Christians don't have a monopoly on prophecies that tell of an ''end of times'' or an end of an ''era.'' Many tribal nations, significantly the Hopi and the Haudenosaunee, but including many others such as Cree and Lakota in the North and Maya, Lokono and Maquiritari in the South, have prophecies within their spiritual traditions that describe an ''end of times,'' an era very similar to our present times and depicting or describing prophetic signs apparent to those who watch for such things. The signs, according to each culture and prophecy, reveal that major changes are afoot.
The Christian tradition is compelling in that it dictates a clear scenario for believers that accepts, on faith, the belief in the resurrection of Jesus' physical body from death itself. The resurrection myth propels to an end-tale with the return of the living Jesus. This ''Second Coming'' is to gather those who had believed in him as the only way to salvation. These would, in fact, be resurrected and ascended into heaven to live in eternal grace with their Lord. Everyone else, unfortunately, ends up in hell for torture and pain throughout eternity.
There are those who say that the Second Coming, which is also described as ''the Rapture,'' is already guiding American foreign policy. Certainly, it appears that the true believers within the present circle of U.S. policy makers and of many media outlets are steering toward connecting the worldly events in their various fields and departments to the sign of the coming Rapture. No doubt, many fully expect to be among those who board the celestial ship to life eternal. These analysts, mostly but not exclusively on Christian radio and television shows, conjecture for millions of Americans that propelling Israel as a major super military power in the Middle East and invading and occupying a whole country - Iraq - at the ''cradle of civilization,'' portends the acceleration of the struggle between ''good and evil,'' expectedly toward Armageddon, the final mother of all battles, after which comes the return of the living body of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps this is so, or perhaps it overstates the Christian case; but no one can deny we live in the age of terrific religious fervor, when more and more of humanity attaches itself to essential or elemental stories that are the basis of whole religions, whose dictates and strictures can often clash and expand into dangerous areas - including that of self-fulfilling prophecy. We are also in an era when the resources of the Earth that have fueled and supported industrial lifestyles are quickly diminishing. This is where some of the Indian prophecies come in.
John Mohawk, Seneca historian and Indian Country Today columnist, recalled not long ago the mutual visits by Hopi and Haudenosaunee traditionalists as early as 1948, where a prophetic tradition, popularly referred to as ''the purification,'' was exchanged. This was way before the ecology movement, before ''New Age'' and even before the ''energy crisis.'' The elder Indian spiritualists from the Hopi of that time not only had prophecies of meeting ''Indians from the East,'' they actually fulfilled their own tradition and traveled east to meet and tell the Haudenosaunee about it. The sincere exchange of views that followed saw these and other Native peoples review and renew their prophetic traditions and this dialogue, largely unrecorded, has gone on for more than a half a century after the 1948 visit.
Unlike the faith-based Christian liturgy, what the Hopi tradition warned about involved patterns of human activity on Mother Earth that had profound and predictable consequences. They expressed, as have most Indian traditionalists to this day, that the greed for material possessions and technological gadgetry had the potential to severely affect the systems of the earth and that this was in fact happening within Western civilization, which they were witnessing, and that they had been told they should warn all peoples about the impending changes and disasters.
No one listened then and too few are listening now, as the ancient Indian warning is diluted by modern economic and political concerns, but the message does resonate with observers of our current energy crisis who tell us of major and very difficult changes ahead for most of humanity.
The American ''way of life'' predicated on the wanton consumption of cheap oil is in its last throes. Quantitative reality points to severe developing problems with industrial civilization and its dependent systems. We are entering what a well-researched book recently excerpted in Rolling Stone magazine terms the ''end of the cheap-fossil-fuel era.'' (''The Long Emergency'' by James Howard Kunstler, Rolling Stone, March 24, 2005.)
The term ''global oil-production peak'' is very important in this context. This is the ''turning point,'' when global production will generate ''the most oil it will ever produce in a given year,'' after which annual production can only decline. U.S. oil production peaked in 1970 at 11 million barrels per day. Currently some 20 million barrels a day are consumed just in the United States, which produces 5 million and imports the rest.
There is now developing consensus that the global oil-production peak, expected by 2010, is happening now - in 2005. The remaining half of the world's oil deposits is in large measure unextractable; that which is extractable is increasingly difficult and costly to extract, of poorer quality and located mostly in places hostile to the United States. The industrial world's principal source of energy, which underwrites everything about the international and particularly the industrial economies - from transportation to heat to food to the hugely integrated range of most other production - is drying up fast.
The new energy crisis is permanent. The cheap energy, cheap food and cheap living produced by cheap oil has no detectable replacement that can sustain the current industrial lifestyle. And not only oil, but natural gas is also declining (by five percent a year), with steeper declines expected. Most power plants built after 1980 and half the homes in America run on gas. Nuclear energy, touted by some once again, comes from plants such as Three Mile Island and has many serious unsolved problems, in long-term radioactivity control and waste storage, which generate intense opposition in the population.
It gets worse: clean water is also diminishing fast. Already, globally, more than a billion people don't have safe drinking water. About 15 million children under the age of 5 die miserably each year from drinking polluted water. (See: ''With a Push From the U.N., Water Reveals Its Secrets,'' William J. Broad, The New York Times, July 26, 2005.)
The news on declining oil and water, and on costly extreme weather disasters, is sobering. The convergence of forces now seen as permanent reveals trends that will severely change life as we know it, limiting Western technological society and altering the familiar economics and social planning of the 20th century.
Large-scale social change could help. But while these threats compound, the American media and major news channels grow shrill while losing the ability to tell schlock from substantive and useful information. Socially asleep at the wheel and led by the easy profits of ''reality'' shows, infotainment of bizarre cases and celebrity gawking, most basic reporting is replaced by hackneyed pundits repeating their spin on channel after channel. Public trust and doctrines of fairness are now hostage to profit incentives. No major idea or power in the current society is likely to be challenged, investigated and analyzed for fear of losing its corporate or governmental support.
Breaking through this wall of disregard for natural reality was the intent of the elders who came out of their remote communities to tell their prophecies and perceptions in the mid-20th century. Because they did not call for miracles over life and death, because they did not request we ''act on faith,'' their admonitions merit attention more than ever today: they said that the new way of using up the earth will have dire consequences; indeed, the new reality is of a world where the promise of industrial progress is much reduced.
The elder Indians spoke of food self-sufficiency and of fighting tenaciously for your lands as the basis of tribal survival. They urged the younger generation to stay close to the earth, aware of the sources of good water and land for growing useful plants and animals as the ''real economy.'' They spoke of staying physically active and the people striving to work together in harmony. Even back then, they warned the leaders to prepare for a future of great uncertainty. ''Prepare from the ground up,'' they said. ''Community by community and family by family, learn to do these things for yourselves.''
Given the callous disregard for these life-threatening issues by America's current political and media leadership, the elders' advice - to do for ourselves and to prepare to meet all conditions - might be as good as we are likely to get.
Posted: July 28, 2005
by: Editors Report / Indian Country Today
Indian Country Today