Freeman

ARTICLE

Reservation Fever

AUGUST 01, 1964 by R. J. RUSHDOONY

Among various "mistaken correlations" are the notions:

·                             that inflation causes prosperity,

·                             that toads cause warts,

·                             that labor unions raise real wages,

·                             that snake dances bring rain.

In checking on snake dances, inquiry was made of the Reverend R. J. Rushdoony, who spent many years as a missionary among the American Indians. His response included the following "extraneous information."

I have had some experience with medicine men. In many respects, they were backward, supersti­tious, and irresponsible characters who hated progress. In other re­spects, they were shrewd, calcu­lating psychologists who put our psychiatrists to shame with their diabolical knowledge of man’s na­ture and weaknesses.

An important point about the snake dance, and many similar ceremonies: We assume them to have been religious services. They were not. They were magical, pre­scientific attempts at controlling nature. The Indians had very lit­tle religion in our sense of the term, a concern with ultimate issues, and an attempt to order life and society in terms of ulti­mate truth. Rather, their concern was with health (hence the medi­cine man) and power, over nature and over men. A welfare order was thus their major interest. Some tribes, especially in the Southwest, were more or less communistic. Among those Plains Indians who were more nearly in­dividualistic, the chief had the ascendency… until defeat and servile conditions made the medi­cine man, like Sitting Bull, able to seize power from the hands of the military leaders. It is a grimly ironic fact that we today remem­ber Sitting Bull, and call him a "chief," which he was not, and forget the real leaders of the Sioux tribes.

I believe that an interesting and important point can be made by developing this facet of Indian life. Today, we find that historic Christianity is giving way to so­cial gospel teachings (welfare economics, if you can call it eco­nomics), and to mental health programs as a substitute for reli­gion. As an Indian told me in 1945, the white man today has "reservation fever." 

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August 1964

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Unfortunately, educating people about phenomena that are counterintuitive, not-so-easy to remember, and suggest our individual lack of human control (for starters) can seem like an uphill battle in the war of ideas. So we sally forth into a kind of wilderness, an economic fairyland. We are myth busters in a world where people crave myths more than reality. Why do they so readily embrace untruth? Primarily because the immediate costs of doing so are so low and the psychic benefits are so high.
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