Friday, October 10, 2008

In one's natural habitat

Sometimes I just got to laugh--

A pretty typical moment: tools, sawdust flung everywhere, bad haircut and covered with glue. . .but that's the stuff of progress.

It's a trepidatious moment for sure.

It's interesting: I've been reading a great deal lately about encounters of ship captains with the Polynesian cultures a 100 or so years ago. Contrary to what is often asserted, loudly, many of these captains were very very sympathetic to the Polynesian people and their lifestyles, and how they obviously saw the cultures across the pacific where going to be destroyed by Western influence. Yes, of course there also was exploitation, but as it often the case, it was the acts of a small but powerful subset that created the future, and history. Of course, it still is.

One account in particular I found very interesting. It accounts the story of a captain visiting one or another island and how one of the locally more "affluent" native people was brought aboard one of the ships as part of a trade transaction, probably for copra, and for some reason witnessed the ship captain sitting in a chair. It's nearly unimaginable, but chairs didn't exist in this culture, and the chair was seen apparently as a totem of great authority and this fellow just had to have it. In the following months, a "chair" culture was created, and a social hierarchy where, people being people, there was a lot of status conveyed to people that had chairs as opposed to those who simply squatted in the dirt. This particular captain was dismayed at the development, and wrote at great length about his perceptions of the "loss of innocence." This was probably not so near the truth, but more to the point that western culture effectively introduced the many very sophisicated techniques we've devised over the centuries to insure other people of less means feel degraded.

In a further discussion about the topic with another captain, later in the writings, it was discussed how around the world it was so often that there was a trend and a longing of "primitive" peoples towards the material sophistication of western living, and while westerners in general and increasingly longed towards the "simplicity" of "primitive" living. Of course the grass is always greener, but the trend seemed established. One captain expressed disgust at the obvious cyclical rat race of always mankind always in frustration and need and grasping towards what wasn't had--the other was much more optimistic. To paraphrase:

"Yes, we might run that circle a number of times, but each time one goes around one comes back with more knowledge, and more self-awareness."

Yes, for sure, and that's worth thinking on.

As we return by need and necessity to a more simple way of living, this time we do bring with us the knowledge that materialism isn't all it's cracked up to be. And this is a very powerful knowledge if it's made conscious to the point of a maxim. It's much different than merely "reacting" in a countercultural way to a materialistic culture--it's what I like to call "extra-cultural" reaction--you bloody well know the "conventional" lifestyle doesn't work. You know this emperically and first hand. It doesn't supply happiness, nor security, nor quality of life. If you know this first hand, in a viceral manner, it will supply your efforts to your new future with a vigor that they would not have otherwise.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hope you have read the stories of Kontiki.

Did you see today's front page of the Advertiser? Yes... That's my father-in-law. (He was on yesterday's cover too, however, today's actually featured just him)