Books of the Year: 2014
by Nic Olson
This idea, that Native people were waiting for Europeans to lead us to civilization, is just a variation on the old savagism versus civilization dichotomy, but it is a dichotomy that North America trusts without question. It is so powerful a toxin that it contaminates all of our major institutions. Under its influence, democracy becomes not simply a form of representative government, but an organizing principle that bundles individual freedoms, Christianity, and capitalism into a marketable product carrying with it the unexamined promise of wealth and prosperity. It suggests that anything else is, by default, savage and bankrupt.
Of course, we know that this is untrue. The ancient Romans, Chinese, Egyptians, the Maya and the Incas, didn’t practise democracy, or Christianity for that matter, and they managed to create civilizations that were vigorous, civilizations that we admire. North America defends democracy as the cornerstone of social, religious, and political enlightenment because it is obliged to think well of itself and institutions.
-Thomas King, The Inconvenient Indian, Chapter 4, p79
I could just remember how my father use to say that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time.
-William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying, Addie, p169
Remember what Skef used to say about digging up the past—that there’s only one chance to get it right because excavation is destruction? I’m sure the same is true of progress. A civilization such as ours ploughs up the rails behind; we had at best one chance to get it right.
-Ronald Wright, A Scientific Romance, p306, chapter 2, part 4
The fundamental duel which seemed to be that between colonialism and anti-colonialism, and indeed between capitalism and socialism, is already losing some of its importance. What counts today, the question which is looming on the horizon, is the need for a redistribution of wealth. Humanity must reply to this question, or be shaken to pieces by it.
-Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, Concerning Violence, p74