The giant heads on Easter Island are called “Moai.” They face the interior of the island, backs to the sea. They are said to protect the indigenous Rapa Nui from the spirit world of the Pacific Ocean. They were erected to ensure the prosperity of the people of Easter Island back around 800 to 1,000 years ago.
Archaeologists have a few theories about why the Rapa Nui disappeared. Prime among those theories is the near total deforestation of Easter Island. Trees, it turns out, guard against erosion of nutrient laden topsoil essential for agriculture. Easter Island was originally covered with forests and home to a 49-foot tall variety of palm tree perfect for long-distance sea voyages. Kinda a must-have thing when your island is at least 3,000 miles from the next closest piece of land. With the clearing of trees for settlements and canoe-building there was a negative two-fold effect. Yields from farming decreased dramatically and fewer and fewer trees remained for canoes later generations would use to trade and to fish.
In 2016, trade is a hot button topic. It is blamed for extreme job loss and the hollowing out of the working and middle classes. Tearing up trade deals will be like cutting down our largest trees. In actuality most manufacturing jobs have been lost to automation, and the hollowing out of the middle class started with the deregulation of banks which has since resulted in three near catastrophic economic meltdowns in the past 30 years. In the end, it is trade that is a life raft because the real problem has more to do with our giant heads.
The Rapa Nui were obsessed with building Giant Heads. The primacy on the importance of the heads dominated the collective consciousness. Our giant heads reside in our giant buildings. We put our faith in these “Masters of the universe,” to act in good faith on our behalf.
The truth is, the Giant Heads don’t listen to us. They also don’t tell us what they are up to. They are lobbyists who swarm around Capital Hill. They are super-pacs. They write the important stuff in trade deals. They certainly won’t tell you that when we rig trade deals in our favor, other countries retaliate. Watching Chinese news the other day I was alarmed to hear that from what they see, if our new president-elect opts to make good on campaign promises, they will have no choice but to protect their economy to the tune of 46% tariff on U.S. imports. That’s just China, there are a lot of countries around the world we trade with, Mexico and Canada being the largest.
The Giant Heads won’t tell you that a lot of America’s power comes from the fact that EVERYBODY buys our stuff.
The people of Easter Island at one time numbered some 15,000 souls. The sad fact is that without canoes, they could neither fish nor trade. With nothing to eat, people engaged in cannibalism, then starved to death. Later, numbers significantly weakened, they could not stand up to foreign incursions and like so many Polynesian societies, were subjected to slavery, disease and annexation.
There is an alternative future. The country of Niger Africa is in the middle of the Sahara Desert. As far as you can see, there is nothing but dust swept hard packed earth. The sun beats down on a country that has the potential of a parking lot. Some tree-planting experts came and planted trees. The benefits took a few years, but now, the land where the trees were planted is some of the most valuable and productive land in the country.
The American working class needs to develop an imagination. We cannot keep looking to the Giant Heads for guidance. They aren’t listening and they aren’t telling us what to do if it isn’t in their best interest. The heart of America’s strength and durability is the imagination of its citizens. Despair not, we aren’t living on Easter Island, and this parking lot of despair, could just as easily become the paradise of our imaginations.