1f. The Wisdom of Indigenous people
“In the 1990s an unusual encounter took place in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In plant rituals, shamans of the Achuar, a tribe living in pristine forest that had never been in touch with Western civilization, received the warning that the ‘white man’ would try to invade their lands, cut down the forest and exploit the resources. Deeply shaken, they called out to the Spirits for help. Soon after white people did approach them, coming to them however with supportive intentions – a group of activists from the United States, searching for ways to protect Indigenous Peoples from the oil industry. The Westerners found a deeply interconnected tribal society living in profound symbiosis with the Earth. Seeing the bulldozers coming closer and closer, they asked the Elders of the tribe how they could survive. Their answer was surprising and straightforward: “Don’t try to help us here. Go back to your own culture and change the dream of the modern world! It is because of this dream that we are perishing.”
I am fascinated by what is happening on this earth at the moment with Indigenous Peoples. Possibly they are the only civilised races living on the planet but are being hounded out of their sustainable relationships with the Earth by people with a vested interest in exploiting it and the lands the indigenous peoples inhabit, for money. This has now been going on for thousands of years, since before illegal immigrants crushed their opposition in North America with smallpox infested blankets as gifts.
“The Great Lie is that this is civilisation. It is not civilised. It has been literally the most bloodthirsty, brutalising system ever imposed on this planet. This is not civilisation, this is the Great Lie. Or if it does represent civilisation and that is truly what civilisation is, then the Great Lie is that civilisation is good for us.”
I read of the Lakota Indians of North America, driven from their ancestral lands so that people can build things there. My favourite indigenous tribe are the Kayapo, who have interested me ever since reading Sting’s book about them over 30 years ago. Like other tribes in the Amazon they are driven from their forests by loggers, their lands raped and ruined by developers in order to build dams to power cities or extract oil. If anything their situation is now worse then when Sting bought them to our attention by living with the tribe.
The Masai Tribe, beautiful people living in tune with the harshest of environments, legislated off their ancestral land, the Masai Mara, and banned from hunting so that it can be exploited for tourism and Land Rover adverts. The Aboriginal people of Australia, a most ancient and profound culture, alive with incredible stories of nature and belonging, singing their reality into being, but driven from sustainable lifestyles in tune with their lands by a culture of greed and consumerism which is divorced from nature.
I hoped to see this situation improve within my lifetime but it just gets worse. Leaders of countries such as Brazil, UK, North America, Australia and others just consistently remove hard-won legislation to protect these lands and open them up to exploitation by the forces of vulture capitalism.
It seems to me that the way we treat our indigenous peoples on this earth is a metaphor for the way we treat nature itself. So when the rarely-seen Kogi Indians came down from their High Sierra retreat in the mountains of Colombia to make a movie about how ‘little brother’ is destroying the Earth, I wanted to watch it. This is an excerpt of how the movie is described on the Aluna website:
“ALUNA is made by and with the KOGI, a genuine lost civilization hidden on an isolated triangular pyramid mountain in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, nearly five miles high, on the Colombian-Caribbean coast. The Kogi say that without thought, nothing could exist. This is a problem, because we are not just plundering the world, we are dumbing it down, destroying both the physical structure and the thought underpinning existence. The Kogi believe that they live in order to care for the world and keep its natural order functioning, but they recognized some years ago that this task was being made impossible by our mining and deforestation. In 1990 they emerged to work with Alan Ereira, making a 90-minute film for BBC1 in which they dramatically warned of our need to change course. Then they withdrew again…”
Ostensibly Aluna is a story of a few members of the tribe collecting 400 km of gold thread from England, and then returning to Colombia to walk across their ruined lands, showing the devastation to the camera whilst also connecting places with the thread in an attempt to demonstrate to ‘little brother’ that all things are connected.
For example, in the foothills of the High Sierra, where the land meets the sea the people who have taken the ancestral lands from the Kogis have built roads, cutting off lagoons from the sea and stopping the natural flow. To these people there is no link between what happens at the top of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the lagoons far below. The Kogi Indians assert that if the land were a human being, what has happened is the equivalent of cutting off its ability to cycle its wastes. As one of them says in a moment of blinding lucidity: “How would you like it if I stuck a cork up your arse.”
Ecology scientists agree that the Kogi are right – their ecosystems at the top of the mountains are being seriously damaged through unconsidered development below.
Of course from my point of view, the Kogi people are right on the button with their accusations that ‘little brother’ is destroying the planet. There are many people out here who feel the same way. Its just that we don’t know how to stop the people responsible because they are all ‘government sponsored’. Just 100 global companies are responsible for 70% of unwanted CO2 emission.
It is completely unfair to compare a movie like Aluna with the highest grossing eco-movie ever, Avatar, which has an improbably large budget, but there is a world of difference in the approach. Some people criticise Avatar on the basis that it is ecology reduced to spectacle, drama and conflict and that people don’t even realise that it is a metaphor about our own planet and culture, hence it is ineffective in changing people’s motivations away from ‘Unobtanium’ – the movie’s metaphor for eco-damaging self-interest and profit.
Aluna has more in common with the movie ‘Age of Stupid’. As such it is a movie of ‘finger pointing greenyism’ which is mostly preaching to the converted like myself, and making other people feel guilty for something they do not believe that they have much power over – the irreversible damaging of the present ecosystems on earth in the pursuit of money.
“Deforestation across the Andean Amazon has reached 4.2 million hectares (10.4 million acres) since 2001. Annual deforestation has been increasing in recent years, with a peak in 2017 (426,000 hectares). Peru has had the highest annual deforestation, followed by surging Colombia (in fact, Colombia surpassed Peru in 2017). The vast majority of the deforestation events are small-scale (‹5 hectares).”
In the context of the culture of lies inhabited by little brother, unfortunately the movie Aluna is an innocent whose voice will not be much heeded in a culture that values superficiality and sensationalism. The problem is not so much that people do not realise that their actions have damaging consequences to our planet. I think many people know this but choose to deny it. Because they are afraid, they just don’t want to know.
“Man is full if he is in tune with the universe; if he is not in tune with the universe then he is empty, utterly empty. And out of that emptiness comes greed. Greed is to fill it: by money, by houses, by furniture, by friends, by lovers – by anything, because one cannot live as emptiness. It is horrifying, it is a ghost life. If you are empty and there is nothing inside you, it is impossible to live.”
Osho, Beyond Psychology, Talk #26
They are trapped and driven as hungry ghosts, wanting all sorts of things without which they can never be complete. I think that little brother and its society has serious problems. We simply choose not to see things that we don’t want to. We edit reality to suit ourselves. We would sooner lie to ourselves than see the effects of our actions.
Eckart Tolle believes: “The pollution of the planet is only an outward reflection of an inner psychic pollution; millions of unconscious individuals not taking responsibility for their inner space.”
As the horror of what humans are doing to their planet becomes more evident – the denial becomes stronger. We are at the stage now where many people simply ignore all information that does not validate their existing ideology. We all seem to live in filter bubbles. This has become so extreme that in Japan half a million people are named ‘hikikomori’ – so withdrawn into virtual worlds that they can no longer be reached by those around them!
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