Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Seeking Balance: Growth vs. Culture in Amazon

Amazonian natives object to the exploitation of oil reserves in their hunting-gathering grounds, fearing that development will erode their Traditional Culture--so the headline suggests. But read a little further: it turns out that what sticks in their craw is the fact that they are not getting what they regard as their fair share of the pie. The state owns the oil reserves

However, without the cooperation of the natives, drilling for oil may not be feasible so savvy natives are doing everything they can to disrupt operations in order to blackmail oil companies and the government of Ecuador. In this project, for the time being, they've enlisted the help of environmental groups. Indeed, some natives run a profitable sideline in ecotourism.

The article ends piously with a quote from a native who affirms "We live barefoot like our ancestors. We like it that way."

Sorry. I'm not convinced. "Little Indian, Sioux or Crow/Furry little Eskimo/Little Turk or Japanee/Don't you wish that you were me!" Of course, not the Japanee--they're doing better than we are, and we're eating sushi and watching Anime.

As good liberal Americans, most of us detest our culture, such as it is, with good reason. For most of our history America was a provincial backwater. Our literature was largely derivative and anyone with a serious interest in the arts went to Europe to study. That's why American history, mandated for study in the public schools, was so profoundly boring: there was Jamestown, the Massachusetts Bay colony, the Stamp Act (whatever that was) and endless, boring politics--because nothing else was happening. Mercifully, however, we are allowed to appropriate European culture as our own, from the Greeks into the 19th century. I'm for according the same mercy to members of Traditional Cultures.