The organisers of Wise Traditions Ireland with Sally Fallon Morell. L-R Brendan O’Brien, Deirdre MacMahon, Caroline Rigney, Sally, Anne Maher.
Together we march forward – but where to? What next?
It’s rare that a popular cause attracts such a high calibre of people as the delegates who attended our Wise Traditions conference this weekend gone by. It was thrilling just to be there in the midst of such confident, happy, delegates – people with obvious inner reserves of strength, calm and poise. You are the people who can make change happen.
With all the information coming at us and all the bombs being dropped it felt at times like drinking from a firehose. Each of us will have absorbed different parts of the main message, each of us will relate to different aspects of different messengers, and it seems all of us were inspired in some way.
But as good as it was I encourage you all to find some fault with it in some way – not necessarily nit-picky faults – but major factual or ideological faults. Hopefully we will all be able to critique it honestly and productively and in doing so hone the message to an even higher plane of usefulness.
All group talks are by definition limited, all speakers at some stage or another need to generalise in order to make a point lest the time be lost on over-explaining minutiae.
Statements were made that can and should raise eyebrows and should be subject to critique. Surely some people will find one or other statements to be objectionable, and this is a good thing. There is an unstated message running through the entire conference – “don’t blindly believe the experts”. Indeed this is why the conference was needed in the first place, to reverse some of the official advice we all followed at different times in the past.
I encourage all of you delegates to pick something you disagreed with, something that stuck in your throat, and dig deeper into it. In health and nutrition there are unknown knowns and unknown unknowns – nobody has all the answers, and ultimately you are tasked with the responsibility of charting the course of your own life. So you owe it to yourself to dig deeper, to not just ‘accept’ because it is easier. I encourage you “to strive to seek to find and not to yield” until you find your own answers.
But yes, there is no question, the conference was a fabulous success, at times feeling like a surreal storybook (for some of us at least), but since the curtains came down and the cleaners moved in, a kind of nostalgic wistful feeling of why-does-it-have-to-be-over has set in. From the start though, we all knew the conference was but the beginning of something.
The messages delivered were beautifully simple yet their implications were profound.
We all live with our own demons, our own personal regrets, our own individual challenges and triumphs. Many people are in a state of silent desperation, and although on the surface they look in control, inside only hope remains. Often the simple act of hearing a success story can rekindle that hope and fan the flames of determination to overcome. For many people pennies were dropping and prayers were being answered throughout the two days and on several occasions many people were witnessed fighting back tears. Whether these were tears of joy, or sadness, acceptance or enlightenment, release or hope, only they know.
For many people the mistakes of the past are now obvious and the road ahead is clearer though still uncertain, and there is much work to be done.
Health is our birthright, but it doesn’t come to us – we have to claim it, and despite all the information, all the advice, all the history we have learned and all the ideas it has spawned, we all face the challenge of breaking old habits, of changing our way of thinking, of finding new ways to engage with our food, with our farmers, with our society – and with ourselves.
Change is the only constant, yet we resist it, change is good yet we fear it, but it should be clear now that change is inevitable and resistance to change is futile. Either we find the courage to change ourselves, or we hide away and wait for change to sweep over us at a time not of our choosing.
Humans have overcome the most staggering of challenges in the past. Collectively we have beaten off the advance of an infinitely large army of bacteria and virus, even adapting to coexist with them. We survived the ice age, the black death, volcanic winters, global flooding, atomic bomb testing and two world wars. And we havent just survived – we have thrived. We have innovated with stupendous ingenuity to become masters of our fate.
But if the keynote speakers have told us anything, they have alerted us to the insidious and silent threat to our very existence that is posed by our adulterated food supply. This is an entirely new kind of threat, one we have evolved no mechanism to overcome. This may well be the first time in human history that we have to rely on our relatively puny conscious mind to steer us out of danger – we have to learn our way out!
There is a different kind of ‘bug’ in the system now, not a bug that our immune system can attack, but a bug that stops our immune system from attacking, a bug that slowly robs us of our very desire to fight back. The bug is not something – it is a lack of something!
We are Pottengers Cats, three generations of cats fed nutrient deficient foods who lost their fertility and died out. We are the experiment now, we are the cats, and though it’s not quite the eleventh hour yet the clock is ticking.
The economic trajectory of the health care costs of obesity alone threaten to destabilize our economy in a decade. If trends continue one in two children will be on the Autism spectrum – or as you all should know by now – the GAPS spectrum! The biggest growth area in primary school has been the Special Needs Assistant – a testament to the fact that our children are paying the price for our collective abandonment of traditional foods in favour of convenience. We have gotten ourselves into a hole and we have to get ourselves back out – the task ahead is enormous, but we know how to do it. To quote Jed Bartlett: “Every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we are reminded that that capacity may well be limitless.”
We can do it – we have the people – we have the means. Together we are stronger!
I hope you will join us – we need you!
Brendan O’Brien, organiser, Wise Traditions Ireland conference