Saturday, January 19, 2013

When Worlds Collide

For years I had been fascinated by the history surrounding the contact between the peoples of the Old World with the peoples of the New World. It is about as finest an example that we've got in determining what happens when very distinct cultures clash and their worlds collide. The history of man is very disturbing. It is rife with hatred and ignorance and brutality unseen anywhere else in nature. You would expect that mankind's past would reflect a slow progression from savage to noble. Have we really evolved from the savage? Or are we just tamed under the facade of civility? I certainly think that the modern world has forced man to think and act rational. We have extended our compassion beyond those who are just like us, and this we can all agree is good. Compassion and empathy knows no limits, and with each passing year it seems our world becomes a little more humane. But it is not without its problems.

When mankind encountered his fellow man, things often didn't go quite well. When I think about the holocaust to the Native Americans it makes me sad. I find a deep sense of intrigue and comfort in the Native American way of life. It is a amply more harmonious with nature. There is no concept of conquering nature, or taming nature, there is living with nature, as nature. When the Europeans arrived they brought with them a totally new way of live, alien to the Native American ways. European culture required exploiting the land, controlling it, making it conform to serve their needs. They didn't just want what they needed, they wanted more so that they could sell it and trade it to make a profit. The land was a means for them to get rich. The Native way was in tuned with nature, it lived with it. You took from the land only what you needed, and you put back into it only what you took. There was no need to take any more than necessary.

These two ways of living would eventually clash, and it would be the Native American way that would lose. Gone are the spirited hunters and gathers on the great plains chasing buffalo herds.

Although I have deep respect for the Native American way of life, I must admit that I am a man of the modern world. And my modern way of living requires that the land be tamed and that land must be extracted and turned into products. At best I could strike a balance between these two ways of living, but finding the right way is the hard part.

When cultures collide they can sometimes mix well. But like oil and water put together, sometimes they do not mix very well, and often when this happens one destroys the other. When I think of the conflict between the West and Islam I think that the latter might be the case. I think at some fundamental level it will not mix very well. I have hope however, that there won't be violence and that our coexistence will be peaceful. We are not the savages that we were just 60 years ago. All educated rational people know that we are all brothers and sisters on this planet, and that to kill your fellow man is to kill your distant brother. Since in the modern era our compassion has been extended beyond those who are like us, we will more likely treat the other like one of us. This makes violent confrontation less likely. We all desire the same basic things. We want to live our lives with freedom as we wish. We want happiness for ourselves and our families. We want to live in a safe community where compassion is exercised, and there is respect for one another. Most of us want man to extend his compassion to nature as well because it is nature that supplies us with everything we need. We did not come into this world, we came out of it. Man is nature. We are made of the same chemical elements that surround us everywhere. Our nature should therefore respect nature, because we deserve self respect too.

Someone years ago created the 10 Indian Commandments. I have reprinted them below. I must admit that they make more sense than their biblical counterparts. If we actually lived by them we would be fully living in harmony with one another and with nature. I would advise that you take whatever wisdom it contains and make it work for you.

The 10 Indian Commandments

1. Treat the earth and all that dwell thereon with respect
2. Remain close to the great spirit
3. Show great respect to your fellow beings
4. Work together for the benefit of human kind
5. Give assistance and kindness whenever needed
6. Do what you know to be right
7. Look after the well being of mind and body
8. Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good
9. Be truthful and honest at all times
10. Take full responsibility for your actions

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