Sovereign Debt


I heard the phrase “Sovereign Debt” for the first time yesterday. What a curious invention of the modern world: the idea that one can be both sovereign and in debt. Of course this phrase was referring to nations that borrow money, being sovereign by right of their nationhood, and in debt by right of their citizens appetites.
I’ve been exploring the idea of sovereignty, as put forth by Tom Cowan in his work on Celtic Shamanism. I wrote about it here, Tom has gone on to offer a workshop focused on Sovereignty. His perspective is compelling for many reasons, not the least of which is the clear expression of the relationship between true wellness and the nature of our connection to the land.

When an individual or community does not give the forces of nature their due, a malaise falls across the land. Crops don’t fruit, livestock falls ill, strange illnesses beset people because of lost sovereignty. Health, vitality, and the ability of life to renew itself is dependent upon our true sovereignty – which is derived directly from the earth.
These days, sovereignty weighs upon me almost daily. In a very real way my family derives its sovereignty from the US government. We hold the title to our land because of rights derived from the government. The government derives its power from its ability to claim its territory and defend it from others.
To be sure there is an inalienable sovereignty derived just from being a creature of the earth, I return to that source often, rejuvenating through dance and shamanism. But the aspect of our sovereignty derived from being US citizens has been burdened by quite a bit of debt lately, with no end in sight.
Does the earth know debt? Can debt exist within the ever renewing cycles of life? We’ve been creating a deficit with the earth for decades, through our farming practices. We take from the soil without replenishing it, with no real promise of renewal. We use chemicals like fungicides to falsify the vitality born of true wellness. The sicker the land becomes, the sicker we become, the more we invest energy in creating the means to hide our lack of sovereignty. Plastic surgery hides our fatigue, food dyes hide the lack of nutrients in what we eat.
I recently heard a sustainable/organic farmer say he thought plants beset by pests and illness were just reflecting a deficiency in the soil. My wife has been saying this for years. When a plant is attacked we pull it out and focus on nourishing the soil. We work to make sovereign soil.
The spirit of our land showed me debt as an emptiness that sits in the land and can become poisonous to living things. When the soil loses its life, the land cannot impart sovereignty, let alone life to us. Exploitation can have such a severe impact, the land requires a soul retrieval so that it might be able to renew itself.
Yesterday I was listening to an economist talk about the value of investing in US bonds, and why they would continue to be a good investment despite the recent downgrading in our reliability to pay off our sovereign debt.

“Lets say for example you decide you want to invest in something else besides bonds, lets say its…uh I don’t know… LAND, yeah lets say you decide to invest in LAND.”

He and the commentator both chuckled at the joke, who would be so stupid as to choose to invest in LAND rather than US bonds?
The more disconnected we see our governments sovereignty as being from the land, the weaker that sovereignty will become. That distance represents a growing sovereign debt invisible to most of our political leaders. Its the spiritual debt born of a people so cut off from the land they think of it as an investment to be exploited, rather than the source of all wealth and wellness.
The spirit of the land once told me in a journey that dirt was the knowledge of the earth. That knowledge brings forth our food, our health, and I think our sanity. It takes our sincere attention if it is going to bring forth the sovereignty of a wise people. Perhaps our future rests not in the hands of Wall Street or the government, but rather in the hands of those with their hands and hearts planted deeply in the soil.


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