Sunday, 29 May 2011

Qablunait nutaqqatut isumaqaritauvaktut (from Taissumani)

One column in Nunatsiaq News that I really enjoy and look forward to reading every week is Kenn Harper's Taissumani. As a gentleman historian, former teacher and a fellow linguist, I find not only his subject matter and topics interesting (usually about Inuit and non-Inuit histories in the Arctic) but I also try and learn from his writing style.

In the May 27, 2011 edition of Nunatsiaq News entitled, The Minds of White Men, he talks about Knud Rasmussen in the early 1920s when he travelled through the Nattilingmiut nunaat interviewing and documenting the stories and perspectives of the Inuit then and there. Harper writes that Rasmussen once asked questions of Inuit impressions of the white men they've encountered so far - encountered so far, I say, because there is this IQ reluctance of Inuit to talk about things and subjects that they themselves haven't seen personally or cannot vouch came from authority.

After skirting around the sensitive subject and praising and qualifying what is to come, Kuvdluitsoq finally says:

"Qablunait nutaqqatut isumaqaritauvaktut: It is generally believed that white men have quite the same minds as small children - therefore one should always give way to them. They are easily angered, and when they cannot get their will they are moody and, like children, have the strangest ideas and fancies."

Lest people of non-Inuit persuasion take exception to this rashly, I think I should point out that what was before a balance between Aristotle's sophia and phronesis in Western epistemology became lop-sided by modern and post-modern exceptionalism which further justifications were "confirmed" by the scientific revolution as never before: Knowledge without wisdom.

This exceptionalism is still very strong in American ideology where politicians who have ambitions to the White House must proclaim that protestant America is exceptional before they can be taken seriously - rather like the infallibility of the pope. What with the state of our world with its theological and ideological divides, I say that Kuvdluitsoq's assessment was more right and reasonable than wrong. I say this deadpan because it is without prejudice and with respectful familiarity.

I am no racist. I admire the spirit of the Western Mind; its complexity and breadth. At its best, there is no other. I especially admire its humanism. But there is a lop-sidedness about its epistemology; it's ready use of knowledge without considering its consequences. There is something of a blunt-force in its approach: that "winners" leave no captives.

As a policy analyst for many years, I've seen the worst of this willfulness and impetiousity especially in Inuit-government relations where the sense of superiority trumps any semblance of decency and humanity that it's so capable of and yet chooses to ignore; this belief that its casualties die and become non-figures to further consider and bother with. But we are still here, and every demonstration of exceptionalism drives the wedge further.

For people who've not the intellectual inclination to try and understand the language of scientistic/rational-speak, the West is represented by the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Harper, Jacques Parizeau, Hitler, Stalin, Thatcher, etc. who so easily revert to dehumanizing and destroying their "enemies" rather than diplomacy and tact that wisdom demands of their office. Their arrogance is not founded on personal capabilities but the will of the corporate culture; not on personal humanity and reason but greatness they mistake for personal power.

The idea of Rome is beyond their comprehension and obsession with personal legacy makes them "constitutionally incapable" of growth and transcendence (as AA so succinctly states). Psychopaths are like that.

Jay

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