Whose laws rule? vyvyan ogma wyverne
This is how I understand it – I won’t say I’m well-informed or that all my arguments are watertight, at least not in the terms of the ‘dominant culture’ under whose laws we are all now constrained to live. I’ve been out of touch with the dominant culture for large slabs of my life and I’m vague on the fine details of its rationale. I’m literate but the books I know best are mostly more than 300 years old and I have, I acknowledge, my own take on them, so to speak, at variance with the officialdoms of the dominant culture. Yet I have my points of view and I think long and deep on subjects like this, especially in relation to some of the dominated ones, specifically, indigenous peoples, travelers and the displaced peoples who have become or are becoming urban poor in their own appropriated lands. It’s a hot, nay a sizzling topic in some, mostly obscure circles, but I don’t intend to be hot-tongued about it. I just want to look at the damage and see what can be said about it.
First you have ‘tribes’ which are really extended families, and matriarchal and patriarchal tolerances and intolerances determine right from wrong for a hundred and fifty or so people, loosely or tightly constrained to treaties with other tribes with whom they share resources, territories, migration routes or even just borders, or with whom they inter-marry or trade with. These usually maintain relatively low population levels, with resultant low crime rates and low rates of mutual aggression, reflected in rudimentary weaponry adapted from tools which anyway are minimalistic. If a well-aimed stone kills the duck, why invent a gun?
Then you get the high tech superpowers colonising, which they do politely enough at first, taking only what they need of the abundant resources. But if the pickings are good, they soon become domineering and later totalitarian, claiming sovereignty over all the resources of the land, fencing and policing even the lands they have no use for or could easily afford to share. The tribes, whether consenting or not, become subject to the laws of the high-tech colonists, and soon fill their jails. England did this in Australia and New Zealand and elsewhere, and in Ireland and the Americas previously. It had been done to her indigenous peoples in the recent past by the Anglo-Saxons.
The major mechanism is the fencing of land, and the erection of signs saying ‘trespassers prosecuted’. This forces people to beg. In old France you got a piece of bread and butter for attending school. You attended or you starved. The same principle applies with modern day aborigines. With education in English compulsory, within a few generations, all appropriated children are shaky about their own languages and embarrassed about the apparent inferiority of their own culture, viewed through the largely unconfigurable lenses of the dominant culture.
And are the lenses of the dominant culture superior?
Well, the pervading morality is hard-wired into them, and have we not a well-recorded history of its evolution, with its impeccable contributions from many very ancient Greeks, and innumerable venerable classical and ecclesiastical moral philosophers since, themselves members of cultures soon to be subsumed in the snowballing of a succession of dominant ones or else part of the process of that subsumation? Not really, but the dominant culture has the power to indoctrinate all children towards a firm conviction that the basing of our philosophy on the tradition of these (too?) few essays of variable calibre and questionable worth somehow improves the evolution of ‘our’ morality, while in my opinion it could be argued that it paralyses progress in the field. Certainly it makes very culture-specific norms and whether written or unwritten, laws create and protect norms and impose them by means of more laws and keep them in place by means of still more laws until only those who, while conforming to these norms, are still functional can prosper. Those who can’t are considered dysfunctional, no matter how high-strangeness the norms might be to them. Dysfunctional people lose all human rights, because they get taken over by ‘welfare’ workers as soon as they register as such, and their dysfunctionality is defined as something ‘wrong’ with them or even with their whole culyure.
The Nungahs, the Rom, the Celts the Africans, the native Americans all experience differently. Their realities overlap only partially with the legal norm. Officially, they are said to hallucinate, and those who can’t be made ‘normal’ are declared insane. Ooooh, there’s anger in the land…
I know no one is claiming an even reasonable track record for Australia’s dominant culture’s morality in human rights or in protecting the rights of small nations. The ‘Sorry’ of a few years back was deeply real, and maybe the fate of our world might turn upon it and save us from bombing each other to bits. At the very least, it might offer us a more realistic basis for law-making.