Beautiful Children

Fourth World Eye Blog

The Cultural Vortex of Modernity

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Many commentators including Indigenous scholars have continually raised the issues that settler-invader societies in Australia, Canada, the USA, and other synthetic nation states built on the backs of native people and their lands are culturally troubled. Many have called this trouble the postmodern era, expressive of a meaningful vortex - the absence of morality, connection, belonging, and identity.I see this in my work all the time as a counselling psychotherapist and educational consultant. People are searching, expending enormous energy, trying to find meaning. They look to the East in Buddhism, in the story of displacement of Tibet, in the energies of Reiki, in the experiences of Latin America, in the South Pacific Islander cultures - in anything but their own history and heritage... I am coming to see this as "white fellah's bad-dreaming" bestowed on the modernity of global identity and conflated with corporate forgetfulness and the absence of moral fibre - we see emerging a new global non-consciousness based in post-industrial materialism and neo-scientific objectification of meaning into meaningless discourse.Indigenous scholarship says wake up to yourself, find the basis of sustainable moral culture attached to local and regional ecology, tradition, and spirituality.Personally I see clients, couples and families rich with gadgets but in crisis of identity. Socially I see people with enormous debts and who give their energy to anything but being present in the now, and their discontent is like a taste in the air, a form of putrid acidity, that generates workplaces of stress, anxiety and frustration.In many respects the centres of this culture of the vortex are contemporary universities, where the elite of the society gather to recreate the dominant ethos, values, and tenor of what they see as most valuable. However, in the erosion of social values and through various governmental policies in Australia and other western nations, the university sector is set adrift without a moral compass. What I am proposing is not a return to conservative moral values. The crux of my suggestion is that we as a society need to critically and wholistically reflect on our central project - the human condition within a sustainable human ecology. To reach that place demands change.My father's bloodline gives me one of the guiding values that works for me in the notion of "Msit Nogama" which comes from Mi'kmaq First Nation language, meaning "All My Relations." Many other tribes in North America have this saying in different forms. In my translation and understanding of the term, it means All is One (Mmm, or Emm). This oneness relates to personal identity which cannot be separated from relationship - Msit - All is One Within My Being - in this moment All is As it Is. This is a form of collective and individual identity, a deeply cosmological sensibility, and a philosophy of relation. "Nogama" meaning relations, family, inter-dependence, relying on each other, and knowing who we are as family. This approach applies to all of creation.In western heritage my mother's bloodline gives me the Celtic symbols of ancient knot work. These symbols speak to me of an older tribal awareness among European settler-invader cultures in the modern nation states that I have mentioned above. The symbols are only pathways to exploring a much more rich cultural repository that needs to be reawakened in today's world where Anglo-Celtic peoples are set adrift by modernity and corporate amnesia. But this work must happen on a massive scale. We Aboriginal people need Europeans to wake up, to grow up, and face their demons, and to take their spiritual journey seriously and with profound regard for how they have damaged their own relationships with the world and people around them. Only when people are awake to their identity can they work for peace and then, only then, can justice become a sustainable ecology within human and natural environments.Like I tell my students, share with me the stories of your parents. Tell me what challenges and contexts they faced. Then tell me about your grandparents, share the story of their lives. Most people in white societies can not remember. The stories become a year long project. Students are enthralled by researching their heritage. They uncover voids, vacuums, and dusty treasures, while they also discover gems, and many more questions. But at least these questions become like pregnant moments of waiting - they at least know there is something to discover now about their own identity - they at least have a path to follow to make their lives more full of meaning.Every single family, and every person, has a story, a history, a cultural heritage. Every settler-invader family has transplanted their old energy into a new Sacred Land. They need to understand what energy they embody in their bloodlines and in their being right now - mostly unconscious energy, mostly what IS, but this undiscovered country is exactly where they need to begin.So as ironic as it seems, as an Indigenous scholar and teacher, I am pointing people of all races back to their own roots in culture and meaning. Only then can be authentically dialogue about cultural and social issues. Only then can we actually respect each other from a cultural and spiritual place of honouring each other's heritage and unique ways of being and thinking. Only then can we stop assuming we have the right way for others, once we realise our own cultural identity is so very unique. Colonial invasion is a nasty business, much like modern day corporate ownership is so terribly driven by the cultural vortex arising from what has become a macro social self-abusive psychopathology.When my Aboriginal Ancestors and our Two Spirit Medicine Workers greeted the Europeans in their large ships, we looked for their Spirits but we thought they were dead people come to visit us, why? Because these white bodies had no Medicine. They were empty children without a moral compass. We sought among their leadership but found so few who embodied truth, wisdom, and justice. When I imagine those first encounters with our Medicine People, I am overwhelmed with sadness, for the emptiness and cultural vortex that was transplanted upon our native soils led to the destruction of our ancient forests and the land was forever changed - even though, today, that same land can be healed and restored if we actually take a strategic plan for that land that spans the next five hundred years - which is about the amount of time it will take for an Old Growth Forest to grow into its first stage of infancy. That vision of restoration for the lands of Canada and America is not so far fetched as we might imagine - as there are ways and means to nurture ecology and human agency - we must first confront the heart of these issues raised here today. We have a long way to walk in each other's shoes. We need to create moral fibre that actually accounts for not only green movement concerns but also to account in economic and real terms for the Seventh Generation whose lives could well be enriched by that Old Growth Forest and all that She represents...

One Comment

  1. In a consumer society, settler culture not only assimilates indigenous peoples into the dominant market relationships, it also assimilates the trappings of indigenous culture as yet another commodity. For those looking for meaning and purpose beyond consumption, the trappings are representative of a more authentic cosmology and philosophy, but achieving these visions entails a lot more effort and risk than acquiring tribal accoutrements. Having been chastised for appropriating domestic native rituals and attire, the safer route for the superficial is in adopting foreign autochthonous paraphernalia and practices, with the added benefit of its exotic marketability.

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