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Earth Day Countdown:
What do Children do – 7 Generations from Now?
By B SHAWN CLARK
April 20, 2016
ENGLEWOOD (Third Planet From our Favorite Sun). In the beginning Man and Woman lived in peace and harmony in a garden of earthly delights where they presumably would have raised their little ones – but for the fact that something happened and they were cast out into a cold cruel world in which they were expected to be fruitful and multiply. Meanwhile, back on the North American continent, the humans seem to have been left to their own devices, and divined the idea that all living creatures, in their own garden that was the natural world, were interrelated and respected not only all living things, but took responsibility for how decisions would affect descendents seven generations into the future:
The Peacemaker taught us about the Seven Generations. He said, when you sit in council for the welfare of the people, you must not think of yourself or of your family, not even of your generation. He said, make your decisions on behalf of the seven generations coming, so that they may enjoy what you have today.
Oren Lyons (Seneca)
Faithkeeper, Onondaga Nation
When the time came for natives of North America to be themselves (as well as their quaint, primitive ideas about respecting those who came before and who would come in the morrow) cast out from their garden by their conquerors from another continent, there was left unanswered the pointed question posed many generations later by one Yusuf Islam (then known at the time as Cat Stevens):
But tell me, where do the children play?
One of the tracks on Tea for the Tillerman (1970), this question joined others in many works of this great artist and others that year that registered less so at the time on the charts than in the collective consciousness of generations since, who can appreciate this music not only for its verse but the messages it conveys which are, being perhaps just the first cut into deeper meanings than even those expressed by Joni Mitchell in her music that same year, may be now seen (and heard), if they have not already, as special for a time in 1970 for music and lyrics of this genre:
Well you roll on roads, over fresh green grass.
For your lorryloads, pumping petro gas.
And you make them long, and you make them tough.
But they just go on and on, and it seems you can't get off.
Oh, I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?
The lyrical depth of meaning in Yusuf Islam’s music in this era, together with the pure magic of the arrangements and performances of the songs on Tea for the Tillerman (rated as one of the top 500 greatest albums of all time by Rolling Stone and amongst those “you must hear before you die”) lends credence to the lofty position of this song at number 3 of the best Earth Day Tunes, as if acknowledging:
Everything that we have now is the result of our ancestors who handed forth to us our language, the preservation of the land, our way of life and the songs and dances. So now we will maintain those and carry those on for future generations.
G. Peter Jemison, Faithkeeper,
Cattaraugus Reservation, Seneca Nation
Believing they had been cast out from the creation of the natural world in which they once lived, one set of humans sought to create their own, building an edifice to the heavens to which they thought they could ascend, leaving their fate to their human masters to whom they themselves had ceded control over their lives:
When you crack the sky, scrapers fill the air.
Will you keep on building higher
'til there's no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?
In silence, except for the occasional unheeded word, or tradition, found so alien to their conquerors – at least as to the land, but not in spirit - another set of humans on the North American continent, saw a better place to be, and their children to play.