Cultures and Lightbulbs – Alma Boykin

Cultures and Lightbulbs – Alma Boykin


There’s a joke that asks, “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer: “Only one, but the light bulb really has to want to change.” The same is true of cultures, fictional and actual. It is possible to change culture, but it takes time, and if the majority of members of that culture prefer the old ways, things are going to remain static, especially in the deep-rooted, “90 percent of the iceberg” aspects of culture. So what does make a culture change, for good or for ill?

I ask because I’ve been reading Thomas Sowell’s latest book, Wealth, Poverty, and Politics, the one he said he wasn’t going to write (back two books ago. I hope he keeps deciding to stop writing.) It is a very nice synopsis of some of his earlier works about cultural differences and economic outcomes, with a great deal of additional material, all looking at the question of why do some groups seem to do well economically and others don’t do as well, no matter what advantages they might initially have? He looks in the very long term, and includes geography, although there are ways to overcome the disadvantages of geography (see Switzerland for a sterling example). I’ve also been reading a German book about the pre-Indo-European cultures of the Danube River Basin from Hungary downstream. Aside from being a bit too enamored of Marija Gimbutas’s theories about religion and matriarchy at times, it’s a very useful book that fills in some holes in my knowledge of the area. As with Sowell’s volume, one of the ideas in the book is that of cultural change and adoption, looking at the Greek language for pre-Indo-European language traces, as well as using archaeology for clues.*

In the case of the people who migrated into the Peloponnesian Peninsula, the need to find words for new-to-them plants and animals, as well as adopting certain local religious practices, seems to have encouraged cultural shifts and adaptations. If you come from a place without large bodies of water, and find yourself surrounded by a sea and needing to fish for food, you are probably going to start trying to placate whoever is in charge of the ocean and storms. You may absorb the locals’ deity, assuming there are locals, or you may discover a new-to-your-people god or goddess. (How that happens I leave to our anthropologists and theologians).

The Comanche Indians are another example of voluntary culture change. They originated as Great Basin Shoshone, with cultural practices that reflected the relatively impoverished environment of their home region. When they reached the Great Plains and acquired horses, their collective response was something along the lines of, “Dump that junk! Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome! Wheeee!” and they borrowed where useful, improvised where necessary, and adapted supremely well to the High Plains. A few beliefs lingered, or so anthropologists and later observers believe, but in terms of visible behavior, the Comanche became the archetypical plains horse nomads. After 1876, when forcibly confined to reservations in Oklahoma, the Comanche once more said, “Dump the old stuff, we need to adapt in order to survive,” much to the frustration of future generations of ethnographers and Comanches. They kept certain beliefs, tossed the mechanics of certain crafts and skills, and adapted once more. But this change was, to an extent, voluntary as their earlier cultural shift had been. One can argue that being stuck at Ft. Sill was not voluntary, but the decision by the apparent majority of Comanches to not pass on traditions and skills to later generations, even as crafts, and to tell their children to learn from the white men was a deliberate choice. A choice modern Comanche are trying to undo in part by working with museums and archives to back-engineer certain skills and practices.

These cases are voluntary, of cultural groups moving to new environments and opting to change their practices (and beliefs?) to varying degrees to take better advantage of their surroundings. Did some Comanches and others object to major changes? I presume they did, since they are humans, and change is not easy, especially the deep cultural ideas and beliefs that got you through hard times in the past. It’s like some families from certain long-persecuted religious groups insisting on having portable wealth, even though they’ve been in the US for multiple generations without experiencing difficulties. You never know, after all. It’s safer to plan for the worst and buy lots of gold wedding jewelry so the women can bribe people if necessary, or use it to pay off debts to money lenders during starvation-hard times.

But like the joke about the Dalai Lama and the hotdog vendor says, “Change must come from within.” The US occupation forces would have had a very hard time undoing the effects of Japanese militarism if a whole lot of Japanese had not said to themselves, “That didn’t work and it’s not worth the pain of trying to keep that tradition alive.”

What about groups that don’t adapt as quickly, or who apparently do not assimilate? People who moved to the US from other cultures and continents in the 19th and early 20th centuries faced rough times until they 1) assimilated to a degree acceptable by the surrounding society or 2) found ways to appear sufficiently assimilated, or 3) made a niche and held out until they were perceived as interesting, “quaint,” and harmless oddities (like Old Order Amish and Mennonites, certain American Indian groups, and others). The Amish, being Protestant Christians involved in agriculture, fit in relatively well when they came to the Colonies because they were surrounded by Protestant Christians who, for the most part, practiced agriculture. Yes, their pacifism and language caused difficulties, especially during WWI, but their basic beliefs continued to fit into the accepted varieties of US culture, at least until the late 20th century. Later arriving Mennonites fleeing the Russian Revolution and associated wars found ways to adapt as well, with varying degrees of assimilation.

But those changes came from within. Can cultural change be forced by outsiders? Yes, but usually it requires armed force or overwhelming numbers, more rarely through persuasion at least until the rise of cultural-equivalency and the idea that non-Western cultural practices must be better simply by virtue of being non-Western. Although the visiting professor from India I had drew the line at condemning the British for trying to abolish suttee. She was a widow of the Brahmin caste and apparently her in-laws still wanted her dead. So even for her, a little “cultural Imperialism” wasn’t entirely bad.

I tinkered with forced cultural change in the novel Hubris and its eventual sequel Renaissance. The Azdhagi had begun shifting from within, to a less pack-centered and more democratic (herpetocratic? Sauriacratic?) style of government in a meritocratic society when a series of disasters struck. In response, caused some of those changes flipped back to the way they’d been many generations before and flipped hard. Other shifts occurred over the next few generations, including a major change in Azdhagi religion. The religion kept the old forms of group ritual and the use of incense and chanted “hymns,” but the object of worship changed considerably, from a monotheistic belief to ancestor worship with additional deified spirits. Some of the stories’ characters adapted, others didn’t, and a few realized that things had never quite been what they assumed.

History, at least the history I’ve studied, suggests that the most lasting changes within a culture come from inside that culture, unless overwhelming force is applied and there is no way to revert, even after the force is (mostly) removed. This poses some interesting ideas for fiction writers, and greater challenges for policy makers.

*Why Greek and not the modern Danube Basin languages? Too many other groups have moved into the area since the pre-Indo-Europeans were there and far fewer pre-IE words remain in the Slavic and Magyar languages.


125 responses to “Cultures and Lightbulbs – Alma Boykin

  1. You leave me with much to ponder. Thank you.

    • Especially about this time of year.

    • You’re welcome. I’m not sure Sarah had “Culture Week” in mind, but that seems to have happened. (Kinda like Shark Week [TM] but with less shaky cam.)

      • [Mike Rowe voice:] To investigate, John and Rebecca both suited up and crawled into the anti-culture cage before being lowered into the cultural medium. They didn’t have long to wait before they were surrounded by a mass of teaming, riled up cultures.

        “Ooh – here comes a big one – and it’s displaying typical aggressive posture!”

      • hey, it’s good. It means we can debate a topic, and really deepen it. Call it ATH philosophical seminars 😉

        • If it gets much deeper we will need waders.

        • This crowd would debate whether water is wet.

          • In a liquid state water is most definitely wet. Given low enough ambient temperatures water is not wet, and we have skiing, ice skating, and festivals with ice sculptures and places.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Depends on your definition of “wet”. [Very Very Big Evil Grin]

            • Doesn’t it also depend on your definition of “water”?

              Some things we are not inclined to debate:

              Whether the Dog returns to his Vomit,
              Whether the Sow returns to her Mire,
              Whether the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

  2. I think that in some ways guilt or shame makes change easier. I don’t know about the Comanche situation, other than that they were more famous for torture and killing of peaceful bystanders than most. But certainly the Japanese realized that their behavior in WWII had not made them popular or successful (whether or not they could admit it, or whether or not the dissidents who had been persecuted for saying Japan would regret it could openly say I told you so).

    In some ways, change is a release valve. Change gets things done, whereas pondering and discussion just stirs things up and allows sad feelings and anger and regret. But of course that also means that a lot of dysfunction and sin and stupidity and resentment can fester.behind the facade of change.

  3. A example of both voluntary & forced change would be the Cherokee people. Paintings & portraits from before the march show people who dressed and acted in much the contemporary way, but afterwards they “reverted” their culture.

    • I too was thinking of the Cherokee as I read Alma’s post. They seem to have adapted very well to the ‘sucker the flatland tourist’ model. Virginia and Maryland are sprinkled with small Indian tribes that quickly made it to ‘quaint and harmless’ status. The Amish is southern Maryland are having a positive impact there and in Northern VA with marketing custom built storage sheds.

      Of course, as affluence of the nation rises, the folks that imagine that the ‘good old days’ were really good, have romantic fantasies of returning to that culture. That is the nice thing about affluence, it allows idiots to still survive.

    • Having several times visited their cultural heritage museum at Cherokee, NC (much enhanced since the establishment of a casino) it seems that the Cherokee believe their problems largely came from being too successful at adopting the White Man’s Ways™. Their level of cultural development was such that they could easily handle the minor changes and proved so capable at the “new ways” that they angered many of the Whites who did not appreciate being shown up as suckers by a “bunch of savages.”

      White men being what they were, especially the colonial dregs settling into Northern Georgia, the solution to this embarrassment proved simple, if brutal. It didn’t help that the Cherokee made several unfortunate choices about with which factions to side during various of the wars leading up to the Trail of Tears.

      • The factionalism lasted through the Civil War. Stand Watie had a bone to pick with the Ross family and their allies, and he wasn’t the only one.

        You make a good point about “too successful at their own game.” There seems to be a line in human nature between “they’re doing a good job imitating us” and “b@stards don’t know their place,” especially when dealing with an honor/shame culture.

      • I, too had considered the Cherokee.

        The Cherokee proved that you can be too successful in acculturating. Adopting a model of farming based on European modes, they built profitable farms in their territory. Many settlers of European descent were all too happy to see them forced to relinquish these farms that they had developed and resettled elsewhere. The state of Georgia was happy to accommodate the settlers and to expand its sphere of control.

        This resulted in the a court challenge, Cherokee Nation v. State of Georgia, 30 U.S. 1 (1831), for abrogation of treaties. The Supreme Court determined that the Cherokee had standing and the case was found in their favor. The federal government then passed the Cherokee Removal Act (1832). A second case, Worcester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. 515 (1832), SCOTUS once again held for the Cherokee. From Wikki:

        According to the decision rendered by Justice John Marshall, this meant that Georgia had no rights to enforce state laws in its territory. In addition, it made the Indian Removal Act invalid, illegal, unconstitutional and against treaties previously made by the United States.

        President Jackson is supposed to have announced that the Court may decide; let them try to enforce it. The court was unable to. Its decision was ignored and the Cherokee were forcibly removed.

        • Our current President does seem to wish to follow in Ol’ Hickory’s footsteps. Now if he just had a tenth of Jackson’s backbone he might be useful in foreign policy.

        • I had always heard that Jackson comment with regards to similar treatment of the Seminoles.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Well, IIRC the Seminoles were making “pests” of themselves before Jackson invaded Florida.

            They were raiding into American territory from Florida.

            While Spain owned Florida, they were unable (or unwilling) to prevent such raids.

            I have sympathy for the Cherokee but little sympathy for the Seminoles.

            • Boy, were they. Something to remember is that after the war between the Upper and Lower Creeks, some Upper Creeks, AKA Red Sticks, went to Florida and were absorbed into the Seminoles (Osceola would come from these Creek immigrants). The Oconee Indians pushed out by settlement also ended up in the Seminoles.

              This mean it wasn’t unusual for Creeks living besides the “whites” to have kin with those in the Seminoles. Now add that not all Lower Creek towns were enthused about being allies with the US. during the war with the Upper Creeks, which coincided with the War of 1812. I hazily remember some concern they could go over to the Red Sticks, but might be wrong.

              What this meant was when a raiding party showed up at a Creek home, they might be welcomed as kindred spirits, or begrudgingly welcomed as kinfolks, or both. And that led to a great big mess.

              People being what they are, some Creek towns may also have seen this as an opportunity. Because if the Seminoles were going to catch the blame . . .

              I’m suspicious about the town of Chehaw. They gave aid to Andrew Jackson as he marched to Florida, but cattle from a raid on the frontier and a rifle that belonged to a man killed in a skirmish was found in the town. Chehaw is remembered today as the site of a massacre by Georgia militia. Which doesn’t justify the massacre; just saying I’m wondering if they were playing both sides.

              • I’m wondering if they were playing both sides.

                This is an ancient tradition of the natives of the British Isles. Many a family took care to put a son on each side of a civil war to ensure the family would retain title, one way or the other.

                Of course, that “tradition” might be more an artifact of novelists such as Scott and Stevenson than actual fact. I certainly wouldn’t past them (the things I have heard of some novelists doing are scandalous!)

              • The Seminoles were also well known for accepting escaped slaves into their midst, which did not exactly endear them to those slaves owners. It has been argued at times that the Seminoles were not so much a tribe (genetically, by breeding) as a band of outcasts, outlaws, and others escaping their past.

                Fun fact: the Seminoles are the only Indian tribe with a reservation that never signed a treaty with the US, technically they are still at war with the US.

                • Supposedly “Seminole” means “thief” in Muskogean. Be that as it may, they themselves were pretty much a melting pot. Osceola not only was a Creek, but a Creek with half European ancestry. Billy Bowlegs had Oconee ancestry. The story goes that the last straw for Billy Bowlegs was when government surveyors cut down his banana trees and shot his pumpkins – Seminole pumpkins are white, round, and were grown so that the vines ran up trees and and the pumpkins hung down like fruit..

            • One notes that they moved into Florida well after white settlement of the region had begun, and they got peeved when whites bought lands from the tribes there before — those lands were theirs by right of conquest.

            • The Seminoles, from bases in the swamps of Spanish Florida, had invaded southern Georgia in November of 1817. In January 1819 then General Jackson wrote President Monroe asking permission to invade Spanish Florida. When he received no answer he decided to take that as permission and did so. The area was military control under General Jackson’s direction until March 30, 1822 when Congress granted Florida territorial status.

        • Georgia’s foul-up was attempting a land grab even though the Indian nations are regarded as, well, separate nations. One reason Georgia may have took this approach might have been it got it’s hands slapped in making their own treaty with the Creeks early in the 1800s. That was a big no-no for a state, and it got tossed. A Federal treaty, maybe the Treaty of Washington of 1805, did practically the same thing. Ah, but if they could argue the Cherokee weren’t a separate nation, then they wouldn’t need the Federal government to make a treaty. And Georgia got its hands slapped two more times.

          • I guess it’s true what they say, everything old is new again.
            Not too long ago I recall reading that Georgia was attempting to redefine their northern boundary with Tennessee in order to gain access to the Tennessee river. I believe there are ongoing disputes between them and Alabama over water rights along their border as well. Over use and over population depleting the water table isn’t just a western state issue it would seem.

            • Except for a relatively small section of Northwest Georgia, North Georgia doesn’t have any aquifers. This means they must rely on relatively shallow ground water, or on surface water. As a result, cities like Atlanta rely almost entirely on surface water. This puts Georgia at odds with Alabama and Florida, for the Chattahoochee is shared by all three, and is the major source of water for Atlanta.

              The southern half of Georgia, though, has a different geology and several aquifers, some of them overlapping. This introduces a different dynamic in water use. The aquifers are naturally recharged, so water issues only come to a head during droughts.

              Whether or not Georgia has a valid argument in the location of the Tennessee-Georgia line, I don’t know. I do know that the state of the Pine Barrens scandal and the Yazoo Land Fraud has been, in turn, diddled on land issues. Wasn’t aware until I did a quick refresher on the Land Lottery system yesterday that George Washington and the Senate cut a deal with the Creeks without consulting Georgia, and ceding land claims to the Federal government may have happened after the Yazoo Land Fraud.

              This doesn’t justify attempting to diddle the Cherokee by any means, but it does add more background information. To be honest I toyed with the idea on writing a book on Georgia – Federal friction and calling it An Imperfect Union. That project is probably well over my head, though.

        • President Jackson is supposed to have announced that the Court may decide; let them try to enforce it. The court was unable to. Its decision was ignored and the Cherokee were forcibly removed.

          Jackson’s comment was:

          …the decision of the Supreme Court has fell still born, and they find they cannot coerce Georgia to yield its mandate

          That, however, did not result in the removal of the Cherokee. That didn’t happen until after the Treaty of New Echota, 1829, between the Cherokee and the federal government.

          • The Treaty of New Echota … not one of our government’s finer days.

            Now you have me thinking Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), or what the government wants the government will find a way to take.

      • I wasn’t aware that Patriot vets were considered “colonial dregs” by anyone but the Tories. They’d fought against those “colonial dregs,” and after the war those “colonial dregs” moved onto land the Tories vacated. And some of those “colonial dregs” had participated in the South Carolina scorched earth campaign.

        Whether that’s how a certain relation picked up Cherokee in the Revolutionary War or, as some claim, through Cherokee kin, is an open question. But when there was a small dust-up he was there to act as translator.

        “Colonial dregs.” Whatever. The way the family matriarch’s whispered, I might even be distant kin to Champ Ferguson. Not that I give a rat’s patootie.

        As a descendant of “colonial dregs,” I do recommend that, if you’re seriously interested in studying the Trail of Tears, you first learn:

        -of the old Headright system used in Georgia;

        – the Pine Barrens Scandal that led to the adoption of the Land Lottery system;

        -the first US gold rush and how this prompted the move to cede Cherokee land;

        -how Georgians felt they’d gotten the raw end of the deal by ceding land claims to the Federal government and the government hadn’t kept it’s bargain to remove the Indians;

        -how the Cherokee challenged the Georgia land grab in court and won;

        -how the Cherokee representatives agreed to the land swap;

        -how this was challenged by the Cherokee to the point that the Senate
        ratified the treaty by only one vote;

        -how the Cherokee refused to move for years despite repeated warnings of eviction by the Federal government;

        -how when eviction came it was delayed because weather conditions would have made travel difficult; when eviction did come, the weather only turned worse;

        -and how the government dealt with this with the efficiency we’ve come to expect.

        I might not care about being a descendant of “colonial dregs,” but I do very much care about historical accuracy.

        • I suggest you’re taking the “Colonial Dregs” phrase too seriously, although the “settlers” of Georgia were generally looked down upon (the colony being established as a haven for debtors, i.e., transportees) by the other colonies, particularly the snobs of South Carolina’s Lowlands and the Virginians (who tended to look down upon all the other colonies.) As a native of West Virginia and resident of North Carolina I am hardly inclined to sneer at anyone else’s antecedents.

          Given the timing of the issues’ resolution, I rather doubt many of the Georgians clamoring for Cherokee lands would have qualified as “Patriot Vets” except of the War of 1812. Their status as veterans, at any rate, hardly entitled them to lands held by others. The corruption of the Headright System and the Land Lotteries’ giving away land that was not theirs to give is a somewhat separate issue from the claims of title to the Cherokee lands,

          As a North Carolinian I am aware of the first US gold rush, in Charlotte circa 1804, and have enjoyed visiting the Mint Museum there commemorating the consequences. It had, as best I can judge, nothing to do with Cherokee Lands; perhaps you are thinking of the Second US gold rush, in 1828? Gold rushes and respect for indigenous people’s property rights are commonly associated inversely.

          I suggest the historical issues are too extensive and complex to delve into here in any depth. I presume we can agree that ofttimes the “selected” representatives of Cherokee governance were less fully representative of the Cherokee peoples than our current administration in Washington is of the American people? History is commonly well-larded with self-serving lies from all parties. History is also saturated with foreign powers breezing into an area, recognizing a convenient congenial group as “rulers” and buying them off.

          I could, for example, cite certain ruling families in the Middle East, but not every can o’ worms need be opened.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            What did the Cherokee do to the Mound Builders? Could Cherokee complaints be akin to future German complaints about the Third Reich being driven from France, The Balkans, et cetera? Could they be akin to Russian complaints about the descendents of their genocidal colonists being disenfranchised?

            • When Cahokia collapsed in the mid-1300s, it created a power vacuum that shifted people all over the southeastern quarter of the eventual Lower 48. IIRC the Natchez and Shawnee are considered the descendants of some of the Mississippian Moundbuilders. Plus the regional population seems to have crashed after DeSoto’s men came through (disease), further complicating who was where when doing what to whom.

            • If the Cherokee migrated south, as according to their legends, fairly late, it could have coincided after the collapse of the Mound Builders. If they were already there, the Mound Builders may have encroached on them. Either way, there was bad blood between the Creek and the Cherokee.

          • I believe Virginians still look down at all the other colonies, although the Anglican religion is no longer mandatory.

          • If the gold rush at Dahlonega was the second US gold rush, I stand corrected.

            Offended? No. Irked at historical inaccuracy? Yes. It started to grate when Gaiman displays it toward the end of American Gods,, grates because he wrote what he’s been told, which is “common knowledge” that not only leaves out a good bit, but gets parts wrong. As someone who writes “New Yawk” on a regular basis, I can’t really get tweaked when someone applies the same to Georgia. Those who hold a more egregious opinion can . . . but no, that will turn the holy water turn to steam. Again.

            It’s odd, though, given that it was mostly South Carolinians moving in, that they would “look down” on them, particularly given that it wasn’t uncommon for those in the area to marry South Carolinians, perhaps in part because of matriarchs who kept close track of who was kin to whom. Really, that opinion of North Georgians looks suspiciously like Tory sentiments.

            When it comes to longevity, you’d be surprised. Another Revolutionary War ancestor continued to move west with the frontier, even in his old age. That particular ancestor in North Georgia remained alive and kicking almost twenty years after the start of the Georgia gold rush. He had remarried for the third and last time not many years before, and had two young kids to support. Given family history, that’s not unusual, though none, so far, have lived as long has he.

            There was also considerable speculation, which led to the Pine Barrens Scandal and the Yazoo Land Fraud, and after Georgia adopted a lottery system for settlement, land often changed hands without anyone actually moving on to it.

            It’s important to note that in Georgia, land lots were sized by what was considered adequate to support a family. This meant lots in swampy areas, such as the southern part of the state, were larger than usual. The lots on Cherokee land were smaller, in anticipation that winners could help support themselves through gold mining. That alone tells you why Georgia wanted to get its hands on Cherokee lands.

            It also goes quite well with today’s topic. For while settlers wanted Cherokee land for gold, they wanted Creek land for farming. So when Benjamin Hawkins mentioned to a Creek that they didn’t improve their roads even thought they had the ability, the Creek told him that if they did, it would make the “whites” want their land even more. But blacksmith tools were part of one of the treaties with the Creeks. By this time they were making deliberate decisions about what culture to appropriate based on practical reasons.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        The Romans believed once an enemy, always an enemy, until subjugated or destroyed. The colonists may have been familiar with that.

        The Cherokee had sided with the enemy, so were at least potential enemies in the future.

        If a potential enemy is poor, they are less of a threat. If they prosper, and can field armies like yours, then there is incentive to do something about the matter one way or another.

      • their problems largely came from being too successful at adopting the White Man’s Ways™.

        I’ve got a long term musing that might be summed up as– well, they’re right.

        Sort of.

        It actually got started by someone ranting about how folks who don’t “look” Indian with an Indian ancestor are almost always an nth-great-grandmother.

        He was right, but not for the reason that was implied– that pattern is because of how integration tends to work, plus fads.

        If you’re going full-scale on ‘adopting the White Man’s Ways,’ you’re likely to be exposed to more non-Indians than Indians, and so you’re more likely to marry them, if there’s nothing stopping it. The your kids are likewise going to be likely to marry a non-Indian, and non-half Indian. My own Indian g-something grandma, I have no idea if she was first, second or third generation marrying a non-Indian– I just know that’s where she enters the family tree.

        For American Indians specifically, you’ve got two other issues– the way that hunters and trappers tended to be men, so you’ve got European men bringing back Indian wives, and the way that a male Indian could adopt a whole lot of the ‘White man’s ways’ while staying in his culture (guns, horses, knives, etc) while a woman’s biggest advantage requires living in the White Man’s culture. (Medicine and housing.)

        On the fad side, people aren’t going to brag about their non-Indian great-anything for cool points. I know my Indian cousins don’t brag up their Scottish great-grandfather, although they don’t try to hide it. (You know a 30-year-old Paiute with a Scottish name? Answers to ‘Fridge’? His Washington cousins would like to hear from him. 😀 ) a

        If there’s no visual cues– a last name, or some style choices, you’re not going to be able to tell an Indian from an Italian, and probably several other groups.

        So, you could say that those who still wanted to STAY purely fill-in-the-blank but take the useful parts of TWMW ran into trouble because of the incompatibilities, while those who wanted to keep stuff that wasn’t in conflict didn’t…and are now invisible.

        • A lot of Cherokees could pass as white (cue rumors of them being descended from Vikings, Druids, Romans, Carthaginians, Phoenicians, pick your favorite ancient civilization) and a lot of them did, rather than go to Oklahoma. Less so with other tribes, but many of them could pass as various ethnicities, and did when that was more convenient/less looked down upon.

          Crazy Horse was described as having sandy hair and hazel eyes, now whether that was due to a white trapper in the woodpile or just a natural combination of genes, I have no idea; but he could have passed as white fairly easily by that description.

          • I forgot another angle– Spanish.

            I know that a lot of Spanish folks in Cali married local, and there was a lot more cool factor in being Spanish than in being either Indian or Mexican….

            • Don’t call a Californio a Mexican.

              • Or a New Mexican Hispano Mexican. People who can trace their ancestry back to before the Reconquista tend to be a bit, um, vehement about certain things.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              I had a Great-Aunt in California who took pride in being pure Spanish blood (not Mexican). Of course, she over-looked one ancestor that wasn’t Spanish (but European). [Smile]

          • Which may be why some Indians have asked if I’m Cherokee. There’s some question of whether I have Cherokee ancestry. There’s rumors, but that’s about all.

            OTOH my wife does have known Indian ancestry, but this isn’t all that evident in her skin tone.

            Interestingly, I knew three men, only one of which knew he was descended from Creeks, who were dark skinned. The other two listed themselves as white. There were isolated cases of not all Creeks relocating, sometimes with the locals hiding them from authorities. It was relatively rare.

            • My great-great grandmother was full Cherokee. I have an old photograph from the 1880’s with her and Grandpa Sanders posing at a studio in Tyler Tx. My youngest brother was born with a full head of black hair, olive skin, and high cheekbones. He was never able to grow a beard and was a carbon copy of great grandpa Sanders (son of great-great grandpa Sanders). From stories from my paternal grandmother, she left the reservation on OK at age 18 to go to a business school in Texas and never went back after she met and married great-great grandpa.

      • Andy Jackson dealt with the Cherokee much the same way Adolf Hitler dealt with the Jews.

        Jackson was a thoroughgoing scumbag. Besides engaging in Madoff-style financial deals, his “liberation” and political cleansing of New Orleans are a particularly low point of American history.

    • Indeed, they blended so well that it wasn’t uncommon for Cherokee to own slaves…

      Slave taking was practiced by many tribes; when Daniel Boone was captured by the Shawnee, he started out as a slave but was later invited to join the tribe.

      • c4c

      • Hazily remembered detail: The Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery in the United States, but the Indian Nations were considered separate entities. That meant there were slaves in some of the Indian Nations after 1865.

        • That’s why there is the Lincoln Shame Pole up here in Alaska, the Tlingits were upset over the US not paying them for their slaves when we freed them.

        • The last admitted slave in New Mexico died in 1936, if you believe the Gallegos-Duran account in a state history publication from the 1960s.

        • Uh, no. The Thirteenth Amendment did not outlaw slavery. Just the opposite: it wrote a mechanism of slavery directly into the Constitution.

          “Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

          That is, the government reserves slavery to itself.

          You *did* pay that parking ticket, didn’t you?

      • Pretty much all tribes and civilizations everywhere, no?

      • War captives as slaves and forced adoption kinda shaded into each other in a lot of Algonquian tribes. OTOH, the Shawnee often accepted runaway black slaves of white people into the tribe as full members.

      • Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America by Christina Snyder is on exactly this topic.

    • I was going to mention the Cherokee – then I saw that several others had beat me to the punch. 😉

      Like Res and CACS, I think they “adapted” too well. Even today, the Tahlequah or Western Tribe has adapted to the Plains culture, while the Eastern Band (Qualla) seems closer to their ‘origins’. (ie, the White Buffalo has not relevance in Aniyunwiya lore, yet shows up in modern art. Nor did Tepee/wigwams for that matter. -sigh-)

    • I was going to comment about an incident in My Sojourn in the Creek Nation where a Creek let fly about the wickedness of “whites” and blaming it on books and writing. That didn’t keep him from riding a horse or owning a plantation. Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins would later write about some Creek towns where feelings had run so high that they’d gone back to the bow and arrow.

      Decades earlier, in the NE, some Indians had lived with the colonists, and when they came back, found their tribes rejected “white ways” to the point where some abandoned the ways as well in order to remain part of the tribe.

      Now compare it to some modern cultures’ attitudes toward “Westernism.” There’s likely a common thread here, maybe cultures under pressure from without.

  4. Pingback: Cultures and Lightbulbs | Head Noises

  5. Foot binding was eliminated in a single generation in China. From what I remember, a court ambassador came back and informed the Emperor that the rest of the world looked down on China because of the practice. Hence, from the top down, foot binding became a shameful practice that decent Chinese should not engage in.

    And Korea (South) is the only Asian nation with a close to normal sex distribution ratio. Early on, the powers that be saw the danger in sex selective abortion and leaving little girls on the side of the road to starve. So, a policy of making it shameful to abandon your female child or selectively abort females in the womb was established. For the most part, it worked.

    Years ago it was SF writers who foretold the problems China would have because of its one-child policy combined with sex selective abortions. And now demographers are noting the chickens are coming home to roost.

    • The Manchu never bound their women’s feet, and one of their early emperors (Qing Dynasty) tried to ban it in the mid 1600s without success. The Han Chinese insisted on continuing. The upper classes and intellectuals began leaning away from the practice in the late 1800s, but it was not until 1912 that it became illegal, although not without a great deal of controversy and debate. The Communists kept it illegal when they took over.

    • Japan never had the problem. Apparently the practice of adopting your son-in-law mitigated it.

  6. OT:
    Happy Thanksgiving, all Huns and Hoydens! I am off to southern Utah in the morning for a family reunion.

  7. You mention the post WWII changes in Japan. Having just finished reading a biography of Douglas MacArthur, I wonder if anyone else could have had the same impact on those changes. He was quite the martinet, but at the same time understood western political theory. His ability to establish a rapport with the Emperor probably helped to ease the fears of many who were uncomfortable with the changes.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    1. Great info about the Comanche. Whenever I hear someone yap about how Texas was stolen from Mexico, I always explain that since the Comanche effectively prevented Mexico from widespread colonization, it is more correct to say that the US stole Texas from the Comanche. I can usually hear the gears in their heads grind as they try to assess the relative positions of two groups in the Sacred Hierarchy of Aggrieved Minorities (SHAM).

    2. Something I see rarely mentioned is that there was a 4th option for
    19th/20th century immigrants to the US – reverse immigration. According to some sources as many as 1 in 8 German immigrants returned to the Old Country. I have often thought that by offering a generous social safety net,
    not demanding English proficiency, and not taxing foreign remittances, the US makes it far too attractive for immigrants who fail to assimilate to remain in this country.

    • I forget the exact figure now, but in his “History of the English-Speaking Peoples”, Winston Churchill claimed some large percentage of newly-revolutionized Americans felt the New Bosses were worse than the Old Bosses, packed their things, and moved up to still-British America.

      The history books I had in school didn’t mention things like the Whiskey Rebellion or other antirevolutionary sentiments. The people who had financed the war wanted their money back, and it cost a bunch to set up thirteen local and one national government, and the Founders’ tax demands were apparently substantially stiffer and broader than those of the Crown.

      • You might read Gary Nash’s _The Unknown American Revolution_ about the people who opposed the Revolution, and those caught in the middle of earlier fights (the NC Regulators, for example) that spilled into the Revolution. His focus is on what we’d call working class colonists. I don’t agree with all his arguments, but its a good read.

      • Absolutely correct. The Tories were run out of America with fire and sword. We absolutely had our version of the Terror; the biggest difference is there was someplace for the Tories to flee to where they would be absorbed into a similar culture, rather than feeling like cornered rats.

        As with every other revolution, the question isn’t whether there were / will be horrible things; the question is whether the result was / will be worth the price. “It should be strange if an article like Freedom were not highly rated.”

        “The last thing we can afford to do is allow ourselves to be paralyzed for fear we might be doing what they want, Uncle Jacques,” Honor said quietly, almost gently. “Judah’s right about that. And I know you. For that matter, I know Beowulfers. If it comes down to doing what you think is right or sacrificing your most basic principles to preserve a system as corrupt as the League’s proving it is, I know what you’re going to decide.”
        “Always so black-and-white for you Manties,” her uncle teased her gently, and Elizabeth chuckled.
        “And you decadent Beowulfers always trying to convince us that you see only shades of gray,” she riposted.
        “Well, usually, that’s what it is.” Benton-Ramirez y Chou’s tone was suddenly much more serious. “But sometimes it isn’t, and my long, tall niece here has a point.” He smiled a little sadly at Honor. “Comfortable or not, when those ‘sometimes’ come along, the only coinage history seems willing to accept is our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

    • The germans seem to have been more than normally enthusiastic about going back and forth when immigrating/emigrating.

      Friends of ours of German background emigrated to the States from Argentina during the late ’50’s. His parents (and several uncles and cousins) left Swabia for Argentina shortly before he was born, and when he was about 5, in the early ’30’s, moved back to Germany.

      A few years later, some of them noticed that things seemed to be going in bad directions at home, so they packed up yet again and moved back to Argentina just before the war got going. (The male relatives who stayed in Germany all got drafted and sent off to the Eastern Front, from which none of them returned.)

      Sam met and married Norma in college near Buenos Aires, and neither of them much liking the Peronistas, emigrated to the States, raising two sons here.

      Sam was a civil engineer in the mining bidness, and was still getting flown all around the world for consulting gigs into his 80’s. We think they’ve finally settled down by now.

  9. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Offtopic: The house believes that the centennial of the Great War will be commemorated by another Great War.

    Will the recent Russian aircraft being shot down escalate?

    Happy Turkey Day! I am thankful for our excellent national leadership.

    • um… you wouldn’t be wrong.

    • Assassination of a Duke vs assassination of an Ambassador.
      Germany demanding the restoration of “historic” lands vs Russia claiming portions of the Ukraine.
      I’ve seen a credible argument from some historians that WWII was simply the continuation of WWI so combined they would indeed be The Great War.
      Are what we are seeing the opening skirmishes in the next Great War?
      Stick around, we’ll know soon enough. At least those of us that survive.

      • I used the term “Second Ideology War” for the current go-round, with the Cold War as the First round.

        Given that WWI lasted until 1922 in Central Europe and the Soviet Union, then re-started in 1939, I consider it one long war.

        • My own theory is it is all one great 100-year war. It began with the collapse of the old European order (call it the Hapsburg Empire) and has since then been a series of King On The Mountain combats to determine who will hold mastery. WWI was the collapse of the old order, WWII was the fascist/communist challenge (with a side of Control of the Pacific), the Cold War was Communism vs Free Markets, we are now looking at the fight for philosophy — Islam vs Liberal Democracy … and while all this is going on, the real fight is between individuals and groups, whether we will be citizen or subject.

  10. Speaking of culture clashes, this should serve as a warning for next year’s Worldcon. Recording devices at all times, and groups of three or more.

    Yeah, these people can totally live in a trust-based society.

  11. *stalks in, looks around* It’s getting kinda quiet around here.
    *noses and paws at PA system* To be decided: stuffing or dressing?
    *turns off PA* That should stir ’em up.
    *sits back to watch fight*

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      What’s the difference between “stuffing” and “dressing”? [Wink]

      • It’s regional. In one place you stuff your face with dressing. In another, you dress your face with stuffing. (Runs.)

      • If the bread crumbs and seasoning is cooked inside the Turkey, it is stuffing. If it is cooked outside the Turkey, it is dressing. At least that is what I have always heard.
        We do dressing and stuff the Turkey with apple, orange and onion halves. The onions smell terrific, and the fruit gives off moisture while cooking. They get tossed.

        • And some people eschew the breadcrumbs in favor of cornbread-based dressing. (Which has the mass and consistency of slightly-softened lead, and tastes ohhh so good. You can guess what I grew up eating at Thanksgiving and Christmas.)

      • Stuffing IS Dressing.

        • Not in my extended family. The topic became taboo on the maternal side because the Texas folks all made dressing while the “imports” (mostly Midwesterners who’d moved south and married in) got a touch hot about the lack of stuffing, the difference in texture and ingredients, et al.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Or is it “Dressing IS Stuffing”? [Evil Grin]

        • scott2harrison

          Well tell her to hurry up. We’re holding the cocktails for her & they are getting annoyed.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I pretty much won’t touch anything but cornbread based dressing, but it gets called stuffing. (For maybe half my life, I wouldn’t touch dressing.)

  12. In the early to mid 1930s successful German Jews knew that they had nothing to fear as they lived in a country committed to modern Western culture. Ten years and six million dead Jews later, that assumption was proved wrong. Not to mention seven million dead “undesirables” of assorted types. Out of that came the theme most popular in Israel and with most surviving Jews, Never Again! So, who could blame them for following Heinlein’s remark to always have an escape route ready.
    Of course I must also note that the liberal progressive socialist movement has done a bang up job of indoctrinating American Jews into unlearning that bloody lesson.

    • To be clear, the “Never Again!” refers to depending on the kindness of strangers for our survival and not to the Holocaust.

      We Jews are too intelligent, to well versed in history’s lessons, to believe there will never be another Holocaust attempt. Just as we know our defense is our duty, that depending on others is an unconscionable vulnerability.

  13. I have decided that Alma’s title is click bait. Nothing more.
    Here I was expecting an exciting analogy, like western civilization was an incandescent bulb, Chinese a CFL (of course), the USA would have to be an LED, as we have banned incandescent bulbs, which when considering life-cycle costs, are probably more CO2 friendly than the others. The third world would be those old ‘Edison’ bulbs made of carbon filament, and Muslims either a candle (made from the tallow of an infidel) or a whale oil lamp.
    One mention of light bulbs, then zip.