INDIGENOUS PEOPLE: The lingua-cultural crisis of small ethnic groups and the rehearsal of the Hollywood style brotherhood
The history of mankind is the history of ideological conflict.
Since the beginning of civilization, some have tried to exploit all the resources of the earth and others continue to struggle against such exploitation.
The first step in separating humans from apes was to create free time for themselves. The human stomach can digest only a few food directly. Therefore, before the ability to control fire, primitive people spent most of their lives searching for specific foods to eat and chewing the collected foods.
For example, a chimpanzee spends 5 hours a day chewing food. There is nothing else to think about except eating for a chimpanzee. Therefore, there is no such scope of evolution to a level where monkeys will make oil painting or lions will play the banjo.
As humans acquired the ability to control fire, the range of human food suddenly increased dramatically. Food that was previously indigestible to the human stomach became edible after cooking over fire. The time required to chew is also reduced. The indigenous peoples of today’s Kalahari Desert in Africa are more or less representative of the people of that time of the ancient world.
It was the first opportunity when people had free time. This free time allowed humans to develop their esthetic sense. Therefore, the primitive people of that time danced around the fire and painted on the walls of the caves. At that time, the only asset of a human group was its population. It was the time of the hunters and gatherers.
As the population increased during that time, the security of a group of people and the amount of food collected also increased. It was the time of matriarchal society. At that time, everyone knew only the mother of the child; the father’s identity had no value. It was only after people started farming that society became patriarchal. That’s another story.
After gradually increasing the production of agricultural commodities and reaching a stage of saving, a feudal society began. From this time the physical structure of societies started to form according to the needs of particular individuals or groups of individuals. After the advent of feudalism, the structure and values of a society began to be shaped according to the needs of feudalism.
A stable peasant society is essential to continuously provide surpluses for a feudal lord to survive. A stable farming society needs a group of stable people to sustain. Therefore, joint families were created in societies. We see joint peasant families in feudalist societies of the world except the Ahom kingdom of Assam, without a monetary economy.
In the Ahom kingdom, the nuclear family was given priority as appropriate to the ‘paike system’ of taxation of the Ahoms. After the death of the head of the family, the brothers often form new nuclear family in Ahom kingdom.
After the Industrial Revolution in Europe, classical feudalism collapsed and capitalism emerged as the controller of the nature and values of societies. Since then, capitalism has shaped or destroyed society from time to time according to its needs. After the fall of feudalism, the newly established industries were needed for a group of labours without any bond with the land, to work in the industries.
The farmers within the bond of joint families were not suitable as factory workers. So in the interest of capitalism, joint families were broken up and nuclear families were formed. The social situation at that time was such that the farmers lost the farm lands and many landless people were created. With the creation of these landless people, joint families collapsed. Joint farming families were broken up and farmers were transformed into labours with nuclear families.
Joint familes can only survive if all the members of the family are engaged in production together on a piece of land. Land is the link between the members of the joint family. With the loss of land right from the hands of the peasants, joint families broke up and nuclear families were formed due to lack of common links. People migrated to different places in search of livelihood and formed nuclear families in new places.
All the members of these nuclear families lived on the labor of one person. One of them worked as a laborer and managed to earn a living for the whole family Dr. Hiren Gohain in his book “Lost Luggage” (p. 30) describes how capitalism in eighteenth century England turned peasants into miserable migrant workers. Capitalism once created the concept of the nation-state also.
The form of capitalism changed somewhat in the postmodern era. The first goal of capitalism at this time was to create people without any families. With the unprecedented advances in science and technology, the need for ordinary unskilled laborers with single families also decreased. So the definition of labour has been changed.
A new type of labour called the ‘Managers’ have now been created in industrial establishments without being covered under the Labor Acts. In some companies, 80% of the employees are now so-called “managers”. In fact, at this time, Capitalism wanted to rearrange society in its own interest. This was an attempt to eradicate the concept of family from society.
Therefore, the idea of ‘living together’ without marriage instead of forming a family through marriage was introduced. In fact, working 8 hours and giving the rest to the family is an indigestible culture for those who are running after profit. If people don’t have families, the responsibilities will be reduced and the time can be used for more production.
The result of this effort is the slowly disappearing concept of the family. In the name of the so-called work culture, all arrangements have already been made to deprive people of intellectuality and take them to the level of the aforementioned monkeys.
Nowadays, the people of a developed country have to work 40-45 hours in a week. Similarly, in developing countries, people have to work up to 60-80 hours in a week. The nomads in the Kalhari desert worked 30-35 hours a week. This means that the Kalahari nomads spend 3-6 hours a day on food. People actually spend 1 hour in the name of cooking food. Now multi-national business groups are starting to hijack people’s time in the name of work culture.
A tired person after working (physically or mentally) during the day is not able to think of anything creative at night. Thus, under the sponsorship of big capital, a mechanical society is slowly being built in which some machine-like people will work hard to hand over all the wealth of the world to some people. However, the game, which seeks to create a world without families, is beginning to act like a double-edged sword.
Developed countries like China, Japan and Germany are suffering from youth shortage as people without time and family are reluctant to have children. So the importance of the family may one day be restored by large capital. Surviving cultures can create awareness of self-identity. Diversity will survive if we are aware of self-identity. This diversity is not conducive to the business of multinationals.
Only the farmers who have a relationship with the land can preserve the culture. Therefore, efforts are being made around the world for a group of people without any cultural diversity who have nothing to do with the land. But the development of big capital is not equal everywhere.
Therefore, in places where there is little development of large capital, there is an attempt to create landless people like in eighteenth century England in the hope of creating cheap labour. Such efforts are being made in different parts of the world as well as in Assam. Today, farmers of Assam are abandoning agriculture due to not getting proper prices for their work.
In today’s Assam such an environment has been created where people are forced to believe that agriculture is no longer a profitable occupation. The young people from rural Assam are now crowded in Bangalore, Chennai, Ahmedabad etc. to work as laborers. The farmlands are deserted. There are no young men in the villages to celebrate Bihu festival. Farmers in the villages have started selling their lands.
The farmers are the pillars of our culture. Our festivals are also mainly agricultural. Once this peasant society is completely transformed into a labour society, agriculture related culture will become completely irrelevant.
In the next phase, all the land will be purchased from the farmers. “Land has no value”-such an idea has already entered the minds of the farmers. Farmers with a passion towards the land have little value as factory workers. Therefore, such environment is being created which will force the people of Assam to sell their lands.
We get an idea of what will happen next from the changes in Hollywood films. American imperialism is the most powerful and well-organized of all the major capitalist societies in the world today. The most powerful spokesperson of American capitalism is its popular film industry known as Hollywood. A closer look at Hollywood movies can predict the latest movements and directions of American imperialism and global capitalism.
Hollywood movies have a long history of marketing various policies in the United States. George Creel, President of the Committee on Public Information, formed by US President Woodrow Wilson, in 1917 to mobilize public opinion in favor of the United States’ participation in World War I, documented the role of Hollywood films in detail. In the words of Creel, these films are “carrying the gospel of Americanism to every corner of the globe”.
There have been reports of collaboration between the US Department of Defense, the CIA and other government agencies with Hollywood. The announcement of the Oscar for Ben Affleck’s 2013 film Argo has once again highlighted the closeness of the White House and Hollywood. “Argo” was an anti-Iranian film for which Michelle Obama announced an Oscar.
The contemporary policies of American imperialism are always reflected in Hollywood films. The domestic and foreign policies of the United States are actually reflected by the villains of Hollywood movies. Therefore, as the domestic and foreign policy of the United States changes, so do the villains of Hollywood movies.
Once upon a time, the villains in Hollywood’s so-called “cowboy” movies were the Native Americans called the ‘Red Indians’ and the saviors were the US Cavalry. It was a time of aggression by white American settlers against the Native Americans. There was nothing more appropriate than the “Cowboy” films to cover up the numerous war crimes committed by white Americans against Native Americans.
Hollywood’s focus was on German imperialism just before or during World War II. ‘Confessions of a Nazi Spy’ (1939) or ‘The Great Dictator’ (1940) were such films. After World War II, the communist world took the place of the villain in Hollywood movies. These films are now called Cold war Films.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the balance of power in the world was upset. Since then, there have been subtle changes in Hollywood films. Because Hollywood and its brother British Film industry have lost a strong ideal rival to the film industry. Hollywood and the British film industry need new villains.
This time, the popular villain for these two industries is an alien, an international terrorist group, a rich businessman who has declared war on the whole world, a media baron or a dictatorial ruler. The whole world fights against this collective enemy under the leadership of the US army or James Bond. In a word, this is the triumph of universal brotherhood. It looks like a beautiful ideal.
This is because this ideal advocates one human race, one language and one culture In other words, for the sake of world brotherhood; small languages, cultures and nations must merge into a larger culture. Because, only such a society can better serve the interests of big capital. The dynamics of this proposed large culture will be controlled by an invisible hand. This is an exercise in a new kind of universal brotherhood.
It should be noted that we have also noticed a theoretical conflict among the big capitals that are trying to absorb all the resources of the world through the smooth expansion of trade and commerce. Some people always try to divert the attention of the common people from the basic economic problems by advocating petty nationalism.
They try to divert the attention of the common people from the basic economic problems by keeping the minority ethnic groups busy in the struggle to establish an external self-identity.. But this process creates social unrest which disrupts long-term economic activity. Moreover, it is not possible to keep people away from economic issues for a long time on such romantic issues.
The reason why the language movement, the anti-foreigner movement (first the anti-outsider movement), the separatist movement etc. at various times in Assam proved futile. As each one failed to address the basic economic questions of the people. While some of the big capitalists sponsor such movements, the majority focus on stable environment for wealth accumulation rather than social unrest.
Therefore, economic imperialism has been sponsoring the process of cultural homogeneity in various forms since the Industrial Revolution.
The campaign to build a homogeneous society by destroying the cultural and linguistic diversity of the entire world has already begun. It will not take long for us to become a culturally and linguistically featureless (বৈশিষ্টহীন) nation. To stop this trend, we must first protect our peasant society. The first condition for doing this is that the indigenous people must pledge not to sale their lands to outsiders under any circumstances.
There are already reports in the newspapers that land brokers in rural Assam are selling land to outsiders at high prices. This is certainly not a good sign. It is essential that we find companions (সহযাত্ৰী) in the quest to preserve cultural and linguistic diversity. We have such companions.
But, the struggle of the small ethnic groups against cultural imperialism along with economic imperialism has never been brought to light by the big media representing the imperialist forces. The uncompromising struggle of our neighboring Khasi people for centuries against cultural imperialism in our Northeast India is still almost in the dark.
The religious-cultural movement ‘Seng khasi’ was launched on 23 November 1899 by a Khasi leader named U Babu Jeevan Roy at a time when the invasion of Christianity was leading to the extinction of the ancient religion and culture of the Khasis. This movement has been going on for the past 100 years under very adverse circumstances without any sponsorship through intolerance and propaganda.
Even today, this author has witnessed the tacit support of missionaries in the propaganda against the “Seng Khasis” in some schools in Meghalaya. During the British Raj, some religious ceremonies of the Seng khasis were even banned. Even today, the minority Seng khasis are discriminated against by the majority (The Telegraph, Monday, January 6, 2014).
Even the Meghalaya government has not created any minority department till date. However, the Sheng khasi movement is quietly gaining momentum. We also need a silent movement like the Seng khasi movement.
Seng Khasi movement has lasted for hundreds of years rather than a movement that shouts in the streets or hides in the jungle. Only such a movement will give vitality to a nation and protect our culture and land. We need a diverse world more than a Hollywood homogeneous style world.
1. Lost Luggage, Dr Hiren Gohain, Jyoti Prakashan, Guwahati-1, 1996
2. Hollywood, The American Image and The Global Film Industry, Andrew Ali Ibbi, CINEJ Cinema Journal, Volume 3.1 (2013)
3. Sapiens: A brief History of Human Kind, Yuval Harari, Harper Collins, 2014
Images from different sources
Dr. Raktim Ranjan Saikia, Author, and Assistant Professor of J.B. College, Assam (India)
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