Earthpages.org

The Real Alternative


2 Comments

Indigenous people invented the so-called ‘American Dream’

Lewis Borck, Leiden University and D. Shane Miller, Mississippi State University

When President Barack Obama created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the 2012 program that offered undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children a path into society, for a moment the ideals of the American Dream seemed, at least for this group, real.

We call these kids (many of whom are now adults) “Dreamers,” because they are chasing the American Dream – a national aspiration for upward economic mobility built on physical mobility. Fulfilling your dreams often means following them wherever they may lead – even into another country.

The Trump administration’s decision to cancel DACA and build a U.S.-Mexico border wall has endangered those dreams by subjecting 800,000 young people to deportation.

But the notion underlying both the DACA repeal and the wall – which is that “illegal” immigrants, most of them from Mexico, are stealing U.S. jobs and hurting society – reflects a profound misunderstanding of American history.

On Indigenous Peoples Day, it’s worth underscoring something that many archaeologists know: many of the values that inspire the American Dream – liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness – date back to well before the creation of the U.S.-Mexico border and before freedom-seeking Pilgrim immigrants arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620. They originate with native North Americans.

A Native American dream

The modern rendition of the American Dream can be traced back to 1774, when Virginia’s governor, John Murray, the fourth earl of Dunmore, wrote that even if Americans “attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west.”

The actual term “American Dream” was popularized in 1931 by the businessman and historian James Truslow Adams. For him, its realization depended on not just being able to better oneself but also, through movement and human interaction, seeing your neighbors bettered as well.

The first peoples to come to the Americas also came in search of a better life. That happened 14,000 years ago in the last Ice Age when nomadic pioneers, ancestors to modern Native Americans and First Nations, arrived from the Asian continent and roamed freely throughout what now comprises Canada, the United States and Mexico. Chasing mammoth, ancient bison and the elephant-like Gomphothere, they moved constantly to secure the health of their communities.

The indigenous communities of the Americas knew none of these modern-day national borders.
USGS

A more recent example of the power of migration reappears about 5,000 years ago, when a large group of people from what is today central Mexico spread into the American Southwest and farther north, settling as far up as western North America. With them they brought corn, which now drives a significant part of the American economy, and a way of speaking that birthed over 30 of the 169 contemporary indigenous languages still spoken in the United States today.

The Hohokam

This globalist world view was alive and well 700 years ago as well when people from what is now northern Arizona fled a decades-long drought and rising authoritarianism under religious leaders. Many migrated hundreds of miles south to southern Arizona, joining the Hohokam (ancestors to modern O’odham nations) who had long thrived in the harsh Sonoran desert by irrigating vast fields of agave, corn, squash, beans and cotton.

When the northern migrants arrived to this hot stretch of land around the then-nonexistent U.S.-Mexico frontier, Hohokam religious and political life was controlled by a handful of elites. Social mechanisms restricting the accumulation of power by individuals had slowly broken down.

For decades after their arrival, migrants and locals interacted. From that exchange, a Hohokam cultural revolution grew. Together, the two communities created a commoners’ religious social movement that archaeologists call Salado, which featured a feasting practice that invited all village members to participate.

As ever more communities adopted this equitable tradition, political power – which at the time was embedded in religious power – became more equally spread through society. Elites lost their control and, eventually, abandoned their temples.

America’s egalitarian mound-builders

The Hohokam tale unearths another vaunted American ideal that originates in indigenous history: equality. Long before it was codified in the Declaration of Independence,, equality was enacted through the building of large mounds.

Massive earthen structures like these are often acts of highly hierarchical societies – think of the pyramids of the ancient Egyptians, constructed by masses of laborers as the final resting place of powerful pharaohs, or those of the rigid, empire-building Aztecs.

But great power isn’t always top-down. Poverty Point, in the lower Mississippi River Valley of what’s now Louisiana, is a good example. This massive site, which consists of five mounds, six concentric semi-elliptical ridges and a central plaza, was built some 4,000 years ago by hunter-fisher-gatherers with little entrenched hierarchy.

Poverty Point: a city built on cooperation.
Herb Roe/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Originally, archaeologists believed that such societies without the inequality and authoritarianism that defined the ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Aztec empires could not have constructed something so significant – and, if so, only over decades or centuries.

But excavations in the last 20 years have revealed that large sections of Poverty Point were actually constructed in only a few months. These Native Americans organized in groups to undertake massive projects as a communal cooperative, leaving a built legacy of equality across America’s landscape.

Haudenosaunee

The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, offer a more modern example of such consensus-based decision-making practices.

These peoples – who’ve lived on both sides of the St. Lawrence river in modern-day Ontario and the U.S. Great Lakes states for hundreds, if not thousands, of years – built their society on collective labor arrangements.

They ostracized people who exhibited “selfish” behavior, and women and men often worked together in large groups. Everyone lived together in communal longhouses. Power was also shifted constantly to prevent hierarchy from forming, and decisions were made by coalitions of kin groups and communities. Many of these participatory political practices continue to this day.

The Haudenosaunee sided with the British during the 1776 American Revolution and were largely driven off their land after the war. Like many native populations, the Haudenosaunee Dream turned into a nightmare of invasion, plague and genocide as European migrants pursued their American Dream that excluded others.

Native Americans at Standing Rock

The long indigenous history of rejecting authoritarianism continues today, including the 2016 battle for environmental justice at Standing Rock, South Dakota.

There, a resistance movement coalesced around a horizontally organized youth group that rejected the planned Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Native American pioneers continue to fight for the same ideals that inspire the American Dream, including equality and freedom.
John Duffy/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

The movement centered on an environmental cause in part because nature is sacred to the Lakota (and many other indigenous communities), but also because communities of color often bear the brunt of economic and urban development decisions. This was the indigenous fight against repression and for the American Dream, gone 21st century.

Redefining the North American dream

Anthropologists and historians haven’t always recognized the quintessentially Native American ideals present in the American Dream.

In the early 19th century, the prominent social philosopher Lewis Henry Morgan called the Native Americans he studied “savages.” And for centuries, America’s native peoples have seen their cultural heritage attributed to seemingly everyone but their ancestors – even to an invented “lost” white race.

America’s indigenous past was not romantic. There were petty disputes, bloody intergroup conflicts and slavery (namely along the Northwest Coast and American Southeast).

But the ideals of freedom and equality – and the right that Americans can move across this vast continent to seek it out – survive through the millennia. Societies based on those values have prospered here.

The ConversationSo the next time a politician invokes American values to promote a policy of closed borders or selfish individualism, remember who originally espoused the American Dream – and first sought to live it, too.

Lewis Borck, Archaeologist, Leiden University and D. Shane Miller, Prehistoric Archeologist, Mississippi State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Politics, Political and Politically Correct


Leave a comment

Hot new discovery – A serious intellectual tackles spiritual and other issues

This morning I checked out a blog I’d never seen before. I’ll be returning! I recommend this for anyone who thinks about self, society, politics, philosophy, ethics, spirituality… and is not intimidated by sentences longer than 5 words! » https://summaamare.com/


1 Comment

Are outspoken critics of Wikipedia pompous windbags?

Let’s face it. Wikipedia is amazing. Not only in the humanities but in just about every discipline one can think of. I think it’s great that its founder is being recognized in his lifetime. All too often great figures go by unnoticed because those upholding old patterns just can’t see what’s right before their eyes.

So what about academia. Is it really that great?

Well, I had a good experience, especially in undergrad studies. But looking back, Wikipedia entries are probably more balanced and informative than most of what my undergrad professors put out. Don’t be fooled. Some profs just follow a textbook or two. They might have read a few more books in the area. But generally, the sheer amount of info one can get from Wikipedia is better than what you’d get in an undergraduate humanities course.

Image by Abhi Sharma via Flickr

And the fee?

University fees have been steadily rising. And not only that. It’s been harder and harder for less privileged youths to get funding. Let’s not beat around the bush. University is a type of finishing school for many kids who can afford it. For those who can’t, it has been a symbol of oppression.

Oppression?

Yes oppression.

Just go to a small university town and compare the university students to the “townies” as some used to call them. The gap is painfully obvious.

But here’s the biggest joke of all. Universities can be corrupt. Not too many people realize it but corruption isn’t just about the most visible stories that hit the news. We tend to turn a blind eye to those things that benefit us, while scapegoating those that do not.

So I ask: Are some outspoken academic critics of Wikipedia not only pompous but corrupt windbags?

Of course, not all academics are snobs or directly involved in corrupt activities. But quite possibly the snooty narrow-mindedness of some is at least partly or indirectly supported by some form of institutional corruption.

So my message to anyone who has not been to university: Don’t feel any less than someone who has. What matters is to be able to think freely. And Wikipedia can be a fantastic launch pad for critical thinking. Sure, it only gives outlines. But they are excellent, densely interlinked outlines. And if you want to go further in a particular topic, Wikipedia articles do have a bibliography and external links. So the next step would be the public library, bookstore or just more web surfing.

Forget the pompous windbags. They’re probably carping because they fear that their status – and associated perks – are threatened. Their days are numbered. Knowledge, like anything else, should be available to anyone who wants and needs it.

 One-third of Ph.D.s lose interest in academic careers, but not for lack of jobs (scienceblog.com)

 Iowa regents asking for $12 million solely for resident, undergrad aid (thegazette.com)

 At Reed College, the left clashes with itself over free speech (hotair.com)

 Letter: Academic enrichment (bostonherald.com)

 Cambridge academic cleared of assault after saying ex-fiancee tried to ‘ruin’ his life for calling off wedding (telegraph.co.uk)

 See Western Michigan’s enrollment, demographics over decade (mlive.com)

 The 10 colleges where students get the best education for their money (businessinsider.com)


Leave a comment

Feed me… alphabetically!

Admittedly, things have been a bit slow at earthpages.org over the past few days. At least, they may have seemed slow.

Actually I’ve been putting in crazy hours learning how to get as many RSS news feeds as possible on my several devices. Some devices are older, some are newer. And each has its own unique ability or power to draw in something of interest.

Feed Icon Bl-Or

Feed Icon Bl-Or (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The older hardware and OS, for instance, can run RSS Reader, a program that I love. But so far I can only get some feeds to show up with that program using newer hardware and OS.

So to compensate, I’ve taken up with an online Feedreader that I tried out ages ago but only recently have come to like (pictured above).

Funny how the categories worked out, huh? To think that organized crime and Old Testament feeds turned up side by side… How utterly strange.


Leave a comment

Can we escape bias implied by language and other signs?

Stories like the one below (tweeted) always give me a slightly dissatisfied feeling. It’s like the big organization is claiming that it can be neutral or objective. Or if that is going too far, at least it implies that its overall perspective is better than the one it tries to replace. This may be the case in many instances. But to subtly suggest that we can objectively rewrite the past is questionable.

I say this because the author writes within the framework of the Smithsonian. An objective institution? Well, take a look at the funding and decide for yourself.

Admittedly, just because someone is funded does not mean that overt bias is present. But surely there is subtle bias. The way a story is presented. What is acceptable and what is not.

So the first tweet (top) raised a bit of a red flag for me today. I get the same feeling whenever Wikipedia tries to be monolithic. Humans are biased. It’s one power group over another. Always has been that way and probably always will be.


1 Comment

And you think science is objective and without human bias?

I saw this yesterday and have been meaning to comment.

Science – good science – is indispensable to our modern way of life. Don’t get me wrong. And please don’t confuse science with technology. All I’ve been saying for the past while is that science is a human enterprise. As such, it is not perfect nor comprehensive.