Ancestors………What Ancestors?

“What is the worth of a human life, unless it is woven into the lives of our ancestors?”   — Cicero, c. 106-43 b.c.e

More and more, we make the world about you and me and other you’s and other me’s. Creating more selves that think of individual selves and individuals creating perceptions based on individuals.  This individualism rules over the idea of community.  Individual thoughts coming from the so-called ‘inside’ of  ‘self’ and is assumed  to be ‘personal’  (or of that self’s ‘God’), makes thinking of ancestors and ancestral heritage strange and unnecessary.  Individuality exists.  But ‘individualism‘ is a dogma that traps,  eventually annihilating individuality.  We don’t think about these things. It’s our ‘normal everyday life.’ And we travel in circles.

Laws and policies are seen from an individualistic perspective, and written for individual rights and disciplinary actions.  Don’t get me wrong, individual freedoms and lives are important and need to move in the world.  But when it governs everything, and where that individual is not perceived as something constructed in history with other peoples and times and places and senses and theories, then it can become  menacing.  Can we reflect on this?  Citizens must perform individualism in order for the nation to function. Therein lies the rub, nub, oooh we’re getting  uncomfortable.  Now that most people in the United States are detached from political government, the government increasingly separates from the people.  When we have so much wealth and comfort, we don’t pay attention.  When the darkness and violence visits us and/or our family and friends, suddenly we wake up.  But until then, we may have even voted for someone who we liked without understanding their impact on other groups that are not you or your heritage, socio-economic class, or religion, etc.

I acknowledge and work in the world to remember my ancestors and their ancestors.  I work to remember.  Forgetting is very important in a civilization.  The civilized must be governable by those things and peoples and laws that want to move upward and seeks to disappear in ‘the good life.’  The pinnacle of this is ‘I should be able to do what I want to do.’  This increases disconnection from history and ancestors.  Soon, we cannot perceive a world of ancestors.  It’s only us.  Freedom becomes very limited to those people who can buy whatever they want and go anywhere they want.  There is not thinking, usually, about different kinds of freedoms.  In extreme cases, difference of certain kinds, is thought to always be threatening to our own freedom.  It is because there is a narrow view of freedom divorced from our past and how things developed.  Privileges of becoming middle-class were made in violence.

If I ask someone: “What do you do with your ancestors?”  they invariably give a strange look.  That ignorance–or forgetting, or refusal (which, I think are mindsets and actions that are very closely connected to each other), disguises that which is shadowed.  It is dark there, there doesn’t seem to be any light.  There would need to be too much mourning.  And mourning would take me away from the pretense to happiness, which is the  goal.  So eons of mourning and grief, sorrow and violence are now enraptured and trapped by this happiness that lays itself on top.  Pressing, pressing.  We have to reach happiness, hold on to it.  It takes up all kinds of strange behaviors.  Just look around!

Ancestors? What ancestors?  Oh do you mean John Ruddy who was killed at Duffy’s Cut in 1832 and how I live today because of him and my Irish ancestors?  Or perhaps I am the here because of the riches I can lay claim to from my uncles who were there at Panzós or Baja Verapaz with smiles as Mayans fell.  And my great uncle Tom who signed the papers at the army office for the go ahead for the Indian Act of 1830, that tortured my great great Auntie on the Trail of Tears.  I was just ordered to do it.  I had to obey.  I was a good soldier.  And the tears of joy as you finished the final tinkerings of the bomb that fell on my aunt in Hiroshima, vaporizing her away from the world and having that be a sign of the shadow of progress.  It is part and parcel.

Ah the past.  Don’t remind me. And I’m not responsible.  It’s the past.  The past should left past you say. Let’s re-think this.

We forsake our ancestors.  Individualism, then, becomes easier, making more sense.  The interior of our consciousness is said to be our own.  But something gnaws at us constantly.  No amount of partying, or sexual liaisons, or loving partners, or alcohol bingeing, or temper tantrums, hallucinogens and marijuana or valium, no amount of rich fatty foods and sugars, compliments and television shows, new age retreats,  snowboarding and competitive victories in boardrooms or sports, or hours of television-watching, seem to make this gnawing go away.  What do we do?   Our ancestors are gone, so you say and believe.  In fact, there are no ancestors so they cannot be gone.  They were some other people in another time.

I say that it is a testament to our colonized minds, that we do not know of our ancestors. We hear about a couple of them, perhaps, at Thanksgiving or some other hour of our lives, then darkness.  I say that this is also linked to how the nuclear family idea was invented and made real in our history, and how our grandfathers and grandmothers no longer are within our reach except in museums and textbooks while we visit them once every few years at nursing homes.  Then soon, we become them.  We think this is the way it is. Yes it is. But is was constructed to be this way. It was not this way just a few decades ago.  But in the world today, you could see that the links to our past our being destroyed as we speak.  Things change. Yes they do.  Things decay. Yes.  But willfully destroying and refusing and ignoring?  I say that it is part of our present violence.  We have to refuse this violence.  But we must also mend the violence that already had begun beginning around the 16th and 17th centuries and continuing today.  Let us begin a mending of who we are and not continue to forget our legacies.  We will understand the world better and have more choices. Let us be amazed with the ancestors.

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