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Re: <nettime> The Messy, Dirty, Silly Interplay of Art and Activis Artiv
Benjamin Geer on Thu, 15 Nov 2007 09:57:52 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> The Messy, Dirty, Silly Interplay of Art and Activis Artivistic 2007

On 14/11/2007, tobias c. van Veen <tobias {AT} techno.ca> wrote:
> I hear what you are trying to say, I think, though I wonder if 'critique' --
> this Eurocentric form of precision but also, unfortunately, smugness

Europeans don't have a monopoly on critique, or smugness for that
matter.  To think they do is... Eurocentric.

> In Quebec, First Nations are often suppressed as first peoples in
> the political mythology that prioritizes the founding status of
> the 'pur laine' françaises. In Separatist arguments that call
> for the right of secession from Canada, the right of First Nations
> peoples to secede from Quebec as a 'nation'(or Canada) is usually
> disregarded if not denied insofar as it would claim most if not all
> of the territory of 'French' Quebec.

That's a good example of the absurdity of such "rights". The simple
truth is that, as Ernest Gellner pointed out in _Nations and
Nationalism_ (1983), there are far more potential "nations" in the
world than there are potential states for them to rule. Therefore it
is not conceivable for all imaginable nations to have their own state.
Most attempts to create nation-states must therefore involve ethnic

> Well, it's very easy to 'critique the concept of indigenous' but if
> the 'critiqued now-non-indigenous peoples' aren't around to hear
> what you're saying, you're talking into rareified air...

Sorry, I thought I was talking to someone who *was* talking to those
people, or at least interested in doing so. Although I've never
been to Canada, I personally spend a lot of time deconstructing
nationalism with different sorts of nationalists (mostly Arab and
Muslim nationalists and Zionists), and I think doing so has real
political value.

> Head up North to Nunavut, chew some whale blubber, then begin
> talking about how the 'indigenous' peoples merely have 'beliefs
> about themselves' as being the first peoples of the area, and that,
> consequently, the mining companies and military installations --
> increasing as the polar ice melts and the NorthWest passage comes
> under territorial dispute as a potential economic thoroughfare --
> have the right to overrun the hunting grounds and territory of the
> Inuit.

Gee, thanks for putting imperialist words in my mouth. I personally
don't believe that racist, essentialising myths of collective identity
are the only way to fight the expropriation of poor people's land, or
even that they're an effective way of doing so.

> It is intriguing also to see 'indigenous' clarified for all First
> Nations people as 'a belief about themselves'. How does this relate
> to the history of organised colonial genocide in the Americas?

I don't suppose the colonists who committed that genocide particularly
cared whether they were killing Sioux or Inuits. They just wanted the
land, and were determined to exterminate whoever resisted them. And
as Black Elk tragically discovered with the defeat of the Ghost Dance
movement in 1890, myths are no defence against guns.

> Well, thanks for the article. I get the point. I even hold it at,
> perhaps, at various strata. But we are not in that strata here.

Where are we, then? Aren't we in a world where virulent nationalism
has become the world's predominant ideology? How many wars have been
fought in the name of nationalism in the past 100 years?

> First, we all have to sit at the table.


> And in Canada, as strategic priority it would be 'racist' and
> 'colonialist' *not* to recognise the a priori rights of First
> Nations to the territory.

I disagree. I think the whole discourse of "rights" is useless
nonsense. Rights don't matter. Well-being matters, living a good
life (whatever your concept of a good life is). Rights don't produce
well-being, political power does. Therefore I'm not worried about
whether people have rights, I'm worried about whether they have power.
And it's perfectly possible for people to have power without belonging
to "nations".


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