Thursday, October 09, 2014

Sometimes I wish I were not a Peacenik!!!

Okay, so I announced the new book's near release yesterday. I needed several hundred bucks to make that happen and several people bought copies and will get them in 5-6 weeks. When the next 20 order copies, I'll be able to get it done.
    Now, I admit that the subject, the Matses' medicine sapo, which is now also called Kambo among a number of tribes--along with Kampo, Campu and other variations--is a very niche market. Yes, there are a lot of good stories in the book. But if you don't know what the hell sapo is, and don't care, then it would not be for you. And that's fine.
    But one of the things about sapo is that, whether people like it or not, the first recorded human use of the substance under any name, was my record of using it among the Matses in 1986. I did not know it was a big deal at the time but it turned out to be because Western science turned to amphibian skins looking for new medicines with a vengeance once they could say there was recorded human use. Personally, I know it was luck and all that, but I did happen to be in the right place at the right time and allowed it to be used on me and happened to be a journalist who wrote down that sort of thing--and happened to be in contact with the American Museum of Natural History at the time, which is the place that got my initial notes. All luck, but there was a pattern of luck there.
    So I announced the book yesterday, and it might be a limited edition, I don't know, and then today someone writes this in response to what I wrote--which, I'll admit, included a reference to me being the person who brought it to the outside world, or "the world outside the Matses".
   "total bullshit Gorman, indulging your ego like that, many tribes use it and have NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU; take contol of yourself."
      Okay. So that came from a guy from the US who has given himself an indigenous name, refers to himself as a "shaman" and a "Tribal artist". He is helping to run a camp in a town I put on the map 25 years ago. He had pictures of himself wearing headdresses made of macaw feathers--which kill the macaws--and he's coming down on me for taking a little credit for something I earned the credit on. 
      Heck, I've done some lousy things in my life. I was emotionally abusive to Clare. I didn't know how to handle Chepa and the kids early on and messed that up. There are times when I drank too much for years on end. I don't always listen to my kids all the way through before responding. Lots of sins in my corner. 
     And then there are some things I did that I stand behind. At Steve Hager"s request, I made medical marijuana a national issue. Hager was my editor at High Times. At Hager's request, I helped make hemp a national issue. I helped make forfeiture law and mandatory minimum sentences part of the national dialogue. I brought out sapo, and got the Matses the rights to the air, water, land and mineral rights to a permanently demarked huge swath of land--and they are the only Peruvian Indigenous who have that. I think I have been instrumental in getting gas well fracking and the tar sands into the national debate.
     Those are maybe minor accomplishments, but they are things I've worked at 20 hours a day for years at a time to accomplish. Not to claim them, but to bring them up, get them out. I'm the journalist, not the activist. The activists are the ones who do the work: The journalist chronicles that work and gets it out there to activate more activists, who in turn activate more journalists until there is a groundswell of information and intention and then things begin to change. 
     And I am a reasonably humble person--with fits of grandeur, of course, I'll admit--but when some freaking asshole wearing bird-killing feathers moves to Peru and a couple of years later touts himself as a "shaman" and "tribal artist" and suddenly has an indigenous name comes down on me for something that's not in question by anyone in the scientific world, well, I feel like going Ishinru Karate on the boy. Shades of Don Nagle! Shades of Dennis Bootle! Malachi Lee! Dennis Bell! Al Wilder! (I was never in their circles, not for one instant. I'm just conjuring their power despite the lousy karate-ka that I was 45 years ago!!!!!) 
     I did not respond badly to the man. I bit my tongue. My tongue is sore. Ow. 

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