Monday, June 22, 2009

Individual Myth and Reconnection to Place

We see that many people come to the United States to make a new way of life. The power of this country is that it allows the individual to take initiative, and the belief is that you succeed or fail based on personal merit. Countless individuals have come to this country and excelled in an array of personal, financial, social, and environmental spheres.

However, this concept of individual initiative ignores the social, economic, political, technical, and ecological support systems around those individuals which make their success or failure possible. It is a myth that has taken us away from our roots and the place to where we need to return.

Our indigenous worldview(s) (cosmovision) stand in marked contrast to the myth of the individual. This understanding respects the vital need for collaboration and cooperation in order to survive. This understanding knows the need for balance and the paramount importance of the web of life. This worldview comes from many centuries of observation of how our natural world works, and in figuring out how to survive in a place.

“. . . we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things."
-- Thanksgiving Address, Haudenosaunee (Iroquois)

"Honor and respect water as a sacred and life-giving gift from the Creator of Life. Water, the first living spirit on Earth . . . When water is threatened, all living things are threatened."
-- Statement, Hopi Hisot Navoti Gathering

It’s not that we in modern times are somehow ignorant of the crucial value of healthy air, water, and food. But we don’t have an economy and politics that on a day-to-day basis respects our interconnectedness, and promotes our living in place. For example, the prices we pay at the supermarket don't reflect hidden and true costs of food, so we often don't make the right decisions. We know groups working on Food and Justice policies and wish them well in fixing these issues

In being truly “place-based”, it is not possible to act in a way that systematically compromises the interconnected nature of the universe. Else, you deplete the vitality of your water, your sources of shelter, and your food (fish, animals, berries, plants), and leading to two possible options: 1) move off the depleted ancestral lands due to lack of food and into potential conflict with other tribes, or 2) go extinct. Since in indigenous times people largely maintained balance, it meant that vast forests, healthy soils, clean water, and mineral deposits were readily available to fuel modern society. We must return to respect, understand that these things cannot be liquidated, and use the appropriate building, energy, and water technology to support ourselves.

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