Tuesday, November 02, 2010


I doubt whether there are many books stocked by Amazon more worthy of having the piss taken out of them than this one.

Lets have a mosey at the product description:

"The Four Insights are the wisdom teachings that have been protected by secret societies of Earthkeepers, the medicine men and women of the Americas. The Insights state that all creation—humans, whales, and even stars—is made from light manifest through the power of intention. The Earthkeepers mastered the Insights, and used them to heal disease, eliminate emotional suffering, and even grow new bodies that age and heal differently.

Mastery of the Insights allows you to reinform your DNA and participate consciously in your biological, emotional, and spiritual evolution. According to the prophecies of the Maya, Hopi, and Inka Earthkeepers, we’re at a turning point in human history, when a new species of human will give birth to itself. We’re going to take a quantum leap into what we’re becoming and will no longer be Homo sapiens but Homo luminouos. The Four Insights reveal ancient technologies we can practice for becoming beings of light with the ability to perceive the energy and vibration that make up the physical universe at a much higher level."

I spotted this revelatory tome in the clutches of a grinogo on a bus to Panama; the kind who has a disordered mane of greying hairs and a local girlfriend half his age. (No doubt tasked with helping him reinform his withering chromosomes.)

The notion that the native peoples of the Americas had a better idea of how to look after our planet isn't one that stands up to much scrutiny. And yet it somehow persists and helps float a not insubstantial publishing industry.

Here in Guatemala the ancient Maya have become one of the most salient case studies we have in poor environmental management. Perhaps they were too busy vibrating to notice all the deforestation and soil erosion they'd been causing?

Ask yourself why the indigenes were so amazed at seeing the Spanish conquistadors on top of horses, an animal which evolved in the Americas? Because they'd long ago eaten them all.

And as soon as the invaders had inadvertently provided them with a fresh supply, they hopped right on and started exterminating the buffalo and any other large mammals left over from earlier man-made extinction events.


Anonymous said...

I am shocked, SHOCKED at your last paragraph. You are generally not wrong. To say that the plains indians exterminated the buffalo is just plain wrong. It was your kind, the invaders -- they also exterminated the passanger pigeon, the most abundant bird ever.

GC said...

This is not a who is the worse exterminator contest. My point is simply that all of humanity, my kind, your kind, whoever, tends to borrow from the future to pay for the present, and nobody has a get out of jail card when it comes to human rapacity.

The plains Indians would have had trouble predating the buffalo without horses. Chasing massive herds off a cliff is akin to fishing with dynamite as far as I am concerned.


GC said...

And this whole your kind/my kind stuff is utter nonsense anyway. It can only be justified by using a near-sighted scale of historical exposition.

We all started off in Africa and on leaving via the northern exit it would appear that we drove the Neanderthals out of the prime land and to the brink of extinction.

Then, in both the Americas and Eurasia, those modern humans that had learned to domesticate various grasses ruthlessly drove the remaining hunter-gatherer populations into the marginal environments.

The Asians who made the crossing to the Americas had the 'fortune' to find a continent without any apes in it, but that only meant that they could focus their attention on reducing the numbers of other large mammals, such that the largest thing the Mexica had to eat when Cortes showed up was a turkey.

Everything else was either extinct or hiding in the forest (tapirs etc). It's a wonder that they still had any llamas in Peru.

By not domesticating animals they sowed the seeds of their own distruction, for it was their misfortune that reduced contact with the rest of humanity meant that once the conditions for renewed interaction existed, they would die off in large numbers via epidemic diseases.

Eurasia meanwhile was a seething mass of migrations and counter-migrations: turks, mongols, celts, anglo-saxons, Persians, vikings you name it, all seizing the best territory according to their relative ability to wield deadly force.

norm said...

US government policy was involved with the mass killing of the buffalo, kill all the buffalo and the people eating them have to come to the government for food. People are easier to catch if they have their hand out looking for food to stay alive-the policy did work.

Anonymous said...

I was trying to be funny when I wrote "your kind." In hindsight, it was a bit churlish. The climate change that brought Asians across the Bering Strait must have had something to do with the extinction of the megafauna in America. As destructive as Man can be, I doubt that we were sufficiently efficient to wipe out so much. Climate change also had much to do with the demise of the Classical Maya. I do think that the indigenous people of America had reached a sort of equilibrium with the environment when Europeans got here. Greed is the cause of all modern extintions (possibly our own future one)as practiced and ennobled by European economic philosophies. Mind you, I wouldn't be so self righteous if Guatemala were one of the plunderers.

Begonia said...

Anonymous, I recommend you pick up either of these excellent books by Jared Diamond:
"Guns, Germs and Steel" or "Collapse".

I think after reading them you would probably agree with Guy that the first new world invaders (the Bering Strait ones) were responsible for the extinction of the lions, elephants, etc that used to inhabit north america. And that humans were responsible for their own civilization's collapse, over and over again, throughout history

GC said...

Ok, I admit was trying out a bit of 'Don Marco' provocation with the buffalo and the turkey comments.

It may well be that some human cultures are more acquisitive and exploitative than others.

Europeans gained a technological advantage in the spread of ideas and information (the Maya had a writing system, but it wasn't a vehicle for mass education/media)and one of the downsides of this has been the recuurence of the ideological form of evil in 'our' behaviour.

For me one of the more interesting aspects of the Maya politcal system in the early classial period was how they appeared to have eschewed wars of conquest, limiting their greed to the capture of prisoners. This kind of ritualised conflict seems more like a football league where two neighbours like Manchester United and Manchester City have regular hate-filled contests, but don't try to wipe each other off the map. In fact they eagerly anticipate next year's hate-filled contest.

It does seem that this broke down in the later periods, perhaps due to climate change, invasion, disease etc. It's also clear that certain large Maya polities were more vulnerable to the drought while others really do seem to have chopped down too many trees. Then there are sites like Tulum and Lamanai which were still thriving up to the time of the conquest even though they'd lost their connection to the large-scale cultural network.

Into the 'equilibrium' you describe you must also fit the Mexica (Aztec) society which was in the process of implementing the kind of industrial-scale murder machine not really seen again until the twentieth century.

And even today some hunter-gatherer communities are extraordinarily violent, such as the Yanomami in Venezuela, where historically 1/3 of all males have tended to die a violent death.

You could also argue that the philosophies urging restraint and environmental protection are also largely European, which is why China seems a bit scary these days.

Anonymous said...

The equilibrium that I spoke about is the sort that comes about after falling off the cliff. The philosophies urging restraint and environmental protection are a reaction to the abyss. I have been thinking lately that perhaps a simple agrarian society is the first and last stage of a civilization. Our turn is coming, if we are lucky.