Law Of Life And The Law Of Death
Apocalypse No! part
By Juan Santos
12 January, 2007
I Apocalypse No!An Indigenist Perspective
II Apocalypse No! Christian Fascism And The Nazi Legacy
1. The Great Emergency:
Global Warming, Mass Death and Resource Wars in the 21st Century
"We are the watchers. We are the witnesses. We see what has
gone before. We see what happens now, at this dangerous moment in human
history. We see what's going to happen, what will surely happen unless
we come together---we, the Peoples of all Nations---to restore peace,
harmony and balance to the Earth, our Mother."
--Chief Arvol Looking
Horse, from White Buffalo Teachings
the Sundance Film Festival Al Gore declared, "We have a category
five denial of this issue [global warming]. I believe our political
system is broken, however, I have optimism and hope. A rebellion is
gathering." But rebellion isn’t what Al Gore is fostering.
Speaking at NYU against what one commentator called a “stately
backdrop of American flags,” Gore’s comments were focused
on “uplift,” and calls to action slathered in a “thick
layer of patriotism” and good old capitalist know-how. He seemed
oblivious to irony, saying of the US, “Our natural role is to
be the pace car in the race to stop global warming."
The feel good approach Gore
pushes is dead wrong: Economic growth and saving life on Earth are not
compatible goals. Industrial civilization isn’t harming the Earth,
it’s killing the Earth. The system has long since passed the limits
of growth - it can’t be sustained.
The Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment, a four-year analysis of the world's ecosystems sponsored
by the Worldwatch Institute, showed that 15 out of 24 ecosystems essential
to human life are "being pushed beyond their sustainable limits,"
toward a state of collapse that may be "abrupt and potentially
irreversible." These ecosystems and the civilization that is killing
them are both approaching an endpoint.
People are calling Al Gore’s
An Inconvenient Truth the most terrifying movie you will ever see –
but really, Gore’s film is a soft sell, one that underestimates
the dangers we face and that veils not only the root causes of global
warming, but the drastic military responses the US is planning in the
event of an abrupt shift in the climate.
Call it Category 4 denial.
Gore ignores the real problem. Global heating isn’t “caused”
by CO2, it’s caused by industrial production and those that profit
from it – capitalists in oil, gas, coal, electricity and automobiles,
among others. And the system isn’t “broken,” no matter
what Gore claims. The system is producing what it’s supposed to
produce; power and profit and the corollaries of power and profit; denial
For those addicted to power
and profit, who are “winning” at the expense of all life,
global warming is business as usual.
Try telling an abusive alcoholic
he’s taken one drink too many, that animals and plants, even other
people, are not objects, that he’s beaten his wife one too many
times, or that, as Brother Malcolm put it, the chickens are coming home
to roost. Unless he’s hit bottom, he’s not listening. Even
George Bush has publicly acknowledged the obvious: the system is addicted
to oil. But he’s not listening.
The analogy to addiction
is not facile and the denial of the crisis we face is no accident; it
is both conscious and deliberate. In this system, denial of suffering
is the key to success. The ability to distance themselves from the meaning
of their actions is what put those who are on top on top in the first
Look at Exxon and its global
campaign. They’ve spent millions on propaganda to
consciously deceive us about the reality of global warming and the impending
mass death it implies, much like the Nazis told their victims they were
heading for a shower, not a gas chamber, like the cigarette capitalists
told us smoking carries no harm. But the genocide the Nazis perpetrated
was not this extreme. This is different. This is not ethnocide or genocide.
This is omnicide. Life on Earth is in the balance.
The stakes, the costs of
this crime and its coverup, could not be higher. World renowned paleoanthropologist
Richard Leakey tells us, “Whatever way you look at it, we're destroying
the Earth at a rate comparable with the impact of a giant asteroid slamming
into the planet, or even a shower of vast heavenly bodies."
Within 50 years a million
species will be extinct. Within 100 years 50% of all species now living
- 5 million forms of living beauty - will be gone forever. Within a
mere 30 years, a quarter of all mammal species may be gone.
Today, bears are no longer
hibernating in the north of Spain. With the melting of polar ice, the
Polar Bear is on its way out. The Orangutan has ten years left.
Fish are starving to death
in the Great Barrier Reef – the unthinkable equivalent of primates
starving in the jungle. In the meantime, the jungle, the Amazon Rainforest,
which provides 20% of the world’s oxygen, will be a savannah,
or perhaps a desert, by 2100.
Forty percent of the world’s
species will die with the Amazon.
The new Age of Extinctions
is being driven by global heating, ozone depletion, toxic chemicals,
habitat destruction, and invasive or infectious species. The cause isn’t
just CO2, it’s our whole way of life. The Earth is in its most
profound crisis since the mass extinctions of the Eocene period, 54
million years ago.
Before that, two hundred
and fifty million years ago at the end of the Permian era, 95% of all
species perished due to runaway global warming, warming that occurred
due to the same kind of positive feedback loops that we see emerging
in today’s heating trends. Scientists call it The Great Dying,
a period in which life on Earth was all-but wiped out.
The Permian mass extinction
was apparently caused by a series of gigantic volcanic eruptions, triggering
a runaway greenhouse effect. Geologists have said the impact of this
"post apocalyptic greenhouse" was so severe that only one
large land animal was left alive. 100 million years would pass before
species diversity returned to its former levels.
In light of such potentials,
how many people are willing to wager that the world scientific community
is wrong and that George W. Bush – the idiot savant of the Christian
Fascists – is right when he claims the verdict is still out on
global warming? How many will be willing to leave the fate of the Earth,
of their children and their children’s children, in the hands
of propagandists for ExxonMobile? The impact of global heating - on
humans alone - would be almost beyond imagining.
James Lovelock, who developed
the Gaia Theory – the scientific theorem that Earth acts as a
single self-sustaining, self-balancing organic system – tells
us that by 2100 there will only be 500 million humans left on Earth.
The Earth, he says, will no longer be able to sustain more than that.
There are 6.5 billion of us now; by 2050 that number will rocket to
8.9 billion, then drop precipitously. If Lovelock is right, only one
out of 18 people will be left alive at the century’s end. 95%
will be dead. And Lovelock is only looking at global warming. He isn’t
counting the threats posed by Peak Oil or nuclear resource wars over
oil, water and arable land that, if current trends continue, will become
all but inevitable.
The glaciers of the Himalayas
are disappearing. Forty percent of the people in the world draw their
water from sources directly fed by the regular summer melting cycles
of Himalayan ice and snow. Their sources of food will melt with the
glaciers. With mass starvation in Asia, the probabilities of war over
water and arable land - and of mass death - grow exponentially.
By the summer of 2040 all
of the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean will be gone. That means that theromohaline
circulation in the North Sea – the Gulf Stream, which carries
vast amounts of heat from the equator to the North Atlantic - will cease.
Even as the planet heats, northern Europe will freeze. In Britain, for
example, the Gulf Stream provides 27,000 times more heat than all current
power supplies can generate, warming that nation by 5-8C. Warm winds
from the Gulf Stream eventually reach the Himalayas, where they play
a role in stimulating and regulating the East Asian monsoon system.
With the collapse of the
Gulf Stream, temperatures in Europe could fall by 20 or more degrees
Fahrenheit, creating an ecological nightmare as farmland turns to frozen
tundra, with temperatures dropping to below -20C. Europe is currently
self sufficient in agriculture, feeding its 600 million inhabitants,
an obvious impossibility under such devastating new conditions.
Would Europe, with its vast
armaments and its history of colonization, genocide and global wars
aimed at re-dividing world resources and markets, slip quietly into
a frozen death - or would it find war, even a Third World War, preferable
to collapse and relentless famine at home?
The question is far from
academic. Ice sheet melting from the Greenland ice cap into the Greenland
Sea and the melting of floating ice during the 1980s caused the Gulf
Stream to diminish by 80%. A recent report shows that the Gulf Stream
came to a dead halt for ten days in 2004. The melting of the Greenland
Ice Sheet and the Arctic Sea’s ice all but guarantees the end
of the Gulf Stream before mid century.
Which lands a frozen Europe
might target in order to feed itself could eventually pose an all-but
insoluble problem for the sub-continent’s rulers. A recent study
by the British government shows that if current trends continue, a third
of the planet will be desert by 2100. According to their calculations,
areas susceptible to moderate drought will double to 50% of the Earth’s
surface. Areas susceptible to severe drought will more than triple to
30% of the Earth’s surface.
Exxon-Bush Inc. would have
us believe these impacts and their causes are debatable. Republican
Senator James Inhofe would have us believe that the world scientific
community is perpetrating an elaborate anti-capitalist hoax –
the biggest hoax in human history, with the highest stakes. Rush Limbaugh
says global warming is just another way to make civilized white people
and capitalists feel guilty, the moral equivalent of a commie plot.
The Right wants to cast doubt on climate science and the impending realities
of climate chaos, because by pretending that there is a debate, they
can defer action and continue to profit. For these men, the world itself
can end, but not profit.
The fossils of our time sit
in Washington, apparently inured by the pleasures of power and wealth
to the realities before us. But, appearances notwithstanding, the ruling
elites understand that we are on an irreversible path to global heating,
caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels for the sake of production
and profit. The question is what they plan to do about it.
As resources of petroleum
peak and begin to expire, the Bush regime offers no alternative other
than resource wars – war, not to end the use of the fuels that
are destroying the Earth – but to get more of them, the last of
them. Their aim is not to save the world, but to ensure their continued
ability to dominate it by controlling the rapidly dwindling sources
of oil. This, after all, is what the war in Iraq is about, and this
is the meta-madness that guides the imperial preparations to attack
The ruling elites know exactly
where we are heading and exactly what they are doing. Quietly, they
call global warming a “national security threat.”
A 2004 Pentagon
report, "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its
Implications for United States National Security," cautions US
strategic planners that in a scenario of abrupt climate change “Nuclear
conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across
the world.” The report predicts that Third World countries will
develop their own nuclear threat to secure dwindling food, water and
energy supplies. By 2020, the report concludes, “catastrophic”
shortages of water, food and energy will plunge the planet toward war.
The United Nations identifies some 150 flash points where wars may be
fought over water, alone.
The Pentagon report suggests
that there could be global economic depression, destruction of technological
infrastructure on a global scale, nuclear war, mega-droughts, famine,
mass migrations from Third World countries, and widespread rioting around
“Disruption and conflict
will be endemic features of life,” the Pentagon says. “…warfare
would define human life.”
The report calls for the
development of what it calls “no-regrets strategies” by
the U.S. Department of Defense.
Welcome to the apocalypse.
This is the Great Emergency. The future of all Life on Earth is in our
hands, in the hands of this generation. We have two choices: stop them,
or prepare our children and grandchildren to be among the 5% who might
be so fortunate – or unfortunate – as to survive.
The Law of Life and
the Law of Death
“If we are to survive, we need to learn to discern the difference
between real and false hopes. We must eliminate false hopes, which blind
us to real possibilities, and bind us to unlivable situations.”
- Derrick Jensen
still live in a universe, but we don't; we live in an economic system.”
- Thomas Berry
Facing the reality of our
times, facing the apocalypse, means stripping down. As bare as you can
get. The truth about the condition of the world, if you can take it
in – even in part - will lay you flat, for days, or weeks. It
will take your breath away. Adrienne Rich speaks with depth, prayerfully,
of what reckoning, real reckoning, can cost:
It will not be simple, it will not take long
It will take little time,
it will take all your thought
It will take all your heart,
it will take all your breath
It will be short, it will
not be simple
It will touch through your
ribs, it will take all your heart
It will not take long, it
will occupy all your thought
As a city is occupied, as
a bed is occupied
It will take your flesh,
it will not be simple
You are coming into us who
cannot withstand you
You are coming into us who
never wanted to withstand you
You are taking parts of us
into places never planned
You are going far away with
pieces of our lives
It will be short, it will
take all your breath
It will not be simple, it
will become your will
To face the apocalypse you
will have to strip what you call your life away. That’s what it
means to acknowledge truth. It’s like fire sweeping through chaparral;
in fire ecologies there are seeds that only germinate and grow when
the brush burns; new life requires fire.
It is time to strip away
denial to make room for remembering ourselves, our primal selves, the
tribal self, the knower, the one that knows its life and environment
like any other living creature knows it; intimately, directly, totally
- the deep one inside us who lives on Earth without the plagues of doubt,
contingency and anxiety that fill our every day with disease.
We will not survive otherwise.
Otherwise we are blocked, locked in a double bind that forbids recognition
of what lies before us, blind to the simple and obvious. The distress
that led us to this end cannot itself undo this end, the disease cannot
heal itself. The false self can only produce false solutions, the self
in denial can only produce solutions formed from its own matrix of denial.
There is every indication
that our society, civilization as we know it, is on the verge of collapse.
Whatever and whoever is left, it will not be you; not as you know yourself
“You,” as you
call your civilized self, are on your way to extinction.
Maybe you don’t want
to know... Maybe you should put this down now.
Apocalypse is not an event,
and it’s not by the numbers. Apocalypse is a process. It’s
a way of life. It’s this way of life. And whatever else may be
said of it, this way of life is finished. You are finished with it;
it is time for it to be finished.
Some have said that there
are no more warnings to be had, that the time for warnings has passed,
none are needed. Anyone who looks can see. “Doomsday” is
not approaching; it may already have passed. The scales may already
have tipped without our having noticed the finality of the moment; that
moment when the extinction of millions of species or the probabilities
of a final war became inevitable – irrevocable and irreversible.
We’ve been living with
this knowledge for a generation now. It’s permeated every aspect
of our lives, whether we’ve acknowledged it or not.
I remember as a child, standing
in the window near the front door of the little wood frame house, looking
out, wondering if we were going to the country, to see the family; if
there would be time, if the highways would be too crowded and if it
was far enough away. I had a plastic army helmet on my head –
a plastic liner for a WWII US Army helmet - and a stuffed tiger under
my arm. It was the Cuban Missile Crisis.
We knew then it could all
The youth of the early 80’s
knew it too. By then we were painting red and orange mushroom clouds
on public walls, clouds slashed through by the “no” sign.
We were marching by the millions to stop Reagan - with his cowboy hat,
death squads, nuclear tipped cruise missiles and charming grin - from
committing omnicide. We all knew what that grin hid. Reagan was a front
man for the Empire, an evil empire run by people who know exactly what
they are doing.
They are killing the world.
If you’re an activist,
you know just what this means. Whether its polar bears, seals, coral
reefs, rain forests, mountaintops blown into gaping pits, minefields,
human rights, incest, torture, wife beating, police beatings and murder,
nuclear war, animal rights, nuclear waste, global warming, rape, racism,
genocide, mass incarceration, mass deportation, mass starvation or mass
extinction, you spend your time doing one thing: staving off or seeking
somehow to transform the omnipresent reality of utter destruction spawned
by this system at every conceivable level.
The US neo-cons, with their
openly proclaimed goal of utter global domination, are nothing new.
The US and Europe have followed the logic of Empire for hundreds, even
thousands of years, and they have followed it to the bitterest of ends,
ends that violate every aspect of natural law.
One need look only at Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, to the genocide of 100 million Native Americans and 100
million Africans, to understand exactly what those who rule intend and
the inevitable conclusion of their logic. Plainly stated it is a Hitlerian
logic. Hitlerian rationalism. It’s never been otherwise. Only
the thinnest of veils separates the cult of every day life from the
mass reality of a new, global holocaust. We face that holocaust today.
The system we live under is producing it step by logical step.
Death underlies the logic
of industrialism – that’s its premise. No one has kept this
a secret - for a generation it is has been impossible not to know. Industrialism
is nothing without the logic of efficiency in production - capitalism
not only produces, of course, but only the most efficient, ecologically
reckless and exploitative producers survive. Beyond that, capitalism
creates crises of overproduction that lead to global economic depressions
and world wars aimed at re-dividing resources and markets between competing
Modern production is a wedding
of opposites, a two faced god: its other face is destruction. Consumption
for one is starvation for the Other. Production for one is destruction
for the Other, and like a cancer, production has grown beyond all limits:
the industrial system lives by destroying without limit, by ignoring
the limits to growth.
Derrick Jensen makes it plain:
“It is acceptable
for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in
everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives
of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the
property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the
lives of those below. This is called justice.”
The logic is this. There
is a strict relationship between the denial of kinship and empathy –
objectification – on one hand, and the willingness to produce
the unlimited death of the Other – to wipe out every Indian and
every Buffalo – and to do so for the sake of one’s own “prosperity.”
The ability to renounce feeling and objectify the Other lies at the
heart of Western standards of “thought” and provides the
fuel that drives the engine of destruction.
Jensen takes us one step
"Production is the
manifestation in the physical world of the psychic process of objectification.
It is the turning of the subject (a cow for example)into the object
(profit on the hoof, as agribusinessmen say).To do so, necessarily kills
the subject, first inside the objectifier's experience, and then in
the physical world. Production, however, is not the end point. Production,
deified as it has become, is not the god who stands behind the god.
The god who stands behind the god is annihilation. Where does our production
lead us? Psychic death. Emotional death. Physical death. And, as should
be increasingly clear to anyone paying attention whatsoever, it is leading
us ever more quickly toward the death of every living being."
Jensen walks right into the
heart of the matter, into the final result of objectification, denial
of the inner reality of the Other, the denial of kinship, and the soul
murder involved in “rational” and efficient” production.
“The endpoint of
civilization is assembly line mass murder. The assembly line mass murder
of the Nazi Holocaust is production stripped of the veneer of economics.
It is the very essence of production. It took the living and converted
them to the dead. That’s what this culture does.”
This is where Hitler’s
logic in the efficiency of the production of death – the horror
of the death camps – comes from. It is not abnormal; it is merely
the intensified expression of the dynamics of the cult of every day
life; which, of course, is a cult of death rooted in the denial that
we are part of a living planet, and that all life, and the balances
of life, are sacred.
Like a cancer industrial
capitalism must grow to survive, it must consume its host to prosper.
In consuming its host, it lays the foundation for its own cessation.
When the body dies, the cancer also dies. In The
Final Empire William Kötke writes:
“The culture of
empire has severed itself from its center in the life of the earth.
Civilized people find their survival not in the life of the earth but
in human society. They are dependent upon what human society produces.
The empire feeds on the earth like a tumor, irrespective of natural
patterns. The individual person in the culture of empire does not directly
feed from the earth, as do forager/hunters, that person feeds from the
With globalization, the culture
of the production of death is being exported to the whole world. Two
thirds of all Earth’s “resources” have already been
consumed. Other cultures, including indigenous cultures, the cultures
of life, are also quickly being consumed.
Life itself is being turned
into death, and consumed.
Globalization is the spread
of the logic of industrialism everywhere; it is the spreading of the
logic of mass death to everything. Globalization means the mass death
of everything, the cancer metastized.
Look around you. There is
no other logic in control. We’ve killed 90% of the large fish
in the oceans; seals go mad from the toxic results of human shit dumped
in the sea; they bare their fangs and bite the heads of their newborns.
Israel blows a hole in the spine of a fetus in a mother’s womb
in Beirut. They drop cluster bombs, then claim they blew the hole in
the woman’s womb, in her child’s spine, in self defense.
They call it “peace,”
or “democracy” when any madman can see it is nothing but
destruction and death, racism and power lust. Any madman can see they
cry “peace, peace,” when there is no peace.
The “great tribulation”
is on us, and it’s not what they told us it would be.
This is not about geopolitical
strategy – even though there are profound and sometimes moving
analyses of that aspect of the science of death lust and of the clinical
coldness of the ruler’s calculations.
The plans of the Christian
fascists and US Neocons for global empire and the concrete strategies
they pursue are like the plans of a serial killer for his next murder;
understanding them is only useful insofar as it might tell us just how
close we may be to the final disaster, and what openings, if any, might
occur in which we might intervene. But at bottom, their plans aren’t
the basic thing. The sickness is.
All the cold thought, like
all the “rational” plans and cold science behind Hitler’s
death camps, is still just necrophilia, the sick, sexualized psychological
thrill of power over others, of manic killing, death, and cold bodies.
It’s not just the torture
camps at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo; you, yourself, are the product of
torture and degradation – the life instincts have all but been
burnt out in you and replaced over a lifetime of rules and punishment
with fear. We are all prisoners, and the ruling elites and their enforcers
are our wardens and guards. If you are a woman you know that there is
nothing fundamentally strange – uncommon - in the sexual torture
at Abu Ghraib; it’s hovered over your daily life from the moment
you first learned to fear rape. It’s your prison, too. You are
its inmate. Abu Ghraib and your daily life are part of a single continuum.
And it’s not just one
thing - it’s not just our social prison – it’s everything.
There is a continent of floating plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean
as large as Texas. Next door are Columbine and Beirut, a maddened seal,
the spine of a fetus, a woman’s rape, and a plastic doll’s
head washed up among the trash on a Pacific island beach: these are
all the very same thing. These are multiple symptoms of a single sickness.
Ten thousand years of civilization
have so traumatized us – ten thousand years of trauma have so
civilized us, that it can no longer be endured or contained.
Civilization is undergoing
a psychotic break, and to paraphrase Ward Churchill, you’re locked
in a room with it, as its mask of “niceness” falls away;
as its cold face shows; when it looks, for all the world, like there’s
nothing you can do. After all, the psychopath writes your check. They’re
selling us so much Prozac and Ritalin that it’s filtering into
the soil, polluting the waters, imbalancing the brains of other mammals.
80% of people in the US say their jobs are "meaningless."
One out of four takes psychiatric medication.
It’s called competing
survival drives. We have to survive in the system, but the system creates
death as its product. As Thomas Berry put it, “Indigenous people
still live in a universe, but we don't; we live in an economic system.”
We depend on the production of mass death to live. We live in a system
of death, where survival means self-destruction and destruction of the
Earth. Trying to survive, we destroy ourselves and the world. It’s
as simple as driving to work.
Listen. I’m not leaning
out the window screaming “I’m mad as hell and I’m
not gonna take it anymore.” And this is not 1984. It’s different.
It’s worse than anything Orwell postulated. It’s not just
Freedom is Slavery and War is Peace.
It’s Life = Death.
Like shocked and beaten prisoners,
like concentration camp inmates, most of us can’t stop and look
or even think for ourselves – and when we do, for even a moment,
we tell ourselves to calm down.
This calming down, this containment
and redirection of fear, grief, pain and rage, this inability to remember
ourselves, is what we call “civilization,” and “being
Like any other beaten, cowed, tamed, rewarded and cringing animal. This
is what we call being “nice.”
We forget, we refuse to acknowledge,
that the wealthy own us. They, not we, spend our lives.
Forgetting, we make it safe
for the destruction to continue. Like any other inmate, we do our jobs
quietly, not so differently than how others did our jobs in Germany,
under the Nazis, not so differently than the death camp inmates did
their jobs. The product of our work is ultimately the same; our own
deaths: and the deaths of the Others.
All My Relations
It hasn’t always been
like this. The world renowned paleoanthropologist, Richard Leakey, came
to a stunning and beautiful conclusion about human evolution. He says
that what set us on the path to human-ness was one thing: sharing -
that sharing is the key to our evolution and the primary cause of the
evolutionary leap that created us.
No other primate shares its
food. While other primates occasionally hunt, and have even been seen
to hunt cooperatively, no other primate gathers its food and shares
it with others. Other primates don’t gather food and share it,
they forage for it, and eat it themselves, where they find it.
No other primate has a division
of labor that is predicated on sharing what the gatherers gather with
the hunters and what the hunters hunt with the gatherers. Leakey suggests
that in the most literal sense sharing fueled human evolution, making
immense stores of energy available to our ancestors. Sharing fueled
our growth in every sense.
Sharing food involves what
Leakey calls reciprocal altruism; those that shared had better chances
of survival; he says that our evolution “selected” for certain
traits; “sympathy, gratitude, guilt and moral indignation”
– empathy, in a word. Those who will not or cannot share are ostracized;
their chances for survival plummet.
Leakey is unequivocal. “We
are human because our ancestors learned to share their food and their
skills in an honored network of obligation,” he writes in People
of the Lake (emphasis added.)
In every original, ancient
human culture this sense of sharing, honor and obligation – this
sense of kinship – extends beyond the self to the family, beyond
the family to the band, beyond the band to the tribe, and beyond the
tribe to the plants and animals, to the very stones.
Our primal sensibility is
that we are related, that we belong, that we are wrapped in a matrix
of living that is fundamentally secure, and that our part is to reciprocate,
to ensure the balances that sustain our living matrix, our living mother.
The Lakota nation has a word
for this: mitakuye oyasin: all my relations. The term so deeply expresses
the indigenous sensibility of an honored and beloved network of reciprocal
obligation with land and life that it has been adopted as a byword,
a sacred expression, by indigenous peoples throughout the US.
But something has gone terribly
wrong. Around the Earth those who hold to this original law have been
Such destruction is called
genocide, but it is more than that. It is the mass murder of the keepers
of the Law of Life, the Law of the Land. It is an act of profound spiritual
The destruction of those
who remember the original law of our being implies, in the most obvious
and literal sense, the abandonment, destruction and repudiation of the
Law of Life and the destruction and repudiation of our actual, practical
relationships to one another and to life itself.
The violation of this Law,
and the spirals of pain that have resulted from it, have set us on a
path to suicide, to omnicide. For ten thousand years, since the advent
of “civilization,” we’ve been on a path to a single
of civilization have, at some level, always known it: that’s why
the myths of a coming apocalypse have been with us for so very long.
Entrapped in what we call
“civilization,” we live by another law. Robert Oppenheimer,
progenitor of the atomic bomb, understood himself, and perhaps he understood
the matrix of pain and destruction that has captured us:
“I am become Death,
destroyer of worlds,” he said.
The law we live by is more
than obvious. We live by the law of death. We have replaced the Law
of Land and Life with the law of death, with a law of reverse evolution
we call “progress.”
The Aboriginal peoples of
Australia understand the matter with utter clarity. David Suzuki and
Peter Knudston describe the Aboriginal view of the radical disconnection
in the Western, civilized experience of the world:
“In their cultural
detachment from the true dynamics of life’s origins and the fundamental
burdens and boundlessness of time, these arrogant intruders are hopelessly
confused. Not knowing what to remember and what to forget, they follow
dead laws, fail to recognize living ones, and in their power and denial
“The original instructions
of the Creator are universal and valid for all time. The essence of
these instructions is compassion for all life and love for all creation.
We must realize we do not live in a world of dead matter, but in a universe
of living spirit. Let us open our eyes to the sacredness of Mother Earth,
or our eyes will be opened for us.”
-- Traditional Hopi
Elder David Monongye
It wasn’t always like this; other cultures have known other ways.
Deborah Bird Rose suggests
that the Aboriginal ethos can be summed up in four main points, four
basic Laws about the respect and the kind of relationships we owe to
other living beings:
system cannot be life enhancing if it is out of kilter, and each part
shares in the responsibility of sustaining itself and balancing the
Communication is reciprocal. There is here a moral obligation:
to learn to understand, to pay attention, and to respond.
In opposing and balancing each other, parts must be equivalent
because the purpose is not to “win” or dominate, but to
block, thereby producing further balance.
No species, no group, or country is “boss” for another;
each adheres to its own Law. Authority and dependence are necessary
within parts, but not between parts.”
These laws – laws that
are fundamentally about kinship, reciprocity and balance - bind the
people in eternal relationships to the Earth and Life. Native Americans
have similar understandings; there were original agreements between
humans and animals that must not be broken; these are expressions of
an original medicine that serves to heal and keep the world in harmony.
One of the central images of the Hopi Nation is a symbol that means
“Together with all nations we protect both land and life and hold
the world in balance.” Indigenous peoples follow the Law of the
Land; they do not seek to impose their own laws on the land, or on other
The ethic of protecting land
and life, and the consequences of not doing so, are conscious for indigenous
peoples. Jim Kipp describes the understanding of his people, the Blackfeet:
gave me a choice in life – a 'red road' leading to him or the
path that is curving, dangerous, and leads to death. Being able to live
in a respectful way in Creator's name teaches how to be humble because
it acknowledges that Creator's presence is in everything.”
In the Maori language, Whenua,
the word for land, is also the word for afterbirth; the relationship
of living creatures to the living Earth is like that of a fetus to the
placenta. The Maori word for a sub-tribe or band is the same as the
word for a pregnant woman. The same sense of kinship permeates the Maori
sensibility at every level;
The Maori believe that
they have whakapapa (genealogical) links to everything - not just to
humans but to the universe as well. As such, forests, mountains, seas,
rivers and lakes are viewed as siblings (brothers and sisters) in the
same family tree (whakapapa). Their sacred relationship with the natural
world was visible in the strict laws of tapu (sacredness) and mana (divine
spiritual authority) - developed to live in harmony with their world
– and still holds true for many Maori today. The land is part
of who Maori are as a people, and links them to their tribal roots.
These spiritual and family connections are what make Maori tangata whenua
… the people of the land of Aotearoa.
The science of genetics tells
us unequivocally that we are, in fact, related to every other living
being on Earth. But we think we’re different. We’re here
to dominate life, not to share it. Our “god” tells us so.
A recent poll shows that
some 58% of people in the US are deeply concerned about the impacts
of global warming, but only 18% are concerned about its potential impacts
on animals. The destruction of entire species doesn’t touch most
of us, even though their rate of extinction is already as much as 10,000
times the norm. After all; we don’t live with them unless they,
like us, are domesticated; we never see them at all unless they’re
caged or captured on film.
Life isn’t real to
us now; we’ve adapted to a new environment, a new matrix made
of asphalt and electronics. Our relatives are traffic signals and policemen;
those we loved most, our families, our fathers and mothers, were the
agents of our indoctrination. They taught us to live in the death camp,
to accept it as normal, to deny our most basic instincts, feelings and
intuitions, to accept a system of control, reward and punishment. They
taught us to perform, and called it success and life.
Aboriginal peoples in Australia,
however, have not yet lost their connection to and feelings toward their
kin. They are not yet fully enslaved in an economic system. In important
ways, they still live in nature, in a connected universe: they still
remember. Here they speak for themselves of a recent slaughter of kangaroos;
broken hearted and enraged, they describe the slaughter as genocide.
Aboriginal Tent Embassy
Outraged with Kangaroo Massacre
The Aboriginal Tent Embassy
demands for an immediate stop to the massacre of aboriginal animals
at Googong Dam in the A.C.T. Environment ACT described the shooting
of 800-1000 eastern grey kangaroos at Googong Dam as “Operation
Success.” The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is vocalizing the uproar
from the Aboriginal community, which has been traumatized by the recent
massacre of the kangaroos. "They same way they killed our old people,
dig a big hole and put all their bodies in it, we still feel their spirits.
It’s too much," said Lorna Laurie, resident of the Aboriginal
"This massacre is
a desecration of Aboriginal law and spirituality, to kill so many creatures,
for no good reason, and just dump their poor carcasses in the ground
is an abomination of these ancient laws" declared another embassy
resident Arinya Freeman. "Even though the government is saying
they have completed the cull we can’t be sure they are not planning
to massacre more kangaroos - we want it all to end".
see the reason for why this would need to happen. The reason being given
is that there is not enough food or water for the kangaroos, but we
know it’s for the expansion of development, farming and industry
to perpetuate this economic system. Indigenous people from all over
the world are facing genocide from this same system," stated Gungalidda
elder Aunty Wadjurlabinna.
do not care about the land or water, if they did care about the land
and water then they wouldn’t be selling it all off to foreign
corporation for mining, or cotton irrigation, they would close down
the wood chip mills. They need to understand that the kangaroos have
been living in this country long before they came so they have more
rights to use the water then anyone" said enraged embassy resident
Under section 116 of
the Constitution, the Commonwealth cannot use its powers to prohibit
freedom of religion. "This land has its own law, this other law
is foreign, it belongs to a foreign system, not our system; people had
better come to learn, respect and understand our system, the kinship
system. We are sovereign people of this land and our law is sovereign
in this land. To continue to violate these ancient laws of Aboriginal
culture, to disregard Aboriginal natural and spiritual law, while contradicting
the constitution, is further perpetuating genocide against indigenous
people" continued Aunty Wadjurlabinna.
"Under natural and
spiritual law through the kinship system, the kangaroo is my mother
and uncles. These disconnected people are killing my mother and uncles.
They are part of the system like us, related to us the same as people,
we are all equal under the rule of natural law, that binds us through
our language, this is the Aboriginal way," stated Gungalidda elder
Aunty Wadjurlabinna. "Genocide has taken many forms, this is another
example of the genocide against our people and our lands and everything
that makes our continent. The animals are part of us. The kangaroos
and other indigenous animals are related to us through a unique and
powerful system known as the kinship system. They are family. This system
is made up of the rule of natural law and spirituality that has been
in place since the dreamtime, the beginning of time. No one has the
god given right to destroy these sacred animals."
It is difficult, at best,
for us to experience such a quality of connectedness or the morality
that arises from it - we experience it only occasionally, or as an epiphany.
Our common experience is an experience of the alienation and isolation
that we call individualism. Native peoples belong; they are in place.
We feel we have no place. Our rulers call having no place being “free.”
Walter Lippman wrote:
“These are the
prisoners who have been released. They ought to be happy. They ought
to be serene and composed. They are free to make their own lives. There
are no conventions, no taboos, no gods, priests, princes, fathers or
revelations which they must accept. Yet the result is not as good as
they thought it would be. The prison door is wide open. They stagger
out into trackless space under a blinding sun.”
This is among the deepest
fears of indigenous people – to be cut off, excommunicated from
the family of the living, the tribe, the Mother, and the rituals and
symbols, the culture, feelings and morality that keep us connected to
the web of life. To be cut off is to be subject to demonic forces, to
the diabolical; that which divides. To the indigenous the most powerful
and most disconnected among us are like the central figures in the dark
film Natural Born Killers. They dreamed of the demon years before. Now
it walks among them.
The most profound evidence
for the power of kinship, among us, the disconnected – at least
when we are in our “normal” state of consciousness - is
to be found in our own experience of its absence. Most of us who are
not in the deepest kind of denial acknowledge, at least in private –
even if only to ourselves – that our constant experience is one
of uprooted-ness, insecurity and deep loneliness. We wonder if we are
the only one who feels this way.
The answer is “no.”
Our senses of relatedness, of place, belonging and autonomy have been
radically and systematically undermined. It’s not only that we
have been made alone and lonely: the reality is that to pierce the shell,
to reorder our lives, to reconnect, to come together in new ways threatens
the very stability of a system that is built and depends for its functioning
on our sense of unworthiness and isolation, and on cultivating in us
a sense of being both without hope and ineffectual. A deep sense of
kinship is a fundamental threat to a system that can only establish
itself on the basis of denying, “rationally” reordering,
and containing our abilities to relate.
And because we are adapted
to such a system, breaking through the barriers of isolation threatens
our own emotional defenses, as well, and the defenses of those around
us. We are allowed to care, but only for certain animals we call pets,
only for certain people we call family, and only within certain limits;
to show our feelings only to certain people, who we pay; the rest remain
emotionally untouchable. The question is one of identity and loyalty,
who we are together.
The Critical Art
“To be sure, kinship
(which may or may not be based on genetic connection) is a manifestation
of nonrational forces that can transcend the alienation of separation.
For this reason, the true intention of authoritarian culture is the
destruction of kinship. If such human bonds were allowed to exist, people
could define themselves, and thereby find self-esteem, by means other
than one's labor role, bureaucratic affiliation, and consumption process.
Kinship loyalties, as with friendship, and other forms of affinity,
could lead to an inversion of the structure of duty. People would be
loyal to other individuals rather than to institutions and offices.
The authoritarian channeling of kinship into the nuclear family is the
authoritarian answer to such a possibility. The intention is to reduce
kinship to the specialized micro-role of the reproduction of the work
force and of consumer markets. The meaning of "family values"
is efficient reproduction that solely benefits the macro processes of
production and consumption. The family has no value in and of itself;
it has value only in relation to market forces. Whenever kinship escapes
this rational order, powerful resistance through transgression has occurred.”
In other words, what remains
of kinship in our experience has been restricted and channeled into
the service of “production,” into the service of the death
The kinship that resists
and escapes the demands of the death camp is not at all the same thing
as socialist “solidarity.” Kinship carries the sense of
an intimate, personal commitment, not an abstracted and generalized
political comradeship at arms. We have to go deeper than that.
All of the mass social movements
of the past century – communism, the counterculture, the various
anti-colonial revolutions and cultural nationalisms – even mass
advertising - have had, as their most enduring appeal, the implicit
promise that we don’t have to be alone anymore. To break through,
to end the oppression and separation, to come together, was the great,
global hope of the 1960s.
Slavery = Progress
But the premises of civilization
– viewed from the Right or the Left - are the direct opposite
of the indigenous laws. The Earth is not here to serve us as property,
neither the property of a “superior” collective or of “superior”
individuals. The oppression inherent in the dominance of life by the
powerful demands a skewed system, one profoundly imbalanced, aimed at
meeting human needs above all others. By definition an oppressive system,
an oppressive culture, is one that forgets that we are all equal under
the rule of natural law, one in which disconnection, objectification
and death have become the new law.
The establishment of human
dominance and the subjugation of non-human beings lead directly and
inevitably to the dominance of human over human - to meeting the needs
of only certain humans without regard to Others. For this reason, no
theory or practice that fails to shatter the chains of human domination
over our Mother, the Earth, can free us from our social prison. The
model for the enslavement of humans is the enslavement of animals.
Jim Mason writes in The Animal
Question: Uncovering the Roots of Our Domination of Nature and Each
“As movers of the
mind, thought and feeling, animals are very strong stuff to human beings.
No wonder our ancestors believed they had souls and powers. After centuries
of manipulative animal husbandry, however, men gained control over animals
and their life processes. In reducing them to physical submission, people
reduced animals psychically as well. Castrated, yoked, harnessed, hobbled,
penned and shackled, domestic animals were thoroughly subdued. They
had none of that wild mysterious power of their ancestors when they
were stalked by hunter-foragers. Domestic animals were disempowered
by confinement, selective breeding, and familiarity with humans. They
gradually came to be seen more with contempt than awe.
animals, farmers reduced animals and nature, in general, because crop
conscious farmers saw wild species as pests, and natural elements as
threats. But it was animal husbandry, in particular, that nudged people
from seeing animals as spiritual powers to viewing them as commodities
and tools. It drastically upset the ancient human-animal relationship,
changing it from partnership to master and slave, from being kin with
the natural world to lord over it.”
Once the premise of enslavement
is established in the first instance, the logic of enslavement unfolds
and encompasses culture, and our relationships to the land and all life.
Seneca traditionalist John
Mohawk writes in A
Basic Call to Consciousness: The Hau de no sau nee Address to the Western
“Herding and breeding
of animals signaled a basic alteration in the relationship of humans
to other life forms. It set into motion one of the true revolutions
in human history. Until herding, humans depended on nature for the reproductive
powers of the animal world. With the advent of herding, humans assumed
the functions which had for all time been the functions of the spirits
of the animals. Sometime after this happened, history records the first
appearance of the social organization known as "patriarchy."
these cultures, stratified hierarchical social organization crystallized.
The ancient civilizations developed imperialism, partly because of the
very nature of cities. Cities are obviously population concentrations.
Most importantly though, they are places which must import the material
needs of this concentration from the countryside. This means that the
Natural World must be subjugated, extracted from, and exploited in the
interest of the city. To give order to this process, the Semitic world
developed early codes of law. They also developed the idea of monotheism
to serve as a spiritual model for their material and political organization.”
These laws stemmed from a
need to predict and control the direction of a way of life uprooted
from the natural world and natural law, and to control the actions of
those who were now subjugated.
Each of these imperial religions
and cultures has its own book or books relating its experiments in social
and moral subjugation, and each posits the coming of a messianic figure
who will set civilization aright, when all else has failed, saving it
from the apocalyptic results of its following its own unnatural laws.
The death and assimilation
of indigenous peoples and the destruction of ways of life rooted in
reverence for the natural world meant that the survivors were left with
no mooring posts, no common understandings or traditions. Having invented
an artificial world predicated on subjugation, they must now invent
artificial laws to predict, control and channel its direction.
They now lacked an intuitive
understanding of the natural world – they had divorced themselves
from it, and from the ancient cultural traditions that guided a life
in balance with nature. They no longer had a self evident, empirically
verifiable moral and cultural foundation, a natural way of life. They
needed someone to tell them what to do; they needed someone to force
others to do their bidding, if they were to continue to “profit”
from the subjugation they had imposed on the world.
As Daniel Quinn has noted,
the sense grew within them that something was terribly wrong. They called
it sin, the failure to be a good slave to “god.” They had
only the vaguest of understandings that what they called “god’s
laws” were being violated, that “wickedness” and cruelty
ruled their new world. They competed with one another to establish their
own way of death as the “one way” all must follow, to impose
their own religion and eschatology on others. This competition of ignorances
and forms of control and subjugation became the foundation of modern
and “post” modern morality, religion and culture.
Sadly, just like their capitalist
counterparts, Marxists applaud the end of Earth based “primitive
communism,” as they call it, and the rise of the family, private
property and the state, of the new civilizations that arose some 10,000
years ago. Marxists acknowledge that the civilizations of the Middle
East were established through an economy based in mass human enslavement.
But mass enslavement, in this view, lead to “progress,”
a progress that winds its way toward new and more efficient systems
of “production” (see Jensen, above) like feudalism and capitalism,
and toward the most efficient systems of all, socialism, then, at last,
communism, a system with no rulers and no exploitation of human by human.
This more “advanced”
communism is thought of as the “promise” of “primitive
communism” made real by technological and cultural “progress.”
It is the final promise of a technological and organizational utopia
based on the premise of human domination of the Earth and all her creatures.
Production is key to capitalism,
of course, but also to Marxist and much of Anarchist theory. Not only
are humans seen as producers by their very nature – the opposable
thumb and tool using are imagined to be humanity’s most distinctive
traits – but the entire theory of historical materialism rests
on the centrality and supremacy of production.
The means of production and
the relations of people to the processes of production are thought to
define the “level” or “stage” a society has
supposedly “reached,” and human rights to self determination
and to land are thought to be contingent on how “advanced”
a culture is. Animals are not thought to have rights at all. Indigenous,
Earth based cultures – so-called “primitive” cultures
- are slated for the “waste bin of history” – for
Socialism and Communism are
said to represent new stages in the relations of production, the relations
between people as defined by what they produce and how they produce
it. New relations of production are said to lead to new cultures and
to a new “socialist man.”
But while Marxism is, at
one level, a powerful dream of becoming human again – of sharing
again - sadly, its underlying premises reduce to a view of history that
can be summed up like this: Slavery = Progress.
Intended as a theory of liberation,
Marxism falls prey to the logic and laws of death. It views humans as
“superior” to “nature,” and “advanced”
humans as superior to “primitive” ones. It cannot find its
way out of its civilized box. Like all modern, “civilized”
political theories, it rests on the subjugation of the Earth, the destruction
of our original sense of kinship, its replacement with new relationships
based on new roles in industrial production, and the destruction of
the cultures of those who have kept the Law of Life.
This holds true across the
Left. Consciously or not, “progressives,” by definition,
are as committed to “progress” as the most reactionary capitalist
or Christian Fascist.
Progress in production is
progress in “dominion” – in the biblically mandated
domination of the Earth, a domination sanctioned by every civilization,
a dominion that is the core principle on which civilization is founded.
It is of course no accident that one faction of the Destroyers would
call themselves “dominionists,” or that today that faction
should be the cutting edge of the “dark side” in the center
of the world empire.
The Hopi Traditional Elders,
on the other hand, never lost sight of the principles of Land and Life.
They say that one day, in a time of deep crisis that they call the Time
of Purification, a brave person will stand up and demand of the elites,
“ You profit at the expense of all life: come here and pay your
debt!” That time, they say, is upon us.
The transition from a culture
immersed in life to one immersed in death, from a culture that based
itself in reciprocity among people and between people and bears, plants,
insects, deer, stones, kangaroos and buffalo, to one that sought to
dominate all life, to “conquer” nature and all natural beings
and put them to a foreign “use” for one’s own benefit,
the transition from a culture that honored all life to one that profits
at the expense of all life, was nothing like a benign “enlightenment”
or a natural “advance.”
Civilization begins and ends
with the progressive disruption and destruction of kinship; kinship
with the land, between humans and animals, between women and men, with
the disintegration of kinship systems; it begins and ends with the destruction
of our sense of relationships as sacred and their replacement by relationships
No longer are there sacred
animals, plants, stones and places. No longer do we live
in reciprocal obligation
with the world around us. The world itself ceases to live for
for us, to be alive to us.
It comes to be managed, controlled, suppressed and enslaved –
killed. The life of the world is reduced to serve one end and one end
only; it is now no longer our Mother, our nurturer, our home, where
we belong. It has been reduced to utter servitude to human ends; the
original relationship is shattered.
Our Mother, our matrix, the
womb of our being, is reduced to “lifeless matter,” which
is to say, in literal keeping with the Latin from which the term “matter”
is derived, “Mater Morduus”: Lifeless Mother: Dead Mother.
This is the central tenet
of the western world view: that matter is inert, that reality is “matter
in motion,” dead matter moving. Dead Mother moving: this is the
signal, sign and symbol of the death of relationship that is the hallmark
of civilization. By its very nature civilization is totalitarian; when
the Dead Mother does not move to suit us, our technology moves her,
like Frankenstein’s monster on a wench. Like macabre scientists
in a grade B movie, we “produce” movement.
In popular culture in the
US, the most enduring image of evil is the image of the mad scientist;
he is the central figure in our conception of “horror.”
What civilization produces is horror, and it is in such films that we
indirectly face the moral and emotional reality of what western civilization
has wrought. Reductionistic science is, in itself, a kind of storytelling:
the story it tells ends in death. The story ends with the dead mother.
And with loneliness.
The rupture of our sense
of kinship with the world meant the end of our obligation to the sacred
Other. The constraints on the exercise of violence that kinship implied
The rule of civilization,
the systematic destruction of original kinship, has always been imposed
by force, by violent destruction and disintegration of the cultures
and peoples it has invaded and conquered, followed by a seduction into
a new way of being, a new hierarchy with new mores. Civilization, as
such, is based on the exercise of violence over the Other – plant,
animal and human.
That’s how we got here,
in this condition, in this time and place: we are the product of a violence
divorced from feeling, from connection and meaning – a violence
meant to reduce all meaning to the narrow scope of that which serves
to enrich and make the purveyors of violence “secure.” Like
a Jonah, we’ve been swallowed by something huge; we are inside
it with no apparent way out and with no clear avenue for the exercise
of our original integrity.
Civilization consumes and
destroys original cultures. Indigenous cultures disintegrate before
the onslaught of its illness just as Native American peoples disintegrated
when touched by smallpox. All it takes is a touch of the sickness; as
the delicate balances between human and nature and human and human are
ruptured, the infection spreads.
Traditions and ancient authorities
nested in millions of years of trial and error begin to unravel.
The lessons of power –
for a people conquered - are profound and immediate. The new way has
established itself supreme over the old. It has been imposed. The apparent
“advantages” of new technologies seem palpable. For those
who internalize the lessons, who internalize the terror and destruction,
who internalize the meaning of the horrid power of the new weapons and
the new language of the superior and the inferior, the powerful and
the powerless, continued resistance seems to make little sense.
Emotional trauma precedes
disconnection from our deep sense of kinship with all life, a kinship
expressed through and embodied in culture. Trauma and disconnection
precede hopelessness. Hopelessness precedes ambition, and ambition precedes
conversion to the new way, the way of death.
After only a few years of
contact and conquest, things begin to break down.
The Kogi people of Columbia
are a recent example. After maintaining a profound isolation for hundreds
of years, until the late 20th century, the mountain dwelling Kogi, whose
traditions remained unbroken and unaltered in a direct lineage from
a major pre-Conquest culture, have begun to disintegrate.
As the government and leftist
guerrillas seize control of the land around them; as pesticides aimed
at the coca plant blanket the forests; as people sicken from the poisons;
and as it becomes dangerous in the face of right wing death squads for
the priests and elders - for anyone - to expose themselves outside the
confines of the community, the old traditions and the authority of the
Earth based spiritual leadership have begun to come unraveled.
But the Kogi have sent us
a message. Like the Hopi before them, the Kogi had maintained their
culture and spiritual traditions largely intact throughout the period
of the Conquest. And like the Hopi in 1945, the Kogi, in 1990, decided
they must speak out to the rest of us. Too much was at stake to do otherwise.
They brought their isolation to an end. Their prophecies had spoken
of the coming of the Younger Brother and the destruction he would wreak.
On their mountain, which they call the Heart of the World, snows had
dwindled, the ice receded. Something was terribly wrong: the Heart of
the World was dying.
"Up to now,” they
said, “we have ignored the Younger Brother. We have not deigned
even to give him a slap. But now we can no longer look after the world
alone. The Younger Brother is doing too much damage. He must see, and
understand, and assume responsibility. Now we will have to work together.
Otherwise, the world will die."
The Kogi, who never succumbed
to Spanish rule, who evaded it by fleeing high into the mountains, are
now faced with their own subjugation and their culture’s disintegration
in what some have called a final stage in the conquest of the Americas,
a final stage in the destruction of the kinship between human beings,
and the plants, animals and Earth that are our placenta, the womb and
source of life.
The Kogi hold that they are
the "Elder Brother," guardians of life on the Earth. Like
the Hopi, they are called to hold the world in balance. Their spiritual
leaders are “in agreement,” they tell us, “about what
it is we are going to say and how to speak.” They work in the
realm of the Mother, of "Aluna," the inner world they call
Memory and Possibility. From there they speak to us, saying:
“They are cutting off
the flesh of the Mother’s body. They have taken everything. They
have stolen the spirits of all things from the Mother. They are stealing
the very spirit and thought of the Mother... The Mother is suffering.
They have broken her teeth and taken out her eyes and ears. She vomits,
she has diarrhea, she is ill
If we cut off our arms, we
can’t work, if we cut off our legs, we can’t walk. That
is how it is with the Mother. The Mother is suffering. She has nothing.
Does the Younger Brother
understand what he has done? Does he?”
Today, in the Amazon, a shaman
whose father survived an assassination attempt for his resistance to
the encroachment of oil companies into the rain forest, declares, “Give
me the gun or give me the arrow: I will die with nature!
“I don’t want
the people from America to come here and destroy by sucking out the
blood of our ancestors, the ‘black gold,’” he continues.
“Who do they think they are with that technology? Are they so
clever? No. We, here, are the intelligent ones, those who defend the
lungs of the Earth, the jungle, the pure air, the pure water. I call
upon the Yachacs, all the shamans of the world. To unite, to say to
the world ‘Don’t destroy nature. Don’t destroy the
roots of the trees.’ Materialism is finishing our world. Our world
is the Spirit of the trees, of the magic leaves.”
Many tribal groups –
our ancestors - have so highly valued their kinship with Life and Earth
that they have fought to the death to preserve it; untold numbers committed
suicide during the Conquest to escape the new power of the new way;
others, whole tribes, did the same for another reason, to avoid submitting
to it – ever.
The choices before us today
are every bit as fundamental as the choices made by our ancestors. This
much is in our hands: to follow the Law of Land and Life, or the law
of death. Chief Arvol Looking Horse speaks to us clearly:
“In our Prophecies
it is told that we are now at the Crossroads, either unite Spiritually
as a Global Nation, or be faced with chaos, disasters, diseases and
tears from our relatives eyes.
“This new millennium
will usher in an age of harmony or it will bring the end of life as
we know it. Starvation, war and toxic waste have been the hallmark of
the Great Myth of Progress and Development that ruled the last millennium.
“To us, as caretakers
of the heart of Mother Earth, falls the responsibility of turning back
the powers of destruction.
“We have come to a
time and place of great urgency.
“The fate of future
generations rests in our hands.
“We must understand
the two ways we are free to follow, as we choose the positive way or
the negative way.. the spiritual way or the material way.
“It's our own choice--each
of ours and all of ours.
“You yourself are the
one who must decide.
“You alone-and only
you--can make this crucial choice.
“Whatever you decide
is what you'll be, to walk in honor or to dishonor your relatives. You
can't escape the consequences of your own decision.
“On your decision depends
the fate of the entire World. You must decide. You can't avoid it.
“Each of us is put
here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of
“Did you think the
Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger?
“Know that you yourself
are essential to this World.
“Understand both the
blessing and the burden of that. You yourself are desperately needed
to save the soul of this World.
“Did you think you
were put here for something less? In a Sacred Hoop of Life, where there
is no beginning and no ending!"
Chief Arvol Looking Horse
19th Generation Keeper of
the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe
is a Los Angeles based writer and editor. His essays from 2006 can be
He can be reached at: JuanSantos@Mexica.net.
I Apocalypse No!An Indigenist Perspective
II Apocalypse No! Christian Fascism And The Nazi Legacy
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