This post originally appeared on Ray’s Ramblings, indigenoustudiesprogram.blogspot.ca. Re-printed with permission.
There are currently two different stories playing out in North America. One is a story of a nation that seeks to reconcile with its oldest relatives, the First Nations and the land itself. The nation-to-nation relationship of First Nations to the newcomers is a quest to move toward a feeling of greater intimacy in our communities and solidarity that is both local and global. It is a journey of attempted reconciliation founded upon the land.
The other is a story of a nation that believes it can hang on to greatness by trying to go back to some use of force that will generate prosperity – or something perceived as secure and comfortable. They rage and thrash against some perceived enemy and wall themselves in – and play the pipe while the end comes.
Pitrim A. Sorokin wrote, “When any socio-cultural system enters the stage of its disintegration the following four symptoms of the disintegration appear and grow in it: first, the inner self-contradiction of a irreconcilable dualism in such a culture; second, its formlessness – a chaotic syncretism of undigested elements taken from different cultures; third, a quantitative colossalism – mere growing at the cost of qualitative refinement; and fourth, a progressive exhaustion of its creativeness in the field of great and perennial values.” 1
21 He said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ 24And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’
The phrase from Mark that captures me is, “from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Nations that have begun to disintegrate and who cannot muster any creativity as far as the great perennial values shows that it has nothing.
Sorokin writing in 1941 points out that a nation that is dualistic and displays “irreconcilable contradictions,” that all the while proclaims “democracy of the people, for the people, and by the people;” in practice tends to be more and more an oligarchy or a plutocracy or a dictatorship of this or that faction…” (pp 2.) “It (this nation’s culture) exalts him (man) as the hero and the greatest value, not by virtue of his creation by God in God’s own image, but in his own right, by virtue of man’s own marvellous achievements. It substitutes a religion of humanity for the religion of superhuman deities.”2
A nation seeking to live out the great perennial values of right relatedness built upon reconciliation which includes telling the truth, empathetic listening, and coming up with a shared plan, is like a light set on a stand. This is the City on a Hill which is a light of the world… “to those who have, more will be given.” The nation that does not turn inward in reflection and repentance, seeking to be healed and heal the brokenness around; that roars and shakes its fist at the heavens and proclaims its own greatness while berating its citizens of their lawless nature and their need to be policed, has begun to disintegrate. Shouting for more violence, more prisons, bigger walls, bigger guns, and more control exhibits a loss of what has made it a great nation and is merely hastening its own demise. By its own judgment it has nothing of a creative nature to indicate the way forward in a complex world – if it continues, “even what they have will be taken away.”
In the midst of all this there are two stories playing out. I was just thinking about these things.