Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Wailing of the Dancing Bear

My tongue shall serve those miseries which have no tongue, my voice the liberty of those who founder in the dungeons of despair . . . And I should say to myself: And most of all beware, even in thought, of assuming the sterile attitude of the spectator, for life is not a spectacle, a sea of griefs is not a proscenium, a man who wails is not a dancing bear.
--Aimé Césaire

Today is a writing day, so I'll keep this brief. I’m now involved in the final chapters of Fiesta of Smoke, in which the tragedy that is Mexico today and yesterday must be knit into the love story that has unfolded, thus far, for 700-plus pages. In narrative form I hope to make the point that, in the rush of our respective governments to make trade agreements and anti-drug alliances, what is being ignored is a neo-colonial attitude that divvies up resources, and that treats anything unlike its own policies and aims as primitive. Forgotten or ignored is what Zapata and Villa knew in the marrow of their bones: a large part of the citizenry of Mexico is comprised of dozens for different indigenous groups, each very different from the other, each needing special consideration for their independent needs and wants.

A recent BBC report, I am told by a friend, noted that a certain group of Indians had had wonderful new housing built for them by the government but the people would not inhabit it, because it had not been blessed by the shaman. This might be considered quaint by some, but to me, the truly quaint notion is the neo-colonial one that assumes these people want or need such an intrusion into their traditional ways of housing themselves. It may well be that the shaman, ever attuned to the energetic world, senses the banality of these places – a banality that hides the evil of total destruction to his people’s way of life.

It is a terrible thing to lose an entire culture, yet it is happening at warp speed as first world nations rush to devour the lands of peoples too disempowered even to take a number in the world line-up of economies. So today, as I trek with my heroine through the rain forest of southern Mexico on a quest to meet an ancient shaman, I will keep ever foremost in my mind that it is the lives of actual people I describe: their sea of griefs; their entrainment into the culture of dancing bears that first world nations impose upon them; their desire for freedom of self-determination, protection of their environment and continuance on the land of their ancestors that must rise through my words like the sun. To me, writing must first be entertaining but, if it is not also didactic, does not move the transformation of consciousness forward by a hair, or throw some small straw to those drowning in the sea of griefs, it is not worth doing.

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