Friday, December 15, 2006

Teaching the Natives Liberation through Self-Loathing

John Ross (Counterpunch’s Mexico “expert”) has launched off on a diatribe against Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” the last scene of which apparently involves a friar-held Cross appearing over the sea’s horizon. This scene triggered the usual politically correct reflex about the evil white man and the crimes of what Ross calls “Judaic[sic]-Christian” civilization. Ross did bother to note that “the Maya” had engaged in ritual sacrifice; but this, he said, had to be understood in context as part of a culturally valid cosmological belief system. Ah well, in that case ...........

Ross is your typical bullshit leftist. His articles on Mexico are not ill-informed but are skewed by a fawning indigenism and inverse racism. Whatever “the Indian” does is wise, marvellous and good. Whatever the the Spanish do is corrupt, oppressive and bad. Mestizos (so long as they are sufficiently brownish) are lumped in with the good. Were this merely a matter of naively gushing over the natives, one could roll one's eyes and be done with it. But the nastiness of inverse-racism is not only that it embodies a form of self-loathing but that it uses the "innocent victim" as a pawn in that self-loathing. In effect, the object of devotion is reduced to a scripted player in what amounts to a self-involved masochistic socio-psycho drama.

Resort to this black vs white paradigm, cribbed from the muck of an Anglo-American social psychosis, comprises its own form of cultural imperialism. Treating the indigenous "brown" peoples of Ibero-Indian America as Negroes Lite, it embroils them in the sordid cycle of contempt and recrimination (and self-recrimiantion) that characterizes U.S. racial relations. The truly vicious thing, in so far as Mexico is concerned, is that because most "Indians" are both racially and culturally mestizo, using them as pawns in a game of white self-loathing in fact ends up teaching them to loathe themselves. Beyond mere imperialism, this is a form of cultural genocide.

Under Ross’s poisoned pen, there is an even nastier twist. Whereas Abolitionist propaganda was waged in the name of Christianity against the undeniable evil of chattelization, Ross inverts black-white manicheism to insinuate an attack on Christianity.

To see how this is the case, one must first grasp the utter inanity of Ross's excuse making for human sacrifice. It is certainly the case that Aztec and Mayan sacrifices can be understood as a “cosmological” phase in human religious evolution but it is simply insane to protest against the historical necessity of moving beyond that phase into another. What would Ross have had, multi-cultural heart-rippings on “Rainbow Day”? One can hardly imagine Marx or Lenin issuing a call for socialist validation of primitive economic rituals. In fact, I can hardly imagine any halfway reasonable person failing to understand that this belief system, howsoever cosmologically magnificent, had to end. Once that fundamental fact is understood, the question becomes, " How?" And from this premise, the arrival of Catholic Christianity can only be seen as a good thing. There really is no room for debate.

Gibson’s cinematic portrayal may allow for a simplistic “converting-the-natives” interpretation. But if it does, it does so only for the simple minded. Those with a more nuanced understanding will understand that Catholicism was the best possible vehicle for the adaptation of Indian cosmologies into the larger Christian civilization and, thus, into the modern world. The Dominican and Franciscans friars who were dispatched at Cortez's request understood this (and the nuances it entailed) perfectly. Anyone who knows anything about the subject matter understands that while the Indian is formally Catholic he remains en su profundo cosmologically Indian. In fact, the genius of what Protestants sneeringly deride as “pagan” Catholicism, is that it provided a universal lingo which allowed for a communion of beliefs that are rife with variety beneath formal rubrics.

Anyone who has actually looked at the Catholicism of the Mexican Indian and even of many mestizos cannot fail to see this. Its synchretic character is everywhere, except perhaps in the sealed off closets of sinarquistas or Tridentine fusspots. Such synchretism is actually a very natural thing. After all, notwithstanding our public credal affirmations, we each understand and tint the “truth” through our own private and unique experiences of life; and what is true of individuals is true of groups. Today's Indian is not pre-Columbian but post Cortesian and even the racially pure are culturally and intellectually blended. Ross's little psycho-drama in fact seeks to subvert the religion and culture of today's indigenous people.

Ross’s anti-Christian animus is also betrayed by his slipping in of the word “Judaic.” Why this curious construction? The insinuated implication is that there is nothing truly Jewish in this conquest aspect of so-called “Judeo-Christian” civilization. No, no! It only appears to be Jewish-like, hence the "Judaic." Isn't that cute? Since the late 19th century, Jewish academics and social shakers have made a pronounced effort to insinuate the concept of a “Judeo-Christian” civilization into public discourse, getting people to think of Western Civilization as a "half Jewish" joint enterprise. Of course, this is a false concept, since the word "Christianity" itself includes those surviving Jewish ideas that were transmitted to the larger Greco-Roman world, and since Jews were not in fact co-participants in the shaping of European Civilization. Nevertheless, now that this deformed graft has taken, Ross ducks out from under its own necessary implications and unsavory consequences, seeking dissolution of the "partnership" in an adjective and distancing himself and other Jews from the alleged genocide of the Indian by ___ -Christian civilization.

It's quite a tour de force. Ross launches an attack against Catholicism which ignores its great synchretic achievement. Ignoring this achievement and in the name of standing up for the 'liberation' of the Indian, he seeks to turns the Indian against his own traditions and identity. Because Ross is himself Jewish, and will never think of himself as christian in any shared or hybrid way, the hyphen in "Judeo-Christian" is actually meaningless to him. The perpetual disassociation of Jewish self-hood from whatever is Gentile, leads him to assert that the Indian should indulge in the same sort "liberating" self-alienation from the greater body of humanity. He does not and should not. He is not the pre-Christian native he once was, he is the very thing Ross wants to get him to loathe as he himself does.

©WCG, 2006

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