IN FOR THE LONG HAUL: I want a Perfect World and, by God, I'm going to get it!
The current "administration" lacks vision. So they bomb a million women here and starve a million children there. In what direction does this take us? What kind of future builds on these actions? Where are they leading us? What is the ultimate destination of our current foreign and domestic policy?
To these questions, history offers us an exact and clear answer: A war-ravished country, a starving population, the ghosts of concentration camps and a stark and lonely suicide in some squalid underground bunker (See the movie "Hitler's Secretary" for exact details).
I want a better world for myself and my children. I refuse to give up my dreams for anyone, especially not for the war-for-profit death machine that currently dominates and intimidates America. I hope I never have to actually die for my beliefs but if so, I hope I have the courage and kindness and vision that Christ, Buddha, Gandhi and MLK had -- to risk my life to create a world I can be proud of.
I am in this for the long haul.
Sincerely, Jane Stillwater, Berkeley, CA
"Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World Peace in one generation!"
Published on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 by the International Herald Tribune
Gaining an Empire, Losing Democracy?
by Norman Mailer
...like it or not, want it or not, America is going to go to war because that is the only solution Bush and his people can see.
The dire prospect that opens, therefore, is that America is going to become a mega-banana republic where the army will have more and more importance in Americans' lives. It will be an ever greater and greater overlay on the American system. And before it is all over, democracy, noble and delicate as it is, may give way. My long experience with human nature - I'm 80 years old now - suggests that it is possible that fascism, not democracy, is the natural state.
Indeed, democracy is the special condition - a condition we will be called upon to defend in the coming years. That will be enormously difficult because the combination of the corporation, the military and the complete investiture of the flag with mass spectator sports has set up a pre-fascistic atmosphere in America already.
Here is an article that I wrote back in 1992. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then:
In general, adults treat other adults the way they were treated when they themselves were children. Therefore if we want to change the world into a better place we simply have to treat our children better -- starting with the next child we see.
What does our future hold? Let's imagine. Let's suppose that some spacemen come to visit the planet Earth in the year 2150 AD. What will they find?
What will Earth be like a hundred and fifty years from now? What would be some of the possible scenarios for our planet's future? Perhaps we could imagine a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario.
First, let's imagine what the Earth will be like if we simply take our current economic value priorities and project them into the future. If we continue to live exactly as we do now, what will our future spacemen visitors find? In what condition will they find the human race? I imagine any report they might make would sound like this:
"In the year 2150 AD, we observed the physical remains of the last human specimen on the planet Earth. Within two weeks of our arrival, the specimen had died an apparently painful and miserable death. The subject, whom for purposes of identification we called Omega, was covered with scabs, sores, and various forms of skin cancer. These ulcerations were apparently due to Omega's long-time exposure to toxins, radioactive pollutants, and ultraviolet radiation. Due to these ulcerations, we found Omega's nationality, race and sex difficult to distinguish.
"Approximately a week before its death, several of Omega's bones had been broken in an apparent struggle with another human over what appeared to be some rotting garbage. However, judging from site evidence, Omega, using a rock for a weapon, had successfully fought off and killed the other human. From the condition and location of the bodies we also concluded that Omega had lived for several days by eating its opponent's flesh. In spite of the nutrition it had obtained through acts of cannibalism, however, the last human being on Earth died on May 13, 2150 AD at approximately 2 am."
Now let's look at a second possible scenario for the year 2150 AD. Let's imagine that today we humans suddenly and miraculously decided to change our current economic value priorities in just two areas. First, suppose that we inexplicably began to give the preservation of nature a very high priority. And then, second, we inexplicably began to give the very highest priority of all (higher than weapons, defense, economic self-interest, the tyranny of the bottom line, and even the life styles of the rich and famous) to loving, educating, protecting, guiding, and cherishing our children.
How would just these two simple changes effect the outcome of our future? It is not hard to imagine. Our spacemen would probably discover that we humans were living in Paradise, Utopia, the Garden of Eden:
"When we came to Earth we were pleasantly surprised to find a place where every human creature lived up to his or her very highest potential. Everywhere we looked, people were busy being the best that they could be. This excellence of mental, physical and spiritual achievement appeared to be the result of the type of child-rearing techniques this planet had developed over the years. Human beings appeared to treasure their young to such an extent that even the smallest children were bright and curious creatures, fearlessly exploring their environment while whole nations of adults nurtured and supported their educational and developmental explorations. Children were never beaten, spoiled or lied to. Conflicts between parents and children were not resolved by parents simply abusing children until the children finally agreed with them. The media did not bombard children with graphic images of violent conflict-resolving techniques.
"As a result of the approach, violence was not usually considered as a tool for solving conflict. Instead, each child learned techniques of harmony, independence and self-reliance as they were guided through childhood by many loving adults. And when one adult grew tired, another would take his or her place. No one person was left alone to burn out from bearing the brunt of guiding and educating the children.
"Further, children were considered to be the most valuable and important product of the planet and each one was treated like a rare jewel. Cruelty to children, infant mortality, disease, neglect, exploitation, ignorance, and hunger were considered as shocking and gross wastes of world resources. Were a child to starve, this abominable horror would make front-page headlines in all the newspapers.
"We found that Earth's enlightened educational policy produced adult humans beings who were independent, intelligent, fearless, friendly, creative, productive, rational, and happy. Our stay on planet Earth has been the highlight of our inter-stellar exploration."
Both of these versions of our planet's future are very possible. The choice is up to us. However, if we choose to change for the better, how can we do it The process is slow but effective: All of us must weigh every action we take against this simple criteria -- will my proposed action harm a child?
And here's something for all you'all who have nothing to do but read text for the next hour or so: Two chapters from a book I wrote entitled "Pictures of a Future World" (written when my kids were little and I didn't have to work 40 hours a week). It's about the hardships of being witnesses for peace:
While Wan Tai and Ava were monitoring Hernando Cortés, the Shaman and Adar were tracking Francisco Coronado, another notorious Spanish conquistador, on his search for the seven lost cities of gold. In his desperate search for the fabled cities, Coronado trekked all up through northern Mexico and far out across what would someday become New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The Shaman and Adar unwillingly followed in his wake, just as Wan Tai and Ava had followed the brutal trail of destruction left behind by Hernando Cortés.
Coronado and Cortés were very similar in many ways. Both were conquistadors. Both had been lured to the New World by their hunger for wealth and their lust for power. Coronado and Cortés, however, differed greatly from one another in one respect--their approach to killing. While both men were bloodthirsty mercenaries, Cortés and his men always waded straight into battle with the intention of killing their prey as soon as possible. Coronado, on the other hand, seemed to feel that he hadn't done his killing properly unless he was able to lie to and deceive his victims first. The Shaman and Adar were soon to discover this not-too-subtle difference.
In the year 1540, in New Mexico, the Shaman and Adar stood on top of a hill overlooking the Taos Pueblo. The sun shone warmly down upon them as they waited for Francisco Coronado and his troops to arrive. Below them the sleepy adobe town of Taos also lay basking in the warmth of the mid-day sun. The town had an aged, well-used look about it. For many, many years before the arrival of the Spaniards, there had been a pueblo at Taos. For centuries the village had served as a hub for farmers and traders in the region and its granaries and shops still attracted buyers and sellers from all over the nearby countryside.
The Shaman and Adar looked down upon the peaceful village beneath them and watched its slow day-to-day life move across the field of their vision. Over two hundred people lived in the stout adobe buildings of the town, which were limned with the same earth colors as the land around them. A few villagers gathered at a well, talking and laughing. Children played in front of shops and homes, while their mothers and fathers worked next to them or in nearby fields.
Taos pueblo presented a pleasant tableau. And then, for the people in this little village and their centuries-old way of life, time suddenly ran out.
The Shaman and Adar looked up from their pleasant enjoyment of peaceful village life and saw Francisco Coronado and his troops on horseback hurriedly enter the valley below. The Shaman, watching the Spaniards' determined approach to the village and having a visionary foreknowledge of their intentions, shuddered in anticipation of the horrors that were to come.
Coronado rode relentlessly onward toward the town, perhaps hoping that Taos Pueblo was one of the Seven Cities of Cibola, the seven cities of gold, and that his illusion of instant riches was at last to become a reality.
As the Shaman stood and watched Coronado enter the valley below, Adar stood beside him, her small hand gently nestled inside his large one. He turned to her with a worried expression on his face, wondering how to best protect her from the slaughter that he knew was about to come. Adar, always a loving, caring person, had never witnessed a murder before. Back at Water Home, she could barely even stand to hear Lion Cloud talk about his deer stalking adventures. Up until now time, fate, and the Shaman had protected her from all that was evil in the world just as loving, hopeful parents might try to keep their precious children innocent of the evil ways of men for as long as possible.
"This vigil is not going to be easy, Adar," the Shaman told her as they stood on the hillside above Taos, catching their first glimpses of horses and white men. "We are very close to the ruins of Mesa Verde. If you like, I could take you there instead."
Adar smiled up into the worried eyes of her husband. "I want to be of service," she answered. "And I want to be with you. I will do what I have to do, and I will endure what must be endured. It has been easy for me to be a gentle wife so far. But will gentleness still come easily to me when I begin to feel the turn of the screw? It is time to find out."
The Shaman looked into Adar's soul once again and said to her in a tone of formality and respect, "I picked you for my own long ago, dear wife, because I could see that your heart was bottomless and that compassion filled your soul. You are able to withstand any test. This I know. But I had hoped that the horror of proving my faith in you might forever be avoided. And that you could remain free of the stain and taint that some call the knowledge of good and evil."
Adar smiled at his formal request. It so reminded her of their wedding vows. But now was not a time for chivalry or even for dainty femininity. She knew that they both had a job to do. "It is enough to know that you love me," she answered him. "Let us go do what we have to do."
Silently Adar and the Shaman turned their gaze toward the pueblo. They watched silently as Francisco Coronado and about forty Spaniards on horseback began to canter down the valley, obviously anxious to get to the pueblo which lay before them.
When the village inhabitants saw Coronado and his men approaching Taos on horseback, they were overcome with panic and fear. They had never seen horses before and the size, speed and power of the approaching beasts completely overwhelmed them. Most of them fled in terror for their lives. Only a few brave men stood their ground, spears and arrows ready to defend their homes against these new devil animals and the men who controlled them. The defenders courageously made their stand against these new terrors, standing in front of the pueblo with their feet firmly planted in the dust as if they would willingly lose their lives protecting their homes and families.
In the background, a few more village men hovered behind walls and buildings, motivated more by their curiosity than by their courage. Occasionally one of them would peek his head out from behind his concealment in order to take a better look at the new monstrosities approaching the pueblo. Then, looking irresolute and fearful, each lone observer would quickly duck back down behind his cover.
The Shaman and Adar watched silently as Coronado dismounted in front of the small group of Original Americans who defended the pueblo. Coronado's men remained on horseback and the defenders maintained their hostile stance. Moving slowly, like someone trying to reassure a skittish animal, Coronado smiled and laid down his sword. Then, in sign language and pantomime, he attempted to make his meaning clear to the defenders. He motioned to two horses, whereupon two Spaniards quickly dismounted their beasts and handed their reins to Coronado. Coronado took the reins, lead the horses up to the pueblo defenders and then pointed to his stomach and his mouth, saying in Spanish "I will give you two of my horses in exchange for food."
The villagers talked among themselves briefly, nodded in understanding to Coronado, and cautiously began to approach the two horses. One man, perhaps the chief, took hold of the horses' reins, bravely touched one of the horses' flanks and smiled. He then turned to motion to the other villagers who had been in hiding that it was safe to come out.
Soon the whole village was out of hiding, even the women and children who had fled toward the hills earlier. They circled the white men curiously, staring at their equipment and pointing at their horses.
Reassured by Coronado's friendly manner and his awesome gifts, the villagers began to relax their vigilance and to make gestures of friendship. Some villagers ran back to their homes to bring out food and gifts for the strangers. One small boy toddled over to one of the conquistadors and shyly reached up to hold his hand. Coronado himself drank from a water cup held out to him by a pretty young girl with colorful strands of yarn braided into her two long black hair. The village began to take on a festive atmosphere. An assortment of food for the new guests was laid out in front of the chief's house.
And then suddenly, in the midst of the festive activity, on a signal from Coronado, the conquistadors pulled their swords from out of their scabbards and the sun glinted on metal as all the friendly villagers were suddenly slaughtered.
Adar hid her face in the Shaman's breast, horrified by Coronado's treachery.
The Shaman was amazed to find that he himself was shaking like a leaf. Trying hard to put on a brave facade for Adar's sake however, he managed to murmur some words to comfort his wife. "This is the way of men," he told her while trying to sound calm and knowing in a voice nearly falsetto with emotion. "We must learn about it. We must see and know all of the masks of evil in men's minds if we are ever to help mankind to remove these masks or to transcend them."
The Shaman spoke these words of reason and reassurance to his wife but he himself felt shaken to his core by the brutal insanity he had just witnessed and his well-meaning words only sounded like platitudes to his horrified mind.
After the killing was over, Coronado and his men searched the pueblo for gold and, finding nothing, set fire to the town in disgust and disappointment.
"Is there really a city of gold?" Adar asked the Shaman later when she had rested enough to be able to speak clearly again.
The Shaman thought for a minute and then answered, "Yes. There is. The conquistadors are actually looking for Mesa Verde and for us: Because the gold they seek is happiness and peace of mind, Adar. And, because of their greed, because of their butchery, and because of the treachery we have just witnessed, they will never be able to find it. It is the great tragedy of our times that the very things that men do to bring themselves happiness are the only things that forever ruin their chances for finding it. These men are to be pitied as well as decried."
For the next several years Adar and the Shaman stood on numerous hills and rises throughout both the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. They watched the same scene, the one they had witnessed at Taos Pueblo, re-enacted over and over again. The parts written to be played by Original Americans needed to be continually re-cast as the stench of bodies piled up at the end of each act. But the Spanish participants in Coronado's little passion play remained the same for show after show, never tiring of their roles. Meanwhile the Shaman and Adar, Coronado's unseen audience, dreaded each performance with all their hearts.
In 1542, Francisco Coronado returned to Mexico. In 1546, the Spanish colonial government accused him of committing acts of cruelty against Original Americans. His trial gave the Shaman hope that knowledge of good and evil did exist among the Spaniards, but not for long. Coronado was acquitted of all charges.
"At least we know that it's not the knowledge of good and evil that is missing here," commented the Shaman. "What is missing here is the desire to act upon that knowledge. But what good are ethics if they are ignored?"
Adar grimly agreed. "Perhaps a truly wise man is one who can conceive of evil, be tempted by it, yet proceed in the direction of goodness even in spite of his temptations."
"The Spanish clearly lack wisdom," the Shaman responded with a touch of gallows humor, "if wisdom is at all similar to restraint! The only restraint I've seen Coronado show these past six years has been his valiant efforts to control his need to tell the truth."
The Shaman and Adar, feeling emotionally drained and having reached their psychological limits, left New Galacia, Coronado's province in western Mexico, soon after the trial was over. With heavy hearts they started out upon the long trek back up to the high mountains far to the north where the Clan's secret retreat site was hidden. Their mood was solemn as they headed away from Mexico. Adar especially seemed worn down by her constant viewing of corpses. To the Shaman, she seemed smaller and older; more fragile and precious to him. She was quiet much of the time and appeared to be turning her thoughts inward. He sensed that it would take her several years of sunshine and happy conversations with her friends before her mind would even begin to relax from its ordeal.
The Shaman had not been as affected by the scenes of horror as his wife had been, for he had been a man of wisdom for many years even back before the retreat from Mesa Verde. For many years already he had traveled extensively within the labyrinths of his own mind and the minds of other men, and although he chose to reject or consider as illusion much of what he had encountered within his psychological journeys, nothing that he had seen within the depths of Coronado's mind had surprised him. He had seen it all many times before.
"But I did not like it," he murmured to himself. "I did not like it."
Why hadn't Coronado and his Spanish cutthroats also been able to see blood lust as false illusion leading nowhere, he kept asking himself.
One day, as they trudged slowly northward toward their mountain retreat, Adar pulled at the Shaman's arm and brought him quickly out of his meditations on the frailty of human nature. "Look!" She cried, pointing excitedly. "There are two of those animals the Spaniards call horses! Oh, let's do try to catch them!"
The Shaman smiled, delighted to see Adar's attention focused on something other than morbid thoughts of Francisco Coronado. "Let's do it!" he said. "You stand here and offer corn. I'll try to circle around behind them."
They whistled and sang and shouted to the horses, who seemed quite relieved to be once again among the company of men. The horses surrendered themselves easily.
After a few days of trepidation and experimentation, the Shaman and Adar became equestrians for the first time in their lives. They both discovered that they thoroughly enjoyed everything connected with horses and their hearts raced as they thrilled to the exhilaration and freedom of galloping swiftly across deserts and grasslands. One horse, a large black stallion, they named "Thunder". The other horse, an aging bay mare with a sweet disposition, they named "Flower".
In the days and weeks that followed, the Shaman would come up to Thunder each morning with a bridle in his hand. At the sight of the bridle, Thunder would storm and protest as if the world were about to end but after the Shaman talked to him for a few minutes and offered him grain, Thunder quickly settled down and thereafter seemed to actually enjoy being ridden.
Flower, on the other hand, made her benevolent feelings for Adar clear from the very first and, when not being ridden, would follow Adar around like a puppy dog.
After weeks of riding through hundreds of miles of flat, deserted landscape, the horses' breathing became slightly labored as they began the subtle climb upward toward the Sierras. As the altitude slowly increased, the high mountains loomed above the weary travelers like sleeping giants. Then, after two more weeks of upgrade climbing, the riders and their mounts finally began to enter the high mountains themselves. As the Shaman and Adar walked their horses slowly up the narrow rocky trails, the air became perfumed with the fresh smell of pine and fir.
The two riders greedily drank in the beauty and serenity of the exquisite alpine panoramas all around them, while their horses delightedly nuzzled the wild flowers that grew in the crevices of the boulders that lined the trail. Adar occasionally stopped to frolic cheerfully in the small patches of snow that still lingered beside the trail despite the hot summer sun that beat steadily down upon it. She also made snowballs which she threw at the Shaman's back as he stooped to gather herbs to make into tea for that evening's campfire. Whenever a snowball would hit him he would laughingly complain that Adar was "not acting with the dignity of a Clan elder" but that did not keep him from throwing one or two back at her. Adar had the good sense to try to duck her husband's snowballs. However, the Shaman had a strong right arm and a deadly aim.
On the last day of their long journey, the Shaman and Adar rode side by side up a steep rocky trail, the last leg of their long journey home. All morning long the two weary travelers had been energized by the beauty and tranquility of the high mountains that surrounded them and, as they rode, they smiled at each other often and talked excitedly about how glad they would be to see their Clan friends again. But as they began to approach the last few miles of trail leading to their mountain home, the couple's thoughts once again turned back to the somber events they had witnessed in northern Mexico.
Although she was normally a pleasant and optimistic woman, Adar began to take on a contentious frame of mind as she began to mull the events of the past few years over in her mind in preparation for telling them to the rest of the Clan. She thought of what she would have to tell Lion Cloud and Loria and the rest; she thought of what her dear friends' stunned reactions might be to her gruesome, macabre tales; and she thought of the implications, ramifications and effects the European invasions would have upon all Original Americans in general and upon the Clan's future specifically. How would all the Europeans' cruelty and greed affect the handful of people she loved so well, she asked herself again and again, gradually working herself up into a state of anxiety and despair. "What is going to happen to us?" she grumbled aloud, more to herself than to the Shaman.
"Us?" asked the Shaman, startled out of his reverie by Adar's sudden question and hostile tone of voice.
"I mean all of us," she stated in a flat, hostile tone. "You. Me. Wan Tai. Our Clan. Are we going to be forced to spend the rest of this millennium watching real life re-enactments in flesh and blood of the human race's worst nightmares? Is that what is in store for us?"
"I guess so," sighed the Shaman.
Adar's voice took on a high desperate note as all her fear and anger, deeply suppressed for the last two years, suddenly started pouring out. "And what if we can't stand it any more," she cried out. "What if our minds crack and we become insane? And what will happen to us and to the rest of the world if we end up becoming just like them?" Adar's rage seemed bottomless. Her voice cut like a diamond into the Shaman's heart.
"Are we powerless to do anything else?" Adar cried out. "Can we do nothing to stop this carnage?" she cried to the mountains and the valleys and the sky around her as if challenging all of the universe itself to a duel to the death. "What kind of horrible mess have we gotten ourselves into? Why can't we stop it! When will it stop? When will these savages who call themselves civilized men stop butchering each other and come to their senses?" Adar's voice shook. "Why! Why! Why! Why us?" she cried in anger and frustration. "Why is it necessary? And when will it stop?"
"I don't know, Adar," the Shaman quietly replied. "I wish I could tell you, but I just don't know. All we can hope for is that we can just wade through this horrible nightmare as quickly as possible."
"Just get on with the killing?"
"Just get on with the killing."
"And hope it will end soon?"
"And hope it will end soon."
Adar rode on in silence for several miles. "It just seems so pointless," she finally sighed, as her scowl slowly disappeared and one small tear appeared in its place. Slowly it trickled down her cheek. "Oh, husband," she sadly whispered. "Hold my hand and give some of your courage to this fragile woman. There is so much to bear. I feel weak and afraid."
The husband and wife rode on, enveloped in the high mountain silence once again.
After a while, the Shaman's voice again broke the stillness of the mountain air. This time he spoke not so much as to counsel his wife but more in order to clarify his own tangled and pessimistic thoughts. Trying to put everything they had witnessed so far and everything they would have to witness in the future into a more positive perspective, he began to sort out the whirlwind of events that swirled around them; to sort them into words that would hopefully, somehow make sense. Adar gauged the seriousness of his discourse by the fact that he didn't even preface it with his usual little joke about "feeling a lecture coming on", and respectfully listened to her husband's words.
"In the beginning of all this," the Shaman began, "when we lived back at Mesa Verde, Wan Tai had a vision. Do you remember?"
"Yes," nodded Adar.
"Four centuries ago, Wan Tai predicted that all this horror would occur. He said that the killing would begin and that we must prepare ourselves for it. He said that. And so that is what we did. Do you remember?" Adar again nodded yes.
"For the last four hundred years, we have prepared for this," the Shaman stated. "We are now adequately prepared.
"On this point, we must have faith and trust ourselves. And we must also trust Wan Tai because what he had warned us about so long ago is now happening all around us.
"We must also understand that it will take time and effort to bring about change. It has taken thousands and thousands of years for men...not only the Europeans...remember that Aztecs and other Original Americans committed atrocities also long before the arrival of the white men...for men to learn to become so evil, to stray so far from their course. We cannot expect them to change overnight, to evolve overnight. We must, through an almost blind act of faith, continue to keep upon our present course of action and not waiver from our plan."
"And Wan Tai's vision predicted an end to all the slaughter," Adar encouraged him.
"And so we must have faith that our preparations will see us through and that some good will come of it; that we have chosen a path that is good and that, no matter what doubts arise, we must have faith in our path and stay on it."
The Shaman sighed again. "Yes."
For several more miles of rocky mountain trail, the couple rode on in silence while the Shaman once again tried to arrange his thoughts into some semblance of continuity and order.
After an hour or so of quiet riding through peaceful mountain scenery, the Shaman resumed speaking his thoughts aloud. "I have based my life on my trust in the eventual transcendence of good over evil," he stated. "This faith has been my creed. And if I were to feel that there would never be a day when good could not transform evil into some higher power, then I could not go on being the Clan's shaman. Nor would I want to."
The Shaman stopped his horse and dismounted. He watched the golden sun as it started to set behind the western Sierras.
"It is only my trust and faith in a higher good," he continued, "that allows me to be a shaman, to walk freely among the minds of men, visiting both their worst nightmares and my own. Faith is the guiding light that I follow. It allows me to go deep into even the most hellish nightmare and to come out unscathed. Without faith, I could not be a shaman."
"But why do you have to continue to go into those living hells?" Adar asked him, asking the same question he had frequently asked himself since their encounter with the Spanish.
He gave the only answer he knew. "Because only then can I help the people who have no faith, who constantly live in those nightmares, to whom the illusion has become the reality and who have no other way of getting back to sanity without my help."
The sun set behind the mountains. The Shaman and Adar tethered their horses for the night, made their camp and began to prepare their evening meal. As they made their campfire and cooked their dinner side by side, each felt comforted and reassured by the presence of the other and that the afternoon's conversations had clarified their purposes and strengthened their resolution to continue on toward achieving their costly goals. But the day's introspection had been costly and exhausting to their minds and to their souls and for the rest of the evening the Shaman and Adar just told each other funny stories about their childhoods, took turns braiding each other's hair and made every effort they could think of to coddle themselves and to cheer themselves up.
The next morning, after months of hard travel, the Shaman and Adar finally reached their destination, the Clan's most recent refuge.
"Home at last!" Adar cried out as they approached the familiar winding trail that led up the mountainside to the fortress-like cave that held the Clan's workshop, granary and living quarters. "I feel like I've been out wandering among monsters and goblins for all these past years," she exclaimed. "It's going to be like paradise to see actual human faces again. I can't wait!"
With her heels she urged Flower up the narrow path, all the while beaming like a small girl about to be reunited with her mother. Frustrated with the horse's slow progress up the narrow trail, she jumped from its back and began to run toward home, blissfully anxious and eager to be home and safe once more.
Loria was the first one to greet the travelers. She threw her arms around Adar, cried when she saw the Shaman and only after several minutes of tearful reunion did she pause to take in the astonishing spectacle of the two huge new beasts accompanying them. Thunder, fully 16 hands high, especially towered over her. "Are they monsters," she inquired nervously, "or are they angels?"
Adar smiled at her normally-brave friend's sudden timidity. "No," she replied. "They will not bite you. But do watch out. Flower may try to give you a hug!"
After the horses had been examined and exclaimed over by everyone in the Clan and he and Adar had had time to catch their breath, the Shaman called a Clan council meeting for that night so that he might tell everyone at the same time about his adventures with Coronado.
Wan Tai and Ava were already back from their vigil in Mexico and they also spoke at the council meeting, telling the Shaman and Adar about their own parallel experiences with the new Spanish nightmare.
When they had heard Wan Tai's sad story about Hernando Cortez, the Shaman and Adar both sadly confirmed that they too had witnessed the same type of ghastly murder.
Lion Cloud, Loria, Xaño, Witten, Daros, and Ahira grimly listened to the new descriptions of butchery and genocide brought by the Shaman and Adar. They all stirred uneasily, looking from one Clan member to another, trying to grasp the enormity of these horror stories; trying to stifle incredulity and disbelief.
As Adar at last grew silent after telling everyone about the miracle of the horses, the Shaman spoke. He said, "We were wise to build this secret sanctuary up here in the isolated high country. In the future, we will need it sorely. We have underestimated man's capacity for evil."
He paused. "When I say evil, I mean specifically this: I refer to evil as a belief that seizes the hearts of some unlucky men. What these men truly believe is, first, that there is a dreadful lack of something in their lives. And, second, that this dreadful emptiness is a valid justification that gives them the right to do anything that they can conceive of in order to fill it. I do believe that in their own minds, men seized by evil say to themselves that their own need is so much greater than the needs of others that it is understandable, acceptable, and justifiable for them to break all codes of ethics and humanity in order to obtain relief."
Lion Cloud rose to speak. "I haven't seen these Spaniards at work in their killing grounds," he stated. "And if I did not know you so well and trust you so completely, I would have to say that your stories could not possibly be true. It seems to me that no one, no one human could feel so needy as to commit this endless list of atrocities. Even now it does not seem possible to me." Lion Cloud became silent. Silently he stood watching the Shaman for several moments and then he sat down.
"I who was there, I who saw them," the Shaman answered, "I myself cannot fully comprehend the wholeness of this evil. But it was real. It was there. And it was more powerful than anything we had imagined. It seemed as if all of their human intelligence, civilization, and grace had disappeared before our eyes. It was as if they had, inside of their minds, slipped backwards to the caves beneath their brains that held their animal origins. And their powerful need to commit violence seemed as if it was so strong that the violence of animals was all their brains could remember."
Wan Tai spoke next. "The blinding need and greed of the Spaniards hit us like lightning. Our hundred years of preparation saved us from being killed but not even we were powerful enough to change the course of these evil men's lives. And after a few disastrous and dangerous attempts to interfere, we did not even try. Such is their need. Such is the nature of the men we are dealing with. Never forget this. Never take their presence lightly."
The Shaman spoke again. "It was wise to leave some of us here," he said. "As it has happened, we have badly needed a reserve of Clan members whose minds have not been touched and burned by the Spaniards. It's going to take Adar, myself, Wan Tai and Ava years and years to re-establish our strength and peace of mind; or to regain even a grain of our former innocence. In the meantime you, Lion Cloud, and also Loria, Xaño, Ahira, Daros, and Witten must serve as our eyes and our ears. We must ask you to take our places on the charnel ground while we replenish ourselves. Further, we must expand and develop our home here in the mountains. We must store up food and we must store up courage. We're going to need them."
Adar spoke next. "While I was living among the Spaniards I was brave. I did what I had to do. But now that I am safely home among my Clan, I feel only shrunken and defeated. My husband speaks of evil and need. He is correct. And yet..." She paused for several minutes, staring at the ground. "And yet," she finally continued, "when I saw those evil men perform their atrocities and abominations, they did not look like they were in need. They looked happy! For them, killing was fun. To the Spaniards we saw, everything seemed like some kind of glorious Festival of Murder. They were enjoying themselves as if...as if they were...happy. Again Adar paused sadly. "I am sorry to let you down," she finally murmured. "I can do other things here at home to support you. I can work and I can pray. But I can never, ever go back to the outside world again."
The Shaman took her hand tenderly, but his words to her were stern. "Never is a long time, Adar. We are working now in order to change all that. Someday you may want to go back again. Listen to me when I say that someday the world will be a thing of beauty."
"Until that time," Adar answered, "I will do my work from here."
The council ended in confusion. Everyone, even the Shaman and Wan Tai, felt that perhaps they had bitten off more than they could chew. Even though the Clan had done the unthinkable and achieved immortality, they still felt helpless, frustrated and useless in the face of the Spanish invasion. Had their presence at the scene of the killings changed anything, they asked themselves. Had their centuries of purification saved the life of even one Original American? Or changed the ways of even one Spaniard? As far as they could see, no.
Every Clan member deeply felt the confusion and uncertainty regarding what could or should or would happen next. Should they try to stop the killing? Should they try to change the killers? Should they try to save the victims? Or should they just continue to witness and to watch and to wait for better times as they had done so far, holding on to their faith that in the midst of all this human suffering there would eventually be a use for their
presence here on Earth?
In the face of the Clan's confusion, the Shaman suggested that they carry on as they had been doing until such time as another path became clear to them.
In the year 1502 Daros, Zerah, Shem and Uzal were enjoying the pleasures of life at Water Home and preparing themselves to be next in line to encounter the new European invaders. Without a care, they talked and laughed with Loria and Lion Cloud as they fished in the bay for salmon to dry and pack along on their journey. They also spent the languid and beautiful summer days consulting with the Shaman and Adar about what to expect once they actually came face-to-face with these new invaders, but in their innocence, they utterly failed to imagine the living nightmares that lay before them.
Meanwhile a man named Francisco Pizarro was living half-way across the world, in Spain's rugged, mountainous and poverty-stricken Estremadura province. Pizarro also was preparing to make a move, but his life at that time was certainly not one of pleasure or joy. A product of sixteenth century Spain, Pizarro was an illegitimate, illiterate, ambitious, ruthless and desperate man whose bitter heart scorned hope and idealism; sought only power and revenge.
Pizarro's only hope of breaking through the unyielding chains of his lowly caste position was to ship out to the New World in search of power and wealth. He was driven to brave the hardships and uncertainty of the New World by his overwhelming craving to escape his lowly position among the dregs of Spanish society. He desperately desired to become a grandee, a man among men, or even a petty noble like his "father". And the New World offered the only road to power and wealth available to men of his breed.
As he sat in the only meager patch of shade, on the packed dirt in front of his mother's thatched hut, an aggravating sun beat down and scorched the air he breathed. He gazed sourly at the squalor all around him and cursed his destiny to be born into such a life. "This place is nothing!" bellowed Pizarro. "My life is nothing!
"Look at my father up there on the hill with his respectable wife and his grand herds of cattle. And here I sit, a bastard with no future except to herd his hairy, smelly goats for the rest of my life! Damn." Pizarro kicked the chair next to him and spat on the dusty ground, resenting his fate to be born a bastard; to be born in one of Spain's poorest provinces; to be born with no hope of advancement within that society's rigid and archaic caste system. Stomping his foot in frustration, he accidentally pushed his one crust of stale bread off the table and into the dust. "That's it," he decided. "I am getting out of here. I am leaving this dump." He jumped up, furtively stole his mother's savings which she had carefully hidden under a floor tile in the kitchen and ran out of the hut. "Goodbye, Estremadura, you piss-hole," he cried. "Nothing--not even mosquitoes and jungles and savage natives--can be worse than this nothing place. This nothing life. I have nothing here. I have nothing to lose. I'm off to the New World."
With out even a second thought Pizarro walked to Cadiz and shipped out to the Caribbean.
Pizarro's plan to better himself worked even beyond his own expectations. By 1520 he was a wealthy and influential citizen of the newly-founded Panama City. As he sat in the shade of his fine veranda, watching carefully as his indian servants poured his wine and fanned his brow, he muttered drunkenly to himself. "This is better than Estremadura. I wish my goat-grandee of a father could see me now! Ha!" However, Pizarro was bored and annoyed with his life even now. Almost as a diversion, he reached over, grabbed his cane and brought it ruthlessly down across the back of a small indian child who had dared to look at him while refilling his wine glass. The child immediately winced and cowered, much to Pizarro's delight. "Yes, if only my father could see me now," he exclaimed. But abusing children on the veranda of his back-country thatch mansion was not enough for Pizarro, no matter how rich the New World had made him so far. He wanted more, much more. Like the rest of Spain's avaricious conquistadors, all products of Spain's unforgiving caste system, he was greedy, malcontent and mean--a nasty remnant of what had once been a human being. All compassion and kindness had been beaten and starved out of him and he was driven only by an insatiable desire for social status and material wealth, no matter what the ethical cost.
Pizarro had the crying and disfigured indian child removed. He then called for his hat and went down into the town to look for further opportunities for self-advancement.
That day in the Panama City mercado, Pizarro began hearing rumors and tales of a wealthy civilization to the south where the streets were paved with gold. These stories fed Pizarro's growing lust for more power and wealth. Alluring visions of returning to Spain as top dog, lording himself over all those who had formerly abused him, kept gnawing at his brain.
In 1527, Pizarro organized an expedition and set off to find this fabled golden empire that would make him rich and powerful, illustrious and omnipotent.
In 1528 Pizarro discovered that the rumors and tales he had loved so much were actually true. When he reached the golden shores of Inca Peru, he was ecstatic as he discovered a paradise of wealth beyond his wildest dreams. He saw buildings made of gold, walls tiled with gold, idols sculpted from gold, golden urns, golden goblets, golden plates, golden furniture and a ruling class adorned with gold ornaments. Suddenly Pizarro saw the possibility of all his dreams coming true beyond his wildest imaginings and, with his intentions obsessively focused upon acquiring gold bullion, he set about to conquer and destroy the unique, extraordinary and magnificent Inca civilization.
In 1533, at the slaughter of Cajamarca, Pizarro used swords, horses, guns and trickery to massacre thousands and thousands of Incas simply because they stood between him and the gold that would make him rich.
Luckily for Pizarro, his men captured Atahaulpa, the Incas' Golden Sun King. Pizarro then sent a letter to the retreating Inca warriors, demanding a fabulous ransom for their king. He demanded that a warehouse be filled to the height of a man with gold. The Incas, because they revered their king as a god, paid the ransom. Then, upon receiving his warehouse full of golden statues, tiles, coins, and art, Pizarro personally slit Atahaulpa's throat.
With their leader dead, the Incas put up resistance to the Spanish invasion but their social structure, organization, leadership and hope had been shattered at Cajamarca. They were easily conquered and subjugated to a doom of insufferable toil in the stench-filled mines of their Spanish tormentors. Inca men were recruited for the mines from villages all over Peru. The life of an Inca miner was so harsh and unbearable that each man's family gave him a funeral before he left the village because they were almost certain he would never return. And even those who did return were merely haunted ghosts, shells of the men they had once been. In the mines, the temperatures were unbearable, the food was non-existent, the labor was endless, the beatings were severe and the mercury fumes that permeated the mines were poisonous. An Inca miner had the life expectancy of 3 months.
After the dust of the battle of Cajamarca had settled, Pizarro wondered aloud at his luck in conquering the Incas. Using translators he inquired into the matter and discovered that part of his grand conquest had been due to pure luck. When they first arrived in South America, the Spaniards had discovered the vast and wealthy Inca empire at a time when it was emersed in a civil war that brought dissension and bloodshed to over half the continent of South America. The war had been fought between two vast and well-organized Inca armies, each one loyal to one of two brothers who were fighting for the right of succession after the death of their father, the old Sun King.
The Inca empire, before the war, had been a strong civilization organized and run by the Sun King in Cuzco. It was an amazingly powerful nation-state, superior in many ways even to the European monarchies of the time and, in many ways, equally dictatorial. Like the life of the average Spanish peasant, the life of the average Inca citizen was totally controlled by the state but, unlike European peasants, Inca citizens were completely protected against hunger and want in exchange for their labor and devotion. But, like the Spanish monarchs, the Sun King was totally in charge. Inca citizens served their lord from the cradle to the grave in blind obedience and unwavering devotion to the point that, when the succession was challenged, the entire nation was shaken to the core by the sudden lack of infallibility in their high leader. First, over 200,000 soldiers and civilians were killed in the War of the Two Brothers, suddenly weakening one of most powerful empires in the world. Then Pizarro had further reduced the ability of the Incas to fight back against the conquistadors by killing Atahaulpa, the winner of the war of succession. Never before had a Sun King been even contradicted in conversation let alone killed. The Incas were stunned.
Upon hearing the story of his good timing in arriving in South America, Pizarro was delighted. He was totally delighted with the opportunities that fate had handed to him on a platter--a golden platter. He was collecting vast amounts of gold. He sent gold back to Spain where he was finally granted his coveted titles and glories by a grateful Spanish monarch. He had killed thousands of Incas in battle. And now, under his governance, thousands and thousands more were dying in the slavery and horror of the Spanish mines, accumulating more gold for Pizarro.
Hidden by the shadows of the Andes altaplano, Zerah and her three consorts stood and watched it all. First they watched as Pizarro and his men butchered and enslaved the entire Inca nation. Then they watched as the Spaniards finally became tired of slaughtering Original Americans, turned to those closer at hand and began to slaughter each other as the Spaniards' insatiable blood-lust erupted into a bloody civil war. Then in 1541 the four Clan members witnessed Pizarro himself fall under the sword of a fellow Spaniard.
With their mouths open and their eyes round with amazement, Zerah, Shem, Uzel and Daros watched in horror as Pizarro and his men gleefully indulged themselves in a twenty-year killing spree. History books would later call Pizarro a brave hero, but to the Clan members who witnessed his orgy of devastation he was nothing more than a crazed mad-dog serial killer.
Daros, even more than the others, was very deeply effected by the vicious exterminations that took place right before his eyes. "Why are they doing this," he moaned again and again. "Don't they know that human life is sacred and precious?"
Zerah and the others were powerless to answer Daros. They did not even attempt to explain Pizarro's irrational, unexplainable behavior.
At first Daros tried to stop Pizarro. He, like Adar and Wan Tai before him, had first assumed that he possessed the power to stop the conquistadors from harming others, but this illusion was quickly shattered. Even as early as his first meeting with Pizarro in Panama City, Daros learned the truth of his impotency when he ran up to throw himself between Pizarro and the indian boy. Pizarro vaguely pushed Daros aside as if he were a shadow or a breeze.
Even though his attempts to stop Pizarro failed again and again, Daros would not give up and as he attempted again and again to deflect the flood of human folly that pushed the Spaniards on, Daros' strength and energy began to drain away from him almost as if a vampire were sucking his blood. He grew weaker and weaker. After Daros attempted to interfere with the Spanish butchery at Cajamarca, Zerah and the others had to physically drag him back into the safety of the mountains. He was not even able to walk by himself. The Spaniards had drained his life force from him and left him a piteous wreck.
Daros' deteriorated physical condition scared Zarah and the others but what scared them even more was the change in Daros himself. His warm and affectionate heart had begun to turn cold and uncaring. His thoughts were also becoming just as petty and greedy as the twisted thinking of the Spaniards. Daros had not been able to change the Spaniards for the better but they had been able to change him for the worse. Slowly and relentlessly, like a man mired in quicksand, Daros was being dragged down by the Spaniards, down into their evil little hell of need and greed.
After great effort, Zerah, Shem and Uzel finally succeeded in dragging Daros up into the higher regions of the Andes mountains where they would be temporarily safe from Spaniards. Soon they set up a makeshift retreat camp inside an abandoned Inca peasant hut, where they could get away from the Spaniards and also from the bone-chilling cold temperatures typical of nights in the high mountains. Quickly Uzel built a fire to warm up the cold stone walls of the hut and then, as the hut finally heated up and they could allow the fire to die down a bit, Shem cooked dinner over the glowing embers and brewed a soothing tea for Daros as well.
Once everyone was relatively comfortable, the three Clan members turned their attention to Daros and began to reason with him. Zerah, with tears of compassion welling in her eyes, talked gently and softly to her friend. Not quite realizing how desperately agitated Daros' mind had become, she spoke pleasantly to him, hoping to cheer him up. "Daros," she gently murmured to her friend and lover, "remember the old days at Water Home? Remember the way the bay looked when the sunlight sparkled upon the water in the springtime? Remember the Shaman? We'll be going back there soon. Hold those images in your mind and don't let the Spaniards get you down. These dark times are just temporary."
As she talked, Zerah tried to persuade Daros to eat a bowl of hot grain cereal, hoping almost naively, because she could think of no other hopes, that getting something warm and nourishing inside him would somehow make him all better; as if he was merely sick with a cold or flu.
At first Daros only shrugged, pushed the bowl away and gave Zerah a hateful look. But then, as he continued to stare at her, his eyes narrowed and deepened, numbing her with a chilling gaze as deeply evil as any she had seen in the eyes of the cold-hearted Spanish killers. She attempted to spoon another bite of cereal into his mouth. "Don't touch me, bitch," he suddenly hissed at her, his voice and his eyes becoming as cold as ice. "Just keep your hands off me, whore." He then knocked the hot cereal out of Zerah's hand and, with snakelike swiftness, grabbed for her neck. Shem and Uzel instantly jumped in to restrain him but if they had not been there to protect her, Daros would have backed up his threats to Zerah with bone-breaking violence.
With a sad heart, Zerah asked Shem and Uzel to restrain Daros with ropes. Reluctantly they bound his wrists with rawhide thongs and then tied him to a ring they found embedded in the stone wall of the hut, but even after he was securely restrained Daros cursed and spat at them with all his strength. After an hour or so of listening to Daros' hateful invective, Zerah, Uzel and Shem also decided that a gag was necessary to control their friend.
Daily Zerah ministered to Daros and watched over him but, after several months of intensive care, Daros still showed no signs of improvement. He had to be either watched or tied to his bed twenty-four hours a day. Whenever she tried to free his wrists or remove his gag, he told lies, broke any object he could get his hands on or tried to steal anything that he couldn't break.
Daros' soul burned with a paranoia that ate at his guts and consumed his brain. He truly felt as if everyone was a deadly enemy, out to steal his soul; that the world and everything in it were plotting against him; that he must lie and steal and struggle at every single moment in order to protect his very life. Day after day, night after night, he barely slept as he waited to strike out at his legion of enemies before they could get to him first. Daros' mind had ventured into a war zone.
As the months wore on, Zerah, Shem and Uzel grew more and more desperate. They had never before been forced to deal with this kind of behavior and they felt that they were drowning in Daros' constant stream of hatefulness. Even when he was bound and gagged, Daros' malevolent eyes followed them everywhere, silently cursing them and wishing them dead.
The three of them, all meaning well and trying to do good, were totally ineffective and clearly in over their heads. They eventually decided to do what they would have done back home with the Clan. They decided to hold a council. With a minimum of ceremony and only a ritual fire and some sage burning to make the meeting feel more official, they began to discuss their choices regarding Daros.
"What would the Shaman do?" asked Shem.
"I remember when Thurr acted like this," replied Uzel. "The Shaman banished him. And frankly twenty years alone in the wilderness did him a lot of good."
Zerah nodded her head in agreement. "It's clear to me," she stated, "that we can't help Daros and he's obviously a danger to us here. I suggest we untie him and tell him to return home to the Shaman. I know it sounds heartless to just turn him out into the wilderness but at some point we have to think about ourselves as well. We've really tried to be helpful and to fill him with kindness and love. But it didn't work with the Spanish and it isn't working with him. And," Zerah softly continued, her sad eyes gazing down at the fire, "whatever this terrible Spanish disease is, I can feel myself catching it also. I feel myself reaching the outer limits of my resources. I feel like I also am slowly turning evil.
Uzel and Shem also nodded in agreement.
"It isn't doing us or him any good to keep him here," Zerah continued. "We're just becoming more like he is. And what good will it do if we keep up trying to nurse him back to health and he just ends up destroying us all?"
For several long moments, silence reigned around the sage-scented fire pit as each Clan member contemplated such a dismal end to all their hopes and dreams of a optimistic future for mankind. Then Uzel spoke the next question they all had been asking themselves. "Can Daros make it back to Water Home on his own?"
Zerah sighed and shook her head. "I just don't know."
Firelight cast dark shadows on the hut wall behind the three Clan members. Outside the hut, the cold night sky was filled with stars. Inside the hut, a man's life was being weighed. To the three Clan members, their friend Daros seemed to walk a very narrow line between madness and redemption. Was he redeemable? And if so what would save him? Would banishment save him? Could their current plan of forceful restraint save him or would it only drag Daros down and take the three others with him? Both choices were fraught with danger.
"The man is not physically ill," commented Shem. "But he burns inside his soul with some powerful, irrational, uncontrollable hatred. And this makes him dangerous, even more dangerous than the Spaniards. I say that Zerah is right. We have no other choice but banishment."
"But would he go back to the Shaman? Or would he just go on a rampage wherever circumstances led him?" asked Uzel.
"I think that he would go back," replied Zerah, "and I'll tell you why I think that. This is not some maddened animal we are discussing here. This is Daros, my consort and Clan brother. I am willing to gamble that beneath the veil of madness that now covers his heart, there still exists the spirit of my sacred blood brother. It is a human heart that beats in his breast, not the heart of some maddened animal. We all knew and loved Daros once. It is in this treasure of love that we must put our trust."
The two men listened to Zerah's words and believed them. The next morning Daros was released, given supplies, and sent back home.
Zerah, Shem and Uzel remained in South America for several more years, witnessing murder after murder after murder. Finally, when it seemed to them that there was almost no one left on the continent left to be killed, they also gratefully began the long journey homeward. Then after five years of hard traveling they finally reached their beloved Clan's mountain stronghold.
When they finally staggered up the winding path to the Clan's cave, the three ragged voyagers felt intense joy. But when a happy and healthy Daros ran out to meet them, their joy reached a bottomless, boundless depth.