"An Ye Harm None" On A Global Scale
Article ID: 12281
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: January 20th. 2008
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Last night I was brought to my emotional knees by a story on 60 minutes. I rarely watch this show but they had a piece on the Silver-Back Gorilla families in an area of the Congo and Rwanda. Laws protect these Gorilla families and because of conservation efforts are tame enough that they will appear to humans when called. They are considered mostly harmless and mainly eat plants.
It is estimated that there are no more than 700 on these Gorillas in the world. Human interaction is limited because they are susceptible to our diseases (think of Westerners bringing small pox to Native Americans). They live in small family units and have been known to come to one another’s rescue. Genetically they are very closely related to humans.
A family of 20 of them where recently killed because they inhabit a space that also has coal. They were all shot to death.
I'm sure they made pretty easy targets. Like shooting your companion dog that trustingly runs to you when called. The Rangers (who are completely out gunned in this area of the world and are targets themselves) and the tribe that lives in this area found them, marched their bodies from the place of their deaths into the village and gave them burials that were fit for royalty and warriors. This was not a small task, as the adult male leader of this Gorilla Clan weighed about 450 lbs.
When the story was over I looked at my partner and asked him, "Do you sometimes feel that we are a species that is beyond redemption?"
As I write this, the sad images of these dead beings return to me. I take a step back and I understand that this is a place in the world where all life is in danger. Human, plant and animal.
I understand that without coal these people have no way to cook or boil water. Life is very hard in this place of continual tribal war and genocide. What happened to these Gorillas is something that happens all the time in this place.
Families killed off by neighbors they thought they could trust, their bodies left where they were slain. I also know that we (those of us in the US and other developed countries) often require the poorest of this planet to live with and somehow protect many of the world’s endangered species with little in the way of financial support or manpower.
Some, like the Gorillas, are fairly easy to live with; others have a tendency to attack humans and domestic animals. That we ask this of people who rarely have safe drinking water defies reason.
We are supposed to be a species capable of reason and rational behavior but these gifts seem to be difficult to find in these situations. Why is this? As I reflect on this, I realize that what hurts the most is that I know, thousands of miles away, the culture I live in somehow had a hand in this and that by association, I am too have played a small part in the creation of this situation.
"An ye harm none" is specific to Wicca however; most Pagan/Heathen traditions have something similar. The concept is to make thoughtful choices that take into account the possible consequences that our personal decisions have, not just on ourselves, but on those around us.
In other words, actively choose your choices and do so in a manner that includes the lives and feelings of others. The understanding that a person is a part of a larger community and that individual decisions have an impact on others is implicit in the Wiccan Rede.
Often times people miss this point because it is not explicitly stated however other aspects of the Wiccan worldview imply it.
While we have always been a part of a global community, there has never been a time when one culture has had the ability to have such a sudden and immediate impact on another. What we buy, how we live, how much we consume in this country has a huge impact on what is considered valuable in other parts of the world.
So now the "harm" that our choices may create can kill off an endangered species thousands of miles away, cause the cutting down of wild forested areas or the flooding of small remote villages and create a plastic trash vortex the size of Texas that floats around the ocean killing wildlife as it moves from place to place.
We are outraged when see these things on television but do we ever really consider that we are the driving force behind such devastation? As members of a prosperous culture, we are the last to feel the effects that our choices have on the planet and its inhabitants.
We live happily in our well-protected, warm castle and rarely consider the price the rest of the world pays for our comfort. I fear that the harm we have collectively created may truly be beyond repair.
There is a concept of collective redemption.
That if an entire culture is responsible for inflicting great damage to a broad enough geography and populous that the every individual of that culture (regardless of intent or agreement) is held responsible for bringing things back in to balance and for redeeming itself.
In this case redemption is not used in the manner in which Christians use it (forgiveness in order to avoid spending eternity in Hell) but more the way that the Egyptians experienced Maat (Balance) or the way many modern Pagans view Karma.
The individual choices we make and our own attempts to bring balance back into the world contribute to the bigger cultural act of redemption, of bringing things back into balance or restoring and repairing that which has been harmed-regardless of intent. As most of us benefit from this culture, then each of us also shares in the damage our culture has inflicted on the world.
As we move through our lives making decisions both big and small, as we decide what we will purchase for loved ones during this festive season of consumerism (I'm as guilty as anyone else of consumerism) how do we keep from inadvertently harming beings who live on the other side of the world when often times we cannot trace an item through its full production cycle?
How do we live up to the intent and spirit of "an ye harm none" in a global economy?
What issues do we want the current list of candidates for President to address regardless of party or personal religious affiliation?
What do we change in our lives that will not put others out of a job, place too much pressure on our environment and on those who are already living at the edge?
Have we as a culture done so much damage, are we so corrupt and spoiled that we have moved ourselves into a place where we are beyond redemption?
If not, what steps do we take as individuals and as a culture, to repair the damage we have created?
As Pagans (ones who dwell close to the Earth) should we not be the first to make changes in our own lives? (Have you seen the way the lands are left after some (not all) large “Pagan” gatherings?)
Should ours not be the loudest voices?
Godiva le Fey
Location: Farmington, Illinois
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Bio: Godiva Raven le Fey is a Third Degree initiate and HPS of the Chalice Well Tradition. She is a member of Chalice Well Fellowship and is part of a Belly Dance troupe. She lives with her partner and two large dogs in central MA on 11 acres named Sacred Oak Farm.
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