Monday, August 22, 2016

Democracy in America, Tocqueville, in Unwitting Support of Public Occurrences, Harris on the Indians

From the moment when a European settlement is formed in the neighborhood of the territory occupied by the Indians, the beasts of chase take the alarm. Thousands of savages, wandering in the forests and destitute of any fixed dwelling, did not disturb them; but as soon as the continuous sounds of European labor are heard in their neighborhood, they begin to flee away, and retire to the West...

No "fixed dwelling": very fluid.

...this effect of the approach of the whites is often felt at two hundred leagues' distance...(392)

200 leagues on land is 600 miles. So if the average territory allegedly "possessed" by an Indian tribe at the time was 533.33 square miles "the continuous sounds of European labor," hammering, sawing, singing "Dancing Queen," were "heard," and both men and beasts were driven away. Which I totally get.

...when [the whites] have advanced about fifteen or twenty leagues...they begin to build habitations for civilized beings in the midst of the wilderness. This is done without difficulty, as the territory of a hunting nation is ill-defined...
A few European families, settled in different situations at a considerable distance from each other, soon drive away the wild animals...(393)
Of all nations, those submit to civilization with the most difficulty which habitually live by the chase...the dwelling of the hunter varies with that of the animals he pursues.

Several attempts have been made to diffuse knowledge amongst the Indians, without controlling their wandering propensities...Civilization began in the cabin, but it soon retired to expire in the woods. The great error of these legislators of the Indians was their not understanding that, in order to succeed in civilizing a people, it is first necessary to fix it; which cannot be done without inducing it to cultivate the soil; the Indians ought in the first place to have been accustomed to agriculture.. But...[the Indians are] destitute of this indispensable preliminary to civilization...Men who have once abandoned themselves to the restless and adventurous life of the hunter, feel an insurmountable disgust for the constant and regular labor which tillage requires...

Je Suis Indian.

Independently of this general difficulty, there is another, which applies peculiarly to the Indians; they consider labor not merely as an evil, but as a disgrace; so that their pride prevents them from becoming civilized, as much as their indolence(397-8)


The undersigned read one time that there is an inverse correlation between democracy and reliance upon oil exports for revenue. The above passages by Tocqueville reminded me of that for if you rely exclusively upon nature for your sustenance and subsistence why would you learn anything else? The forests of America were as inexhaustible for one and one-half million hunters as the Saudi oil fields were when they were discovered. Population increase increases demand and effects a double whammy upon those who "possess" the natural resources by exhausting them. Those dependent upon natural resources then have nothing to fall back upon. They just fall back.

Civilization requires direction; direction requires control; control requires centralized authority. You
have to "fix" the population, it has to settle down for there to be any direction and control by centralized authority. Civilization is highly correlated with cultivation. Cultivators are fixed to the land. If the center can make of its people wet-rice cultivators it has struck civilizational gold: Wet-rice cultivators are fixed; they are fixed to flatlands (hills and mountains contraindicated for control) and they must be fixed to flatland close to market to avoid spoilage. Voila! The padi-state, China: everybody compressed in or near big cities. See The Art of Not Being Governed, James C. Scott (2009)

The only itinerant people to have coexisted with civilizations are the Gypsies, and they just barely. The Gypsies had the wiles to adapt, they came up with the "Great Trick" and live simultaneously within and apart from civilization. (See, e.g. The Gypsies, Angus Fraser (1995)

The American Indians had none of this, none of the Gypsy craftiness, no experience in cultivating,  and would have none of it, didn't want it, the cultivating life was a "disgrace," filled them with "disgust." To the Europeans, the Indians were "savages;" to the Indian the Europeans were
disgusting, "disgraceful." These two peoples are incompatible. A hunter people are incompatible with any other type. Too much land is required for their exclusive usage.

Something had to give when the civilized European cultivators came to "share" the Indian hunters land. Each had a "right" to settle the land according to their customs but both could not. Noone can share land with an exclusively hunter people. And so something had to give and that was the Indian and his land.