During my time with them, I learned that the Embera of Panama’s Darien Gap lived in harmony with their surroundings. They didn’t try to be “close to Nature”—the idea would never have occurred to them. They were Nature, an inextricable segment of that community of life. It’s misguided to revere them for this, or to demonize them. They’re simply being what they are; acting in accordance with their essence. But we can and should learn from them.
The lesson is that there’s more than one way to exist. The prominent delusion of our Western culture is that we have discovered the best way to live, and that we must therefore foist it on the rest of the world. The American Dream (for lack of a better term), consumerism, even the very notion of linear progress – we’ve exported these ideals through our infectious media, and they’re spreading like a plague.
We must come to recognize that our worldview is not right for all places and all times; that there’s room for diversity, for other ways of living and of seeing. Our monoculture is destroying places like the rainforests of South America, and fomenting resentment and unrest in places like the Middle East. We’re making the world unliveable by trying to force everyone to live in a single way.
The Embera have developed a way of living that exists in harmony with their place, and we must recognize that other cultures have done the same. Rather than conquer them as we’ve always done, we should study their adaptations and their lessons, and we should learn to do the same for ourselves.