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Alexander McGillivray, Emperor of the Creek Nation

Alexander McGillvray, Emperor of the Creek Nation

Alexander McGillivray (1750-1793)

Many great historical chiefs are celebrated in Native American popular culture. The most commonly remembered names include Crazy Horse, Geronimo, Red Cloud, Tecumseh and Chief Joseph. Along with these belongs the 18th century Muscogee Creek chief Alexander McGillivray, a great man who is not as commonly spoken about, but is just as significant to both Native American and United State history as those formerly mentioned.

Alexander McGillivray was the principle chief of the Creek Nation near the end of the 18th century. He was the son of Sehoy Marchand, a French-Creek woman from the powerful Wind Clan. His father was the prominent Scottish trader Lachlan McGillivray who immigrated to Creek country in 1736 from Dunmaglass, Scotland, and spent the majority of his time in Little Tallassee and Otciabofa which was also called Hickory Ground [1] on the Coosa River. This is where Lachlan met Sehoy.

Lachlan secured lands amongst the Creek people near the ruins of the French Fort Toulouse close by Little Tallassee. There, he planted a garden and built a plantation house, naming it the “Apple Grove.” In time Lachlan became a wealthy trader, entrenched and well respected among the Indians.

When Alexander was a young man his father sent him to Charleston, S.C. to be educated in the British tradition. After returning to his home on the Coosa River, Alexander was honored as a chief on the Creek National Council and given the name Hopue-hethlee-Mekko or “Good-Child King.” Shortly thereafter he was commissioned a colonel in the British army and installed as the English Agent to the Indians. He donned the uniform of a British officer, with the headdress of a Creek chief, complete with the white feathers of his rank and led a faction of Creek warriors in the Battle of Pensacola.

Before long, Alexander rose to prominence, becoming the principle chief of the Creek Nation. Being a fan of European history, he preferred to use the term emperor, though his actual power in the nation was severely limited and somewhat tenuous. He was a frequent visitor to and property-owner in Pensacola, FL, negotiating treaties with the Spanish who were the dominant European power in the region. He led Spanish funded attacks on American frontier settlements in Georgia. After the American Revolution, McGillivray was invited to Virginia where he received a paid Generalship from George Washington in the United States army.

          

An eager capitalist, Alexander McGillivray was also an investor and silent partner in Panton, Leslie and Company who opened a trading post on McGillivray’s property, the first brick and mortar building established in Pensacola, FL. His first wife was Vicey Cornells who bore him two daughters: Peggy and Lizzie. His second wife was Elise Moniac, the sister of the Choctaw chief Red Shoes and they had three children: Margaret, Alleck and Elizabeth.

As a native statesman, McGillivray worked tirelessly throughout his career to create a Creek Nation recognizable and respected by European nations, but still distinctly Creek, distinctly “Indian.” Much like his Cherokee neighbors he succeeded, at least until 1830, when the Indian Removal Act was signed into law by Andrew Jackson, robbing the people of their lands.

In January 1793 McGillivray traveled to Pensacola for a business meeting with William Panton. On the trip he developed a fever and never recovered. On February 17, 1793 at eleven o’clock at night, in the home of William Panton, Alexander McGillivray died. He was buried in the garden of Panton’s house in Pensacola, laid to rest with full Masonic honors [2]. Alexander McGillivray was such a loved and respected leader that he was mourned throughout the lands. His obituary ran in London in the Gentleman’s Magazine.

Feb. 17. At Pensacola, Mr. McGillivray, a Creek chief, very much lamented by those who knew him best. There happened to be that time at Pensacola a numerous band of Creeks, who watched his illness with the most marked anxiety, and when his death was announced to them, and while they followed him to the grave, it is impossible for words to describe the loud screams of real woe which they vented in their unaffected grief. He was, by his father’s side a Scotchman, of the respectable family of Drummaglass, in Invernesshire. The vigor of his mind overcame the disadvantages of an education had in the wilds of America, and he was well acquainted with all the most useful European sciences. In the latter part of his life he composed, with great care, the history of several classes of the original inhabitants of America; and this he intended to present to Professor Robertson, for publication in the next edition of his History. The European and the American writer are no more; and the MMS of the latter, it is feared, have perished, for the Indians adhere to their custom of destroying whatever inanimate objects a dead friend most delighted in. It is only since Mr. McGillivray had influence amongst them, that they have suffered the slaves of a deceased master to live.”[3]

[1] Hickory Ground; a very special town and meeting place within upper Creek Country. Creek; Ocē vpofv, also called Little Tallassee.

[2] It is believed that Alexander McGillivray was the first Mason in the State of Alabama. Some researchers claim that A.M.’s remains were shipped to Scotland and buried on his father Lachlan’s land.

[3] Gentleman’s Magazine, Printed under the caption: Marriages and Deaths of considerable Persons,” August, 1793, Vol. LXIII, London, p. 767


First Fieldwork; the misadventures of an anthropologist

First Fieldwork; the misadventures of an anthropologist by Barbara Gallatin Anderson

First Fieldwork is a first-person account of the author, Barbara Anderson’s experiences and misfortunes as an anthropologist in the field during her graduate thesis.  Although fictionalized, it is a clear testament to the perils of being an anthropologist thrust unprepared into the field.

During her fieldwork studying the effects of urbanization upon a small Danish Island village, Anderson is faced with challenge after challenge to fitting into the regular patterns and expectations of the people.  From the beginning she nearly catches her family’s cottage on fire.  As a means of better adjusting to the community she takes a cooking class, only to quit the course due to a series of embarrassing episodes beginning with a disastrous meatloaf resulting form her mistaking the Danish word for flour for the word for sugar.
        

I was especially amused by the chapter about the Danish bathhouse in Copenhagen.  A situation like this, without much knowledge of the culture or the language is a perfect example of just how alien one can be even within another Western country.  And just as the bath attendant announced to the other patrons in the pool as Anderson entered; “Here comes an American lady” could just as easily have been the second title for this book, perhaps with “Look out!” preceding it.

Overall First Fieldwork was an entertaining read with insights into fieldwork and the potential problems to be encountered as profound as they are humorous.  The lesson for me was that although fieldwork can include a series of embarrassing and uncomfortable events, it is often those very things that can be of the most value in learning to effectively navigate and describe a culture.


Sumble: The Origin of Toasting

Toasting is a peculiar custom in Western society.  Nearly everyone who has a drink makes toasts, but few realize that they are taking part in an ancient custom with roots in the old pre-Christian religions of Northern and Western Europe: the Sumble.

The Sumble is an ancient communion rite that was historically practiced by Germanic and Celtic peoples.  This rite is portrayed in the epic poem Beowulf and other sources of Germanic and Nordic folklore.  Sumble is closely related to the English tradition of Wassailing, popular especially as part of the Yuletide.

The majority of those whom actively participate in Sumble today are religious Heathens, practitioners of the old Germanic and Celtic religions.  They base their rite directly off of the 11th and 12th century Nordic customs as recorded in their respective texts.  In its most basic elements it consists of a gathering into a drinking hall, or a circle, a blessing or consecration is recited over the drink, a libation, and a sharing of the sacrament by the participants from the same vessel.

       

The sacrament is usually ale or mead, and historically it was served with toast.  This is where the term toast originates, as in drinking a toast.  A series of rounds of toasting take place.  In rites in which the Sumble is the central or sole focus there are typically a minimum of three rounds.  In traditional Heathenry it is standard for the first round to be dedicated to gods, the second round is dedicated to heroes and the third round is dedicated to ancestors.

The leader of the ceremony typically makes the first toast to a patron deity, takes a drink from his drinking horn.  Then, the next person in order makes his toast.  This continues in order until all have had a chance to toast.  Then that round is ended and the second round begins.  After the third round the rite may come to an end or it may continue.

If the Sumble continues any number of themes may be proposed.  Common themes are boasts in which the participants are allowed a chance to tell a tale of their own great successes.  Oaths may be sworn, goals may be professed, and gifts may be exchanged.  Open rounds may also be called in which anything of value may be offered to the community: stories, songs, poems, or prayers.  This may continue to a specified number of rounds, until the sacrament is completely consumed or until the participants have nothing more to contribute.

Read Next: The Tavern: Bedrock of Western Civilization


Ishmael, An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit: Book Review

Quinn, Daniel (1992) Ishmael, An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, New York: Bantam/Turner Books

Daniel Quinn’s award winning novel Ishmael is a compelling exposition of the author’s social and political perspective through the eyes of a gorilla.  The essential theme upon which the book is written is one that lays the blame of all our modern political and environmental perils squarely on the shoulders of the Neolithic agricultural revolution. The author’s reasoning is that agriculture is the beginning of human exploitation of the earth, other species and cultures.  Quinn further asserts that the world’s modern industrial agricultural society is unsustainable and destined to disaster. With these two premises established Quinn’s argument next follows that if the human race and the earth are to survive for much longer, industrial society will have to transform itself into a less exploitative culture. Ishmael­ has inspired an entire cult following of neotribalists desirous of bringing Quinn’s vision of a post-industrial society established on low impact kin based communities to life.

From its very first page Ishmael swiftly moves forward with a sense of purpose and profundity. As the story opens Quinn describes the unnamed narrator’s disgust at reading an ad in the personals section of the newspaper: “TEACHER seeks student. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” The narrator expresses his sense of disillusionment at this presumptuous author whom he figures is just another charlatan marketing a worn out fashion statement as a social and spiritual revolution. This opening acts as a hook that catches the reader by the sensation of a social revolutionary disillusioned from the experiences of one flaccid effort after another, never truly offering or accomplishing anything substantially alternative to the status quo. Although skeptical of this self-appointed guru, our unnamed narrator still decides to investigate the charlatan he’s sure he’ll meet.  Surprisingly, the guru is not a man at all, but a gorilla named Ishmael capable of deep philosophical thought and communication. The lesson he seeks to impart is an accounting of the collision course upon which he sees the human race and that which he believes is the remedy for it.

The blurring of reality and absurdity is implicit in the author’s narrative bringing to life the remarkably believable character of Ishmael. The author’s deep use of metaphor begins at the title of the book and the gorilla’s name.  Ishmael stands as a representative, a spokesman of sorts for the natural order of the earth, flora and fauna.  While the gorilla had lived in a menagerie he began to became self aware and learned to recognize a certain sound as referring to him; Goliath.  The name is strongly indicative of the manner in which gorillas, great apes, wild animals and the natural world is typically viewed by modern humans; a degraded, threatening, crude philistine to be conquered by our heroic civilization. But when Mr. Sokolow upon encountering the animal announces to him “You are not Goliath,” he is making a profound statement about his rejecting the greater society’s perception of the world.  This statement is further expounded by the name which Mr. Sokolow instead chooses to bestow upon him. Transformed from the image of the hulk which tormented the Israelites Goliath is renamed Ishmael; the disinherited son of Abraham who through no fault of his own was cast out from the Israelite race, deemed as little more than “a wild ass of a man.”

        

Ishmael explains that all of the modern nations of the world whether England, Russia or China are descendants of these exploitative agriculturalists whom he designates Takers. Takers are acting out a myth that places them at the top of creation as the owners of the earth.  A different myth is being acted out by the few societies who exist in distant tribes and bands still living similarly to the pre-agricultural Mesolithic hunters and gatherers whom he designates Leavers.  Leavers do not see themselves as the masters of the earth, but as part of it. A society is always governed by a mythic theme and the difference between these two myths could not be more different.  The reason Ishmael says that all our social and political revolutions have failed to stop our eventual demise is because they have all failed to reject the Taker myth and simultaneously embrace the Leaver myth.

Ishmael explains that Nazi Germany was the inevitable result of the Taker’s myth being acted out and that this myth is still being acted out through the entire civilized world’s perception of, and behavior toward the natural environment. With the gorilla as instructor we are taught that the human race broke away from a sort of mystical interspecies ecological brotherhood, setting their selves and the world on a collision course to destruction by setting themselves up as gods who know the difference between good and evil, with the power to decide who should live and who should die.  Ishmael, the gorilla even uses the Genesis creation story as an example of a misinterpreted and incorrectly practiced narrative that has served to misalign the human race with the earth. The biblical fall in the garden, according to our gorilla mentor is really a story by which our pre-agricultural pastoralist contemporaries illustrated this severing from the natural order.  Once humans settled down and cultivated enough food to support a growing population they became warlike and expansive.

While generally well thought out and reasonable in his approach, there are several points in Ishmael’s interpretation of events that must be questioned.  He characterizes the farmers as the culture that victimizes the herding people’s and extinguishes all the other species, including the predators in their environment while completely exonerating herders for the destruction they also cause in the world.  Many forests have also been destroyed in order to create pasture land to feed the herds.  And there is after all a reason western folklore has always depicted the wolf as the antagonist of the shepherd.  Aside from this and a few other bits of artistic license taken by the author, Ishmael is a engaging book that stimulates deep reflection on our relationship with the earth now and throughout history.  To describe the course of our eventual demise Ishmael uses the image of a primitive, non-aerodynamic plane on its test flight plummeting toward the earth while the pilot looks down at the ground rushing up at him and says “well, it’s gotten me this far, no sense abandoning it now.”

Though classified as a novel, the majority of Ishmael takes the form of a dialogue between the unnamed narrator and the gorilla guru.  The message Ishmael hopes to impart to the world is that the human race’s only hope in continuing to survive lies in rejecting the myth of the Takers and embracing the myth of the Leavers.  The novel ends on somber tone, but one that imparts a motivating hopefulness and a sense of urgency.  Ishmael is an excellent book which should be read by everyone looking for real alternatives to the modern political and ecological turmoil engulfing the world.  We’re an inventive species.  It’s time to invent.


Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto: A Review

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1964 (orig. 1884), Washington Square Press, New York

Marxism is the bedrock and foundation of communism.  This tyrannical philosophy did not meet its end with the demise of the Soviet Union.  It is still very much an active threat to liberty today.  Proponents of Marxism seek to undermine capitalism at all points and they have learned to use the political system expertly to achieve their aims. What are those aims?  To centralize all authority over your life and finances in the hands of an all-powerful and uncompromising state, seeking global domination.

Marxism and the theory of communism are rooted in the essay Bourgeoisie and Proletarians by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, found in the Communist Manifesto, first published in 1884.

Class Warfare

The primary theme of Marxism is class warfare.  Marx opens his essay with the bold and all-encompassing  statement that the entire history of “all hitherto existing society” [later revised to exclude traditional “native” societies] is characterized by class struggles.  In short, there is always, in all situations class antagonism between an oppressor and an oppressed.  Modern “capitalist” society, he says is no different from medieval society. Instead of titles like “lord” and “serf,” we now have a dichotomous class distinction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.  The only solution, Marx says is open and “violentrevolution.

bourgeoisie

The bourgeoisie is initially defined as “the class of modern capitalists, owners of means of social production and employers of wage-labor” (57), but is eventually revealed to also include the middle class property owner. The bourgeoisie are driven by economic and technological development.  The historical development in these areas created “industrial millionaires”—the bourgeoisie, successful business people responsible for toppling Feudalism and creating a society where technology and education are available to all. Instead of creating a more liberated society however, Marx claims the bourgeoisie have only created “new forms of oppression.”  Marx believed that Representative government only serves to manage the affairs of the bourgeoisie.

                

proletariat

The proletariat is defined as “the class of modern wage-laborers who, having no means of their own, are reduced to selling their labor in order to live” (57).  Marx presents the idea of an isolated working class, a people without hope of improving their lives.  Marx argues that workers are enslaved by the bourgeoisie, most especially the manufacturer.  Once the worker has been paid by his employer, “he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.” (70).

The proletariat is supposed to represent the “immense majority” who own no property and supposedly have no power or control over their lives.  Their mission in life is to enviously destroy the property and wealth of those who do.  Marx explains that as wealth becomes concentrated in fewer hands, the bourgeoisie is shrinking in number.  Those who washout of the bourgeoisie, become proletarians (since Marxist theory only allows for these two “classes”).  These washouts “boost the intellectual acumen” of the proletariat.  Marx also recognizes that the “social scum” may be absorbed into the movement as a “bribed tool.”

Luddism

The bourgeoisie constantly strive for progress, causing older, less efficient methods of production to be replaced by newer, more advance technologies. Marx denigrates this, claiming that the economic value of labor is decreased because technological advancement makes jobs easier to perform.  Marx complains that this has caused women’s labor in bourgeois society to be worth as much or more than a man’s. He decries the fact that industrialism has put people on equal economic footing despite age or sex.  He also complains that technology has caused the world to become more integrated with disparate countries now sharing in each other’s cultures.

Modern industry offers commodities at such inexpensive prices that demand is created by the people’s  desire to obtain these inexpensive goods.  With the increase in industry, the proletariat grows and becomes concentrated in greater numbers.  Due to competition in the workforce, wages fluctuate, requiring worker’s unions to develop in order to keep wages at a fixed minimum.  On occasion riots are necessary to further the proletarian cause.

Technological advancement in the traffic of information has allowed the proletariat to interact to the degree that they can now more quickly and efficiently organize themselves into a political party.  Since the bourgeoisie has created an environment in which technology and education are available to all, the proletariat must now use those benefits against them to destroy the very source of those benefits.

Violent Revolution

The ultimate goal of Marxism is violent communist revolution.  The first goal of the proletariat is to stage a successful revolution in their own countries, and then unite throughout the world in order to create a communist world order.  Marx explained that the score can only be settled when “that war breaks out into open revolution and where that violent  overthrow or the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat ” (p 77).  To accomplish this, the proletariat must first organize themselves into a class and “wrest all capital, by degrees, from the bourgeoisie,” and “centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state” (p 93, emphasis added).

Statism

In order to support and maintain this statism, Marx planned to destroy the family by replacing home education with social education (p 89), and abolishing all personal property and inheritance.  He also planned to abolish countries,  nationality and all “eternal truths,” all religion, and all morality including Freedom and Justice (p 92, emphasis added).  In order to accomplish this goal: “Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things” (p 116).

Conclusion

This is Marxism at its core: class warfare based on the politics of envy.  It looks toward an omnipotent state to manage the affairs of the people.  Marxism’s long-term goal is global communism, and the abolition of national identity.  It is anti-freedom and scoffs at ideas like justice, and  morality.  It views technological advancement as a detriment to society and ignores any concept of personal responsibility for the proletariat. This ideology is covertly and sometimes naively promoted under various liberal pseudonyms, often uncited in order to avoid the stigma of the word “Marxist.”  It is quite possibly the most dangerous philosophy at work in society today, especially for people who value freedom, independence, and justice.

The Communist Manifesto ends with these words: “Working men of all countries unite!”

What is Capitalism?

At the time that I originally wrote this, I was working toward my master’s degree in anthropology in college.  In a theory class we were discussing world systems theory, global economics and money.  At one point the professor made the point that there is profound difference between money and capital, and then posed the question “what is that difference?”  I was surprised to see that within a class of intelligent and well educated blooming social scientists, there was little clear understanding amongst my peers as to what exactly the word capital means.

This is particularly perturbing considering the fact that the idea of capitalism or “free market economics” as it also known, is often maligned within this sphere of academia.

Money and Capital

Capital is not necessarily money, but it’s usually spoken of in that context.  Money is a symbolic mode of exchange.  In our society the simplest form of money comes in dollars and coins.  People and governments agree that these particular bills and coins have a certain amount of value can be exchanged for goods and services that are perceived to be of a certain value in relation to money.  Of course it takes popular support and trust in the currency for it to be of any perceived value, and that calls for regulatory mechanisms from credible governing authorities.

Capital is money or any other resources used for investment and for production of goods and services in order to make a profit in a accordance with the law of supply and demand.  A portion of the profits are then reinvested in order to create even more profit.  To be sure, even somewhat abstract concepts like education, experience and time can be invested and can be thought of as a form of capital.  That old saying “time is money,” might better be thought of as “time is capital.”

Capitalism is a process or system that functions in terms of capital.

         

One of the biggest differences in the mindset of those who tend to succeed and do well financially and those who do not is that one of them thinks in terms of capital and the other thinks in terms of just money.  Baring radical improbabilities, a person’s net worth is going to be in large part reflective of their knowledge and understanding of economics and finance.

Language and vocabulary affect our thought processes which in turn affect our behavior.  Your life is your business.  If you plan to succeed financially in that business, you must think in terms of capital rather than in terms of just money.


The Ability to Drink Milk is an Evolutionary Advantage

There is an interesting article making its way around the interwebs these days telling you to throw away the milk ‘cuz it’s baaad for you ‘cuz lotsa folks got the lactose intolerance.

This is inaccurate and misleading information.  It’s really a vegetarian activist and animal rights argument masquerading as a health warning, making use of fake science in an attempt to add credence to a false premise that milk is bad for us.  They probably made up their statistics, but only about 10% of Americans are lactose intolerant, though virtually all Chinese and “full-blood” Native Americans are.

In reality there is a fascinating evolutionary story in play here.  You see, most humans can only digest lactose (milk sugar) as infants and young children by producing an enzyme called lactase.  At a certain age after childhood the gene that promotes lactase production switches off.  There is no scientific evidence that this is because milk is bad for the adult human.  It’s just generally unnecessary and does not provide any benefit in pre-agricultural societies since their dietary requirements can be met with meats and other resources found in the environment.

Milk consumption was only necessary to keep the child alive long enough to begin eating the bodies of animals rather than from the body of their mother.  Since there is apparently not any need or benefit to be able to digest lactose beyond childhood, there was never a need or function for an adaptation that allows humans to produce lactase beyond childhood.  It didn’t help us live longer or have more sex in our nomadic hunter-gatherer environment.

That’s just kind of the way evolutionary adaptations work.  They typically only serve the function that is needed to keep the individual alive long enough to procreate as often as possible and create as many genetic replications as possible (also called babies).

Probably around 7,000 years ago amongst European and African cattle-herding populations there occurred in an individual a genetic mutation.  No big deal; everything that makes any life-form different from a single-celled organism is the result of a genetic mutation.  This particular mutation allowed for our bodies to continue producing lactase as adults.

This mutation provided an evolutionary advantage by increasing the “fitness” of the individual so that he lived longer than most others and produced more progeny than those without this mutation.  Since they were now herding cattle they had access to milk in proportions unlike you’d find while chasing wild antelope.  It is plausible that there may have been food shortages of some sort that helped these milk-drinkers to outlive and outbreed less healthy people without the mutation.  It could have just provided for a healthier person in general, without any starvation drama.  Regardless, the ability to derive nutrition from more places is an advantage that can increase the evolutionary fitness of the species.

All the numbers disparities and mumbo jumbo of the vegetarians is not so cleverly presented to look like drinking milk is some freakish and “unnatural” thing because most humans do not have the genetic adaptation to produce lactase beyond childhood.  In reality, people of European and African descent have a somewhat unique genetic adaptation that allows us to derive nutritional benefit from milk well past our childhood, and this is an evolutionary advantage.   Enjoy it.

Quick Reference: Berkley

Note: I will give the author at “I waste so much time” credit for one thing: growth hormones in milk are a genuine concern, but then again harmful chemical additives in our food is a problem even when discussing Brussels sprouts.  Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Shadowyze, Native America’s Hip-Hop Activist, Advocate

Shadowyze is not the typical Grammy-nominated hip-hop celebrity. Though his dress may be in the current urban fashion his attitudes certainly are not. Upon first meeting him, many hip-hop officiandos take immediate note of his lack of gold. In fact he has been accosted for not sporting more ‘bling.’

“Some people just want to challenge your hip-hop credentials” Shadowyze explains; “for not being absurdly materialistic or boastful. But I want my listeners to be inspired to do more than just be showy and greedy. I mean, financial success is a good thing, but with the more bling you can afford, I think the more you should be focused on making your community better. Besides, gold really bothers me. I relate so much negative history to it regarding conquistadors pillaging Indian communities for gold throughout the Americas. That’s what greed does to people and I don’t want to encourage that.”

From a background of Muskogee Creek and Scots-Irish heritage, as a writer and producer Shadowyze represents in many ways an atypical strain within an extremely active and empowering social dynamic called hip-hop. Not only does he produce bumping’ tracks and deliver catchy hooks’ but he also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of West Florida. His lyrics are woven within a fabric of insight and social awareness.

shadowyze

Shadowyze was born in San Antonio, Texas as Alvin Shawn Enfinger and relocated with his family to Pensacola, Fla. at the age of eight. He began rapping as a means to express his ideas on the many issues he witnessed growing up. “My mother was really poor and as a kid a lot of times we weren’t sure if we could afford enough to eat. We were always about one paycheck away from living under a bridge. Some days I’d see cops abusing suspects and on others I’d see street criminals shooting at cops. Through rap I found a way to express my views on these things.”

When he was eighteen, Shadowyze launched his hip-hop career in 1989 when his group, Posse In Effect, released the official theme song “Knock em out the Ring Roy” recorded for then Olympic boxing Silver Medalist Roy Jones Jr. This song received strong support on regional radio as well as NBC Sportsworld. But the big turning point in his career came after spending ten weeks in Central and South America and Mexico in 1998 where Shadowyze witnessed the cruelty of the “low intensity war,” military oppression and poverty imposed upon the Mayan Indian population in Chiapas, Mexico. This life lesson inspired him to speak out and compose his 1999 multi-single Murder in Our Backyard which received a lot of media attention and an endorsement from Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams of Ireland.

In addition to the music Shadowyze delivered on this subject, he also involved himself directly by assisting Ricky Long with his Mayan Indian Relief Fund, taking supplies of clothing, books and medicines to the Indians in Chiapas Mexico where Shadowyze was called Corazon de los Zapatistas or Zapatista’s Heart.

Many publications vigorously supported Shadowyze during this point in his career by running stories on his causes and endeavors. By 1999 Shadowyze was featured in such international Native American Centered periodicals as Native Peoples, Aboriginal Voices, Whispering Wind, News from Indian Country and Talking Stick as well as magazines focused in the musical world such as the underground hip-hop magazine; Insomniac, Word Up and Trace.

In the United States Shadowyze has spoken on Native American issues and performed his music on many reservations including Poarch Creek in Alabama, Big Cypress Seminole Res. in Florida, Shennicock in Long Island, The Pueblos of New Mexico and others. But his experience is by no means limited to domestic affairs. As a performer Shadowyze has appeared in Germany and at the Montrose Jazz Fest in Switzerland and his anthropological callings have led him to visit several different Indian communities in Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Belize and Guatemala.

Shadowyze sums up his experiences with this description; “Even though there is a lot of poverty and despair in some of the areas I’ve been to, it never brings me down. I see a lot of great accomplishments made by Natives throughout the world. It’s really very inspiring to see how many of the communities have adapted to their current surroundings often for the betterment of their societies. And far back in the jungles I’ve gained a lot of insight from experiencing their ancient ways of life. It’s like seeing how my own people lived just a few centuries ago.”

          

Since his musical career has taken off with Murder In Our Backyard, Shadowyze has appeared on over a dozen compilations and released three full length albums; Spirit Warrior (2001), World of Illusions (2003), and his current 2005 release; the self-titled Shadowyze. This newest album features such respectable names in the music business as platinum Latino recording artist Baby Bash, and the production wizardry of Nashville’s DJ Dev of Devastating Music; production engineer of the triple platinum selling album 400 degrees by Juvenile.

2005 was a good year for the 33-year-old artist. Shadowyze won both the Native American Music Awards and the Pensacola, Florida Music Awards for best hip-hop and has been the focus of several stories appearing in Rolling Stone, Vibe, XXL, Billboard, New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Through Backbone, Records; Shadowyze’s personally owned and operated record company he also released Guerillas in the Mixx, a compilation in cooperation with Big Lo featuring Public Enemy, The Coup, Michael Franti, Spearhead, Afrika and Litefoot. For 2006, there are plans for the production of several compilations including Dirty South Radio and The Best of Florida Hip Hop vol. 1 that promise to be more insightful glimpses of a mixture of funk-driven rhythms and enlightening lyricism.

Though Shadowyze is always the musical businessman, his humanitarian side is never stifled. Recently Shadowyze has attracted national attention once again by helping to organize and coordinate a Hurricane Katrina relief effort delivering several thousands of dollars worth of supplies to the Choctaw Indian Reservation in Philadelphia, Mississippi. This reservation was ravaged by the great storm and the people have gone mostly unnoticed by the media. Shadowyze explained the frustrations he felt that encouraged him to organize this effort; “While there were TV commercials asking for relief efforts to go to the abandoned house pets in New Orleans, the Choctaws in Mississippi were going hungry.” In fact the load of supplies personally delivered by Shadowyze was the first, large, independent delivery the Choctaws of Philadelphia received.

Shadowyze is not the typical Grammy-nominated hip-hop celebrity. With one foot in the music industry and the other in indigenous socio-political activism, Shadowyze has established himself in a world much richer than the standard glamorization of sex, drugs and violence. Not only does he orate on the social issues he is impassioned to inform the public of, but he has also been a first hand witness to many of them. Well traveled, well rounded and gifted with the ability to poeticize nearly any idea that comes to his mind, Shadowyze is quite animate and enthusiastic when he describes his thoughts. As a spokesman for unity, Native American identity and environmental respect, Shadowyze and the subjects he brings to the table have caught the attention of countless fans seeking music with a message even-deeper than the bass that bumps in their rides.

The Selfish Gene, Book Review


Dawkins, Richard (2006) The Selfish Gene, 30th Anniversary edition, New York: Oxford University Press

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins is a remarkable and engaging journey through evolutionary theory.  Dawkins’ “selfish gene theory” challenges what he considers common and incorrect notions that the “important thing in evolution is the good of the species.”  Dawkins asserts that evolution is in fact a survival and replication strategy of the gene.  Written most especially for the layperson, Dawkins’ prose abandons much of the technical jargon of science and replaces it with an informal and metaphorical language designed to be read with the same enthusiasm and comfort as science-fiction.

Setting the backdrop for the “selfish gene” theory, the first four chapters cover basic molecular and biological science as Dawkins postulates the possible chemical origins of life and the gene.  Once the gene-centered concept of evolution is thoroughly introduced, Dawkins changes gears and begins to discuss the influence natural selection may have on animal behavior.  This is the basis for the selfish gene theory in which he asserts that the pressures of natural selection which favor the most survivable genes are a catalyst for the evolution of the selfish gene which in turn produces certain behaviors in the individual.  Dawkins says that the individual body of an organism is a “survival machine” created by its genes throughout millions of often violent evolutionary years.  The primary purpose of this survival machine is to provide a protective environment where genes can more efficiently survive and replicate themselves.  Dawkins argues that because these survival machines are essentially programmed with the information carried in their genes, the drive to survive and replicate is thus manifest in a myriad of selfish behavioral characteristics.  In short, the theory states that genes and therefore the species in which they reside evolve behaviors that cause them to act selfishly for their own benefit.  Natural selection favors selfishness.

Altruism represents a possible contradiction to the selfish gene theory, so Dawkins spends much of the early portion of the book addressing this idea. Altruism is a behavior in which an individual acts in a manner that benefits its kin group at the possible expense or sacrifice of its own life.  An example of altruistic behavior in the animal world is when a certain bird gives an alarm call, warning those animals nearby of an approaching predator and thereby drawing attention to itself and exposing itself to a higher degree of danger. Dawkins explains that altruism may actually have a selfish component on the genetic level in its evolutionary function.  If evolution is about “the good of the gene” it is therefore beneficial to sacrifice an individual life in order to protect those same genes existing within the kin group.

Dawkins’ language is constantly peppered with analogies and metaphors which assign many conscious attributes to the genes as they interact with the world.  Such examples are indicative of the title itself; the “selfish” gene.  Dawkins acknowledges that experts in the biological fields are likely to be displeased with his informal, non-technical, and anthropomorphic literary style but he assures us that he speaks only figuratively, that these terms are not meant to convey any truly subjective or moral qualities upon genes or natural selection.  Metaphor is merely his tool in translating scientific jargon and complex equations into the language of the layman.
         

In the second portion of the book, Dawkins stretches his metaphorical translation to include a cultural concept he calls a meme, from the Greek root mimeme.  He describes the meme as “a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.”  It is essentially a segment of idea and it functions on a cerebral level, replicating, gene-like as it passes from mind to mind. The uniqueness of the gene and therefore life itself is in their functions as replicators. Dawkins argues that memes are also significant in their function of replicating themselves through culture. Memes, Dawkins asserts, should be regarded as just as much alive as genes.  He seems to use this theory as a means to challenge not only the established perspective on evolution but certainly to challenge the more religiously minded reader with an often fiercely combative tone regarding the “god meme.”

The meme theory or memetics is a very interesting idea on a philosophical level, but at this point the book almost seems as if it has crossed over from science to fiction or perhaps some form of religious atheism.  The analogy breaks down under more empirical scrutiny, but Dawkins speaks about the subject as if he is presenting more than just a metaphor. Comparing memetics to genetics, though entertaining in an analogous context is not a very practical or empirically oriented theory.  The concrete existence of a gene makes for a much more scientifically sound study than the esoteric nature of a thought.

The Selfish Gene is a thought-provoking book, relevant beyond the fields of zoology, and biology.  Students of psychology, sociology, and philosophy would also find this book of interest.  Dawkins’ flowing prose is engrossing and it does in fact read more like good fiction than dry science.  Many of Dawkins’ points are openly intended to challenge people of faith.  This is especially remarkable due to the manner in which he uses metaphor to symbolize complex theory, attributing conscious strategies, personalities and plans to genes.  This technique is ironically reminiscent of the esoteric and hermetic symbolism found in the world’s religions which use similar techniques to symbolize philosophical ideals and translate often ancient esoteric information into popular language and culture.  In doing this I think Dawkins may have found a way to speak the same or a similar language to that of the religious whom he intends to confront and educate.

Rastafari, Zion and a Religious Irony

Fans of Reggae music understand how intimately tied it is to the Rastafarian movement from which it was born.  Rastafari is a religion, a philosophy, a way of life and a social movement.  Depending on whom you ask regarding the nature of Rasta, you’ll get a different combination of these basic premises.

Rastafari emerged from the poor black communities of Jamaica in the 1930s.  The roots of the ideology lie heavily in the collective experience of slavery and Marcus Garvey’s back to Africa movement.  The poor religious people in the shanty towns of Jamaica may not have known much about world history, but they understood the Old Testament stories referring to Egypt and Ethiopia were taking place in Africa; that mystical homeland that legend had endowed with mythic stature.

In 1930 an Ethiopian nobleman Ras Tafari was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia, taking the name Haile Selassie I, the “Conquering Lion of Judah.”  A small group of Jamaican faithful saw this as the fulfillment of the prophecy found in Revelation 5:5.

One of the elders said to me, “Don not weep.  The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed, enabling him to open the scroll with its seven seals.”

rasta-flag1
Rastafarian Flag

                          

Immediately a religion converged exalting Selassie as the second coming of Jah (God), and the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.  They called themselves Rastafarians, taking the Emperor’s pre-coronation name.

Rastafarians adopted the Ethiopian Coptic Orthodox epic, the Kebra Negast as a scripture.  This book explains how the Ethiopian people are descended from the Israelites.  The story depicts the courtship of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba who, according to the text had a son named Menelik.  Menelik was raised in Ethiopia with his mother.  After visiting his father Solomon in Israel once, Menelik returned to Ethiopia with a population of Israelites under the protection of the Ark of the Covenant which they brought with them.  For these reasons Rastafarians consider themselves to be the true Israelites and Ethiopia to be the true Zion, rather than Israel; the Zion of Judaism and Western Christianity.

For the past several hundred years in Ethiopia there lived a community of black African Jews called Beta Israel, isolated from the greater influence of Rabbinic Judaism.  Rastas pointed to this community as evidence supporting their legend of an Ethiopian Zion.  After Salassie I visited Jamaica in 1960 waves of Rastas began immigrating to Ethiopia where they founded Shashemene Village.  The lost Israelites had begun their repatriation to Zion.

An ironic twist in this epic came in 1970 when the nation of Israel enacted the Law of Return, giving Jews and Jewish descendants the right to immigrate to Israel and gain Israeli citizenship.  The Beta Israel quickly sought their right to return to their traditional homeland.  During the 1980s civil war broke out in Ethiopia and famine struck the nation, threatening the Beta Israel community’s survival.  In 1984 in an effort to rescue the exiled Jews, the government of Israel executed Operation Moses; evacuating thousands of Beta Israel and repatriated them to Israel.  In 1991, Israel’s Operation Solomon brought the remaining Beta Israel to Israel.  The entire Beta Israel community, numbering 120,000 people now lives in Israel.  The lost Israelites have returned to Zion.