Debate Magazine

Ryan Bellerose and the Indigenous Question

Posted on the 12 January 2014 by Mikelumish @IsraelThrives
Michael L.
Ryan Bellerose and the Indigenous QuestionI recently published an article entitled Israel: The First Modern Indigenous State in which I agreed with Canadian Native-American activist and football player, Ryan Bellerose, that the Jews are the indigenous people of the Land of Israel.  I published that piece at Israel Thrives, Jews Down Under, and at the Times of Israel, where it was subsequently picked up by the Elder of Ziyon blog.
Much to my surprise, shortly thereafter Bellerose dropped into Israel Thrives in order to scream at Empress Trudy and, for some reason, to tell me that humanity, in fact, is not indigenous to Africa.  I have to say, I was a little surprised at Bellerose's bellicosity and failure to mount a coherent argument.  This is perhaps not very surprising.  Bellerose got picked up by some in the media because his father has a small measure of political creds in Canada and because he is a Native-American Zionist and what in the world is more rare than a Native-American Zionist, not to mention a Native-American Zionist football player?
{In fact, I would not be the least bit surprised if Bellerose is the lone, sole Native-American Zionist football player in all of North America.  The very notion of it gives me a smile.}
Every once in awhile, however, I get an email from someone whom I have referenced in an article, but almost always those emails are either positive or seek to offer a simple factual correction, but they are very rarely hostile.  Bellerose represents the exception.  In a childish and highly insulting response to a comment from Empress Trudy, Bellerose writes:
Thats the stupidest most moronic thing I have seen in a long time. first off indigenous status is not "nonsense" and it has nothing to do with "prmimitivism" your assertion is simply wrong. and not slightly wrong but catasrophically wrong. 
sometimes I wonder if some of you people are capable of original thought or if you just spout talking points that you see on youtube. 
First learn how to read, then work at comprehension, then try to come up with a thought that doesnt resemble feces coming out of your lackwit mouth.
My, my.  That is quite some analysis.
What Bellerose apparently objects to, although it is hard to know from what he writes above, is Trudy's suggestion that:
Keeping in mind of course that this whole 'indigenous' nonsense is an outgrowth of two things. 1) the 60's ethos that primitivism is inherently good and anything else is inherently evil. And 2) it's really a racist expression of "The White Man's Burden."
The concept of "indigenous" is relative, not absolute.  Everyone on this planet, with the exception of an unknown percentage of Africans, comes from elsewhere.  For millions of years our ancestors lived in Africa before emigrating throughout the rest of the world.  That means that the vast majority of all of our ancestors were black and lived on that continent.  This is why all of humanity has a common heritage and why Trudy refers to the very concept of "indigenous" as nonsense.
Ryan Bellerose and the Indigenous QuestionNonetheless, it is obviously true that just as Native-Americans are the only extant people who can claim the earliest residency on American soil, so Jews are the only extant people who can claim the earliest residency in the Land of Israel, including Gaza, Judaea, and Samaria.
What Trudy suggested, and rightly so, is that the New Left and counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s revered the indigenous, but primarily via a lens of "primitivism."  Trudy is correct.  Anyone who knows anything whatsoever of the New Left and counterculture from that period knows that there was a general disdain for western ways of being (ontology) and western ways of knowing (epistemology), which sometimes are dismissed as "white."  It is for this reason that when Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, and Gary Snyder put together the counterculture / New Left celebration in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in 1967, the Human Be-In, it was called the Gathering of the Tribes.  It is also for this reason that when the San Francisco Oracle covered the event they featured an old-timey caricature of a Native-American upon horseback, although holding a guitar.
This kind of sensibility, which revered "primitivism," was prevalent throughout the counterculture and the New Left and remains a staple within progressive-left sensibilities to this day.  It is in part for this reason why the Jewish people are denied "indigenous" status.  The Jews, as a group - with the obvious exception of some - are agents of modernity.  We embrace the modern, advance the modern, and are associated with the modern.  We represent the opposite of "primitivism" and are thus not embraced by the romantic imagination of the contemporary left.
And that is precisely what Trudy referred to in that statement concerning "the 60's ethos that primitivism is inherently good" which represents a contemporary form of "White Man's Burden." Yet another way of stating it is the popular reverence for the "Noble Savage."  It is a form of racist condescension toward people of color who are seen to represent more natural, and thus superior, ways of being and ways of knowing.
Trudy, it should be noted, made no claims whatsoever concerning Native-Americans, but simply pointed out that the concept of "indigenous" is about a myth, or a narrative, concerning who is genuine and who is not among contemporary progressives.  This is simply undeniable and Bellerose was wrong in responding with such fierce, and incoherent, contempt for someone challenging his worldview and presumptions.
As with anyone else, I may agree with much of what Bellerose has to say, and I certainly appreciate his advocacy for the Jewish state as the first modern "indigenous" state, but this does not mean that any of us need to agree with every jot and dittle that the man writes.
Trudy was correct to point out the significance of a "1960s ethos of primitivism," with its implications of authenticity, and how that ethos often elides with notions of the "indigenous" and Bellerose was entirely wrong to spit so much hatred toward a person expressing a concept that he is entirely uneducated about.
Ignorance is regrettable, but malicious ignorance of the type that Bellerose spewed is simply unacceptable.
For more on the general topic of the New Left, and how the notion of authenticity related to that political movement, I recommend Doug Rossinow's The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America, Columbia University Press, 1998.

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