A ‘Savage’ Offense (All This From a Picture?)

Taken from Naked Pastor’s ‘cartoon: rage against the machine‘ blogpost…go take a gander.

I noticed some of the cowards slinking around–what are they afraid of. I doubt if there are any weapons inside. Though, if I got wind that the savages were coming for my folks, my .357 mag. may suddenly appear.” (Fishon)

Time to explain this in more depth so as to not confuse anyone – why I said what I said to fishon – which is a freedom of expression issue – but also a ‘barrier over-stepping’ issue.

So you won’t allow me my angle, and my angle is rude? Or is it that there are only 2 angle to view it?” (Fishon)

Have your angle – there are many ways to view this piece – as I pointed out with a comment about MrsQ’s views (which were a few). However, calling your use of a few words rude was right on the money – and I will explain that in more depth.

“I would think that would be only if you were in the crowd that was attacking. Of course, if I was in the building, I would consider you quite rude” (Fishon)

The painting was not the problem fishon – your use of certain terms was.

“but I use the word ’savages’ and you become a critic” (Fishon)

Yes. For me, it’s a matter of some words never being used again in the ‘us and them’ context. Now you may have just meant some generic use of the term ’savages’ – of those attacking the building (granted). What you may not know is First Nations communities way back when were actually called this term in history books and legislature as derogatory terms to demean their humanity. It would be similar to calling someone a ‘nigger’ in these days – a word still with some original meaning – but we all prefer to drop the term out of respect for a race’s humanity and equality.

Problem being – before I even read your comment I could see someone going to the term ’savages’ or something similar – granted I figured it would be someone from my culture calling it out and explaining the problem with this painting when viewed only literally. Then I read your comments – also coming from a more literal reading of the painting and it basically disturebed me…there was a scene replete with the word ’savage’ tagged upon it.

“(a) savages—–Perfectly good word” (Fishon)

Actually, I don’t find it a useful word at all – it’s been used in such derogatory terms against my own people group and many other indigenous cultures it’s better left out of human communication.

“By the way, if you are against violence, whey not take the artist to task for drawing a cartoon full of intended violence? I threaten to ‘PROTECT’ my congregation and you accuse me of ‘advocating’ violence. He is the one depicting violence, not me.” (Fishon)

I did address David about the possible scenario’s a First Nations person could pull from that piece – he has the right the make it and print it – but I have forewarned him about the sensibilities this would have in First Nations communities – this can be read in such a way as to insult a culture. He wrote back and let me know his side of the story.

Your advocation of violence was more literal in scope than the actual picture – with the use of words like mag .357 (an actual weapon in use today). Then it was coupled with an old idea from centuries past (savages) – I read that and I can’t help but have questions about the wording being used. I would suggest you read some of the history of the First Nations peoples in America and Canada and the terms – and tactics – used against them – and you will find sentences just like the one you wrote about the ‘defense of that church’ in the picture – with the Indians being called ’savages’. It’s a sensitivity thing I think.

“You talk a big talk, my friend, but you don’t walk the walk” (Fishon)

That’s right – blame me for the words you used…then call me close minded to boot. The problem is I have studied this issue intensely and I am from a First Nations background – my conclusion is that not all freedom of expression is quite freeing.

Because I have problem with your wording I am close minded – I never said I was open to everything – but that I am open minded. I am so open minded I am going to wait to hear your response on this one and give you the benefit of the doubt – that you do not think this way in general but it was a comment made without the knowledge of the historical background my generations had to face in the arguement with colonialism.

“I do believe I made it pretty apparent as to who the “savages” might be” (Fishon)

I re-read it again and again to make sure I wasn’t missing a thing – the savages were those attacking the church apparently – and I think you are pretty culturally non-bias in the rhetoric. I just don’t think you know how that term sounds in ‘my ears’ as someone dealing with the past haunts of colonialism and its wasting on my community – and the total depravity of the term ’savage’ and how it was used to imprison 100,000’s children in schools without consent or choice on the issue. Which made these kids into ‘less than humans’ and they were treated that way – and my parents were part of that generation.

Multitude’s of scars still exist in First Nations communities because that term was used against us – as an excuse for the treatment of a cultural group from the dominant group to do whatever they pleased. I think I have been given the right to question when the term ’savage’ appears – namely in the context of this picture. Now if that’s close minded – I am alright with that – I’d rather address issues of ignorance than ignore them and hope they go away.

But if I am wrong – I would ask anyone here – do you still use the word ‘nigger’ or is that just not the word of choice to demean another group anymore? If we can drop that from the vocabulary then we can just as easily drop ’savage’.

“You are just as judgemental as I am. Don’t you just hate that!” (Fishon)

I never said I wasn’t judgemental – I admitted all of us are – including myself. That is why each of us can look at that painting and make some creative assumption about it – we use our skills of judging it.

However, in this case I think I am using my judgment of the wording used by you in a very ‘just way’. I have addressed the problem with the word, explained it, and now am asking you to understand it…beyond that there is little more I can do. But that’s ‘judging in love’…asking you to understand that I know a whole group of people that will be offended by the term ’savage’ and asking you to check your sensibilities on the issue. If you don’t like what I am saying then ‘explain why’ – as any good court would allow on any subject presented before it. But if the arguement makes sense – then all I am asking is you ‘drop the use of the term savage’.

Am I wrong – no. I am not doing this for me per se – that comment offended me only a little bit – but I am doing it for my community – who if they could read that comment in the context of that pic might have more problems than I. I am trying to voice their opinion so this never has to happen to their faces and people know better than to use that term around a First Nation person/community. 

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16 thoughts on “A ‘Savage’ Offense (All This From a Picture?)

  1. hey jason. good post. i’m sorry that my cartoon went down the road it did. i feel like it got hijacked by reactionaries. i hope you trust me that it wasn’t intended as a commentary on my opinion of First Nations people, but as a pictorial interpretation of critiquing the old wine skin.

  2. NP I have no doubts about your intentions with the picture – it actually did not offend me at all. I only mentioned how the pic could be seen as derogatory – and i kind of got what you were aiming for in the pic anyways. None of that actually bothered me.

    I was only bothered when what I seen as the actual way that picture could be used was actually used – and the term ‘savage’ came out to depict certain figures in the picture. Then I knew I had to say something about sensibilities concerning that term and obvious cultural sensitivities that could be drawn from the term.

    The actual picture – I gave my 2 cents on it – and i heard many other opinions on it and was not offended in the least – it’s just a picture after all. But when that picture meets historical terminology that was not friendly to my own culture – then I felt the need to speak up and point out the problems with the term. The pic is not the problem – but exposed the ideas about what the problem really was…stereotypes.

    It’s actually quite odd that it did go down the path it did – I just had this feeling I was going to be having this sensitivity discussion about it. And I am hoping the people making the comments concerning the term ‘savage’ can admit to the idea the term is not a useful one…if not…then the wheel continue’s to spin I guess.

  3. Jason

    Are you Native Canadian, and if so have you ever wondered if the title “First Nation” could potentially be a divisive term? Also if you ever get a chance, look up something on “Kennewick Man”. You may find that its not so clear cut who was here first.

    I think the better term we could use for ourselves is HUMAN. Neither first nor second.

  4. Having looked at the cartoon and having read the comments that proceeded from the cartoon (a few times), it seemed that the nakedpastor needed to provide some commentary or an explanation as to the actual point he was trying to make with the cartoon.

    When I first looked at it, I have to admit, I was offended.

  5. Oh by the way my first take on the Cartoon was that it was a bunch of disgruntled Christians on the attack of the Traditional Church.

    John

  6. “Are you Native Canadian, and if so have you ever wondered if the title “First Nation” could potentially be a divisive term? Also if you ever get a chance, look up something on “Kennewick Man”. You may find that its not so clear cut who was here first.” (John)

    I think the origins are interesting – however – Aboriginal people have always claimed to be from this land – and that’s their current position. I am not sure that is meant to be divisive but just a fact about the differences of cultural perspectives. What I am addressing is these exact sensitivities – not so much for myself per se (but I am an Indian/Native/First Nations person) – but for respect of my own community.

    Fact of the matter is, Aboriginal people have never seen anything in their unique identities and culture as divisive to anyone else – just like how someone being Irish is not divisive to me (nor does it make me think any different of the person). Having a unique cultural perspective is not a divisive thing in my opinion – I find it something God would be glad to celebrate (the maker of the cultures).

    What I pointed out from some comments about the cartoon is a matter of cultural sensitivity – which we all should be practicing anyways. That was my main issue with the comment regarding ‘savage’ – the term is dead term and should not be used of any person or people group. That’s the heart of my comments.

    First Nation, as a term, is about Indian people being here first. Now that is a disputable claim – but it’s irrelevant anyways – when actual British and French came here who do you think they found living on this land as ‘their home land’? So in that sense First Nation is perfectly accurate and it’s a term from an Aboriginal perspective – unlike ‘Indian’ – which was the term used to describe the people of Indigenous background from the America’s – a term that not a sinle Aboriginal people group ever used to describe themselves.

    Actually the term First Nations encompasses like a hundred people groups – it’s still a blanket term. In all actuality I am Saulteaux and Cree – with some Metis blood in the lineage. But there are a lot of First Nations communities – Cree (5 different groups in this term alone), Blackfoot, Sioux, Ojibway, Mohawk, Onedega, Dene, Haida, etc. In this is just from West to East Coast Canada to name a few.

    “I think the better term we could use for ourselves is HUMAN. Neither first nor second.” (John)

    Well we obviously are part of the whole human family – true – but having a culture and identifying with it doesn’t have to mean it’s a divisive issue (unless someone makes it one).

    The problem here is one of assimilation – and in Indian country – that’s a very bad word. I think you have to comprehend the history of assimilation in this country to get the whole gist of the anger with ‘being a melting pot Canadian as an Indian’. This was forced and brutal assimilation – where one tribe was vanquished off this planet (Beothuk- from the East Coast) to residential schools of mass torture and abuse of a whole culture – so as to wipe out the culture (but not the human behind the culture).

    Most of the process resulted in the incredible dire statistics we now see in Aboriginal communities concerning crime, violence, abuse, prison sentences, lowest life rate, highest suicide rates, etc. So, for someone to tell me ‘human is the best term’ – that’s fine and dandy – I don’t disagree we are human and community in that sense – but to overlook the rest of the issues that come from the historical atrocities is tantamount to a ‘slap in my mother and father’s face’ (both victims of residential schools). There are real issues in Canada with Aboriginal rights and justice that have not been dealt with and my faith and culture/community would be severly let down if I just threw the hands up and was like ‘oh well, that’s the past’.

    I know I sound a tad harsh (at least I think I do) – but not for an unjust reason – for the right reasons – equality of all people through and through – including the Aboriginal faction of this country. The key is ‘we are all equals (humans)’ – I appreciate your point – but you need to stand in my community’s shoes for a while before either of us can count out the issue regarding the importance of being an Aboriginal person and what that means in Canada. It’s very important – so important – I call myself a First Nations Christian – my culture and my faith are tied.

    I would compare it to being Jewish and having a Judaic faith – like Yael. You can’t really expect a person of Jewish faith to split the two – culture and faith – that’s their complete identity your messing with if you do. Like how their faith is closely tied to their culture – so with the First Nations person…who actually see everything you do as ‘spiritual’.

    As for the cartoon, I know NP’s heart – he’s a great man with a great compassion for community and all people – I do not think would snub a nation of people (and he’s commented to this effect also). But like you John, I saw the same things “it was a bunch of disgruntled Christians on the attack of the Traditional Church.:.

  7. Jason

    Do you have an email address. I would love to talk some more about this stuff directly if you wouldnt mind.

    John

  8. John I will send you an e-mail so you have my e-mail address – I don’t mind speaking about this stuff on a more personal level – makes sense.

  9. Jason … I, for one, am pleased that you are vocal about the “first people” history you have. I also get really, really pissed when people (especially Christians) want to gloss over the horrific mistakes we have made in the past, especially in the name of Jesus. True, we may not have “done” anything. But it is a part of who we are, no different than “original sin,” right? I believe it’s time Christians get their proverbial head out of their “you know what,” admit they’ve drawn lines instead of love, and welcome various opinions into their relationships. Thanks for your voice!

  10. Thanks LGF – those were nice words and I appreciate them. I just had to clarify that sometimes when we say things – well we say things we might not mean – and someone else might take serious offense at the comment. I do take offense when the topic does go in the direction of someone non-Aboriginal telling an Aboriginal person how to think Aboriginally…and in this case it was merely about cultural sensitivity and nothing more. But that’s part of the battle these days.

  11. I do take offense when the topic does go in the direction of someone non-Aboriginal telling an Aboriginal person how to think Aboriginally…and in this case it was merely about cultural sensitivity and nothing more. But that’s part of the battle these days.

    That’s why you and I get along so well, Jason. We have to deal with the same things just in different settings.

    No offense to NP, but I thought the cartoon was just plain stupid. Church people are always crying that they’re under attack. I read the net, I read the news. Seems to me the problem is rot from within and a lack of any real repair, not attacks from without, the same problem as we have in Judaism, the same problem that is seen in Islam. Most of the rest of us could care less what’s going on with churches and just wish to not be bothered by the pew fillers. We’re not the ‘savages’ with our bows and arrows. A better depiction would have been church people running out the door of the church with their weapons firing wildly in their scatter-shot evangelism attempts even as the church collapses in a heap behind them. JMO

    ” . . . religious thinkers attract disciples and produce groups of sympathizers. When these groups get strong enough to ‘organize’ themselves, they become ecclesiastical institutions with corporate ambitions of their own. The spirit of politics and the lust of dogmatic rule are then apt to enter and to contaminate the originally innocent thing. . . when a religion has become an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness is over: the spring is dry; the faithful live at second hand exclusively and stone the prophets in their turn. The new church, in spite of whatever human goodness it may foster, can be henceforth counted on as a staunch ally in every attempt to stifle the spontaneous religious spirit, and to stop all later bubblings of the fountain from which in purer days it drew its own supply of inspiration.” (William James, Varieties of Religious Experience)

  12. When I first saw the picture and only read the post, I made no connection to anything like that, in terms of Aboriginal, or any sort of “savage” race that was re-educated for its own good. It didn’t even cross my mind.

    It wasn’t until I saw the word “savage” used in the comments that I mentally winced, because savage carries huge negative connotations (maybe I didn’t make the link picture-wise because they were stick figures? If it were in a movie fashion, with 3-D people “dressing” and “behaving” like savages, then it would be different).

    But there’s just too much background to the word. The very word itself was used an excuse for the horrible treatment done to Native AMericans, and I don’t think that was understood. It was why they were killed, it was why their land was stolen, it was why their children were taken from them, why treaties were constantly broken, and I could just keep going.

  13. Thanks Yael and OSS for the comments – good food for thought!

    On a side note – today was a damn good day in the Aboriginal community in Regina – one of the best I have ever seen actually. There was the Smudge Walk in North Central (1000 attended – my wife and family attended), the Aboriginal leadership Seminar (200 attended – with 6 speakers – I volunteered there), the Awasis kids pow-wow @ Mosaic Field, FSIN Leg assembly in Saskatoon, and Mosiac Aboriginal Pavillion open tnight (for 3 nights) – it was just one of those good days for my community.

    I really felt we are coming together as a larger community and dealing with past stereotypes about our culture (and us in general) – and doing it in such a united positive way. I really am all smiles today…cartoon brought out the fire in me…but today was the actual kindling for what really matters – a united people(s) doing something positive for the community (5 events). I think this is the reason why I am so quick to be passionate about the Aboriginal community – to see days like these!

    I had a chance to talk with an elder today about it all – and we were all smiles about the good things happening around us – despite all the problems we still need to see dealt with and re-focused. I really got a great sense od that community today – and it made my month (which oddly enough is something the group I am a part of ‘RAPA’ is promoting as Aboriginal History Month).

  14. i really enjoyed the cartoon… i do understand your rejection of the word “savages.” in mimetic theory, that word is used to dehumanize and supercede the original spiritual belief with a colonial one. that’s what i was reading in the picture. i really love it as that is what should have happened. in some respects it’s happening now from the inside out.. i feel proud to be part of a denomination that takes “raging against the machine” seriously and builds in a part where churches can talk about issues and polity and doctrines. if only the rest of the body of Christ were so open. that’s what i saw, but i really enjoyed your conversation with fishon. i just wish i could keep my head as well as you do and refrain from name calling 😉

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