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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser


The Voyage of the Beagle

Charles DARWIN



Nearly finished Charles Darwin's account of the places he visited on his 5-year tour on HMS Beagle. Now, of course, Darwin is collecting data and experience that will later lead him to hypothesize and argue for the common decent of animals and man -- he is noticing that islands have slightly different versions of the same animal -- that birds become wary of humans but only after several generations -- and so on.

But there's also a dynamic between the civilized and savages. Darwin considers some groups, such as the Feugians, hardly better than animals. Now I'm no expert on history, but I'd guess about this time or perhaps a little before was when the amount of interface between civilized and savages peaked. Following many of the so-called savages were killed out by disease, slaughtered, or homogenized.

And even though perhaps the severity of the cultural divides have lessened though contact, the basic issue has not gone away. The interface in America between native people and the federal or state governments can be difficult, as is evident in the Dakota Access Pipeline protest. There's a divide between the educated professional class and the uneducated, which I think is based on who best models the civilized ideal.

And I wish I had some tidy way to put perspective around the issue, but I don't.