Monday, June 4, 2012
Reply to WGBH's "Civilization" written and narrated by Niall Ferguson
I am surprised that such a "sweeping" documentary series on westernism, capitalism and imperialism lacks a more functional and empathic critique of exactly those elements in the face of the gently implied irksome nature of environmental degradation, cultural destruction and outright holocaust of aboriginal people so Turtle Island and Africa. Not only was the documentary highly dismissive of the fundamental nature of indigenous humanity and sensible connections to history, but "Civilization" seemed to do nothing more than semi-gently and semi-cleverly champion the support of a struggling, though still ideologically powerful economic and cultural system, completely minimizing the social effects of some of his "killer apps" (aptly put, I'd say; i.e., consumerism) and the fundamental dangerous nature of empire as expressed by Europeans seeking nothing more than a beneficent (sorta) hierarchical dominance in a world quickly running out of food, water, natural resources, biological diversity, cultural diversity and sense - precisely because of Europe's, the west's particularly pernicious form of "civilization".
One of the greatest mistakes humanity, at least those humans in dominant, western, highly-militarized "civilized" nations being made is underestimating the wisdom and technological culture of indigeny. It is precisely the indigenous cultural perspective that has been warning and resisting the "civilizers" and their destructive nature since the initial introduction of criminal Columbus to the Tainos and Arawaks on the islands of Amerique. At the very least, Ferguson puts a pretty face on one of the most destructive and oppressive cultural mistakes known to humankind. At the most, he seeks to convince us that no there is no viable, worthwhile challenge to this destruction and oppression.
I suggest he tell it to the Awa of the Amazon, the Kogi, the Lakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation AND the Azanian people in the peacefully, wonderfully and harmoniously westernized (aka "civilized") settler-colony of South Africa. If their stories are just an inevitable part of the deification of Euro-everything, then I want no part of "Civilization" or civilization.
This is a disappointing piece of work especially for WGBH (an insult to the producers of the likes of Independent Lens and POV) and has the same understated and dismissive arrogance as Robert Barron's "Catholicism", but that's another story - well, actually, it's pretty much the same.
(All right. WGBH's interface isn't uploading my comments yet and is not indicating that there is any moderation on such. Hmmmm....)
Posted by Mzee Ukumbwa Sauti, M.Ed.