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Indians (Panel 17)

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009 by joel

I want to explain my fascination with American Indians, but like any human sentiment, it’s complicated. So let’s start in outer space.

An improbable location for a dissertation on Indians, but its appropriate, and in time you may see why. So look with me for a moment, if you will, at outer space in all its cold, blank, radioactive density. It cries out as the antithesis of life. With nothing friendly to biology and practically everything lethal to whatever we are familiar with as “life” it’s clear that a vacuum abhors nature. Now our knowledge of the universe at large is limited to a very small amount of observation and a whole lot of imagination. So to really explore the spatial environs that we are most clearly familiar with, we have to focus on our local space, our solar system.

Scientists jump at shadows in astronomy as evidence of life elsewhere, but the fact is that, whatever amount of “evidence” we have accumulated, we haven’t actually discovered life elsewhere. Our Solar System testifies to that. There are a whole number of rocks and chunks of ice floating around, and a few giant planets composed almost entirely of a lethal cocktail of stormy gasses. We also have one average star, which is an incomprehensibly large, dense ball of plasma, spewing out all sorts of lethal and exotic radiations.

And nestled in the midst of it all is Earth. And while the point could certainly be argued, I would be so bold as to state that the solar system is one giant earth-maintaining machine. The sun provides just the right types of light and energy to sustain life on Earth, once it’s helpfully placed eight light-minutes away and filtered through just the right gases and magnetic forces to weed out all the really dangerous stuff. And the rest of the planets protect us from debris that might happen to drift sunward, while the moon balances out our rotation. The moon also provides tidal forces which I have it on good authority are helpful.

So there it lies, right in the middle of vast, indifferent forces, like a delicate garden in the middle of an exploding volcano: miraculous. Life, as we know it, is so utterly alien to the universe at large that we are in constant danger of being eradicated. And life on earth doesn’t merely struggle along weakly, wiltingly, ready to fold up and expire at the slightest nudge: it thrives. The equator is, of course, your finest example of this. All around this sun-fed, rain-nourished zone are life-forms within life forms, a stew of biology so potent, it is in constant chemical warfare just for one bug or tree or serpent to stay on top.

Wander un-preparedly into these climes and chances are your body will become food for any number of fungi, bacterium, viruses, and parasites burrowing into your delicious cellular structure like so many flies on dung.

Modern man looks on such conditions with more than a modicum of disgust. Since earliest times, men of European descent, especially, have been fighting to separate themselves from nature, as if man was something different again from the world around him.

All over the continents, men have built houses to keep out the weather, the animals, the bugs, they have identified the tastiest and most cooperative animals and fought them until these animals succumbed to the will of superior man and began to fall meekly into herds tied down and bound up to do the work man gave them. We have discovered the plants that tasted good and would grow on command and weeded out the rest. There has always been a clear separation in our minds between Nature and Us.

This mindset is so distinctly part of our heritage and makeup that anything else would seem bizarre even, I daresay, unintelligent. And yet for thousands of years, the American Indians moved through nature without altering it. They learned more than just the animals that could be domesticated, they learned ALL the animals, their migrations, their behaviors, and how they could be best avoided, fought, trapped, or cooperated with. They learned more than just the grow-able plants; they learned the weeds, the roots, the fungus, and what properties all contained. These were men, like us, and so they certainly had the mental potential to develop written language, chemistry, architecture, and so on, and in their own, unique way, they did. But history still records them as hunter-gatherer’s unable to hold their own.

I think they are cool the same way I think that Tarzan is cool. As a man among animals he used his superior brain, reflexes, and opposing thumbs to dominate the jungle around him, and being physically weaker than the apes, he became their king. So, to, the American Indians remained close to nature while still dominating it. They ritualized drugs to avoid addiction while still benefiting from their medicinal qualities, while Europeans throw themselves into addictions with gusto. And while the battle the American Indians fought to keep their land was a losing one, they would have held out much, much longer were it not for the exotic diseases European’s carried, and the introduction of the one drug they had not ritualized: alcohol.

And, yeah, I realize the irony of living in America in a bed of technology that I would be remiss to give up and typing this essay on a computer with the air conditioning pumped up, and wistfully condemning my ancestors for sweeping across the continent destroying Indians. I really can’t have my cake and eat it too. And at the same time, many Indian tribes were savage to a degree that could nearly be described as evil. I have no desire to pedestal them to any degree. Nor am I in any danger of hanging a bunch of dream catchers on my walls, drinking herbal teas, and talking about Father Sky and the great Earth Mother. I can admire other cultures without the pathetic attempt at becoming them.

All of the posts in this series will be posted under the category of ‘War Chant.’ That will make them easy to find and read in order if you have missed any of them. You can also read this series on the western wheel website and I have a book manuscript on the Western Wheel posted to Pariah Online Magazine. It is not the storyline that is being posted here and the book is not complete; however, you can get a good fix of Western Wheel if you visit Pariah. The comments links of Pariah Online Magazine now link over to the forum of this site.

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