woensdag 22 september 2010

The Anarchic Indian

In 1952/53 the American evangelist Elisabeth Elliot, working with the SIL, goes to Ecuador to translate the bible in the language of the Colorado Indians. The first half of this book deals with the inconveniences of jungle life, the second part deals with the inconveniences of a missionaries life in the jungle. The first fifty pages deal with housemaking. The last 70 pages reveals a shocking inability to relate to other realities than that of a middle-class American housewife doped on God. She just can't understand with an arrogance and blindness that is revolting. However, I find the opening paragraph of the following section a perfect reason to study Amazonian Indian culture and philosophy: 
It became clear that nobody really intended to work for me. The truth was that Colorados never work for anybody. Some of them in fact had white men working for them. They were wealthy because of the export of bananas and anchiote, the latter for the colouring of margarine. Money meant very little. They had lived near white man for centuries and they had plenty of opportunities to assess the white's man way of life. A good hard look was enough. They did not like it. They chose to keep their own way, spending money only for a few things like salt, kerosene, Vaseline, cotton thread, and gin. They had not the slightest urge to dress like white men, or build houses like theirs, or submit themselves to their economic slavery, and nothing would persuade them otherwise.

I was embarrassed and offended by this higher criticism. Nothing had prepared me for it. I was here to help and these people would not be helped. I had no doubt that God was on my side, and this was a secret satisfaction. Someday God and I would show these proud, independent Indians that we had plans for them, plans they would not ultimately succeed in thwarting. One way or another (God would show me the way) I would get hold of the language, make it my own, harness it into an alphabet, and make of the Indians readers and writers. This would surely happen. But getting them to acknowledge that they were living in 'bondage, sorrow, and night' was going to be a lengthy process. They were not interested, not in the least, in our definition of liberation. Besides, time was always on their side. White men came and went with their plans an projects. They were a nuisance while they were around, but the Indians knew how to get out of their way and live their hidden lives.

I did what any Christian in trouble would do: I prayed.

1 opmerking:

  1. incredible quote, incredible insight. today, colonists are more discreet, better camouflaged. but it's still the same thing as eliott, the same allopoetic intransigence.