Connection to the Land

I thought I was going to be writing this blog about something else but having a coffee this morning in a local cafe I saw ‘migrants’ on the news and I knew they weren’t separate from what I thought I was going to write about.

In countries where the people are connected to the land, they are connected to it all, plants, soil, rocks, everything. The people have roots and as a result they know who they are. Because of this connection with the land, they know what the land needs and they know what the land gives them. They feel the abundance of the Earth. It’s a reciprocal relationship.

For example, when I travelled in Mongolia, I felt the people and the land were almost inseparable. They got everything from the land and it had been this way for generations and generations. I’m by no means trying to say its bliss, life had its challenges but I was really struck by two things in my time in Mongolia.

Firstly, the people shared what they had, even though by our western world standards, they had very little. They always leave food in their yurt in case someone is passing by who is hungry. We stopped at a yurt and asked if we could see inside. We were invited in and given food and drink, including some vodka! Quite amazing for people don’t have a lot.

The second thing that struck me was that there are no fences in Mongolia. We drove across the landscape, turning left around the next mountain and then across a river bed to drive straight for miles to get to our destination. Simply driving across the landscape, I felt so expansive, not hemmed in at all. It took a while for my brain to get around the fact that there were no fences and that it all worked perfectly without them. This made me feel that this ‘no fences’ thing was also part of the sharing. The landscape was there to be shared.

I then thought about other countries where there is a similar connection to the land and things are shared. I’ve been blessed to spend time in the highlands of West Papua. Again as we hiked in the rainforest from village to village, we were welcomed with food and shelter was provided. Again there were no fences. It’s not that different tribes didn’t have distinct areas but they didn’t have fences, the land was open and we could hike through it. From what I know about Australian Aboriginal culture, sharing is a big part of it and also they definitely didn’t erect fences in the outback. Native American Indians shared everything in the tribe. The land was also open. And yes there was tribal warfare but they did arrive at the Six Nations Peace Treaty to allow them to live in peace together.

So what changed?

Well for me the area that has long lost its connection to the land is Northern Europe. Interestingly, Northern Europe is one of the most species and biodiversity poor areas of the earth. In Europe, Greece would be the most bio-diverse country. I live in Southern Italy and there are a lot more variety of plants and insects here than there are in Ireland where I am from. And so in Northern Europe we have had less diversity of plants and insects to be connected with. In most cultures who are connected to the land with lots of biodiversity, they ingest the plants as food and as medicine and research has shown that this provides a feeling of oneness with nature.

Having lost this connection to the land, I feel Northern Europe lost its roots to the Earth. In losing its roots, it also lost its sharing and open land culture. When I think of northern Europeans arriving in North America and fencing off land and buying it for tiny amounts of money, it all begins to make sense. The native American Indians could not understand fencing the land or the concept of buying land, it was impossible for them to imagine.

For me also without this connection, northern Europeans could also do things that would seem impossible to imagine in people who are connected to their own land. They perpetrated two genocides in North America, 500 tribes of Native Americans were reduced to tiny numbers when they were forced to leave their land and their connection to it and walk thousands of miles to fenced reservations. 50 million bison were killed, piled in mounds and burnt, reducing their numbers to 1000 in a second genocide. The northern Europeans who had no connection to their own land back in Europe, fenced off North America and brought in cattle, showing no understanding of what the land needed to thrive.

And so for Northern Europe, who for me, in losing its connection with the land, also lost its roots, its sharing culture, and its open land spaces. Without connection to the land, it also lost its feeling of the Earth’s abundance. Without this feeling it seems Northern European countries have felt ok to rape and pillage and stockpile other countries for their abundance. The inhumane atrocities that the Belgians perpetrated in the Congo, the Dutch in Indonesia, the French in the Sudan, the Spanish and Portuguese in Mexico and South America, the English in the India, and the list goes on are shocking and heartbreaking to say the least. And as I’ve mentioned northern European’s have also carved up North America and Canada. The pillaging of countries in Africa goes on still to this day.

Investment by the World Bank in Africa in Road Development is simply to increase the size of the roads to the coast so that resources can be taken out quicker rather than any investment in internal networks to help local people and villages. The World Bank calls it Road Improvement, its simply pillaging under a different name.

Connection to land is so important and we can lose it very easily. We had it in Ireland. We initially lost in when Catholicism came in. You had to become a Christian, otherwise you were a pagan, which meant ‘of the land’ and if you were a pagan you were persecuted. And as a result our connection to the land was gone. It was like a rugby tackle; we were left winded and had lost our footing. The second rugby tackle was colonisation by the English who again took ownership of our land. Yes we got most of it back in 1916 but we still had been tackled. Our roots were gone. By the time of the Celtic Tiger came along our feet were not firmly planted in our ground, we had lost our roots and we were just being blown around in this case by an American economic model of reckless boom and bust dictated to us by Northern Europeans! Our connection to the land long gone.

And so when I see and hear of migrants making their way to Europe to get some of the European ‘wealth’ and to flee war and strife in their own countries (often caused by outside forces trying to destabilise regimes for economic gain) and when I see and hear Europe’s response of barricades and fences, it all makes sense.

In nature the healing plant always grows beside the toxin, just as the dock leaf is beside the nettle to ease the sting. Migrants, refugees or exiles (whatever label you wish to call them) are teaching us that we cannot perpetuate our toxic ways.

We are being asked to open our fences and our hearts to people who have had their lands pillaged and their connection broken so that we can reconnect to each other and to the land again.

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