By Jim Poling Sr.
The best advice given the way the world is recently came from a man celebrating his 100th birthday.
Norman Lear, who produced the famous 1970s Archie Bunker show titled All in the Family, wrote a birthday piece advising people to stay forward-focussed. It appeared in the July 27 edition of The New York Times.
“It’s an attitude that has served me well through a long life of ups and downs,” Lear wrote, noting that a deep appreciation for the absurdity of the human condition also helped.
Staying forward-focussed is something everyone needs to remember these days. There are too many things needing immediate attention to be spending time looking back.
Our world faces rapid global warming, increasingly dangerous viruses, hunger and growing food shortages, huge economic problems, increasing violence and politicians more focused on nastiness than true leadership.
It’s a long list, getting longer. Some of the issues are big enough to threaten civilization as we know it.
It is good to look back and learn. To see mistakes, analyze them and make changes that will help us to not make them again.
Last week’s papal visit to Canada is an example. It had Canadians looking back at the horrors of residential schools in which our governments, aided by Christian religions (60 per cent Roman Catholic, 40 per cent others), tried to assimilate Indigenous peoples by eliminating their languages and cultures. Pope Francis called abuses of the residential school system “catastrophic.”
The residential school system was outright racism. Racism against Indigenous peoples that still exists today.
It was good to look back and see, and perhaps understand, how the residential school system destroyed so many families.
What isn’t good is to see the anger and negativity shown by some during and after the pope’s six-day visit. Some would not accept the Pope’s apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools. Some said the apology was not enough; more was needed.
I worry that the negativity and anger will continue, and suck up energy that could be useful in helping to solve the issues threatening our lives today. No one should ever forget the atrocities of residential school racism, but we need to get forward-focussed on what can be done to save our future.
Indigenous people have much to offer for solving today’s serious issues. Certainly, many follow modern living styles like the rest of us. However, their traditions, experience and knowledge of nature should be recognized as important in finding ways to improve, or even save life, on this planet.
One of the world’s biggest issues, and one getting scant attention, is food. An estimated 800 million people around the globe still go hungry. As their bellies growl, the amount of arable land for growing food is shrinking.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 40 to 50 per cent of the world’s current agricultural land is severely degraded. That affects the food supply of up to 3.2 billion people.
The food we eat now is less diverse and less nutritious than the food eaten by Indigenous people of the past. We live in a processed food culture that produces bigger fruits and vegetables that are grown faster to produce more profit at the expense of nutrition.
Indigenous peoples ate more nutritious and more diverse food. Their physical and spiritual connections with the earth allowed them to gather or grow natural foods without chemicals dangerous to the body and the environment.
It makes sense that we accept Indigenous knowledge and traditions as part of our search to ensure a healthy future for our planet
There are many past problems that Indigenous people must deal with. Not to mention current ones – like the dozens of Indigenous communities without clean water because of federal government inaction.
My hope is that while trying to deal with their specific problems, they will become a major part of a forward-focussed movement attempting to solve climate change and the many serious issues stemming from it.
Staying forward-focussed is good advice from a sharp-thinking elder. I think even Archie Bunker would agree with that.