Dec 14, 2022Liked by Charles Eisenstein

The Famous Story of One Eye

by Martin Prechtel, in The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic, lightly edited

One Eye, a famous old Kiowa fighting man, was a U.S. prisoner of war incarcerated in the famous old Castillo of Fort Marion, Florida. He was held there for years…along with members of many other southern plains bands. W/no trials and no reprieve in sight, many of these native prisoners aged and ended up serving as recalcitrant informants for journalists, ethnographers, and social workers, or as living museum exhibits for dressed-up white couples who as tourists could visit the prisoners, watching them make bows or clothes or discussing through military interpreters various topics of their fascination. It was kind of a human zoological park, something fairly common in many parts of the world until recently.

…Well-meaning East coast whites, mostly women’s suffrage groups, tried to introduce Acts of Congress to have the prisoners remanded to more so-called “human” conditions…but nothing much every came of these attempts, which were shot down by big-business interests afraid of Indian land claims.

…Ironically, some of the military leaders who had fought these indians, in their old age declared that some of the prisoners had been well-behaved and were now reformed and ready to join their relatives on the new reservations, to give up raiding and hunting and begin peaceful farming, which was strange in itself because most of the Indians mentioned were already expert at growing the things they’d taught the usurping Americans how to grow. Most Plains Indians had been farmers before they became nomads.

…To collect evidence for one such effort, General Crook interviewed old One Eye while he was working methodically on a perfect half-size version of a Kiowa hunting bow to sell to a tourist.

The interview read as follows:

General Crook: “One Eye, what does it feel like to be a conquered people?”

Silence. Just the sound of One Eye scraping the bow.

Crook: “why don’t you answer?”

Looking down, continuing with his work, One Eye replied: “I don’t understand the question.”

Crook: “Let me rephrase the question. What is it like for you to be in here, and for me and the rest of the world to be out there?”

One Eye: “I don’t know. We are all in here.”

Crook: “No, One Eye, you are a prisoner here. I am not.”

One Eye: “As far as my One Eye can see,” (he had one eye lost to a buffalo horn during a hard hunt in his daring youth) “you and I are sitting right here this moment.”

Not being very metaphorically advanced, and never suspecting a “simple” Native of such big thoughts, the exasperated General began another approach.

Crook: “Look here, One Eye, do you remember how me and my troops used to chase you and your people around? We could never catch you. Why? Because you were better mounted, your people were a single organism that could split up and rejoin days later. It was like chasing the wind. You had better horses; they were little, but much better than ours. Your women and little kids rode better than our men. That’s why we killed all your horses wherever we found them. You were a magnificent people, a beautiful people. But that is no more. You are in here, wearing old army uniforms. Your people are corralled, on reservations; you’re in here, and we are out there living on your former territory. What does that feel like, One Eye?”

One Eye: “No, you and I are sitting right here, in here, together, General.”

Crook: “Please, One Eye, don’t you want to get out of this place? All the buffalo that you used to chase are all extinct. Totally gone. The plains you rode free on are all planted into grids of wheat, milling with whites, the entire land is crisscrossed with smoking railroads, trains, wooden poles to carry electricity lines, the entire land uttely fenced with barbed wire so no one off a road could travel like the birds you used to be. Its all gone, One eye. How does that feel?”

One Eye: “I don’t know, General Crook, how does it feel? I only know what I was, how it was. I haven’t seen what you made happen. How does it feel to be sitting in here with me, with you and yours having caused what happened out there?”

Silence. Only the sound of One Eye working on his miniature hunting bow.

Finally Crook says, “One Eye, if I present what you’ve been saying to the Congress, they’re going to interpret your attitude as continued non-compliance, and a sign of unreformed incorrigibility. Can’t you tell me anything to help you gain your freedom?

When the interpreter stops, One Eye for the first time stands and speaks: “General Crook, I do remember you chasing us: I remember giving your troops the slip many times. I remember fighting you. And yes, we were a magnificent people. Our women were more beautiful than anyone else’s; they had more elk teeth on their dresses than any other tribe; they had solid silver belts, and beaded Indian boots up to their hips, two soft deer hides per side, with silver buttons all the way down. Our young men could run buffalo down on foot; our little girls roped antelope from horseback just for fun, dragging them back to camp for pets.

“I myself like all the others had hair ornaments of graduated solid silver rounds that stretched beyond my height to drag on the ground beside my horse as I rode. Yes, we ate well, lived well, and our enemies wanted to kill us just to touch something as great as us—even they admired us. Our friends in vain always imitated us. Even the wild strutting elk were jealous of how bravely we walked and how beautifully we lived, how we joked, how we died, how we sang. And yes, maybe those times are all gone, but we are not a conquered people.

“The Kiowa were a great people, you say. But remember, General, if they were great, they were not great because they were Kiowa: the Kiowa were great because of what was in the ground and how they lived with that Holy Thing. If our Ancestors were great, it was not because they were Kiowa, but because of the way they lived with what was in the ground. The way we lived with what was in the ground made us great. We weren’t Kiowa becauwe our mothers were Kiowa; we were Kiowa because to be Kiowa you descended from people who taught how to live with that Holy Thing that was in the ground. Some of our mothers were Comanches, others Utes, some Pueblo Indians, some Cheyennes, some even white, and others Mexicans, but all of us were Kiowa because what made us great was how we lived with what was in the ground. And what was in the ground is still in the ground.

“You can string up the earth all you want with wire mined from the dog holes you dig; you can cut and plow, and make the world tame, ugly, and dead all you want. You can crisscross the land with trains, houses, and drilled wells; you can kill as much as you like of the original land, cut down all her trees, exterminate all the natives you can manage to catch; but you with all your inventions still don’t have the power to kill what made us great. For what made us great, if we were great, is still in the ground, and we would rather die great than live dead like you, hating what’s in the ground.

“Not even you can kill what gives you yourself life, for with or without your presence, what gives you life still lives on in the ground.

“No, General, it looks to me that you are just as much as I am, right in here with us, and no matter what happens to me, my people are not a conquered people because our greatness has never been captured by anyone: what made us great is still in the ground. So General, to answer your question, I can’t tell you what it feels like to be a conquered people. Maybe you should tell me!”

Silence. Then holding up the smooth beautifully finished little bow, One Eye spoke: “Would you like to buy a bow, General?”

One Eye’s voice is the voice of our Indigenous Soul. All of our people somewhere in time were feared for their beauty, taken from their land, forced to speak the sovereign tongue, wear the serf’s clothing, held in bondage and taught to fear: it is the history of all people, but especially Europe’s people. Unlike One Eye, when we are truly conquered, we become conquerors and dangerous purveyors of the same violent sickness that ran us over.

But our Indigenous Souls never surrendered, signing only the Agreement with the Holy in Nature, with that Holy life-giving Thing that is in the Ground.

Give our Indigneous Souls a throne in your Home of known Origins, feed the Holy in Nature, grow food, and learn from what’s in the ground how to unconquer the earth, our bodies, souls, and minds by keeping the seeds of culture alive.

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Bleak. From the quote: "You will never have anything to sustain you except the idea." This, with all due respect to both Orwell and Charles, is patently false. There is so much that sustains us every day. Like the sun rising. The trill of birds. A new plan springing up in our garden. The kiss from a friend. A smile on our child's face.

Ironically, and very telling, this comment is about something mental, an idea. Yes indeed, ideas are not nature. And the 1984 world we live in now is a world of ideas turned into things disconnected from nature. And it all costs money, another idea.

Meanwhile, my heart is beating. I can count on that. The planets stay in their orbits. The belief that there is nothing to sustain our hope that life will triumph over non-life, in the midst of all this "evidence" is, the only word I can come up with, insane.

Perhaps the futility many of us feel arises from the mistaken belief and hope that what is inherently true to life will one day manifest as a physical paradise, or at least justice and fair play. I wouldn't bet on that. But, meanwhile, I have my momentary experience, much more than some sort of head buried in the ground (or somewhere more personal and less poetic), and not at all a spiritual bypass because I am celebrating the very real natural world.

We are blessed every moment.

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The price of compliance feels impossibly high, to me. I think of Julian Assange, and how he must have made a decision, one that he would make the fundamental axiom of his life, to tell the truth and know, in facing the mirror, that he had done so. I can't imagine the psychic misery that the residents of the figurative District One, that exists on TV and in the backrooms and casinos, on the red carpets and the white sands, must experience on a soul level. The insomnia, depression, abuse of recreational and prescription drugs; they may tell themselves lies so deep that they are not aware of it, but it seems to me that, to quote Jordan Peterson, "no one gets away with anything."

The gaslighting and the crazy-making doubt is painful; there were times in the past few years when I found my meditative center in the unalterable fact of gravity because it seemed the only thing I could trust. But any other path is so horrifying as to appear impossible. No one here gets out alive, anyway.

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We're all the party and the brotherhood, though, aren't we?

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Thanks again, Charles. This was wonderful. Reading the line "The members of the Brotherhood have no way of recognizing one another, and it is impossible for any one member to be aware of the identity of more than a very few others.... [It] is not an organization in the ordinary sense. Nothing holds it together except an idea..." reminds me of something I came across about 20 yrs. ago - the idea of a group of people that a pollster and writer named Paul Ray wrote about - called the "Cultural Creatives". 20 yrs. ago he estimated that there were about 50 million of them in the US and 80-90 million in western Europe. And that they would not know of the existance of one another because there was no single organization to which they belonged. But he made a list of characteristics that invariably described them:

-love of nature and deep caring about its preservation, and its natural balance.

-strong awareness of the planet-wide issues like climate change and poverty and a desire to see more action on them

-being active themselves

-willingness to pay higher taxes or spend more money for goods if that money went to improving the environment

-emphasize the importance of developing and maintaining relationships

-emphasize the importance of helping others and developing their unique gifts

-volunteer with one or more good causes

-intense interest in spiritual and psychological development (personal growth)

-see spirituality as an important aspect of life, but worry about religious fundamentalism

-desire equality for women and men in business, life and politics

-concern and support of the well-being of all women and children

-support spending more money on education, community development programs, and the support of a more ecologically sustainable future

-unhappy with the left and right in politics

-optimism towards the future

-involved in creating a new and better way of life

-concerned with big business and the means they use to generate profits, including destroying the environment and exploiting poorer countries

-unlikely to overspend or be heavily in debt

-dislike the emphasis of modern cultures on "making it" and "success", on consuming and making money

-like people, places and things that are different or exotic

He said that if you agreed with 10 or more of these statements you were very likely a part of this group. I found this quote in a Circles USA article called The Cultural Creatives - "According to a Huffington Post article, “Cultural Creatives Are Changing the World ,” updated on Dec 6, 2017, it was estimated that Cultural Creatives could now make up over half of the American population. This number may seem high to many of us because one thing Cultural Creatives have in common is the feeling of being alone in our values".

You - Charles - seem to be one of the visible factors out there for pulling us into a visible group... Thank you for that! You did that in several profound ways in the last nearly 3 yrs., for which I am very grateful.

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Probably like me, you are immersed in our European cultural story of fascism (the narrative laid out by Orwell track’s with Arendt, Klepperer, etc.). But yesterday dipping into Shoshana Luboff’s 2019 book ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’ I was reminded of that other thread - behaviorism, B.F. Skinner, Watson, weaving strongly through the first half of the 20th century which provided the underlying behavior modification techniques not only to the fascists, but now to the digital technology industry that has used them to astounding effect in reshaping our lives.

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You’re not crazy, the world is!!! I feel like a silent, deflated idealist too. So disappointed by how many uphold the narrative still. It feels pointless to even say much these days.

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I had a similar experience in high school, Charles. The fatigue began to kick in especially after a blatantly biased decision against me by a teacher. But it wasn't until after high school that a mono-like viral syndrome came to cancel big plans that the unconscious dissatisfaction and rebellion started taking its toll. That was my first major lesson in healing myself. I paid attention and I made courageous decisions to separate myself from the sources sabotaging my self-worth and irritating my soul.

"We know it intuitively " signals a mystic living and working in the world intellectuals. Einstein was the most visible recent pioneer in this. (Knowledge is limited, but imagination [intuition] encircles the world.) Yet the party line of modernism still rejects anything that can be labeled as woo-woo and will continue to do so. We must be vigilant in our personal lives that we continue to honor our intuition by nourishing it from the inside, by giving it the respect it deserves as the inner voice of the divine. The intellectuals of our day will always make sport of mocking our inner perception and idealism. They'll point to the lack of material results for our ideals — results which they work hard to keep on their narrative of materialist, external control.

Such authorities will always work to keep objectors in defensive, survival mode. Counter it with spiritual aggressiveness (I'll explain if needed). You must be rebellious enough to refuse to go there, to keep up the 'NO' inside you and turn back inside to the stronger voice that affirms your direct connection with Spirit and knows that is where your power to transcend comes from. Some have not experienced that enough to find solace in it while under duress, but I assure you it is still there for you waiting for your recognition and permission.

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Alot of clear psychological/intellectual truth here. There is always the sharp edge of discomfort and unease as we squeeze to fit what the world demands. Even in our 'Brotherhoods' we are individual lonely outcasts in some deeper fundamental way. I have experienced it even here in this comment 'community'

(which I very much appreciate btw). I have noticed there is a definite comfort zone of hope, love, peace and light that it seems hard for folks to reach out of. Almost like hiding in the light will somehow make us invisible to the dark. Or that by intellectualizing everything we will not have to actually feel it. As my elders used to say, the brighter the light; the darker the shadow it casts and the faster that shadow will run to catch up with us and the more we deny it the more the world around us will start acting it out. It is fundamental to Christian belief, that surrendering to Christ/ to God ( the Light) , will protect us from demons, Satan and our own shadow((the dark). This belief system works quite well for many and I am thankful for that; but I personally find it limiting. Seeking balance within the realities of both light and dark is a very difficult practice and the logical brain really cannot figure it out. I am talking about the essential core truth of the Sovereign Human Spirit which has, it seems forever, been under direct attack by those forces which seek to control us. The very things which appear to offer protection and sanctuary and often do; also seek to contain and limit us. This is the paradox of physical existence. Everything is all wound up together in one great big tangled and gnarly ball which I do not believe it is possible to sort out completely. So how do we play the ballgame of life without being devoured by insanity?

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I never read 1984 and now I know why. And Charles, I really disliked the feelings this essay of yours brought up in me. I would that I was noble enough to believe that I am

"Extending the area of sanity little by little, seeing no results in our own lifetimes, but instead, in a world that appears to be spiraling further into darkness; spreading a secret thread of knowledge across the generations towards a far-away future, sustained not by results but only by an idea."

This sounds like a sweet tale, but we are not in fairyland. I am living in a hell of my own making. It doesn't matter that I didn't know what I was doing.

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I see it as O"Brien cleverly identifyin' HOPIUM... all those clingin' to the white hat narratives... O'Brien's Brotherhood of the Light is not real but he knows the human spirit WANTS to believe in it...in the GOOD.. The only benevolent force that IS real isn't a club, it's our ever-lovin' minds (a good thing until or unless they steal that from us too... ) THEY are tryin' to do just that. THEY "are" O'Brien...

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"I imagine we are part of a vast, unconscious sodality, dedicated to a goal so distant and so impossibly beautiful that we cannot describe it, cannot even see it clearly except for a brief glimpse granted only on very rare occasions by grace."

Yes. And because this is so, all our daily ups and downs and hand-wringing aside, things are deeply well, and well-held.

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my favorite quote from you Charles is:

"Every act of service to life aligns with a world that is more alive.

No effort is wasted, even if we cannot see how it is going to make a difference. "

It encapsulated in 2 lines what I try to do in the world with the reminder that the 'difference' is not immediate ...it has to be very long term... "towards a far-away future".

Looking forward to the next 3 parts.

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Thank you Charles! Let this three-part be like a requiem for the System of abuse we live in now.

This is our weakness: “… we can not act collectively “, and this is our strength : A small number of people active collectively can bring change to the larger collective.

O’Brien was describing something real (in the world) referring to the Brotherhood of Light. And “… As long as you live, it will be an unsolved riddle in your mind”, because the answer resides in the spiritual world, not the physical.

The idea is indestructible, we are the ‘results’ of an idea.

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Apparently, this is where the tribe or community is…?!

I know I am not crazy to desire that more Beautiful World, Charles! What I am wondering is if ‘evil’, at its current incarnation, is inevitable or is it amplified by material consciousness, by separation from Spirit?! Is it the byproduct of hubris, or is it the inevitable counterpart to the beauty we seek? Do we tame it, tolerate it, vanquish it, or accept it as inevitable?! Or, is the work on our own internal landscapes, such that we bring forth the expression of love, beauty, and generosity that we seek from the World?!

I have more questions than answers, and I’m highly suspicious of those who assume ‘spiritual authority! But, I can’t seem to stop asking the questions…?!

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