It is the people of the West, ultimately, who are the most oppressed and exploited.
This reminds me of a quote one of my friends used to have on a poster depicting, I think it was, Geronimo. I don't now remember the original speaker of the quote, but it still rings true. It was said about the Europeans advancing on them. "The love of possession," he told his people, "is a disease with them."
A striking insight, and one at the heart of that Irish poem quoted below. Tales of wisdom and spirituality (two conditions, as the poet said, that often appear alike) are replete with stories of those who have little, giving even that freely to thieves who think it valuable. But this prompted my thinking in another direction.
Wampum quotes this statement in the context of a discussion of Jared Diamond's "European triumphalist" theories. It is that since of triumphalism that is so interesting. The common response in Western European cultures to religion has been that there can be only one: reason, or religion. Many of the myths that are still current about the "Middle Ages" (even the name is derogatory) are attempts to establish supremacy over faith by raising the platform of reason. Any attempt to challenge this hierarchy is usually challenged on the grounds that it is "unreasonable" to do so, as if one were insane or an idiot.
This strife, in other words, didn't start with the Enlightenment.
Where does this energy come from? Earthquakes happen because tectonic plates shift, releasing vast amounts of potential energy, energy stored by long years of slow accretion as the plates move about. Every system produces reactions based on the generation of energy. So what is the generator in Western European culture that drives this engine of triumphalism, of supremacy, of the need to assert, once again, that there can only be one? Is it because we are, ultimately, the most oppressed and exploited?
Sister Helen Prejean was on NPR this evening, and in her soft Louisiana accents, she said that the Southern states execute more people than the rest of the country, and that, like slavery and civil rights, they won't stop until they are forced to. She connected it, in other words, to the culture of the region: a region that subsisted for years on repression, before the Civil War, and continued its oppression of poor whites and poor blacks (no longer slaves), after the Civil War. That's a fairly blatant kind of oppression, but still invisible enough to many who are raised in it and under it, and accept it as the fish accepts the water it swims in. What is the source of this less visible oppression, and is it that which drives us, grinds us, burdens us, and causes us to insist on one answer, one final relief, once and for all some condition that we can assert and know and accept and start (?) to live by?
Can we know the place for the first time, the place we start from? And knowing it, can we go on from there? Or is just knowing it, the journey?
The title of this post refers to a Celtic Christian belief. The monks who spread out from Ireland as the Roman Empire collapsed were driven to seek the place of their resurrection. Not coincidentally, we get the idea of "holy ground" from them, as well. However we concieve of "resurrection" (secularly, spiritually, religiously), is that what we are driven toward? And if so, is it this oppression in our Western culture that drives us, now?
(Ed. note--for those of you noticing, yes, this post was the victim of a late night spurt of inspiration; unfortunately, the spirit doesn't come with a spell checker, or a grammar check to be sure proper syntax is observed. So, yes, this has been amended since first it went up.)