Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Fragility of Human Culture...

Credit: Gregory J.Smith - CARF
10-year old indigenous writer and storyteller, Jeguaká Mirim, of the Guarani Mbyá tribe.
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Storytelling plays an important role in the oral tradition of the Guarani Mbyá Indians and the preservation of their native culture. 10-year old Jeguaká Mirim is one such storyteller...

Questioning one's life values...

I sometimes have difficulty coming to terms with the modern world's culture and often ask myself what is it really all worth for the next generation. What kind of world is it that we honestly desire for our children? Are we really conscience of the choices we make and of the consequences of our decision making for future generations?

In my daily work with at-risk children and young people during my last 20 years in Brazil, I like to believe that what we are offering those children through my organisation, the Children At Risk Foundation, are life values that hopefully they will adopt and pass on to their future offspring, maybe in some way breaking the cycle of an impoverished education. My work has taught me how important we adults are as role models and about the fragility of human culture when we are not, but does our modern society really understand how our own behaviour forges a vital connection between the older and younger generations? Are we really aware of our responsibilities?

So many questions, but only each of us, through our individual and collective behavior and attitude can provide the answers...

Through my recent cooperation with the Guarani Mbyá Indians, who tragically have lost many of the natural conditions that guaranteed the continuation of their significant traditions and way of life practiced through generations, I have learnt how important the consistent transmission of meaningful life values in a society can be and how we must strive to become more conscience of our choices and not simply misguided by the mass media propaganda bombarding us every day in the modern world, resulting in the fact that 90% of what we buy simply ends up in a landfill within 6 months.

This becomes even clearer to me when one observes the Guarani in practice and experiences the vital connection that storytelling, as with their songs, dance, music and spirituality has between the older and younger generations in the Guarani tradition.

10-year old Jeguaká Mirim is a Guarani Mbyá Indian and son of indigenous writers and storytellers Olívio Jekupé and Maria Kerexu, who live with their tribe in a small demarcated area of the Atlantic Rainforest, called Tekoa Krukutu in Paralheiros - São Paulo. At a recent cultural exchange event between the children and young people of my organisation's Hummingbird Project with children and young people of Tekoa Krukutu, Jeguaká Mirim had the opportunity to share with our children one of the 14 stories he has compiled for a book that he hopes to have published soon. As Jeguaká's father already knows, after self having realized a dozen publications, that is not an easy task for an indigenous author.

This was Jeguaká's story to the children of Hummingbird:

The tree in the desert...

"Once upon a time in the middle of the dry desert there lived an old tree.

One day a boy passed by the tree when he suddenly heard the tree crying out: "I am dying of thirst, can you please fetch me some water so that I may drink and continue to live?"

The astonished boy replied to the tree: "Yes! I will go to my village and bring back some water for you". So off he went to the village and collected water in a small pail, which he planned to bring back to the thirsty tree in the desert.

As the boy walked the long journey back to the tree in the desert, he himself became more and more thirsty and would each time drink a little of the water from his pail, but by the time he reached the tree, there was no more water left in his pail to share with the tree, who cried out even more: "Please, please bring me water, I am dying of thirst...!"

The boy immediately promised to do so and hurried off back to his village to bring some more water, but this time he filled a big bucket, making sure that he had enough water for himself on the journey back and could still arrive at the tree with plenty of water left. So after filling the bucket with water off he went back to the desert again, feeling happy to bring water to the thirsty tree.

But, alas, on arriving back at the lonely tree, the boy registered that the tree could not speak to him anymore. The tree was dead! The boy looked at his bucket of water and just cried and cried........"

On hearing Jeguaká's story, I feel he is attempting to pass on something that reflects the Guarani's attitude they have towards their fellow beings that also describes their community economy called Jopoi, which means open-handed: "When they receive something they are already asking themselves how do I pass it on, so not to necessarily pass it on unchanged, but how can the pass it on be enhanced to the right person who is right to receive it," explains Paulo Humberto Porto Borges, a professor at the State University of Western Paraná, who has worked with the Guarani these last 11 years. “It's a dynamic that is open so that if they receive money, or wisdom, or emotional understanding, or possessions of any kind, they are asking themselves how can that pass from the one hand that receives it and the other that gives it away, in contrast to the white man who they describe as closed-handed. The Gaurani are generous, because they are not people who accumulate, they don't close their hands” says Porto Borges.

Obviously Jeguaká Mirim is harvesting important life values from the storytelling traditions passed on through his people and is using them to form his own ideas and create pathways through the difficult future he and his people face as Guarani Indians in the white man’s Brazil.

"When any given human culture disappears, humanity becomes more fragile and poorer," Porto Borges said. "The Guarani teach us that it is possible to resist and to maintain their integrity and culture even though they are fighting a globalized culture like ours."

About the Writer

Gregory John Smith is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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9 comments on The Fragility of Human Culture...

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By Gregory John Smith on December 04, 2011 at 09:49 pm

Report by Survival Reveals Shocking Situation of Guarani Tribe

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By TonyBerkman on December 04, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Important questions most of which the the richest countries who harvest resources of the poor do not consider.

Jeguaká's story while beautiful is really very sad. What has happened to the Guarani is even more so.

It appears as though we will need to experience even more pain in consumer based societies before we wake up to the realities of what we are have done and are doing to the people who carry these rich traditions yet have a different belief system from our own.

"When any given human culture disappears, humanity becomes more fragile and poorer," Porto Borge. Have we caused so much damage that a tipping point has been reached where regardless of whether and when we recognize the damage inflicted by our insatiable desire to consume and have the latest gadgets that it will be too late to stop total destruction of humanity. I certainly hope not and that there will be an awakening that occurrs so that we give up our irresponsible behaviour for a more balanced and healthy approach to living.

Thank you for sharing what you are doing. I look forward to learning more and knowing what you think we can do to change the tide.

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By Gregory John Smith on December 04, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Thank you Tony, for your much appreciated reflections on my story.

At this very moment Brazil is taking some important decisions, even maybe passing a turning point of no return, which will not only cause its own unsustainable development, but more than likely also cause unsustainable development for the rest of our planet.

The continuous attack on its natural resources, especially in the Amazon region, will result in the destruction of the natural survival possibilities for tens of thousands of indigenous people and other peace-loving citizens who live in harmony with them in the Amazon basin, and will also open unlimited channels of destruction for mankind.

Brazilian politicians are generally irresponsible and short-sighted, they thrive in numbers on corruption and greed. The Amazon can not be left in the command of such treacherous hands and world opinion must provoke the decision making in this country on such important matters as the protection of its natural resources and the people who inhabit and protect them.

What the indigenous peoples of Brazil have experienced these last 500 years is nothing less than a holocaust, costing more than 5 million lives and still costing many more, lost every day due to the unethical practices of our corrupt politicians and the impunity of our lawbreakers.

Our country has many silent wars, which the international community are unaware of and the Amazon is one such war. But the Amazon war is by far the most destructive war in the history of our planet and yet we continue to sit by and let it happen.....

Brazilians are still victims of slavery, slaves of the very people they put into power. This battle they cannot fight, nor win alone. The international community needs to move quickly before we witness probably the worse human error and consequent environmental disaster ever to affect mankind.

What we can do to change the tide?

Get involved in the international petitions against such unethical decisions, such as the building of the Belo Monte Dam in the Amazon basin, because these petitions in great numbers, like that of Avaaz in solidarity with the Brazilian people's veto of the proposed forest law changes, do make an impact on our government's decision making. The war against the Belo Monte Dam project has been going on for more than 20 years now. The last great dam in Brazil was built during a military dictatorship, but today we have a democracy which needs to be respected.

By supporting these actions, you, I and everyone else out there can help us to stop the crazy genocide of our indigenous people and the continous destruction of our planet. We all have the intelligence enough to understand that much is already overdue, but it is also our responsibility and we must reach a turning point sooner or later....

Thanks for hearing me out!

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By TonyBerkman on December 05, 2011 at 01:15 am

I'd like to help out more. It's late here now. I will read what you wrote more carefully when I wake. We have another site that at the moment has some technical problems -- called -- where we can do a campaign to raise awareness. It will likely be sometime at the beginning of 2012 before we get the problems with the site fixed. Once we do this absolutely is something that I want to get involved with and do an event on the site. In the past the events we have run have had a tremendous response from bloggers.

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By Fabio N. Smith on December 05, 2011 at 05:16 pm

Pai, o senhor e um ser hmano, espetacular para o Brasil, poderia existir milhares de ser humanos como você. Deus que abençou mais e mais tudo o que você faz pelas crianças na comunidade de Diadema.

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By TonyBerkman on December 05, 2011 at 06:58 pm

Interesting article from called

Fighting for the forest: The roadless warrior

To save the Amazon, Bruce Babbitt wants to isolate islands of oil and gas production amid a sea of trees.

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By Gregory John Smith on December 06, 2011 at 01:45 pm

Wow Tony! I am well aware of the actions arranged via and for sure something along these lines would generate a lot of interest. I believe our world is reaching a turning point when it comes to ecological values and the understanding of our indigenous peoples, but alas, there is still a great deal of understanding needed if actions are to become effective. The amplified use of social networks is doing a great deal to involve more and more people in these issues, which I see clearly in my own micro-networks of youth in our own community. They are getting access and therefore finding more and more ways to get involved.

Thanks for your interest and certainly I will await any news you can bring........

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By LaurenK on December 13, 2011 at 05:45 am

Jeguaká story of the tree in the desert is very moving. With it's elegant, child-like simplicty, it evokes such strong emotions for me as I'm sure it does for many others. The boy's distress at the tree's death is truly heart-breaking and the fact that it upsets me, makes me feel more alive, that me, a living being, is upset by the destruction of another living being.

How distant we are from this in our supermarkets!

A few months ago I was reading about Ecuador's plea for funds to keep the oil beneath its rainforest underground. This is another stark reminder of the reality of the tragedies in South America due to a greed perpetuated by much of the developed world.

Thank you for the reality check, I am very interested in doing my bit to raise awareness about these issues and contribute to positive change.

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By Gregory John Smith on December 14, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Thank you so much Lauren for identifying the true meaning behind this simple story. How distant we really are from most of what is negatively affecting our planet in these modern times. We really do need to connect with the simple realities, and the indigenous values are just one important connection we all need to make...... and respect!

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