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"Sometimes I equate it to the elephants."
March 27, 2006 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Stone-aged and primitive are what you call people when you want their land. Baroness Lady Tonge of Kew told the British House of Lords that the Bushmen are "holding the government of Botswana to ransom." And how, you ask, can a bunch of hunter-gatherers hold the government that's herding them into "resettlement camps" "ransom"? Because they want to "stay in the stone age," of course. Not that this might be motivated by stones of a different sort. And you thought the Trail of Tears was just something in your history book.
posted by jefgodesky (20 comments total)

 
diamonds. she'll pretty much have to.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 9:07 AM on March 27, 2006


The crime that these Bushmen have perpetrated against Botswana is that they continue living on their ancestral lands--the same lands they've inhabited for hundreds of thousands of years--despite the fact that the Botswana government could make a lot of money if they would just politely die. Mind you, the Botswana government is made up of the various Bantu groups who were hunting Bushmen for a thousand years before the Europeans came along and taught them more effective ways to go about it. Very few Bushmen are left--we're talking about wiping out the last survivors.

The motive isn't to sell the diamonds, though. Diamonds are actually fairly common. Priced at their actual value, they'd be quite cheap. DeBeers digs out as many diamonds as it can, but they don't sell them. They keep them in warehouses, to artificially inflate the price of diamonds, and to maintain a stranglehold so that their competitors can't sell diamonds and bring the price down, either.

So, the plan is to wipe out the last remaining Bushmen, so that we can dig up the pretty rocks and put them into warehouses to make sure no one ever sells them.

From George Monbiot's apology:

I now realise that I have misunderstood Baroness Tonge. When she stood up in the House of Lords last week and accused the Gana and Gwi Bushmen of trying to stay in the Stone Age and of holding the Botswanan government to ransom by resisting eviction from their lands, I thought she was a bully, using her unelected position to attack some of the most vulnerable people on earth....

But when I reached the bottom of her column, and read that she, like me, wishes to see the closure of the House of Lords, all became clear. I owe Lady Tonge an apology. She is not a bully, a fool or a stooge. She is a brave and brilliant political campaigner. She is trying to abolish the Upper House, and the method she has chosen is satire.

Her strategy works like this. First she accepts a peerage, styles herself “Baroness Tonge of Kew in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames” and adopts the airs and graces appropriate to that station. Then she selects the traditional topic of conversation in the House of Lords – evicting impoverished people from their lands – and hams it up magnificently. Then, in perfect mimicry of the peers who for centuries have claimed from those benches that they know what is best for the poor, she hilariously pretends that a land-grabbing exercise is in fact a social welfare programme.

She plays all this with a perfectly straight face, until her listeners are gasping with rage and incredulity, and demanding that she and all the other barons and baronesses are flung out on their arses and replaced with elected representatives.

Greater love hath no baroness than this, that a baroness lay down her credibility for her subjects. Instead of attacking her, as I have done, we should offer our gratitude for this extraordinary act of self-sacrifice. She has shown us what we must do. We must call for that which she most desires: her expulsion from the legislature, along with all the other unelected halfwits in the House of Lords.

posted by jefgodesky at 9:07 AM on March 27, 2006


Hey, these people have environmentaly sustainable lifestyles. We can't have that in an age of progress, now can we?
posted by Citizen Premier at 9:39 AM on March 27, 2006


I'm pretty sure the Trail of Tears actually happened. What? You're insinuating to me that there are Trail of Tears deniers?
posted by j-urb at 9:59 AM on March 27, 2006


What? You're insinuating to me that there are Trail of Tears deniers?

No, he's suggesting that such things aren't atrocities of past, less-enlightened times, as many of us fervently wish.
posted by Firas at 10:08 AM on March 27, 2006


The funniest (in the sad, sad way) part of all of this is that the government of Botswana is using the exact same logic that enabled Britons, Boers, Germans, and French to expel people from the land they occupied at the moment of the colonial state's extension: "non-beneficial occupation." That is, the idea that people must be doing something with the territory that the state approves of, or else they'll lose it. That's a central plank of colonial-era land grabbing and it's really pathetic to see it resurface in this way. What's even worse is talking to people in the US and Europe who think this is all right because they don't share lifestyles with Khoisan peoples; they don't think of the possibility that a government might do the same to them for, say, not mowing their lawn, or for buying land and keeping it woods or pasturage.
posted by trigonometry at 10:22 AM on March 27, 2006


Stone-aged and primitive is referring to yourself as a "Baroness."
posted by three blind mice at 10:26 AM on March 27, 2006


That is, the idea that people must be doing something with the territory that the state approves of, or else they'll lose it.

See also:
- "They weren't doing anything with the land anyway, so we might as well take it"
- "They don't know how to use the land properly, so we might as well use it"
- etc.
posted by carter at 10:36 AM on March 27, 2006


What three blind mice said. There's something ironic about calling someone primitive while using an archaic medieval title.
posted by unreason at 10:44 AM on March 27, 2006


That is, the idea that people must be doing something with the territory that the state approves of, or else they'll lose it.

That's actually not bogus reasoning, in terms of philosophy of law and property in the western world. Maybe prescription rights are derived from that sort of reasoning, I don't know.

The legitimacy of the claim here really depends on the historical nature of the political authority the government claims over that land.

*Tries to think more … brain explodes* Ok, what I'm saying is, "I live here don't drive me out" isn't necessarily the last word, morally, legally or politically.
posted by Firas at 10:49 AM on March 27, 2006


Firas -- those are beliefs not shared by the ones being driven out. Of course it's not the last word, morally, legally or politically--according to the people doing the driving. Our philosophy of law and property developed largely as apologia for this kind of thing.
posted by jefgodesky at 11:00 AM on March 27, 2006


"Primitive" can only refer to technology in terms relative to another technology. Thus, a bone fish hook is prtimitive compared to a steel one. It can not describe societies, beliefs, or religions, although those are the categories where the term is most used.

A study was done about the Bushmen back in the 1970s, which showed that they averaged about two hours a day in effort to hunt or gather sufficient calories to live, build shelter, and raise kids. They spent the rest of the day hanging around gossiping about people using a language that is so microspecific about kinship terms that almost everybody had a specific role name.

Outsiders saw the Bushmen lounging about and declared them lazy. Yet western workers have to work five times more per day in order to recieve the same calories, and had far less leasure time. (OK. they do have cable TV...)

Who's primitive?
posted by zaelic at 11:03 AM on March 27, 2006


See also:
- "They weren't doing anything with the land anyway, so we might as well take it"


"Democrats have failed to put forth any new ideas"
posted by dhartung at 11:08 AM on March 27, 2006


Metafilter: Stone-aged and primitive
posted by qvantamon at 11:19 AM on March 27, 2006


As a counterpoint to how things could be done here's a link to info about the Royal Bafokeng Nation a tribe in the North West province of SA who managed to buy back their land in the 1920's and later platinum deposits were found. They charge mining companies royalties and are earning quite a bit.
The Bafokeng have used their income from mining to build schools, roads, clinics and other infrastructure such as a sports complex incorporating a soccer stadium with an athletics track, an Olympic-size swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball courts and a gymnasium. Almost all the infrastructure has been planned, designed and funded by the Royal Bafokeng.
posted by PenDevil at 12:12 PM on March 27, 2006


The price being their culture.
posted by jefgodesky at 12:15 PM on March 27, 2006


No, he's suggesting that such things aren't atrocities of past, less-enlightened times, as many of us fervently wish.

Ah, yes, because prior to today, we all thought that things like genocide and oppression were historical footnotes.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:35 PM on March 27, 2006


Ah, yes, because prior to today, we all thought that things like genocide and oppression were historical footnotes.

You'd be astonished how many people really do.
posted by jefgodesky at 12:38 PM on March 27, 2006


Is this really about non-usage of land/resources? That’s certainly an interesting theory. Looking back on the history of my country’s (Canada’s) first nations, we’ve always been eager to dispossess any native group sitting on top of natural resources. I always thought that was straightforwardly because the Crown would rather profit itself. This suggestion appears to be that we’d be just as happy if the band profitted, so long as the resources were being exploited. That doesn’t ring true. Not to raise the straw man -- I doubt anyone here believes this line. Just thought I’d give it its meagre due.
posted by dreamsign at 1:11 PM on March 27, 2006


Laurens van der Post, The Lost World of the Kalahari (1958). This is the book that first made the world aware that the Bushman existed and subsequent BBC documentaries in the 1950s by van der Post were what helped create the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (the worlds second largest protected area, and has no Wikipedia article). The book is a classic and probably his most well known.

Also recent genetic research by National Geographic has shown the Bushmen to be the oldest living human group -- all humans trace back to the Bushmen.
posted by stbalbach at 11:36 PM on March 27, 2006


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