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Re: <nettime> The Messy, Dirty, Silly Interplay of Art and Activis Artiv
Benjamin Geer on Fri, 16 Nov 2007 02:39:28 +0100 (CET)

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

On 15/11/2007, tobias c. van Veen <tobias {AT} techno.ca> wrote:

> Oh, it continues... sigh. How did we get here. Examples of the
> failing/nonexistent US Health Care System, Palestine & Israel have, well,
> little to do with Canada.

That's clearly false.  Nationalism, and talk about rights, aren't one
thing in Canada and something else entirely in the rest of the world.
On the contrary, all over the world, nationalism has become the only
socially acceptable way for oppressed people to make demands, and
rights have become the only acceptable political demand.  That's why
oppressed people everywhere are calling themselves nations and
demanding rights on that basis.  The fact that nonsense is socially
acceptable doesn't make it coherent or effective.

> point out where this
> idea, now attributed to me -- that people need to belong to nations to have
> land --  came from in this recent exchange

OK.  You wrote:

> the First Nations have the most established right of all parties to leave the
> Federation -- and take vast territory with them.

In other words, it seems that you can't imagine human beings "taking
territory" unless they're considered "nations".

Or again:

> 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 [...]
> have the right to overrun the hunting grounds and territory
> of the Inuit.

In other words, if people aren't considered "nations", you seem to
think there's no possible remaining objection to taking away their
land.  (Like, maybe, the fact that it would make their lives worse.)

I can't imagine a clearer example of someone confusing the myth of
"nation" with the reality of human beings and their needs, as if the
latter couldn't exist without the former.

> Of course we are going to provisionally ignore here those troublesome
> concepts we also dealt with at Artivistic, like 'what is natural space?', as
> not only humans 'need' land but a lot of animals and things do too, and of
> course, whether just b/c humanity has the technico-power to overtake land --
> 'needing it' -- does not mean that it should.

This goes without saying, the needs of all living creatures are equally real.

> Might not 'First Nations' consider land to also mean these animals and
> things in light of a diverse set of historical practices that have
> integrated ecological networks?

Maybe, but I wouldn't take it for granted.  See:

Raymond Hames, "The Ecologically Noble Savage Debate", Annual Review
of Anthropology, Vol. 36: 177-190


> And although you now
> seem to have sidestepped various deconstructive implications

Which ones?

Anyway, I'm not against abstractions.  We all need abstractions.  I'm
against abstractions that are harmful, useless, and can be shown to
rest on falsehoods.  Nationalism is all of those.

"Forgetting, and I would even say historical error, is an essential
factor in the formation of a nation, and thus the progress of
historical studies is often a danger for nationality." (Ernest Renan,
_Qu'est-ce qu'une nation_, pp. 7-8)

> the maneuvre, I suggest, most valuable and effective here is not to deny or
> negate the term 'First Nations' but rather to reinscribe it by first (a)
> maximize the potential for granting autonomous territory to 'aboriginal
> title' w/in Canada to de/construct the nation state

As Adam Kuper points out, this means that people are going to be
competing to be considered "aboriginal", i.e. to be considered
racially pure enough to qualify for those benefits, and this means
that land will be distributed on the basis of imaginary racial
categories (rather than, say, on the basis of need).  Why do you need
the concept of "aboriginal" in order to carry out land reform?  Lots
of countries have had useful land reforms without referring to any
so-called aboriginal or indigenous rights.  There are perfectly good
examples of landless people's movements (like the Brazilian one) that
get results without claiming to represent racial groups.

> You see, what I'm getting at here is not some 'theoretical' discussion we
> can whiplash around Nettime but trying to engage, you know, with stuff
> actually going on here in CANADA

So if you want to solve problems in Canada, you think you can't
possibly learn anything by looking at what's happened in the rest of
the world?  Are all solutions to be found in your own navel?

> Now if you say PSSHWA! DOWN WITH THE NATION-STATE! then we really have no
> meeting point here as you want to see destruktion first before reversing &
> reinscribing, which for me spells the kind of violence you are trying to
> a/void ('ethnic cleansing').

Refuting a falsehood is violence?  Sorry, that's just silly.  Unless
you think that "indigenous" people are so emotionally fragile that
they can't bear having their misconceptions refuted, in which case,
please show them the same courtesy and respect you're showing me when
you try to refute my misconceptions.

> Ok, moving on. B, in Canada various First Nations Assemblies -- the
> electoral council composed of representatives from all FN councils -- have
> pointed out themselves the inadequacy of the term 'nations' -- for the very
> reasons you state, that 'nation' is a colonial construction -- which is why
> the term 'indigenous' or 'aboriginal' has often been adopted;

Those are all just euphemisms for the same idea.

> The Peoples Who Now Cannot Be Named But Are Generally
> Unfortunately Really Poor For Historical Reasons

That's a straw-man argument.  Rejecting nationalism doesn't mean that
social groups can't be identified.  It means that those groups should
be based on empirical realities, like wealth and poverty, rather than
imaginary racial or ethnic characteristics.

> the First Nations peoples whose lands are being trampled can at least use the
> leverage power of rights IN CANADA to do things like gain footholds in the
> de-constitution of the nation-state,

This is the argument for "strategic essentialism".  It all seems very
innocent until you realise that once people really believe that they
belong to a nation, and once they have an army, that belief becomes a
reason for them to kill, conquer and oppress their neighbours.  It
might seem far-fetched in Canada, but... well, look at the past
hundred years of world history.

> Point of fact, most of the homeless in Canada are The Nameless Ones
> a.k.a. 'indigenuous'

You can't convince me that the concept of "indigenous" refers to
anything real by saying that such-and-such people are often
indigenous.  That's begging the question.  I might as well invent an
imaginary word, "flubbertiputt", and say that you should accept this
word, since most homeless people are flubbertiputt.  Are you

> Also interesting
> question is why hang onto the term 'political? 'Polis' as post-Greek
> nation-state concept, isn't it on the same continuum with 'nation' and
> 'indigenuous'?

No, politics is any social relation that regulates the exercise of
power.  The politics of nations is only one of many kinds of politics.
 For example, the dream of 19th-century communist politics was to
unite the global proletariat, bringing an end to all nation-states.
Feminists introduced the idea that "the personal is political",
whether it has anything to do with nations or not.

> What does 'politics' / 'polis' have to do with -- as you put
> it  -- people who lived here for thousands upon thousands of years without
> it?

They most certainly lived with it.  No society can exist without politics.

> Am I missing something here or does not difference play somewhat a
> significant role?

Certainly people are different, and it's important to understand the
ways in which they're different.  But many claims about difference are
spurious (they have no demonstrable basis in reality), and claims
about national difference are among those.  If you want to understand
how society really works, and be able to change it, you need to
understand real differences, not fictitious ones.

> It's not about 'calling', it's about justice
> -- that term you keep avoiding.

I avoid seeing well-being as a judicial issue, because I think it's
more a legislative one.  Legislative power is what creates the
institutions (like systems of land ownership, education, employment,
health care, etc.) that enable people to have good lives.  Judicial
power is an afterthought that, at best, cleans up loose ends.  If the
institutions that people need don't exist, "justice" won't create
them, but political power can do so, if it's in the hands of the
people who need it.

> Will we ever meet one day, and if so, will we ever kiss?

Let me know if you're ever in London (UK)!


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