contributor Christopher Weller
[Editors note: This essay was originally posted at Christopher's blog, It's Not Your Fault. As we are both parents, I mentioned the topic of legacy and found that he had already written about it poignantly in this particular piece, so rather than have him reinvent the wheel, I share it here with his permission in the spirit of the season. ~ Gabrielle]
"The foremost wealth of tribal peoples is cradle-to-grave security for each and every member. I can see that you're not exactly stunned by the magnificence of this wealth. It's certainly not impressive or thrilling...There are hundreds of millions of you...who live in stark terror of the future because they see no security in it for themselves anywhere. To be made obsolete by some new technology, to be laid off as redundant, to lose jobs or whole careers through treachery, favoritism, or bias- these are just a few of the nightmares that haunt your workers' sleep."
~ from My Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn
Do you remember the excitement and burning anticipation of receiving your birthday presents when you were a child? Do you recall all the sleepless nights before discovering gifts left under the tree by Old Saint Nick? The mischievous Peter Rabbit? The Tooth Fairy? How about the excitement you felt over the coming Summer vacation from school? A family road trip or camping trip? A picnic or trip to the beach? Or, a trip to Grandma's house? Running through the fields, swimming in cool pools of water, adventures in imagination, singing & dancing about, and playing games?
The simplicity of a child's dreams and the innocence of their excitement & joy over the most elementary things reflects the beauty of a state of being that for the rest of our lives we strive to reach again. This fleeting state of bliss only returns to us in sporadic, brief recollections and elapsing memories.
The fortunate, who have children, that get to experience the joy of children first hand, have a unique opportunity to have an intimate taste of this forgotten bliss through their children.
The stresses and hardships, the misery, the violence, and the needless suffering of this world, and the culture that drives it all towards self-destruction, is like a prison to your soul. The wonderful bliss you knew as a child seems lost forever, and that felicity which emanates from your children seems so fragile, even sacred.
Thinking of what they will have to face, the wasteland that will come if nothing is done, fills you with relentless dread, and their blissful joy they have today in the most simplest of things become evermore precious.
You wish to do whatever it takes to ease your pain of what you anticipate for them. Every moment becomes more precious, each expression of happiness more fragile. Your mind always searching for what you can do to enhance their delight. So, you play the game. You send them to school, even the best schools that your money can buy. Believing they have a chance to succeed if they too only play the game. You to find the best toy or gadget to give them each and every holiday season. You try to give them the best clothes you can afford, so that they can fit into the mold of the mainstream child, believing it will add to their success. You try your best to provide for them all the pleasures this culture has to offer.
These false, impractical gifts are merely part of the fantasy of this system. Our children would still retain their natural sense of happiness without them. What they are truly hard-wired for is to be part of our lives, and be part of their communities, their world of smiling, warm, giving faces. What they want is family, what they want is community, and what they want is free access to the world, experiencing all it has to offer.
True happiness is intrinsically implanted in our minds through millions of years of biological evolution, hundreds of thousands of years of social evolution, and tens of thousands of years of cultural evolution. Our children, by age seven or eight, are hardwired for experiencing whatever the world provides for them. The world is a playground, the ultimate school house, and our communities a library of knowledge.
Our children are already ready for the world. We must just give it to them as it actually is, not what we try to make it into. There is nothing wrong with the human, or the human child, that needs “improving upon.” It is the society we put ourselves in that needs to be done away with. It is the legacy we must leave them. It is the gift we must give. It is the Greatest Gift of All.
And look what kind of world we give them. Either they are indoctrinated into the fantasies and lies of this self-destructive culture on the brink of collapse, or they learn quick the hard lessons of the truth of it all, realizing their inevitable, perpetual misery.
What kind of gift is this? Nature gives them an open door to absolute splendor, to absolute bliss of experiencing this world by giving them the ability to absorb knowledge and experiences as rapidly as a dry sponge in water, and we give them a dirty mess of a world to soak up. And, despite the misery and brutality of the world dominated by this culture, the seeds for the Greatest Gift is always present in them, ready to be nurtured. It returns generation after generation in each and every child, as if Nature is telling us to give them the gift of the world, the true world.
Playing the game of this great culture of separation and delusion, we pass on a world with no future, giving them what Mother Culture tells us we should, in some desperate attempt to return to them some sort of bliss we long for ourselves. Yet, in the face of the inevitable doom on the horizon, what good are such gifts? Do they not merely mask your own fears, temporary relief for the uneasiness and shuddering fear of what’s to come? These gifts you give to them are just fleeting, evanescent substitutes. What we desire and what we all want for them, our children, is to ensure that that wonderful bliss they are given by nature continues throughout their lives and permeates their world.
What we must give to them is their chance of survival, such as the old adage that “if you give a child a fish, he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach the child how to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.” This is what has been lost in the long, hard evolution of this culture. We are so disconnected that if we were to be marooned by calamity today, away from the spoiled comforts of this culture, we’d not survive. Our children would have no chance.
“The prison is your culture, which you sustain generation after generation. You yourself are learning from your parents how to be a prisoner. Your parents learned from their parents how to be a prisoner. Their parents learned from their parents how to be a prisoner. And so on back to the beginning in the Fertile Crescent ten thousand years ago.”
~ from My Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn
The goal of this culture, its business model, is to keep us dependent upon it. We are kept as fragile, weak kittens to the owners of this world. If dependency is the goal, then we are like slaves. Do we wish to continue to allow for our children to be left to live in perpetual bondage? How can we look upon our children’s faces and do nothing?
The most special, the most enduring, the Greatest Gift we can give them is their future. Do we really want to give them a wasteland for a world? A world devoid of whales and dolphins? Of polar bears and penguins? A world without fish to be fished? A world without fresh, clean streams of water to tip-toe across the stones? Do we want to give them a world devoid of seemingly endless forests full of singing birds? Do we want to give them a world of perpetual warfare, fighting over the last scraps of the collapsing industrial civilization?
"For hundreds of thousands of years, people as smart as you had had a way of life that worked well for them. The descendants of these people can today still be found here and there, and wherever they're found in an untouched state, they give every evidence of being perfectly content with their way of life.
They're not at war with each other, generation against generation or class against class. They're not plagued by anguish, anxiety, depression, self-hatred, crime, madness, alcoholism, and drug addiction. They don't complain of oppression and injustice. They don't describe their lives as meaningless and empty. They're not seething with hatred and rage. They don't look into the sky, yearning for contact with gods and angels and prophets and alien spacemen and spirits of the dead. And they don't wish someone would come along and tell them how to live."
"This is because they already know how to live....But knowing how to live was something the people of your culture had to destroy in order to make themselves the rulers of the world."
"They were sure they'd be able to replace what they destroyed with something just as good, and they've been at it ever since, trying one thing after another, giving the people anything they can think of that might fill the void....groping for something to placate and inspire, something to amuse and distract, something to make people forget a misery that for some strange reason simply will not go away. Festivals, revels, pageants, temple solemnities, pomp and circumstance, bread and circuses, the ever-present hope of attaining power, riches, and luxury, games, dramas, contests, sports, wars, crusades, political intrigue, knightly quests, world exploration, honors, titles, alcohol, drugs, gambling, prostitution, opera, theater, the arts, government, politics, careers, political advantage, mountain climbing, radio, television, movies, show business, video games, computers, the information superhighway, money, pornography, the conquest of space -- something here for everyone, surely, something to make life seem worth living, something to fill the vacancy, something to inspire and console."
~ from My Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn
Our systems of education have but one purpose, to indoctrinate our children into the machine of our culture. They are instilled with the false promises it projects from the beginning. They are overwhelmed with images of leadership, obedience, careers, contrived histories, and the duties of citizenship of this culture, even before they can understand the truth of such a life of conformity to it and its consequences.
"In your vastly more advanced system, youngsters graduate from your school system at age eighteen, and their survival value is virtually zero. If the rest of the community were to vanish overnight and they were left entirely to their own resources, they'd have to be very lucky to survive at all."
"When the youngsters of your culture graduate from school (unless their families continue to take care of them) they must immediately find someone to give them money to buy the things they need in order to survive. In other words, they have to find jobs....Because the food is under lock and key....It's either get a job or go hungry."
"That's what your schools are there for, isn't it? They're there to prepare children to have a successful life in your society."
"[Yet,] in societies you consider primitive, youngsters 'graduate' from childhood at age thirteen or fourteen, and by this age have basically learned all they need in order to function as adults in their community. They've learned so much in fact, that if the rest of the community were simply to vanish overnight, they'd be able to survive without the least of difficulty....At age thirteen or fourteen, their survival value is one hundred percent."
"Once again, the essential point to note is that for all your complaining, your schools are doing just what you actually want them to do, which is to produce workers who have no choice but to enter your economic system, presorted into various grades."
~ from My Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn
As Ishmael had said, some must sweep the floors, flip the burgers, and empty the trash cans. The collapse is creating a worldwide game of musical chairs. And the growth of this monstrous culture is like the music playing. It dances along around the chairs, where each nation, community, family, and individual can have a seat in it and participate in the game. But, as the music stops, when every step down the path of self-destruction takes place, and the global economic paradigm begins to contract, as the wasting & depleting of precious resources continues, and as the damaged climate continues to wipe us off the face of the Earth, there are less and less seats, less and less places for us in the game, and less and less means to survive in this culture at all.
There will be perpetually less and less jobs, the means to survive, less and less of anything for anyone, and there is not now, not ever, enough room for everyone to be college graduates, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and so on. There will be continually less room, less seats for every human and non-human. This is why we see more law graduates than there are lawyers, master’s degree recipients waiting tables, and so on. This is why we see 200 species going extinct daily. This is why we see 30,000 children starve daily. It will never improve, as long as the music continues to play.
“Now let’s see if you can figure out why your schools turn out graduates with zero survival value...[your] culture says it would be pointless to turn out graduates with high survival value...because they don’t need it...It’d be a waste of time for people to learn how to survive on their own...The point is, if they had a hundred-percent survival value, they wouldn’t need jobs at all...Locking up the food wouldn’t keep them in the prison. They’d be out. They’d be free!”
“Even if half stayed [in the culture], the door would be open. People would come pouring out.”
“What you’re seeing at work in your schools isn’t a system defect, it is a system requirement, and they meet that requirement with close to one hundred percent efficiency.”
~ from My Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn
The pyramid scheme of the monetary system ensures this to happen as well. Those with the ability to pay off debts (or have no need for debt at all), and have immense savings, investments, land, and so on, have profound capabilities to advance in this culture, even as it all collapses at their feet. Thus, the seats are still, and will be to the last moments of civilization’s existence, unoccupied, but evermore less for you or I. They will dance around to the music of the economic game, without a need to understand or care where we are headed, for there will always be a place to sit down for those at the top -- for now.
Those with equally immense student debt, bills to pay, mouths to feed, will always be at the extreme disadvantage as long as they stay in the game, hard-pressed to find work in the field they’d studied and worked so hard for, and accumulated large amounts of debt for, both financial debt and psychological debt, both a tremendous burden on their relationships and their families. Those who are unable to have access to the land, to the dwindling resources, who get in the way of the culture that is devouring the world, and who don’t have the money to survive, will not be offered a seat.
Like the system in its entirety, the monetary paradigm ensures that some must pay and much less may collect. It cannot function without this element, just as much as it can’t function without some being the servant-class and some being in the management-class. The system, our schools, colleges, our banking & economic model, ensures that there is no choice for the majority of us but to enter into this society already burdened with such a destiny.
Nonetheless, we continue to pass this on to our children, as the music continues to put us to sleep. We place them into perpetual bondage by allowing this to continue. We continue to consume, we continue to be dependent on the system for everything we need to survive, and we continue to worship it, following it into our graves, sacrificing our children’s future through it along the way.
This culture, among many of its false promises, provides a false sense of what happiness is. It’s marketing analysts’ primary function is to feed off of our desires for pleasure and comfort, and to entertain our minds. A whole department is set aside, devoted to this “field of study,” studying our children as lab rats, taking advantage of their new, developing, innocent minds. Like their adult counterparts, they are to these marketeers, “willing consumers,” and certainly not immune from persuasion and temptation. They are purposefully brainwashed into believing that the hyperactive advertisements for toys, sugar-laden breakfast cereal, or candy will make them happy.
All that our children see in this corporate propaganda is happy children. Are we surprised they will nag, plead, and beg for that product until we acquiesce, surrendering not only our money but our children’s innocence, their natural bliss, to have such artificial happiness? They, like us, are made to be also dependent on this garbage of industrialized capitalism for a source of happiness.
The propaganda machine plays the tune of the culture’s lies, false portrayals of happiness, leading them into the role as consumer, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, turning our children into rats, of which the marketeers strive to find new ways to lure them at any cost to them or their future.
The real world is the true harmony, the real music that plays for us and our children. Our true legacy is ready to be given. They are ready to receive this gift, fine-tuned for the experience of it. The bliss of our own childhood can be found in it. As we let go of the fantasy of this culture’s false promises, we can rediscover ourselves at the same time, at play in the world once again. The gift of the world, given to us all to share, would be the Greatest Gift of all.
“When [seven] billion of you refuse to teach your children how to be prisoners…this awful dream of yours will be over -- in a single generation. It can only continue for as long as you perpetuate it. Your culture has no independent existence -- no existence outside of you -- and if you cease to perpetuate it, then it will vanish. Must vanish, like a flame with nothing to feed on.”
“If you want to survive on this planet…the people of your culture are going to have to start listening to your neighbors in the community of life…you only have to visit the treasure around you.”
~ from My Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn