I was discussing the other day how unhealthy social movements can become when deprived of resources. Under the threat of perceived competition or inadequacy, many people fall back on the competitive model that characterizes all that is wrong with our society, and, in the process, often neglect healthy values of social organization like cooperation and reciprocity.
In a related essay by Vi Hilbert, she observes that,
The first psychiatrist of this land, our medicine men, used the simplest things. They realized how important acknowledgment was. If a person was to rise to the highest goal that their families expected them to practice and if their deeds and accomplishments went unnoticed, why should they try? Why should they do anything? Nobody paid any attention to that anyway.
Our medicine men knew that this was very important. If you could see somebody doing a great piece of work at great hardship to him or her, then you pointed that out. You paid attention in public for the great thing you had just seen accomplished by this person. What a wonderful job this person was able to do because somebody had taught them how to use their hands and their mind and their eyes in a good way.
They would give credit to the teacher and to the student. Everyone was acknowledged in having a part in this great work that was being done because this person had been able to learn about what was important. So this is acknowledgment. It’s medicine used by the greatest of our medicine men, because if you sit in a roomful of people and you go unnoticed forever, why should you come to be with any of the people who are there. Nobody knows that you’re there. Nobody cares that you’re there. Why should you be there to learn anything?
So that person might have a medicine man sense the sadness in your heart that nobody ever paid any attention to. Nobody ever notices that you even exist. The moment a medicine man points out to the houseful of people that you are there and you have been seen to do this. You have been acknowledged for the gifts that you yourself have given and then you are known then you feel good about who you are because somebody has paid attention to what you do and who you are. Acknowledgment is the best medicine that could ever, ever be practiced.
The road ahead is difficult; bad people will try to divide us. Unity and respect is our strength–let’s build on it.
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