Sunday, 30 August 2015

Dances With Wolves: Nationalist Masterpiece?

There's a particularly powerful scene in Kevin Costner's epic white guilt extravaganza, called into the Indian chief's tent Dunbar (Costner) is asked by the chief ''how many more (Europeans) will come ?'' to which Dunbar replies ''like the stars''. As the African invasion of Europe is now gaining full momentum one can picture a young boy with his father looking south across the English channel or Mediterranean ''How many more will come dad?''

 Europeans are expected to live by a moral code which casts them as villains for having dispossessed a native people from their land through migration, but then when we are in the role of natives wishing to defend our land we are then cast as the villains once again by being slurred as ''racists'' and ''haters'' and ''xenophobes''. This hypocrisy was skillfully skewered by a you tube video a few years ago:

Dances with Wolves takes this theme and runs with it, but without irony or sarcasm, the message is loud and clear, a people losing their land to foreign invaders is a tragedy of epic proportions. Because the film deals with a non European people they are allowed to be openly ''racist'' and ethno-centric. The Europeans in the movie are all, to a man, depicted as greasy lechers with rotten teeth and psychotic leanings. The Indians are noble and philosophical. 
 Dunbar's motivation for going out into the wilderness to seek out the Indians is, he informs us ''to see it before it's gone''. Imagine a movie being made today about a Pakistani regretting his own people's incursion into Britain and deciding to go and live in a small Highlands village before the rest of his kind destroyed the Highland people. Dunbar's guide across the vast prairies is a fat farting slob who Dunbar describes as vile, on his return journey the slob is then shot eight times with Indian arrows and then mocked as he is scalped.
This is, obviously, a severe Hate Crime but the audience are expected to cheer. Soon afterwards we are introduced to the Indians who will become Dunbar's friends. At first they are deeply suspicious, the medicine man ''Kicking Bird'' quips '' It's true the whites are a poor race and hard to understand, but make no mistake, the whites are coming! so when I see one man without fear in our country I see bad medicine''. Some of the Indians want to simply kill Dunbar but other ''liberal'' Indians begin to accept him but only because they recognize that Dunbar is hostile toward his own people and sympathetic toward the Indians.
After whites needlessly slaughter thousands of buffalo Dunbar laments ''Who would do such a thing? a people without value or soul, with no regard for Sioux Rights'' reaching peak white guilt Dunbar explains '' There were no looks, no blame, just the confusion of a people unable to predict the future'' We can sympathize with that!.

Dunbar's love interest in Dances with Wolves is ''Stands With a Fist'' (Mary McDonnell). On first glance we are led to believe that she's just another Indian woman, but as her back story is revealed we learn she's white and that her family were slaughtered by another Indian tribe. So when she and Dunbar fall in love it doesn't involve mixing it up with the Indians, as Kicking Bird's wife explains ''It makes sense, they're both white''. That is to say, the Indians define themselves on blood and kinship, not cultural or linguistic lines. Dunbar and Stands With a Fist may speak the language and live with the Indians but they are not and can never be Indians. The Indians are not Civic Nationalists, they're Ethno-Nationalists. Of course, if the Indian chieftains wanted to destroy their own people they could merely call all of the whites Indians, or Sioux, or Pawnee or Crow, but this would be absurd, just as absurd as calling Nigerians Swedish or Irish. 
 Eventually the U.S Cavalry arrives and arrests Dunbar, they are ''searching for hostile Indians'' and Dunbar replies that ''there are no  hostiles''. This is obviously not true because Dunbar's own wife had her family murdered, as was his guide. The Cavalry accuse Dunbar of being a race traitor and a turncoat, an accusation which is quickly proven to be accurate because the ''non hostiles'' massacre the Cavalry to set Dunbar free.

Costner deploys a clever narrative trick in his movie, Dances with Wolves is set to a backdrop of changing seasons. When Dunbar sets out it is spring, when he finds happiness with the Sioux it is summer, by the time the tribe realize that they are ultimately doomed it is winter. The Sioux, in a desperate act of Red flight, move north into the mountains, but we all know it's a futile attempt to escape the inevitable. It's a deeply poignant ending. All across the Western World Europeans are facing the same problem as that faced by the Sioux in Costner's epic. Norwegians are fleeing Oslo and heading for the remote Fjords, English are fleeing the hell of the multi racial dystopia of their inner cities, the French have long since fled the ''Banlieue's''.

 If only we could adopt the fighting spirit of the  Sioux, and less self loathing as displayed by  Costner/Dunbar, after all, Winter is Coming.

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