So, What is an Emerging Culture?


Are we there yet?

If you were a fly on the wall of one of the early Baja Missions, observing the interrelationship between the Cochimi and the Spanish it is possible that the Cochimi culture could have been described as an early “Emerging Culture”. Especially in terms of today’s understanding. So consequently what are some of the key concepts used in describing an Emerging Culture?. . .

• Many people define successful development as attaining a western level of economic wealth.

• Most emerging cultures are not compatible with the western economic system.

• As in present day third world cultures, it is more important to be seen to be doing anything, than to actually do something that has a desired effect.

• When you define what is “Fair”. . . in a developing culture it means that everyone ends up the same whereas, in western culture most everyone starts out the same. So if someone gets ahead by dint of hard work or whatever, then his neighbours (in an emerging culture) are much more likely to try to drag him back down to their level rather than aspire to advance to his.

• Loyalty groups of hunter-gatherer Cochimi are very small and are confined to family and local clan. There would have no loyalty between other Cochimi clans. This is opposed to in western culture where we tend to perceive at least our fellow employees, fellow city dwellers and to some extent our countrymen as important to us and to whom we share some degree of mutual responsibility and loyalty.

• If you are not 100% with me (on whatever point) then I perceive you as being 100% against me. Because very few people are 100% with anyone then the nation is fragmented into hundreds of factions that will not, or can not, work with each other and with whom conflict is more than possible. The Cochimi then were more a collection of tribes or clans than a united nation. And, I believe that the headmen and Shamans preferred it this way for it allowed them more power.

• They do not deal well with the concept of “chance”. Almost all occurrences are believed to be as the result of outside forces or spirits. Unwanted events are often blamed on the actions of rivals or enemies or their respective Shamans. Therefore because they don’t think they can control the course of events they often do not plan or take action to mitigate unwanted effects. The exception to this is of course to attempt to use sorcery, which is normally not considered effective from a modern western perspective.

• Most do not understand the concept of individual ownership. One persons store of food items are considered fair game for all in the group. If you are employed by a Mission to tend to gardens and collect and store produce then you can expect that the individual will help himself to the store of goods and use them to help feed his immediate family.

• Hunter-gatherers do not store food items and tend to consume what is available with the result that during famine or shortages they go hungry or/and move to another location where food may be in better supply. Consequently if an individual or the Mission stores produce for periods of scarcity then they will have power over those who do not store items (food, barter, money)

Prior to contact with the Spanish and in the absence of markets to distribute excess produce, it is suspected that people worked only until they had enough produce for the current day or couple of days. Consequently, during early Mission times they would often leave the Mission area and return to their tribes once there was a perceived abstract impression of having “enough”
The early Missions understood this and often imported more reliable Yaqui labour from the mainland to establish a labour force that was there to help the Padres for the duration.

There may also be some inability to understand, vocalize and share, the abstract concepts of time and spacial relativity and also the concepts of enough, less and more.

The White Man’s Burden. – Rudyard Kipling
Was written with the Indian (eastern) perspective in mind but applies to the Spanish Mission field in Baja California in the early 1700’s and equally, probably, to any emerging culture.

TAKE up the White Man’s burden –
Send forth the best ye breed –
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild –
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
In patience to abide
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain,
To seek another’s profit,And work another’s gain.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
The savage wars of peace –
Fill full the mouth of famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch Sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper –
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go make them with your living,
And mark them with your dead !
Take up the White Man’s burden –
And reap his old reward,
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard –
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah slowly !) towards the light:-
“Why brought ye us from bondage,
“Our loved Egyptian night ?”
Take up the White Man’s burden –
Ye dare not stoop to less –
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloak your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent sullen peoples
Shall weigh your Gods and you.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
Have done with childish days –
The lightly proffered laurel, The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold-edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgement of your peers.

Unfortunately for the Cochimi there would be no praise from their peers, cold edged with dear bought wisdom, for the remaining Cochimi were wiped out by the Spanish by the early 1800’s. Dear bought wisdom indeed!