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Re: What's the Point(less)?

Poster: Dick Eney <dickeney@access.digex.net>

On Wed, 17 Jul 1996 MarsaliFox@aol.com wrote:
> In a message dated 96-07-17 10:19:56 EDT, you write:
> <<  For those of you unfamiliar with the term Potlatch, it is a
>  practice developed by the Kwakutel (sp? Northwest Coast) Indians.  They
>  would get together and build a large fire and you gained prestige by
>  being the one to burn up / destroy the most valuable goods.  There's a
>  lot more to it than this, but I believe you get the idea. >>
> My understanding of a potlatch is that wealth is redistributed, not
> destroyed.  The persons goods were given away, with particular attention to
> the needs of the elderly and poor.  Persons spent years collecting sufficient
> items for a give-away and entire families contributed so that the host would
> have enough items to gain prestige.

According to Ruth Benedict's account in "Patterns of Culture", both these
description are sorta right.  Lavish presents were given to people of high
social standing, because it was they whom the potlatch was intended to
impress, but _they_ passed them on to the needy so it wouldn't seem that
_they_ had any need of these things -- they themselves were so opulently
rich, don't y'know.  However, the potlatch also involved conspicuous
extravagance, like feeding the fires with cooking oil...to show that the
potlatch-giver was so opulently rich, don't y'know.  (Well, you'd know
after this: that was the whole point of a potlatch, to humiliate a social
equal by displaying greater riches, both by giving them away and by just 
destroying them.) 

|---------Master Vuong Manh, C.P., Storvik, Atlantia---------|
|Now, let's stop and think: how would Bugs Bunny handle this?|

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