t byfield on Sat, 19 Jun 1999 15:43:37 -0400

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Re: Syndicate: moral responsibility

fmadre@wanadoo.fr (Sat 06/19/99 at 08:21 PM +0200):

> >It's an honest question.
> I don't believe it is, i've heard this question time and time before, I
> know where it comes from. 

for those of us who aren't in the know: where does it come from?

> we've all been thru this before, I know your point of view, you know mine,
> we know all of it. I think it's just become very annoying and tediously
> pointless. I wish you'd stop, michael.

while i can't speak for others, *i* certainly don't know 'all of
it.' and--again, speaking only for myself--it's hard to see just
how this question has become very annoying and tedious; i mean, 
if NATO really has achieved the antichrist-like proportions that
folks say, i'd day it's a pretty pressing question since this'll
hardly be the last time it indulged its ravenous appetite for 

malapropos, i just finished working on a book by marshall shalins, 
which presented a pretty fascinating revision of fijian history. 
the standard argument has been, more or less, that the introduc-
tion of The Rifle into fiji upset its 'prelapasarian' balance by
unleashing new kinds of destruction. sahlins disagrees, and he
makes his points very nicely: the particular kingdom in question
had begin its ascent long before rifles ever showed up; fijians
didn't really know how to use them (for example, they packed them
with gunpowder in proportion to the importance of the target, all
but guaranteeing that aiming at a king entailed blowing oneself
up); and the shifts in power in no way corresponded to the num-
ber or density of rifles used in warfare. but what the shifts in
power *did* correlate with, oddly enough, were the number and 
density of whale teeth, _tabua_ (as in: 'taboo'), which were the
traditional embodiments and currency of power in fiji. so when
the euros, who were rather adept at whaling, showed up and started
dumping _tabua_ into circulation, he argues--following fijian
historians--there was, literally, more *power* in fiji, and a kind
the fijians understood. the point? i wonder if such a process isn't
taking place before our eyes right now. but here's the question:
if it isn't weaponry that's causing these shifts, and i don't think
it is, what is it? and what exactly are the shifts that are taking

it's very easy to glom onto some righteous and satisfying sense
of outrage at what's happened, but it doesn't do a lot of good.
thinking the situation through, on the other hand, *might* do some 
good. but saying 'we all know this' and 'we all know that' doesn't
help that process much. so when i ask you to explain what you mean,
i'm not playing stupid--i don't have to play stupid because i *am*
stupid: i don't know what the hell is going on. if you do, by all
means, tell me.

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