Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ego and Ayahuasca and Journalism

I am sometimes one conflicted fellow. Today, someone sent me a link to an article that's just been published in a good journal. It dealt with the 2001 downing of a missionary plane over Pevas in the Peruvian Amazon by a Peruvian fighter jet working with a US CIA drug-interdiction jet. A missionary and her baby were killed.
I wrote about that about a week after it happened. I nailed it because I lived there. I had seen the missionaries passing my bar and the pilot had stopped in occasionally for a soda.
The article I saw today referenced an earlier article the same writer had written in August, 2001, about 3-4 months after the April 20 tragedy. When I read it I thought he certainly would credit me as a couple of paragraphs, the key elements of his story--and the same key parts of his 2001 story--were cribbed from my work. I referred to planes I'd ridden in that could have been shot down because they were "puddle-jumpers with no instrumentation or radios" which didn't file flight plans, and so we would never have heard a call to identify ourselves if taken for a drug plane. The fellow's story used near identical wording in explaining how some innocent planes were shot down. I quoted Celerino Castillo, who had worked the drug interdiction program in Peru in the 1990s for the US DEA, and this fellow quoted him--a different quote--as well. I wrote about the timing of the shootdown as being one day prior to George Bush's attendance at a Summit of the Americas, at which Uruguay's President Ibanez was going to call for an end to the war on drugs and would be seconded by both Venezuela and Mexico. The writer made the same connection. There were other overlapping points as well that were eerily similar to my phrasing, and yet the writer never credited my work.
So I'm feeling ripped off. My story created a lot of stir at the time, helping cause the US to stop (publicly) the drug-plane interdiction program as it was then being run. It was picked up by dozens of websites, and even landed on the desk of the editors at the Colombia Journalism Review, who wound up calling me a "conspiracy journalist," though that has never been the case.
I know, though I can't prove it, that the writer ripped me off and credited himself with discovering the truth of the story. And I don't like that. All he would have needed to do, and it's not hard, is to note "as investigative reporter Peter Gorman wrote..." and that would have been that.
But then I realize that it doesn't really matter. The story got out, the whole event is now being scrutinized by a Congressional panel, and it remains an important issue. So why is my ego feeling bruised? Yes, I was used, but can't I get past my ego? Why is it still so there in me?
A worse example of my ego has to do with ayahuasca. I get upset when people who have only been in Peru a month or two decide to open up "ayahuasca retreat centers". I get upset because I don't think they know enough to do that. I also get upset because I want the clients that might go to them. Just selfish. The good part of me thinks that I've been taught the proper approach to the medicine and that's why I want the clients. The selfish part gets upset because these people often wind up getting credit that I think ought to go to me.
Now one of my former clients has built a center at exactly the spot where my late teacher Don Julio lived. She's built it for his son, Jairo, who now runs ceremonies for my guests, and Jairo's wife Asteria. The woman, a wonderful lady, doesn't do the program I do, but I still find myself caught up in ego over her even being there. Again, the selfless part of me is glad that she's spreading word of the medicine Ayahuasca--which I think is vital to get into the hands of a lot of people so that we can begin shifting things in this out of whack world we live in. And I'm thrilled that she's giving Jairo and Asteria and some other members of my fantastic team work and a payday, which translates to options in Peru.
But the selfish part of me still rears its head now and then and wants that little river, the river I've spent parts of 25 years on, all to myself and my guests.
I know she's doing important work, and I'll try to get my ego back in check. I don't like feeling that conflict. I wish I didn't. I'm working at it, and at my age I ought to be done with that work, damnit.
Until I do, however, it's still a bummer to deal with.


The Grudge said...

The ego can be a bull of a thing. So is the retreat built by your former client for Jairo completely seperate from your trips? Would you have to pay her to go to camp and have Jairo work with your clients? Your great Peter, you'll get you thunder back no problem!

Gritter said...