Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Overcoming Ethnocentrism as a Prerequisite for Decolonization

To add to my last post about refocusing our attention to dis-embedding; removing ourselves from the system as much as we possibly can, there's also another very important pre-requisite to implementing pre-colonial/healthier ancestral cultural practices into our present lives as a form of decolonization.

firstly, we have to learn and understand the lifestyles, innovations, mentalities, and overall cultures of indigenous/ pre-colonial/ pre-industrial peoples of the world. secondly (or perhaps simultaneously), we have to learn to see these practices and lifestyles as, at the least, equal to if not superior than our current practices and overall system.

the ways in which we often learn about pre-industrial practices is within an atmosphere of pre-supposed superiority. we don't learn about migrations and movements that took place; we don't learn about the ingenuity of certain practices; we don't learn about the interconnectedness of spirituality with culture with governing (or lack thereof). we assume that all the best, most ingenious, better, healthier, safer, and humane practices have taken place after colonialism and industrialism. this is known as ethnocentrism, as has to be done away with. in anthropology, it was sired into my brain, almost ad nauseum. the reoccurring thread throughout all of my anthro courses was: there are no superior cultures in the world, only different ones. and personally (although ironically/contradictingly), what i took away from most of those classes was the understanding that almost everything in western cultures has a better pre-industrial/pre-colonial alternative that doesn't require capitalism, racism, colonialism, slavery, globalization, or mass exploitation. and the things they did not have were things that were better not to have.

take for example, medicine (the term used in anthropology for Western medicine is 'biomedicine', so that's the term i'll use for distinction). there is an assumption in the West, and probably worldwide, that biomedicine is the best, most superior form of medicinal worldviews; better than whatever you get when you go to a shaman or traditional healer or herbalist. the average American, and even many non-westerners who grew up going to traditional healers, see traditional healers as archaic in comparison to biomedical doctors. taking a pill is seen as better than drinking a bitter tea or tonic. an ob/gyn has become more acceptable, more prestigious than a midwife. and why? on what grounds are biomedical doctors superior to all others? what makes the present state of medicinal technology and practices superior to the medicinal technologies of our ancestors?? what skills do biomedical officials have without electricity and modern technologies??
biomedical doctors to me, are analogous to Rihanna or any modern pop singer - without a producer, choreographer, beat-mater, lyricist, stylist, a record company with billions of dollars to back her up, and personal trainers, she's just a pretty chick from Barbados who can't dance and can barely hold a note. but with all this stuff; all these people around her, everyone thinks she's the shit. but when you get down to the skills - there are none. a Peruvian bonesetter that gets paid in chickens and guinea pigs, who probably doesn't speak the major language, who has never stepped foot in a classroom and may not be literate, who can set a bone better and faster than anyone else is where the skill is. THIS is where the respect and reverence and praise is due.

if you look at anything - be that statistics, mathematical averages, patient treatment/care, or sustainability - non-western medicine wins on almost everything. statistically, traditional bone-setters know much more about the skeletal system than do biomedical ones. they reset broken or fractured bones much more efficiently and straighter than biomedical ones, and they do it with a much faster recovery period. on average, the patient satisfaction is much higher and the care encompasses not only the broken bone but also the mental/emotional/spiritual being of the person with the broken bone. factoring in sustainability, one simply needs a cold of hot compress, basic motor skills, and knowledge passed down from generations to generations on the human body and healing methods to fix these issues. contrast this with an x-ray machine which took thousands of dollars to make and purchase, made up of minerals and elements probably minded in Africa by someone risking their life, getting paid crumbs once every three months if they're lucky, which also is probably contributing on some level to deforestation, culture loss and erasure, and economic instability in these nations where these minerals are obtained. in other words, something as simple as a x-ray machine is NOT sustainable - not ethically or economically or environmentally. and all that for a bone that isn't going to be set as well as with a traditional bonesetter! not to mention having to pay a couple hundred to the doctor for even seeing you. not to mention those that don't even have medical insurance to help with the payment. and even then, what happens if there is no electricity? when there is something wrong with the machine? so i ask again, on what grounds are these methods and practices superior? because i'm not seeing them.
yet we have come to see everything in this system as better, but it is clearly not. anything from diet to lifestyles practices to animal husbandry to birthing practices are all better on multiple levels than the methods and practices we have in this system.

and if you look around to the rich, to the knowledgeable, to the people who spend years researching these types of subjects, you'll notice that many of them are returning to traditional methods. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is making a killing in the US and has been for some time. Ayurvedic medicine is a close second. and presently, within anthropology, Native American practices and beliefs from Central and South America are beginning to gain much respect. almost all of these alternatives to biomedicine have been turned to by Westerners because they have cured issues that biomedicine has not. people with neurological diseases or ailments are going to get acupuncture and tonics from TCM specialists. organ and blood and skin issues that biomedical doctors know nothing about and cannot even name are being healed with Ayurvedic combinations of herbs and subscriptions for exercise. mental illnesses which biomedical doctors have been prescribing pills for that turn people into zombies are being cured by Peruvian and Mexican and Columbian shamans. to me, this says a lot.

after we know and understand these methods, especially those of our respective ancestors, then we can compare and contrast them to that of biomedicine. only then can we implement these practices into our present lives.
in communities focused on removing themselves from the western system, we have to bring back the traditional healers, the herbalists, the mid-wives, the star-gazers, and the general innovators. all of these aspects of our ancestral cultures have to be brought back. furthermore, they have to be truly revered. with as much pressure there is in this system to give into Western practices, one can and will only choose otherwise when they know enough to make that choice; when they know the pros and cons of both; when they genuinely respect their ancestral practices. only then can we return to these practices with vigor and respect; not with anguish feeling as though we have lost something or that something good is being taken away from us. this type of mentality is necessary for any decolonization methods and for removing ourselves from this system.

comment. think. criticize.

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