Life on the Rez
Last comment by gawalkman 5 months, 1 week ago.

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Anyone who has visited an Indian reservation or passed through cities adjacent to an Indian reservation has experienced the penumbra of sadness, hopeless, and despair that clings to such places. A glimpse of Gallup, New Mexico or Pine Ridge is a glimpse of the third world. Reservations are cemeteries for the living.

The root causes of such misery are long standing. One cause is the inevitable consequence that results when a way of life is summarily destroyed without the time needed to adapt or to minimize the wrenching effects of rapid cultural change. Neolithic hunter gatherers were forced to move into the machine age in less than twenty years ,so men who had defined their manhood as warriors and hunters suddenly found that their lot in life was to be dependent on an alien and hostile culture. And so warriors became beggars. The same process has taken place in Australia with the aborigines and with the Maori in New Zealand.Rapid cultural change always leads to social unrest to a greater or lesser degree.

The purpose of this brief homily is to prepare the way for an analogy. My analogy is that the US is fast becoming a continental reservation with concomitant social problems.The wrenching change that our society is undergoing is the result of deindustrialization. What used to be called the working class was the first to be affected. Working class males defined themselves by work. They were the breadwinners, the creators of tangible wealth. Our rapid industrial decline has left many thousands of men adrift, removed the principal way that they defined themselves and forced many to enter the service economy, an economy that translates into reduced incomes and privation.

Our prophets have been false. We have been assured that the change would benign. We would export the jobs requiring brawn and become a nation of technocrats. As of this writing, these pronouncements seem increasingly hollow. We export design work, engineering, legal work, tax preparation, medical testing. The list goes on and on. In fact any job that can be moved offshore has been moved offshore ,and all of this dislocation has a social cost.

Latest Activity: Oct 31, 2013 at 11:17 PM

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Charles_and_Angie_Howell commented on Friday, Nov 01, 2013 at 14:41 PM

Good blog, Fly. I see most of your points and mostly agree.

I do think you missed a (big) piece. You mention "...concomitant social problems..." and yet you only give economic rationale. Some of our social "problems" may be the result of poor decisions about social issues.

Drug use. Crime. Generational poverty. Generational dependence on government handouts.

The decline of the 'nuclear family.' Rising number of out-of-wedlock children. Rising personal and family debt. Rising personal bankruptcy.

Some may have economic tie ins and some may not. I feel many are the unforeseen consequences of too much government involvement in stabilizing factors and too little regulation of destabilizing factors, coupled with an increasing tolerance for changing social norms.

A society with 'changing social norms' will not longer be the society it once was. It will be different. For better (you hope), or for worse (we see).

gawalkman commented on Friday, Nov 01, 2013 at 16:23 PM

Fly and Charlie,

Great points. As a Sociology student, practically in the area of Native Americans, I am inclined to agree on some of the points you are making.

I would like to point out that the reservations were an experiment gone horribly wrong. While the U.S. Board of Labor Statistics does not compute the unemployment rate for Native Americans living on the reservations, several researchers state it is nearly 70%.

Those living on the reservation are more likely to die of suicide than any other group in America, except for certain groups in Alaska. They are also more likely to die from diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease than any other group. Drug abuse, Alcoholism, domestic violence, and mental illness are also very high on the reservations. Education levels are well below the national norm. In summary, the life spent on a reservation is a death sentence.

Now, why is all of that relevant? The Injuns (as they were called once) were promised a big lie by the federal government. They were told, “If you move onto the reservation, we will take care of you. You will not have to worry about a thing.” Does this sound vaguely familiar to you? Ironically, those who move off the reservation and stake a claim for themselves are much more prosperous. My parents have a Cherokee neighbor who can testify to this.

Like I said earlier, it is a socialistic-type experiment gone horribly wrong.


Bryant commented on Sunday, Nov 03, 2013 at 17:39 PM

Walkie, I question your characterization of the reservation system as socialistic. I would define it as imperialitic. Perhaps even fascist - since the alternative, should any Injun have the temerity to decline relocation - was extermination.

gawalkman commented on Tuesday, Nov 05, 2013 at 21:27 PM


You are more correct than I am. While I did say "socialistic type", your definitions are probably more applicable.


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