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“Take what you need from the land, but need what you take.” A priceless pearl of wisdom coming from the treasury of indigenous people. These people are at times referred to with condescending compassion as the fourth world, written off as aborigines, tribals, adivasis, etc. We pompously imagine that they have nothing to offer our so called ‘civilized culture’. The process of civilizing perhaps needs to be reversed! We need to be humble and accept the truth for humility is truth. For it is our so called modern civilization that needs to learn and receive from the indigenous people of the world, values which we have long forgotten but which they have happily retained.

It is only of late that we have awakened to environment consciousness and eco-spirituality. The earth we have ravaged with all kinds of violence and wastes. The oceans and rivers we have polluted with industrial and chemical effluents. The air we have rendered noxious with factory gases. Instead of using judiciously the earth that God entrusted to us, we have for centuries on end, in the name of progress and development, abused and exploited it by indiscriminately draining off its resources, felling its forests, and annihilating its natural assets.

The more we have ‘developed’, the more we seem to have deteriorated. In the name of progress we have, in a sense, regressed, becoming slaves of materialism, buying and hoarding more than we need. I think of Via Boccea the road along which I used to live in Rome. It has sales throughout the year. Every day, the local people and not just visiting tourists, seem to be on a shopping spree. There are shops that advertise ‘True Sale’ as if the others were propagating false ones! It is tragic to see people trooping in and trapped by this sales snare. There are ‘clearance sales’ at the end of each season. They clear only to clutter for we soon discover how cramped we feel, crowded with a whole lot of things that we do not need. The salesmen and sales girls stand at the doorways to these shopping centres like ravenous wolves awaiting eagerly to devour with whetted appetite their victim client who walks in .

The next time I enter a mega mall or a big department store, I must be wonder struck at so many things on sale that I really do not need! I need to become a little more ‘civilized’ and take only what I need, and really need what I take.

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