Letters to the Editor

Native American Culture and the Christian Church

by an Anglican priest working with native peoples.

From: Rev. Ian D. Corbett, Diocese of Navajoland, USA

... Native American culture is of extraordinary richness, in art, craftwork, religion, mythology, philosophy - and theology. It is also astonishingly different to ours in conceptualization, language and ways of thought. It was more appreciated by European colonizers than was the Celtic culture of Ireland, but a growing obsession with progress got in the way of full appreciation, which together with European materialism, greed and an uncritical sense of superiority, native Americans, being open as individuals and communal as society, were unable to resist.

By the end of the eighteenth century, over ninety percent, yes, ninety percent of native Canadians had fallen prey to foreign diseases (against which they had no immunity), or foreign violence. Yet, a study undertaken recently by a team of academics, entitled simply 1491 (the year Colombus set sail), came to the conclusion, that the standard of living of native Americans was higher then than in Europe: while Europeans built great cathedrals, but often lived in hovels, native Americans were living in wooden towns in the northeast or stone cities in the southwest. Native American religion was often admired for its sophistication, but this respect was not allowed to inhibit the imperative of conversion to Christianity.

Centuries later, David Livingstone described his mission to Africa as bringing “civilization, commerce and Christianity” - observe the order. The same was true from the sixteenth century onwards in the New World. Conversion provided a respectable cover, but, in the end, commercial interests were always paramount. The European attitude of ignorant contempt was fuelled by two great movements back home. The Renaissance, in part a rediscovery of classical learning, revived Roman ideas of imperialism, which the British, particularly, were eager to adopt to justify their dominance of ‘savage peoples’. The Reformation of the Church exposed a strong predestinarian tradition, originating with St Augustine but developed by Calvin, which came to justify subjugating native peoples so they might be converted, and annihilating them if they ultimately resisted.

This is exactly what happened in Ireland in the 1570’s and Virginia in the 1620’s. The churches largely supported the apartheid scale removals of native peoples, and the later treaty process, though not one of those treaties was ever fully observed by American and Canadian governments.

So we face the tragedy and scandal that the Church in North America, which should have been the proclaimer of the gospel of fulness of life, in fact participated in the destruction of native life and culture. The parallel with the Church in our own day is a strong one, where it, by and large, continues to deny welcome and affirmation to sexual minorities. The way of life has become the day of death.

You must be like us to be acceptable to God - and us.
How can we respond? I suggest by an evangelism of listening rather than of proclamation. We have loved too much to trumpet our own convictions, without hearing those of others to whom God has equally spoken. T.S. Eliot, thinking of the great religion of the East, once referred to ‘poor little talkative Christianity’. Let us listen more before we speak. Let us listen until we are invited to speak. My own limited experience of native spirituality has immeasurably enriched my own faith and practice and shown me God in new ways. A Navajo said to me recently, ‘we did not need to be converted to Christianity: Jesus came amongst us and felt very much at home here’. A merging of cultures, experiences, visions, perceptions. (...) Jesus is in the midst not only of Christians, but of all of us.
I wait in a remote, windy, dusty, hot corner of the Navajo desert, among people I love, confidently expecting new vision and revelation.


Another World Is Possible — What We Can Do
by a surgeon based in the US who spent time on Aran.

From: Ted Gifford, Dubuque, Illinois.

Dear Dara and Tess,
Hello, and thank you for the last issue of The Aisling. Your title and Susan George's article about the possibility of a different world is inspiring.
The invented champagne glass picture of a global economy is still dominant and will take a massive awakening and transformation on such a huge scale that, apart from an apocalyptic miracle, am not so hopeful that we will see in our lifetime any change. It is good to see and hear more people speaking out and actively showing support, for a new order but that dream is just that: a dream.
So, the best we can do is what you two are doing: not wait for the masses to shift but live as it has already happened! It will always stick on my mind - the memory of the short time living with you. I learned so much and the need to tell others or convince others isn’t there - is not what I learned to do. Instead, I took away a new found hope, which lies in the realm of the unsaid and untold. That energy remains with me now - the strength to do what ever needs to be done. When I arrived on Inis Mor, that had all but vanished - pooph! - gone.
I had reached the end of my limits. Something, someway, and not on account of anything I did or you did, specifically brought about this restoration. Interestingly enough, the large part of it came with the tears of leaving - feeling the loss. We cannot create a new world, but we can live in such a way that our dreams have an opportunity to become a reality in our small space. The contagiousness of this may be where the hope for a new economic order lies. It is hard to speak for this and I admire those of you who attempt to do so. Meanwhile, please, again, accept my thanks and gratefulness to you both - after 5 years I am still in awe of the beauty and mystery we share in being alive. ...It is incredible! :-)

Keep up the good work!
The Possibility of a Conspiracy at the Heart of International Finance
by an Irish organic farmer and philosopher

From: Gillies Macbain, Crannagh Castle, Tipperary.

Dear Dara,
I am deep into ' Gaian Democracies ' by Roy Madron and
John Jopling. This is not a review of what I have read, but
responses to specific terms used in the book.

The Global Monetocracy:
Earlier in the year gone by I was particularly intrigued by
the number of Jewish people among the Russian oligarchs,
the American neo-conservatives, and other groups that I was
by coincidence reading about. There was also a brief discussion
about George Soros. ( Much better one in the back of the Feasta
review by the way.) I was asking - can there really be a Jewish
conspiracy at the heart of international finance ?

I came to the conclusion - no. At the highest international level
money has a power and momentum of its own. It goes in search
of the highest returns regardless of who owns it. If the highest
return is from an unacceptable activity - drugs, arms, terrorism,
exploitation, organised crime of other kinds - then the capital
simply passes through the hands of intermediaries to protect the
investor from direct contact with or knowledge of the activity.

So the mobile capital at the highest levels is loyal only to itself.
The big money is loyal to the big money. There is a purity and a
disinterestedness about high finance. People with strong ties,
strong principles, may not be quite as good at it. . . if the Jewish
financiers had any special virtue it was a history of not being
deeply rooted in any particular nation or culture.

So I am wary of describing the big money as a conspiracy, a clique,
an elite, ( which ' gaian democracies ' does not, incidentally ) and
I suggest that it is more helpful to think in terms of money and also
power as ' systems ' with their own internal logic and momentum.

Looking for the boundaries of the monetocracy I had difficulty in
finding any. Down at local level people who years ago used to favour
a Protestant or a Catholic grocery store ( Ireland 1960s ) would now
shop according to price - at giant foreign supermarket chains like
Lidl - and be shocked at their grandparents' generation's attitudes.

But this willingness to be guided by the price, by shopping around,
is precisely the attitude of the big money - it is monetocracy, rule
by money. The shopper does not feel responsible for where the
goods are sourced, nor by whether their money is recycled in their
community or country, or electronically spirited abroad. Thus in a
very real sense the money - not the shopper - rules. Nineteen euro
ninety nine trumps twenty euro.

We cannot behave in this basic manner while we denounce the ethic of
the big money chasing the big return. Likewise we cannot denounce
money being lent into existence if we are at the same time ourselves
willing to borrow it into existence. The remedy lies at local level -
' local ' here meaning whatever level you yourself are effective at.

Capital slurping here and there, without regard for the damage caused
to local societies, begins with local shoppers acting solely according
to price and asking no other questions. Electing governments who
promise the greatest financial benefits is similar. We cannot use our
vote cynically and then complain when we find we have elected greedy
and cynical leaders.

In many ways money is neutral to all but its own best available return.

Rather than see the monetocracy as an ' elite ' - we should see money
power as ' systems ' operating at all levels of society, and if we have
values other than monetary ones - we must educate ourselves and
others to implement them at effective local level.

Sad News About The AISLING Ending its Printed Version
by an environmental/ecological economist in the Czech Republic

From: Nadia Johanisova, Trhove Sviny, Czech Republic.

Dear Dara,

thanks for your message, it was good to hear from you. It
is very sad news though that the Aisling will not be
published anymore. A Web version is certainly better than
nothing but will only reach certain kinds of people. The
barriers need not be only technical or financial. For
example, while I do have access to the Web, I don't like
to use it much as I spend so much time at the computer
writing and answering e-mails anyway and I feel it is not
good for my eyes (and for the whole person somehow though
I don't know why). I don't have a very good printer so
printing is a frustrating thing too. What was great about
Aisling was that you picked out a lot of interesting stuff
from the American magazines which I normally have no way
of accessing here. Another great thing was the books you
recommended. I just received by post the book Healing
Dreams which I learned about first from Aisling. So thank
you! I will ask a friend also to send me the book on
Illich which you wrote about too. Maybe you could think of
sending us subscribers a brief e- mail version at least
with the "book watch" and with short info about the
articles which will have appeared on the web. That would
be a help.

All the best to you, Tess, the children and all your


Click here to Subscribe!
Feel free to send our web address, and the password for this issue, to a friend.
Encourage them to subscribe! Click here!

A subscription is 10.00 euros or US$13.00 for 4 issues. If using another currency please pay the equivalent. PayPal is an easy way to pay online, or you can send a cheque or credit card details by post. We will accept cheques in any currency, but cannot accept bank drafts.
The AISLING Magazine, 'An Charraig', Mainistir, Inis Mór, Aran Islands, County Galway, Éire
Phone: + 353-(0)99-61245 - Fax: + 353-(0)99-61981 - E-mail: