The History of Life
I’m not sure why I became interested in the far reaches of the globe, how people interact with their various environments, or what historical events transpired to shape our present world. As a child i can remember spinning the world globe, but at the time those different colored places seemed like make-believe. Life is usually a cascade of events: my river flowed from searching for something else, being introduced/open to new ideas, meeting others with different backgrounds. These concepts have consumed my thoughts for the last decade or so.
Most people find history painstakingly boring, recalling days of falling asleep during high school civil war lessons. I’m not sure if this is by design or just the legacy of an educational system hollowed out from the inside. My view of modern education is that it makes you smart enough to pull the lever, but not to question why your pulling the lever. History is not just another subject, just as the “outdoors” should not be classified alongside other interests: such as computers or entertainment, or sports. History connects us with the past and allows us to view to future with a grain of salt. For indigenous people, their oral history was everything, how they viewed themselves, where they came from, & rituals connecting them to the land. Today, ask a teenager about an historical event which happened last year and they will say who cares or where Russia is on a map and you will receive a blank stare. Unfortunately, we can’t understand our present situation without recognizing the context of our time period. History does repeat itself and certain events are circular.
Rapidly disappearing ways of life and languages are a distressing aspect of modernization, some even view it as our slow decline into the abyss. Yet, at the same time humans have never before been able to transport themselves into the far reaches of the globe, literally arriving in London for afternoon tea. This has enabled a person interested in anthropology or geography to visit remote corners of the planet and observe other humans living another way different from their own. You cannot see these things behind the walls of an exclusive resort, from the deck of a stadium style cruise ship, or in front of your mind numbing television. Presently, we have the unique chance of interacting with others whose language, culture, and way life question the foundations of our own existence.
My interest in indigenous cultures and “third world” cultures stems from the desire to turn back the clock per se. Without the rapid technological transformation of society, you can still view a slightly adulterated picture of how we evolved culturally. Indigenous societies, are usually:
1. Rural- practicing farming
2. Traditional animist- recognizing animals and their environment as having spiritual qualities
3. Oral traditions- handing down history to the next generation
4. Specific focus on the family
5. Pace of life is accordance with natural biorhythms
This window to the past helps to explain or shed light on certain “mental illness”, alienation, or eccentric behaviors shown in our modern society. I encourage everyone to study the disciplines of psychology/sociology, anthropology, history, geography, and natural sciences.
It is one thing to read about these cultures and arrive at a perspective, but nothing replaces first hand experience. When the opportunity presented itself, we jumped about the chance to live in this hybrid society, caught between Polynesian tradition and American gluttony. The result is not always a story cut for national geographic and may be something for “purists” to thumb their noses at, but few places exhibit the results of such a violent collision of cultures as that of Pago Pago. Young men coming home from football practice, shoulder pads/helmet slung over their shoulder, with a traditional lavalava wrapped around their waist. An underground oven “umu” feast after a Sunday Mormon service of worship. The family, all 14, riding in the back of the pickup with American flags waving, as Samoan ukulele music blares from the speakers. Fafafines or tranvestites, holding a modern beauty pageant, with an opening prayer lead by the local minister. Young men arriving back from Iraq, venerated as traditional warriors- leis placed around their necks. Samoans even celebrate flag day, the official day that they came under the clutches of colonial rule by the united states.