The saddest book I ever read is called Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee and it recounts the mistreatment and the destruction of the Native American peoples and their way of life. Even now, some years later, I remember the sadness it brought to me, a feeling of helplessness having witnessed a monumental injustice and being able to do nothing about it. Yet this tragic history does not stand alone which travelling has made me more and more aware of.
I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures.Geronimo
The suppression of great cultures across South America such as the Incas and the Aztecs. The subjugation of the native people of Australia and their way of life. The division of Africa by the European nations. All are sad and shameful stories as is the arrogance of these so-called cultured people as they dealt with the barbarians and the heathens, the devil worshippers.
Let me ask you, Pogue, is the world a better place for the supposed civilisation we gifted these peoples? Me, I think not. Nor is it any better for the attempts to convert them to a single religion and, in doing so, expunged theirs from the world. The arrogance of what history retells is mind boggling.
I have read a bit on the rise of the Mongol Empire recently and noted that they were willing to allow conquered peoples to retain their own religions and worship as they pleased. This was surely wise. Why? Because a persons concept of God and the means she chooses to give expression to this are fundamental to their being. Tied up in this is the essence of assurance which more than anything gives comfort in the face of the inevitable coming of non-existence in this world, death.
Then there is the fact that a belief system is underpinned by its ability to make possible a relationship here and now with the ultimate entity, the Great Spirit, the Universe. In doing so it enables adherents to find hope in life, especially in a life of subjugation And where there’s hope there is a reason to go on. So the African slaves in the cotton fields sang of their hope in songs of redemption.
I’m sometimes up, and i’m sometimes downSwing Low Sweet Chariot – Trad.
Comin’ for to carry me home
But I know my soul is heavenly bound
Comin’ for to carry me home
A small light burned in their souls because of this hope. In the face of their beliefs and hopes the time left in this life, even as slaves, became manageable knowing they had a future.
As I have sat here thinking and writing about the so called civilisation of primitive peoples my thoughts have turned to the on going civilisation of all humanity. Civilisation is such an interesting word isn’t it. It supposedly hails out advancement and achievements. The achievement of the most advanced sections of mankind. But in an age of the immediate dissemination of ideas and information to so many are we not creating the opportunity for the mongrelisation of all peoples as we exposed them to the very same ideas and systems. Is they a danger, or maybe an intention, for cultures to become culture? Are we entering an age when thinking is no longer a process that many individuals consciously undertake preferring abdication of such a taxing task to their devices.
“Alexa tell me.”
Is there a real danger of the loss of the many hues and shades created by the individuals who make up societies leaving only the mass which is a single tone of grey? Someone once talked of the tyranny of the masses. The Roman elite recognised the fickleness of the mob. But are we now moving to an age when we are in danger of the rule of mediocrity through the masses, the mob and by default over society and eventually civilisation? Should we fear for the loss of our individual and collective identity and beliefs?
I lost cultures, I lost a whole language, I lost my religion, I lost it all in the fire of colonisation. So, I will not apologise for owning every piece of me they could not take, break and claim as theirs.Ijeoma Umebinyuo
Will our God, our Great Spirit succumb to the coming age of the mediocre? Now there’s a thought, a mediocre god. At that point I see all hope being lost because hope demands something better than we currently have. The slave hoping for the coming freedom in this life or the next. The displaced person hoping for a return to the land which gave them identity and meaning. The victim hoping for the coming release from the ever present pain. And in the day when each of these occurs, the divine entity, the very foundation of their hope, will be met. Such consistent hope is a comfort and a bastion in the presence of immediate suffering enabling a person to remain forward focused. There will be a better day, it’s coming. A better world.
But in the meantime, as mediocrity threatens to engulf more and more cultures, how do we maintain our identity?
Well, we must know our history. We must know where we came from and it must be part of our story which we tell and will retell for it is the reiteration of our uniqueness and the essence of our identity, not to be surrendered to the masses. It has colour all of its own, our colour.
Then we maintain our beliefs in a higher power because, as said, it gives us hope. Additionally, it enables a consistent value system and a standard for our morality. Such beliefs enable us to know what we do and don’t do, the reason we have the beliefs we have and strengthens us against mediocrity.
We develop and maintain a strong faith for, As Rabbi Jonathon Sacks has written:
Only faith in God can motivate us to act for the benefit of a future we will not live to see.
So lets commit to maintaining our identity against those who would come to engulf us. Technology is reaching more everyday. Once a preacher in a pulpit spoke to a hundred. Now a radical can reach a million and a controversial media manipulator ten times that number. And how many engage with what they hear? How many ask questions? How many seek an alternate opinion to balance their understanding?
Question everything is good advice for me. Even when it seems right. And continue to let that “still small voice” of your conscience, your intuition, God’s arbiter, be your guide.
Yours, maintaining my personal colour,