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TSE  March 2001

TSE March 2001

Subject:

Re: Dans le Restaurant and the Commedia

From:

"Nancy Gish" <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 21 Mar 2001 23:56:44 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (223 lines)

Dear Rick,

I agree with your main conclusion, which was, I think, my main point
originally. And although I have not at all studied the situation of the
Acadians in the same way, I live in Maine, where the largest minority
except native Americans is Franco-American. Many of my students grew
up in French speaking homes and were forced to give it up. I had one who
told me in deep distress that she knew no French anymore but her dreams
were in French, and asleep, she could understand. I was not saying
everyone else was angelic, only that the glorious triumphalism of the
English language was pretty problematic. So the fact that others also did
horrible things is not at odds with what I said. I also do not think that the
elimination of fleas and cradle boards logically entails the concomitant
elimination of identity, language, culture, etc.,etc. They really might be
separable.

Unfortunately I don't think lack of sensitivity is limited to the 17th and 18th
century. The 20th was about as brutal and insensitive as one could get
and had better guns.
Nancy




Date sent: Wed, 21 Mar 2001 18:17:00 -0700
Send reply to: [log in to unmask]
From: "Richard Seddon" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Dans le Restaurant and the Commedia

Nancy:

Sardonically but also historically. You remarked about genocide and
cultural dislocation. First genocide. When those displaced people
reached Newfoundland and Nova Scotia they proceded to first eliminate the
wolf and then all Native North Americans. Through much of the 19th
century Native Americans were hunted in Newfoundland as animals. Just
as Australian imigrants (prisoners) routinely hunted the Aborigine. When I
indicated in my post that I was French Canadian I had hopes of setting an
inquiring mind to wondering. My ancestors were the Arcadians driven out
of Canada by the English. I believe that they were replaced by the Irish and
the Scots. My father who was raised by his grandmother spoke no English
until he was six. At this point in a Roman Catholic orphanage in New
Bedford, Ma he was teased, cajoled and made a fool of by the Nuns until
he learned English. Now cultural. I lived as a child with Navajo children
who went through brutal cultural renormalization in order to ready them for
competition in the greater American culture. The culprits? The BIA and the
Navajo tribe and their families. Some of these friends are now the tribal
leaders (no longer even acquaintences I'm afraid) who are continuing to find
the most promising young people for accelerated training in the greater
culture(this puts it nicely I think). A month ago at a business in
Albuquerque I was speaking with a young college graduate Navajo woman
who knew no Navajo and had absolutely no idea of what reservation life was
just 35 years ago. I recommended she read "Son of Old Man Hat" as a
start to find her roots. Does she want to move with her sheep and family
from winter hogan to spring hogan to fall hogan wearing every dress she
owns during the winter to keep warm? No. Does she feel dislocation and
more than a little resentment at the greater American culture? Yes. Will
she willing give up her birth control pills for ineffective herbs? No. Does
she romanticise about what might have been with no real concept of the
pain and suffering that was part of Navajo life? Yes. What she does not
know is that to be a Navajo means to be a Navajo with all the fleas and
disease of that life. It means using the cradle board for infants. Today you
never see the cradle board because it would result in child abuse charges
yet Navajos of my age routinely have flattened occipital bones from having
been strapped to a board until two years old. Are there political exploiters
of both Navajo such as her and naive caucasions? Yes, Yes, Yes. I
almost cried when the young woman did not even know that Dene is the
proper name for her people and that Denetah is the name for her land. She
did not know that the spanish colonists of New Mexico in the 17th century
called her people "Navajo" which translated then as something like sneak
thief. The 17th and 18th century Human was not a particularly sensitive
type regarless of nationality.

Rick Seddon
McIntosh, NM, USA
-----Original Message-----
From: Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Wednesday, March 21, 2001 4:48 PM
Subject: Re: Dans le Restaurant and the Commedia


This is to Rick (who I keep hoping is being sardonic)--in case he is
not--and
to Pat:

First of all, I was only talking about language intially. But Gaelic and
Scots were systematically and brutally suppressed. I myself sat in the
pub of the Traverse theater in 1980 talking with a young woman from the
Gaeltach who, when she had said a Gaelic word in school had been made to
wear a letter around her neck on a cord to shame her. Note: 1980. I was
told personally by Hugh MacDiarmid about children being punished in school
for speaking Scots. I am not just theorizing.

But if we are talking "culture," do you know how the "Highland Clearances"
were implemented? For much of the late 18th and early 19th century,
people were simply kicked off the land and put in boats not much (if any)
better than the slave ships and sent to Nova Scotia. That is why its name
is "New Scotland." The way they did it was this: a sheriff or other
official who spoke only English went into Gaelic villages where no one
spoke English and announced (in English) that they had until, say, next
Tuesday, to leave. No one had a clue what had been said. "Next Tuesday"
the English speaking officials returned and set fire to all the houses,
some with old people in them, and sent the population keening and weeping
to the ocean's edge. I have read accounts by those who were there. They
were told they would be given new land: it was pebble beach (Not much
for farming). The ships were waiting. Many died. The reason they did it
was that sheep would make a profit but people could not wrest wealth from
a rocky soil. All they had was poverty and a great culture, and that did
not make a profit. I remember a Scottish play in St. Andrews in which a
character represented the Duchess of Sutherland. The Duke and Duchess of
Sutherland were especially sweeping and brutal in their methods. The
audience was a sophisticated late 20th century academic group; they booed
the character in an anguished sound. I cannot forget these things, and I
know they are not isolated or just Scottish: I have read the history. In
the Highlands, in the post-Culloden period it was a CAPITAL CRIME to wear
the kilt or play the pipes or have a picture of Prince Charlie.

So this has ABSOLUTLELY nothing to do with individual choice or
improving the lot of the native population. So if you don't know any of
the history, maybe you should read some before trivializing genocide (the
Clearances were) and cultural destruction (punishing people for their own
speech is). I think this astonishing comfort in the face of other people's
pain and sorrow unbelievable. And I will not be drawn into any discussion
of whether this is accurate. Read the history--and read the contemporary
accounts--and see if these attitudes about how fine it was for everyone in
the long run that people were driven wailing from their homes forever and
that even today children are taught that a speech descended from
Northumbrian (the language of "Caedmon's Hymn"--the first known text in
Anglo-Saxon and a magnificent poem) is just ignorant, incorrect English
and all will be well and all manner of thing will be well when we just
stamp out everything different from ourselves, whoever "we" are.

Nancy



























Date sent: Wed, 21 Mar 2001 12:03:49 EST Send reply to:
[log in to unmask] From: [log in to unmask] To:
[log in to unmask] Subject: Re: Dans le Restaurant and the
Commedia

In a message dated 3/21/01 9:31:42 AM Eastern Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:


> "The Story of English" was extremely well done, and I assume the facts
> were pretty accurate, but the thesis it promoted was, in my view, very
> problematic. The only section I could really evaluate was on Scots (and
> to some extent Gaelic), and I found it infuriating in its assumptions
> about the wonderful way English supplanted them. It simply did not
> happen that way nor was its priviliging welcomed.
>
The world seems to be moving towards an "international" culture or
monoculture, which is good in some ways and bad in others. I hope we'll be
able to do this and still retain the best of each "minority" culture being
supplanted. I think, however, that it might be misleading to politicize
this or paint it as a form of oppression.

One has to allow people in any part of the world to live their individual
lives in the way they want. If a Mayan Indian wants to go to Bahrain and
become a petrochemical engineer, that's the person's right, even though it
might remove him or her from the mainstream of Mayan culture. If people in
Russia or China like fast food, and are willing to stand in line at a
McDonald's restaurant, that's their right, even though I'm sure there are
other people in China and Russia (and plenty of Americans) who hate the
idea of fast food.

There's no alternative to this kind of dissemination that isn't oppressive
in itself, besides being completely unworkable. The UN can't just order
everyone in the world to live in the "traditional" way their ancestors
did, and speak the ancestral language. A significant number of people want
to make other choices, and it's been quite a while since most people in
the West seriously followed the ancestral ways. Sure there are peasants in
Turkey still baking bread in stone ovens. But there are also people in
Istanbul living much as one might live in any large city anywhere. And we
don't need to necessarily see the city dwellers as traitors to any
nationalist or ethnic cause.

English seems to be becoming, so to speak, the lingua franca of the
Internet. The advantage of a worldwide language (remember Esperanto!) is
that it fosters communication. Certainly one can find unfairness in
whatever language it happens to be, just as one can find unfairness in
modern businesses all over the world having to use such untraditional
tools as computers, telephones, and cash registers. But I do think it's an
unstoppable trend, and the world in the end forgets the unfairness. The
trend is judged by its results. I'm not saying this is right or wrong.
Just that I don't see any way of addressing what you perceive as
oppression without instituting a greater oppression--the tyranny of the
group. That's the "stay with your own kind" (and preserve the culture)
theory which has already been tried, and not everyone liked the results.

pat




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