When Charles Darwin, the master conceptual craftsperson, conjures up images of ‘civilised’ and ‘savage’ peoples he is involved in an exercise of his creative imagination. He is not talking about real people.
If we read “The origin of species” we will see he does the same in relation to non-human forms of life as well.
His notions of ‘civilised’ are as erroneous as his notions of ‘savage’. Those of us not blinkered by the limits of his time can easily refute and reject such distinctions – in part, due to the work which followed on from Darwin.
Darwin is not alone in this practice of crafting false images of life. False consciousness may well be world wide. There may be no alternative.
There is a compelling case to be made that consciousness is always “false”.
More importantly is the degree to which forms of representation allow for good energy flows – fit in with other cycles of energy and enable certain Ways of Being.
But the false depiction of indigenous peoples is also something which lies at the core of an imperial process.
Edward Said noted that imperialism involves a system of attitudes. This system requires a stress on imaginary ‘vertical’ dimensions – with Western ‘civilised’ people (High) being superior to First Peoples (Low).
Darwin was just one of many who has this ‘false’ consciousness.
What is more worrying though is when he does the same – make use of his creative imagination – in relation to ‘animals’.
The creatures he invokes in the name of the workings of natural selection in “The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection” are figments of his imagination, crafted to satisfied specifications which come from the working of an unconscious-in-culture.
Darwin is a great myth-maker – making full use of a transcend creative imagination in an attempt to grasp the fullness of life.
But his representations of forms of life, whether human or non-human, belong in the same realm as those of all myth making process.
Despite the role they have played for 150 years, they enjoy no preordained privileged position.
Myths are mental products which must be embraced by others for them to have power.
We have now had 150 years of the myth of the origin of species by natural selection.
With this in mind, we must next turn to the arrival of Charles Darwin, as a young man, in this place we know as Australia.
Here, as in South America and elsewhere, he ‘encountered’ ‘savages’ first hand – or so it would appear.