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Among the Kwaikutul of the American Northwest, there was a process of challenge, where one chief would destroy blankets, etc, and the other chief would be challenged to destroy an equivalent amount.  To do so showed the status of the chief, to fail broke the chiefs reputation.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 11:35:14 PM EST
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Your selection of the Kwaikutl iteration of the the potlatch- a thousands-year-old, cross-cultural custom--- is the traditional one, and is pretty narrow.
My point was that we are considering the relationship of possessions and status, and that it's sure gonna change.
The more typical potlatch concept has to do with giving away of "stuff" as an act that accrues status, instead of the eternal collection of stuff, and the position of having less is often more admirable than having more.

Interesting. N'est pas?

"Potlatches were social occasions given by a host to establish or uphold his status position in society. Often they were held to mark a significant event in his family, such as the birth of a child, a daughter's first menses, or a son's marriage. Potlatches are to be distinguished from feasts in that guests are invited to a potlatch to share food and receive gifts or payment. Potlatches held by commoners were mainly local, while elites often invited guests from many tribes. Potlatches were also the venue in which ownership to economic and ceremonial privileges was asserted, displayed, and formally transferred to heirs.
The significance and nature of gifting in Northwest Coast potlatches has varied through time and across cultures. It is commonly portrayed as extremely competitive, with hosts bankrupting themselves to outdo their rivals and aggressively destroying property. While this form of gifting characterized practices of northern groups such as the Kwakiutl, such competition would have been considered inappropriate during Nuu-chah-nulth or Salish potlatches on the southern coast.'

Buncha savages with quaint customs? Or several millenium of human experience that we choose not to look at?


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 06:34:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what is it with the destruction, especially amped up with competition, that rings so familiar?

i know, watching the who smashing guitars, handcrafted with care, and desired by the screaming hordes...

i wonder if any indians slept too cold because the chief was showing off?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 06:38:22 PM EST
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