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Human Beings: Earth’s Imperfect Caretakers

Since the dawn of civilization, no society has fully grasped what is necessary to live in harmony with its environment

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Before human occupation, forests, not deserts and barren plain, covered the uplands of Arizona and New Mexico. The mighty Mayan civilization, with a population of 200,000 in what is now Mexico and Central America, fell into ruin following human-caused depletion of the rain forests, heavy soil erosion, and internal warfare — 700 years before Columbus’ arrival in the Western Hemisphere.

Misinformation about how societies developed and how their people lived often leads to erroneous conclusions about how present-day society ought to be managed.   Accordingly, what we understand to be historical realities are often distortions of the truth.

Misinformation Abounds

Predictably, the volume of contradictory information and the associated discrepancies it spawns is rising. Annually, well over 40,000 scientific journals publish more than a million new articles.

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“The number of scientific articles and journals published worldwide is starting to confuse researchers, overwhelm the quality-control systems of science, encourage fraud, and distort the dissemination of important findings,” says New York Times science journalist William J. Broad.

Misinformation has become a major impediment to social progress. In these “politically correct” times, in the area of social history in particular, too often pseudo-historians dispense misinformation in the form of “feel-good history,” a term referred to by noted professor and distinguished historian Dr. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., in his award-winning book, The Disuniting of America.

Feel-good history is “history” designed to accent or embellish the accomplishments or nature of select groups for purposes other than conveying what historical records objectively reveal. Such accounts cloud the accuracy of historical accounts, presenting events in ways that might not be real or complete depictions of what took place.

American history, as a case in point, has become one of the most maligned of the historical disciplines. To be sure, the U.S. government reneged on treaties and, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes not,  destroyed cultures.

Nonetheless, do misinformed or overzealous teachers and leftist professors have the right to overturn decades of research and analysis in their efforts to present “the untold, untaught side of American history?”

Are they justified in making wholly unfounded assertions about the origins, nature, and achievements of ethnic groups that they represent or who they feel have been slighted by “Eurocentric” versions of history?

Erroneous Beliefs

Consider common beliefs about Native American populations. Evidence is mounting that Europeans pre-dated them in North America, but that is the subject of a different article. Many people today believe that the arrival of Europeans from 1492 was co-terminus with the introduction of disease to native populations.

Europeans did bring with them new diseases, such as smallpox, which proved to be more deadly to North American peoples than it was to Europeans, but by no means were Native Americans free of disease beforehand.

Karl Reinhard, Ph.D., a prominent pathologist, observed that “Native Americans had already accumulated quite a spectrum of parasitic diseases before the Europeans arrived. Take the Incas. We’re looking at no less than three species of lice, not to mention different varieties of fleas, tapeworms, hookworms, the works.”

Actually, all told, American civilization, with all its strengths and weaknesses, is as good and decent a society. Many Americans, however, believe that Native American cultures historically were superior in interacting with one another and in maintaining a harmonious balance with the environment. This view is naive at best and classically demonstrative of the perils of misinformation.

Environmental Novices

Archeologists find that since the dawn of civilization, no society has fully grasped what is necessary to live in harmony with its environment and for its people to live in peace with one another.

In the last 10,000 years of civilization, for example, remarkably little has changed in the way in which people treat their surroundings. Dr. William K. Tabb, one of my economics professors in college, remarked to our class that economics in essence was the “allocation of scarce resources.” Only when a society has to manage limited resources is it an “economic” society.

Let’s apply this to the case at hand. Some Native American nations starved during harsh winters. Some could not care for all their members. On a continent as large as North America, most Native American nations were blessed with vast stretches of land, often more than they could use.

In that sense they were not “economic” societies. In comparison to today, natural resources were plentiful. Because they did not live in economic societies, it is hard to determine to what degree many Native American nations practiced sound environmental policy.

Vast Stretches

Vast sections of the southwestern United States, for example, were completely decimated by over-cutting. Dr. Charles Redman, an anthropologist at Arizona State University, says, “The idea of the primordial paradise, that pre-European societies were somehow great environmentalists, is romantic history.”

The cliff-dwellers, with their elaborate wooden structures, likely sealed the ecological fate of their region for evermore. In the Eastern U.S., the Cherokee removed such large swaths of forest along riverbanks  — not coincidentally, some of the areas now most carefully protected by environmental legislation — that Europeans entering some areas thought there were no trees.

Illness and injury were treated with natural remedies, many of which worked and are still viable solutions for health problems today. It would be unwise, however, to surmise that all Native American nations at all times were populated by wise dispensers of health information that uniformly fortified their people.

For acute illnesses, major injury, and rare disorders, most nations could do little for the afflicted and, if they sought to do anything, would do more harm than good. Operations were crude. Medical hygiene was all but unknown. Many “treatments” hastened the death of the patient rather than alleviating the condition.

Human Rights or Tribal Mythology?

Many contemporary Americans believe that Native American nations were exemplary in their homage to human rights. This issue cannot be summarily concluded. Some groups were effective in upholding human rights; some were not.

Many people within nations paid homage to human and individual rights; many people did not. In some  nations, elders were cast out of the tribe to die on their own once it was believed that their final days were near.

Some nations, and many individuals within many nations, were intolerant of homosexual behavior or other sexual and personal orientations that deviated from the norm. Many nations maintained rituals and customs that forced individuals into predetermined roles independent of their individual aspirations or aptitudes.

As cited previously, some nations maintained elaborate rituals and rites of passage whereby young men were summarily cast into battle. Or, young men had to fight and kill a wild animal, perhaps with nothing more than a knife or a spear. They then would have to return with the animal’s vital organs to prove their “manhood.”

Paradise, Not

In many nations, everyone was expected to pull his own weight-not necessarily a bad idea, as societies go-but what fate befell those who proved to be less physically endowed?

Some nations permitted polygamy, whereby one man was permitted many wives, usually with no say on the part of the maidens thrust into service. Still, many Native Americans loved the earth, lived in harmony with it, and lived in harmony with each other. Their poetry and chants often reveal the kinship they felt with the earth.

Let us avoid the trap, however, of sanctifying those who were here before us because some of them, in some respects, embodied environmentally and socially redeeming virtues needed today.

Let’s not paint in our minds and post in our literature exalted, vague notions of environmentally and morally superior peoples whose ageless wisdom is somehow quintessential to our survival today.

Learning From Our Past

The lesser-known side of Native American history is one example of how history can be skewed to reflect a certain set of ideas. There are, of course, other examples throughout world history.

It’s vital that we draw what we can from the knowledge of such cultures and be respectful of their heritage. Let’s forsake the counterproductive mythology that seeks to rewrite history to match the flawed ideology of a few.

Instead, let’s learn what we can from the actual lessons and experiences of history, and use that knowledge to improve as a society.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Society & Culture

Prevailing in Turbulent Times

You can remain confident despite the chaos all around you.

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Everywhere you look, proud and patriotic Americans are feeling forlorn over the worsening conditions in our society. Concurrently, many life-long career professionals are losing confidence in their ability to stay competitive in our rapidly changing world amidst a rocky economy.

In actuality, no one in society has a long-term lock on any market or inside niche, and no “body of information” affords a strategic competitive advantage for very long. The reality of our times is that everyone is feeling at least a little unsure of themselves, and in that sense everyone is in the same boat.

Besieged by information and communication overload, it is easy to feel anything but confident. After all, your ability to keep pace is all but impossible.

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Professionally, you can remain confident, however, despite the pace of change.

Taking Command

What do confident people do to maintain confidence, independent of the rate of change to which they’re exposed? And. how do they maintain a sense of breathing space along the way? Here are variety of approaches:

* Jump Starting: Initiating a small part of a project or activity in advance (getting a sneak preview) to gain familiarity just before the project or activity actually begins.

* Total Immersion: Surrounding yourself with everything you need to fully engage in the project. This could involve assembling resources, people, and equipment, as well as ensuring that you have a quiet, secure environment, free of distractions.

* Managing the Beforehand: Living with the ever-present realization that change is continually forthcoming and, thus, preparing for activities or events in advance.

* Leapfrogging: Recognizing that while you can’t keep up with every little thing that happens in your industry or profession, periodically you can leapfrog over the developments of the last several months and “catch up,” in a manner of speaking.

* Picking Your Spots: Related to leapfrogging, pick your spots in the future, say six months, whereby you want to have a new product or service introduced, or have some new technology fully integrated into your operations, and so forth.

* Go Cold Turkey: Simply suspend operations and engage in whatever it takes to incorporate a new way of doing things. This is enhanced by ensuring that you’ll have no disturbances, by bringing in outside experts, and by assembling any other resources you need to succeed.

* Days of Grace: After deciding to tackle a new project or to implement major change, build in “days of grace” and allow yourself to proceed at half to three-quarters speed. Acknowledge that assimilating the new challenges and changes will take time, and will likely involve some disruption. So, don’t expect to achieve your normal productivity or effectiveness… for now.

Small Victories

Finally, and this is vital, in all cases recognize the importance of continually seeking small victories.

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Faith

This is Why the Left Hates You

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” Jesus

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It is obvious that the left has become a venomous mob, attacking anyone and anything in their path toward progressivism. Those who loudly proclaim themselves against hate, are indeed the worst perpetrators of it. There is a reason why. It is a Cosmic Conflict at its core. PolitiCrossing Founder Chris Widener takes five minutes to explain the following bible verses (Video below):

John 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.”

Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

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