James Giago Davies. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

James Giago Davies: Imagine what a genius could do for our reservations

Flashlight beams in the dark and the rats scatter

True genius seldom acquires power
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Columnist

Most of us would not know a genius if we had been around one our whole life, like maybe most of the Einstein family: “Wow, Albert’s a genius? We had no idea!”

You can bet many respected, alleged intellectuals met Isaac Newton and said, “He’s got some stupid theory about something called gravity, just because an apple bounced off his fool head.”

We can excuse the superiority of a genius if he is weird or eccentric, like Einstein’s frizzy hair, or Hawking talking like a robot from his wheelchair.

Loren Eiseley targeted a flashlight beam once, deep into a dark place, and living things scurried for cover. Because he was a genius, Eiseley did not take from that experience what most people would. Ray Bradbury described Eiseley as “…every writer’s writer, every human’s human…One of us, yet most uncommon…”

Twelve-year-old Eiseley reasoned that, not only was an intricately alien world a reality, but these creepy creatures thrived in it—and were any sufficiently intelligent and imaginative, would revel in it. People like Eiseley do not rule this world. If they are lucky, they will get a job they can live with, working for the people who do rule this world. However important it is to be a creative genius, and it was important enough to be the spark for all human progress, it isn’t as important as other things, like power and prestige.

Back in the 1920’s H.L. Mencken predicted that one day the White House would be occupied by a downright moron. We thought that came true with George Bush, but maybe he was just softening us up for the blow of a Trump presidency.

Why don’t smart people just get together and take everything over? Who could outsmart them? Why don’t smart people run Washington, Pierre, the reservation? Why don’t they apply all that genius into acquiring power and prestige?

Most human beings are ordinary, and manipulating the combined weight of that mediocrity, is where true power lies. What can geniuses do but convince each other of profound truths revealed by flashlight beams in the dark?

This world is mostly run by a certain class of opportunist. They are far from geniuses, but they are ambitious, clever, resourceful and by manipulating you and me and every person we know, they control everything. They know how to work together, to protect their privilege. They know how to fool you, game any system for personal gain and unfair advantage.

They stand in broad daylight, your duly elected leader, ignoring the advice of men far better than they are, their wet finger to the wind, taking credit for everything, accepting blame for nothing.

Not all of them are this way. Brandon Sazue of Crow Creek is not a genius, but he stands for principle, and fairness as best he can. Talk to him for ten minutes, and you can see he is not the same as other tribal chairmen. He has honor, but most people who meet him do not see this quality in him. Most tribal chairmen maintain power because of factors other than character or goodness. Yes, they often are a downright moron, just like the president, but you will actually keep voting for them, more than that, you will oppose the very men of compassion and principle who could change your Lakota life for the better, and have no real clue the damage you are doing.

Just like many of us mistake a genius for an idiot, we don’t recognize a good man and a principled leader when we meet one; we cannot tell him from the opportunist looking for a way to game the system. We have been conditioned to see genuine virtue as much a black mark as a blessing.

The vast majority of us are not big on reading, and generally don’t fully comprehend what we bother to read. This column will be no exception.

Imagine what a brilliant, principled reservation genius could accomplish if we could actually spot one and back his efforts. We get the reservation world we have because we keep mistaking mediocre opportunists for wise leaders. Like the young Eiseley discovered, there is an intricate alien world out there, and the Wasicu revels in it, and most of us don’t shine a flashlight beam on him to make him scurry to the dark—we just want to locate him, so we can descend into the dark, settle in, and hiss at him.


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Flashlight beams in the dark and the rats scatter
James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today