Thursday, 16 October 2008

Prejudice and reincarnation from an ultra-catholic perspective

I was walking with a group of people to accompany the expropriation process of some beautiful farmland. With us was a man (60+) from the regional court to oversee the measurments of the land. This man revealed quite some interesting viewpoints. He was discussing that small-scale farming has no future anyways (justifying the expropriation of the land) and the person who was defending the value of this land argued that the land could be aggregated for modern large-scale agriculture. Even so the man was not convinced that these parcels are of any good.

I was obviosly thinking "I know better. Think only what will happen if oil prices get up a bit more: transporting food around the world will not be profitable anymore and intensive, mechanized farming will be more expensive than manual labour on small & diverse fields". But I held my tongue, wouldn't convince this man anyways ("an old donkey doesn't learn languages"), and it was just being an excellent moment to gather "local perspectives".

But then I felt compelled to intervene with another form of environmental education... While the man was discussing, he ended his pack of cigarettes and threw it right on the field where we were standing. I couldn't believe my eyes and kept quiet. But when the same thing was repeated with a sweet, and he threw the little paper on the floor I said that I was very surprised about such a behaviour from a well educated man. He replied "the owner doesn't bother anyways" and wouldn't pick up his garbage. So I had to take it, but the man didn't feel the smallest embarassment!

How little this man cares about small-scale farms and farmers and what he thinks of them was revealed further by a story of his, which he recalled to the cute old peasant walking at his side with a freshly picked eucalypt stick to aid him walk. The man said that in his village there lived a peasant who believed in reincarnation and he sometimes said that people who would have sinned very, very much in their previous lives would be reborn as peasants. Because being a peasant is such a crux, such a punishment.

The man telling this story then grumbled for himself "yes, and you never know...", making me understand that he believes there is some truth to this story. Only very mean and evil people incarnate as peasants. So: why bother about them?

At the other hand it was very interesting to find belief in reincarnation in the Beira Interior, an ultra-catholic area since centuries. But the way how karma is understood is completely coloured by catholicism: you will be punished for your sins.Old man tells peasant that only very evil people incarnate as peasants...

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