Westerners just didn’t get the memo.
My previous boss once remarked something that I just can’t get out of my head.
We’re so lucky to be living in the First World with all its comforts and resources. We shouldn’t complain, ever. There’s people starving on the other side of the world, you know.
It’s not the message that irks me, nor even the tone with which it’s articulated.
It’s the lingering feeling that to say something like this, you need the following:
- Total historical amnesia with respect to how the “First” world got this way.
- Total complacency with the status quo, as if physical development is the peak of evolution for a society.
Granted, it takes effort to educate oneself on the history of the world’s geopolitical & civilizational history, and so we really can’t blame such ignorance. But this train of thought nevertheless left a disturbing residue in me: are we in the West really as lucky as we think?
“The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.” — Samuel P. Huntington
Our school education in the West teaches us that a conglomeration of European nations “discovered” places such as Australia, India, the Americas, Africa, and Southeast/Pacific Asia (among practically every other chunk of land the wig-wearers got their hands on). The horrors which followed do not need to be elucidated here.
What is missing from this account, and that of most “progressive” spaces of discourse is the profound damage that occurred not to the oppressed, but to the oppressor.
We must ask ourselves what kind of abominable, infernal machinery not just allowed, but encouraged the land-grabs that happened to total continents? Or the untold millions of scientific manuscripts obliterated in the Christian supremacist library-burnings of Mesoamerica, or the most infamous drug dealing feat in history — the British Empire getting a third of China’s population hooked onto opium.
Merely looking at the depth of hatred that was born in those centuries in Europe for the rest of humanity is enough to deform one’s mind. Yet such an imbalanced approach to rectifying the inequalities of history is sure to leave us without the sustained endurance we need to truly alleviate anyone else’s suffering, let alone our own.
Where does that leave us? Probably with one option: looking to the sky.
Call it what you will — evolution of collective consciousness, the temporary attenuating of karma, a divine plan, or simply humanity learning some lessons. But the fact is hard to deny that we are living in the most peaceful time in all of human history.
There is one explanation, however, which seems to tick off all the question boxes of history.
It’s the archeologically and scientifically rigorous presentation of the Hindu astrological theory of the Yugas, which you can read in detail here. It was a great balm for my angst toward the injustices of history in a way that nothing else could ever be.
Central to this theory is that certain macrocosmic and galactic orbits cause profound shifts in the quality and characteristics of consciousness that is expressed. Take, for example, the development of Tai Chi and Yogic inner energy practices in the previous Energy Age. Our current Energy Age’s intense exploration of the characteristics of outer energy and matter mirrors this, albeit in a different fashion and cultural context.
As these ages progress, human consciousness becomes more harmonious, which leads to a reduction in conflicts. Eventually things decline, and endeavors such as colonialism (or lack of defense against it) suddenly become justifiable in the human mind. But even this degradation undergoes a reversal eventually.
Such a cyclical worldview concerning time seems to instantly transport us away from our worldly, obsessively linear and hopelessly selfish conceptualizations of what life is supposed to be like.
It can help loosen the grasping we build up around how we want the world to be.
Instead we align ourselves with the times, and focus on what we can tangibly do to bring all of us forward.
“If this [theory] were one isolated example, we could easily assume it was coincidence, but there are many more examples from other cultures, including Norse, Celtic, Hopi, Lakota, Persian, and Ancient Egyptian.” — Joseph Selbie and Jason Steinmetz, The Yugas
But this isn’t to say the universe is headed toward sunshine and rainbows.
Very generally speaking, there is something that has shifted from the mass-scale wars of the past. The development of the atom bomb has simply made it impossible for large-scale bodily violence to be perpetuated any longer.
But we certainly haven’t gotten any closer to living in true, non-violent harmony with one another. This is the era of hybrid warfare, to use the term most famously coined by the Chinese in their attitude toward surpassing America.
We have just come out of a period of global apocalypse, in which the Aztec, Inca, Qing, Anishnaabe, Iroquois, Benin, Zulu, and countless other civilizational cultures were obliterated by the forces of colonialism.
It is not a sign of progress to claim that such a loss of human knowledge is justified simply because we can now brag about having iPhones and Netflix as opposed to traditional community and folk culture.
We need to build and rebuild. We need to formulate new ways of being, inspired by the Indigenous cultures of the world, into avenues that truly make use of modernity’s conveniences.
Most importantly of all, we need to find and build community with which we can envision and commit to such ideals.
Optimism aside, the fact remains that an anti-earth capitalist worldview was thrust by the ruling classes of Europe onto its citizenry, who went around pillaging first the ecosystems of their environs, and then the entire earth as biblically commanded. Even before this, the violent spread of Christianity and misogynistic witch-hunting in a once pagan Europe practically proves this area of the world had gone through a seemingly never-ending apocalypse. Its particular brand of insanity has simply been shared with the rest of us.
Certain cannibalistic capitalists and bigoted bishops have succeeding in convincing most of us otherwise — that all this Eurocentrization was necessary for humanity to evolve, even if its limited paradigms for dualistically looking at the world threaten to undermine global stability any minute.
There is no doubt in my mind that the great lie will come apart as we realize we do not have the tools we need to look at reality on its terms. But whether we are ready to accept the depth of our own civilizational, cultural and spiritual poverty in time to avert catastrophe is an entirely different matter.
Is material comfort, sensory pleasure, and easy access to wealth the highest developmental aim of human life? I think only we are uneducated enough to assume so.