We pine for authenticity. The real . The genuine, wanting to graft ourselves onto it as part of an expression of our individuality. Or do we? It has to conform to our idea of it. Rousseau’s Noble Savage has to be like us, read the sports section and shop for bargains. Otherwise not in my backyard. In the case of the Inuit- formerly the Eskimo of raw flesh swallowing and wife lending fame- we know they don’t function well outside of their natural habitat but we continue to place them within an urban context, at least within an intellectual architecture. Is the Western ambivalent attitude towards another variant of “the other” justified? If one marries my neighbor’s daughter will he put the mother-in-law out on an ice floe to die when she is deemed expedient?
So, transforming Inuit culture into a consumable “ready-made” is intrinsically impossible within the parameters of a consumer society. Complexities such as the Inuit concept of transformation: men to men, men to animals, animals to men, animals to animals permeates all aspects of far northern life and is simply beyond the pale of Western comprehension. Inuit spiritual belief harkens to the deep recesses of pre-normative religious thought, well removed from the Platonism that informs our own lives.
There is also the issue of death, both human or animal, which are deep-seated cultural values by which arctic peoples lived their lives and evaluated their experiences. At one level, physical contact with the dead, human and animal, was not condoned, or was to be practiced with great caution. The spirits of great animals and people were believed to be imbued with an identity that was considered to be equal or better to that of the living. A supernatural and parapsychological inflected perception, fantastical, multiple realities at odds with the seeming simplistic Christian tradition they became exposed to.
…As an individual matured, his or her education revolved around the increasing awareness of the natural and supernatural worlds, and the prescriptions and proscriptions for proper behavior within them. The supernatural was met everywhere in the landscape and places along hunting or travel routes became sacred because they embodied local spirits or manifested the presence of higher divinities including animals and deceased ancestors. Therefore, it was here, within the landscape of sea, ice, and frozen tundra, that the everyday, elusive and unobservable experiences, rituals and rites of passage took place circumscribing the identity of the people by linking them to a collectively shared and experienced sense of place. Indeed, humans, animals and everything in the natural world shared the same fundamental spiritual essence and in this sense “persons” were constituted of multiple personal attributes extending beyond the human domain….Read More:http://www.larskrutak.com/articles/Arctic/
One example of this “archaic” to us view is the Inuit use of tattoos. They are used to mark an ancestral presence, and, importantly, are understood to function as the conduit for a visiting spiritual entity, coming from the different temporal dimensions into the contemporary world. Inhabiting the body or even body snatching, the kinds of exoticism, to the West, that fascinated the likes of Antonin Artaud. … It does recall “For example, in many shamanistic performances in the Arctic, the human body was altered (via masking, body painting, vestments, or tattoo) to facilitate the entry of a “spirit helper” Tattoos and other forms of adornment acted as magnets attracting a spiritual force – one that was channeled through the ceremonial attire and into the body.( ibid.)
…That raises the question: Why, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, does popular culture portray primitives as peace-loving folk living in harmony with nature, as opposed to rapacious and brutal civilization? Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, which attributes civilization to mere geographical accident, made a best-seller out of a mendacious apology for the failure of primitive society. Wade reports research that refutes Diamond on a dozen counts, but his book never will reach the vast audience that takes comfort in Diamond’s pulp science….
…Native Americans, Eskimos, New Guinea Highlanders as well as African tribes slaughtered one another with skill and vigor, frequently winning their first encounters with modern armed forces. “Even in the harshest possible environments [such as northwestern Alaska] where it was struggle enough just to keep alive, primitive societies still pursued the more overriding goal of killing one another,” Wade notes.Read More:http://dailyduck.blogspot.com/2006/07/populism-authenticity-and-other-lies.html
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