often made gentle fun about how Qallunaat thought processes seem to
operate in “tidy squares”.
squares say: “Pay your rent and bills, like clockwork, at the first
of every month!” Inuit thought says: “Pay your rent and bills,
but don’t develop hanging qaqsuq (lower lip) in dour anxiety if
you don’t have the money on hand at the first of the month.” Tidy
squares say: “Neuter your ancient hunting instincts, to respect polar
bear and beluga whale quotas, set by the government.” Inuit thought
says: “This is like trying to conquer the wind. But I’ll honestly
try, in the interests of being a good and decent citizen.”
squares thinking tends to be pre-occupied with rules, regulations, rank,
social status, and doing what you can to “get ahead”. In Inuit thinking,
an individual attained stature among his/her peers by being useful to
fellow Inuit, based on traditional teachings handed down from generation
to generation. Each of these ways of thinking has its origin in
lifestyle, culture, language and environment, and one is not necessarily
superior, or inferior, to the other.
finding my Scottish roots, I’ve sensed a subtle change within my own
thought processes. They seem to be straying occasionally to the domain
of those “tidy squares”. I sometimes detect myself detaching from what
I’m hearing on the radio, even when the topic should interest me. I find
myself thinking, “That’s not really important to Me!” It might
take some work on my part not to get as arrogantly “civilized” as that!
Qallunaat, by the way, have had their “tidy squares” thought processes
significantly altered by spending decades in the Arctic among Inuit.
Such a thing is not necessarily bad. I’ve learned from different sources
that my Scottish grandfather was fluent in Inuktitut. It must have
affected the “tidy squares” thought processes he brought to the Arctic,
to function in an environment once foreign to him. He must have returned
home to Scotland somewhat changed by the experience.
was nothing unusual for men who served in isolated Arctic posts in those
years. In fact, evidence of shifted thought processes can be found even
today among missionaries, policemen, teachers, and others who have
chosen to live among the Inuit.
Previously in Inuit life, good role models existed in every household.
Now that we’re nominally “civilized”, role models have become quite
scarce, and have to be searched for. Perhaps we have to take stock of
our thought processes, and “un-square” them where appropriate.