Department of Theater, Dance,
and Performance Studies
A World Truly Free
by Saabirah Faatimah 12.11.18
Picture resources: https://twitter.com/AstroKarenN/status/371962662529142785
I open this reimagining first with a micro example. The sun rising somewhere in “America.” A child (about 12yo) wakes from a gentle sound pulse that fills his room. Though well rested, he remains laying down in his sleeping pod (“pod” a signifier of the far away future where something like this is even possible.) Of the many pieces of artwork and such inscribed on the walls of his room, the brightest of them all is a lullaby written on the ceiling directly above his pod. It reads:
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Gems Of Old Shine From Afar
Up Above The World So High
Maps Or Stories In The Sky
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Gems Of Old Shine From Afar
Usually, shortly after waking the child rises and begins with his daily affairs, he instead remains horizontal in his pod thinking to himself. A slight smile comes over the his face as he speaks just above a whisper: “Today I am celebrated, today WE are celebrated, great is the gift of this earth and the lives we have.” The child then rises, slips on some sort of indoor footwear, and walks to his bathroom eager to start his day. As he enters the bathroom, the motion sensored light turns on as a soothing automated voice speaks: “good day young one, today is the day you are celebrated!”
Now for the macro elements of this future. I will note now that the specific utopian elements I mention in this paper are in response to both things most people can agree on as being problematic, as well as my own grievances concerning current wordly institutions/systems. In this future, humanity as a whole has achieved a “Utopian” societal state. The world is cleansed, and remains free from “man-made” pollutants that currently plague the earth and humans both transactionally, and independently today. There are no wars, as the dispersal of resources are safely and efficiently harvested and dispersed to all humans around the world.
The need to malevolently control, stifle, or eradicate others no longer exists (other than in various history books) From pole to pole there are major cities, and rural communities, both of which use more sustainable and advanced architecture, specifically in that they are each fitted to support the natural environments in which they are built. Humans everywhere in this world keep inner balance, health, and the acquisition of knowledge(both practical and theoretical), and the practice/exercise of that knowledge, at the top of their list of core values. Though particular religions may still be present in this world, the capitalism linked to these industries have been eliminated. Ultimately, the debt based economy that at least America fosters has been completely uprooted, and replaced with a resource based trading system (only used in more of a local sense considering the entire world is in cooperation with dispersing/cycling resources to all.) there are no incurable diseases, and if not surmised by now, no cures are sold to the highest bidder. In essence humans have created a world that is free of the foundational ailments that holster the modern world to a destructive fate.
Though there are the obvious mistakes like the continuous usage of harmful “fossil fuels” (which are ironically marketed (falsely) as limited) that make the possibility of achieving this utopia slim, the institutional and ideological issues we struggle with today carry perhaps an even greater weight in our collective future because it is the perception of self and the world that determines how one decides to understand and treat both. In modern America specifically, the societal issues that the nation faces are its ongoing relationship with colonization, its elimination of and lack of critical review on theories of existence and creation that precede Europeans, the consequent understanding of humans as nothing more than random collections of cells with no significant abilities/attributes beyond their five senses and intellect, and lastly humanity having unique worth/purpose in the universe (or even just the world.) In this paper I will discuss America’s (and nations like it) foundational struggles, its lack of attention on specific subjects regarding how we define understand ourselves as humans, and explore alternative ways of thought as keys on how to progress our current society into a more prosperous future.
Lack of critical review and revision of American institutional principals whose origins lie in European perpetuation of conquest, exploitation, and inequality of wealth.
Starting with basic knowledge about this subject, it is known that the earliest introductions of Europeans to the western world were defined by the unthinkable amounts of violence on the Indigenous people’s way of life. This violence ranged from traveling through the land and slaughtering those that the Europeans deemed “savages,” to infiltrating the native’s spiritual beliefs, to breeding practices inducted to erase the indigenous from the earth completely (when going around slaughtering was losing its traction and Europeans began to believe they could “civilize” the indigenous.) Though perhaps most Americans are aware of “Columbus Day” a significantly smaller portion of Americans are familiarized with Cristoforo Colombo’s (and other anthropologists, ethnologists, invaders etc. like him) journals on the “New World.” It is in these journals where language supporting the supposedly inherent superiority of Europeans over Indigenous exists, and many other texts like these imply a European perception of self those like the Spaniards believe they had the right to correct the mistake that was indigenous people.
The actions of these men, (“men” being their society’s most mobile/privileged subjects) and the systems produced from them, as well as their predecessors would eventually produce, clue to a particular way of thought that can be observed in the ICM, referred to by scholar, Steven T. Newcomb in Pagans in the Promised Land, Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery as “The Conqueror Model.” Newcomb states in his chapter dedicated to this model that “the power doctrine [of the United States as a whole,] can be ultimately traced to … the Conqueror model, that is embedded in the cultural consciousness of the dominant society…” (23) It is in Newcomb’s analysis of both the Conqueror Model and cognitive theory where we can understand the transactional relationship between language and cognition in how they relate to the current relationship the US has with indigenous communities today.
In his discussion of the etymology of the word “dominant” he reveals the implications of the word based on its Latin roots. He states that in order for a “prototypical conqueror” to be dominant, he must in fact dominate and “subdue” others. Once this subduing is underway it is the prototypical conqueror’s goal to effectively “establish and maintai[n] a state of domination. (State is “unconsciously conceptualized as a region, area, … maintained within well-defined boundaries.” (23) Newcomb continues to bring this foundational way of thinking into the context of America in stating that the “state (or nation state), such a s the United States of America, may therefore be understood from an indigenous perspective as … ‘a state of domination,’ (23) which correlates with the original founding of the United States as the American empire.”
The other integral part of (European) American’s subconscious understanding of his actions toward indigenous peoples, is the supposed God-given right to dominate them. The conquerors (the Europeans) are the heroes, victors, and kings of their stories. By cultivating this centralized view of themselves in their minds, and communicating this belief to those they invaded, they painted themselves as the receptors of what we understand now to be circumstantial, but to them was understood as divine. Whether all of them truly believed they were ordained by God to slaughter millions, or they just felt that evolution favored them over that of the indigenous, they were all adamant about maintaining full control over the physical space of the Americas and the bodies therein.
With the perceived right of gaining and maintaining state control came the perceived right to expand one’s control over “new” lands. Newcomb describes this right of expansion as fitting into what he refers to as the “Empire Model, or model of imperium.” (25) In order to achieve this expansion where the conqueror reaches out and “seizes” the land, he must also be prepared and able to pacify the people in those lands. These European imperialists set out to break, quiet, damper, etc.. the indigenous peoples through various means, and ultimately were very successful in doing so. As referred to in their religious texts, namely the Bible, a chosen people are spoken of. These conquerors understood themselves to be these chosen heads of state, and used this belief to justify their demand for obedience in which they felt the indigenous owed.
In the text when including excerpts from The Requerimiento, the Spanish Christian imperialists rationale is presented as follows: “God our Lord gave charge to one man, called St. Peter, that he should be Lord and Superior of all the men in the world, that all should obey him, and that he should be the head of the whole human race,...” (32) Here we see this declaration of sovereignty and dominion over the Americas as one that was said to be backed by God. In the eyes of these Spaniards, the indigenous lives they sought to govern were within the bounds of that which they felt ordained to possess. Newcomb goes on to describe how the Spaniards assured that if the indigenous chose to accept this foreign occupation of the Americas, and submit to governance, they would be rewarded with ‘love and charity, and shall leave [them their] wives, and [their] children, and [their] lands, free without servitude.’” (35) However, if the indigenous chose to reject said occupation, they were promised to be met with “war against [them] in all ways and manners we can,..”’ (35) These same men, as well as all the other men who would later arrive in the America’s with the intent of constructing a nation off the backs and bones of the indigenous people there, would become the writers of this country’s subconscious obtuse perception of self-importance, and the institutional systems that govern the western world today.
Understanding/Interpretations of Our Origins Which Were In Circulation Amongst the Earliest Major Civilizations On Earth.
Though many people today can say that they have heard of the Mesopotamian civilizations known as the Mayan, and Aztec, almost none of them would ever attribute much effort to using some of their ancient philosophies to inform how America builds its societies and Americans live their lives. Though the Maya(first appearing between 2500BC-1500BC) and Aztecs (beginning in 1300) walked this earth, built vast civilizations, questioned themselves and the world (and devised hypothesis as to what the answers to their questions were) well before the beloved (by the west) Greeks, America’s understandings of human nature, the cosmos, and other existential elements, have been credited to scholars and religious communities of European decent. Specifically in regards to creation and destruction myths, these mesopotamian cultures possess an immense amount of textualized knowledge that is worth reassessment. The parallels that can be found between their traditions and later religious beliefs present in Judeo-Christianity, hint to this importance. Matthew Restall’s and Amara Solari’s 2012 and the End of the World, The Western Roots of the Maya Apocalypse offer some of the decoded ancient knowledge of the Aztec and Maya people, and within some of these specific theologies we find said parallels. Within “El Tortuguero stones,”(10) “the earliest example of Maya prediction,” (10) and the Mayan calendar, there lies incredibly rich theories on the genesis of humanity and the possible “end” of all life as well. It is stated that the Mayan calendar offers a “span of time [that] takes us back to the dawn of human civilization -- the beginning of dynastic Egypt, the rise of Minoan civilization, the inception of Stonehenge, and perhaps too the dawn of the Maya world.” (10) The fact that the Mayans are regarded (even in a very vague sense) as some of the most intelligent and prophetic groups of people to ever exist, we should recognize there is more to unearth here. However, like America does with other communities it wishes to propagate supposed superiority over (on an intellectual level, though total material domination is more common) these gifted groups of people are swept in the back of people’s mind as long past and primal beings that now only make for a good A&E History special. Perhaps if we payed more attention to the parallels I alluded to previously, we can reverse the familiar and mystifying ways of thought we exercise on these communities, and re examine our place in this world with a more broad and educated lense. One of the strongest parallels that can be found in Restall and Soltari’s accounts of Aztec destruction/recreation philosophy, is the presence of great floods as an ultimate tool of both processes. They state, “In Aztec creation mythology… the fourth and most recent destruction and recreation of the world took the form of the Flood. This is also how the current world is created in the Quiché Maya narrative in the Popul Vuh; the humans… are all swept away by the gods in the Flood.” (21) The recognition of this uncanny narrative to Judeo-Christian belief (The great flood of the Bible) can begin the process of shaking the perception that all things fundamentally valuable, originate straight from the Greek, Spanish and other European minds the western world continues to praise. “Total” history points rather to the people that these Europeans happened to interact with, as the real pioneers that are perhaps some of the distant ghost-writers of concepts of thought we at least have access to today. In my reimagined future, that little boy as well as the rest of his family attend learning institutions that are committed to offering the most well-rounded accounts of past events. This new world’s priorities with education are that it is both accessible, and that it remains truly educational instead of indoctrinating.
Little to no acknowledgement, let alone encouragement of “alternative” means to foster/“unlock” things like intuition, the subconscious, and other “alternative” aspects of our human existence. [which are perhaps pieces of ourselves that if strengthened may play a key role in societal betterment.]
There are many communities and even whole countries today that believe that one of the major ways the west falls behind in its development is through the lack of exploration of “alternative” energies produced from someone’s mind, and the extrasensory/subconscious possibilities of the human condition. (The possibility of such things also only seeming to find their way to the public on History TV networks) A play covered in class that I felt eluded to this unlocking of human mind power was Marisol by Jose Rivera. In the second act of the play the character Lenny, a man, has a reunion of sorts with the play’s main character Marisol, a woman. During this encounter it is made clear that he is pregnant, and even more surprisingly, and unbeknownst to her, that it is Marisol’s baby. Now during the second act everything has been thrown into dismay, with poles being in opposite locations, to all food containing incredibly high levels of salt, to many other frightening alterations to reality. This turmoil is due to the warring between the Angels and God in the heavens. Now back to Lenny, when speaking to Marisol he states very matter-of-factly that his pregnancy was a result of the degree in which he thought about Marisol for an extended period of time. Lenny states: “For days and days all I did was think about you and think about you and the more I thought about you, the bigger I got! Of course it’s yours!” (59) Though it could be argued that Lenny’s pregnancy was used to signify just how inside out the world had become (especially with his mention of having breasts) the choice to make this pregnancy a product of mere thought is powerful.
Along with the plethora of elements in this play that go against traditional western thought and Christian belief, (i.e. a senile god, guardian angels that abandon their human subjects, and an apocalypse brought about by a war in the heavens with no devil character involved.) I feel the inclusion of this incredible power of thought is just as significant in the play’s efforts to offer an alternative narrative of existence. Just by looking at how humans can manipulate their own thoughts and feelings by changing their state of mind, or a mother can instinctively know what her baby needs, key to aspects of our potential that somehow continue to be unexplored on a wide scale. A belief explored in Quiché Maya tradition, that to know and understand oneself totally(subconsciousness included) was to know the universe, is something I feel we all should be open to exploring. We already see what the productions of our minds can do both creatively and especially destructively, but when freed from colonial modeled hierarchies and consequently disenfranchising mentalities, and given the space and time to explore self, we can increase our sustainability and flourishment as humans to truly unimaginable heights. In my reimagined reality meditation is very common, and from people's homes to major science labs around the world, there lies an excitement and eagerness to explore and exist in our fullest and perhaps most true expressions of self.
The Value of the Individual, and the Collective.
As implied in Judeo-Christian explanations of the relationship between humans and God, human beings carry very little to no power in shaping the universe. Many Christians today at least subconsciously reinforce this idea of being powerless subjects of their fate by “surrendering” there seemingly tiny lives to a singular all powerful God. This top-down understanding of the world is unique to the Judeo-Christian model, and this understanding of individual and collective agency may be the cause of some of self-inflicted turmoil that human beings experience today. Since its establishment, America has always shaped its power structures and supporting rhetoric around models where common people (or those below, on the ground) are led to understand their role in society as a mere receptors of what the ruling class provides them. Problems are addressed by those in power, and if gone unsolved, the common people are guaranteed to suffer the disadvantages unlike their exalted counterparts. Most Americans are likely to agree that governments (as a immovable institutions) are at least presented as the power source of a nation, when it is in fact the collection of human beings throughout the entire societal model that hold true power: the power to unite and push society forward. I myself agree with this understanding of the collective being the source of a nation's catalytic potential.
We find the opposite understanding of humanity’s role in the shaping of the universe upon examining elements of Aztec philosophy. In James Maffie’s Aztec Philosophy he discusses the qualities of the universe’s structure as being a composition of many objects/beings/etc.. that are supported by the universe they help to construct. Maffie wrights that “...all things -- Sun, Earth, humans, trees, …- are consequently interrelated as moments or loci in this grand cosmic fabric.” (509) Every part of existence has its place of belonging in the universe, and therefore can be seen as unique as wefts of fabrics. In the Aztec model, the weaving of the universe (also referred to as the “Fifth Age,”) is understood as a process that humans were able to participate in, most specifically in that by collaborating on complex weave making with one another, the Aztecs were also harnessing and expressing the foundational energies responsible for the creation of the universe. Maffie’s statements on this practice of weaving: “[The Aztecs] empower[ed] [others] to join together as inamic partners into a middled, mutually reciprocating, agonistically tensed unity. They also enable humans to participate in and contribute to the ongoing weaving of the Fifth Age and sacred nepantla-processing of teotl.” (495)
Both the mantra and the words spoken by the AI in the opening scene of this paper carry significance in this reimagining of the future. The boy in the scene has awakened on a day that has been designated by either an international committee or his country’s leadership as a holiday celebrating the human existence as a unique one. This holiday is a material representation of the understanding that humans hold a vital position in the thread of existence. On this particular holiday, people around the world take some time to remind themselves of how their gifts, interests, and other unique attributes all serve to contribute to the harmony, and strength of their respective societies, and the world at large. Knowing that you are a specific and unique part of all that exists is likely to encourage members of this future society to feel proud of their existence, and feel called to live life to the best of their ability. I feel that once the room is created for humans to live in this way, we will secure the most sustainable and even paradise like state of society this world has never been near achieving before. The reformed lullaby inscribed on the boys bedroom ceiling is an example of how children’s songs, as instruments of knowledge acquisition, will serve to introduce the diverse histories and interpretations of celestial bodies to youth early on. Ultimately this reimagined future is unique in that it is a reality freed from the harmful origins of socio-cultural infrastructure built on conquest, and the need for a distant ruling class. Visualizing such a world is certainly not easy when one has the intentions of unearthing all the attributes of today’s world that work against (not always obviously) its prosperity. However, such reimagining can serve as an important tool in understanding the historical knowledge production processes of western thought, that require dissolution and substitution with systems dedicated to upholding ideals of equality, sustainability, and authenticity.
Restall and Solari, “The History of the End of the World,” Western Roots of the Maya Apocalypse, Ch. 1.
Rivera, Jose, Marisol, pp. 59.
Maffie, James “Weaving the Cosmos: Reality and Cosmos as Nepantla Process,” Aztec Philosophy, Ch. 8.
Newcomb, Steven T., Pagans in the Promised Land, pp. 23-72.