Conclusions Based On Our History
*An excerpt from Chapter 8 in Paths to Pachamama, A Traveler's Guide to Spirituality
For the greater part of human history, the balance between the spiritual and physical side of life’s equation has leaned dramatically in favour of the latter. Faced with a predominantly hostile natural environment, humankind has created an economic framework designed to satisfy our immediate physical concerns and facilitate our survival. As the system steadily grew out of proportion, some people began to receive more than others and started looking for ways to accumulate more material wealth, comfort and status for themselves. Guided solely by their self-interests, they modelled this economy to work almost entirely to their benefit by keeping control of the supply of resources and by forming alliances with banks and governments to keep profits in the same hands. In medieval Bruges this process was driven forward by wealthy trade guilds involved in the wool trade. Today this role has been taken over by the oil industry.
Oil has become the central resource driving our current global capitalist economy. As a result, we put an enormous amount of toxic material into the air day after day. We are digging up the Earth’s natural waste products at an upsetting rate, and release them back into its atmosphere. It’s as if every time we went to the toilet, we would set fire to our excrements and purposely inhale its fumes. In doing so, we are not only putting the health of our planet at risk, we are jeopardising our own physical well-being – the very reason our economy exists – as well as our spiritual and mental balance.
The world is finally beginning to understand that a major transformation of our economy is urgently needed. In medieval Bruges this transformation overtook the cloth industry, today it’s taking place in the mining industry, and tomorrow it will happen to the oil industry. The big oil companies are very much aware of this inevitable development, but they are not willing to give up their liquid gold without a fight. Like drug dealers handing out crack to keep dependency high, they flood the market with cheap oil to make it harder for us to overcome our addiction. And just like tobacco companies that tried to keep us misinformed about the dangers of smoking, they spread doubt and lies about climate change so we wouldn’t be incited to move on to a healthier way of life.
Because the oil companies have been the main industry driving our economy for so long, their power runs deep. Helped by the Russian government, the second largest oil exporter in the world, they had a firm hand in getting a spineless industry puppet elected into the White House. While this immoral game show host keeps everyone distracted, they manage to scale back environmental policies while the Secretary of State, the former head of Exxon Mobile, goes around the world making oil and arms deals that threaten to weaken our planet even more. The shameless way the so-called leader of the free world was put in place to serve the interests of the vested powers is the most clear-cut proof that the system is entirely unethical and utterly corrupt. The same is true for most of the major players in our current economy, such as banks, governments, or private companies. Many of them are so deeply invested in the old structures of power from which they have profited for so long, that it’s in their best interests to hold on to the status quo. We must not wait for them to make the necessary changes. The change must come from us.
In this digital era, electricity has become the most valuable source of energy driving our economy. Almost everything that is digital, is electric. And all that electrical power can be taken directly from the sun without needing to dig up Earth’s excrements and setting them on fire. The sun generates an unlimited amount of energy for us every single day. It produces more power in sixty minutes than the entire global electricity consumption in a year. By using our most advanced green technologies, for example by putting solar tiles on our roofs or by spraying solar film on every surface imaginable, we can harness this limitless source of energy. All we need to do then, is set up big and small battery units everywhere to store this energy and charge our electronic devices – our cars, boilers, fridges, or phones – during the night. This will not only dramatically reduce our footprint on the planet, it will also allow us to balance out the peaks and the troughs of our daily energy consumption by spreading it out more evenly.
In order to make the switch from fossil to renewable energy, we need to stop investing our money towards outdated industries that are destroying our environment. We must all raise our voices to demand that our governments divert their spending away from fossil fuels and direct it towards subsidising our green energy efforts. At the same time, we must all take responsibility over our personal spending and make absolutely sure that we are not a part of the problem, but part of the solution; not a part of the past, but part of the future. An economy is only meant to serve the needs of the people, and companies only provide a supply when there’s a demand. Without an economy driving the demand, the suppliers will simply disappear.
Besides energy to power our appliances, we don’t need that much more to live comfortable lives. Food, accommodation, care, safety and the company of the people around us is all we really need. This has been the case since the Stone Age all the way through medieval times, and it is still the case today. Only recently, because of the enormous rise of our material wealth, have we forgotten these priorities. We must all face up to this fact, take a step back and go back to basics. When my grandfather was my age, supermarkets didn’t exist and neither did the fridge, so he would go out and buy fresh products every day from local businesses. He hardly ate meat because he couldn’t afford it and when he wanted fish, he would ride to the coast on his bike to buy it straight off the fishermen. He lived his life on a diet of mostly potatoes and never once worried if they contained enough carbs, proteins or fat. Yet, like an elephant that can survive eating nothing but bush, he was a strong and powerful man. He lived to be 97 years old and stayed mentally and physically sharp until his dying breath. It is only the generation who came after him that has gotten overwhelmed by the materialist wave and lost sight of what really matters. Our generation is now faced with the burden to fix the mistakes made by our parents, and we intend to do it.
In order to realise the ideas taken from history and bring them into practice, we will need everyone’s help. This will be a combined effort that will require all of us to contribute. Again, the history of Bruges can provide us with the right perspective to show what we are capable of if we all work together. Let’s take the Church of Our Lady as an example, a remarkably beautiful, graceful and well-balanced construction built in the thirteen hundreds. Do you realise what people had to go through to construct such a monumental building? It required an army of workers to come together and combine forces. First we needed architects to draw it, then we needed a coalition of stonecutters, blacksmiths, carpenters, coppersmiths, tile layers, masons, glassblowers, painters... We needed to find clay, sand, stones, wood and metal, and we needed boats, horses and carriages to transport it all. We needed to build cranes and instruments such as axes, hammers or firing ovens. We needed mills to crush the grain to make the bread to feed us, we needed water to quench our thirst, we needed planners to coordinate our actions and, of course, we needed financiers to pay for it all.
It required a lot of people to come together and unite for a common purpose, but we did it. It took us two hundred years in total, but we did it. And look at what a wonderful job we all did, in a time when it was much harder to do so. There was no Internet, no smartphones, no machines, no cars, no electric lights, no fridges to keep our beers cold after a long day of toiling. We didn’t live a life of luxury like we do today; life was much more difficult back then. But despite our difficulties, this is what we were able to accomplish. Let’s be proud of that. Let’s look at it for what it is: a lasting testimony to what people can achieve when we unite and work together, when we put aside our differences and rally behind a common goal.
If we could do it then, we can do it now. All we need is a common purpose. Back then, the common goal was to show our love and gratitude to our god, the loving and caring being that was responsible for granting us this life, even if sometimes it would rain terror on us in the form of diseases, storms, fires, floods, or wars. Yes, it was a vengeful god, a god that would sometimes come down and punish us if we had forsaken our faith. Which is why many times we went to fight for him, because that’s what we thought would please him: to impose his word on other people by force. So we went off to the Middle East and slaughtered their women and children because we foolishly believed our god was the only true one. We plundered their lands and brought back the relic with the blood of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem to Bruges because we believed that only Christians were his true followers.
We’ve caused so much harm because we believed we were doing it in god’s name, when really we weren’t. Because, who is our true god? Isn’t the true god the god we all share, the god that provides for us all, day in and day out? Isn’t our god simply our planet, our Earth Mother, our beautiful blue ball of energy we call home? A living organism that breathes and feels and is alive, that moves through the universe at a dazzling speed of a hundred thousand kilometres an hour? Have you ever wondered what would happen to you if you were exposed to such speeds without her protection? How doomed you would be, how doomed we would all be? Not to mention what the sun would do to us if she didn’t protect us from its piercing rays. She is keeping us alive while we are doing everything we can to destroy her. It’s time we start showing her some love and appreciation, not by building more churches or cathedrals, we’ve been through that already. She doesn’t care about material things; all she cares about is your personal connection to her, your devotion to her, your care for her. Come to her aid. Oppose the forces that weaken her. Quiet your mind and listen to her call for help. And please, answer her call and follow her advice before it’s too late.
Our task on this planet is to make this life less about surviving, and more about creating the world we were destined to create. A new sustainable economy of giving and sharing, of cooperation and redistribution is right within our reach. A society where we share spaces to come together and breathe with a common purpose; where we exchange energy, goods and services with the people around us via a community platform; where we consume consciously and take into account the repercussions of every transaction; and where we elect leaders with the most progressed awareness to map out our future. If we can build a society where all the basic necessities are collectively provided for, where the wealth and political power are spread evenly and where the economy is focused on maximising care instead of profits, we will finally have time to breathe again, to visit friends and family, to cook our own food, to travel, to meditate, to read, to write, to think, to love… To become more tolerant and establish a community around us that doesn’t oppress, but helps those in need; that doesn’t discriminate according to race, but considers all people and all living beings offspring from a shared mother.
In such a world, what more will we need to fight for? Armies will become obsolete and will be deployed for constructive rather than destructive purposes. Poverty and hunger will become part of history as more communities band together with a common purpose. Travelling will become much easier as the same services are extended to visitors everywhere. Borders will disappear as people identify themselves with their local community instead of their country. Outdated institutions and industries will be dismantled, and new ones built from the ground up that are in line with our growing awareness and technological capabilities. That’s how it has always been throughout our history in Bruges, Flanders, Belgium and the world: a constant adaptation to our changing surroundings. As a species, we have come a long way to leave behind the darkness and step into the light of consciousness. We have had to fight every step of the way and overcome many obstacles. We’ve had our breakthroughs, and we’ve had our setbacks, but we can indeed be proud of how far we have come. Now it is time for a new path, a path that will lead closer to a united, conscious and peaceful global community: a path to Pachamama.