If a Kereminthic fisherman of the 600s could read this atlas, he would likely be offended. It’s only fair to let him explain why; I give the floor to one Čiȟta.
Thank you. One page to balance hundreds— it’s better than nothing, I guess.
Where to start. Look at this page— one of the few mentions of us in the whole atlas, and it’s one paragraph. And it’s not even all about the Sensan [Kereminthic peoples]; we have to share it with the Rat Eaters [the Kemic peoples]. Hey! I saw what you did there. No interpolations. You said I’d have the last word.
I see where your interest lies. Most of your atlas is about the Dirty People— I’ll save you the temptation, they call themselves Uyram— and the Crazy Women. You’re fascinated by cities, machines, writing, what king conquered what territory. Did it occur to you that we’re “primitive” out of choice? Any Sana who goes into the Dirty People cities gets sick (and probably cheated and beat up). People weren’t meant to live like that, crowded, working all day long, living in their animals’ shit.
And those kings that you write so much about! Don’t you know they’re crazy people? Telling people what to do, worrying over who people sleep with, killing off anyone who displeases them, stealing half of their grain— that’s what happens when you put insane people in charge! We have Festival Men, but we’d kill them if they acted like that. A Festival Man organizes festivals, and he gets his relatives to help gather extra food. He’s not a chief; they do the work to help him out, and because they like the festivals. He works twice as hard as anyone, and when the festival comes all the neighboring people come by and everybody eats till they’re sick. He doesn’t keep any of the goods for himself.
You seem to be impressed by metal and other toys. I don’t say they’re not slick. But where do they come from? Don’t you know that that shit is going to run out? A bone hook is perfectly good for catching fish, and there will always be more bone. Even wood— we don’t ever cut a tree down. When a tree dies, we’ll harvest it; this way we know we’ll always have trees.
Or writing... I’m telling you, that will rot your mind out. I can recite my ancestors for fifty generations; you can’t do the same without looking at pieces of paper, can you? And could those insane kings run people’s lives the way they do without their forms and documents and law books? You don’t even have to listen to me; look at the wise men among these big civilizations. As soon as things start getting out of control, what do they say? Live simply, don’t be so greedy, leaders shouldn’t be such assholes. All things that we’ve not only been saying but doing for milennia.
Look, it’s all happened before. Don’t be surprised, we know things without having to read them in books. The ilii tell us, for one thing. There were great human civilizations before, and they all wrecked themselves. Whereas we’ve lived this way for tens of thousands of years, and we will do it for tens of thousands more if we’re left alone.
The Rat Eaters say that we’re ruled by the ilii, but that’s nonsense; we just know wisdom when we hear it. They taught us about God, and the different faces he has. The Crazy Women and the Rat Eaters see the different faces and call them gods or goddesses, but they’re all part of God. The Dirty People worship their own crazy ancestors. The ilii also taught us about which fish to eat and when they can be eaten. Some of the fish belong to them only— well, that’s only fair, they live in the sea, so it’s theirs. Even if we live on the land, we live off the sea, so we treat them with respect.
But this business of everybody getting together in one place to worship a god or an ancestor... look, that doesn’t have anything to do with God. Half of the people are bored, and most of them don’t understand the rituals anyway. A crazy person feels better if everyone is doing the same things he does— like, if he feels he has to wash his fish fifty times, it gets under his skin that other people don’t do that too. If you want to know more about God, you do it yourself. You can get started by talking to a god-man or an iliu, but it’s not something you can do or understand by talking. You need to go out, by yourself, and seek out a vision.
Now, maybe you talk about kings and ships and metal because you think the Sensan don’t have any stories to tell. But our stories are as good as any you have about the Dirty kings and Crazy queens. I could tell you about the Sana who won a fish-eating contest with the ilii, and why he regretted it. If it’s philsophical inquiry you like, I’d tell you about the man who kept a pair of rifters as a pet, and found that the rifters considered that he was their pet. There’s a tragic story about a woman I knew who fell in love with a Rat Eater, and both of them ended up dying— very sad, you won’t hear the story without crying. Interpersonal dilemmas? I also know a man whose village split— they were arguing with each other for years and couldn’t live with each other any more. He had friends on both sides, and he thought that one side was, on the whole, meaner. But he had to choose which side to live with, and he chose them, because the others bored him.
I see from your atlas that you like picturesque local details, as well. It’s hard for a Sana to know what outsiders consider unusual. The Dirty People always seem startled by our brown skin and tattoos. They tend not to like it that we eat seaweed and raw fish and jellyfish. We don’t eat jungle rats, though, like the Rat Eaters do. Oh, and before I got my wife, my brother sometimes let me sleep with his. I think your anthropologists, though I guess not your priests, would say that it reduces social tension. It certainly made me feel better.
All right. No hard feelings. You or any of your readers are welcome any time at my place. My brother and I and our families live on the third barrier island out from Two Palms Rock, about a day north of the Little Boar river. I won’t say that a couple of bottles of that “wine” of yours would be unwelcome.