Saturday, September 20, 2014

The tribe all around

I've been trying to digest the concept of Tribe that's appeared all around me in various forms this month.

Tomorrow, Sunday, the People's Climate Gathering-Denver will coincide with the larger NYC event where 100,000 people may march. They will also gather around the planet, one becoming increasingly unlivable for our species.

When my dog and I attend the Denver rally, I already know what I'll be thinking--that a different species, Neanderthals, could have replaced us on those streets, if not for better methods of survival that our species possessed. Possessed, as in past tense.

Among the theories about the Neanderthals' disappearance are 1. that our technological superiority doomed our extinct cousins, and 2. that homo sapiens practiced superior divisions of labor within their tribes.

In the British sci-fi film, The Machine (2013), a CIA-type says about us, "The technologically advanced tribe always wins." He obviously learned nothing from the Vietnam War or Iraq or what goes on in Gaza. But Western science tends to attribute everything positive to "progress" and technological superiority, even if it's undeserved. Like when it ruins a planet for that species.

I attended one workshop of The Americas Latino Eco Festival in Boulder last week. Entitled "We Stand on Their Shoulders,” it was led by community organizer/facilitator Daniel Escalante.* Participants were to discuss ways that Latinos have been living sustainably for thousands of years, due in large part to our spiritual relationship with the Earth and its inhabitants. We were to share ancestral stories of how they lived green. And to "come with an open heart and a commitment to listen to each other with the intention of learning."

What I learned was that I was hearing the concept of Tribe from many peoples' words and thoughts. That linked to point number two, above, about our social superiority over Neanderthals. However, modern Western society has replaced our tribal superiority with corporate, governmental and class divisions of labor that we all live under. Divisions that have taken the power away from our tribes and given it to the 1%. A 1% intent on planetary self-extermination.

Escalante's workshop also reminded me of "In Lak'ech Ala K'in," a Maya (not MayaN--that's their language) phrase translated as, "you are my other self." It's often explained as a spiritual culture of empathy and collective effort, like at the artistic exhibition being held in Denver through next month.

"We stand on the shoulders of those who came before." At one time our species all did stand on those shoulders, and some of us are attempting to revive such a way of life. To learn how our tribes succeeded and how we can change ourselves for the same purpose. The purpose of survival.

If our ancestors hadn't practiced "you are my other self," if they hadn't stood on each other's shoulders, the tribe over in the next valley could have exterminated us like we exterminated the Neanderthals. If we hadn't practiced and believed such concepts, our tribes wouldn't have made it through years of drought or glacial eras. But we did and we did survive. Up to now.

"It takes a village to raise a child." Whether it's actually an ancient African proverb, you hear it come up whenever a community rallies to support a kid who suffered a tragedy of some form. However, the phrase should be logically extended. If it takes a village to raise one child, doesn't that mean that every child should be raised by a village? Not just the kid on prime time.

Clinton's book of the same name wasn't received well by conservatives, one responding, "No, it only takes a family to raise a child." Does it? Our Western society has steadily eroded our tribal connections down to family, with mixed results. Alienation, angst, drug addiction, suicide, mass shootings, teen pregnancies and a few other problems might appear differently if more than families were involved in nurturing our children. Perhaps.

Definition of Tribe: "a people united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions, adherence to its leaders; a local division of an aboriginal people."

Our modern-day family is what remains of the old tribes. Of the village that raised our children. Of the tribe that was superior to other homo species. Of the tribes that stood on ancestral shoulders and said, you are my other self. Facebook and other circles of "friends" lure us with their tribal attributes. Could such technology return to us what we need to deal with the 1% and climate change and enable us to survive? Seems unLikely.

Especially because tribes were "local." Local like "buy local," support local, small farmers, etc. Such organic-food movements also ring of Tribe.

I wrestle with the concept of building my own tribe, not to lead but to belong to. Our tribe, one of many. Locally. Of necessity, including my non-Chicano neighbors. Something larger than my family or extended family.

Tomrrow when I head to the Colorado Capitol Building at Civic Center Park 
in Denver for the Climate rally, I'll be wondering how many years my species yet has to prove itself superior to the precipice we've allowed our village-idiot leaders to lead us down. And maybe I'll see you, at 12:00pm. In future posts, I'll work more on this Tribe concept and am interested in hearing other's thoughts.

* Daniel Escalante manages Casa Taos, a small retreat center in Taos, N.M., for activists, educators and families. The  center is a living example of green living and draws on the ancient ways of Latino and Indian people, while incorporating current approaches to caring for mother earth. I highly recommend its affordable options when visiting northern N.M.

Es todo, hoy,

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