to place
>My background isn't unusual for an American. If we seem to do things
>in ways the purists don't approve of... They're likely to accuse us of
>loosing our True Heritage. If that's the case... Perhaps we should be
>ENCOURAGED to try finding it again. At any rate, the Highland games
>are nothing to rant against. They're many peoples beginnings in the
>hunt for who they are.
I couldn't agree more. I'm having incredible fun learning about
my ancestors. Now if I could just figure out where the Clan
MacDiarmaid fits into things in Scotland... <grin>
There is, however, a problem with parody. Like Indian Pow-Wows,
the Highland Games are a way of turning a culture into
entertainment. As Steve Blamires put it in his booklet on the
Between 1820 and 1840 the rate of evictions slowed down but this
was when the Highlands became very popular with the English
aristocracy and especially Queen Victoria. The tartan which had
virtually disappeared thanks to the Act of Proscription, was re-
introduced in a bastardised form. Highland games and Highland
dancing (which did not actually exist prior to then) became very
popular amongst the landowners and wealthy English merchants and
the traditional Highland culture became the "Brigadoon" type of
romantic rubbish that most non-Scots still believe today.
I've done considerable studying in the past month, and confirm
Blamires' history. The Highland Games and Indian Pow-Wows may
be fun, but they began as parodies of lifestyles destroyed by
genocidal conquerors. The dances you see at Pow-wows once had
incredible spiritual value; now the dancers earn money for their
skills. I don't knock their making a living, but I worry that
we have exchanged depth for something rootless and shallow.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
-- George Santayana (1863-1952), U.S. philosopher, poet.
Scott Robert Ladd
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voice: +1 970 387 0271 P.O. Box 617
fax: +1 970 387 0277 Silverton, CO 81433 USA