The First Principle of Humanity: Seek kindness in all relationships
Part 1: The Literate Versus the Oral World View
History bears witness to the human capacity for cruelty. Humankind has become skilled at exploitation, oppression and violence at a scale scarcely believable. So there seems to be little evidence to support my claim that the central guiding principle of humanity is kindness. Yet the human capacity for kindness is undeniable, and this capacity arises in us unexplainably, even in the most unbearable of circumstances. If we bother to take a long and a sweeping look back, it becomes quite clear that we have only made it this far because of kindness.
The view of history that sees the trajectory of humanity as one that moves toward ever escalating greatness of achievement and dominion over nature is perhaps the greatest work of propaganda ever achieved, but it lies far from the truth of who we are. Buried within every institution of modern society are hidden assumptions that enslave us to a world view whose only probable outcome is global ecological collapse. Some of these assumptions are being ferreted out and exposed by the modern movement for environmental justice. But even this movement generally fails to go far enough in its critique of the industrial paradigm. The paradigm out of which modern people interpret the world is generated by the sacred cow technology of modern culture itself: literacy.
Before the advent of writing, and in particular the advent of the phonetic alphabet, words were utterances that only existed, like music, as sound vibrations that had no objectified existence in space. Language was a living, fluid expression of thought and feeling that only existed in the mind of the speaker and listener. It was unquestionably useful, but it wasn’t a “thing.” Language was an “experience” that had no physically enduring existence. When words became committed to stone, clay and paper they became objects as well as experiences, joining the spear, the knife and the hammer as useful physical tools. This is what Walter Ong calls “the technologization of the word” in his seminal work Orality and Literacy.
For the most part, literacy is not even perceived to be a technology at all, but is understood as a natural evolution of the human capacity for language. It may be true that literacy is a natural human evolution, and thus unavoidable. This does not mean that it is without its inherent risks or shadow side. The obvious shadows of the misuse of language are not what I am concerned about here: lying, the propagation of hateful ideologies, half-truths intended to divert or obscure the truth. The most serious shadows of literacy are assumptions and values embedded within the unexamined thought patterns of the literate mind itself. These values and assumptions are almost entirely invisible to themselves. It is the hidden paradigm of literacy that obscures the true purpose of humanity from itself. This paradigm would ultimately have us believe that our purpose on earth is to achieve, rather than to care for; to do rather than to become.
I do not believe that literacy is “bad.” Similarly, I do not think the discoveries about the physical makeup of the universe that led to the atomic bomb are bad. I would argue that atomic bombs are bad, yes. They are a technology with only the remotest possibility of a non-destructive use and their production consumes massive human and natural resources that could otherwise be used to alleviate suffering. For the most part, I do not think that any technology is inherently “bad”. There are technologies I have fought against (i.e., nuclear fission, broad spectrum herbicides, and genetically modified organisms) because of how they are being used and the risks outweigh the benefits by a very large margin. I oppose these technologies because I believe them to be unwise and our social institutions unable to truly regulate their use on the basis of wisdom.
It is especially important to make this qualification when it comes to literacy because the history of mass literacy is so woven together with the history of modern liberation and democracy. Popular literacy and democratic movements have walked hand in hand as they have spread around the world over the last few centuries. Literacy itself is something that many of my historical heroes have fought long and hard to spread among oppressed people as a required skill for liberation. I believe that literacy is a required skill at this time in history. But how it shapes our minds and habits must be carefully understood.
In its original form, literacy was a technology that the ruling classes jealously guarded for their own use, giving them a strikingly powerful advantage over the common oral folk. It was a technology of oppression that assisted the ruling classes to account for their property, crystallize their ideology and pass complex ideas, technologies and mathematical formulas on from one generation to the next. It allowed for specific, hidden communication over great time and distance. It allowed recorded stories, literally “written in stone,” and by the victors, to shape history. It allowed for the development of codified law, mathematics and analytic and categorical science, thus, advanced technology. The written word is unquestionably powerful.
Mass literacy has unquestionably advanced the relative power of the masses in the colonial, now industrial world. But the written word is a relatively new invention in the scope of human evolution and migration. Humans have inhabited most places on planet earth as orally communicative, tool-using, social primates for a very long time. Our physical brains may have changed a little in the last few millennium since words got their chance to become physical representations, but not much. However, the human capacity to change our world has escalated wildly since the invention of the written word. And our way of thinking has changed. How we use our brains has changed a lot. This, I believe, is one of the main explanations for the suicidal trajectory of modernity.
In my late twenties a younger friend of mine studying at The Evergreen State College invited me to read a book that few people outside of academics have ever heard of. Professor Emeritus of Saint Louis University, Walter J. Ong’s seminal treatise: Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. This book has had one of the most profound effects upon my life, more than any other intellectual or philosophical work. The book sets out to examine the deep differences between the oral mind and the literate mind, and the grossly inaccurate prejudices of the literate mind toward the oral one. Before reading this book I was of the literate mind-set, even while being in philosophical and political resistance to its assumptions and values. After reading it, I began to explore my own thinking with a new set of tools, and to appreciate the intelligence and wisdom of oral people through a new lens. My curiosity about my own undeveloped oral mind was awakened. Whole new life pathways opened up before me. I am in deep gratitude to Walter J. Ong, a person I have never met nor spoken with, but, paradoxically, whose written words have opened up my deepest appreciation of the oral way, the Old Way.
The most insightful suggestion that embedded itself in me upon reading this book was that, as a literate person, it was impossible for me to conceive of the world as an oral person. It was hard for me to accept that my very thinking and perception was shaped by literacy. After all, didn’t I begin my life as an oral person? It was only after mastering the fundamentals of oral communication that I learned to read. And couldn’t I still speak as well as read? I could listen to stories told by indigenous persons and understand them, couldn’t I? We could communicate if we both spoke English.
But could we really communicate? And did we share the same relationship to language and to the word? Was there not perhaps something missing from my field of perception that was accessible to the primarily oral person? A person who was raised in an oral culture might later learn to read and write and enter my world, but was it possible for me to enter theirs? These questions nagged at me, and still do. I believe that I have taken baby steps into the oral world view, maybe even giant steps considering how I was raised. But compared to those few people living today who were raised speaking their native language and in the old oral ways, I am still a child, and I know it.
In Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” a shepherd sparring verbally with the Duke’s fool says, “…those that are good mannered at the court are as ridiculous in the country as the behavior of the country is most mockable at court.” This is uttered in defense against Touchstone’s attack: “Why if thou never wast at court, thou never sawst good manners; if thou never sawst good manners, then thy manners must be wicked; and wickedness is sin and, sin is damnation. Thou art in perilous state, Shepherd.”
Set here as the perspectives of “country” versus “court”, the arrogance and meanness of the court’s point of view is plain, as is the very practical and generous wisdom of the shepherd. This epitomizes the disdain which the literate person holds the oral one. In fact, the word the literate person uses to describe the oral one is not “oral”, which would indicate possession of the skilled use of language, but rather “illiterate”, indicating the lack of command of the written word. To the literate person, the lack of literate skill diminishes the intellectual worth, sophistication and intelligence of the oral person. “Illiteracy” is equated with the savage, the primitive, the peasant, the country bumpkin whose wisdom may be quaint but of little value. This attitude, in its most bigoted and arrogant form, has been suppressed (to some degree) in modern discourse due to the indigenous rights movements of the last several decades. The stereotypes persist, however, as do more subtle versions of the self-centered literate paradigm.
The reason this arrogance is so strongly embedded in the paradigm of literacy is because modern literate culture has walked away from the oral ancestral wisdom of its forebears. In fact, it has actively enslaved and waged genocide against nature-integrated traditions and what it considers “primitive savages” for thousands of years. Globally, people of primarily oral cultures, whether peasant or indigenous, are consistently at the bottom of the social ladder. They are the poorest, have the least political power and voice and, to the extent that their traditional way of life has been disrupted, suffer the worst health via issues with addiction, abuse and violence, both within and from outside their cultural group. In these communities, gaining the skills of literacy is of utmost importance as a first line of self-defence. But, as many stories can attest, renewing and restoring and, in some cases, reinventing the old oral/traditional cultural ways is the lifeline that reinvests these communities with pride, identity and meaning. Power toward self-determination seems to depend on both the skills of literacy and the renewal of (or adherence to) traditional cultural practices which are of the oral world view. This is one way that the “New Old Way” is coming to life around the world.
It is very important to point out here that there is a deep connection between oral cultures and nature awareness, nature connection and first-hand, direct, practical ecological knowledge. I will address this specifically in future blogs. I sometimes call this “nature literacy,” referring to the highly developed ability to read the signs of nature, skills that exist as a cultural norm in indigenous societies. Developing even a rudimentary ability to sense disturbances to baseline conditions in nature and participate in animal tracking and bird behavior interpretation takes years of hands-on study and practice with a mentor for a literate adult like me. Even now, after 20 years of study, I can only have a child’s conversation. But at least I know there is a conversation.
In the mainstream, however, little has changed. The self-importance, hidden values and assumptions attached to a culture steeped in literacy live on, with virtually no direct experience of the oral/traditional way of relating to the world. Nor is there widespread interest in seeing the world through the indigenous lens, except in three emerging subcultures: the environmental justice movement, mainstream interest in indigenous ceremony (shamanism and healing practices) and the nature awareness mentoring and “primitive skills” movement. Within these threads of emerging sub-culture, there exists authentic curiosity, attraction and desire to advocate for the protection, power, voices and lands of traditional oral peoples. Overall, this is a very positive thing. It is also from these threads, coupled to the direct struggles for the rights, lands and power of indigenous peoples, that the New Old Way is emerging. But it is not without its labor pains, the most obvious being the problematic conundrum of cultural appropriation. Issues of cultural appropriation anger many of the emerging cultural and political advocates of traditional people, and justifiably so. Charges of cultural appropriation raise shame and confusion in people of European ancestry who find themselves deeply drawn to the wisdom and practices of traditional people. This conundrum is worthy of its own blog and I will address it. But for now I want explore something even more challenging that usually goes unaddressed in the cultural appropriation discussion.
“Orality and Literacy” explores the conundrum of oral “intelligence” versus literate “intelligence.” Ong asserts that the literate person’s unconscious assumptions make it nearly impossible for them to perceive oral intelligence at work, much less to become “oralized” (my word.) I have since discovered that it is not only possible to imagine the traditional oral way of experiencing the world, but that people raised literate can also become oral, though through a very different process than people raised oral become literate.
One conundrum is that the reasons for oral people to become literate are obvious and emphasized as necessary everywhere. The reasons and methods for literate people to become “oral” are virtually invisible to all but those already living with a culturally transmitted orality. There is not only a lack of motivation in conventional modern culture to become orally aware and fluent, there is active antagonism toward the practices required to gain oral fluency. In the animal tracking, survival skills, nature awareness movement “Coyote Mentoring” practices are perceived by conventional culture to be impractical, pointless and childish, especially for adults. Or, in the trend to explore shamanic ritual and ceremony, the practices one must engage with are considered to be fraught with superstition, magical thinking or outright psychological danger.
“Oral,” as I am using it here obviously refers to much more than the ability to use spoken words to communicate. There exists no good word in the English language that captures what I am trying to refer to here. Persons raised in an indigenous cultural and linguistic context grow up close to nature, practicing the traditional arts of hunting, gathering, fire making, fibercraft, shelter, plant medicine and spiritual development. They receive a comprehensive, integrated, cultural education. Universally though, through different cosmological and linguistic lenses, persons thus raised develop an ecological literacy and awareness far more sophisticated at reading the signs of nature than even the most formally educated western scientists. This process of developing nature literacy through primary sustenance activities off the land is what my nature awareness mentor, Jon Young has coined “Coyote Mentoring”. Coyote Mentoring is powerful but it is still just a generalized version of what an indigenous oral society would have to offer. It is, however, actively exposing people raised in literacy-based cultures to nature-integrated awareness skills of traditional oral cultures. This approach to mentoring is at the foundation of the hundreds of nature awareness schools that have spun off of The Wilderness Awareness School in Duval, Washington and Jon’s mentor, Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracker School in New Jersey. To be fair, it was likely Tom that coined the term “Coyote Mentoring”. But it was Jon that flushed out and articulated the process of Coyote Mentoring as the major focus of his work at the Wilderness Awareness School.This can be explored in detail in the book Coyote’s Guide to Connecting With Nature.
In addition to practically oriented nature skills and nature awareness mentoring, traditional persons also receive sophisticated social and cultural mentoring. They are guided through character and spiritual development at the hands of elders who are the repositories of countless generations of ancestral oral wisdom. Traditional oral societies depended upon the wisdom of their elders to guide them in navigating both their survival in a natural environment, subject to the cataclysms and reciprocities of nature, as well as guiding them in a social environment, susceptible to the paradoxes of human character and cleverness. They also had to contend with the realities of raiding cultures if they were not a raiding culture themselves, or with competing raiding cultures if they were. This required either excellent stealth and flight strategies or excellent warrior capabilities. Either way, scouts with highly developed nature literacy, stealth, speed and invisibility had to be trained. Eldership was informed by shamanic spiritual practices aligned within the cultural cosmological story. And elders were responsible for transmitting this complex, cultural, social, technological and environmental human system forward from one generation to the next with expertly trained hunters, gatherers, scouts, warriors, leaders and medicine people.
The processes by which complex integral cultural practices are moved from one generation to the next in oral societies are what Jon Young calls “cultural mentoring” systems. They are extremely sophisticated, and yet in traditional oral cultures themselves, they are not “systems”. They are simply what is done. Oral cultures do not typically self-evaluate in the way that literate cultures do. They do not break social processes down into categorical parts with an explanation that connects all of the parts and from which they then form linguistic generalizations. This is a quality of literate consciousness, not oral consciousness. Oral traditional societies pass all of their wisdom from one generation to the next without any reason to break down their practices and explain them to themselves. Their wisdom is contained within the stories and practices themselves, guided by those who have mastered them. They do what they do because it works. If it stops working, they change it. There is no explanatory self-consciousness about this in the way that literate people have about education and skills.
I recall all too well trying to learn a card game from Dagara teanagers in Dano, Burkina Faso. They just dealt me in and expected me to learn by playing. I tried asking for rules in my broken French. “Porquais? Porquais ca?” Why? Why that card? They just looked at me weirdly like my question made no sense, which I’m sure it didn’t to them. Then they would grab my cards and make a play and hand back my cards. No attempt to explain was made. The message was, “Do! Try! We will correct you. You will learn.” I don’t think they even knew what an explanation was. They were always laughing at us, there. If there was a traditional dance, just join in! Laugh! Stumble, try, learn. No one slows it down or teaches parts. “What is a part? It is a dance. Watch me, I will exaggerate it and make it simple for you. Try! So funny! Try!”
Jon calls this phenomenon unconscious competence. It is wisdom, knowledge and awareness that is not conscious of itself. The generalization and label “cultural mentoring systems” is a literate person’s way of explaining an oral reality to other literate people. It is not a concept that an oral traditional person would ever think to come up with on their own unless they became fluent in a literate world view. This is a fundamental paradox of the New Old Way. In order for literate modern persons to engage with an oral point of view as humble learners, they need to be able to see and label what it is they are going to be engaging in. “…those that are good mannered at the court are as ridiculous in the country as the behavior of the country is most mockable at court.” From the point of view of a traditional indigenous person, a modern literate person who comes to visit their traditional territory is less capable and less aware than a child, completely helpless in taking care of themselves without assistance from modern technological devices or knowledgeable locals.
When an oral culture is “discovered” by a literate one, they are at great risk and technological disadvantage: on the material technology and war making fields as well as the linguistic, social and cosmological fields. Indigenous oral cultures may raid and fight with one another, but they do not proselytize. They do not convert. They do not think about how to make other people see things the way that they see them and adopt their cosmological stories as universal truths. And this makes them socially and cosmologically vulnerable to literate cultures that do think about and practice those things, as well as how to overpower people by force of arms and use terror and torture to control the behavior of large groups of people. Those are all literate cultural inventions.
Prior to the 13th century, the Catholic Church followed the belief that there were no such things as “witches.” The belief in witches was considered a pagan belief and the church even went as far as capital punishment of people who persecuted or killed others for witchcraft. In the 13th century many changes came to the Roman Catholic Church. Over the next century and a half, punishments against heretics increased in severity and frequency as Christian sects outside the Roman church began to gain popularity in Europe. In 1209 the first crusade was launched against the Cathars, a competing Christian sect in southern France. 20,000 men women and children were massacred by crusaders recruited by Catholic clergy and nobility from the north in a single attack. This was an attempt to exterminate the “heretic” Cathar movement in the Languedoc region of southern France. In 1233 a crusade was sponsored by the jealous royalty of Northern Germany. It was backed by the ridiculous accusations of Pope Gregory IX of witchcraft and satanic worship by the Frieslanders of Stedinger, a clear work of war propaganda. Forty thousand crusaders, promised with eternal life in heaven and the spoils of war, wiped out the entire force of more than 8000 armed “free men” and then killed all of their women, children and elders. The Frieslanders had established a practical democracy and refused to pay tithes to the church and taxes to the nobility.
Over the next two hundred years punishments for heresy and witchcraft, a very convenient excuse to kill anyone who threatened the power of the established clergy and nobility, increased in severity and included the doctrinally sanctioned or encouraged use of torture to gain confessions. The discussion of witchcraft began to gain more vigor. The black plague of 1346 – 1351 fueled the rumors and fears of witchcraft in a traumatized European population. By the mid 15th century witch hunts, “trials” and burnings, backed by Catholic doctrine, had begun in Western Europe. By that time, the Church had gathered up, invented and committed to written text the witchcraft myth that persists until the present day. Covens of witches gather in the dark of night, fly through the air, eat children, poison crops and livestock, collect male genitals, cast spells of wasting sickness and disease and copulate with the devil. No doubt many of these details existed in the common folklore of the oral peasant peoples of the day, but now they became church doctrine, actively implemented by the ruling monarchies of Europe. Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1450 helped spread anti-witchcraft Christian doctrine, increasing witch persecutions across Europe.
Backed by this doctrinal and social momentum, Spain began its expansion into the “New World” and its subsequent subjugation of the traditional native peoples encountered in search of gold and silver. 1444 marked the first African slave trading raid by a Portuguese company. Papal bulls in the second half of the 15th century divided the lands of Africa and the Americas between Portugal and Spain and legitimized slavery (in exchange for a portion of the spoils.) The Protestant Reformation Movement that was gaining momentum in Northern Europe adopted many of these same attitudes. Protestant sects persecuted by the Catholic and Anglican churches carried with them these attitudes toward new world pagans and “witches” into the northern colonies of the new world. Ultimately, the expansion of the United States into Texas and the western territories under the doctrine of Manifest Destiny mirrored the 400 year old doctrinal attitude toward darker skinned, traditional oral peoples as “less than human” and “worthy only of slavery” or “extermination”. In four centuries, from the 1450’s to the 1850’s, millions, possibly even tens of millions, of African, New World, Asian, Australian and Pacific Islander indigenous persons, as well as European peasant leaders and healers, were exterminated or enslaved. Racist, anti-indigenous, witch-scapegoating European state and church sponsored terrorism, conquest, slavery and colonial occupation ushered in the Industrial Age. This period of history is what the literate modern world calls the Golden Age of Discovery. If the indigenous oral world had a term for this period of history it might be the Dark Age of Terror and Disease. I love the t-shirts that have a picture of Geronimo and his band of armed Apache scouts that say, “Fighting Terrorism for 500 Years.”
I think it is important for people of European ancestry to recognize that their own indigenous ancestors were wiped out by the same forces that have waged a more recent genocide and occupation via colonialism. We all go back to indigenous roots, some of us with oral peasant roots in between, kind of an agricultural stepping stone away from tribal hunting and gathering or tribal nomadic herding. My point is, nature connection is something that is everyone’s birthright and for whom everyone possesses ancestry and genetics. We, who are further removed, need to work quite a bit harder to renew the threads of our oral integral mind-body capacities and push those capacities back into our own cultures. Sometimes living traditional cultural practitioners can help us, but even if that is not possible, there is much that we can do.
It is also important for all readers to recognize that it is not only Europeans who have carried out genocide, cultural and economic imperialism, conquest, slavery, torture, ecological destruction and the like. There have been massive colonial civilizations that predated European ascendance as well as ones younger than Europe, such as: Egypt, Aksum, the Incas, the Aztecs, the Mayans, Kongo, Phoenicia, Babylon, the Chinese Empires, Mongolia, Feudal Japan and the list goes on… In truth, brown, yellow and red people have developed opressive, expansionist, class-based societies throughout history as well. It is not a European monopoly. Just because white skinned persons have been the world dominators for the last few centuries doesn’t mean it was exclusively our idea.
I purposely left the Iroquois Confederacy out of the above list. It is a 600 or 700 year old federation of six separate language groups and was distinctly non-expansionist in its ambitions. It did expand, however, by offering neighboring tribes to join, including raiding tribes. It did form armies from time to time to deal with raiding tribes that refused to join the confederacy and was reportedly quite ruthless when it turned to war as a last resort. Many things were borrowed from the Iroquois that informed our democratic federalist constitution. This will also be a subject for several future blogs.
Two hundred and forty-seven years have passed since James Watt patented the basic modern steam engine design in 1769. In that short time the world has witnessed a fantastic expansion of the human population and incredible escalation of human migration across great distances, accompanied by foreign plants and animals. We have seen a transformation of science and technology beyond the former boundaries of imagination. The mass production of food and consumer goods, in addition to the migration of the bulk of the population from the agricultural landscape to burgeoning cities characterizes this time period. Now, having passed the limits of consumption proscribed by contemporary solar energy in a closed biological system, we are rapidly approaching the end of the fossilized carbon-based Industrial Age.
It is no coincidence that the destruction of ecological systems and indigenous cultures has progressed hand-in-hand with the advancement of the colonial, neo-colonial and industrial systems and culture. The values and attitudes that motivated and carried out colonial and industrial expansion on a global level are the root values upon which conventional culture is built. They infuse the owning class, the middle class, the working class and the poverty class with different beliefs and feelings to perpetuate the system, but the value structure is universal. What is conventionally “most valuable” is production and access to capital. This is a complete inversion of the oral, traditional, indigenous value system. There nature is the most valuable asset (which has no access to human capital.) Balanced sustainable living with emphasis on the development of human character and nature skills mastery does not produce a lot of exportable consumer products.
However, industrial production is not going to stop any time soon, barring a nuclear conflagration. And it is preposterous to suggest that the current global human population, unskilled at both nature awareness and the primary skills of living from the land, return to hunting and gathering in a world whose natural ecosystem stability is already severely compromised. We are facing a time of urgent transition to some kind of unknown future that cannot look like our present, nor our recent past. Nor can it look like our distant, but most proven, sustainable past. It must be something fundamentally new that draws upon our recent and our distant pasts to inform its newness. This is a premise of the New Old Way.
We are loaded with clever technology and capital resources but we are deficient in wisdom, awareness and nature connection. To me, it is clear where we must turn.
A big part of what I am attempting to do with this blog is to make the reasons for becoming orally proficient, nature-observant and primary skills competent clear and those cultures visible and understandable to the conventionally educated, literate-minded persons of the developed world.
I believe this kind of cultural, spiritual and psychological repair is absolutely necessary for us to have a successful and nonviolent transition into the future. Transition is coming, whether we cooperate with nature or not. But the spectre of apocalyptic human violence and cataclysmic natural disaster is real, and it is pressing on us every day. Many, perhaps even most, of the people alive on the planet today are already experiencing ecological collapse to some degree or other. Many, perhaps even most, of those experiencing ecological collapse are also already experiencing superpower surrogate warfare, state-sponsored domestic repression, paramilitary organized crime violence, civil war, police brutality or all of the above. The end of the industrial age is not near, it is here. And it is rapidly escalating. The Syrian refugee crisis is but one small symptom of system failure and yet it involves the displacement of six million people!
The wisdom of oral traditional culture emerges directly from acute awareness and understanding of nature, passed on over generations of observation and connection. Oral social and ecological awareness is both a deeply personal experience and a highly mentored one, one that cannot be separated from the spiritual development of the individual. Oral intelligence comes from a highly sophisticated and nuanced inter-generational culturally transmitted “pedagogy,” for lack of a better word. In modern culture, the vestiges of “cultural mentoring” remain most often in areas where the direct transmission of practical skill sets, requiring finely tuned observation and full-body involvement, are still alive, such as: hunting, fishing, athletics, search and rescue, medicine, midwifery, farming, music, dance, art and theatre. Ironically, the only professions that utilize tracking and stealth skill sets are the military and the police. Unlike oral cultures, however, these fields have become highly specialized and in most cases, less integrated with connection to nature. But still, an understanding of mentoring and the development of character through the process of skill mastery is very much alive in these fields.
The greatest repository of indigenous wisdom and practices are those cultures that are struggling to carry on and renew their traditions against all odds in this modern world. These cultural treasures must be protected as a first line of defence for the future of the world. Their traditional lands must be returned to their care, they must be given political autonomy and sovereignty, they must be compensated for their many losses so that their lands,waters and languages can be restored to health. Their sacred places must not be desecrated with modern technology and every effort must be made to understand the world from their cultural and historical point of view. In order to find a New Old Way forward to an abundant and just future, we must all work together, and we must understand how different that work can look from person to person, from place to place and from subculture to subculture. We must act and we must act with clarity,intention and purpose.