Sunday, December 05, 2021

Chief Raoni Metuktire

 


Chief Raoni Metuktire is the chief of the Kayapo people who populate a region of the Amazon forest.    It is this vast region in South America that represents a highly important resource that plays a central role in the stability of the global climate especially with the added threat of climate change that is a direct result of human activity.

The Amazon forest has been threatened for decades due to the unabated incursion of commercial development that has had a devastating impact on the the region – threatening the delicate ecological balance that sustains this natural system.  As a result, the livelihood, safety and security of the indigenous peoples that populate this region have been under continued assault.

Chief Raoni has been involved in the preservation of the remaining rain forest that is home to his people for decades and has repeatedly risked his own safety in the pursuit of this illusive goal.  Although there is no official record of his birth, it has been assumed that he was born around 1932 in a village called Krajmopyjakare, otherwise known as Kapot.  This village resides in the midst of he region referred to as the Mato Grosso in Brazil (see map below).

 


 The Kayapo are a nomadic people; as a child he lived in many locations.  At the age of 15, Raoni participated in the rites of initiation as a warrior and wore a labret – an ornamental disk in their lower lip that was gradually replaced by larger disks an ultimately reached the current size after four months.

In 1954, Raoni met the Villas Broas brothers – Orlando, Claudio and Leonardi were Brazilian activists that drew attention to the plight of the indigenous people of Brazil and ultimately succeeded in getting the upper Xingu legally protected.  He stayed with them for a year, learned Portuguese and was greatly influenced by them.

It was in 1973 that Chief Raoni began a friendship with noted French film maker, Jean Pierre Dutilleux, that ultimately led to the release of a documentary film entitled Raoni that was presented at the 1977 Cannes festival.  This gave the Chief Raoni and the plight of his people worldwide exposure.

He used this exposure as an opportunity to expose the threat the deforestation posed on the rain forest ecosystem and the plight this posed to the indigenous populations of this region.

In 1989, Chief Raoni, enlisted the help of Sting, a popular British rock band to broadcast his message.  It was the first time he ever traveled beyond his homeland of Brazil.  The resulting impact of all these events aroused enough global support that a vast tropical reservation was create in 1993 that encompassed the Mato Grosso and Para states in Brazil.  In addition, Chief Raoni won the support of such notable individuals as French President, Mitterrand and the former French President Chirac, The king of Spain, Juan Carlos and Pope John Paul II.

Chief Raoni Metuktire remains a charismatic and influential leader in support of the indigenous peoples of the rain forest and an outspoken proponent of a sustainable planet.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Why Moving Towards the Light is More Important than Ever

 This country, founded on a belief in human equality, the power of democracy and the rule of law, is in serious crisis and moving inexorably towards the darkness. After only 232 years since the birth of the Democratic Republic in 1789, the democratic system as outlined in the Constitution has been seriously threatened especially following an attempted coup by its former President on Jan 6 of the year 2021. The near successful attempt to undermine the peaceful transition of power by a mentally unbalanced demagogue and blatant white supremacist is troublesome in its own right.

However, it seems that a major political party not only has essentially refused to condemn this overt attempt to subvert the very basis of a democratically-aligned government but has made it clear through both rhetoric and actions its determination to undermine the electoral process. Through its unrelenting attacks on the truth; and through its violent and corrosive language in which the members of the opposing party – that clearly holds the majority – are labeled as the enemy, it has become quite evident that the democratic process is held in contempt.

These are indeed dark times when the forces of bigotry and repression, of ignorance and violence, of hatred and fear are encouraged and seen as values to be lauded. These are indeed dark times when white supremacy is regarded as a political philosophy to be embraced and emulated. These are indeed dark times when truth is supplanted with outrageous falsehoods and intellect and science are held suspect.

This nation has failed to come to terms with the violent reality of its past. Part of this violent heritage was the near genocide of the native peoples of North America for the primary purpose of uprooting them from their land and their way of life so as to make room for white settlers who wished to forcefully occupy all available land and exploit its vast and untapped resources. There has been and continues to be a refusal to acknowledge the great injustice of the enslavement of the peoples of Africa captured and forcefully exported from their land and their people so as to exploit their labor .and deprive them of their inherent humanity. This incomplete accounting does not include the totality of violent aggression directed at immigrant populations over the life of the nation.

A significant aspect of this past is the many wars of aggression fought around the world so as to impose and protect economic and political hegemony especially in regard to poorer nations. More often than not these conflicts left millions of needless and avoidable deaths and unimaginable destruction.

This unabashed history of intolerance, hatred and violence has left innumerable injuries that fester within the body politic and have seriously impacted the collective psyche of the American people. As a result, fear, uncertainty, insecurity, and suspicion have festered within the population making it susceptible to the vitriol and toxic polemics that reverberate throughout the culture. This has given rise to a crazed environment where hundreds of millions of guns and weaponry are now in the hands of the general public. A consideration of the inevitable outcome of this mass possession of instruments of death is difficult to contemplate.

We are a people in crisis. A route out of this path into the darkness is to turn towards the light. This shift in direction involves a number of key transformations. A first priority must be a return to the truth and the concomitant rejection of the lie in all its manifestations. Secondly, the reality that science has clearly demonstrated that needs to be fully embraced is the fact that all peoples of the world regardless of the color of their skin, place of origin, sexual orientation, gender, etc. are members of the same species – Homo sapiens – all worthy of the same rights and privileges and entitled to the same treatment under the law. A necessary corollary of this truth is the fact that race is an artificial construct that has no reality outside this mistaken perception. A true ascendance to this reality would deny bigotry, prejudice and feelings of racial superiority any standing.

One of the key components of such a shift in attitudes and general mindset is the necessity of discarding delusional thinking that has led to the acceptance of crazed philosophies and expectations that have no true relationship with reality. Freeing ourselves of the burden of this thinking would allow the nation to begin to confront real issues such as climate change, that in the absence of remedial action may eventually engulf us.

Finally and most importantly, we need to discard the blinders that have kept us trapped in a world of our own creation where we have come to believe that we as individuals are the center of existence and therefore fail to recognize and appreciate the wondrous diversity that surrounds us. We are, after all, a part of the fabric of existence; all of humanity and nature deserves to be heard, nurtured, supported and appreciated. This, to me, is the essence of love.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

The Prevalence of the Delusional Mind in Modern Human Life

The appearance of self consciousness and the capacity for analytical thinking during the process of evolution of life has, of course, established the dominance of sentient beings on planet earth. These attributes are the transformative features of the human brain and have established our collective humanity.

The thinking character of the human brain, however, is subsumed by the chaotic aspect of the ever-present reality principle that encompasses the ineluctable forces of nature over which we can exert little or no control. The one capability of the human mind that has co-evolved over millions of years is the ability to impose order in relation to the incoming data constantly streaming into our minds through the senses. The net result of this organizing “feature’’ has created the perception of an ordered environment.

It is this reality superimposed over the human experience that has made the rise of human civilization possible along with the development of human hands capable of serving as tools to craft creative potential into usable objects. Unlike most other living creatures on Earth, we not only react to natural forces around us, but we also interact with and actively attempt to transform our environment.

This superimposed and ordered aspect of our thinking has established the predominance of the delusional mind, for what seems so apparent in our daily lives does not reflect the real nature of reality that exists within the framework of the cosmos. Within this delusional matrix in which the natural world seems to be at our disposal and forever subject to our control, we have chosen a kind of blind certainty over clarity. We have chosen to see reality as we expect it to be rather than as it truly is.

Up until the very recent past, this state of delusional thinking has been quite effective and apparently productive. However, the human species is rapidly approaching a state of existence in which the artificial world that we have collectively created is beginning to transform the underlying physical reality in a way that may ultimately lead to our collective extinction.

Humans have crafted an apparent reality that teaches us that the human species holds a special place in existence that precludes all else; that the individual is the center of existence, and that the environment of which we are a part exists for our benefit at the obvious expense of any other life forms inconvenient or hostile to us.

The delusional mind has come to perceive only one reality that is centered around self and that all other aspects of our true environment and place in the cosmos is part of a shadow world not worthy of our attention. It is within this shadow world that the reality of individual death has been placed. It is within this shadow world that the inescapable reality of the finite, ephemeral and fallible nature of human existence has also been placed.

This delusional state of existence - remarkably enhanced by the imposition of technologically-crafted virtual realities - remains perpetually at risk, for we are subservient to the real and ineluctable forces that operate within the cosmos. We are, after all, protected from the chaotic and unforgiving forces of the cosmos by a very thin layer of atmosphere on which we absolutely depend and an exceedingly narrow range of climatic conditions, temperature, available sources of nutrition, water, etc.

Either we will collectively persist on our present course into the future or choose some other path more in accord with the actual nature of reality. We shall see.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Crazy Apes - A Tribute to Albert Szent Gyorgyi

Young fighters

erstwhile warriors

prepared to explode

their body parts into

organic confetti

taking hundreds with them

to death’s crematorium

for glory

for god

for fruitless revenge

for retribution

for nonsensical beliefs.


Colonialists

with daydreams of empire

and untold fortunes

dancing in their heads,

strap weapons of destruction

to their merciless portfolios

of greed,

politics like a game of marbles

played with abandon

upon our earthly globe,

ignoring the ultimate reality

of victorious death,

we depart with nothing

no matter how filled our coffers,

regardless of all the possible satisfactions of

physical delights,

we depart from the living

much like when first expelled from

mother’s luxuriant womb

with nothing except

what is required to fill our lungs

with the very first breath and

bodies to sustain us.

 

Crazy Apes

have filled their precious brains

with ideas of endless and relentless

prosperity,

that if fulfilled

with come to naught,

yet the dance continues

to the incessant beat

within the fantastic dream of

having it all,

yet the idea of cheating death

in some extraordinary journey that

will carry us beyond the finality of the grave

to an eternity where all the physical laws

fall away like some annoying and burdensome baggage,

our airy souls can then surpass the very

essence of time and space.

 

Crazy Apes

sustain themselves

upon a bedrock of  twisted concepts,

beliefs exquisitely drawn from

erroneous conclusions,

that lead to nowhere and

suggest a world that

can no longer contain them.

 

Crazy Apes

nearly eight billion strong,

sucking great gobs of matter

from the earth

without benevolence or

sensible feelings of dread,

expelling poisons carelssly into

precious air,

draining the oceans dry of

precious life,

sacrificing exquisite beauty of wild

transformative earth

with mountains of trash,

living on the home planet

as if it was not responsible for

our continued existence.

 

Crazy Apes

with a world deperately in need of mending

problems mounting,

disaster looming,

doom approaching,

more content to annhilate

each other

over trivial concerns

than join together to

choose harmony instead

when harmony is so critically needed.

 

Crazy Apes

Thursday, August 05, 2021

The Grand Illusion

There is no superhero

roaming the cosmos

balancing the cataclysmic forces

in limitless space for our

precise and mutual benefit .

 

There is no wondrous savior

ready to descend into the

human firmament

to rescue humanity from its own

reckless behavior.

 

There is no grand

all-encompassing master plan,

no magnificent paradise

engineered for the truly saved,

no other-worldly place

of eternal succor,

no fiendish caldron of

suffering and damnation,

no transcendent peace or place of

infinite interminable suffering.

 

There is an insatiable quiet

within the molecular void of

empty space,

there is an inspired chorus of

galaxies in riotous collision,

black holes that bend light into

utter darkness.

  

We are transient time travelers

marooned on spaceship earth,

moving through the generations

hapless and alone,

magnificent yet fragile,

blessed yet beseiged by

aching and profound consciousness.

 

Life is ours to fathom

within all its

fabulous and alluring

manifestations.

 

Life is ours to experience

own up to and

embrace.

 

No heavenly guidance,

no celestial validation,

no prophets that will descend

from lofty perches,

there is no rapture,

there is no escape.

 

Life is ours to comprehend

or neglect,

life is ours to appreciate

or discard,

life is ours to enhance

or abuse,

choice lies within

not held hostage in

some remote and distant

otherness.

 

Whether we persist

or descend into our own

particular and disastrous conclusion,

time unfolds,

the universe endures,

existence prevails within the

scope of the ever-present moment.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

A Time of Deep Sadness – The American Political System 2021

As a people, we should be deeply troubled about what has transpired over the recent past.  The change that has apparently overtaken the American political system began with the election of America’s first Black President, Barrack Obama, the 44th President of the United States.  For on that day, the underlying malaise that has haunted this country since its inception as a supposed Democratic Republic finally broke through the surface and shattered the veneer that has dominated the domestic landscape.  Once the imposing barrier that had existed to forestall real social progress imploded, a significant portion of the white population found that the new reality encompassing a ethnically, culturally, and racially diverse nation was regarded as entirely unacceptable.

 The malaise I am referring to is that of the profoundly delusional belief in the supremacy of the white race.  This belief together with the corollaries that it embraces is particularly absurd in the twenty-first century where the modern understanding of molecular biology and genetics has clearly established that race is a completely manufactured concept having no basis in reality, for all individual human beings regardless of their place of origin, color of their skin, cultural identity, system of beliefs are all members of the same species with no essential differences between them.  

Our history as a nation has much to atone for in regard to the malevolent and evil behavior directed at Native American peoples that led to their near-genocide and the unconscionable stealing of their birth rite and homeland.  This appropriated land and natural resources were takings that the colonists and their descendants enormously benefited from.  This belief in the supremacy of the white race was also used to rationalize the institution of slavery that deprived the freedom, dignity,and welfare of people of color forcefully removed from their homelands for the sole purpose of enhancing the economic status of the slave owners and all those who indirectly benefited from this forced arrangement.  To this day, Native Americans and African -Americans are still paying a horrific price for the color of their skin – a wholly accidental difference that is insignificant from the perspective of the inherent biology of the species.

The reality of the bigotry and prejudice that is the essential consequences of this belief in white supremacy – this lie of monstrous proportions – has so distorted the mentality and intelligence of those who hold it as a fundamental truth that it has elevated sheer stupidity and staggering ignorance to a such a place preeminence within our culture that an entire major political party has come to embrace it.  This is the price we are collectively paying for not condemning such preposterous lies. 

The reality of what actually transpired on January 6 is a clear indicator of how far we have come to our own self-immolation.  Any impartial observer to the horrendous events that transpired on that day could not come to any conclusion other than that the perpetrators involved held the system of laws and beliefs that are absolutely essential within the framework of a democratic republic in complete contempt.  To conclude otherwise is to make a mockery of democracy itself. 

Democracy cannot be sustained if truth and reason are held suspect.  Democracy requires an informed, educated, and intelligent population.  Without this bulwark, the enormous problems that confront the nation cannot be delineated, analyzed and successfully addressed.  Without an informed, educated, and diverse electorate, we will effectively jeopardize our future and may well experience a kind of dystopia that has usually been addressed in fictional literature and the medium of film. 

If the violent mob that attacked the nation’s capital - encouraged by a significant portion of the Republican Party - actually succeeded in the installation of a deranged, intellectually challenged and horrendously incompetent leader like Trump in defiance of democratic principles we would be witnessing a significant acceleration of this apparently inexorable process of decline.

One might argue that this line of argument I am presenting is extreme and somewhat exaggerated.  However, please remember that we now live in a country that has justified the universal acquisition of firearms of all varieties including assault weapons.  Within this environment, this country has come to tolerate a level of violence that most civilized societies would find entirely unacceptable. 

Given these realities, what would be the consequences for a country with an abysmal public health system, a failing infrastructure, a catastrophic and extreme climate, a large population of poor and homeless when all of these issues are ignored or mismanaged by an extremist, autocratic, undemocratic, and corrupt government?  What would be the status of the ordinary citizen among a thoroughly armed and disaffected population?  Are we prepared to accept such a bleak and unforgiving environment for ourselves and future generations?

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Plight of the Native American Peoples of the US

 It is a disturbing and unavoidable reality that the westward expansion of the United States during the early stage of its development as a nation was accomplished at the expense of the native populations that occupied these coveted lands.  These native populations were conveniently viewed as less than human and treated accordingly, resulting in their near genocide.  As a result, they were violently displaced from the land they held as sacred for the sake of the unimpeded and ineluctable occupation by white settlers.

To this day, no substantive apologies have ever been offered and no attempt at restitution made to help ameliorate the suffering that has been imposed on these native peoples and their descendants.  The following is a description of the tragedy imposed upon Chief Joseph and his people - the Nez Perce.

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce

 

was known to his people as "Thunder Traveling to the Loftier Mountain Heights."

The Nez Perce occupied an area of Oregon referred to as the Wallowa valley in Eastern Oregon. These people were first exposed to white settlers during the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804 – 1806). They were treated with kindness, consideration, and compassion. On this first encounter they were impressed by the technological advances and capabilities these strangers. To some members of the Nez Perce people, they were regarded as superior being whom they wanted to emulate. This embrace of these newcomers, however, would prove to be of relatively short duration.

It was not longer after this initial encounter, that the NEZ Perce was visited by Christian missionaries.  An exposure to the ways of the white man as exemplified by the lifestyle of these missionaries led many Nez Perce to convert to Christianity.

Joseph’s father, Tuekakas, as chief of the Nez Perce was a convert and as a consequence, Joseph was exposed at an early age to the ways of these foreigners.

Although the homeland of the Nez Perce was remote and hard to reach served as a significant barrier to encroachment by white settlers, this protection was disrupted by two significant events in the early history of the U.S. republic. One was the California Gold Rush of 1848 and the other was Homestead Act of 1862 that granted up to 160 acres of land to those who would establish residence and make the land productive. This act resulted in the settlement of about 1.6 million on land mostly West of the Mississippi.

Although many individuals migrated to California In search of gold, few became rich. When the dream of becoming rich weathered, many were attracted to the West as a place to settle. As a result, these miners began to encroach upon the land of the Nez Perce.

In addition, the push to settle in the vast lands of the West promoted by the Federal government through the enactment of the Homestead Act was thwarted by the presence of Native American populations that were already resident. In the fact of this reality, the government attempted to come to some kind of peaceful arrangement with these populations through the instrument of treaties. However, there was no real incentive to honor the provisions of these treaties, since the newly formed American nation possessed a superiority in numbers and military capability. The historic record is replete with examples of the abrogation of these treaty arrangements.

When Joseph became chief following the death of his father, he naively believed that the U.S. was sincere in its efforts to find peaceful arrangements and would be true to treaty obligations. It is important to understand that the Nez Perce had a strong body of spiritual beliefs in which the land and all that resided upon it were considered a sacred and sustaining aspect of existence and could not be owned, purchased, or exploited. In this light, the attitudes and politics of the white settlers and the US government were inexplicable.

The turning point came In 1877 as a result of the conference held between many of the indigenous tribal leaders and General Howard representing the US government. The meeting was held at Fort Lapwai. It was Howard’s intention to use this opportunity to issue an ultimatum to those Native American leaders invited that they must leave their land and move to designated reservations. They could do this freely or be forced to migrate. The outcome of this conference demonstrated once and for all the unwillingness of the US government to honor its treaty obligations when it was not in its interest to do so. The ultimate conclusion was that Howard issued his ultimatum that the Nez Perce must either move out of their homeland to a reservation defined by the US government within thirty days or be forcefully driven out. When Chief Joseph attempted to suggest that this abbreviated timeline was impossible to adhere to, his entreaties were ignored.

Rather than accept this ultimatum, Chief Joseph fled with his people – there goal was to travel to Canada and remove themselves entirely from jurisdiction of the US government. This represented a 1400-mile trek (see map below) while constantly being pursued by the US army. This was a brave yet futile effort that resulted in the death of many hundreds of his people. He ultimately surrendered in 1877.


 

Following the final defeat of the Nez Perce at the hands of the US army, Chief Joseph gave a very poignant and unforgettable speech on October 5, 1877, upon his surrender to General Howard who had been pursuing him and his people for many months in their vain attempt to flee to freedom in Canada. His speech is shown below.

"I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, 'Yes' or 'No.' He who led the young men [Olikut] is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are — perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."

It is a testament to his timeless courage and unshakeable conviction that there is a town in Oregon (Joseph, Oregon) near Wallowa Lake named after him and the Nez Perce Memorial National Park was created in the same region that is also the site where he is buried. Of course, whether or not the descendants of the Nez Perce will ever be justly compensated for the grave injustice perpetrated against their people is an open question.

The story of this remarkable human being is an extraordinary one.