Repetition, Patterning and Breaking the Code

A repetitious pattern may be repeated to the point of being boring or tiring. Yet, obviously, not every pattern of repetition is tedious. When notes and chords are repeated in an artful manner, based on the rules of musical composition, we may end up with a melody or song that resonates with our emotions and takes us to new “heights.”

I mention repetition because of the extent to which my articles in recent years have been repetitiously focused on the idea of domination. I’ve used repetition in an effort to draw attention to a particular pattern. That being said, allow me to provide a few more examples I’ve come across which document the system of domination our nations and peoples are up against.

In the Foreword to Walter Echohawk’s book In the Light of Justice (2013), for instance, James Anaya writes of “the roots” of problems faced by “indigenous peoples.” These “roots,” he says, are “derived from similar patterns ofdomination...” (p. VIII) (emphasis added). Karen Engle, in her book The Elusive Promise of Indigenous Development, quotes Rodolfo Stavenhagen’s mention of “indigenous opposition to domination…” (p.13 )(emphasis added) A Spanish language book published in 1910 by Manuel Moreno y Sanz provides yet another example. It is entitled Origenes de la Dominación Española en América (Origins of Spanish Domination in America).

My many columns and articles about domination have been part of my effort to get people to notice and thereby “break” a seemingly hidden pattern or code. The fourth chapter of Alvin Toffler’s book The Third Wave (1980) is entitled “Breaking the Code,” and he writes: “Every civilization has a hidden code—a set of rules or principles that run through all its activities like a repeated design.” When accurately re-expressed, Toffler’s statement reads: “Every system of domination has a hidden code—a set of rules or principles of domination that run through all its activities like a repeated design.” (The 1823 Johnson v. M’Intosh ruling by the way, has a hidden code—a set of rules or principles of domination that run through its wording like a repeated design).

A key definition of the word “civilization” which I’ve mentioned many times in my columns matches Toffler’s insight: “civilization”: “the forcing of a cultural pattern on a population to whom it is foreign.” (emphasis added) Civilization is sometimes defined as “the process of being civilized.” For our original nations and peoples that process of supposedly being “made civilized” has been a matter of invading Christian Europeans working to compel us to live “under” and “within” an imposed idea-system of domination, sometimes called “ascendancy.” We can apply Toffler’s notion of “breaking the code” to our own efforts to more deeply understand the overall patterning of the system of domination and the resulting destruction experienced by our nations.

Something highly significant happens when we begin to notice and concentrate on “the hidden code of domination” which operates as a repeated (repeating) design like the repetition of 0s and 1s used for computer coding. (The Latin word colere is the root of “to colonize” and “to design”). We gain clarity as we learn how to apply theme of domination to our reading and writing as part of the process of decolonizing (liberating) our lives. Once we have brought the theme of domination to the surface level of awareness, and organized it into a readily comprehensible pattern, it is then possible to propose that we treat domination as the central problem that we need to solve and get rid of for those nations and peoples in the world called “indigenous.” Then, again, in my view we ought to be treating domination as the issue that needs to be solved and gotten rid of for the sake of all beings, all ecosystems, and waterways on the planet.

Domination is one nation or people forcing some other nation(s) or people(s) to live under an arbitrary form of control. Domination may also be defined as one person group, nation, or people being forced to live under the control of some other person, group, nation, or people. For us, what we are calling domination is the consequence of our nations and peoples having been (and still being) made to exist subject to a foreign cultural pattern in the name of “civilization” and “the state.”

Most people fail to notice that domination is both the basis and the context for the political system typically called “the state.” A state is premised on some nation, people, or elite group claiming a right of domination over entire ecosystems, and over nations or peoples called “indigenous.” Regarding the nature of “the state,” sociologist Max Weber said the following in his classic essay “Politics As A Vocation” (1917): “Like the political institutions preceding it, the state is a relation of men dominating men, a relation supported by means of legitimate (i.e., considered legitimate) violence. If the state is to exist, the dominated must obey the [dominating] authority claimed by the powers that be.”

To become hyper-conscious of the pattern of domination is to see that pattern as ubiquitous in the dominating society in relation to peoples called “indigenous.” The word “civilization” immediately translates to “domination” in the context of indigenous peoples, and what is so commonly expressed as “The Conquest” by Western thinkers is simply another way of referring to the overall pattern of what is accurately called “The Domination.” Once we have recognized this, we are then able to accurately name the pattern of domination found in the titles of important books. Kirkpatrick Sale’s book The Conquest of Paradise (1990), for example, becomes The Domination of Paradise. Tzvetan Todorov’s The Conquest of America (1982) becomes The Domination of America. Lindsay Roberton’s book Conquest By Law (2005) becomes Domination By Law.

Our manner of interpreting what we read changes once we understand that “conquest” means domination. A sentence from Linda Parker’s Native American Estate (1987), provides a prime example: “Later the doctrine [of the Crusades] evolved to justify world conquest,” is accurately re-expressed: “Later the doctrine [of the Crusades] evolved to justify world domination.” (p. 2).

Another sentence of Parker’s reads: “By divine law the Christian imperial nations were superior and had the right to dominion and rule over non-Christian inhabitants and their territories.” This is accurately re-expressed as follows in terms of the domination code: “By divine law the Christian imperial nations were superior and had the right of dominate and rule over non-Christian inhabitants and their territories.” Phrases and words in that just that one sentence which contain the theme of domination include “Christian imperial nations,” “superior,” “dominion” and “rule over.”

Historical accounts of the domination of the original nations and peoples of our part of the planet, by the monarchies of Western Christendom, use a wide variety of euphemistic phrases and words to repeat the same theme of domination over and over again. Examples include: “just war,” “imperial nations,” “forced conversion” “invade,” “capture, “vanquish” “wars of conquest,” “a natural right to conquer Indians, use their labor, and exploit their lands,” “prevailed,” “superiority of Christian nations over uncivilized non-Christian nations,” “Aristotle’s theory of slavery,” and so forth.

Federal Indian law and policy is a language and idea system predicated on the U.S.’s domination of our nations and peoples. Yet we have been conditioned to habitually use variety of euphemisms (positive sounding words for negative things) that direct our attention away from the phenomenon of domination and resulting dehumanization. It’s far past time to learn how to break the code and read the underlying idea-system of domination that has been used against our nations for more than two centuries by the United States and other countries. If Professor Anaya is correct and “the roots” of the problems faced by “indigenous peoples” are “derived from similar patterns of domination,” then let’s name and address those patterns of domination.

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008). He is co-producer of the soon-to-be-released documentary movie, The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code, directed by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota), with narration by Buffy Saint-Marie (Cree).