Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Indigenous Wisdom: Part II

Before looking at the possibility of restoring some of these indigenous values, we need to 

look at the present state of American culture.


1.Initiation: We mostly have no formal transitions into adulthood and abandon our children to figure things out themselves, leaving them vulnerable to peer/gang initiations of drugs/ sex/ violence. Even in the old Jewish traditions of the mitzvah’s, we still have the situation of this amusing haiku:

                                                Today I am a man

                                                Tomorrow I return

to 7thgrade. 


2. Oral Culture: Knowledge is stored and passed on mostly through the printed word, be it in books or on screens. As such, it is isolated from the body, from the singing voice, from the told story, from the character of the person and people who carry it. This narrowed-down version de-emphasizes the heart, the body, wisdom, the moral force of the idea. 


3. Eldership: Without valuing knowledge in context of community or the wisdom of those who have lived and embodied essential knowledge, elders are seen as dispensable and isolated from the community. 


4. Continuity: Constant innovations (new! Improved!) is valued as a business strategy and both shaped by and a cause of rapid and constant change. Be it in art or business, the new is given more weight than the old, the tried, the true. The motto is: “If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway.”


5. Connection with the natural world/ gratitude and permission: Nature is the mere backdrop to the human drama and the site of resources that feed our extravagant and expensive desires. Short-term harvesting of the needs of the moment, with corporate profit driving much of it, replaces long term sustainable care. Habitual gratitude is missing and permission to use or kill is an alien concept.


6. Co-existence with the ancestors: The here and now is almost all anyone knows, fed by constant media and sensation. History is little understood, the sense of debt to and connection with the ancestors in the invisible world is reduced to Hollywood ghost stories and the sense of obligation to the descendants a rarity. 


7. Community: Rugged individualism permeates American culture as a sustaining mythology, each out to get theirs, amassing riches at the expense of the community both human and natural, freedom as “doing whatever I want,” the sustaining services of the common good that government can provide disdained, distrusted and criticized by people even as they drive on roads, go to schools, get treated at hospitals, get relief after natural disasters. 


That’s a lot to think about. As we look for quick and easy solutions to these problems that have been percolating for centuries from these toxic manifestations of our cultural choices, 

we can see how much work lies ahead. It helps to know specifically what needs our attention and perhaps this list might be a start. 


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