• Samya Fraxe

[ENGLISH] Nomadism x Sedentarism developing empathy to improve the humanitarian crisis.

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

I have been moving from a house to another since I was very young. I remember that it was a great adventure to get only my personal belongs and leave everything behind starting anew and fresh in another house. The constant movement forces us to face what we have accumulated so far, not just the material things which are the most obvious ones, but it also forces us to confront our beliefs system too.

Questions like: what do I need to leave behind? What should I take with me? Do I want this? Do I need this? Is it helping me to express who I am? are constant.

I grow up, and still, asking myself those question all the time. In each move I make I left things behind opening the space for the new. Even I do love that, I need to say that it is challenging and requires a high level of trust; we are attached to so many ideas, habits, thoughts, beliefs that we carry on us for years, some of them have been with me since I moved from the first house, and only now I am letting them go.

After I had moved enough from a house to another, I started moving from a city to another and then from a country to another. Movement is not part of me; it is my life! My experiences as dancer, of moving continually, of have lived in a mobile house for 2 years, of not having a fixed base and the work I do with refugees have inspired me to explore a bit more of how movement can support us in terms of building up and strengthen the connections between human beings and with the environment. I will write about my experiences as a nomad soul in futures posts, for now, I want to focus on few aspects in the nomadic and sedentary systems that I believe are important to understanding what is happening with our human community.

According to the United Nations, we are facing the worst humanitarian crisis since world war II; I see this crisis as a calling for us to rethink the dynamic we are living in. I have been studying about the nomadism, and I am convinced that this crisis is only a symptom of deeper problems related to a lack of tolerance and empathy that we have been developing with more emphasis since we have transited from the nomadic to sedentary. It is not my intention here to exhaust the topic but only briefly points out a few elements that I understand as crucial aspects of this humanitarian crisis, highlighting that the issue we see in large scale it is mirroring what is also happening within us as an individual. I believe that by looking at those systems, we can find significant aspects that can contribute to individual transformation to impact the world also to transform this crisis scenario.

Nomadism x Sedentarism:

Here we go! The nomads were unaware of the senses of property believing that the riches of the earth belongs to all. For this system, survival is based on sharing; the other represents opportunities for expansion and relationships, they believe in cooperativity and collaboration. They did not develop a strong sense of attachment; they were prepared to lose everything from day to night, they had an enormous recovery capacity. The safety of this people resides in the high level of adaptability and the holistic approach to the environment.

The sedentary on the other hand brought up the idea of property, the accumulation of assets and as a consequence of that, there are more attachment to it and the fear of losing it all. For this system, others represent a threat that must be kept away. Sedentary adapts the environment to their needs and presents more organized and stable solutions front chaotic situations, but they take longer to recover from an unexpected event or traumas. This system is fear-based, connected to scarcity stimulating competition and segregation between people and with the environment.

Archaeological data indicate that since we have adopted a sedentary lifestyle, we reduced the bone mass of the human body by 20%, making it more fragile and easier to break. This happened due to the decrease in physical activities; nomads were much more active which have caused minor damages that strengthen the spongy tissue making the bones more resistant.

From a holistic perspective, this data is exciting and relevant to understand what the body structure and the sedentary lifestyle is telling us about the crisis we are experiencing. The bone in the human body has as primary functions of support, protection, mobility and emotional qualities such as quicker recover, self-responsibility, action taker and problem solver. Those function and qualities have been weakening in those years with the sedentary lifestyle. It is not a surprise that we have so many people blaming others, government or any third party for their issues; by avoiding movement and adversity, we miss the opportunity of growth and to find creative solutions for the challenges we face in life. Adversity and movement improve neuroplasticity, which is the brain ability to change neural connections in response to new situations, adjusting, assimilating and also recovering from injuries. This interesting fact, my anthropological studies and my experience as bodyworker led me to the understanding that movement is intrinsic to the capacity for regeneration, self-sufficiency, connection, and empathy.

I return to the point mentioned in the begin of this post that we need to review the way we are living and relating to others. I do not intend here to suggest a literal return to the nomadic system from 7000 years ago, not either defending that nomadic it is a perfect system without any issue that we should “copy and paste,” which I believe that it is impossible as we are dynamic beings. I am also not defending that fear and attachment are feelings that only sedentary knows, however, yes! Those feelings are stronger between sedentary than in the nomads.

I bring this point up as an invitation for a reflection of what this kind of system can teach us in dealing with the crisis we are facing now. For that, we do not need to go that far in the history; we have a few societies living on the nomadic or semi-nomadic system that shows some aspects that we could get inspired by. The Waiwai people from Amazon for example, which is a semi-nomadic group I had the opportunity to spend some time with and could clearly see the aspects I mentioned earlier regards to the nomadism. They stimulate the cooperation instead of competition, even in a simple soccer game they do not play to win, they play to draw the game, they believe that in this way they will always have a reason to play and to connect if someone wins the game is over in their understanding. They adapt themselves to the environment and have learned to avoid exhaustion either of the soil or their bodies. They spend only a few years in the same place, moving away to let the land rest and recover. They take great care of their body, alternating the intense physical work activities with rest; they see the rest/pause as much crucial as action/movement. After each intense activity like hunting or gathering, they do light and creative such as hand sewing, singing or rest in their hammock to recover. This helps them not just to keep the rhythm but to generate the energy and happiness they need to engage with each other. They were very clear to me “you need to move, dance and sing every day; this will keep you happy, if you are happy you can do anything, you can contribute more. If you sit thinking you will feel sad and you will get ill. Ill people cannot do much; they are missing life” (Isaac - leader of Takara village).

Waiwai people

It seems that the nomadism adopts a more harmonious, abundant and empathetic relationship with the environment, again, it is not a simplistic or romantic view of the nomadic system, but an invitation to see it as an opportunity to get inspired by the aspects they cultivate that are missing in our daily lives. I believe that the lack of empathy, movement and the excessive stimulation of competition are vital elements related to this humanitarian crisis where the unknown is avoided, and the difference is not welcome; this is very contradictory once the diversity and the mystery are inherent to life, they are the possibility of expansion and the door for creative solutions.

I see this humanitarian crisis as an opportunity for us to take action, to move, to regenerate and to realize that we are all part of this crisis. It is up to each one of us to dedicate ourselves to take the responsibility of it and to be committed to diving into the mystery of life, to open our hearts to develop and strengthen the empathy to relate to others. I believe that the way to improve this scenario is by bringing more compassion and collaboration to the world. Yes! It is a long-term commitment that urges us to start now, from wherever we are, the way we can – smiles, kind words and actions could be an excellent way to start.

Are you ready for that?

Have a great day!

With love,

Samya Fraxe

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