Widening Conversational Scope: Doin’ It For Real, Part I

I’ve rambled on and on about the Tzutujil and the Roma because I want to underscore that all this has to do with now, today, here. Not ancient traditions from the dawn of time, but what we have the ability and response-ability to attend to in our own lifetime, in our own families, amongst our friends, at work and home.

This points to how we make a living, how we resolve disputes, and what dangers we cannot resolve, but simply must adapt to.

To the extent we try to make ourselves ‘all one’, we disperse our energies to the wind in a naive quest to ‘think globally’. Thinking globally got us into this mess to begin with (they call it ‘globalization’).

Rather than scattering over the earth, and across the internet, as individuals talking to other individuals, what if you represented an entire extended family, as their ambassador, you could in fact speak for them, because you had in fact listened to them.  Your words, your presence, as a representative of this family, would carry far more weight and meaning…because you would, in fact, have something meaningful to say. Something that had to do with what a family needed.

This doesn’t have to do with prestige, this points to purpose and mission. If you truly make the world better for your family, you will make it better for everyone else. It has worked this way since the human origin. Species come and go, but the community of life has remained rich, full of grief and joy, whatever face it wears in any particular moment.

But a culture (several cultures at once, actually) emerged that started talking about what the city needed, and then what the city-state needed, and then what the nation needed. Things have gotten pretty grim with this kind of thinking.

The ‘needs’ of abstract political entities (much like corporations) don’t come before people, if they even have true needs as we know it. America’s needs simply do not come before your family’s needs. If this sounds like total chaos, secession, and anarchy to you, then you’ve never met a family belonging to an intact indigenous culture. I’ve spent a lot of work making the case for human needs and feelings not as impediments to a happy life, but as pointers toward a happy life (check out the podcasts Needs and Feelings of the Human Animal, and Clarity and Peacemaking, both pretty short, and other similar podcasts for more on this). Family needs don’t differ from individual needs, in their ability to create life. They call us a social animal, right? Pod needs don’t harm whale needs, and Pack needs don’t harm individual wolf needs. Stepping back, whatever this or that individual struggles with, their social group exists because it has created a beautiful and successful life for its members, and for its neighbors too.

Village (or Tribe) needs don’t differ from Family needs, either. I don’t mean to say that the boundaries between individual, family, and village don’t have their own  natural points of friction, but that (as Martín Prechtel wrote in Long Life, Honey in the Heart) this friction signifies a healthy human community.

Once you get bigger than Village or Tribe, you’ve started entering a world that no longer sizes to a human scale. It took great minds with great wisdom to give birth and carry the Iroquoian Great Law of Peace, to address the extreme hazards of conflict at such a scale.

So, for now, unless you want to call up someone at Akwesasne in Upstate New York and get yourself a Mohawk Haudenosaunee mentor in the Great Law of Peace, I recommend you stay small. Let’s stick with yourself, then Family, then Village, then Tribe. One step at a time.

Written by Willem