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438. Increase (V)

I saw a Red Indian in a t-shirt marked “Caucasians” with a bearded European man in profile on it—quite a handsome caricature, actually. The t-shirt was worn to make a counterpoint to the American football team, “the Redskins”, who have a Red Indian in profile as their symbol. The attempted critique did not work, since it basically relied on reality contortion. The left claims that the Redskins—similar symbols and names—are inherently degrading because they objectify or reify, to use Marxist jargon, individuals; Redskins paraphernalia exoticises and racialises “the other”, and this is why it is wrong to keep teams with these names and symbols. The complaint is feminine: when men look at me they turn me into an object, and this is oppression (except when they never look at me, this is discrimination and also oppression). For the Red Indian to wear a “Caucasians” top is meant to make straight white men see what it is like to be “objectivised”, “racialised”, and “commercialised”.

Except the t-shirt does no such thing, it just looks like a rather handsome European man in caricature on a shirt. Why is there a Redskins team, anyway? The answer is an old one: when man hunted he would often immediately consume organs—especially the liver—from a very worthy prey, when he did so he absorbed the prey’s powers. It is a way to honour your vanquished opponent: you take his life, but, in a way, he lives on in you—you take on his ferocity.

From a scientific standpoint, this is not so stupid: certain worms can be fed to each other and take on the consumed worm’s memories—there is a mystery in flesh and blood consumed, as in the Eucharist. Americans have the Redskins as a team, Apache helicopters, and Tomahawk missiles because this is how we symbolically consume our fallen human opponents; we rarely literally eat—or scalp—an opponent anymore, but instead we take on their symbolic energy and adopt their names and images.

Similarly, Waterloo station in Britain is named for a town in Belgium where Wellington beat Napoleon, Trafalgar Square is named after a point off Spain where Nelson beat the French, and the Churchill estate, Blenheim Palace, is named after a town in Germany where the Churchill family won a notable battle. All examples where the place of victory was symbolically consumed or “worn” to take your opponent’s ferocity back to the tribe.

So the Red Indian with the “Caucasians” t-shirt would, if he were connected to his heritage, wear a t-shirt with Custer on it, since the Indians actually beat him—or with another Indian tribe on it his tribe had defeated. He did not because he was a leftist and they misunderstand why these symbols and names are used, “appropriated” as the jargon goes. In a sense, they are “appropriated” and legitimately so—you honour the valiant enemy by adopting his image and name. “We call this team ‘the Apaches’ because we fight with the wild ferocity found in that tribe, we absorbed it when we defeated them.” This is lost on the left, and this is why “the Caucasians” t-shirt has no resonance; the Redskins are not called “the Redskins” due to some arbitrary desire to objectify Red Indians or invent them as a racial category—the name refers to the actual warrior ferocity found in any redskin.

“Caucasians”, by contrast, is just a fairly neutral anthropological term with little symbolic or historical resonance. The left would be upset if a Red Indian appeared with a t-shirt that featured Custer on it because to do so would suggest that tribal particularity and animosity are real, whereas the point with the Caucasians t-shirt is to say that all such differences are arbitrary inventions. The left cannot destroy tribes and histories so easily, but it can destroy the magical ferocity absorbed in teams like the Redskins by forcing a name change so as to create a weak and pathetic alternative.


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