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6 2 112 The theoretical framework that has been proposed to help us understand the phenomenon of cultural genocide consists of the following major concepts: natural localism (here considered at the group level), closed information environments, and thought collectives. Let us review how each of these concepts played into the examples given in the previous chapters, making possible popular and official support for cultural genocide. Natural Localism In each case taken up in this book there is duality. That is, there exist two settings of localism that breed cultural paradigms: one a powerful and aggressive culture and the other a relatively weaker one. In the case of the cultural genocide committed against the North American Indians, there were two groups of people bred to a range of localisms, and there was nothing in either cultural array, be it European or American, that was anything like that of the other. When, beginning in the sixteenth century, a serious level of contact began the cultural differences were so great that they appeared, at least to the majority of the respective populations, as mutually exclusive. Conclusion Given the low population density in the Americas, it might have been possible to avoid a fatal clash of these idiosyncratic societies if it had not been for the enormous rate of immigration from Europe. Within a relatively brief time, in what essentially entailed a mass migration, the locales that were European were transferred, in their general psychological manifestations, to the shores of eastern North America. It is certainly true that the transfer to such an alien territory modified the cultures of the immigrants over time, but the resulting new amalgam was still a world apart from that of the indigenous Indians. One can see this immediately in terms of the notion of property rights. Private property as understood in Europe had not evolved as a product of North American Indian natural localism. This was particularly true in reference to the ownership of land. On the other hand, the European settlers brought with them a notion of landed property that in many ways underpinned their geographic understanding of the world, and they would ultimately force that notion on the Indians. As Sidner Larson has put it, “Behind the English invasion of North America, behind their massacre of Native Americans, their deception, and their brutality, was a special, powerful drive based on private property” (Larson 1997, 570). One consequence of natural localism that the Europeans and Native Americans did share was a sense that their outlook and ways of doing things were “natural.” This made it nearly impossible for the vast majority in either group to imagine the adoption of the other’s way of life. The Europeans in particular infused this feeling of naturalness with an imagined divine sanction, giving them in turn, a definite sense of superiority. This feeling of superiority did have a certain basis in fact, but that rested not in any divine blessing but rather the possession of weaponry vastly superior to that of their native opponents. It was all wrapped up in a progressive civilizational conclusion 113 package, as far as the Europeans were concerned. And that was the case regardless of which variation of the transplanted European localness we look at. It did not matter if they were Puritans in Massachusetts, Catholics in Maryland, or Scotch Presbyterians in Georgia, their attitude toward the “other” that was the American Indian was quite similar. This ubiquitous cultural myopia led, to use a concept proposed by Arjun Appadurai, to a “predatory identity” (Appadurai 2006, 51, 83). The Indian culture was seen by the majority of European settlers as not only “abnormal” but also dangerous. For most of them there were no “noble savages.” This was just a product of far-away European romantic thinkers like Rousseau. For those on the frontier , there were only threatening savages. And if they could not be sanitized by Christian missionaries, they deserved to be either isolated on reservations or wiped out altogether. Localism, in its form of a European predatory identity, would allow for no pluralism . And the power differential in the form of superior weapons sealed the outcome of this “clash of cultures.” When we move forward in time, and geographically back to Europe, to consider the duality of the czarist, Eastern Orthodox, localized environment versus that of the Jews caught within the Russian Empire, we find a similar attitudinal pattern played out against different cultural settings. Here, too, one group is vastly more...


Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Russia -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
  • Palestinian Arabs -- Israel -- Social conditions -- 20th century
  • Tibet Autonomous Region (China) -- Social conditions.
  • Assimilation (Sociology).
  • Indians, Treatment of -- North America -- History.
  • Ethnic conflict.
  • Persecution -- Social aspects.
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