A number of stories have reminded me of the theme I mention in the title to this essay. I've been reading a book, recommended by my friend Tommy, titled, "Empire of the Summer Moon", which tells the history of the Comanche Indian Tribe in and around the Texas territory in the mid to late 1800's.
This book chronicles the ways in which the Spanish, French, Mexican, and finally...the Texans, tried to expand into the land that came to be known as Camancheria - the lands of the Comanche.
It's been a disturbing read, because it details the horrors on both sides - as to how they dealt with one another. No one was spared and torture - especially on the part of the Comanches, to white settlers, as well as other competing tribes (the Apache in particular, who eventually gave up the fight and moved further west). Because of their unequaled horsemanship - especially during battle, they were unrivaled in the Indian Nation world.
But, when the Republic of Texas became an independent nation after the war with Mexico, their newly elected president, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, made it clear in his inaugural address, that ALL Indian tribes, including the peaceful Cherokees (who had been pushed west on the Trail of Tears many years earlier) were to be either "exterminated or expelled" from the lands Texas wanted for its own...and for its expanded future...
It's been a hard read because I cannot fathom such thinking or behavior...and yet, "They" could, on both sides - they saw nothing wrong in their thinking or actions...why?
And there's the rub - the "why" has to do with the joined mindset that every culture has at any given point in time. It wasn't wrong for Comanches to torture and rape a fifteen year old, because that was a part of the way it's seemingly always been - that's what you do with captives, the spoils of war. Or so went the reconciled thoughts of those who carried out such deeds.
And so it went on the other "Side" as well - to exterminate the Comanches, and every other tribe of Indians, was the "Right" thing to do. Their cultural mind taught that the red man and his culture was an evil that should be forever eradicated from the world - the world of Christian morals and ways of living. When a white army would find an encampment of Indians - they were all targets - not just the warrior men, but quite often, also the women and children...
Through Whose Eyes I (We) See...
Last night, Joan and I watched a movie titled, "The Book Thief", which I'd highly recommend. It's a movie about a little girl, who's little brother died in front of her and whose mother left her...to be adopted into a poor German child-less family, who needed the stipend payment to care for the orphan. It's 1939 and Hitler's educational system of indoctrination is in full swing...in the school she attends and in the community she's adopted into.
It chronicles the way in which thoughts and behaviors become one, in a cultural soup of followers following followers to places of incomprehensible states of being - turning neighbors against neighbors...and making scapegoats out of Jews and Communists, and elevating one's own cultural heritage to a supreme race.
It tells how and why, for a time, the family the girl was adopted into...hid a Jew in their basement; how a young boy helped to make her life...livable, by keeping their "secret"; and how her adopted father - and eventually, her stern mother as well, made her feel loved and worthy of being loved. And...it's the story of the all-powerful word - and how words disseminate the truth and the lies of the times. How some words, in the form of books, were banned and burned, while others, filled with propaganda, were read until memorized - especially by the sponge-like youth, growing into their own...into an unequaled "Us" that looked down upon the rest of the world...the "Thems".
Through Whose Eyes I (We) See
I cannot judge the Taliban way of life, or the Marines who shoot innocent civilians; I cannot judge former President Bush, who was carefully guided by his chosen advisors to think and do...what he thought and did to bring about a better world for "US".
We (I) so often fall into the trap of judging the ways in which peoples around the world, and on the next block, live out their lives, when...I've never seen, and "can" never see, the world they see...because my vision is skewed by the lesson of my past, just as theirs are. There are ALWAYS reasons people think and do, what they think and do...ALWAYS, and it's those reasons that have found a home in each shared cultural mind, that make it possible to reconcile and live with our way of living.
One of the most eye-opening books I ever read, many years ago, was a book by the German Social Psychologist Erich Fromm, titled "The Sane Society". It revealed just how easy it is to fall prey to thinking and behavior prevalent in the greater society one grows up a part of, regardless of the consequences of such thinking and behavior. It might be sick, destructive, and unsustainable, and yet, we follow...thinking that since everyone else is doing it...it must be right. "If you're not with us, then you're with "Them", often goes the ignorant statement that dismisses the endless other possibilities there are beyond the limiting notion of the "Us 'n Them" mindset.
Rather than judging those cultures who think and do in ways we deem wrong or even evil, we should understand the hows and whys people around the world Become...who it is they think they are. And "We" are no exception to the rule as to how and why "We" become, who it is we think we are - and why it is we think we should not only judge the peoples of other cultures and subcultures, but to make it our mission to go in and correct those societies through culling, imprisoning, and re-education camps (schools) that teach "Them" the proper way to live...
Through Whose Eyes I (We) See... our vision is so clouded, and yet, without recognizing that we wear the blinders of our own socioeconomic upbringing, we do as they do, following the followers to the cliffs of indifference, intolerance, and ignorance.
It's time to wake up. It's time to remove the prescription glasses that were strapped to each of our heads in Kindergarten. It's time to see that we share at our core, a single loving heart that seeks to join, cooperate, and bloom as never before; rather than living within a Matrix, trapped within a carefully crafted cultural mind that seeks to separate, compete, and conquer...to the death...for what's right and wrong...whatever that is, within this precarious dot on the human timeline.
BIO - Mark Verner Frederick is a writer and photographer who often focuses upon the natural world and its calming effect upon the mind, body, and spirit. He has also spent decades in search of answers to explain why we think and do, what we think and do. He is the owner of Treehouse Studios (photography) and has had numerous articles published in the Healing Springs Journal (Saratoga Springs, NY). He is also, the owner...of a treehouse, and lives in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.