What we once knew/what we need to at least understand
@exiledsurfer put me onto a blog by a guy called George Mobus. This particular article dealt with the difference between 'knowing' and 'understanding'. Then I started watching The Coconut Revolution and it struck me that there was an ethnocentric hole staring me in the face from this essay. To say that we have yet to acheive widespread recognition of the individual, let alone as part of a complex system, is to ignore that once we all knew that once before. Indiginous peoples know their place within nature, recognise the relationships and the reliance. This is not to say they understand it. Theirs is a language of metaphor and story, myth and song as beautifully explored by Jay Griffiths in Wild. I very much doubt an indiginous amazonian knows that sand blown from across a massive ocean helps fertilize their homeland and that isn't to be derogatory. Knowing an ecosystem is in a lot of ways far more difficult to acheive. The amazonian may not know of the Saraha, but I very much doubt the scientist who figured it out would last very long if left in the Jungle on his own. You can buy understanding. You can only acheive knowing through hard work, in this case survival.
So how did we in the developed world lose our knowledge of the environment? Was there no place for mans idividual link to nature within the plans of those early usurpers? Was there a point whereby History bore silent witness upon a Reformation in reverse, an initial event that instigated the worlds first organised relgion, the first of many obstacles to place themselves between the individual and the system they inhabit? What happened? Were we infantilised? Well, not right away. I've no doubt that as the chart would predict, those first creators of imagined community draped their visions in the laguage of the land, invoking spirits and myths, many using drugs, all using music and dance... happy to be the priviledged mediator for the time being. During this time, knowledge of the land would still be to the fore, it's simply that their understanding will be becoming skewed.
When humans began to settle, two things happened. They lost a lot of the previous knowledge of the land that came from nomadic life (obviously not at once, it was and still is an ongoing process). They also had a far greater opportunity and motive for replacing it with an imagined community. As the land lost it's power on the minds of the people, the reins were handed to the preachers and the prophets, the witch-doctor and the shaman, the CEO and the Politician. Rather than an amalgamation of beliefs stemming from each groups connection with the land, the need for shared memes across greater numbers of people required a central dogma to homogenise the group. Unless the territory was small, the land often would not be able to provide that link with different, isolated land types and entirely different peoples often located within the same dynasty. Technology was such that stories were the only way to provide this bond, and so as the marauding armies expanded, religious belief grew.
Since then we in the west have lost almost all our knowing of the complex system that surrounds us. We have literally insulated ourselves, placed walls between nature and our senses, plugs in our ears, cars on our feet. Yet paradoxically we are also beginning to understand it for the first time. Will this understanding explode in sudden realisation? Seeing ourselves as part of a complex system is possible for those who grow-up unawares to come to understand, it's merely very difficult. How is knowing nothing conducive to coming to understand it? Our culture has cut itself off from nature, reduced it to a therapy or somewhere to buy a third property. The people who know their lands, accross the world, are screaming at us to look at what we are doing, and our leaders simply do not want to know. By cutting nature out of the question, it is eaier to rationalise the raping of it for wealth. In the national interest.
It would be far easier if we geared more of our resources into both knowing and understanding our role in natures system to transcend it's identity from national, to global, to ecological before we fuck everything up. Indiginous peoples want to help, maybe we should let them, we can teach each other a lot of fascinating things.
Or we could continue to kill them and destroy their homes for profit and we all lose.