When I visited India over twenty years ago, I remember sitting in the courtyard of an elderly neighbor. I know she was related to us somehow, somewhere in the long chain of ancestry--an ancestry that, for the most part, could be traced to the very land we had laid our cots out on in the heat of a Punjabi noonday sun. My family has been living in the same part of the world, likely in the same 50-mile radius, for centuries. There are streets named after my father's forefathers.
And yet, when the British came, they changed the names of many of those streets, instantly erasing hundreds of years worth of story and struggle and memory, and rewriting history. The names the streets were given were now names of British men. Men who had histories and ancestral homes thousands of miles away and had shed not a single drop of blood or sweat to nurture the land they now claimed.
I thought of all that as my elderly neighbor sighed and said, "Things were much better when the British were here."
Boi-oing! (That's my eyes bugging out.) "Excuse me?"
She nodded emphatically. "The streets were swept regularly. They built roads. There was some civility."
Because she was an elder, it would have been disrespectful for me to mention that the only streets that were swept were where the wealthy British lived, and that they were swept by Indians. It would have seemed like a challenge, and one does not challenge their elders. So I also didn't mention that the only roads that were built were ones that would take all of India's natural, precious resources to Britain and to the British elite. And I definitely wasn't going to mention anything about civility.
I bring this up because I read this post by Zetta about gentrification in Brooklyn, and remembered that the phenomenon is not just local; it has a historical blueprint. And that, often, when folks come into a neighborhood/country/culture with the grand idea of "taming", "settling" or "borrowing", there is usually no thought to giving back to the community that is already there--that already has its sacred spots, its cultures, its language, its spirituality. The main impetus is taking from the community.
The other link I want to share along these lines is to this NY Times article. Here are a few quotes:
"Just last month, MSN.com issued an apology to the Quileute for intruding on its territory while videotaping a 'Twilight' virtual tour in September. MSN.com sought permission from the Chamber of Commerce in nearby Forks, Wash., but didn’t pay the same courtesy to the Quileute. The video team trespassed onto a reservation cemetery and taped Quileute graves, including those of esteemed tribal leaders. These images were then set to macabre music and, in November, posted on MSN.com. The tribe quickly persuaded MSN.com to remove the Quileute images."And this:
"'Twilight' has made all things Quileute wildly popular: Nordstrom.com sells items from Quileute hoodies to charms bearing a supposed Quileute werewolf tattoo. And a tour company hauls busloads of fans onto the Quileute reservation daily. Yet the tribe has received no payment for this commercial activity. Meanwhile, half of Quileute families still live in poverty."Then this:
"Going forward, the Quileute should be engaged in the 'Twilight' phenomenon. They should be able, first, to welcome Ms. Meyer to the reservation and introduce her to the Tribal Council and all the Quileute people. They should be consulted on projects where the Quileute name and culture are used to market products. And Quileute elders should be able to share with the world the true Quileute creation story, in which tribal members were transformed into humans from wolves (not vampire-fighting wolves)."Check out both those links and see what connections you come up with. Are there similarities? What are the common threads?
More from me later! Off to bury myself in revisions now...