My Mum always used to say that things have changed far too much. She was born in 1925, so she did see some dramatic changes in her life time.
Most of those changes have been positive, but the explosion of the world’s population from an estimated 2 billion in 1925 to an estimated 7 billion plus now, has had a profound effect on the demand for the world’s resources and, in turn, on groups who have traditionally lived their lives much like their ancestors.
One such people are the reindeer herders, known as the Tsaschin, or Dukha, who for thousands of years, have roamed the taiga of northern Mongolia, a wilderness of mountains, forest, rock and ice which straddles the country’s border with Siberia. The herders rely on their animals for hunting and transportation, and for the staples of their diet: milk, cheese, yogurt and dried milk curds.
For months on end they move around, looking for fresh pastures for their reindeer, hunting and camping on open ground, relying on their dogs to alert them of wolves. They do go in to town, to buy flour, bullets and salt. Apparently reindeer love salt and the Tsaschin round up their herd by rustling an empty salt packet.
Their way of life is increasingly under threat and the Tsaschin’s herds have fallen from more than 2,000 in the 1970s to less than one-third of that today. The reasons for this are manifold, from the lack of interest from the Tsaschin young, exposed as they are to the relentless advance of modern technology to the refusal of the Mongolian government to allow the import of of reindeer from Siberia, Canada or Scandinavia to address the inevitable consequences of inbreeding amongst the Tsaschin herds, which has meant a weakening of the overall health of the stock.
But there’s another more depressingly inevitable factor that will probably end the Tsaschin’s nomadic way of life, man’s insatiable appetite to strip the earth of it’s natural resources. Like all nomadic people, the Tsaschin roam great areas, but they have no recognisable rights to the land they’ve used for thousands of years and now the mining companies have moved in to the taiga. Mongolia is rich in copper, gold and coal and is home to one of the 10 largest copper mines in the world and the advance of these operations is denying the Tsaschin access to land they once called their own.
The fate of all nomadic peoples is precarious, as the march of technology and the demand for raw materials continues, and it looks inevitable that a way of life that has existed for millenia will slowly die. It’s hard not to feel empathy for them, after all, we were all nomads once.
The programme on BBC Radio 4 that inspired me to find out more http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01knbgg
Further reading: http://www.homelands.org/worlds/mongolia.html
Many of us in the West have very acceptable lives, if at times a little mundane.
We have partners who love us, a job that isn’t too onerous, enough money to live on, regular holidays to interesting places, cable TV, good food, ample wine and yet for some of us it isn’t enough.
We can’t overcome the feeling that things could be better, a sense that we’re missing out, a conviction that life could some how be more interesting and more fulfilling.
Contrast that to the undeveloped world, where access to clean water and enough food to feed your family is often a challenge, let alone disease and war, and you wonder why we feel the way we do.
I believe that for many of us, the system in which we live demands of us that we have a steady job that consumes most of our waking hours, that we own our own home, a flat screen TV, the latest electronic gadgets etc, etc. The end result is that we are so busy consuming that we don’t have time for spiritual reflection on life.
I’m not talking about religion, far from it, I’m talking about taking time to focus on stuff that feeds the soul rather than the body, stuff that truly makes us happy.
For many, I suspect, if you examine the things that truly make you happy, it won’t be stuff you can buy at the Apple store (or any other aspirational lifestyle shop) it will be something simple like the laughter of a child, dinner and conversation with friends, having someone who you love and loves you in return, someone with whom you can share your fears with, family, sunshine, birdsong, bluebells, the list goes on.
For sure, we all need to have enough money to feel safe and to live a modest life, but do we really need to buy in to the illusion that life would somehow be better if we tore down all we have and grasp for a media fuelled unrealistic vision of life.
Better to make small changes in our lives to feel more content with ourselves. My list would include
- Eliminate personal debt. Debt is usually incurred in acquiring stuff that you though would make life better, but miraculously, your life still feels empty, Debt is a bad thing.
- Get healthy. Losing weight is a simple process of eating a little less and exercising a little more. It isn’t a fad diet, and despite all of the marketing to the contrary it’s not a quick fix. Eat more fruit and vegetables, lean protein and go for a 20 minute walk at least three times a week. That’s all it takes and being healthier and looking better makes you feel good about yourself.
- Pay attention to your relationships. It’s all too easy when you’re feeling dissatisfied with your current life to overlook how your partner is affected by your negativity.
- Love your family and try to spend time with them. They will probably be your best means of support should times get tough and, hopefully, won’t judge too harshly.
- Never stop learning. We are a naturally curious species and to learn new things gives us a sense of achievement and fulfilment.
- Be honest with yourself. Admit your failings, but recognise and celebrate your strengths.
Life has taught me many lessons, the fact that the grass isn’t always greener is probably one of the most painful.
‘You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.’ ~Buddha