Items ready for Potlach in the 1880's
Potlatching was made illegal in Canada in 1885 and the United States in the late nineteenth century, largely at the urging of missionaries and government agents who considered it "a worse than useless custom" that was seen as wasteful, unproductive which was not part of "civilized" values. The US ban was lifted in 1951, which means it was still going on underground well into the second half of the last century.
Potlach is still practiced by indigenous peoples today, as well as by registered Lobbyists and Congressional staffers. The Potlachs are planned in Washington DC and held at a variety of resorts worldwide.
If it was illegal due to morality issues, why did the United States just engage in the granddaddy of all Potlach. During the great depression we redistributed wealth to the poor, in the 2008/09 US Potlach wealth has been redistributed from the poor to the wealthiest corporations (shareholders and executives) on earth.
I recently heard a news report (unverified) that my portion of the Potlach to Citi Bank and others was $10,000. The politician, making the report, asked if I felt wealthier because of this redistribution of my wealth. My answer was, of course I don't, but the bankers probably think so.
A traditional Potlach between rival groups might involve extravagant or competitive giving and destruction, by the host, of valued items as a display of superior wealth. He who burns the most stuff must be the richest and most powerful. Based on that, the executives at Chrysler,GM, AIG, BofA, CitiGroup etc. must be pretty powerful to burn the wealth of a generation. Lets see, if AIG burned $80B of our wealth and GM burnt only $18B which of these executives should get the highest status?
If we follow the rules of Potlach to the absurd, AIG executives should have a higher status in the world than US Senators and the president (leader) of at least 150 countries in the United Nations.
Under the rules of Potlach is Bernie Madoff being unjustly incarcerated instead of feted?
One of the unstated rules of Potlach is that the receiver was bound to reciprocate in the gifting. Do you think Obama expects that GM will be delivering my gift car to my doorstep any time soon?
The potlatch ceremony involved dancing, feasting, and ritual boasting, often lasting for several days. This sounds a lot like the Congressional hearings on the "stimulus package, but I would go more for singing and dancing, drinking and eating.
The New Potlach for the United States.
My suggestion to congress: declare a new Potlach Day, May 30th, (for good weather most places).
Citizens are obliged to go outside singing and dancing in the streets. We can leave the ritual boasting to the President and the appointed loyal opposition spokesperson of the day.
The federal government feeds us all the surplus food they have stored up in silos. Lots of dried dairy products I'd bet.
At midnight every street has a big fire and we ritualistically burn all our clothing, furniture and electronics and smash our cars so that on June 1st we have to go out and buy new stuff with our credit, thus readying ourselves for next years Potlach Day.
Now that sounds like a fun governmental program, and also a way to avoid living in any kind of post consumer world.