Monday, May 22, 2006

The Simple Life

I saw an episode of “Going Tribal” on the Discovery channel featuring a story about the Dassanech people. The Dassanech are a tribe of people living in drought stricken Africa.
They survive by hunting crocodiles and gather drinking water from a “well” that looks more like a mud hole than a source of life. Yet despite living on the edge of starvation they are hospitable to the show’s adventurous star, Bruce Parry.

When I say hospitable that doesn’t quite describe it. Here these people don’t eat all day until a crocodile is killed and cooked. And when one is found, they eat no matter what time of the day or night…as it could be the only meal they get for days. Yet they shared, with a smile, their meager sustenance with Bruce.

They are happy, they dance, and share. They share everything. On one of the hunts only a small crocodile is found. Yet this small feast is openly shared with the village, including the outsider and his camera crew. They lead a simple life. But one in which we all should learn from.

Here there are no school shootings. No roving bands of gang members dressed in hundred dollar designer sports shoes killing each other over “territory” they can never own. Here there are no pathetic multimillionaire Hollywood stars starving themselves to bone thin sickness for the approval of their pathetic peers. There is no bulimia here, no anorexia. The only reason any of these people look like they are starving is because they are.

They are not concerned with “fitting in”, looking cool, or living a reality show lifestyle. There are no microwaves serving up 2 minute meals for people too impatient to wait that long. There are no designer clothes, “bling-bling” crap, or “divas” here. No 5 dollar bottles of water and no pretentious politicians. Here there are only survivors. Here there is love. Real love not swallowed up in religious regulations.

Yet in all of their trouble they have something we don’t. Trouble I might add that would cause the most “Survivor” minded people in our culture to crumble into their tear soaked lattes.

Here they share their food. Even if sharing might jeopardize their own lives. Here they protect each other. They are not a bunch of ego driven, selfish, superficial “go getters” living in fear of road rage or workplace shootings. Here they care for each other and for strangers who come to visit with their camera crews.

Here there are no Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, or whatever other moniker you want to attach to second rate criminal “organizations.” Organizations that claim to care about their brothers and kill over the color of dollar store bandannas. There are no MP3 players, no X-boxes, no over diagnosis of ADHD or self sufficiency sucking welfare systems. No drive through marriage or divorce establishments. No people living check to check throwing away their last dollar on foolish dreams of winning the lottery or overpriced bottles of weight loss pills. No workaholics drowning their “problems” in liquor.

Yet in all of their “lack” they seem to have something right. They have something that we do not. Despite the fact that they are faced with extinction they care for one another.

They take care of each other’s children.

They take care of the old and sick. They take care of strangers. They are the epitome of everything we watch Oprah to learn. Here there is no Dr. Phil but there is plenty of kindness, love, and discipline to go around.

We do not need to go and live in a drought stricken wasteland to “find ourselves” or find the same sense of caring that these people have. We do not have to give up our extravagant lifestyles to get a sense of direction…though for some that might be the only thing that would work. We need to rethink our priorities.

These noble people live in a wasteland that threatens their very existence. But so do we.

The difference is they have enough sense to realize it and we do not. The difference is that the elements threaten their very lives but here our ignorance threatens ours. Our selfish, “me centered” lifestyles are more dangerous than any drought or looming plague. It is not the lack of food that we are dying from here. It is the lack of caring.

Soon the Dassanech people could be facing a famine. But we are already living in one.