(Interviewed by Louis James, Editor, International Speculator)
L: Doug, I hear
that a friend of yours, Indian
activist Russell Means, has passed away. He was an unusual and
interesting character. Are you up to talking about it?
Doug: Yes. You
know, I've gotten into the habit of doing obituaries in recent years in The
Casey Report – but generally of people I don't like. I know that's
considered improper, because you're not supposed to speak ill of the dead,
L: It's Totally Incorrect.
Totally. But that's perhaps the best reason to do it. I hate to see
sepulchers whitened, especially when their contents are morally rotten. But
Russell, whom I got to know to some degree, is worthy of praise. We hung out
together a couple of weekends in past years.
L: I caught
that Heart of Darkness reference. We really should talk about books
again, with a broader context than our conversation on speculative fiction. We've had requests.
Doug: I'd like
that – maybe next week. Anyway, I have a lot of respect for Russell. So
I think I can say what I really think and not violate accepted mores.
Perhaps we should start with who he was and how you came to know him?
Russell rose to fame because he was involved in what's sometimes called the Second Battle of Wounded Knee, back in 1973. About 200
Oglala Lakota occupied the town of Wounded Knee for over two months, and were
surrounded by a small army of federal marshals and FBI agents, buttressed by a
bunch of armored personnel carriers. There was a lot of shooting, resulting
in several deaths. If it had happened today, it might have wound up like
Waco. Means and others were put on trial, but the charges were dropped on
based on prosecutorial misconduct. But Russell was very involved, and you can
bet that he was on the line, pulling the trigger. He was that kind of guy. A
couple of years later two FBI agents were killed
there, and Leonard Peltier – a friend of
Russell's – was found guilty. That became a cause
célèbre as well, since there's some real question of
whether he did it. He's still in jail.
I'm on the side of the Indians. Sure, they may have
broken some laws, but most laws today are artificial, unnecessary, and
corrupt constructs. They're very unlikely to be changed from within the
system. And, apart from that, the Indians are a special case in many ways.
Russell was an outspoken sort of guy and a good
self-promoter. So, subsequent to Wounded Knee II, he got into the movie
business. As an actor he may be best known for playing Chingachgook
in The Last
of the Mohicans. He also had a role in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers
and a voice appearance in Disney's Pocahontas.
He was actually a good actor, I thought. Maybe that's because he basically
played himself: a grizzled old Indian. He was a character actor: someone with a great persona that
people just like to watch. There's nothing wrong with that – John Wayne
was famous for doing the same thing, as was Steve McQueen.
L: Really? I
had no idea… I knew of him as a libertarian activist – somehow,
it never came up that he was in the movies.
Doug: He was an
activist, that's for sure. That's what brought him to the Eris Society meetings I hosted for 30 years, where I met
him. Russell was always interesting company, but not always easy to get along
with. He had what you might call an evenly balanced personality – a
chip on both his shoulders. He seemed to be constantly looking for a
confrontation, if not an actual fight. And he demanded to be treated with
respect. I had no problem with that, because I found him worthy of respect.
L: A shining
Doug: He had
strong points. He was definitely a guy you'd like at your side when the time
came to fix bayonets. But like all of us, he had faults. The thing about
Russell is that he was what I'd call a professional Indian. And I mean that
with all due respect. I just think that he made too big a deal out of being
part of his people. We're all individuals, and we should be judged on our own
achievements and faults, not those of whatever groups we belong to. The same
goes for professional Irishmen, professional Jews, professional blacks, or
what have you. Your ethnicity and racial background is definitely part of who
you are, but it shouldn't take over your personality. Making an accident of
birth the centerpiece of your life makes no sense to me; I view it as a
psychological failing. But it's a common enough error, and one that's
encouraged by today's politically correct society. Russell certainly wasn't
the only one to make it, nor the worst.
L: It seems to
have worked for him. If only for the movie roles, he must have made a lot of
money almost literally by being a professional Indian.
enough. There is, however, a different sort of professional Indian that
Russell despised. One of his favorite phrases for such people was: "hang
around the fort Indians." [Chuckles] I thought that was a great
– what does that mean?
Indians and Indians turned white – hanging around the fort, making
supplications to their conquerors, seeking to game the system and gain
advantage from the treaties and deals with the US, rather than living on
their own terms. Like so many things in the political world, it's perverse.
The US government basically stole most of the Indians' lands and destroyed
their way of life. It broke absolutely every treaty it made with them. Then
it turned them into welfare junkies as compensation. Some compensation…
L: It has
seemed to me that many Indians, or First Nations peoples, as they call them
in Canada, are caught on the horns of a real dilemma. On one hand, they want
to adhere to their traditional ways. Fair enough. But on the other, their
traditional ways are a Stone-Age culture with no modern medicine and
absolutely no way to fight a modern aggressor. To live like that, they would
have to trust in the benevolence of the more powerful cultures around them
– that's clearly no good. But they can't attain technological,
economic, and perhaps even military parity with the Western culture that
surrounds them while hunting and fishing.
they've had a tough break. They can't just exist as a living anthropological
exhibit. It seems to me the best solution would have been for the tribes to
maintain their own independent countries. At that point, individuals could
take what they wanted from the Europeans' culture or become totally part of
it. But throughout history, cultures with superior technologies or numbers
have always crushed their competitors. It's bad karma – with all that implies – but that
seems to be how people are wired.
There is, however, mounting evidence that there were
actually many more Indians when the Europeans arrived in the Americas than
was previously believed. I remember learning in history classes that North
America had a native population of maybe a couple million, max. Their
hunter-gatherer civilization was not thought to be able to feed more than
that. New research is coming out that suggests that there were easily ten
times as many natives, maybe even more. The Cahokia Mounds in
Illinois, for example, is now thought to have been the site of a city larger
than London in 1250 AD.
But their populations were wiped out and their
civilizations destroyed – not with bullets, but with smallpox and other
Old World diseases. The same thing allowed Cortez to subdue a much larger
Aztec population in Mexico, and Pizarro the Incas in South America. The
Indians had no immunological defense against such diseases at all, and 95
percent of the population died. There's very interesting archeological work
proceeding on this front, and I suspect we'll know much more in just a few
L: I've heard
they're finding Mayan cities no one knew about with satellite imaging now,
looking for circles of altered vegetation that still surround old Mayan
population centers even now, centuries later. This is
interesting… But back to Russell Means. I never met him, and I wish I
had. I always wanted to ask him what it was about him, what experiences he
might have had, that enabled him to grasp the basics of libertarian thinking,
and why so few other native leaders have done the same. Do you know?
Doug: Well, I'd say
that Russell was a gut libertarian. He wasn't good at articulating economic
theory, but he was by nature a strong individualist. Actually, I'd say he was
pretty conflicted. On one hand he was a staunch individualist, but on the
other, he would never admit to the fact that he was allowing himself to be
defined by his ethnic group. Maybe this is more evidence in favor of a
premise I've long suspected is true: libertarianism is actually a genetic
certainly feels that way. Frequently.
Doug: It does,
doesn't it? Even when people recognize and intellectually understand the
philosophy of personal freedom and responsibility, most just can't integrate
it into themselves emotionally. And others simply
refuse to grasp it intellectually. I'm afraid libertarianism is fated to
appeal to only a small minority.
Fritz used to administer Myers-Briggs tests to people at Advocates for
Self-Government meetings. I remember him saying that 90% of the time,
they'd come up INTJ. And I don't think people are distributed evenly among
the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types – INTJs are rare, so 90% is quite
Doug: David Galland is a fan of Myers-Briggs tests. He had me take it
once, but I don't remember what it said I was… Do you know what you
L: Well, I
object to the idea that human beings all come in one of 16 personality types,
but as a sort of shorthand, the system is useful. I tested as an INTJ –
Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging –
though I was borderline between introverted and extroverted.
Many people think I'm extroverted, because they see me
on stage, teaching, lecturing, or on TV. I'm not afraid of such performances,
but I find them draining. I think real extroverts get a charge out of that
sort of attention. I'm usually happier alone with a good book, or with my
close friends and loved ones.
Doug: That sounds like me too – I totally agree with you, and
frequently prefer my own company. I've often thought that if I were
the last person left alive on the planet, I'd probably get along just fine.
But that's getting way off topic.
L: Yes. It's
too late now, but for years I've had a fond fantasy that Russell Means would
persuade some band or tribe somewhere to exercise the sovereign independence
they truly and legally have, and tell the US government to go get stuffed.
The US can keep its welfare checks and other "help." Instead, once
acting independently, they could set up a free-trade zone and invite
businesses to lease land for a dollar for 99 years – sort of like the
original Hong Kong setup – and levy no taxes. Businesses would gladly move
to South Dakota – or wherever – to enjoy a real tax haven without
having to leave the continental US. Even without the taxes, the businesses
would create countless jobs and benefits for the tribes –work with
dignity. If there were also fewer regulations than in the US, technological
progress and innovation could happen faster. Instead of being romanticized
welfare projects, such reservations could become shining beacons of liberty,
prosperity, and progress…
I'm sure he must have tried – a pity the idea
never caught on.
It worked for China; it should work even better for Indians, who are not
burdened with the legacies of Maoism. But I guess INTJs are just as rare
among American Indians as among Americans of European descent. Perhaps even
Worse, native culture has been all but destroyed, not
just by the wars and decimation of their population, but by the welfare
mentality foisted upon natives by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The BIA since
its founding has been the most notoriously corrupt of all government
agencies, which is saying something. It still spends billions per year, largely keeping Indians dependent
and on their reservations – hanging around the fort, as Russell said.
The BIA is one agency that should be abolished tomorrow morning, and then a
thorough criminal investigation launched for malfeasance and misfeasance
among both its current and retired employees. It's time Indians controlled
the property they own and are stopped being treated like wayward children.
But to answer your question, going back to something I
said earlier, as much as I respected Russell, his greatest failing may have
been that he did not educate himself deeply on the philosophical matters that
concerned him. He never read enough of the classics and current literature to
gain a thorough theoretical understanding to back his gut libertarianism. He
could argue from the heart, but not as effectively from the head – he
was quite capable of it, very intelligent, but he just didn't bother. This
may be why, as passionate and impressive as he was, he couldn't talk any of
the tribes into doing as you say.
L: Reminds me
of the king telling Mozart in Amadeus: "Herr Mozart, you are passionate,
but you do not persuade."
The last thing Russell got involved in some was project
in the Dakotas – I wrote about it in the International Speculator
at the time; it had to do with setting up a free country, just as you
described. I meant to get in touch with him about it, but urgent things got
in the way of important things. Anyway, he had some health problems at the
time, and I didn't think he was the sort of guy who'd want to go out with a
bunch of tubes stuck up his nose in a white man's hospital. I thought he
might look to pick a fight with the Federales and
go out in a blaze of glory. It didn't end up that way, and that may just be
the greatest tragedy of Russell's life.
Anyway, he was a stand-up guy, and I'm sorry that he's
gone… but nobody gets out of here alive.
L: Okay then.
Hm. This doesn't seem to lend itself to any investment insights, but it was
not. I will point out that Indians have done well opening up casinos on their
reservations. They ought to do much, much more. But that's a question of
political entrepreneurship as much as economic entrepreneurship.
Let's talk about books next week – perhaps we can
give our readers some ideas of more practical use.
L: A look
inside Doug Casey's library. I look forward to it. But – speaking of
Native People at this time of year – I can't help but remember my son
Orion's favorite holiday song: Stuck in
the Smoke Hole of Our Tipi. It's sung by Shoshoni Elder Oldhands.
Also and by way of nothing in particular, I'd like to
mention that I've heard we have a new Casey Phyle
starting up in Santiago de Chile. Anyone interested in joining should write
to firstname.lastname@example.org for
Doug: I'll check
out the song. Have a good week.
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