We Can Bring About the End of the World

I’ve been thinking a lot about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ post yesterday and it put me in a mind, too, on top of his points, of how we white people, even progressives, tend to talk about Native American issues as if Native Americans are gone or almost gone. We’re really hung up on this idea that we can ruin you good. That any encounters with us must end in your ruination.

We are, white people, obsessed with this idea that we can cause apocalypses.

I don’t want to downplay the amazing destruction we’re capable of. Because we are capable of it. But I’m fascinated by this idea that we do all this shit and then want to either say that you deserved your utter destruction because of your inferiority or say that your utter destruction is understandable in light of our unparalleled dominance. Even when people demonstrably haven’t been utterly destroyed.

And, in a world when it’s so hard to get white people to say “Oh, yeah, that was pretty shitty,” maybe arguing that we tone it down about how shitty it was sounds strange. But I’m convinced that there’s something wrong with our continued fantasy–even in the face of proof that people live on and in ways that mostly work for them–that we have utterly destroyed our foes.

It’s like, even when we want to talk about societal ills, we need to have reflected back to us our unparalleled power to utterly destroy. We want to believe we can end things. The amount in which we’re invested in this idea that we’re strong enough to end histories, if not History itself, is pretty amazing.

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2 thoughts on “We Can Bring About the End of the World

  1. We have to believe that for our fundamental legal fictions to work. The federal government claimed the right to most of our lands based on the “defeats” of enemies who never surrendered. The federal government claimed the right to “terminate” tribes it considered at a cultural end so that it could abrogate its treaty obligations to the survivors. The federal government is in the business of deciding who can be an Indian and on what terms; hundreds of groups of people who know themselves to be indigenous are denied legal recognition of that claim based on our government’s insistence that they cannot be. So it goes in a settler-state. Our government needs the past to be past and manufactures a legal regime where the historical truth of the matter is utterly beside the point.

  2. As Guy McPherson says, “Nature bats last.” Despite what our culture teaches us, there are physical limits to the pathological greed and arrogance that we call ‘growth’ and ‘progress.’ We’re hitting them now, and it’s about to get universally painful.

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