When I was young I spent a year with a team of artists and anthropologists documenting the Inuit culture of western Alaska. One of our autumn trips was to a remote inlet to record a seal hunt. It was late September. When the weather unexpectedly turned snotty we figured we needed to find close shelter to wait out the storm — the temperature was quickly dropping past minus 30 degrees and the wind was freshening.
We joined the first encampment we saw; a fieldstone hut lined with caribou hides. Inside it was a comfortable 60 degrees, warmed by a small fire and body heat provided by four families huddling together for shared warmth and camaraderie. We were greeted with gentle gestures; then they made room around the circle and offered a portion of their carefully rationed food. They were practicing a truth learned countless generations ago:
“Embrace one another, regardless of tribal affiliation, if you too want to survive the frostbite of the Arctic.”
I moved to Ecuador for a reason. I came to restore my faith in humanity, to witness the unbending faith and kindness that defines Ecuador’s character…and to wallow in the comfort of their hard labor. However, all rewards come with responsibility, and I take mine to heart.
Ecuador is a civilized country. It doesn’t need dolts — some housed countries away — who insist on importing their antagonistic propaganda to privately-owned businesses in Cuenca, and throw temper tantrums insisting they have “a right” to do so. That is crazy talk. And, we certainly don’t need so-called pundits advocating for the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. as if it applied to Ecuador. This is not the ‘United States of South America’, and there is no rational reason for any of us to mimic the lunatics who are obsessed with bludgeoning each other or have murderous intent.
We have good reason to be vigilant.
Poland and the U.S. are two of the better-known countries currently being shell-shocked by a blunderbuss of extremist ideologies perforating everyday society and violently pockmarking the founding principles the countries were created to defend.
Peru is careening wildly, whiplashing left to right, smashing lives, and tearing apart the social fabric that once protected its people. And then there is Venezuela … Poor old Venezuela has become just another failed state ruled by narco-terrorists who vandalized the jewelry that once crowned the country: pristine resources, faith that hard work will provide a better future, and trust in a growing economy.
We must not allow such shenanigans at home.
The people of Ecuador decisively chose a new direction that uncouples the legacy of the past, which may be a good thing, but it does not mean folks desire expansionism at any cost, or policies that are not comprehensive. If cultural traditions are abandoned to pave the way to the future there will be neither cultural traditions nor future, just pavement. One need only to look to the U.S., a country that, in its hysterical haste to disconnect from its political past, severed ties to the practice of traditional religious faith as well. The rapid decline of religious affiliation nationally* marks a dark and stunning turning point for the country that is a cause for serious concern. As the canopy of religious doctrine tatters, someone, or something, will take its place. A dystopian future bereft of reason is a distinct possibility.
Ecuador is at a crossroads. It has an opportunity to engage the world stage by showing leadership in protecting the rights of all of its citizens through innovative programs that enhances participation in a global economy and protects them from foreign interests hell-bent on stripping away our finite resources for their own short-term advantage.
The foundation on which Ecuador heroically built itself — sheer grit and determination — must be respected. It requires honoring the past, living in the moment, and patiently guiding all of the many stakeholders towards a consensus of opinion.
This is not a time to be hasty; it is a time to thoughtfully plan for a future that incorporates centuries-old traditions, technological innovation, and the essential principles of stoic faith and gentle accommodation that makes Ecuador such an enchanting place to call home.
*Pew Research Center Religious Landscape Studies 2007-2019