Water Man Spouts

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Power of the Good Mind

{1} "All people whose minds are healthy can desire peace, and there is an ability within all people, especially the young, to grasp and hold strongly to the principles of righteousness. Those principles of righteousness demand that all thoughts of prejudice, privilege, or superiority be swept away, and that recognition be given to the reality that the creation is intended for the benefit of all equally. Even the birds and animals, the trees and insects, as well as the people. The world does not belong to the humans -- it is the rightful property of the Great Creator." -- The PeaceMakerMany years ago, the people that are known today as the Iroquois lived in a period of time that could be described as "anomie." Anomie is a state of society in which the normal standards of belief and behavior are very weak, or altogether lacking. It is a condition in which the individual and the community experiences disorientation, anxiety, and isolation.Today, the United States is experiencing anomie. There are numerous objective measures of this, including the high rates of violence; the use of legal and illegal drugs to cope with anxiety and depression; and the federal government's manipulation of fear to control the citizens in the most undemocratic of ways.Why should we care about the Iroquois? Aren't they a small group of people, living largely in the margins of modern society? Perhaps, because as Victor Hugo said, "There is no such thing as a little country. The greatness of a people is no more determined by their number than the greatness of a man is determined by his height." (Quote taken from "The Book of the Hopi," by Frank Waters)At the time of the Revolutionary War, the most influential of our "Founding Fathers" -- Franklin, Jefferson, and Madison -- were students of the Iroquois Confederacy. Our first "great document," the Articles of Confederation, were based largely on Iroquois thought. Our system of federalism is based entirely upon the Iroquois model.Today, I thought we could examine a few Iroquois concepts, and see if they might be of some value to us in our struggle against anomie, and for democracy.{2}"Then, too, his law was a written law; his divine decalogue reposed in a book. And what better proof that his advent into this country and his subsequent acts were the result of divine will! He brought the Word! There ensued a blind worship of written history, of books, of the written word, that has denuded the spoken word of its power and sacredness. The written word became established as a criterion of the superior man -- a symbol of emotional fineness. The man who could write his name on a piece of paper, whether or not he possessed the spiritual fineness to honor those words in speech, was by some miraculous formula a more highly developed and sensitized person than the one who had never had a pen in hand, but whose spoken word was inviolable and whose sense of honor and truth was paramount. .... Is not humanness a matter of heart and mind, and is it not evident in the form of relationship with men? Is not kindness more powerful than arrogance; and truth more powerful than the sword? .... True civilization lies in the dominance of self and not the dominanceof other people ....""I am going to venture that the man who sat on the ground in front of his tepee meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures, and acknowledging unity with the universe of things was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization. And when native man left off this form of development, his humanization was retarded in growth."-- Luther Standing Bear; "Land of the Spotted Eagle"The story of the man known as the PeaceMaker, who brought the people we call Iroquois the Great Law of Peace, is an oral tradition among traditional Haudenosaunee peoples. (Haudenosaunee is the correct name for the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy.) Others have written it down.The written versions include: (1) the "Newhouse Version" by a Canadian Mohawk named Seth Newhouse. It was revised by Albert Cusick, an Onondaga/Tuscarora, then published by the first NYS archaeologist, Dr. Arthur Parker, in 1916.; (2) The "Chief's Version," from the 6 Nations territory in Ontario, published 1900; (3) The "Gibson Version," by Chief John Arthur Gibson in 1899 (revised by Chiefs Butler, Buck & Buck in 1900 and again in 1914).; and Paul Wallace's "The White Roots of Peace," publised in the 1980s.I like Wallace's version, although it has some errors. It's two biggest strengths are the introduction by John Mohawk, and the artwork by John Fadden. (John's father grew up a couple miles from where I live, which by coincidence is a short walk from where Albert Cusick's grandson was my neighbor when I was a boy.)Now here are some things I learned: long ago, far before the time that Wallace describes, the people of the northeast were hunters and gatherers. They lived by what traditional people around the globe call the Original Instructions. People lived in small groups that were extended families. Life was not "perfect," and there is no need to attribute the Garden of Eden mythology to it. But it did tend to make for good relationships between people.Around what we call 200 ad, an empire from the Ohio River Valley region began to introduce their culture into the northeast. This was done by way of trade, more than migration. Cultigens, most significantly corn, beans, and squash, were introduced. This resulted in communities becoming larger, and more sedentary. More, the roles of men and women changed, as women became the primary suppliers of food. Also, the bow & arrow was introduced, and men no longer hunted in cooperation with spears, javalin, and atlatl. Rather, the individual hunter became a loan competitor.Settled villages, which begin to take part in large trade relationships with distant city-states, depend upon accumulated wealth. This changes their relationship with the earth, and with their community. Social stratification occures. The shaman is replaced with a priesthood.All empires fall. When the ORV empire(s) did, around 500 ad, things changed for the outlaying areas. Competition in trade becomes a form of survival of the strongest. Different groups of people begin to have warfare. The larger communities have more families; as a result, the violence between distant competitors becomes bloof feuds between local communities. In turn, family turns against family. Again, the break-down in societies is known as anomie. When we examine what took place in 500, we see it is not much different than what we experience today.{3} "The Original Instructions direct that we who walk about the earth are to express a great respect and affection and gratitude towards all the spirits that create and support life. We give a greeting and thanksgiving to the many supporters of our own lives ... the plants,the animals, the water, the air, and the sun. When people cease to respect and express gratitude for these many things, then all life will be destroyed, and human life on the planet earth will come to an end." -- Hau de no sau neeAmerica too often suffers from a cultural "blindness" that has resulted in our mistaken belief that democracy comes only from the Greeks, or to attribute the concepts expressed in the Bill of Rights to the English. But we can benefit by looking at the teachings of a Huron during what was known as "the time of great sorrow and terror."The PeaceMaker was a Huron who had a political philosophy based on rational thought. But his people, who were involved in blood feuds, were irrational, and so they rejected him and his thoughts. And so he traveled to the land of the Iroquois, which was filled with assassins who took part in a head-hunting cult.The PeaceMaker's first stop was at the lodge of an elderly woman. He told her his philosophy, and she fed him. She then instructed him to spread his message in the land of the most violent people. This is symbolic of the beginnings of matriarchal sciety as an antidote to violence. This woman was the first "clan mother."He traveled until he found a man who had quit society, because his two daughters had died. The man's name is often called "Hiawatha," which was used by a poet incorrectly years later. This man, Hianawetha, was in despair. The Peacemaker recognized that pain causes dispair. He told the man his philosophy, and this changed despair to hope. Thus, chiefs are "raised" in a condolence ceremony, even today.Hiawatha's true name means "he who combs." It was because he could comb the twisted errors in thinking from disturbed minds. He used good words. (The PeaceMaker's name is only used in ceremony by traditinals. It signified a problem with his ability to speak clearly. He thus was a man of thoughts, who depended on his friend to express them.)In the next 20 years, they spoke to the most violent of men and women. They convinced them that all people have the potential for rational thought, and that this means they are capable of desiring peace. They did not discount irrational thought. More, they encouraged listeners to be skeptical, and to decide things for themselves, rather than accepting a "leader's word."They taught that the Power of the Good Mind can be amplified by having groups of people search for common interests. They knew that clear thinking was the highest human potential, and that it was best achieved by stable extended family relationships that accepted the value of all members equally.The Power of the Good Mind was developed into a philosophy to improve individual and community life through the power of peace, mutual respect, and common good.{4} "Our principles do not change. Justice is always justice; freedom is always freedom. Great principles are constant. And so what they call the 'old way' is nothing more than principles. And they say you can't go back to the old ways -- which means you can't go back to justice, you can't go back to equality, you can't go back to what is right and what is wrong. Principles are how you exist above and beyond the emotions that you feel; to control and have discipline of one's self. Self-discipline, not people making you behave, but the discipline where you don't need police. That is how our people lived. There were no police. There were no jails. There were basic laws -- you don't lie and steal. Tell the truth. Be strong. Look out for your brother. Look out for the ones just underneath you. Look out for the elders.Use your strength on behalf of the Nation, on behalf of the people. Conduct yourself in a proper manner." -- Oren LyonsThe Iroquois thought was actually based primarily in peace. That is it's greatest strength -- peace. But we live in a world that values violence, and so quite often, the larger society looks at the military ability of the Iroquois. Their role in the Revolutionary War is often viewed in terms of their warriors. The 9-87 National Geographic shows the range of influence they had at that time. Again, however, the influence of trade relations with empire (this time the British) puts that focus on things military.We can look at two of those concepts of self-defense, however, andapply them to our non-violent efforts, which are guided by that Bill of Rights. First, the PeaceMaker taught that alone, we are like individual fingers that our enemy can easily break .... but together, we can form a poweful fist. (There are variations on this, with a single arrow easilt broken, and a strong bundle.)When we read DU today, we see that we have a wide range of issues. Some of us experience problems based on race; religion; sexual identity; education; jobs; and many others. Alone, we are individuals who our enemy -- and we have a common enemy -- can easily break. Together, we are a powerful fist.The second lesson is equally important: it is the idea on a confederation. If I am involved in an environmental issue in New York, I benefit from having people involved in a fight against sexism in Pennsylvania help me. But, one hand must always wash the other: I must be willing to help them with their issue.This comes into sharp focus today, in regard to the Supreme Court. The nominee put forth by the Bush administration will certainly effect some of the fingers on our hand more than others. But it is an error for some to think, "He's not so bad -- he poses no specific threat to me." He surely does. This is a time when we need to cooperate, and to oppose him, while we simultaneously work on Plame, and other issues.We should not limit ourselves to fighting on any one front. We can fight on them all as a confederated force.{5} "We must seek out out the spiritual people because only that is going to help us survive. We have a great force -- a great brotherhood. This brotherhood involves all living things. And that, of course, includes us all. We are talking about the natural world, the natural force, all the trees, everything that grows, the water. That is part of our force."But when you gather spiritual force in one place, you also gather the negative force. We begin to perceive the enemy now, the power and presence of the negative force."There is a great battle coming." -- Oren Lyons


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