Category: Commentary


Mapungubwe Hill, a sacred hill in South Africa.

Mapungubwe Hill, a sacred hill in South Africa.

 

 

By Sharon St Joan

To read part one first, click here.

And for part two, click here.

Susan Boyle came from a humble background in Scotland; her father was a miner and her mother a typist. Until her mother died she lived with her, and she now lives with her beloved cat.

For years she struggled to achieve some success with her music. Recently, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Disease, which could explain why her social relationships had always been awkward. Most of her life she had been been subjected to ridicule, and must have endured many unhappy and very trying times — until that one evening, in which, like a rocket leaving the bounds of earth, she shot into stardom.

Illustrating how not to be a victim — Susan Boyle’s is a rags-to-riches story, which, in its own way, is a testimony to the great power of not allowing oneself to remain victimized, but instead, with the help of the angels, of magically overcoming obstacles.  It is  a simple story – she has not transformed the entire world, but it is a remarkable one, and has certainly altered her own life and touched the lives of many others.

Her strength is not only her musical talent itself, but her undying faith in her music.

None of us has to remain stuck in the box that we find ourselves in.

Nelson Mandela during a meeting with Bill Clinton in 1993.

Nelson Mandela during a meeting with Bill Clinton in 1993.

The second example of rising above limitations is Nelson Mandela. A figure on an altogether different scale, he was one of the great men of history, who had a transformative impact on our world. Though he came from a tribal royal family, as a boy, he herded sheep, then became a boxer, then a lawyer. When he was imprisoned for 27 years, spending part of the time breaking rocks in a quarry, it must have seemed to him, that there could be no hope even for his own freedom, let alone hope for any success in his life.

If he had emerged from prison, embittered, to lead his people on a crusade to make his oppressors pay for their crimes, that would hardly have been a surprising turn. Yet he didn’t. Somewhere he found the grace and wisdom to forgive his captors and to lead South Africa beyond the threat of a bloodbath, into the light, to stand as a democratic nation. In the process, he spared the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and avoided a prolonged time of darkness for generations of South Africans. South Africa is not a perfect country. No country is, but it has avoided these catastrophes, thanks to the wisdom and greatness Nelson Mandela.

Neither of these two people, very different from each other in their scope and their impact, is a saint. They are examples of people who did not allow themselves to remain victims, but instead, with the grace of the angels, overcame and rose above obstacles.

We do not have to be victimized by our circumstances, sinking under the weight of our situation, and blaming heaven, the stars, or those around us for the obstacles in our lives.

There is always a higher level, where God, the Gods, the angels, the universe (or whatever we wish to call the spiritual level) live –  and it is from this level that strength can be drawn and magic and miracles can come into being.

To return to the concept of the myth of progress – it would be a great mistake to confuse this higher level of otherworldly strength, inspiration, and clarity, which occasionally breaks through the clouds, with the current, ongoing state of  the human world in which we live.

Were we to put our faith in the “human spirit” or in the “inevitability” of human progress and the advance of human technology, we would find ourselves sadly misled. We ought not to sit waiting for the train of human “progress” to carry us along to utopia, because it won’t.

Many of us, probably most of us, have seen miracles happen – of one kind or another. Miracles are very real. They come from beyond and above the level of this world.

The world does not get better by itself, and, sadly, human nature does not make it better. There is no inevitable progress of the “human spirit.” We are not the culmination of evolution, and we have not, in creating the “wonders of civilization” brought peace and enlightenment even to ourselves, much less to animals and the natural world. Instead we have left a trail of destruction in our wake. And the natural world seems to be reminding us of this regrettable fact through rising tides, catastrophic storms, and other upheavals.

Yet all is not lost, and if – beyond the smoke and mirrors of the image we have fabricated, as a species, of our own success – this is, in truth, a dark hour and a dark age, there is still a real light at the end of the tunnel.

The 12,000 year old megalithic ruins of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey.

The 12,000 year old megalithic ruins of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey.

Consider this – a curtain is being lifted that had long veiled the past. All over the world are being found now, in recent decades, remarkable archeological discoveries that speak to us of great civilizations, with magnificent art and culture, that we did not even know existed, and some are many thousands of years earlier than the accepted dates for the beginnings of civilization. (We will be writing more about these.)

The cyclical view of history informs us that this age of limitations that we live in is neither the only age nor the last age.

The 15 billion year old star cluster M80 (NGC 6093).

The 15 billion year old star cluster M80 (NGC 6093).

There is much, much more to the Cosmos than we know – other levels, other dimensions — more to the past and more to the future.

Our “modern world” is not the pinnacle of creation, it has an ocean of problems.  But as we come to acknowledge this, there are great gates that swing open – to the magnificence and mysteries of the very distant past – and to the possibilities of magic and miracles, both in our own lives and in the world ages that lie before us – possibilities of nearly-forgotten connections with higher mystical levels and the restoration and renewal of the natural world of innocence that we have so nearly destroyed.

As our current world age dims, other lights of intelligence, perception, and clarity—those, older and wiser, who were here before — will re-awaken and shine again.

 

 

©  Sharon St Joan, 2013

 

 

The thoughts expressed here are personal views that do not reflect or represent those of any organization.

To look at Sharon’s ebook, Glimpses of Kanchi, on Amazon, click here.

 

Top photo: Wikimedia Commons: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Laura SA at the English language Wikipedia / Mapungubwe Hill, a sacred hill in the Kingdom of Mapungubwe in pre-colonial South Africa.

 

Second photo: As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain. / President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela at the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA, July 4 1993.

 

Third photo: Author (photographer): Teomancimit / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / The 12,000 year old megalithic ruins of Gobekli Tepe, Urfa, Turkey.

 

Fourth photo: “NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted.” / This stellar swarm is M80 (NGC 6093), one of the densest of the 147 known globular star clusters in the Milky Way galaxy…all of the stars in the cluster have the same age (about 15 billion years)….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nelson Mandela

 

Nelson_Mandela,_2000_(4)

 

Without the leadership of Nelson Mandela, there is no doubt that South Africa would have descended into chaos. He turned the looming prospect of turmoil and upheaval into a beacon of light for the nations.

 

The amazing courage he exemplified in his lifetime, together with his great spirit, which enabled him to embrace his enemies — made him one of the greatest men in history — leading the way forward to peace and justice.

 

He was born into a tribal royal family, but spent his early years tending sheep in the hills. He became a boxer, then a lawyer.

 

He started the armed wing of the ANC, launching a course of armed struggle. He spent 27 years in brutal prisonment.

 

Upon his release from prison, he set South Africa not on a course of vengeance, but instead on a course of reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation hearings that he initiated allowed the truth of profound injustice to be exposed, and to be followed not by violence and recrimination, but by peace.

 

His road from prisoner to president exemplified far more than a mere personal victory. It was a victory of truth, love, wisdom, and the power of unity over the forces of hatred and chaos.

 

How many short-sighted, devastating wars, how many millions of deaths and injuries, and how many injustices that plague today’s world might have been prevented had there been more Nelson Mandelas – more voices of clarity, vision, and compassion?

 

Having led a life of immense grace and dignity, Nelson Mandela has gone on to the peace of eternity.

 

May we find the courage to follow in his footsteps. May we also take up the spiritual power of positivity, of grace, unity, and transformation.

 

 

Photo: from Wikimedia Commons / Author: Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science / “This image, originally posted to Flickr, was reviewed on May 29, 2011 by the administrator or reviewer File Upload Bot (Magnus Manske), who confirmed that it was available on Flickr under the stated license on that date.” 

A view of the Brihadeshwarer Temple

A view of the Brihadeshwarer Temple

The best thing about the six-part BBC documentary series, The Story of India, first aired in 2007, is Michael Wood’s boundless enthusiasm for India. He is joyful, respectful, admiring, and when he does occasionally laugh at one of the millions of paradoxes in Indian culture, he does so only gently and with kindness.

Part Four, the one I just watched, “Ages of Gold,” opens in the fourth century CE at the city of Patna, in northern India. In Europe, this is around the time of the fall of Rome, the onset of the Dark Ages in the west.

In India, it is the start of the great Gupta Empire. The Gupta kings have just defeated the invading Huns, and they now set into motion the Golden Age of classical India, when all the arts flourish.

The Ganges descended to earth by falling on to the hair of Lord Shiva.

The Ganges descended to earth by falling on to the hair of Lord Shiva.

Michael Wood next travels further east along the Ganges to Benares (Varanasi), where he arrives in time for the festival of the Goddess Durga, Durga Puja. At this time, the plays of Rama are being shown. The Ramayana, one of the two great epic poems of India, soared to great prominence in the fifth century CE, during the time of the Guptas.  The theme running throughout this wonderful epic is the quintessentially Indian concept that one must, above all, live a life of virtue. This concept is embodied in the hero, King Rama, and is present, even today, in the psyche, of all Indian people.

The Chinese traveler, Fa Hsien, visited India during the fifth century and wrote an account of his journey. Going along the Ganges plain, he described “great cities and towns,”  where the people were “rich and prosperous.” He said that there was “no capital punishment” and that “the people do not kill any living creature.”

The art of the Guptas was unsurpassed, but it was not only their art, but also their technology that was amazing. Michael Wood finds himself next in Delhi, admiring the Iron Pillar of Delhi, which stands 35 feet high, and according to the inscription on it, was commissioned by Chandragupta II.  This remarkable pillar, though made of iron, has never rusted, and even today, no one is sure how this was accomplished.

The Gupta period was also the golden age of science. India pioneered the use of the “zero,” a concept which is the foundation of mathematics.

The mathematician and astronomer, Aryabhata, who lived in the fifth century CE, proved that the earth went around the sun. He found the value of pi, and calculated the circumference of the earth. These and many other discoveries of his were not arrived at by Europeans until many centuries later during the Renaissance.

A gopuram of the Brihadeswarer Temple.

A gopuram of the Brihadeswarer Temple.

Early Indians knew that the universe was billions of years old. The belief in vast eons of time was not new to them.

All this is only the beginning of this enchanting hour.

Lord Shiva -- 11th century Chola bronze

Lord Shiva — 11th century Chola bronze

The episode “Ages of Gold” also covers the magnificence of the Chola kings, around the eleventh century — their extraordinary temples, their astonishingly beautiful bronze castings and how they are made, their libraries and histories, their classical dance, and their environmental achievements, such as the building of a 1,000 foot long dam, in ancient times, where the two great streams of the Kaveri River come together, which enabled the irrigation of vast areas of land so that rice could be cultivated, turning the land into some of the most productive agricultural fields on earth.

To watch six fascinating hours of Michael Wood’s The Story of India, you can find it at Netflix.

Photos:

Top, third and fourth photos: © Sharon St Joan, 2011

Second photo: Wikimedia Commons: “This media file is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mythsofthehindus00niveuoft_0389.jpg

© Sharon St Joan; to find Sharon’s ebook on Amazon, Glimpses of Kanchi, click here

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Sir Reginald the Magnificent, dressed in a forest green cloak with a great starched ruffled collar, stood at the top of the red-carpeted stairs; he was pear-shaped with more or less no hair on his head. Trumpets blared, and he began in a high-pitched voice,

 

“Dearly Beloved Inferior Beings of the Galaxy. Here is our long-awaited proclamation to you.  We know how much you have looked forward to our arrival and how anxious you all are to share in the advanced blessings of our superior and exceptional civilization.  Let me assure you that we love you, and we will do everything in our power to share all our blessings with you.  There are just a few things we must sort out first in order to facilitate the glorious transformation that is about to take place. I know you will all welcome these changes with boundless enthusiasm.

 

“First, starting immediately, the year 2013 will become the Year One, and will mark the beginning of your supreme civilization, brought, with our help, to earth.  All records of anything that may have happened previously will be effaced. There is no need at all for you to remember any primitive, backward culture that you may have had before our arrival. We know this will not be hard for you, since you have forgotten so many previous civilizations – it should pose no problem.

 

“Secondly, let me assure you that you will be amazed at the rapid rate of progress and evolution that you will now be part of – like a great escalator rolling upwards towards the heavens, all will be progress, progress, and more progress. There will be no looking backwards to the dark, dreary days of the past.

 

“Thirdly, we have a new mode of thought for you to master. It is called Advanced Rational Galactic Thought.  It will replace your former primitive ways of thinking. It goes like this: All that is new, modern, scientific, and approved by the Great Council of Truth is right, correct, and true. All else is subversive and may be subject to punishment.

 

“All clear? That’s lovely. I knew you would understand. Those rumbling noises that you may be hearing in the distance are just the movements of tanks – I mean Crowd Protection Elements – they are surrounding the stadium where we are standing for your protection. They are there to assure that you are all entirely safe, secure, and comfortable. They can also modify the weather – insuring endlessly sunny days, or even a little rain if you wish.

 

“Now to continue. We feel a deep pain in our hearts when we see any of you suffer, and we know that sometimes you can have a cold or a sniffle or feel unwell.  We are pleased to announce that we have a highly evolved new system of medicine. You can now get rid of all those old bungling medicines and treatments of the past. They can go the way of herbs, healing dances, and witch doctors – which you dispensed with hundreds or thousands of years ago. Our Galactic Transformational Medical System is based entirely on vaccinations. We have a vaccine for everything.  And of course all citizens will be required to take the course of vaccines starting at birth, for your protection. With our vaccines, you will never, ever, suffer again.  All diseases will be obliterated.

 

“And by the way, these vaccines have been tested with great scientific precision. I should probably mention, and you might even have noticed,” he said, glancing down at his rather round form, “our species – you might mistakenly call us aliens, but really of course we are the one true advanced species – is descended biologically from a sort of animal that is quite like your mice.  We are not really mice, of course, we are greatly evolved from that stage of life – but our very distant ancestors were indeed mice.  And certainly we do recognize that the order of mice is the most superior, the most intelligent, and the most advanced of all the animal species, on this, or any other world.  Mice are naturally wise – we call them “mighty micy sapiens,” meaning “great wise mice.” Naturally, the mice order is superior and will in due time replace homo sapiens, who are inferior.

 

“When we test our new vaccines, we will do all testing on homo sapiens, since it would be wrong to use such advanced creatures as mice for testing either drugs or products. I know that you will agree. In any case there is nothing to fear.  All testing is painless, and we have never received a single complaint suggesting that anyone has ever suffered any pain from the testing. The testing is for our mutual benefit.  The test subjects after the completion of the testing will all be put gently to rest and a proper place in Heaven will await them.

 

“To continue with the Changes — democracy is the only valid form of government. We all agree on this. To ensure that democratic standards will be met, we will be eliminating all candidates who do not meet the proper democratic standards. This decision will be carried out by the Great Galactic Council of Kindness to ensure complete impartiality and fairness. The eliminated candidates will undergo a process of re-education and will be given vaccines specially designed to cure any false political leanings or tendencies. When they are cured they will be allowed to run for office again.

 

“You will be glad to hear that we have an update for religion too. This won’t be a surprise to any of you, since you yourselves have done away with innumerable religions in the past – think back to the dark days of paganism, witchcraft, totem poles, tribal dancing, chanting, and magic. Remember the glorious book burnings that you yourselves inflicted on heretical, superstitious belief systems. There will be no more chanting and no more music, since it is unscientific. The false religion that proclaims the divinity of that fellow hung up on the cross will have to go – it is known to be frightening to children. Instead we will all worship the Ascended Scientific Mouse. He has a mythology too, and we will be sending it to you to memorize.

 

“Since we are all in agreement that the marvelous civilization of the Great Galactic Coalition is, in all ways, infinitely superior, we will be referring all problems, challenges, projects, and plans to the Great Galactic Council of Kindness for their approval. In fact, there won’t really be any need for locally-conceived plans and projects, so you can just forget about them.  We will send you your instructions for any programs you need to implement. This will save you a lot of time and headaches and will simplify your lives, so you will be grateful.

 

“Starting tomorrow, all your children will be shipped off to the Great Galactic Center where they will be indoctrinated, I mean taught, all the enlightened and superior values of the Great Galactic Civilization. What I mean is that in between carrying out their chores and duties, if they have any free time that is, then civilized values will be imparted to them.

 

“I would especially like to congratulate all of you on the excellent progress you have made in ridding the earth of all that horrid plant and animal life that was cluttering up everything and replacing it with clean and beautiful plastic and concrete constructions. You have done an excellent job, and with the assistance of all our new technologies, we’ll have all those old, ugly species swept away in no time – especially the trees. Down with trees! No more trees! They are a disgusting life form.  From this time forward we will have only artificial, clean, and disinfected life forms – nothing dreadful and natural!

 

“You are all showing great progress, we love you very much, and we’ll soon have you in tip-top shape as appropriate Inferior Citizens of the Galaxy!

 

“I know change can be a little unnerving sometimes, but believe me there is nothing to fear. If anyone ever does feel just a teeny-weeny touch of anxiety, please do let us know immediately – we have just the right vaccine for you. It will cure any tiny bout of anxiety immediately! And let us all remember, there is no need to worry. We are here to help you, and we are assuming complete control.

 

“Now may the peace of immortal Scientific Progress be with you always.  May you live ever in the Divine Bubble of Progress in Ignorance.  May you smile happily always and forever, blessed by the abiding grace of Sublime Unreality.

 

“Goodby, my friends. May we meet again soon.”  He turned and was beamed up into the waiting airship, as the evening sun began to set.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2013

Image: © Igor Zakowski | Dreamstime.com

 

 

 

 

 

500px-LamarValleyWolf2011

Below is the link to a seventeen minute, entertaining and captivating talk by ecologist George Monbiot on the concept of rewilding  – using examples from Yellowstone, the oceans, and Europe and painting a vision of what might be possible for the planet.

George Monbiot is a visionary and can perhaps be forgiven for being a little foggy on the details. Some of his suggestions – like putting elephants where they don’t belong – are profoundly mistaken, but the overall concept and the brilliance and optimism with which he presents it are an intriguing vision.

The good part about what he says is that it works best when human beings stop – that is simply stop what they are doing to nature.  One example he gives is the retreat of farming from parts of Europe, allowing nature to resurrect itself when it is left alone.  The parts where humans are doing something, like moving animals around, sound a lot less like a good idea.

Overall, it is a fascinating view of a future that is perhaps possible.  In the war between the earth and human “progress,” might the earth win in the end?

http://vimeo.com/68575611

Thanks to Pamela Gale Malhotra of SAI Sanctuary for letting us know about this. Website: www.saisanctuary.com

Photo: Mike Cline/Wikimedia Commons / “I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain.” / “Lamar Valley Wolf, Yellowstone National Park, August 14, 2011.”

98% of clothes sold in America are made overseas.

 

A New York garment worker’s daily pay equals three months salary in Bangladesh.

 

Approximately 60% of young people in Greece and Spain are unemployed.

 

49% of American women are afraid of becoming homeless.

 

I’m not trying to make a particular point with any of these.  Feel free to draw any conclusion you wish.  But the current world seems to be a bit askew, and I think there’s something to be said for life back in the stone ages.

 

 

 

 

To read part one first, click here.

 

The Western world was not always the western world, as we know it.  Once, thousands of years ago, long before the middle ages and the dark ages, Europe was a land of myth and magic, a land of mystery, of ancient legends – a different world, one that can still be sensed among the ten thousand stone circles and ancient megaliths that dot the European countryside – from Malta to the northernmost islands of Scotland.  But something happened – a dark wave took over, casting out the myth and magic of the mists and bringing in the hard glare of a more cruel light –  and there began the rule of the crusaders, of conquistadors, of the Inquisition, of witch-burnings, of conquering and subjecting – of domination – and of the spreading across the earth of tides of oppression and destruction of lands and peoples.

 

With this onslaught of domination, came not only the oppression of all the peoples of the earth, but also the destruction of the planet itself.  Mining and oil wells, hi-tech wars, pollution, industrial waste, and relentless development have brought death to the rivers and oceans, to the air we breathe, to the land, the forests, and the animals, as the natural world too has been dominated and oppressed – along with women (the “witches”), and the peoples of the earth (disparaged as “primitive”).

 

To come back to the present moment, and the recent election, it has been remarked that the most extreme aspects of the Republican party are a throwback to the fifties, but really the mindset of domination goes back to a time several centuries earlier, and is a continuation of the dark spirit of the conquistadors and their ilk.  (This doesn’t mean that teaparty Republicans can’t be pleasant, decent people, in fact, quite fine people as human beings go; they generally are.  Conquistadors probably were too when they weren’t busy conquering foreign lands. Many people become, unthinkingly, part of whatever culture seems to choose them.)

 

Still, the desire to plant oil wells in Alaska and all along the coasts, the perception of the environment as something that must be beaten into submission, the wish to unleash rampant deregulation that will permit the full-scale annihilation of nature – all this combined with the drive to fight more and bigger wars, which are also sort of a way of “punishing” those perceived to be “evil” – all these methods of exercising dominion over everyone and everything are really opposed to all that is life-giving.  (None of this has anything to do with being genuinely and honestly conservative, in the normal sense – it is instead an aberration.)

 

Perhaps this aberrant trajectory of domination and oppression has come to its final, last stand.  Surely, it will limp along for a while, no doubt still wreaking havoc wherever it can, but it’s doom is sealed. (And when it goes, those who have been possessed by it, will also feel a sense of relief.)

On one level this election is just another election, one of many, yet there is a sense, on another level, that there has been a turning point – the emergence of a will for developing alternative energy to save the planet, for showing compassion rather than derision, inclusion rather than exclusion, for extending a word of encouragement and a helping hand to all. This is a spirit that values the life of people, all people, of nature, animals, plants, and the soul.  And it is a stepping stone toward the future – on a road that no longer barrels downwards to a baser and more corrupt world, but instead turns upwards to a world of light – of peace.

 

This unkind world that has been so prevalent over the last many centuries of our history, did indeed need to come to an end, and as it has begun to end, and as it still stumbles along on its last steps, another world beckons — a world of sunlight, of trees in the mists, of birds flying in the clouds – a world we had almost forgotten in our cities of clogged traffic and artificial existence.

 

A human political process cannot create heaven, and the people we have just elected are not angels dancing in the clouds, but fallible human beings. There will be many more struggles and battles to come.

 

Yet, all the same, we can glimpse a clearer light shining from the heavens, now that some of the oppressive clouds have been blown away, and a spirit of kindness and peace is poised to grow again on the earth.

The months and years to come will not be free of suffering. There may be tides of destruction and karmic repercussion from the actions of the past.  The seas may continue to rise, and the storm winds may still blow. But there has been an affirmation of a positive direction – towards life, kindness, and goodness.

 

What is important is the innocence in the souls of the animals, the beauty in the trees and the clouds, the survival of kindness in the hearts of some of the earth’s people, the presence of peace in the heart of God, and the awakening of creation to a more blessed state, freed from the dominion of evil that has beset us for so long.  The important thing is the victory of kindness, the diminishing of the world of corruption and oppression, and momentum toward the rebirth of an age of innocence and magic, where wildflowers can bloom in the sunlight and fish swim in the sea.

 

 

Top image: Author: Matty781  (Matthew Brennan) / “I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain.” / Wikimedia Commons / Stonehenge

 

Second image: “This image or recording is the work of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, taken or made during the course of an employee’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.” / Wikimedia Commons /  Bald Eagle landing.

 

Third image: Author: Larry Aumiller / Kodiak brown bear with her cubs in McNeil River Sanctuary / “This image or recording is the work of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, taken or made during the course of an employee’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.” / Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from Mitt Romney’s very gracious concession speech, his campaign over many months was dismissive of, and not very pleasant towards, just about everyone –  women, Latinos, all other minorities too, poor people, and the rest of the world.

 

Despite attempts to suppress the vote that haven’t been seen in this country for many decades, voters turned out in record numbers, waiting in long lines for up to eight hours. It seemed that the more the right to vote was threatened, the more determined people were to vote.

 

As many others have noted, the key factor in this election was not the economy at all, it was demographics – the changing population of America.  Those who voted for President Obama were overwhelmingly the young and a huge percentage of Latinos, African-Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and other minority voters – and just 39% of the white vote, which was this year only 72% of the whole, down from around 90% in the 1970’s.

 

This has been noted by many observers, yet these demographic facts are a significant source of dismay (or, to be more blunt, fear and terror) to some white people. This fear, conscious or unconscious, leads to a compulsion to hold on to the status quo for dear life, even while one perceives it to be slipping away.  And, in a few people, the impulse to dominate, to subjugate, to oppress, bully, invalidate, deride, and dismiss — takes over – and leads to the sorts of endless absurdities that suggest that President Obama is somehow “other” and “not one of us.”

 

The impulse to dominate is a very fascinating thing. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived on the shores of the New World in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, they committed horrific atrocities, slaughtering and enslaving Native Americans.  At the same time, in Europe, the Inquisition was in full swing, and women were being burned as witches in towns all across the European continent.

 

Later on, when the British arrived in America, a similar sort of vicious behavior toward native people continued, on down through the centuries.  The Age of Discovery was really no such thing, since people were already living in all the lands being “discovered,” so “discovery” wasn’t really needed. Nonetheless, the European powers felt obliged to colonize the rest of the world – Asia, Africa, North and South America, nearly every tiny island in the oceans – all must be given the gift of “civilization” – nevermind that some of these countries; like India, Egypt, and China, had been civilized for at least 5,000 years and possibly many thousands of years longer than that.  Certainly, they were civilized long before Rome attempted to curb the hordes of Vandals and Goths making their way through Europe.

 

If we are feeling that things have taken a better, more progressive turn since those dark days, that isn’t so. The wars of the twentieth and early twenty-first century were of unparalleled brutality.

 

After the Colonial Age, as the European powers were forced to withdraw, with regret, from the lands they had occupied, a new form of colonization arose – this time it was cultural and economic. And this is where we are at the moment – the invasion of CocaCola and McDonalds – and the insidious belief that creeps into the mind of people all over the world, that perhaps their own culture and traditions are somehow backwards and not quite modern enough.

 

The same individuals who are fiercely loyal to their own nations may still fall subject to a kind of unconscious drive leading them to cast off their own traditions and seek instead what seems “modern” and “western.”  I remember with sadness that in Kenya, I met so many people who were very proud of their Christian names and their Christian faith.  When I asked them about their heritage — their stories, myths, and traditions, bits of wisdom their grandparents might have passed on to them, they looked bemused or slightly embarrassed; they had no idea, they knew no traditional stories, and there was the sense that they felt that all these things were to be left behind, as somehow unworthy or best forgotten. What a sad way to lose one’s language and culture.

 

One could write many books outlining the ways that ancient, traditional medicine has more healing power than modern, allopathic medicine, or the ways that traditional agriculture is more sustainable and healthier than western agriculture, or ways in which traditional artisans and artists create art that is much, much more beautiful than anything the modern world can produce, or how even the oldest science, mathematics, astronomy, and knowledge of the universe is really not at all inferior to modern knowledge; how, in short, human “progress” is a myth that only serves to disguise the devolution and progressive ignorance of our present civilization.  This may be a minority view, not generally accepted, but there is something to be said for it.

 

A great loss of culture and true civilization has happened, one way or another, all over the world, as this western wave has swept over the earth, despite the valiant efforts of many people to preserve their own culture. It is only these courageous efforts, like a mighty flame in the darkness, that have kept alive the beauty, truth, and knowledge of ancient traditions that have been under such fierce attack. Now the tide may be turning.

 

To be continued in part two.  To read part two, click here.

 

Top image: Author: Margaret Duncan Coxhead / Source Romance of History, Mexico Date 1909 / The conquistadors entered Tenochtitlan to the sounds of martial music. / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.”

 

Second image: Author: D.F. Barry / Sitting Bull / This image is in the public domain in the United States. A Sioux holy man and chief who led his people in resistance. / Wikimedia Commons / “This image is in the public domain in the United States.”

 

Third image: Artist: Nicolaas Pieneman (1809–1860) /The submission of Diepo Negoro to Lieutenant-General Hendrik Merkus Baron de Kock, 28 March 1830, which ended the Java War (1825–30). / Wikimedia Commons /”This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.”

Looking for life on other planets

The program “The Universe” on the H2 Channel describes new rocket propulsion systems that are being worked on, one of which might cut the trip to Mars down to a few weeks.  Scientists are also combing the sky looking for exoplanets and hoping that some day we may be able to visit far-away worlds and find new forms of life.  For their sake, let’s hope we don’t find them.

One might have hoped that CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, who has a kind, gentle manner, and who is an American with an Indian background, might be more in tune with the tradition of ahimsa.  Promoting fish farming in the oceans on his program The Next List, on September 9, 2012, isn’t going to do anything to help the world’s hunger problems.

Alleviating the hunger crisis can be done by humans eating less meat (less of all kinds of meat, including seafood, fish, and chicken) and fewer dairy products – and relying more on plant-based diets.  We’d be healthier too.

Helping the planet (and ourselves, because we live here as well) won’t be accomplished by imprisoning fish or by further extending humanity’s sphere of dominance over the seas as well as the land.  Since we’ve usurped and destroyed much of the earth already – air, water, and land – and killed most of the fish in the sea, it might be good to leave the remaining fish alone to live in peace.

Photo: © Dmitry Bairachnyi / Dreamstime.com

To leave a comment on the webpage of the The Next List, click here.

For more on the negative impacts of aquaculture, click here.

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