Progress is an irresistible force that no cultural artifact can overcome, but it’s certainly not an easily reconciled idea.
And the more the Pattern Energy wind project plays out along those lines, the easier it is to become conflicted. People have a soft spot for the history of our time on earth. Call it sentimentality; call it guilt. Yet it is but a minor blip on the societal radar that points toward economic, even ideological expansion at all costs.
That is the nature of man, and the nature of Western, Christian thought in America. The parallel between the Pattern project and the divergent cultural attitudes as they pertain to the way a society advances and progresses is fascinating.
To back up a bit, the news of the multiple appeals filed against the Pattern project with the county of Imperial earlier this week came as no surprise. With testimony by the Viejas, Manzanita and Quechan tribes over what they see as the disrespect of cultural artifacts on the wind farm’s project site, an appeal was inevitable.
Fortunately for those against the project, our legal system allows for a wrinkle in its timeline. Historically, there is just too much momentum to do anything other than delay the progress, not by Pattern’s doing, but by the laws of human expansion.
Pattern, through the nation’s push to expand its green portfolio in the face of the reliance on foreign oil, has a parallel to the Manifest Destiny ideology and the attitude of white settlers to acquire and build over the protests of native peoples.
Likewise, the tribes’ dispute over an area they have given little attention to, at least not until threatened, is right in line with hundreds of years of Native American psychology of laying back until advanced upon.
In “Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors,” historian Stephen Ambrose delves into what motivates these men, and by extension, what makes their societies tick. He traces who these men are by how their cultures live and how they measure success.
The one thing that separates the goals of white, Christian westward expansion and the role Native Americans played is the concept of aspirational thinking and blind ambition, something the settlers had and the Indians lacked.
The tribes’ reaction to Pattern and the measures they will use to fight the project will ultimately fail in direct relation to why and how the project will succeed, and how and why westward expansion succeeded.
The measure of a man to the white settlers was what he possessed and how thoroughly he advanced. Settlers made moves in society and in the culture by what they acquired, how they multiplied those acquisitions.
By contrast, the most successful and respected in Native American societies were the men who sacrificed most. They wanted for nothing, but that is because they didn’t measure success by possessions. That cultural shift didn’t start until Western thinking infected the tribes through trade.
It’s as if aspiring to something greater did not exist in Indian societies, at least not in the way it did in white societies. Indians hunted when they needed food, not because they wanted food. They looked to the past and held it as sacred, lived in the present and had little regard for the future.
White settlers advanced and progressed because of some innate, divine drive to do so. The past was important, too, but as a roadmap to future success. Protecting the present was important and moving forward, more so.
Renewable energy advancement could be seen as predetermined through this lens: We do, because we must; we acquire and think forward, because it’s how Western culture advances and it’s how the Western mind works.
The Native American plight in this fight will fail, because history says Native Americans only advance as far as they are allowed.
Conflicted, indeed. This sort of thinking feels wrong, but inevitable and insurmountable, put in motion long before us.