by: A G Kaiser
Imagine a world in which everyone has more money than they need. Weíll all be rich and live on our capital gains. Everyone will be a financier of one sort or another. This is the real American dream. The financial industry will be the only industry in the world. Weíre moving closer to our dream world every day.
In the 1960's GM started financing the sale of their own cars. In the 80's, instead of investing in America, they used their hoarded cash to purchase manufacturing in Mexico, later China. They are no longer manufacturers. In the race for cheaper labor and greater profits, theyíve undergone the metamorphism of the merchants, traders and early industrialists. Theyíve become financiers and bankers. They are true capitalists operating in almost purely abstract economy. Early in the 21st century, I saw an advertisement for the "Gerber Life Grow Up Plan" on cable TV. Insurance is one of the most lucrative forms of banking, the root of the financial industry. Chrysler has offered special deals on autos financed with their own money. Their getting smart and theyíre no longer even an American corporation, since purchased by the Germans of Daimler-Benz. Some may think the multi-nationals, who have no sense of nationality no matter which countryís workers made them rich, have too much profit, if they are unable to reinvest their money in expanded manufacturing. Iím sure thereís a better spin. If oneís "in the know," theyíll get the word. All the smart money is moving into finance. Whether getting in stocks, insurance, consumer credit cards or whatever form of banking, weíre moving closer each day to the brave new world of total service.
So it seems that the neo-cons are right. Soon the magic will have happened. Ours will be a world in which everyone is involved in finance. Weíll all be rich. No one will need to work. Look at Enron. They started with no energy production whatsoever. They simply bought and sold the produce of others. With a stroke of the pen they created their wealth from nothing. With the glorious day of the all service economy almost in sight I should be elated. But something is nagging me. I donít know but I have an inescapable feeling the brilliant MBAs and economists, who everyone knows get the credit and responsibility for the splendiferous "all service economy," may have overlooked something. I wonder at myself for even imagining our leaders capable of mistakes. Theyíve gone the Pope many times better. Instead of merely in matters of faith and dogma, our vicars of the global market are in all ways infallible. I donít wish to be accused of heresy. I want to believe we'll all be rich like them and no one will have to do real work to create the wealth. But I have some questions that need to be answered and explained to me.
I confess, I sometimes doubt that we can all be rich financiers. I know thatís sinful negativity. I know Iím supposed to be positive and follow the course thatís been prescribed. If we stick to our illustrious leaderís plan everyone will win, weíll all have a share. But even if the neo-cons are right about that, which they are about everything, a more immediate snag has appeared which may hold up the ultimate universal prosperity weíve been promised. As Columbo was wont to say repeatedly, "Thereís just one thing thatís bothering me." If all the corporations operate according to plan, then all the money that passes through their hands leaves, after all wages and other expenses are paid, a residue of the money flow that is the gain. Everyone knows we call that percentage the profit. The economic theory has it that the excess profit is reinvested in manufacturing more and better products, producing more and better jobs, paying more and better wages that are used to consume the produce of all this activity and keep the whole system growing and prospering by increasing the flow theyíve tapped. With each cycle of the upward spiral, it becomes more difficult to reinvest the excess profit. If that money fails to recirculate, then the system canít feed itself and continue to grow.
The money that concentrates with the owners at the top of the pyramid of production and consumption must get back to the bottom or the entire scheme collapses. The pyramid must continue to grow infinitely or it will dissipate. Profits that are not put into expanded manufacturing operations by the owner may be lent to entrepreneurs. The interest on these loans will be more profit without more production and with the added benefit of the ability to control innovation and stifle potential competition [an entrepreneur] before it can gain a foothold on the steep slope of the pyramid. If that fails to dispose of all the money then the remainder may be lent to consumers and the system will continue to function. The problem I foresee comes when our houses are mortgaged to the hilts, our credit cards are maxed and we can borrow no more. In other words, when all the money gets stuck at the top, the economy must falter.
Tax cuts to those who have more will be invested in the stock market and its numbers improve but that money circulates at the top. Even if it stimulates the production of goods no one can buy them but those who lent money in the stock market to have them produced. Their profits are dependent on the profits of others. This dog can only consume itself even if it does manage to catch its tail. We know we canít tax the money to get it back in the manufacturing cycle. That message has been repeated often enough that the dullest of US must have internalized it by now. Weíve learned our lesson. And heaven forbid profits be reduced by increasing wages and salaries. That would undo the accumulated gains of thirty five years and spoil the working class servants. And there are terrorists who are jealous of our prosperity and want to kill US. All the corporate government is trying to do is spread freedom and democracy and make them like US. Why do they want to kill US? And why am I worried about a little down turn of the business cycle when they just raised the terror alert level? Looking beyond, my trivial concerns about the dysfunctional economy rests on the limits to real growth. As nationless financial corporations buy by up the third world countries, the terrorists will be made into our servants as God intended. New growth and life shall be infused into our economy and our leadership will gain confidence as will we all. Conservatives have always played nationalism and alerted US to the danger of the One World Government. They will assure US, as the time comes, that the efficiency of the One World Corporation will be our salvation and weíll all have a share. What, me worry?
So, Iím sure our wise leaders, the neo-cons, know why my concern is silly and prosperity is just around the corner. Thereís a lot of money to be made in the Middle East. Many MBAs and economists, who are all wiser than I am, know all the answers, have learned them as I should have, by rote. Theyíll tell US what to think then we too will be in the know and be consoled. Itís not fitting that I should ask such questions of my betters. Iíll never be selected for management if I lose favor. Low pay and little or no medical care is the reward for those who are not careful. Very good people, true believers in the neo-con vision, are having a hard time making the mortgage payment and keeping up with the bills. If they can lose everything and end up homeless even when they do and say what theyíre told, what can an honest person expect? You know what? Low pay and little or no medical care, barely holding on from paycheck to paycheck is better than the alternatives: no job at all, eventual poverty and homelessness or prison and death. I wonder whatís better, homelessness or prison. There are food, medical care and a roof for a prisoner and, reportedly, any whore you can intimidate, with no effective law or rules to inhibit unconcealed rapacity, like we have on the outside. On the other hand, thereís only premature death for the homeless.
I wonder about the shortcut to higher profits found by seeking cheaper labor. Has it damaged the system as much or more than the other techniques that have concentrated money at the top and the inevitable debt that has resulted? It has certainly exacerbated the problem. But Iím being impertinent again. Iíd better watch myself. Still it bothers me that far from stimulating the economy by spurring the growth of industry and jobs, all of the best new financial techniques actually trick money without creating any growth in production. Profits increase but there is no corresponding growth of material products to buy with them . They all make money from money. Can usury ever be healthy to a real economy? Sure, we can create much in our imagination but unless real work makes real goods we have nothing but epigrammatic marks on paper at the end of the day. We canít regulate the problem. Those with money must be free to do whatever makes the most money even if the entire human community suffers. Their freedom is the important thing. We all know that. Theyíve told US so enough times that even someone as dull and dangerous to self as I am should be immune to such thought crimes as Iím committing right now. Whatís wrong with me?!
Iím OK now. Everything can be purchased on credit. If, as in most cases, our incomes fall a little short, itís easy to get second and third mortgages. We can even use that home equity to pay down our credit card balances and start a new round. Donít worry about foreclosure. The economists and Greenspan know best. Soon weíll all be rich financiers and no one will have to work at all. Weíll all just lend out our money to each other, perhaps indirectly through stock purchases. Then we just kick back and live on the interest. What a wonderful world theyíre building for US! And everyone wins. Everyone has a share. Weíre all part of the in crowd. God, weíre smart! Except for those of you who donít know how to play the game or havenít been economical enough to accumulate capital, weíre all OK. You are responsible for your own bad luck.
Our ancestors should have thought of this a million years ago. If the service economy had been invented at the start, we wouldn't have wasted all those millennia hunting, planting crops, developing tools, building knowledge and cooperating with one another to merely survive and slowly improve our communities. We could have just sold some stock or clipped a coupon and gone to the supermarket. But I guess somewhere along the line, about five thousand years ago, some forward thinking individuals did see the potential of service. They quit hunting, gathering and cultivating for their own sustenance and began raiding and/or enslaving in order to live off the work of others. Some might say that a slave culture is abomination but if the others were convinced to work for them, who are we to criticize? Maybe the rulers used some heavy handed tactics at first but soon they would control all the produce of the society. Then it would be a case of work for them or starve. The slaves would have an option. We can't complain about something we choose to do. And look, in the past couple of hundred years we've come to know the rules so well we're even allowed to participate in making the laws that govern our employment. Many of US now work for the smartest and strongest in democracies. We're free to become rich and have our former community members work for US. Still I wonder what spirit inhabited the ancient communities, before the rule of the rich? But it's all irrelevant now that the crowning achievement of our most glorious, intelligent and strong rulers, the service economy will make US all part of the rich workless class. True freedom will be achieved by all in no time!
Still, there's one thing that's bothering me. The ancient paradigm of community worked for at least a million years. The rule of the strong rich has only been around for a handful of millennia. Arriving in time for less than 0.5% of our tenure, this culture is a newcomer. Free market capitalism is a description that, having evolved from industrialism, which emerged after mercantilism and trade, is less than 150 years old. Yet this infant prodigy has managed to alter the environment that sustained life for half a billion years or more before we dreamed this masterwork of God. It claims credit for the technical advances and weaponry created by scientists and engineers, whose productions of intellectual properties are purchased, if not produced under contract, and exploited. But the rich disclaim any responsibility for the collectively created threat to human survival that accompanies the endeavors they've funded. Soon we'll all be rich and can take only the profits, leaving any less attractive results ignored and forgotten. Blissful ignorance and positive outlooks will get US beyond any undesirable reality that may try to force its way into our consciousness. I don't know why I worry. The media explains it over and over, every day in every way. We were taught in school the greatness of American freedom and democracy. We are the land with the opportunity to have others work for US. We know from constant repetition that to become like the neo-aristocrats who rule US is all that we could want. That's why it's right that we work for them and that they grow rich by commanding our labor. I must stop questioning the benefactors of the human race. Like the Father in Heaven, they care about US and all will be well. Soon we'll all be living on our investments and no one will ever need to work again.
Yet I think about older ways sometimes. There may have been a time, when communities were first formed, that people shared the work and the produce. In such a time private property consisted of the homes, clothing, tools and decorations that one made with one's own hands or works of others for which one traded one's personal production. Land was held in common and services the community required were performed by the members for their mutual benefit. Because everyone worked for his or her self, that is: everyone must do their own share of the work, meaning no one worked for another, there would be more or less equal distribution of wealth. There would be nothing to inherit but personal property so great fortunes of land or trade goods could not build up. . . But could our glorious service economy in which no one will have to work and we'll all live on our investments ever have evolved from such a dream world?
A more realistic antecedent of our world would have been clans and tribes at constant war with each other and among themselves. If human groups were too scattered for the strong man to lead his own tribe to enslave another and take their land, he would necessarily have to enslave his own and take the communities land for his private property. That is a plausible origin of the workless class of owners we've known since the beginning of written history. Now we've evolved to the point where it's possible to rise above the need to do our own work or work for them. We can all be among the workless class. We can all live by the work of others through our investments. The negative minded say that our upward mobility is a betrayal of the human race as each of US commits to become one of the parasites that afflict US. The doom and gloom faction will point out that the financial miracle is no more sustainable than a world full of raiders who would live off the hunting and gathering of others if only there were others to do the work. These nay sayers will poison your mind with their nightmares. The wonderful world of the all service economy is almost reality in America. The Chinese do the work much more cheaply than US. All we have to do is make money to buy the goods. Our investments can provide that. I happily look forward to the glorious day when no one, not even the Chinese, will have to work. Weíll all be capitalists and live on our investments. I don't know why we put up with fearful prophets of economic calamity. Haven't the conservative MBAs and economists assured US that everything will be OK? Trust those in the know. These are the true prophets. You don't have to worry about anything. We're almost theirs. Stay the course. The right understanding of history indicates that it's all natural order. Everything is as it should be. This is what God intended. We are arrived! Still, I sometimes wonder about the "here" that we got "here from."
The Shaman reached the top of the hill at sunset. His apprentice watched as he adjusted the rocks to form a more perfect dream circle. When Shaman was satisfied he told Embeas, "Sit down over there outside the circle and watch. Try to see the arrival of animal spirits. Donít speak or move until I leave the circle, unless there is some danger. No living person or animal is likely to enter the circle while I dream. If you see me wrestling with a creature that appeared within the circle, be still. You will have seen a spirit and your learning will have begun in earnest. Do not disturb me or interfere in any way! If you have to pee, do it now."
Every shaman desires to train at least one successor. Shaman had chosen Embeas for his excellent memory. If a shaman accomplished nothing else in his tenure he must at least pass on the knowledge that the clan had accumulated over the generations. Some shamans handled healing well, some guided hunters best. All had to deal with social/spiritual problems, the ills of the community spirit. Many were physical healers as well. They knew the uses of herbs and fungi, the rudiments of chemistry. They were expected to converse with whatever spirit was uneasy and to intercede, when necessary, on the clanís behalf. Shamans learned the migration patterns of the game they hunted, though neither this nor any information was considered esoteric or for limited dissemination. Anyone interested would be taught all they could absorb. It was necessary that at least one person know of all that needed to be preserved for succeeding generations so that the clans probability of survival would not decrease through the loss of knowledge. It was helpful if someone understood why the accumulation of knowledge was important but complete comprehension was not required for successful transmission. Unselfish understanding did increase the likelihood of success.
Another young man and several of the young women were temperamentally better suited to succeed Shaman. But Embeas was very bright and boasted the best memory. When his youthful impetuousness and foolishness began to fade he might prove the best choice over all. He wasnít so much lazy and selfish as self indulgent. He could work when he wished to and would respond to the needs of the community. But he preferred to amuse himself in youthful exuberance and competition for the attention of women or simply for attention to his overdeveloped ego. He provided most of the latter with personal care. Worst case: at least heíd remember the information that must passed on to the next generation.
Embeas didnít see the spirit tajacu appear in the circle. He probably wouldnít have seen the large peccary, even if he hadnít fallen asleep. The shaman, deep in his trance, had appeared to Embeas to be sleeping. The boy was open to suggestion. He really did want to be a shaman. He envied the status and respect of the position. Working to achieve what he wanted was much less desirable. He liked watching others work but even that made him tired.
Shaman was sincerely engaged in spiritual labor. If Embeas had been awake he would have seen the old man squatting before a circular hide patchwork. The leather side was down and arranged on the sewn fur patches was an array of crystals that shaman had carried to the hilltop in an elaborately decorated pouch he wore on a thong about his neck. The pouch rested above his heart and he never removed it, even when he slept, unless it was to place it and the sparkling stones it contained onto the hide for a divining. The "altar cloth", which was placed in contact with the Earth, was made of circles cut from the hides of animals that the Wolf Clan hunted. The circle was completed with hide strips cut to fill the gaps and round the edge. The various hues and colors of the furs were arranged to create an effect like a simple mandala. The discs at the center were smallest. The diameters increased as did the complexity of the filler patterns as the edge was approached. The perspective made peering into the center like looking at the apex of a cone from within the base. Coming back to the edge the cuts grew more elaborate. The larger pieces allowed more variation.
Shaman saw the divining crystals, which had been placed at carefully chosen points on the background of the mandala.. The effect helped to relax his mind. The memories or spirits of past successful hunts could then arise in his mind unhindered by personal concerns or even those of the community. When the spirit of a particular kind of animal entered his mind, the decision about what to hunt was made. That spirit would awaken memories of seasons and places where the chosen animal had been successfully hunted before. Other memories and spirits would also come forth like the particular signs among the many and diverse sensory perceptions of the past few weeks that had been noted and stored away by Shaman. Included in the information he accessed in the decision making process were observations that had been related to him by other members of the clan in casual conversations about every day events and wanderings. But just now the Shamanís mind was clear, attentive and at perfect peace.
Tayassu tajacu, the javelina like peccary, came in spirit to the circle. Shamanís soul left his body to lead the animal spirit on a journey through the sky and beneath the Earth. He knew what he was doing when he chose to hunt tajacu. . . .
. . . Except for a shamanís ability to commune with spirits, there was very little specialization in the communities of people. Some were better at tracking animals and others at identifying plants. Some made better flint points and others the shafts that were fitted to them. The community functioned by the effort of all and shared a common fortune. The little conflicts that occurred were settled by the council of elders led by the shaman, when, though it rarely happened, such attention was necessary. Aggressions by one clan on another were even more rare on the sparsely populated planet. More often neighboring groups would temporarily merge for a big fall hunt and harvest party. Some trading would occur and participating clans would each emerge from the interaction in better shape to face the winter.
Embeas still had a lot to learn about why things were as they were. But he was aware that he learned faster than his peers. Maybe he had too little to occupy his mind. "Shaman, why should we hunt or make weapons? We should spend all of our time dreaming to make life better for everyone. No one else can pacify the spirits."
In our time we all know that thereís the way things are supposed to work and the way they really work. Embeas is ahead of his time. His community seems to be working the way itís supposed to work but he really wants it to work for himself.
"Embeas, the only spirit that needs to be at peace right now is yours! Improving life requires a working knowledge of our strengths, weaknesses and foundation and faults of knowledge. To maintain that knowledge and maybe fill in some gaps requires first that you do your share of the work. If you cease to hunt and make weapons your dreams will lack the necessary elements you need to imagine the good which you claim you wish to accomplish. To have others do work for you leaves you with only the masks and trappings of a shaman and the others with the real power to dream. Dreaming requires much arduous preparation. So the sooner you get your lazy ass back to work on the pit weíre digging the sooner youíll be ready."
Shaman had seen that sense of arrogant superiority in support of laziness arise before in Embeas. His predilection for indolent self indulgence and for an exaggerated sense of Embeasís own value was the greatest concern that Shaman still held with regard to the choice of his successor. The boy had an ego that wouldnít quit. Shaman had been conceited himself when young. Most competent shamans did value themselves highly. The community also valued them highly. Because of the gravity of their responsibility it seldom went to their heads -- inordinately. But Shaman had never heard of the egotism of a bright youth combined with a measure of slothfulness manifested as a desire to have others work for him.
Embeas returned to digging the pitfall but he wasnít finished with the argument. "Others are better suited to this sort of work. If thereís no spirit to deal with right now, Iíd still be put to better use directing this troll work than actually doing it."
Shaman didnít like that troll reference or what it implied. "If 'trolls' had been given the time to dream thatís been allowed you, many of them could say the same thing. You acquire knowledge fast but your not that much more adept at learning than most. If theyíd had your opportunity, many of them might have surpassed you by now, because most wouldnít have wasted so much time in rationalizing laziness or pumping up an already overinflated ego. So, until we finish this pitfall, you shall maintain silence. If the work doesnít still your mind, contemplate the damage the example of sloth that you wish to set will cause in the community if itís generally emulated."
While Shaman had performed the cleansing ritual in preparation for the community dreaming that would choose the placement of the pit and plan the drive, his student had observed. Shaman hoped that in the not too distant future Embeas would have learned enough to assist in this special stage of the planning. But so far, Embeas had not yet comprehended that the spirits he would consult must be his own mind. More importantly, he didnít understand that he would become corrupt and dysfunctional to the community if possessed by a spirit of selfishness. The teacher was so far patient with the young manís puerile greed. Shaman hopefully expected it to be displaced by expanding knowledge. Not least of which was that, while the shaman and his apprentice communed with the spirits, the rest of the community busied itself gathering food, tanning hides and making weapons for the hunt.
There were no positions so privileged that they allowed complete exemption from real work. Even pregnant women and mothers with infants were expected to contribute to the communityís well being by such labor as befit there condition. Bringing forth the next generation is the most important duty in life. But survival demanded even those who bore that responsibility to participate in the day to day labors as they could. Most would have it no other way. If necessities werenít provided or protected by common effort, there would be no next generation. No one was indulged in the harmful belief they were above others and deserved to live by the service of others. No one would be allowed to take from the community without a real, physical contribution. One who had accumulated so much goods that they could trade for all their needs would be relieved of their excess for the good of the clan and community. It was not a gentle life but there was, not without understanding its necessity to survival, a great deal of compassion for all.
All this was long before the disclosure that the true human nature and social instinct was to create small strong cliques within the community that would be served by all the rest of the members. And not until the invention of the service economy did it become clear our destiny was to all live by the service of others and none would need to do real work. It would have saved a great deal of hardship in the struggle to survive if the modern miracle had been discovered long, long ago.
But though Embeas may have been motivated by the rudiments of indolence that eventually led to the miraculous service economy, he suffered due to a lack of support from his contemporaries. The fools of his day didnít understand that they must raid the wealth of others, for the benefit of the deserving among them, before the others attacked to steal the produce of their own labor. For Embeas it was better to have others do his work for him than to work for others like it is better to be a master than a slave. They didnít have Embeasís foresight which told him another clan would raid or enslave them in order to avoid doing their own work unless they acted preemptively. Moreover, if he didnít enslave his own people and employ them to work for him and make him rich, somebody else would. And the strangers might be worse than himself. These were the thoughts that occupied Embeas while he worked in the pit with his fellows. When he became shaman some changes would be made. He couldnít wait for the old fool to step down.
Shaman sat back from the fire as he listened to the talk of his apprentice with the other young men and women. When Shaman overheard Embeas suggest to the young men that they raid the neighbors to take women and goods, the old man was alarmed. Shaman gave no indication of his concern. He did nothing to alert the boys to his presence. But he began to listen intently as Embeas spoke.
"Theyíve been recently hunting in our territory and Mourak carried off Laola. We mustnít allow their aggression to go unpunished. Iíve dreamed this. We must sneak into their camp and take all the food, weapons and women we can carry. We will surprise them but we must be prepared to fight. My vision is true." Embeas had any woman he wanted and more than enough weapons and food. But he thought that taking from others would secure his future and it was an indirect way to have them do his work for him. Shaman hadnít convinced his apprentice of the folly of his hubris and lazy greed, though Embeas had quit talking about his own clanís people working for him. Now he was trying to create an enemy who might be raided, with the promise of booty and spoils for himself and the friends who abetted him.
Embeasí peers were a lot smarter than he was willing to allow. Hazara laughed in his face. "Mourak and Laola were betrothed at the fall hunt. While hunting, we pursue animals into Horse Clanís land without disrespect or offense given or taken. I will not take offense at what has always been the custom of both our clans. What are you trying to pull Embeas? We have food. We have weapons. If we want a woman from Horse Clan we can ask for her. If she wants us, weíll get her. I think your dream was inspired by too much kumiss!"
But that wasnít the end of it. While more than half of the dozen or so young people joined in the derision and got a good laugh at Embeasí expense, a few muttered and nodded to one another in agreement with Embeas. Winter was ending and they craved adventure. There had been little to be done to consume their energy for the past several months. Digging the pitfall and driving the tajacu pack had provided enough fresh meat to last until spring but had dispelled little of the restlessness of the youth of the community. Even the spearing of the old boar. who had turned and charged as the swine fell into the hole, had provided only momentary excitement and a couple of retells around the celebration campfire.
Embeas needed to respond in order keep his base. "Hazara, youíre naive if you think talk with the Horse Clan will restrain their evil. They will try to terrorize us because theyíre jealous of what we have. They wish to have our women and our goods. I do not fear them. Iíll take the war to them." He looked about. Some of those who first laughed, now stepped over to his side. He wondered at how easily people were swayed. A small, wicked smile played unconsciously at the corners of his mouth. His eyes also showed the wonder as he realized he was going over on some of the fools. He asked Hazara and all present, "Are you with us or against us?"
Hazara was not so easily fooled. It would be five hundred generations before many human minds would be inexperienced, weak and eternally immature enough for such stupidity to take hold. It would be almost two hundred more before the theme dominated the Planet. It would take the service economy to ultimately free US from work and the need to think for ourselves. These people didnít even have a personal God to worship, much less the all powerful principles and values inspired by capital gains. No, Hazara was not so easily fooled as his descendants eventually would be. But he had already said all the words he had to counter the stupidity and Embeas was undaunted. He raised his fist. "Embeas, youíre a fool! I have cousins among the Horse Clan and Iíll hear no more of your evil talk. If you demand a fight it can start here!"
Much to Embeasí relief, for Hazara was the tallest and broadest of the Wolf Clan, Shaman stepped into the center and put an end to the discussion for a time. Shaman saw an opportunity to at once teach a lesson for all and specifically to Embeas. "I will prepare for a dreaming so we may all see the path of wisdom. Embeas, youíll not accompany me to the place where dreams are found. You will dream with all who take part in this conflict when I return to lead the spirit journey." And again to all, "I will go in the morning and return in three days. Embeas and Hazara will work together to prepare a ceremonial fire pit and the mushroom sacrament while Iím gone."
Embeas envied the old manís presence and ability to command. When the shaman spoke, the people listened. Embeas wanted that respect but thought a forceful and confident demeanor was all he needed to get it. He thought it a bit of theater, a roll to be perfected. He didnít have clue what it meant to really develop oneís mind or character or to earn respect for what one was, instead of what one wanted or pretended to be. He didnít understand the difference between the use of power for the good of the community and the satisfaction of individual greed and lust. And he didnít want to hear it. He was conservative of his puerile selfishness.
Shaman climbed to the top of the mountain. Everyone knew he must seek a vision. His task was to plan the dreaming that would share the vison with all. There was conflict over what direction the people should take. Shaman would consult the spirits of the Earth and the clan. He would share knowledge, gleaned from his sources and the minds of the clanspeople and guided by protectiveness for the life of the community, through a group dreaming. This was how consensus was reached by most clans. Everyone was given access to the same set of facts and might come to their own conclusions about possible outcomes. Together they would envision a plan and together they would work it. A good shaman gently guided the thought dream of the clan. The group would function as a unit to provide the best chance of survival for all. This had been their way for ten thousand generations though none knew the count.
Few but the shamans and not all of them knew that the visions came from their own memories and immediate situation. Much of the clanís knowledge was entrusted to the holy ones, who guarded and nurtured it as the village does its children. Both kinds of continuation are needed to assure there will be a future for people. The thought that spirits gave protection and guidance comforted many. Therefore shamans carefully selected their successors, avoiding the selfish or ambitious. Many of those selected learned the necessary knowledge and creative envisioning best when they believed in spirits. The metaphor was heuristic. The important thing was to lead in a way that benefitted the clan. Selfish leaders endangered the survival of all. Shamans received some support from common resources but they took part in common labors, though their work was subsidized by the work of others in order to provide time for their spiritual endeavors on behalf of the community. They were the guardians of the communities way of life. They healed the group psychology and guarded against behavioral perils and economic malfeasance within the community. Their primary concern was the clans ability to survive and thrive on Earth. That required the participation and cooperation of all. Simple as it was, their economy sustained their lives, as ours does today. Then, its purpose was clear to all.
The information base of the human race was preserved, nurtured and grown in the minds of shamans. This knowledge was passed on orally from generation to generation for maybe a hundred thousand reproductive cycles. At 30 years per thatís 3 million years. I heard a politician say that marriage between a man and woman had been the human tradition for a thousand generations... throughout 5000 years of civilization. I wonder if he voted to fund math in education or uses an MBA style "positive" calculus. But Iím waxing anachronistic. I must remember instead to be optimistic. Back to Shaman. There is in the accumulated memories of the discipline, acknowledgment of a time when charismatic practitioners had to rely on there own power to guide the population. This is referred to as the time before the spirits were known. Overlooking the broad valley where the people dwelt, Shaman felt some nostalgia for that simpler time, though he was relieved somewhat of the burden of power, just as he was empowered by the spiritual traditions. His guardianship was facilitated but there was more to guard.
He sought vision to deal with Embeas. That boyís hubris and laziness were becoming disruptive to the community. His schemes were viewed by some of the elders as threatening to the well being of all. Shaman knew already that Embeas would never take his [the shamanís] place if he couldnít be redirected along more positive lines. Shaman didnít want to fail. He had time and energy invested. He didnít need the added burden of finding another acolyte. Though that might prove an unavoidable responsibility, Shaman still had hope that the bright and energetic young man could be saved. But the boy had already gained some following. The desire to have the community serve Embeas more than Embeas served the community was a social aberration. If it wasnít dealt with soon, it would gain the support of wannabee frauds. If privilege was granted to an indolent and egotistical elite, it could spread like a virus and destroy the vitality of the community. An individual who takes more than they produce is a burden on all.
Shaman began the ritual cleansing at sunset. He dipped the fingers of both hands into the bowl of water between his feet. As looked up to the sky from a squat he sprinkled his forehead and spoke softly. "I cleanse my thought of desire, conflict and emotion. Earth and Sun, all the Universe, thank you for sharing the joy of existence through the gift of life." He opened his senses to the surroundings. A cool breeze caught his attention but didnít fix it. He felt the pebbles beneath his feet. Without forgetting other sensations, he included the view of the setting sun. The sound of a cardinalís trill entered his ear from the West. Another answered from beyond the first. The movement of the air tingled his face and a slight odor and taste of wood smoke arose from his leather clothing. That reminded him of a talk with Embeas but Shaman didnít engage the thought or the emotion that connected to it. He let it pass and momentarily concentrated his focus on the rim of the sun as it disappeared below the horizon. In the next moment he reopened the rest of his senses.
Absolute stillness was not his goal. A temporary disconnect from the conflicts and worries of social interactions and the emotions that accompanied them would allow peace of mind. In a peaceful state, his mind could entertain the spirit. The understanding would come and he would examine it in the light of knowledge to find the dream. The dream would realign the spirit of the community. The disturbance aroused by Embeasís ego would settle. Peace would return. Thatís the theory.
The memories of the clan heíd learned from his teacher and his own experience, record past incidents in which the paradigm had succeeded. Shaman knew for certain that if he imagined there was no hope then it certainly was hopeless. If, conversely, he could imagine the problem and not despair, he might imagine a solution. But he couldnít do it alone. He needed the help of his predecessors and his clan to pull it off. It wasnít his plan to lead them. He would attempt to show them the probable consequences of choices. He trusted the people to choose for themselves and would not pressure them. The information he provided would be accurate, correct and complete to the best of his ability. He would do his best not to color it and to express it dispassionately. No one had ever questioned his sincerity, honesty or unselfishness.
The dream would not be a mere recounting of historical events nor would it add only an extrapolation from them. It must attempt to envision consequences and events that have never before occurred and make adjustments to the future through recognition of a dynamic present. Such flexibility may or may not be consistent with past words and deeds. This now is what must be dealt with. There is no rule by which success may be measured or assured.
After twenty minutes of peaceful reflection on his immediate surroundings, thoughts with emotional attachments and other disturbing memories had ceased to arise. He had neglected to engage them one by one. All that remained was the present joy of existence. It had taken many years of practice to produce this state of mind at will.
A few minutes of ecstasy had quickly passed when the vision arrived. What he imagined might come of the choice of Embeas if it were to prevail was anything but delightful rapture. In his spirit dream the Shaman sees Embeas lead the young warriors on some successful raids. Taking the larger community by surprise leads to dominance for a time. But the Wolf clan becomes addicted to living on the spoils of war rather than their own hard work. Losing the inclination and even the knowledge of how to provide for themselves introduces an unforseen vulnerability. Wolf clan becomes dependent for its survival on the work of others. When nearby communities band together to preemptively put a stop to the destructive and parasitic behavior, the Wolf Clan must flee the neighborhood. Having forgotten how to fend for themselves, most starve. But Embeas and his crew move on. Many young warriors of other clans follow their example. Before long a broad territory is infected. Saturation of the area with raiders whoíve forgotten how to hunt and gather their own food results in cultural changes that lead to area wide starvation. Shaman came down hard, as did Embeasí war club. Bone, blood and brains were strewn in the sacred circle.
Embeas felt filled with power. He knew now that the raiding could begin. He had only to plant the evidence that would implicate the Horse Clan in the murder of the old shaman. His vision for the community would then be easily transmitted to a majority. . . .
If you wish to help, contact me:
A. G. Kaiser