Sunday, September 9, 2007

Cultural Equity, Indigenous Peoples, and Homogenization: Part II

In Post 83, my colleague Victor continued to discuss the idea of “cultural equity” and the work of Alan Lomax. Victor wondered if Lomax had also considered the term “equity,” not just in relation to justice or equality, but as it is used today in the rapidly globalizing world – namely as an investment in a stock. Victor muses that “cultural equity” can be thought of “as a sort of ‘common stock’ in which our ancestors have been investing since the dawn of humanity, and in which we all share an interest.”

I could not agree more with Victor’s ponderings – for this is an ingenious means of looking at “cultural equity” today, especially in terms of the current issues effecting indigenous peoples. In the last post I talked about homogenized goo and what would happen if cultures became uniform as a result of the homogenizing forces of colonialism and imperialism. Cultural equity, and its use, is just what we need to fight these processes and to ensure that the world maintains it’s flavor, spice, and crunch. However, I could not agree more with Victor that cultural equity must also be thought of in this larger global – human – sense. Indigenous peoples, their culture, and their knowledge must be considered a form of “cultural equity” that needs to be protected and given stock. As Victor eloquently states, it must be thought of as “but the preservation of a common heritage, that infinitely precious cultural ‘equity’ of incalculable value to every living human being.”

Now in such an argument, a cautionary note must be included. We must be very careful in how we wield the “cultural equity” baton, for we do not want to allow for reverse cultural equity to take place, substituting what is valued now with another thing in some form of post-colonial role reversal. Rather, as Lomax and Victor argue – and I concur – we must simply strive for equal voice, equal rights, equal cultural appreciation and value.

There is a song by reggae great Jimmy Cliff that speaks to the idea of “cultural equity” as I see it. It is called We All Are One.

We all are one, we are the same person
I'll be you, you'll be me (Oh, yeah)
We all are one, same universal world
I'll be you, you'll be me

No matter where we are born,
We are human beings
The same chemistry
Where emotions and feelings
All corresponding in love

You can't get around it,
No matter how hard you try
You better believe it
And if you should find out
That you are no different than I

We all are one (We all),
We are the same person (Same person)
I'll be you, you'll be me (I'll be me, you'll be you)
We all are one (We all), same universal world
I'll be you, you'll be me

The only difference I can see
Is in the conscience
And the shade of our skin
Doesn't matter, we laugh, we chatter
We smile, we all live for love

And the feelings that make
All those faces always renew
So true, so true
And would you believe that I have
All those same feelings too
The same as you

We all are one, we are the same person
I'll be you, you'll be me (I'll be me, you'll be you)
We all are one (We all), same universal world
I'll be you, you'll be me (Mmm, hmm, mmm, hmm)

We all are one (We all),
We are the same person (Same person)
I'll be you, you'll be me (I'll be me, you'll be you)
We all are one (We all), same universal world
I'll be you, you'll be me

Look at the children, they're having fun
With no regards to why
They all look different but deep inside
Their feelings of love they don't hide, they don't hide
They don't hide, they don't hide

We all are one, we are the same person
I'll be you, you'll be me (Oh, yeah)
We all are one, same universal world
I'll be you, you'll be me

What I really like about this Jimmy Cliff song in terms of cultural equity and the arguments being put forth is that we are not talking about only certain forms of equity, or equity of a particular structure or function. That is, I am not arguing for indigenous peoples’ cultures to be frozen in time, locked in some romantic fiction that never existed. No, rather as Jimmy Cliff sings, I’m simply arguing that indigenous peoples and their culture (whatever that may be at any given time and place) deserves an equal place in what is considered valuable and important to humankind.

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