Questioning Mass Culture

Ice-BoundMy wife, Jennie, leaves for India Monday. Our colleagues there tell us the temperature has been near 100 F in Chennai. It has been in the 20’s and 30’s here,  and there is well over a foot of snow left on the ground. As Jennie has prepared for this trip we have thought together about the intersection between Narrative practice and the expressive therapies, especially in cross culture contexts. The idea of questioning domineering discourse is central to both forms of practice.

Thursday evening we hosted a gathering to mark the  Spring Equinox. The gathering was a splendid weaving together of Jennie’s and my roots, with a decidedly pan-northeastern  U.S. Indigenous flavor. This is import! Had we been in the American West, the gathering and ceremony would have likely been markedly different. We live in a world where a globalized culture privileges some points of view over others. We are fed a consistent stream of images, values, and beliefs that reflects the desires of a small percentage of the world’s people. Were we to take these images seriously, we might believe that most people in the world are of European ancestry, affluent, and market focused.  Indigenous people would be largely invisible; those Native people we did see would fit a narrow view of approved or preferred Native culture.

If we predominantly pay attention to mass media we might also imagine ecosystems and weather around the world are similar to our own. Of course, this is not so. The winter in much of the U.S. this winter has been anomalously cold, yet the season globally has been quite warm. Indeed, the season seems likely to finish in the top 10 warmest on record! Both climate and ecosystem functions are local as well as global.

Two recent articles at CWIS.org highlight these differences. In a report about Indigenous (Anahuac) knowledge system

Rudolph Ryser, Ph.D., noted:

Every cultural is an expression of the dynamic and evolving relationship between a people, the land and the cosmos; and since each culture tends to be in a different locality with different types of land, climate, animals, plants, topography, etc. the local expression (local knowledge) will be based in the Anáhuac Knowledge System, but typically have culture-specific applications.

Local knowledge has enabled Indigenous people to thrive for thousands of years. However, the local wisdom of land based peoples is largely ignored by global culture, as are the disruptions to that knowledge created by abrupt climate change.

I our information comes primarily from the dominate culture we might also imagine that people everywhere share dietary needs. The reality is ecosystem focused cultures have diets and lifestyles that have often been relatively stable for thousands of years, to which the human body has adapted. Dr. Ryser noted, in a piece about Essential Fatty Acids and Indigenous Peoples, said:

By removing indigenous peoples from their native lands and native foods, states and corportations are essential committing a form of genocide by deny access to the essential fatty acids required for life. Territory connects to people and people connect to territory for their health. Read Dr. Leslie Korn’s book “Preventing & Treating Diabetes Naturally, The Native Way” (DayKeeper Press 2009) [Amazon.com] Through research at our Center for Traditional Medicine we learned that providing EFA supplementation native people suffering from diabetes and heart disease will experience significant improvements in their health and reversal of diabetes. We also found that EFA supplementation or direct EPA and DPA consumption from native foods aided in treatment of individuals suffering from alcoholism and various drug abuses.

Globalizing ideas affect everyone, often belittling or negating the local wisdom and health of  individuals, communities, and ecosystems. They are particularly disruptive to the lives and beliefs of Indigenous people. Yet, they impact everyone, undermining personal and multigenerational knowledge and values, and encouraging generational and cultural conflict. They also make the task of protecting local ecosystems and cultures much more difficult. Challenging the norms and values of mass culture’s worldview is an act of resistance to these homogenizing influences.

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