Vultures of Culture…yogamats and all

Warning: this post is a bit of a rant…I hate to be a hater but sometimes I just get riled up. And…no offense or judgment is intended against the individual participants and organizers of the festival in question…we are simply products of a truly messed up culture, doing our best in each moment.

A great fury bloomed inside me this weekend among a crowd of blissed out yogamat-toting festival goers. I found myself stewing in anger, outrage and deep aching sadness while the folks around me chattered and squealed in their excitement to be at the Wanderlust Festival in Snowmass Village, CO.

Reflecting on the weekend I can see that my reactions grew directly out of my own expectations and assumptions of what it would be like (which is really always the case with reactions). Judging from the line up of teachers and musicians and the language on their website…which proclaims that Wanderlust is “an adventure of mind, body and soul” and “an opportunity to unplug from the ordinary and discover the extraordinary”…I expected and assumed that this festival would uphold a certain standard of integrity, consciousness and quality of living. I was dismayed to discover quite the opposite.

The main reason we were there was to see Nahko and Medicine for the People. My man and I just love Nahko…he’s a brilliant performer and a powerful voice for change. His lyrics bust through the bars of our cultural status quo and challenge the listeners to step up into authentic personal power, radical honesty about our cultural conditioning, responsibility to social justice and deep love for the Earth. We like to see him whenever we can and it turned out that Wanderlust was going to be our one chance for the summer. I was also curious about this festival I had heard about focused on yoga, consciousness and wellness…win/win…right?

So we arrived open hearted…seeking the joy and pleasure of high quality music laced with the teachings and messages for cultural transformation.

But the scenario we found in Snowmass Village was saturated with the slime of consumerism and rampant hypocrisy…and it just put me over the edge of cultural despair.

Driving into Aspen and then up to Snowmass Village was like entering another world. A world where everything was finely manicured, color coordinated and outrageously overpriced. We were in rich man’s land. Our first disappointment was to discover that…surprisingly, in this day and age…in Colorado…in the hoitiest of toitiest places… there was no organic food store! I was actually super shocked. I still can’t quite wrap my head around it. All that money in their pockets and they’re just eating conventional food? The second shocker was the gas station…closed on the weekend…credit card only…$4.85 per gallon!! Ok…we’re not in Kansas anymore, baby. 

So, we figured…let’s blow this swanky pop stand and head up to the festival. Surely, they’ll have some great organic food options and a sweet inviting scene. We’ll feel way more at home there, among yoga practitioners and conscious, alternatively minded people.

Unfortunately we were wrong. The “festival” was located right in the middle of the Snowmass Village outdoor mall…which is basically a glorified, super upscale ski resort with a plentiful array of the goochiest of goochy shops and restaurants (non of which carried organic anything…oh, except for the yoga pants…they were organic). The festival vendors were set up right in the middle of the mall courtyard, between the shops, and they followed suit, offering over priced designer merchandise and food of dismally poor quality.

But this strange juxtaposition didn’t seem to be bothering anyone else. I looked around and realized everyone looked quite comfortable eating and drinking and socializing and shopping with their “spiritual gangster” t-shirts on, designer yoga mats strapped to their backpacks and mala beads around their wrists.

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This guy with the “love life” sign was driving me friggen NUTS! You know something’s wrong when I just can’t stand the life lovin’ hippies.


This is what Nahko sings about in his song Vultures of Culture…not some enemy “out there”…not the conservatives or the fundamentalists…not the politicians or even the corporate CEOs…he’s singing about the collective youth. He’s singing about our willingness to conform and gobble up the consumer culture that’s being handed to us. Our ability to turn a blind eye to the devastation it causes in favor of our immediate comfort and gratification…especially if it’s hip, stylish or “spiritual.”

“The behavior of the collective youth definitely seems to be in favor of the Western man’s invasion…see ‘em pumping fear like an IV, spreadin’ it like disease and all the while building a clueless army of God-fearing youth with no knowledge of the truth and their selfishness is so ugly.”

– Nahko Bear

And the craziest thing was that when Nahko played a great crowd gathered and everybody knew all the words to his songs. They were singing right along with him when his words called them out…called us out…when he described exactly what was going on at this “hotel and gift shop in the wilderness.”

“Itty bitty economy, based on geography, fueled by spectators and their money and their need for things that will not last…so, go on, build a hotel and gift shop in the wilderness…making a profit, capitalizing on it and all the while trampling on everything that is sacred…and it all starts to makes sense…why the Western man destroys things he doesn’t understand…and it all starts to make sense…all these patterns and wasteful destructive practices.

– Nahko Bear

He sang these words right there with the once-pristine mountains behind him and the condos and golf courses and shops and restaurants all around him…right into a crowd of devoted fans…and he made no mention of the hypocrisy we were wading in…not a comment, not a gesture, not even the raise of an eyebrow. And that’s when my heart really just broke in two and the cultural despair set in.

If it’s all just fad…all just catchy lyrics and cute t-shirts…then I just can’t play along.

He says… “It all starts to make sense…” But, honestly, it don’t make no sense to me. I’m here for real change. The kind of change his lyrics call for…the kind of change that requires us to risk all our comforts…to go out on our edges and find out what’s sane, what’s true and what’s needed at this critical time on planet Earth…to begin within ourselves and stretch the transformation outward into our actions, our gatherings, our celebrations, our work, our economy, our parenting, all of it!

So Nahko, I’m not sure exactly where you’re at…if you were just playing it safe there at Snowmass…if you’re really behind all the things you say…or if you’re just a channel for some cool lyrics…but I know that this is what I’m here for.

I dedicate my life to the people who need the light…to help them rise above the scam of the land and their lives and I’m cutting like a knife all the lies by the slice…independent of this democracy it’s really worth the fight…my request is reasonable…a tribe undefeatable, ambitiously moving toward solutions that are feasible…it’s unbelievable, all the slow moving people…they could care less, just as long as they are comfortable…it’s unforgivable, because the conditions now are critical and whether or not you’re ready we are now approaching a pinnacle. It’s difficult to say exactly what to do but the change begins with me and I reflect it back to you.”

– Nahko Bear


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That’s me with my GRUMPY face on in the wilderness…ready to throw down and work hard to light that fire of change under our asses.


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  • Nicolas Kladis

    hey Jo! i love Nahko and the message he brings. when i heard he was playing their in the heart of the most prestigious resort town in co, a part of me wondered how the band would respond and how the crowd would receive the MEDICINE!

  • Jennifer Roberts

    I haven’t been to Snowmass. But maybe you could argue that it made more sense to have a big crowd like that in the middle of a city vs. what would be created by taking it all to a pristine place. We create a lot of damage by connecting with raw nature, and I am not sure what that part of the world has to offer that isn’t branded to the extreme.

  • cindy cleary

    Hi Jo –

    This made me think about how we can be mindful of delivering the right medicine to the right people at the right time. We are all seeking comfort – it is human nature – your own experience was to arrive “seeking joy and pleasure” then when you met your own discomfort you began to wish for “a sweet inviting scene” where you could “feel way more at home… among conscious, alternatively minded people.”

    But if we only hang out in our own comfort zone, among the path-seekers and like-minded do we inspire real change where it is most needed? How can we keep our hearts wide open, compassionate, and deliver small doses of change that is palpable to the “consumer youth” and others whose hedonism inspires angst?

    I then thought of my street cat, recently adopted, who needed de-worming medicine. I tried to use the drugstore syringe to administer a full dose, and squirting it too fast it all came right back at me, not a drop down the gullet. So I tried the slow method the vet suggested and got maybe a third in while most dribbled back out. Finally, I found that mixing it with bits of butter, and giving her small doses on the paw, after about 5 dabs she ingested a whole dose!

    So would Nahko have done well to berate the concert goers – Aspenites and “spiritual gangsters” alike – for their apparent mindlessness? It might have been a dose that would not stay down… Would we do better to open our own hearts and minds to embrace EVERYONE right where they are at and gently encourage, coax and spoon feed baby doses? I don’t really know – I could be wrong and a hard dose of reality might be more effective. But I do know that we cannot see the level of pain, suffering or sacrifice each human has met and that all are on a path to wake up even if their current meander appears to be going in the wrong direction…. I was reminded of some powerful words on compassion from a recent teaching I attended:

    “What seems conceit, bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.”

    So keep your fire lit Jo and keep finding how to open wide to ‘what is’ so that your teachings can continue to find their home in the hearts of those most in need of your nourishment.

    In looking beneath the veneer there is change astride… with a quick search I found a Bikram yoga instructor in Aspen who is holding a torchlight and guiding thirsty souls to some local organic hidden caches, inspiring her student minds to seek a more wholesome balance… it reminded me that the light workers are out there, in many forms, working where the work is needed, which is still everywhere…

    So much love to you!!!

  • Joy Stonebraker

    All of this hullabaloo
    in Aspen reminds me of a visionary whose works I follow
    who maintains that most of the “new age
    movement” is nothing more than the
    “cul-de-sac before the goldmine.” What
    he means is that most people there have left
    “religion” behind, but they are still
    not truly on the path to awakening, because they
    are unwilling to see and accept the truth about
    our world, and so they find what they think is
    “bliss” in the quasi-religious
    gatherings, where self-congratulating people
    recycle the same ideas and believe they are
    aware…but nothing could be further from the
    truth. As you well know, it is hard work to stay
    awake and remain on the path of transformation,
    and yes, it can be very disheartening to realize
    that most of the people around us who mouth words
    similar to our own message are still fast asleep.
    But don’t lose heart! I am learning to go in with
    my eyes and heart wide open, realizing that this
    will usually be the case, but that I will
    encounter other souls who are lit up and
    awake…like you. We
    can transform this world by influencing one person
    at a time, and as for most of the world,
    Compassion must be our way.

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