Desert Storms or Dancing with Wolves?

I watched two films tonight. One was on the first Gulf air war, somewhat of a promotional video of the military equipment used. The second film was Dancing with Wolves.

I found interesting insights between the two films. Both featured the military, one depicting modern warfare that kills at a distance and the technology of war. The other film is the human story about a soldier who had enough of war and tried to kill himself by riding between warring parties and them missing him as they tried to shoot him. He was seen as a hero and his attempted suicide an act of bravery rather than desperation where death was preferrable. He requested a posting to the remote frontier to see the wild country before it changed. Whilst one film was fact the other fictitious, I saw metaphors in Dancing with Wolves. The film conveyed the gentle power of love and empathy to see through the images of the enemy or indeed fear. There were comments where on the one hand the Sioux in the film saw the white man as less than themselves. Of course the white man viewed them as savages. In Desert Storm the Iraqi’s were not seen as equal adversaries and the battle in the beginning was viewed by soldiers as no real resistance, as the counter fight from the enemy was not challenging or much of a presence. I could hear in the language there was an idealised notion of battle and whether they respected them. I listened to words such as air superiority, engagement, dog fights, command and control, theatre of war, clean out airfield, air strikes, hostiles and so on. I reflected on the jargon of language and how it creates sanitised impressions. I thought of the stories of Second World War and the songs and glory of war from times long past. I recall the World War I dog fights where the skills of the pilot were greatly admired and when killed there was respect for the galant fight. A strange morality to warfare. It appeared the military was still looking for the glory and morality in battle, the fight that defines them and remembers them with glory.

As I watched the soldiers in the Gulf war speak I looked deeply into their eyes to try and understand them. I watched as they technically evaluated the fighter aircraft specifications. I observed how communication was from the mind and memory, how the interviewer asked descriptive questions about the types of aircraft, describing launch vehicles, as if there was a fascination with the equipment and capabilities enhanced and how that connects with the men. I saw the thinking mind answering and never a question about any personal connection for the damage on the ground or causing others to die on the ground. I reflected on the technical aspects the remoteness of warfare, like a video game with cross hairs hence the term theatre of war it seems. I watched the black and white/infrared visual images as aircraft flew over what they perceived as targets, the two dimensional remote nature of targetting objects. The de-personalising of targets as infrastructural objects, civilians and the reality of bombing cities where families lived, was never mentioned. It was very sanitised and in a world of technology and fire power, it was fascinating to observe a mind that appears as objectified and structured as the targets. I heard more words of targets, dropping bombs and the importance of technical precision. Again, the human factor was not there. There were no female voices although I saw one image of an African American woman tightening an object on top of a bomb. I listened to the music that seemed upbeat like a promotional film selling holidays, reminiscent of the newsreels. The film seemed more appropriate for selling military equipment at a air show rather than public consumption.

The interviewed pilots returning from sauté’s speak of feeling pumped and describing the experience with aliveness. I tried to watch dispassionately, to not take sides or judge but to really look at the men who would be in full agreement of war and actively participating.

Then I watched Dancing with Wolves and the soldier who had rejected the army to find the real life in community. Who, in the film, slowly befriended the enemy who he came to call his neighbours. The Sioux also sought to know him to find out how to deal with the white people who were increasingly occupying their land and killing the buffalo on which they depended. How different the Sioux were from the white people, as they called them. Their natural life living off the wild buffalo, streams and nomadic existence following the food and climate, in complete awareness of nature. I watched in the film their wars with other Indian nations and again, found it hard to understand the desire to kill. I listened again, to the movie, when it appears the other is the enemy you get the feeling you are on the side of the good guys, I resisted that feeling and instead saw men killing each other and no different from the Gulf war experience, although the intent was stated in the film. It was described as different killing because they were protecting food not trying to occupy or take possessions. That was an important point. It was interesting when the character John Dunbar wanted to join their fighting party, the medicine man asked him why he would want to kill other people when he had no quarrel with them. I found that an interesting question. Instead he was asked to look after the women and children, as an honour.

Dancing with Wolves depicted the relationship of the soldier and the wolf, how gently it came up and watched the man. Curious and brave, it felt to come closer. With gentleness from John Dunbar it overcame its fear and took food from his hand. Of course this has happened in real life situations. I’ve seen the gentleness and quiet shyness of dingos and the bravery of them coming into camps, they are not like domestic dogs who bark.

Our relationship with nature can be detached or connected depending on our emotional state of being. When we step over species divisions to feel love for another creature and communicate in ways without knowing their language, a special bond can be felt. I have found women develop these bonds intuitively. I saw the character John Dunbar’s love being the vehicle for peace with the Sioux and with the wild animals. There was a point in the beginning of this relationship where he rode into the enemy camp with an injured Sioux woman, and they didn’t kill him and he didn’t open fire, but there was fear without violence. Overtime, with many visits both ways they came to trust each other and for them, the war was over. In truth it was the erroneous fears within that evapourated as they found reality in the experience and joined in their common humanity. John Dunbar learned Sioux and the medicine man learned some English, this became the sharing of the peace pipe and smoke signals which bonded imagined enemies as natural brothers. Hence the term we are our brothers and sisters keepers, it is to look after each other. That occurs because a bond exists.

When I reflected on this I think of how war and peace is mapped out today, never is there an attempt to really know the other, to live their way, learn their language, understand their traditions, to try and be the other. Scott Ritter mentioned this as in his observation cultures are demonised without any deeper regard for their society and customs. Hence the war mindset still playing out the old script of ‘enemy’ for hundreds of years. Through understanding and an intention to build bridges not create war, respect grows and love flows to and through people who no longer see an enemy but see family extending, for love always unites as people blend, when open to learning from differences to find they are not so different. I experienced that with my former Afghan partner, I forgot he was Afghan and saw the person who was kind and gentle.

So I return to the Gulf War and clear cut strategic objectives, admittedly the war was to push an aggressor out of Kuwait, but why were the Americans aggressing another who they had no quarrel with? Why kill people you don’t know or have a dispute with? Yet of course oil was another strata of rationale, hence retaining energy to produce more wealth. The same issues the Sioux were facing with the white people occupyng their land, the gold rush and the desire to take land and generate wealth.

I think of the Australian indigenous people who faced genocide in Tasmania and were shot when they competed for food on pastoral land like vermon. They were rounded up onto reservations and policies of assimilation were employed. Cultural genocide was attempted through cross breeding and education. There was no respect for their diversity, knowledge, wisdom and culture or indeed what they wanted. Instead, similarly to the indigenous indians they were seen as savages who needed to be civilised.

I recall the story of James Morrill who was wandering with Aboriginals for 17 years. He was shipwrecked with all his party, he was the only one who survived in the end. The indigenous took them in and fed them. They were treated well. He ended up learning around 8 dialects and he went hunting with the indigenous people, like the character John Dunbar, he formed close relationships and felt as family, he ended up returning to white civilization. They were deeply upset when he left. He found this very difficult but he did it and became a peacemaker between settlers and indigenous people.

What came out of this for me was the real enemy is ignorance and group think. We so easily believe what those in authority tell us, without direct experience. People all believe a story about others, these days we watch the news, it must be right, no real critical thinking around it. In the film Dancing with Wolves the belief was that the Indians were thieves and beggars which demonised them and made them appear less than the whites, there was no deeper understanding of the traditions, peaceful intentions, self reliance, the wisdom and pride that came with living a life free in the natural world. Something white people couldn’t conceptualise as their world was so structured and industralised where human emotions were seen as a weakness and unnaturally masked under what is perceived as sensibilities and culture.

In the modern world I see the scenario as still similar. We are so disconnected from each other and from any real sense of who we are and our true feelings and passions. In nature, there is fresh air, freedom, naturalness and human life becomes simple mirroring of the simplicity that flow as nature. Within this simplicity (lack of complexity or thought) there is time to discuss, reflect, laugh, make art, love, enjoy life and family and the wonder of what it offers. Some in the modern world fear returning to this simplicity still believing it is primitive, yet our true nature is instinctive, adaptable, communal and sharing. We don’t have to return to caves, but simplicity is really not over thinking, just learning to be with nature as an intrinsic part of it, not apart from it. It is the same as living in the present moment, taking life one moment at a time, not living in the future or past, all indigenous people know this. Through our ignorance we forgot this awareness which is our true nature.

I go back to the war scenario and it seems so blinded by group think without any fresh energy coming into challenge ideas, providing other perspectives to question, to inject other ways of seeing, alternative ways to resolve conflict etc. The image of the warrior is so ancient, again I feel some men are seeking the ancient warrior in themselves to find identity, to gain a sense of value, heroism and belonging, but they can never find it in war. The reality on the ground coupled with independent media, exposes the truth of war as a horror beyond words and counterproductive. In truth it strengthens the very thing opposed and becomes similar to the behaviour. Whilst peace settlements can be coerced or forced, it never brings true and lasting peace. Violence causes deep trauma and hatred, as life reflects brutal intentions and this becomes the world of tooth and claw as defined by the philosopher Thomas Hobbes. War is increasingly seen in the west to be a failure, not solving problems, increasing insecurity and they are seen as losing. It is seen as causing great fear and creating the possibility of destroying all life on earth.

I find myself floating back to Dancing with Wolves, the deep respect for others, the sense of belonging, a gentleness and honour that is so lost predominantly in our culture. I feel the word honour is the real word men are looking for, the warrior I feel is a mistaken identity projecting violence as dominance, not defending something honourable. So where is the honour? I see a sense of honour in dignity, inner strength, values and integrated humanity. An honourable person won’t lash out or be cruel to another, they will seek a higher road, a wise decision that is fair.

I feel this is the path of conflict in the future, to find the higher road, to sit down like the indigenous peoples did and discuss matters with respect. Not fighting and arguing to seek to be right, but honouring the other and respectfully asserting viewpoints to find the right course of action for a win/win. Taking time to make decisions in cooperation with others, that is the root of democracy. Instead what we have today is intellectual conceptualizations, highly educated and disciplined persons, setting strategic imperatives in a disconnected state of being without the sense of responsibility to the tribe/humanity where shared interests are the highest priority and consequences are deeply explored through the heart and conscience. Like the soldiers in the civil war, still the mindsets appear similar, we haven’t found the heart centre yet. Still trying to figure it out, think it through, use language to conceal the truth. Yet the answers will come when we stop thinking and covering our true selves and find in the end what is real for us all.

In the film what the character John Dunbar admired about the Sioux over his own people was that they laugh easily, had a dedication to family and living in harmony with each other and nature. We see that with the Australian aborigine, yet these days they are not feeling the harmony as they have found themselves absorbed into the confusion of our culture with all its toxins to numb the pain. Interestingly, and similar to the film the government or those in authority don’t go and sit with them as equals, get to know them, maybe live with them to understand their needs. Do they really need to integrate into our culture where 1:4 have a mental illness? I don’t know I just look and wonder what truly has been lost for the indigenous people and for those of us in western lifestyles. Yet we are all connected to nature, so perhaps when we are ready we find out way back to frontiers of our true hearts, the path will open.

This is what the two films evoked in me, again the return to our true nature, to go back to simplicity and find a group to belong to, where values are central, where problems are solved collectively with the best interests of all involved. Reimagining community, reconnecting with sharing, finding true joy over pleasure and deeply breathing in this life without blindly following paths that lead us to self destruction. The blind leading the blind comes to mind. Which I sense is the deep wish for some who feel so disconnected. Yet when they open their minds and hearts, they find a new path opens to them, and they find themselves home, it may feel like the first time.

Here is a poem I wrote tonight…stayed up until 2.30am tired eyes…


I am sleeping,
As I watch the dawning of age,
I long to dance with wolves,
To watch the moon’s silvery hue caress the snow caps of mountains,
To see the stars glittering and winking their diamond fairy lights,
Sending a secret morse code from our cosmic origins,
Inspiring the freedom to dance around firey beacons,
Beckoning the fluttering light from our darkened mystery,
As drums pound and thump in familiar rhythms,
In time with my own heart beating out a new path,
Toward the unity in community steeped in our human essence,
Communing with mystical commons,
Whistling winds of change,
As fingers running through my hair with love,
My eternal spirit swimming in the rapids of life,
Listening to the hushing leaves invigorated and refreshed,
Enlivening stale seasons slumbering,
As we lumber through life with careless abandon,
To abandon the cordons that hold us in,
Releasing all peace lanterns up into luminous skies,
Floating on thermal currents uplifting dream kites,
To find magic really happens.

I turn to the war of the worlds,
To find there are 6 billion worlds,
Not one the same,
And I see the structure and conformity,
Without question,
To find democracy is hidden beneath the permafrost.

Yet the hardness is melting,
As the melting pot expands,
Drift nets are now internets of vast webs,
Interconnecting networks fast breeders of alternative news,
Foreign hands reaching across the lands,
Sharing topics, files, photos and video cams,
Automatic translations downloaded in real time,
Renewable elevations see worlds higher than ourselves,
New constellations spiraling shareware knowledge,
As friendships decouples chains of ignorance from cold wars,
Freedom of information is the ocean current that cannot be contained,
For we are droplets in a vast sea of life out of bounds,
As we find the other reflects in our own heart mirror,
Clearing reflections and cobwebs to see clarity,
As a new story is being told.

New frontiers present to us to be bold,
New ways challenge what went before,
As we are in unchartered territory,
All the deck chairs are changing,
And the currents of love are reversing the polarities,
For we are on a space ship governed by cosmic forces,
And outside of the boundary there is no other option,
But to clean up our minds and free our hearts,
To reinvent our future this time round,
To heal with patience and be kind,
For these are the golden threads in the tapestry of life,
Weaving new patterns on majestic looms,
Magnificent and refined in unimaginable colours,
Designing pattern making in balanced harmony,
Each harmonic thought threads a new texture and colour,
For you are the artist of this master peace,
And how exciting it will be,
When the great work is finished,
And the missing peace is found,
in dancing.

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Mohandas Gandhi

“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”