Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wente On Pound On Native Savagery

He wasn't being racist, just employing obsolete anthropological terminology.

But then how does this square with his remarks being "true", as Ms. Wente claims them to be? Anthropological classifications, presumably in this case something like Lewis H. Morgan's phases of cultural evolution, come and go for the same reason as they do in other areas of knowledge: they are superseded by better and more accurate classifications. The obsolete classifications are then generally referred to as "false".

In any case, its wonderful how Ms. Wente turns a bit of idiocy on the part of Dick Pound into a bout of native bashing.


Ti-Guy said...

Peggy Wente read new a book this week, so she's an expert on aboriginal culture of the pre-contract period.

RuralSandi said...

Margaret Wente is a joke. I think she does this kind of article just for attention - contraversy.

Pound could have said original natives of Canada....the word savage hasn't been used for a very long time.

He should be fired.

bigcitylib said...

Actually, TiGi, the book hasn't been published yet, so Wente either got an advanced copy or she's bullshitting about its "impressiveness"

Ti-Guy said...

I don't think she'd be bullshitting about its impressiveness. It doesn't take much to impress her.

Mark my words, this is what's going to happen: All the failed American néoconnerie of the last 8 years is going to find a new home in the media of the more purely "conservative" Canada as the US slips into evil, beige-tinged liberalism and penury and douche-bags like Wente are going to be even more strident as they slip further into dotage.

Christ, CBC's the Current suffered a Blitzkrieg on was hosted by David Frum and had Richard Perle on as a guest.

crf said...

I don't even want to read Wente. She's rarely written anything sensible, so it pains me to waste my time read her words in order to (hopefully) comment fairly. Pound is more intelligent, and someone who I have great respect for.

Let me make some points:

French is a language he is not as completely comfortable with as his native English, and I guess the interview was in French.

Secondly, he was responding (orally, I presume) to a reporter's question on a subject tangential to aboriginal Canadians. His were not carefully thought-out written responses.

There are two critcisms I see of Pound's remarks. First, that he was making a judgement upon precolonial native society in America as something less than civilised and to be devalued. Second, that he used the term "sauvages".

It's been pointed out that sauvages doesn't necessarily translate to the common english idea of savages: and this is true. It would be better if he had used "autochtones". But I'm only a 33 year old anglophone: I learned the term autochtone in school. Pound may have learned a different term, which leapt first to his head. Sauvage was frequently used as a neutral term in French Canadian literature to describe Aboriginals (he would have likely read many early French Canadian novels as he learned French).

Criticising the idea in his words that North America is uncivilised is, I guess, valid in some ways. But trying to decifer what Pound truly thinks of native pre-colonial civilisations from a few sentence fragments uttered in response to a completely unrelated subject is a bizarre exercise, and not fair. But that will not stop Wente from doing exactly that, and more. I'd imagine Pound wishes he could tear her head off right now.

Has the media asked him what he truly thinks of pre-colonial natives in North America? (Not that I'm aware of. And the only reason they ought to, since he is not an expert, is in fairness to him, because the media has been blowing this "story" out of proportion, and attempting to attribute to Pound an entire thesis decifered, by idiot like Wente, from a few words.)

At most, his remarks were regrettable and incautious. Blowing them up to something more than that (as the media are wont to do now, in Canada) is MORE offensive to me. I don't blame natives and others for being offended by his remarks: they might be, in a small way. But I am sure that there are many, many people commenting on this, egged on by the media, expressing overwrought outrage they might not truly feel, upon reflection and careful consideration of the context of what Pound actually said.

And he apologized for his remarks. It's poor form to excessively critise Pound now for his remarks.

Let me think of what Pound is saying, hopefully without reading into his words: Canada was once home to relatively unsophisticated native societies (which he called "sauvages"). Colonisation 400 years ago was like a giant cultural disconuity, and the still young culture which has emerged since then can trace itself back to the dominant influence of those early European settlers. China, however, does have one more or less continuous civilisation over 4000 years old. It is dangerous for Canada to not appreciate the fact that our own culture is so young, and still forming.

To cite the original source:

Q: Pourtant, depuis que Pékin a été choisie comme ville-hôtesse des Jeux, il y a eu la répression de la révolte tibétaine, le soutien chinois au gouvernement soudanais face au Darfour, l'emprisonnement de nombreux dissidents. Ne trouvez-vous pas que c'est gênant?

R: Il ne faut pas oublier qu'il y a 400 ans, le Canada était un pays de sauvages, avec à peine 10 000 habitants d'ascendance européenne, alors qu'en Chine, on parle d'une civilisation de 5000 ans. Il faut être prudent avec notre grande expérience de trois ou quatre siècles avant de dire aux Chinois comment gérer la Chine. Le président de la Chine doit permettre à 1,3 milliard de personnes de manger deux repas par jour. Leur situation n'est pas comparable à la nôtre. Et puis, quand le vote sur Pékin a eu lieu, les représentants chinois ont été très habiles. Ils nous ont dit que si on leur accordait les Jeux, cela accélérerait les progrès en Chine. On était piégés.

Paul S said...

"He should be fired."

He would be, if the PC-lynch mob had its way.

Paul S said...

Sensible comments crf; unfortunately too sensible for the progressive crowd to comprehend.

Ti-Guy said...

By "sensible", Paul S. means "sensitive." And by "comments" he's referring to his (spectacular) breasts.

Could you please stop talking about your boobs, Paul S.?

Niles said...

Could someone please explain to me how saying 'wild men' instead of 'savages' (sauvage meaning 'wild' or 'uncultivated' as opposed to 'indigenous' or 'native') somehow improves and neutralizes what Pound said?