Whoosh! Issue 35 - August 1999

Disparate Cultures:
Shock Of the Other, Collision, Apartness, and Resolution


Gabrielle: Xena, look. Have you ever seen a blond Horde-girl?
Xena: She looks familiar...

"More than 1,000 people officially change colour last year. They were reclassified from one race group to another by the stoke of a Government pen...The Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Stoffel Botha, disclosed that during 1985:
703 coloured people turned white...
Three Chinese became white...
30 Malays went Indian...
11 Coloureds became Chinese...
Three blacks were classed as Malay..."
  -- "1985 Had at Least 1000 'Chameleons'" by Political Staff, Johannesburg Star, March 21, 1986. [NOTE 11]

[76] Why not a blond Horde? Using their logic, Xena and Gabrielle could not be Greeks. Hellenes have black hair and brown eyes. To assume that everyone in a group looks the same neglects the diversity of humankind. This assumption is not only erroneous, it is also pernicious. How can these people be individuals? In picturing the peoples of southern Africa, many people would assume that they are Negroes. However, the San and the Khoikhoi are Khoisan, a race of slightly-built and light skinned people. The Afrikaners, who are Caucasians, consider themselves to be African. Moreover, many southern Africans are descended from a melding of Europeans, Asians, and Africans.

[77] What if Pilee was a blond Pomira? Consider the boyhood experiences of Crazy Horse, a famous Oglala (Lakota) warrior of the United States. As a child, he was called Curly because of his light curly hair and light skin, rare features among the Lakota. When white settlers saw Curly, they endeavoured to reunite him with his 'lost white' family. When soldiers from Fort Laramie saw him, they asked if he was a captive. Mortified because the Whites regarded him as one of them, Curly felt embarrassed about his looks.

[78] Xena and Gabrielle, in my opinion, were wrong to assume that Pilee was not a Pomira. Gabrielle's knee-jerk reaction to rescue Vanessa/Pilee from the Horde was no different from the settlers wanting to reunite Curly with his 'white' family. To assume race without due consideration neglected the humanity of Pilee and Curly.


Gabrielle: Who's Kaltaka?
Athenian soldier: Probably their god of war. Even when they...die, they call for him...Kaltaka. Kaltaka! It drives you crazy!"

"According to the power and authority a forefather had in his lifetime, so it is from the place to which he has gone."
  -- Zulu proverb

"Tell that all the community is to rise again from the dead! Tell that all cattle must be slaughtered, for they are herded by hands defiled with witchcraft!"
  -- Nongqause, Xhosa prophet, 1856

[79] As the Afrikaners steadily encroached on their land, the Xhosa grew desperate. A young Xhosa woman, Nongqause had a vision of men and cattle, purified of witchcraft, rising up from the reeds. The ancestors told her that witchcraft was responsible for the foreign colonizers. She told her people that if they killed their cattle, a great wind would sweep the Whites to the sea. In the fall of 1856, the Xhosa slaughtered their cattle. No wind came nor did any new cattle. The Xhosa argued among themselves that the failure lay with those who kept their cows. When twenty thousand people starved to death, Nongqause's vision became "the suicide of the Xhosa people".


[80] The symbol of KwaZulu was the "inkhata", a ring of woven grass encased in a python skin. The Zulu king and his izinduna (councilors) strengthened the inkhata daily with grass containing their hair and nail clippings. As KwaZulu grew, so did the inkhata. When the British army overran Cetshwayo's kraal, they found the bizarre object. After they burned it, the British split KwaZulu into thirteen parts.

[81] In the Zulu mindset, evil came to people through witchcraft. When they lost battles to the British, the Zulu believed that the 'red soldiers' used black magic. In the amaZulu religion, uNkulunkulu created everything perfect. Disasters were brought on by someone doing harm to others. Finding pet monkeys in the British camps, the Zulu had proof that the British were in league with the dark spirits.

[82] The spirit world is a key component of the Zulu faith. When a person dies, she watches over her relatives as a spirit. To honor the ancestors, a family will offer food and beer. In return, an ancestor will visit a village as a snake. To show respect, the Zulu will sacrifice an animal to the visitor.

[83] A "sangoma" will diagnose a person's troubles by 'throwing the bones'. After reading the symbolic objects on the ground, he will prescribe a remedy. A sangoma and his impressive outfits have spiritual powers. His beaded headdress of goat bladders and chicken feathers (from animals sacrificed to the ancestors) contains great spiritual activity [NOTE 12]. The shaman Yakut of ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402) resembles the Zulu sangoma in her performance of her spiritual duties.


[84] From Pilee's statements, many viewers concluded that the Pomira were 'eco-loving tree-huggers'. Pilee and her teenage cohorts honored the river. Later she thanked the lamb for giving its life for the stew. I conclude that like the Zulu, the Pomira believed in the spirits. I think that those spirits were ancestors since Pilee said, "They know the Pomira and the Pomira give them honor."


[85] The ancient Greeks were keenly interested in everything around them, and sought to explain the mysterious. They trusted their gods, and looked to them for assistance. However, their gods were not holy enough to worship. The Greek gods were too petty in their actions.

[86] In XWP, a few people pray or give thanks. In FORGIVEN (60/314), some people seek forgiveness for their sins. A minority are devotees of a particular god such as Ares, the God of War. But for the ordinary Greek, religion lies outside of their daily lives. The worldly Greeks found the deep religious feelings of the Pomira a cipher.


Venessa/Pilee: The sky, the earth, kaltaka all know Pomiras. Serve Pomira and Pomira give honor.

"The gull shall whistle in his wake, the blind wave break in fire.
He shall fulfill God's utmost will, unknowing his desire.
He shall desire loneliness and his desire shall bring,
Hard on his heels, a thousand wheels, a People and a King.
There he shall blaze a nation's ways with hatchet and with brand,
Till on his last-won wilderness an Empire's outposts stand."
  "The Voortrekker", Rudyard Kipling, Songs From Books (1914, Doubleday, Page & Company, New York)

[87] The Pomira had religious reasons for resisting the Greeks. They had a covenant with their spirits and a sacred commitment to their land. They felt compelled to purify the land of the Greek 'Defilers' [NOTE 13].

[88] Like the Pomira, the Afrikaners were also governed by their religion. Based on Protestant Calvinism, the Afrikaner religion blended with their life in southern Africa. Like Old Testament patriarchs in the wilderness, the trekboers traveled with their flocks and servants, with only God to protect them. They came to believe that they were a 'Chosen People', and that the Africans were destined to be their slaves.

[89] In her memoirs, Anna Steenkamp, a Voortrekker, explained why her people left the Cape after the British ended slavery. She wrote, "Yet it is not so much their [black slaves] freeing which drove us to such lengths, as their being placed on an equal footing with Christians, contrary to the laws of God, and the natural distinctions of race and colour, so that it was intolerable for any decent Christian to bow down beneath such a yoke; wherefore we rather withdraw in order to preserve our doctrines of purity."

Possibility Of Change

"It was relatively easy, we now realise, to categorise countries and nations. You knew who your enemies were and whom you could count on as collaborators and friends. And even more importantly, you had ready-made scapegoats to take the blame for why things were gong wrong..."
  -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 'Freedom and Tolerance', speech, Cape Town Press Club, June 6, 1995

Attitudes About The Other

Athenian Soldier: We're gonna die Mercer. Those things out there will kill us all.

Milo: You said it yourself years ago, 'the only good Horde is a dead Horde'. Words to live by.

"The British happen to be the best people in the world with the highest ideals of decency and justice and liberty and peace, and the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for humanity."
  -- Cecil Rhodes (Prime Minister of Cape Colony, 1853-1902)

"My heart is white with joy. Your words are great and good. It is enough for me to see your clothing, your arms ... to understand how much intelligence and strength you have ... I have been told that you can help us. You promise to do it. That is enough, it is all I wish to know."
  -- Moshoeshoe to French Presbyterian missionaries, 1823

"After we had looked an instant on each other in silence, he rose and said, 'Lumela lekhoa! Welcome, white man!' And I replied by holding out my hand to him, which he took without hesitation."
  -- Eugene Casalis meeting Moshoeshoe

[90] Our experiences determine how we view the other. The Athenian soldiers of THE PRICE (44/233) know the Pomira only as savage animals. Milo, the bounty hunter, see them as things for profit.

[91] Desires are also a factor. Depicted striding Africa from the Sahara to the Cape, Cecil Rhodes exemplified British imperialism. To obtain a colony for himself (Rhodesia [Zimbabwe]), he forced the Afrikaners and the Ndebele off their lands. Then, he wanted complete control of the diamond and gold fields of southern Africa. In 1895, he tried to start a war with the Afrikaners, staging the Jameson Raid. After failing, Rhodes had to resign as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony.

[92] The Afrikaners held peculiar notions about Africans. The noted missionary, David Livingstone observed those attitudes up close. Writing in the 1840's, he noted that, "I, myself have been an eye witness of Boers coming to a village and ... demanding twenty or thirty women to weed their gardens and have seen these women ... carrying their food on their heads, their children on their backs, and instruments of labor on their shoulders. Everyone of the Boers ... lauded his own humanity and justice ... :'We make people work for us in consideration of allowing them to live in our country.'"

[93] The mercenary, Milo holds no religious beliefs that make him superior to the Pomira, nor is he an imperialist. He collects Pomira scalps for bounty. Disgusted with Milo's actions, Xena calls him "a mercenary little bastard". While she pretends to engage the Horde, Xena taunts Milo, "Pretty soon, you're gonna get all the Horde you can handle." Milo's blind hatred of the Horde and his greed proves to be his undoing. He is killed by Xena [DAUGHTER OF POMIRA].

[94] Unfortunately, the fictional Milo existed historically in the person of the King of the Belgians, Leopold II. In one of the most notorious cases of human rights abuses, twenty million Congolese were killed during the 1890's. The perpetrator of this genocide, Leopold II regarded them his means to the untold riches of the Congo. His ways of obtaining wealth were so horrific that the term 'human rights abuses' had to be invented to accurately describe them. The mildest of these atrocities was to chop off the right hands of Congolese adults in order to inventory used rifle cartridges. Leopold's abuses created an international movement dedicated to end his ownership of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire). In 1908, Leopold was forced to cede his fiefdom to the Belgian government. He died in 1909.

[95] Many would consider Milo, the bounty hunter, to be the extreme in his eagerness to kill the Horde for profit. But he is not alone. Despite her willingness to make peace, Xena states as fact: "The Horde don't leave survivors". She refers to Cirvik, the leader of the Pomira as the 'Hordemaster'. After Rahl sees his daughter dressed as one of the Horde, he tells Gabrielle,"No, that animal. She's not Vanessa." Even Gabrielle, who regards the Horde as human, believes that Vanessa underwent a great ordeal. She pleads with Rahl, "Of course she is, under all that paint. She still needs her father's love. She needs it now more than ever." (DAUGHTER OF POMIRA)

[96] Hearing from friends that missionaries could aid his beleaguered people, King Moshoeshoe welcomed the Presbyterian missionaries who climbed to his stronghold on Thaba-Bosiu. He needed someone to mediate between his people and the Afrikaners. The three French missionaries led by Eugene Casalis were an answer to Moshoeshoe's prayers.

[97] The passage cited from Eugene Casalis' journal was his first meeting with the King of the Basotho. Sent by the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society, the twenty-year old missionary became the first European to meet Moshoeshoe. On his advice, the King placed Basutoland under British protection in 1866.

[98] In DAUGHTER OF POMIRA, two warring groups claim the same girl as theirs. At Xena's urging, Vanessa/Pilee convinces her two sets of parents that they are both her family. For the sake of her child, Adiah will bridge the gap with the Horde. Her Pomira father, Cirvik is willing to be united with Pilee's Greek family. Both Adiah and Cirvik see the good in the other.


.. Within XWP

"We are apt to class them under the seeming term of savages, and perhaps in doing so consider ourselves as exempt from the obligations to them as our fellow men. This assumption does not however alter our responsibility."
  -- Parliamentarian Select Committee on Aborigines (United Kingdom, 1837)

Gabrielle: What are they? They [the Horde] must want something.
Xena: Nobody knows. Fighting one or two would be difficult enough but they hunt like a pack of dogs...Surrounding their prey until they attack.

[99] XWP introduces the viewers to many diverse cultures. Most meetings between Greeks and other peoples are benign. In some instances, these peoples are enemies of the Greeks. Most of the time, these diverse peoples are presented with respect. There are a few exceptions however.

[100] The Pomira and similar peoples are depicted in XWP from the Greeks' point of view: savage, barbaric, and unknowable. The Peis of A A FISTFUL OF DINARS (14/144) prey on unsuspecting travelers. The Rhodope of DESTINY (36/212) sacrifice young Greek girls to their gods. The Pomira skin people alive. These 'children of the forests' appear briefly, then quickly meld back into the darkness.

[101] In contrast, peoples who are familiar to the Greeks are shown as complex societies. Romans are never 'things' like the savage Horde. The Persians and Scythians are cunning, intelligent enemies. Even the more uncivilized peoples, the Gauls and Britons follow the 'rule of law'. Foreigners like Egyptians are approachable. Even though, the Hebrews have a strange belief in one god, they are considered to be civilized [NOTE 14].

[102] Although they live outside the norms of Greek society, the Amazons, Centaurs, and Giants are granted dignity. The Greeks may despise them, but they accord these peoples intelligence. In some places such as Athens, trans-species marriages between Centaurs and Greek women are tolerated [NOTE 15].

[103] But there is no tolerance for Vanessa/Pilee who was adopted by the Pomira. Why are the Pomira different? Does their habit of skinning people and wearing skull headdresses make them animals? Are the Pomira so radically different from the Greeks that there can be no points of respect?

..Within HTLJ

[104] The Golden Hind, also lived outside the norm, but they were not granted respect. While the Hind lived in the forests, humans hunted them for their golden horns and hooves. Zeus, the King of the Gods, destroyed the Hind because their blood could kill a god. Fearful of their potentially-powerful offspring, Zeus forbade the marriage between Hercules and Serina, the last remaining Hind. [Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (HTLJ): WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN (H51/314)]. When Serina was murdered by Strife (The God of War's nephew), Zeus refused to restore her to life.

[105] Do humans despise the Hind because they are a forest people? Why do forest people instill such fear and hatred? Do people associate the forests with savage animals? Do the sunny plains and meadows produce more civilized peoples?


Xena: You trust your heart and I respect that. Taking Vanessa could stir up a lot of trouble.
Gabrielle: They took her first. We're just bringing her home, Xena. Doesn't she deserve to be with the people she loves, the people that love her?
Xena: I guess every child deserves that.
Gabrielle: Well, then the sooner we bring her back, the better.

Vanessa/Pilee: My family Pomira. Cirvik, his daughter die and he chose me for his daughter. He love me.
Xena: I understand that, but you can make him understand that you have family here too, parents who love, and who would die for you.

[106] Xena and Gabrielle place Vanessa/Pilee in a peculiar position. Gabrielle assumes that she wants to come back to her family. At Gabrielle's urging, Xena abducts Vanessa/Pilee from her adopted people. Satisfied with her life as a Pomira, Pilee has little memory of her Greek family. By removing Vanessa/Pilee from the only family she knew, Xena and Gabrielle disorientates her. Then, well-meaning Gabrielle thrust Vanessa/Pilee into a group of villagers who did not trust her. Then, Xena uses Vanessa/Pilee to stop the war between the two peoples.

[107] Knowing that the Pomira want her back, Xena convinces Pilee that her Greek family loves her (I doubt that her father does). Confused, Vanessa/Pille choose both sets for her family, thereby initiating a truce between the Pomira and the Greeks.

[108] Xena and Gabrielle feel good about ending the conflict. But their conduct places Vanessa/Pilee in a difficult position. What is she now? Greek or Pomira? What if Vanessa/Pilee decides to return to the Greek village, will Cirvik let her? Would Adiah allow her to remain Pomira? Can she be both Greek and Pomira?

[109] To further Dutch-Khoikhoi relations, the first governor of the Cape colony, Jan van Riebeeck decided to bring Eva into his family. Since many Khoikhoi did not know Dutch, she was a great success as a go-between. After her people learned Dutch, Eva was no longer needed. When Van Riebeeck abandoned her, Eva was rejected by the other Khoikhoi since she was no longer one of them. She became a prostitute. Eva eventually married an European, but after his death, she returned to prostitution.

[110] The young French missionary, Eugene Casalis formed a fast friendship with King Moshoeshoe. Casalis provided a window for Moshoeshoe on European culture and life. In return, Moshoeshoe made Casalis his unofficial foreign secretary. By recording what he saw of Basotho culture, Casalis preserved it for future generations. Unlike Eva and Vanessa/Pilee, Casalis was an adult when he went to live among the Basotho.

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