Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I'm a little slow...

I'm just now reading Guns, Germs and Steel. I knew it has been out for a while now, but I was completely unaware that there's a PBS documentary made from it. It amazes me that I didn't know that because PBS is the ONLY channel I get with my rabbit ears!!

I find the book incredibly liberating. As a white male, I feel incredibly guilty that I'm living on land that was acquired through genocide. What Jared Diamond's book shows me is that the circumstances that lead to the European colonialism, and subsequently much of the state of the world today is all the result of historical coincidence. This does not excuse the immoral behavior of colonialists, but it seems to be arbitrary that these people were white men. I refuse to jump on the white men are evil bandwagon. Diamond illustrates that if Australian Aborigines were in the same environment as white men, we would be talking about the oppressive Yir Yoront hegemony. We would complain about the "black male" bias in our society.

In a way, it's almost unfortunate that the circumstances that lead to European hegemony only happened once. Were it to happen in 2 locations at the same time we might not be so quick to point the finger at some grossly overgeneralized group of people. We would be forced to look deeper into the Ultimate reasons for human history.

In all cases that I can think of in history, attrocities happen when the powerful members of a society seek to exploit the weak of any society, including their own. This is not unique to Europe. I think the genocide of the East Timorese by Singapore proves this point quite well. I think what is missing from the consciousness of many people is that most individuals, white, black, male, female, for 99.9% of human history have merely been trying to keep their families and themselves alive. My family arrived to the United States too late to start the pandemic that killed so many natives. They also arrived to late to take part in the genocidal conquest of the land I know live in. My ancestors were poor farmers who battled cold winters and broken backs. I think this is the story for most people in the world, including most white men.

This is actually something my father tried to tell me along time ago, but like I said, I'm a little slow. White liberal guilt is a hard thing to overcome. It's the product of being empathetic, which is at the core of my system of values. I felt guilty because I care. That's something I will never be ashamed of.

I realize this post doesn't begin to touch the problems of male hegemony. I will save that for another post. But I will say this: chauvanism is also not unique to Europe.


At 12:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your thoughts on what it means to be a white male are profound and well-reasoned. Good for you!

And you are completely right about the guilt that can come from caring. It was hard for me to separate the fact that I am half-German from the shameful atrocities of the Nazi holocaust. But in owning that my family was here in the US allowed me to make that separation.

You're also doing some right-on reading!


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