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On Our Way

December 15, 2016

'We are looking ahead, as is one of the first mandates given us as chiefs, to make sure [that] every decision that we make relates to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come.


What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?'


- Oren Lyons, Chief of the Onondaga Nation



The morning paper and first cup of coffee are done. As are, almost, this week and another year. A glance at the clock: eight am. We must be on our way. Before we go, a final skim through today’s headlines, a look around at where we are. How far we have come since last week, last year, since swinging from trees. Here goes.


Evolution. The gradual development of something. A process of change in a certain direction.


A certain direction, yes.


Fifty-eight years ago, minus one day, the international community universally adopted ‘a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations,’ towards which individuals and societies should ‘strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.’


‘All peoples and all nations’ stepped out of a world war and forward to declare the fundamental rights that every human being was entitled to. In thirty articles, they set the tone for where civilization would go from here:


We are all born free and equal. We have a right to live as such. No human will enslave or torture another, or tell another where or not to go. We have a right to be treated fairly, wherever, whoever we are. The right to be safe, to move, or stay in one place, to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.


To love and marry, own, think, speak. To work, play, interact in and contribute to our societies. Food, shelter, and education, representation and protection for all. And a world order and personal responsibility to guarantee all the above.


Then when the articles were written down and ratified, the peoples and nations cheered. How far and high they, we had come since swinging from trees.


Still, today, an uncomfortable feeling gnaws at our gut, even as we tap ourselves on the back. This story does not sit well with the coffee and headlines we just took in: race crimes, sex crimes, gender, religious, hate crimes, against individuals, groups, humanity. The direction of our movement seems more revolution than evolution. Perhaps a look a little further back. Here goes.


All five of the oldest written codes of conduct of our history contain the same Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ say the Hindu Vedas, Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, Analects of Confucius, Bible, and Quran. Thirty articles summed into one, and people had rights and duties to one another even before they wrote that one down.


The earliest human societies were egalitarian and fair; pre-agriculture, there was no such thing as a gender divide or social hierarchy to roles.


The ancient Greeks gave each free man a vote. The ancient Egyptians gave it to women too. Gender parity was the legal, economic, social norm; Egyptian women could even become pharaohs.


Love was free for all in ancient Greece and Rome as well. In pre-Constantine Europe and pre-colonial Africa, whom a man or woman chose to love was their business alone. Bi and trans sexuality were considered a choice by native Americans. They also believed in living sustainably, so that their seventh generation grandsons also could.


Ancient civilizations built different temples, statues, shrines, to worship different gods. Today we blow those up because somehow their existence threatens ours. They wrote books and built libraries that we have been burning down, because we are all in favor of ideas so long as they are ours. And even as we call for freedom of movement we put up fences and walls, over which we feel responsible to catapult our beliefs, our judgment, and sometimes our bombs.



A glance at the clock. It is eight oh two. We must be on our way. One last glance at today’s headlines; they will be in our children’s history books.


'This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us . . . to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves, to act in such a way that some part of us lives on.'


- Oswald Spengler


One last sip of coffee, then we slip on our coats. We have come a long way since swinging from trees, but we have yet a long way to go. A glance at ourselves in the mirror by the door, a pause under the trees outside, to remember where we came from and the direction we want to take, and we are on our way.



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