Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Kogi of Colombia and the Sami of Norway

[Approximate Reading Time: 5 minutes]
[Mood: Sympathetic, empathetic]


Numerous native and indigenous peoples all around the world have been sounding the alarm over what we, the "younger brothers", are doing to the planet. Our culture, the dominant culture, is a commercial civilization where the members of the culture have a worldview that's very different from those of the indigenous peoples of the world. Based on Science and Technology, and theories of "progress", our culture has much to do with why we've drifted so far from what we used to be: responsible stewards and guardians of our surroundings with a sense of the sacred. The younger brothers forked off of their roots and, over the generations, having forgotten their roots, have spread all over the world, especially in the last 200 years, decimating indigenous peoples through a mixture of genocide and assimilation. It's not something we were taught in school, but commercial civilization replicates itself through force. In fact, mandatory state schooling is one of the primary ways civilization replicates itself forcefully. The numerous crises confronting humanity in these times, even calling into question the fate of our species, make this a good time to consider what indigenous peoples across the world are telling us.

The difference between commercial and indigenous cultures has little to do with the differences in culture between the East and the West, or between the developed and developing world. Just as there are rich people everywhere, and just as there are poor people everywhere, both commercial culture as well as indigenous cultures are present in almost every part of the world. Even Europe, the exporter of commercial civilization to all corners of the globe, has indigenous people living in its northern areas. The Sami people, numbering about 90,000 live in the very North of Europe covering Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.


Members of the commercial culture, the "younger brothers", are actually a lot more similar to each other wherever they live, East or West, developed country or developing country. In the same vein, the indigenous peoples of the world are a lot more similar to each other, wherever they live. They're more similar to each other than they are to the commercial peoples living next to them. As far as worldviews go, a middle class professional in Norway's capital city, Oslo, has more in common with a middle class professional in Colombia's capital city, Bogota, than either of them have in common with either the Kogi or the Sami. Look at the pictures of the Sami people above and tell me if they don't look like the Kogi in the most human way you can imagine. The smiles across their faces say a lot more about their worldviews and their general attitude toward the human condition than a thousand peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals say about the members of commercial civilization.

Like the Kogi of Colombia, The Sami are under threat from commercial civilization, the "younger brothers". From Wikipedia: "The indigenous Sami population is a mostly urbanised demographic, but a substantial number live in villages in the high arctic. The Sami are still coping with the cultural consequences of language and culture loss related to generations of Sami children taken to missionary and/or state-run boarding schools and the legacy of laws that were created to deny the Sami rights (e.g., to their beliefs, language, land and to the practice of traditional livelihoods). The Sami are experiencing cultural and environmental threats, including oil exploration, mining, dam building, logging, climate change, military bombing ranges, tourism and commercial development."

The indigenous peoples of the world are humanity's last hope. If there's anyone, it's they who still remember the relationship between man and nature, and between matter and spirit, the inter-relatedness that we've forgotten. We'd only need to look around and pay attention to what's going on around us to realize the implications of this "great forgetting". How on Earth could we get a CEO to pay attention to a tribal elder? I could say that's a million dollar question, but then I would be speaking the language of commercial civilization!

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