Nice Folks

This is what I grew up with. No wonder my family did not want anyone to know we are Native. My dad’s family wouldn’t talk about it. My grandmother would just say, “We must protect the children”. In the case of my sister and I, this meant setting us adrift between cultures. So we would be singled out as Native by the nice people and told we are not Native by some Indians. The final picture shows all my father hinted at, and brought the shock of recognition. So painful. My heart is filled with gratitude for this post.


Nice Folks

Nice Folks are a problem: usually because their greatest aspiration is to be nice.
To be “nice”, they are specialists in “going along to get along” – or is that “getting along to go along”?  They’ll literally join any crowd; go in any parade; accept anything that’s going on around them to – well, to simply make sure they don’t stand out.  They just run their lives based on something called “Common Sense”; which they think means the same thing as “Reality”, and practice like a religion.  The fact that their common sense is simply a mix of myths and legends that they learned in school – or the movies – or on TV – doesn’t seem to intrude on them.  Common sense is easier that Google, and serves them to get through their lives; walking with the herd; not getting into any kind of trouble.

The picture above is…

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Thoughts on an Overheard Conversation

We were sitting in a cafe in Boston the other morning, enjoying the sunshine that flooded through the window by our table. Outside, two suavely dressed older men, apparently long time friends, chatted intently over coffee. At the table next two us, two twenty-somethings spoke energetically about their world of high finance, and the importance of maximizing growth and wealth. 

When we returned to our room, I picked up the book I’m reading, Passage Through Crisis, by Fred Davis. The author was a sociologist who studied the impact of Polio on survivors and our families. Fittingly, I picked up the book as he was writing about the ways parents utilized the American bias towards optimism to minimize, and adapt to, the ravages of the virus.

That set me to thinking about the optimism, and apparent blinders, of the young people in the cafe. There was real damage caused to most kids, and adults, who “caught” Polio, yet most of us went on to create meaningful, happy lives. Researchers have suggested that optimism, although often hard to muster, contributed greatly to that, as did selective attention, or blinders.

Still, my training in ecology, and my upbringing with Indigenous values and worldview, argue strongly that economic and population growth, as we know them, are likely to have severely negative long term consequences, as will extreme resource inequality. I imagine most of us put on “blinders” some of the time, but in the face of the challenges we collectively face, to live with them on is an exceedingly risky strategy. 

Most Polio survivors and our families learned to balance the need NOT to know, with the necessity of paying attention to the reality of living with the after effects of the virus. I wonder whether we, as a culture, can learn to curtail our impacts on the planet, while nourishing enough optimism and creativity to build a society that works within the limitations imposed by being a part of a natural system. As one does when living life post Polio, we might benefit form balancing reality and optimism, making difficult choices, and working towards a brighter future for ourselves, our progeny, and all creatures. It might be a difficult path, but, to choose otherwise will create unimaginable suffering.