Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
I have one for the contest on your website. A middle school teacher from Dallas has a hobby site (which he would like to become "scientifically respectable") about "ritual weapons".
Ritual Weapons: A Website for Study and Appreciation
Go down to 5.
I have another, equally compelling interest in the study of ritual weapons that will share the focus of this website: providing experimental models to test whether any of the supernatural powers claimed on behalf of ritual weapons can be validated under controlled scientific conditions. I have no real expectations that any such powers will be borne out, but the exercise is extremely important nonetheless. Even now, beliefs in such powers obtainable from ritual weapons fuel the market for endangered animal products, and in the news we constantly read of ethnic conflicts where people are ritually killed to satisfy some old superstition or other. Because we have the ability — through science and technology — to hold such beliefs ACCOUNTABLE, we must do our part to ENLIGHTEN those who would otherwise let their IRRATIONAL beliefs cause harm to themselves and others.
(emphases are mine)
[Rob's note: The "Ritual Weapons" site is now defunct. The following note refers to a page that site owner Ruel Macaraeg removed, calling it "vague." Luckily, it was there long enough to earn a Stereotype of the Month nomination.]
If you go to the index, you will find "Yaomachtia and the Aztec Empire." This is a martial arts instructor, Manuel Lozano, in Texas who uses what he claims are "Aztec martial arts."
I checked around. No such thing. The instructor later admitted he had picked it up in China. Still, the site owner, Ruel Macaraeg, claims Lozano is "enormously influential" and so will be included even though Lozano admits to being a fraud. Maybe you could include two nominations, one for Macaraeg and one for Lozano.
When I questioned Macaraeg about his intent on the Skeptics Forum, he said his intent was actually to seek out "better ritual weapons for his own use" for him and his New Age friends. He also said that the New Age was "a legitimate culture deserving of respect on its onw terms" even while he and his friends appropriate native "ritual weapons" they find useful.
Further questioning turned up some other beliefs of his. According to him:
1) Christianity is a belief, but tribal beliefs are "superstitions".
2) He believes it is the "duty" of science to "enlighten" all "primitive" people and show them the error of their ways.
3) "Eskimo" is the proper term to use for native people of Alaska, since it's "the more commonly used term." Never mind that the Inuit find it offensive and that many Alaska natives aren't even Inuit.
4) People who argue against his ideas, like I did in a very long and bitter discussion, must be racist themselves.
5) Anyone nonwhite who is not trying to assimilate to white standards is "inferior and lazy."
6) Anyone nonwhite who even mentions racism is "playing the race card" and is also "inferior and lazy."
He was so upset at losing the argument to me on the Skeptics Forum, he posted an "essay" (it hardly deserves to be called that) called "Refuting Race". Obviously he's incapable of distinguishing between his own racism and "race".
Hoping he gets a nomination. If you want me to dig out the many racist statements he made, as well as some amazingly racist comments his New Age buddies also made on the Skeptics Forum about drunk and lazy Indians and so on, let me know. I'd be glad to do it.
Even worse, he's seeking out the help of the Skeptics Magazine people, in particular James Randi, to try and legitimate his New Age site pretending to be anthropology. So if they do help him, make that three nominations.
I visited the site. Some thoughts:
I searched Google to verify that the only references to the alleged Aztec martial art of "yaomachtia," in millions of Web pages, are to "Master" Lozano and his own yaomachtia.com site.
I don't know of anyone who claims ritual weapons have magical powers these days. Nor have I heard much news of ritual killings with these weapons in "ethnic conflicts." Fact is, Christians, Jews, and Muslims—not Aztecs or Kali worshippers or Bushido kamikaze pilots—have done the vast majority of killing in religion's name in recent years. These religions all stem from the source of our Judeo-Christian civilization: the Near East.
Perhaps Ruel Macaraeg is thinking of ritual items like the shirts Plains Indians thought would render them invulnerable. I've yet to hear any modern Indian reiterate that belief. Most Westerners thought Genesis, the Garden of Eden, and Noah's Ark were real until the latter part of the 19th century—the same time frame as the Plains Indians' Ghost Dance movement—so unsubstantiated beliefs are common to all cultures.
Interesting how Macaraeg talks about ritual weapons but then links them to endangered animal products and religion in general. An animal part with alleged powers isn't a ritual weapon any more than a cross or a saint's relic is. That Macaraeg is trying to link the talismans of "foreign" cultures while ignoring the talismans of Judeo-Christian culture suggests a not-so-hidden agenda.
If Macaraeg really wants to disprove religious "magic," I suggest he start with the hundreds of thousands of alleged examples of Christian magic: the sightings, the healings, the stigmata, and so forth and so on. Surely with all these instances, it should be possible to prove one actually happened or didn't happen. After Macaraeg succeeds in proving Christianity's validity, he can work his way through Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other popular religions. Anyone who's rational, as Macaraeg claims to be, will want to concentrate his efforts on the greatest sources of "magic."
But the idea of disproving a religions belief through a controlled experiment is ridiculous. You can't disprove a weapon's "power" any more than you can disprove a vision of the Virgin Mary or a medical "miracle." If Macaraeg did produce a weapon that everyone agreed had power—a dubious proposition itself—the owner undoubtedly would be prepared for any failure. He'd say Macaraeg's test hindered the weapon's power or something similar.
Does Macaraeg think that if he disproves the magical power of some knife or tomahawk, the weapon's owner will renounce everything else he believes (the power of animal parts, the power of his religion)? If so, it's one of the most farfetched chains of "reasoning" I've seen. More likely, the owner would say something like, "Oh, well. I may have been wrong about the supernatural powers of that one aspect of my religion. But the other 999 supernatural aspects of my religions are still valid." Then what?
In response to anyone who says tribal beliefs are "superstitions" but mainstream religions aren't, I've debated the point several times—for instance in "Primitive" Indian Religion. I've yet to lose the debate. If Macaraeg or his supporters want me to show them the error of their ways, I'm willing to debate it again.
Comments suggest true agenda
Carroll also offers some quotes from Macaraeg's supporters and friends. From RCC9940:
You are a disgrace to the profession, and give Native Americans ("Indians" as you call them, even though real Indians are from India) a bad name. Al, do you smell that odor in your kitchen? Al either go to a drug treatment center, or to a real institution of higher learning. I don't see Ruel doing anything offensive. He's going to test out if there's any real magical powers in those weapons as some legends describe. If some of us believe that ritual weapons have magical powers and are spending time and money on them when they really don't, then they are being "harmed" because they're wasting their time & money on something that isn't true. That's the kind of thing "Indians" do to rationalize smoking peyote all day long, like I suspect somebody here does. "Heal me with your magic shield, oh great shaman!" What a joke. You know, drunks often see double. Why don't you use your magic medicine shield to heal your own drunken paranoia?"
Truth to tell, I would rather have some claims confirmed instead of disproved, because it would mean that I could use the weapons in my collection to do all kinds of things, from heal myself to summon the spirits of the dead to start fires by pointing. I only inferred that disproving would be good if such powers weren't real, and belief in them was causing people to do violent or harmful things.
You are full of BS and a divisive, pompous, arrogant instigator. You talk about "NewAgers", yet you try to perpetuate the myth that you were all weaving daisy-chains and singing "Kumbayah" when the Europeans arrived. Obviously, you've never seen the statues dug up at Cahokia that depict otherwise. The next thing you'll be saying is that there isn't an alcohol problem (or if there is, it's all the white peoples' fault.) We certainly don't need outhouse lawyers creating anti-Indian sentiment by getting offended where none was meant. The Anasazi were cannibals. There is archaeological evidence (not to mention the stories of Dine elders who make mention of it, as well.) If you persist in making all Indians seem like hotheads, no one will want to hear anything you have to say.
Judging by RCC9940's and Crowcaller's gibes, the intent of "these people" seems clear. It's to use a mishmash of stereotypes, speculation, and stupidity ("superstitious" religions, drunk Indians, Anasazi "cannibals," etc.) to exalt Euro-American culture over indigenous cultures. I've demolished the claims of "these people" before. See Native vs. Non-Native Americans: A Summary for details.
A few snappy comebacks
>> ("Indians" as you call them, even though real Indians are from India) <<
What a waste of RCC9940's time to type this little note. Guess what? Both Native Americans and people from India are "real Indians." Similarly, people from Moscow, Idaho and Moscow, Russia both say they're from Moscow. Mind-boggling, eh?
>> "Heal me with your magic shield, oh great shaman!" What a joke. <<
Apparently our ignorant friend has never met a real Indian. It's a joke to think anyone but an Anglo New-Ager says things like this.
>> you try to perpetuate the myth that you were all weaving daisy-chains and singing "Kumbayah" when the Europeans arrived. <<
Actually, most naysayers (like this one) are trying to perpetuate the myth that Indians are trying to perpetuate myths. Indians are clear on their own history and don't need to romanticize it.
>> The next thing you'll be saying is that there isn't an alcohol problem (or if there is, it's all the white peoples' fault.) <<
Since refined alcohol didn't exist in the New World until Europeans introduced it intentionally, to subvert and destroy Indian cultures, why wouldn't we say it's the white people's fault? By definition, the fault lies at the source of a problem.
Who would you blame for the Europeans infecting the Indians with smallpox-laced blankets, hmm? The Indians for not being "strong" enough to weave their own blankets? Or the Europeans for tricking them? The situations are roughly analogous.
>> The Anasazi were cannibals. <<
Possibly. But Americans definitely are. Read up on the Donner Party for more information.
Rhonda or Ruel?
"My compliments. I'd say you tore him apart, figuratively."
Macaraeg: "The Boy Who Cried 'Racism'" and "Unintentionally Comical: 'The Saviour of Minorities' Debunked"
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