After a grinder of a work day, nothing sounded finer than to hit the gym (the actual gym; I did a smoker of a Frontier Partisan Biathlon on Saturday) fire up a podcast and just go. My companion on the trail was Dan Carlin. I love Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast; it was his deep dive into the Great War, Blueprint For Armageddon, that inspired me to launch the Frontier Partisans Podcast.
This time around it was a short (for Carlin), deliberately discursive trek through the long arc of human history.
Carlin revels in the long, consistent human history of conflict and migration, in the deserted ruins of Assyrian cities and the like… The Howardians among us eat this stuff up. (I don’t think I’ve heard Carlin mention Robert E. Howard; he’s a big Tolkien guy, though).
Several things jumped out that have relevance here. Carlin noted that 19th and 20th Century concepts of racial “purity” were hogwash, because they failed to account for mankind’s proclivity for migration and … mingling. As part of that discourse, he noted that he is trying to jettison the use of the term “indigenous peoples” because, really, nobody is actually “indigenous” to any place, though their ancestors may have been there a long, long time. He prefers the Canadian designation for its tribal peoples as “First Nations,” as in the first peoples to form socially complex structures.
Craig Rullman and I have had conversations about this, and came to a similar conclusion. It ain’t perfect, but I think it works (I don’t have an aversion to using the term “Indian” in context). What do you all think?
Since we’re joining Carlin in being discursive, I will note here the coolness of this story:
LAKE WACCAMAW, N.C. (WECT, CNN NEWSOURCE) — A piece of Native American history has been unearthed in North Carolina after two teenagers discovered it two years ago.
The Waccamaw Indian dug-out canoe pulled from Lake Waccamaw Wednesday is a symbol of nearly 1,000 years of Native American culture in southeastern North Carolina.
Waccamaw Siouan Chief Michael Jacobs said it”s rare to find pieces of history like this one.
“That canoe at 28 feet long would have carried many a brave. We feel like in our heart, it’s a history that we’re still exploring and understanding because this is the first time we’ve had access,” Jacobs said.
In speaking of the historical Cimmerians (told you it was discursive), Carlin pronounced that people’s name with a hard C. Kimmerian. Dammit, he’s right. Like Celt, it derives from the Ancient Greek (Kimmerioi). Nobody pronounces the homeland of Conan with a hard C, and I don’t suppose it matters — but now I can’t un-hear it. That’s 45 years of habit to break.
Anthropology has gone through phases and fads, as any discipline is prone to. For a while, the common wisdom was that “primitive” societies were mostly peaceful and conflict arose as societies became more complex. Recent work suggest that humans are hard-wired for violence (eg. Neanderthal genocide). Carlin notes that we’ve also always been hard on our environment, that the myth of the Noble Savage living in harmony with nature is mostly a myth (eg. buffalo jump). It’s just that our footprint was lighter when we could move on and let a stretch of land rehabilitate — before plastics and forever chemicals, and a planet where we’ve run out of frontiers to run to.
Carlin casts a skeptical eye on the supposed Haudenosaunee principle of governance that decisions should be made with the seventh generation in mind. That flies in the face of all human experience. It’s a noble sentiment, and I don’t doubt that it was a kind of ideal for the Haudenosaunee, but in practice… well, you’d be hard-pressed to find an imperial people more committed to exploiting a resource than the Five Nations (eg. Beaver Wars). I’m having a flashback right now to UC Santa Cruz, where it was often explained to me that the First Nations’ avid exploition of natural resources — at the expense of other First Nations people — was caused by distortions introduced by Europeans. That’s kinda true, in part (especially the introduction of alcohol) but my rejoinder was always that assuming that the First Nations people lived in an innocent state of nature infantalized Indians and robbed them of agency in their own history. That, in itself, is a European conceit. I was as popular as a fart in church in my Native American History classes. Fun times.
Carlin recognizes that, given humans tendency to do what humans have always done, it’s going to be virtually impossible to evade the consequences of environmental degradation facilitated by advanced technology. The temptation is, of course, to seek a way to invent our way out of the consequences of our inventiveness. AI and our robot overlords might be able to make decisions that would improve outcomes for the seventh generation — but the price is probably not one we want to pay (eg. a DEEP culling).
I’m tellin’ ya… Skynet is self-aware. Keep that plasma rifle fresh-primed.