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An Indigenous Critique of The Green New Deal

PacificStandard

March 4, 2019

By Malcolm Harris

 

(Photo: Ron Whitaker/Unsplash)

The most common introductory example we use when we teach kids about interdependent ecosystems is insects. They may seem gross and small compared to the charismatic megafauna, we say, but insects play all sorts of important roles: pollinating plants, breaking down organic matter, feeding bigger animals. Without insects the whole web would collapse. I don’t think many of us who have given this lesson actually contemplated the mass death of the world’s insects as a possibility, imminent or otherwise. We should have.

A new study in the journal Biological Conservation takes a look at the global status of entomofauna (insects), and the picture is not good. The topline finding is that over 40 percent of insect species are threatened with extinction. That’s a situation hard to describe without sounding like a heavy metal concert billing. (Megadeath, Ecocide, etc.) And the lesson about the ecosystem wasn’t wrong: Without insects, Earth’s environment as we’ve become familiar with it is toast. Even our apocalyptic thought experiments are coming true.

The trouble with combating climate change, we’re often told, is that it’s hard to imagine, hard to see. The philosopher Timothy Morton calls climate change a “hyperobject”: It’s so widely distributed and conceptually sticky that we can’t really perceive it except in partial local instances. “When you feel raindrops falling on your head, you are experiencing climate, in some sense. In particular you are experiencing the climate change known as global warming,” Morton wrote in 2010. “But you are never directly experiencing global warming as such.” Humans don’t have the right sensory faculties.

Maybe it was possible to think that way in 2010, but, less than a decade later, I think many of us have developed the ability to see global warming. We are no longer empiricists who route information through our senses to our brain for analysis; we’re conspiracy theorists, every raindrop or sunbeam encountered as hyperobject. Now the totality hits us first. At the beginning of this essay, I didn’t say the insects were being killed off by global warming—but didn’t you assume it?

To people who don’t feel the omnipresence of global warming, people like me sound off. Not necessarily because they refuse to believe the data, I think, but because some of us are no longer bothering with the scientific method. We’re not analyzing evidence to develop a theory; we are convinced of what’s happening before we hear the particulars. Our question is not whether today’s forecast reflects climate change, but how. And we’re not wrong.

Since global warming is a fact and in one way or another an imminent threat to the well-being of every living thing known to mankind (including us), I think our increased ability to perceive it represents progress. The positivist method is not the only way to produce knowledge, and though “science” gets a lot of credit for sounding the alarm on climate change, it has been comparatively slow on the uptake. If we pay any attention at all, we can see and feel and hear that nature’s cycles are broken, and some peoples have understood for centuries that a society built on extraction and accumulation would burn the whole planet alive. Western science has a lot of nerve showing up just as we’re on the precipice of a biospheric death spiral to brandish some graphs and offer to block out the sun just a little.

“Indigenous peoples have witnessed continual ecosystem and species collapse since the early days of colonial occupation,” says Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, an activist/scholar from the Nishnaabeg nation and author most recently of the book As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance. “We should be thinking of climate change as part of a much longer series of ecological catastrophes caused by colonialism and accumulation-based society.”

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.

(Photo: Courtesy of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson)

From this perspective, it’s a mistake to think of global warming in historical isolation, as merely the carbon cycle gone awry thanks to an excess of CO2 emissions. Climate change is the name we’ve given to the constellation of ecological crises that emerge as capitalist modernity runs out of new places to despoil.

For the insects, today’s crisis stems not just from temperature change (which is, of course, a contributing factor) but also from other associated environmental practices: the conversion of land for intensive agriculture, the widespread use of pesticides, and the reckless introduction of invasive species. Matt Shardlow, chief executive officer of the conservation non-profit Buglife, told the Guardian that unconsidered factors like light pollution could be more harmful to insects than we’re imagining. These aren’t problems that can be solved by decarbonization, no matter how many green jobs are attached. Our whole way of life has to change.

Insofar as mainstream American society reckons with indigenous intellectual/scientific practices, it’s as “non-overlapping magisteria,” i.e. if they’re true then they’re not true in a way that would directly challenge our truths. So when Simpson speaks of the need for “ethical systems that promote the diversity of life,” I think most Americans would understand “diversity of life” as an unquantifiable abstraction that we can translate into liberal ideals like interpersonal tolerance and non-conformity. But what if we took it literally instead?

The mass death of insects is an observable and measurable disrespect for the diversity of life on Earth, to which we can and should compare other patterns of human practice.

“Indigenous knowledge systems are rigorous, they pursue excellence, they are critical and comprehensive,” Simpson says. “The global roots of the climatic crisis and the exploitation of natural resources are issues indigenous peoples have been speaking out against for hundreds of years.” The proof is in the pudding: Colonists were warned by word and weapon that a system of individual land ownership would lead to ecological apocalypse, and here we are. What more could you ask from a system of truth and analysis than to alert you to a phenomenon like climate change before it occurs, with enough time to prevent it? That is significantly more than colonial science has offered.

The devaluation of indigenous political thought has nothing to do with its predictive ability. The ruling class produced by accumulation society simply will not put its own system up for debate. Thus the climate change policies we discuss—even and perhaps in particular the Green New Deal—take for granted not just the persistence of commodity accumulation, but its continued growth. As the economists Enno Schröder and Servaas Storm complain in their analysis of proposals for “green growth”: “The belief that any of this half-hearted tinkering will lead to drastic cuts in CO2 emissions in the future is plain self-deceit.” Economic output as we understand it, they say, must shrink.

If the indigenous critique sounds like an anti-capitalist one, it should. Drawing on the work of communist Glen Coulthard from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, Simpson recognizes the language of Marxism as her own. “There is an assumption that socialism and communism are white and that indigenous peoples don’t have this kind of thinking,” she writes. “To me, the opposite is true.” In As We Have Always Done, Simpson makes a gentle case for non-native comrades to follow this lead. For their part, contemporary Marxist scholars like Silvia Federici and Harry Harootunian have been reassessing doctrinaire ideas about the progressive nature of capitalism and the supposed backwardness of indigenous societies, a line of revision that’s supported by recent changes to anthropological assumptions regarding the sophistication of pre-colonial technology and social organization.

Green growth, even in its social-democratic versions, isn’t going to save the insects. But there exist alternative examples for the left, and for the world. While America’s beehives are bare, Cuba’s are thriving, which led to the tragicomically western Economist headline: “Agricultural backwardness makes for healthy hives.” “We” are just now reactivating the millenia-old Mayan practice of harvesting from wild stingless bees (“meliponiculture”), which used to produce an unimaginably large variety of honeys. These entomological examples support Nikitah Okembe-RA Imani’s audacious claim about the history of African thought: Those who study what has been suppressed can see the future.

As for what is to be done about climate change, there’s no real mystery. “The issue is that accumulation-based societies don’t like the answers we come up with because they are not quick technological fixes, they are not easy,” Simpson says. “Real solutions require a rethinking of our global relationship to the land, water, and to each other. They require critical thinking about our economic and political systems. They require radical systemic change.”

To this end, Simpson has called for a shift in focus from indigenous cultural resurgence to the anti-colonial struggle for territory. That unsurrendered conflict has continued for hundreds of years, and we should view our living history in its firelight. The best environmental policy America can pursue is to start giving back the land.

 

[Malcolm Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia and the author of Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials.]

LISTEN: Colonialism and Gender Today

kpfa.org

March 27, 2018

Against the Grain

 

 

Can we understand gender relations in today’s neoliberal world without understanding colonialism? As Raka Ray points out, colonialism put in place new understandings about gender and gender relations, many of which continue to affect how people in countries like India think and interact and are governed. Colonialism and its legacies have also influenced how feminists in the Global South and their counterparts in the Global North view and treat each other.

 

 

The Big Conservation Lie Exposes Colonial Dynamic at the Heart of Conservation Policy

Ecologist

August 9, 2017

by Lewis Evans

 

 

Mordecai Ogada was sitting in a luxury safari lodge, admiring the view of Kilimanjaro. He could see many of Africa’s most iconic species -giraffe, water buffalo, even a few elephants far in the distance.

As a professional conservationist, with a PhD in carnivore ecology, the sight was both familiar and pleasing. He was being treated like a tourist. Someone came in and offered him a cocktail. Then, one of his white hosts and sponsors, the people whose largesse he was enjoying, said: “We’re going to have to move that Maasai village. It’s spoiling the view for tourists.”

For Dr. Ogada, this was a decisive moment. “I was a qualified black face, put in place to smooth over fifty years of exploitation.”

The Big Conservation Lie is written by people who are actually from one of big conservation’s key target countries. It dismantles many of the environmental movement’s most troubling myths: the pristine wilderness “untouched by human hands” until European arrival; the supposed lack of interest or expertise in wildlife among native conservationists and communities; the idea that brutal poaching would be endemic without foreign intervention, and so on.

A colonial narrative

Ogada and Mbaria sum up the essence of their argument early on: “The wildlife conservation narrative in Kenya, as well as much of Africa, is thoroughly intertwined with colonialism, virulent racism, deliberate exclusion of the natives, veiled bribery, unsurpassed deceit, a conservation cult subscribed to by huge numbers of people in the West, and severe exploitation of the same wilderness conservationists have constantly claimed they are out to preserve.”

To colonisers, Africa is and always has been a “wild and uncontrollable environment” – home to “charismatic” species that can be admired (or shot) from afar. The conventional narrative has generally suggested that only European and American expertise can tame or protect it. The authors argue that this has given western NGOs such as the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) enormous power.

It has also created space for white “saviors” (and the “saviors” are always white), such as George Adamson, Jane Goodall, and Iain Douglas-Hamilton, to step in and be seen to make the decisive difference. There’s no place for Africans in the picture.

Damaging myths

Ogada and Mbaria take aim at some of conservation’s most sacred cows. George Adamson, for example, the white British subject of the 1966 film “Born Free” is exposed as a chancer, a failed businessman who accepted  conservation donations, despite being a trophy hunter with next to no conservation expertise.

Much of the authors’ scorn is reserved for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Though it presents itself as a conservation organisation, the true face of this “service” is revealed. It is composed mostly of retired soldiers and mercenaries, heavily armed and organised much like a militia.

Run for many years by Richard Leakey, a wealthy white Kenyan of British descent, it is accused of corruption, violence, and perpetuating the appropriation of some of Kenya’s most fertile areas by the British colonials and their descendants.

As the authors point out, the KWS receives funding, equipment, and training from western powers, including the United States and Great Britain. This doesn’t stop if from profiting from the land it supposedly exists to protect, through tourism, and even ties to big mining and pharmaceutical companies.

It is revealed to have cut deals with the German corporation Bayer, and some of its most senior figures have themselves been implicated in wildlife crime, including ivory trafficking. Despite this, they and the armed operatives they command are considered “above suspicion” by the Kenyan authorities.

A failure to respect indigenous knowledge

Similarly, they expose the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one of the best-respected of the big conservation organisations, for having supported a project which involved evicting thousands of Maasai people from forests which they’d been dependent on and managed for millennia.

This is despite the fact that the Loita woodland that they were removed from was largely intact at the time, whereas areas of forest which had been in western hands for decades had badly deteriorated. This is typical of the “externally-defined agenda for social development” which the authors critique, and which often doesn’t involve much effective conservation.

Many western conservation charities, it’s argued, exist primarily to secure publicity for their founders. A recent example is “Space for Giants” – an initiative founded by Russian oligarch Evgeny Lebedev.

The organisation has released several high profile op-eds and photos showing “action” in the name of conservation, but has, according to the authors, done little on the ground, beyond charging over $5,000 a head (plus mandatory donation) for luxury safari tours.

What a lot of western-initiated conservation boils down to, according to Ogada and Mbaria, is “surveillance of vast areas with huge mineral potential under the guise of wildlife conservation.”

African solutions to Africa’s problems

In place of this neocolonial approach, they advocate closer partnerships with local and tribal communities, respecting and using the extraordinary, but unacknowledged, expertise about the natural world that already exists in large parts of Kenya and the wider world.

There are plenty of Africans working in conservation, but they get very little recognition for their work. Professionals like Dr. Ogada are not only experts in their field, but also provide a different perspective on the deeply flawed western approach to conservation, an approach which has failed, even on its own terms.

Likewise, there are millions of people across Africa who live largely sustainable lives and have plenty of insights to offer, if only western conservationists would be willing to step aside and put them at the forefront of the environmental movement. Only by listening to Africa’s tribal peoples – the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world – will we stand any chance of protecting the natural environment.

“The Big Conservation Lie” is highly recommended for anyone interested in this struggle, or in debunking the pervasive myths that are holding the environmental movement back. It is a bold and important book that deserves your attention.

 

 

[Lewis Evans is a campaigner at Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights. The Big Conservation Lie is available to purchase from Lens & Pens Publications.]

 

Why Are All the Black Faces in Conservation in the Background?

Oyunga Pala

May 3, 2017

 

Nairobi National Park is the only park on earth bordering a capital city. It is the world’s wildlife capital and one afternoon in December 2016, it was celebrating 70 years of existence. Nairobi National park was the first gazetted park in the country, started in 1946. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) was throwing an evening party in the park to commemorate the event. The small gathering, comprised conservationists, friends of Nairobi national park, assorted Kenyans who earn a living in the wildlife industry and uniformed KWS staffers who appeared to be attending more out of protocol than choice.

There was an air of resignation about the place. Out at the Impala observation point, a panoramic view of open savanna grassland, guests mingled awaiting the arrival of the dignitaries as the catering unit from the Ole Sereni hotel hurried about setting up.

The Impala viewpoint offers a compelling sight and I trained my eyes, trying to spot some wildlife. A few KWS staffers who were gathered all seemed to be taking a good long look into the horizon. One wildlife photographer, captured the sentiment with a nostalgic comment,

“This used to be the place to take the best pictures. Now instead of shooting animals, we will be shooting the SGR”.

There were few chuckles. Mostly at the inevitability of the Chinese built Standard Gauge Railway line changing the ecosystem of the park forever. I sensed a deep sense of failure among some KWS staffers, many voicing their concern in hushed tones, certain the park would not survive the onslaught of ‘development’.

The ceremony was running fashionably late and I bumped into former KWS director Juluis Kipng’etich, who is now the Uchumi CEO in the parking lot.  Juluis Kipng’etich (Kip) was the poster child of Kenyan conservation during his tenure as director at Kenya Wildlife Service from 2005 to 2012 when he resigned to take up a position at Equity Bank.

Julius Kipngetich in the KWS strong room. Courtesy of Vanity Fair magazine.

Kip was credited with transforming KWS from a malfunctioning organisation into a respected corporate brand. During my stint as the editor of the now defunct Adam magazine, we had Kipng’etich on the cover.

There was a vibrancy to Kip in the midst of the lethargy in public service that we had not witnessed previously. But what made him material for a cover story, was the refreshing face of a competent African, getting the conservation accolades for a change.

I was in attendance, when he unveiled a Heroes statue in memory of KWS officers who had died on the frontier. KWS was on the move then. Today, not so much. Kipng’etich was reflective when I asked him about the anniversary celebrations.

“It feels like we are attending a funeral”.

When the ceremony eventually started, the KWS director Kitili Mbathi anchored his address around a breakfast in the park special visit made by the Togolese president Faure Gnassingb’e and the special place Nairobi holds as the only city in the world with a national park. The guest of honour Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Prof Judy Wakhungu managed to deliver an optimistic speech without making a single reference to the impending railway line construction.

The audience listened, all too aware of the elephant in the room that everyone was pretending not to see.

I was the guest of Jim Justus Nyamu, the founder of the Elephant Neighbors Centre, who had become the face of a campaign dubbed “Ivory belongs To Elephants”. Nyamu was a former KWS elephant scientist and researcher whose primary job was reduced to counting elephants and tracking their movement. He eventually resigned to start his own organisation, once he realised the limitation of the existing conservation model.

The big beasts that had for centuries, roamed the country on dedicated paths were now in constant conflict with ordinary rural folk. The narrative of protecting elephants for tourist dollars was not persuasive among local people suffering loss of property and lives after encounters with elephants. There was a big disconnection with the reality of public in understanding the value of wildlife conservation but conservation could not left solely in the hands of the ‘experts’.

People had to get involved. 70 per cent of the Kenya’s wildlife lie outside KWS parks and the service is stretched in capacity and resource. Jim was seeking to create a different model around the problem.

“The people who can make a real difference are the communities but no one is talking to them. Especially the children. They are the only ones who still have time to make a difference”.

So he decided to walk and talk to local people urging them to take ownership of their wildlife heritage and have a say. Jim has so far covered over 9000kms in Kenya, 900kms in the US, in addition to an epic 3200km foot journey across East Africa.

Jim Nyamu leads the International March For Elephants walk in the US.

When I met him last, in early April 2017, it was at the flag off of his 13th walk (617kms) to Marsabit at the National Museums of Kenya headquarters in Nairobi.  The Museum was the home to the iconic Ahmed of Marsabit, a living monument and the only elephant to be put under protection by a presidential decree. In 1970, President Jomo Kenyatta ordered state security to protect this giant beast against poachers. Ahmed died at age of 65 four years later. A giant fiberglass cast of Ahmed is on display at the National Museums. Jim’s was drawing his inspiration from Ahmed and raising awareness on the dwindling numbers of elephants in the Marsabit eco-system.

The Irish ambassador, Vincent O’Neill was the guest of honour, a lanky man, who set off Jim after reading out an Irish travellers blessing. After walking with the small group of volunteers and supporters, blowing whistles, blaring horns, hogging a lane marshalled by police outriders on BMWs, I bid my farewell to Jim on Thika Road and wished him journey mercies.

Ahmed of Marsabit

Moments before the flag off, I had walked into a bookshop at the Museum in search of a book that had caused a stir in the African conservation world. It was a thought provoking book co-authored by John Mbaria and Dr. Mordecai Ogada titled “The Big Conservation Lie”.

“The Big Conservation Lie” was a book challenging the western paradigms and values that had dominated the management and conservation model since Kenya was declared a British colony. I had heard of John Mbaria by reputation. He was an investigative journalist who had earned his stripes as fury critic of the ‘western’ conservation model and a staunch advocate of a return to an indigenous inspired model.

I had met his co-author Mordecai Ogada, during a panel session at British Institute of Eastern Africa, where he presented a very compelling account of the racial tainted difference between a bush meat hunter and a sports hunter. The man who hunts for his food is ‘bad’ while the other who hunts for trophies is ‘good’. Mordecai Ogada was a carnivore ecologist and a big advocate of community based conservation.

The book is a page turner and revolves around a central argument of historic racial prejudices in the Kenyan conservation industry which alienate indigenous people as important partners in conservation. It goes on an investigative discourse of Kenya’s conservation legacy, showing how the inherited conservation model was intertwined with colonial power structures.

“Many modern wildlife parks were initially hunting grounds and created for recreation for the settler communities”.

The establishment of national parks was a form of land grab that disregarded the local communities’ ancestral claim to the land.

Mbaria and Mordecai confront the conservation crisis head on. They question the unholy alliance of wildlife conservation NGOs and Western funding streams pushing the paradigm that states that resident local communities must earn money from wildlife as motivation for conservation.

Mbaria poignantly asks, “How did wildlife survive for millennia in Kenya rangelands together with people who never earned anything from it?”

They poke large holes into the legacies of conservation stalwarts, Richard Leakey, George Adamson, Douglas-Hamilton, Dr. Daphne Sheldrick and Ian Craig. They accuse single species focused organizations earning substantial incomes as engaging in tourism under the guise of conservation activities.

The Launch party of the book

Dr.Ogada was frank when I asked him about his motivation for writing the book.

“I think it is when I realized that because of the colour of my skin, I was not likely to ever be acknowledged as a significant contributor to our conservation discourse in Kenya”.

Some of Dr.Ogada’s inspirations were the late Samson Ole Sisina, the KWS officer killed by Tom Cholmondeley and Elizabeth Leitoro who used to work for KWS and busted a poaching ring east of Nairobi National park that used to supply game meat to high end Nairobi restaurants. John Mbaria added that KWS has some of the best scientists that no one outside the industry ever gets to hear about.

Mbaria and Ogada are keen to start a national conversation. “Our mission is not an avenue for accolades but for our survival. It is a national security issue”, stresses John Mbaria.

“The big problem with our conservation model is that it is alien, not inspired by traditional culture”.

The conservation crisis in Kenya is real and it can only get worse in the face what Dr. Ogada describes as the perfect storm of climate change, a policy vacuum, ethnic politics and elitist approach to conservation.

But hopefully, there is a quiet uprising of local Kenyans moving from the back of the bus to their rightful place as leaders in conservation. It seems clear in the minds of all these men I have encountered that Kenyans can no longer be bystanders, outsourcing conservation knowledge.

Article first published in the Standard Media Newspaper on April 30th, 2017. This version has been updated.

 

[Oyunga Pala is a Kenyan newspaper columnist. The blog examines the texture of everyday Kenyan life and the challenges of modernity and disillusion. The writings commonly feature the struggle of the Kenyan male to maintain integrity in contemporary society.]

 

WATCH: Kent Monkman: Casualties of Modernity

Video published on Jan 28, 2016

Ken Monkman Painting

Kent Monkman, Bete Noire, Installation View, The Urban Res, 2014, Sargent’s Daughters, New York

“Through a variety of mediums, including painting, film/video, performance, and installation, Kent Monkman explores themes of colonization, sexuality, loss, and resilience — the complexities of historic and contemporary Native American experience. His alter-ego, Miss Chief, appears in his work as an agent provocateur and trickster who upends received notions of history and indigenous people.”

[Co-presented by University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), with support from Institute for the Humanities, and the Michigan Indian Employment & Training Services.]

 

[Kent Monkman is a Canadian artist of Cree ancestry who works with a variety of mediums, including painting, film/video, performance, and installation. He has had solo exhibitions at numerous Canadian museums including the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. He has participated in various international group exhibitions including: The American West, at Compton Verney, in Warwickshire, England, Remember Humanity at Witte de With, Rotterdam, the 2010 Sydney Biennale, My Winnipeg at Maison Rouge, Paris, and Oh Canada!, MASS MOCA. Monkman has created site specific performances at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, The Royal Ontario Museum, and at Compton Verney, he has also made Super 8 versions of these performances which he calls “Colonial Art Space Interventions. Full bio: http://www.kentmonkman.com/biography/]

WATCH: El Perro Del Hortelano [Dog in the Manger]

Produced by Magic Flute Films and Selva Rica

dog-in-a-manger-poster

“The film you are about to see was written by Indigenous and international artists in Peru who volunteered their time and talents because they had a story to be told. With just $8,000 dollars, as well as generous donations of equipment, food, and lodging, they created the first ever cooperative film in the Amazon.

This film is based on real events that took place in 2009 near Manu National Park, Peru.

In Peru the phrase, ‘El perro del hortelano,’ commonly refers to Indigenous people & environmentalists as dogs who do not eat from the garden of natural resources and do not let others eat from it either.

Over the last decade, more than 70% of the Peruvian Amazon Rain forest has been sold to US and other foreign companies for oil, gas, and mining operations without the consultation of the hundreds of Indigenous communities residing there.”

Lisa Intee : “In this mockumentary genre of film, the main character, Brus, plays an indigenous artist (which he is in real life too) trying to deal with the invasion of oil companies, NGOs, and volunteers. Cue the head of the NGO literally going to bed with the main oil guy brought in to convince the community to accept oil exploitation, and a woman from the US doing some suspicious research, whilst volunteers do absurd presentations in English which the community cannot understand or play cards in the background unsure as to why they’re there and what they’re actually doing. Brus sums it up with: ‘Development, NGOs – another type of colonialism.'” [Release date: February 10, 2010]

dog-in-a-manger-awards-2

 

The North Dakota Frontlines: Between A Standing Rock And A Hard Place

Wrong Kind of Green

October 4, 2016

by Forrest Palmer

 

no-dapl-artwork

 

On the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, an indigenous uprising which captured national attention in August 2016 that those in power hope will be naturally extinguished due to time and conventional society’s short attention span on matters such as this (this characteristic best represented by the Occupy movement of a few years ago). The outward reason for the present uproar is the passage of North Dakota portion of the Bakken pipeline through the Standing Rock Sioux reservation that will intersect the area’s sacred burial grounds, and, critically, could pollute the freshwater source of the region’s inhabitants. As the American populace is wholly averse to addressing this to any great degree, the cause of the indigenous being cloistered in these remote, isolated and destitute lands is our desire to not recognize the last remaining reminders of the price that was paid in order to establish this so-called ‘land of the free and home of the brave’.  In particular, this movement has brought to light the fact that the mainstream public is totally ignorant about this particular reservation and the reservation system in general when it comes to the atrocious living conditions of the descendants of those domestically colonized in this country.

To understand the base of the anger residing in the participants of the uprising, it is necessary to take a closer look at the lifestyle of the people on the Standing Rock Reservation

 

These are all the endemic signs of a people who are wholly broken due to centuries of systemic abuses by their conquerors. Therefore, the question isn’t why are the Standing Rock Sioux citizens involved in this rebellion. The question is why is anyone shocked when being pushed past this limit has led to this inevitable outcome. But, just like the proverbial straw that has broken the camel’s back, this current injustice is the catalyst for pushing the rightly aggrieved people past their breaking point as a community.

dakotaprotesthorses

As detailed above, what is being unreported and overlooked in this uprising (which is one of the first steps to any revolution, with it yet to be determined if this will be the end result in this occasion) is the fact that life on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation is insufferably toxic and this current maneuver by the state at the behest of private industry will make it worse in the present and increasingly so in the future. But in order to truly ascertain the level of disinterest shown by the United States in its dealings with the government’s internally colonized descendants that currently reside in the grey area between ethnic cleansing and outright genocide, any unbiased individual need look no further than the behavior of United States in its dealings with defeated foes domestically and the ones internationally. As a specific case, the response by the United States in its treaties with the defeated foes of the Third Axis externally after World War II is the direct opposite of that implemented with the internal First Nations tribes. The treaties entered into by the United States with the defeated Axis powers and the resulting policies were totally in line with the promise to rebuild infrastructure that would be installed in the charred remains of Europe due to the war’s decimating effects, even those of its former enemies during the war. As the current successful state of the defeated combatants is a testament to the United States keeping its promise subsequent to its victory, it must be asked why is it that Nazi Germany, Imperialist Japan and Fascist Italy were given preferable treaty terms and the promises held fast to by the United States, which is in stark contrast to the historical treatment of a full-out genocide executed upon the remaining indigenous in this country, who are purported sovereign citizens of the United States.

The reason being is that the Marshall Plan, the United States economic framework of rebuilding Western Europe and Southeast Asia, and its attending policies were beneficial to the economic strength and growth of power of the United States, which allowed it to become the present and primary global entity. Hence, the United States had an economic reason to rebuild the broken shards of these areas that comprised the war theaters. Oppositely, there never has been and never will be an economic incentive for the United States to invest and fortify the reservations or support the people who inhabit them since their prosperity will never be a benefit to capitalism, but a drain on its precarious and ever dwindling resources.

man-with-feather

Photo: Terray Sylvester

To further illustrate the removal of the indigenous from the consciousness of almost all the people internal to the country who aren’t a part of the First Nation communities, the invisibility of the native in comparison to every other non-anglo furthers their collective removal from any discussion in terms of white supremacy and its deleterious effects on internal non-European populations. The closest in proximity to the tangible aspects of impoverishment and oppression of the indigenous in the U.S. would be the black and brown communities, identified as the descendants of the formally enslaved Africans and Latins from south of the U.S. border, respectively. Yet, in this particular instance, the black and brown U.S. citizens reside in a much better position due to the necessity of their particular existences in comparison to the decimated First Nation populations, who are congregated in the farthest outposts of the United States. The fact that black and brown people exist in areas close to the hubs of capitalism of major cities in the United States (as they always have been) and still are a necessary form of labor in an expression of white supremacy by historically doing jobs that anglos were and are unwilling to do means that any uprising these communities participated in would be disruptive to the economic system of capitalism that is the foundation of national prosperity. As the First Nations people reside in land that is far removed from the primary places and industries of which commerce is reliant upon, any comparable disruption in their present areas will have no effect upon the everyday ability of capitalism to function.

south-dakota-mines

Therefore, unlike every other non-anglo ethnicity in the country that can have some type of effect on the system, the indigenous population can remain isolated and unheard with no means of popular acknowledgement in terms of its ever present painful condition. Tragically, the only reason that this agony is heard to any degree presently and any problems addressed to any facile measure is to allow the dominant culture to not acknowledge that it has effectively decimated the entirety of the indigenous population while at the same time not deal with the guilt (if there would be any) of delivering the final death blow of genocide that has always been the unspoken threat directed at the relative handful of people still residing in the United States. Ultimately, if it wasn’t for this piece of pipeline that will only stretch a few miles into the region of the Standing Rock Reservation, there would be no reason whatsoever to even acknowledge their present protest, let alone do anything about it.

So, the presence of this seemingly spontaneous protest has dual layers to it. On the surface, it is about this singular pipeline and the possible problems that may arise due to its placement in close proximity to their living area.  However, in the same vein as non-violent direct action (NVDA) is based on the civil rights movement in the United States and its perceived success here in this country (although all evidence points to the contrary), many of the singular atrocities that galvanized the black community to utilize this particular means of protest, such as the murder of Emmitt Till and the arrest of Rosa Parks for not sitting in the back of the bus, were mere sparks that set off the powder keg that was already present in society due to the centuries long oppression that preceded them.

Similarly, the pipeline is just the catalyst for addressing inequities that have laid dormant for far too long. This is the layer beneath the surface where the righteous anger residing on the reservation has been fomenting since the natives were forced into this open air prison by the barrel of a gun decades ago. Whether it was this pipeline or some other form of intrusion on the land that the state said was theirs after surrendering as an entire ethnic group in order to not be fully exterminated, the need for capitalism to continuously gobble up everything in its path inevitably led to this current situation, where the natives are a harbinger for all of mankind as the extremities of needed energy accumulation will close on all of us more and more with each passing day whether we choose to accept it or not. And as current flow always follows the path of least resistance, the state has always looked first to the reservation system and its inhabitants to appropriate anything it may need to survive since the continued existence of the indigenous is seen as an inconvenience rather than a necessity by most non-indigenous citizens in this country.

As NVDA is a remnant of the aforementioned much ballyhooed civil rights movement, the response by the state has advanced and evolved while the tactics employed by the ethnic victims in regards to white supremacy has stagnated and remained the same. This is no more apparent than in the current actions by private interests regarding the indigenous uprising. During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the state employed attack dogs on protestors as a response to their marches. In the present iteration of the response, it isn’t the state that has employed these abusive tactics, it is the corporation that now has its paid minions to deliver counterattacks to the movement. ICYMI, a private security company, was employed by the manufacturers of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, to confront the protesters by employing attack dogs to disperse the crowd and put a final end to this perceived effrontery to the dominant culture.

As this is a new wrinkle in the oppression of the masses, the million-dollar question is who or what is supposed to be held accountable for any injuries caused by the use of these tactics by private interests? Is it now a civil matter, even though the state is saying that it is in the public interest to have this land for the pipeline, as the term “eminent domain” is as nebulous term imaginable in masking the interest of private corporations by way of determining land appropriation as an expression of the public good. Can the corporation be taken to civil court for these attacks? As the land is in the grey area of appropriation, is it public or private land at this juncture? These are all legal questions that aren’t being addressed because the hope was that this endeavor would cease all of the ongoing uproar in North Dakota. In addition, these ill-defined forms of accountability make it much more difficult for the aggrieved to seek redress from those in power.

In the end, the most important thing for this uprising is to not just relegate the movement to this pipeline and the leaders must speak honestly about the need to attend to all the inequalities that have been imposed on the natives on this particular reservation and the reservation system as a whole. Of the over 500 treaties that have been entered into between the government and the First Nations people, all have been broken in some form or fashion by the U.S. government.  And these acts of broken treaties have been deemed legal by the same justice system that is supposed to be fair and balanced in its decision making as it purports to be based on an eponymous “rule of law”, something not reliant on the arbitrary positions of man. Yet, the U.S. populace readily believes this when all empirical evidence shows that this is anything but the case. Either the “rule of law” is faulty or our implementation of it is at issue.  More than likely, it is just a nice term utilized by the powers that be to inculcate people into an imaginary belief that when the outcome of a particular case is not to their well being or liking it is because of the weakness of the case and not due to systemic biases related to the arbiters culturally inculcated belief that anglo ethnicity and the attending economic system is more important than any aggrievement of the indigenous.

Whatever the reason for these decisions, the fact of the matter is that Einstein once famously said that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. As such, there can be nothing more insane than expecting redress from the same justice system that has deemed 500 instances of broken treaties over a span of centuries to all of a sudden change course in this given instance regarding the ongoing pipeline conflict. Hence, this movement must be utilized as a tool to recognize, respect and ultimately implement the indigenous stated goals of self-determination, decolonization and self-government.

It is going to take a concerted effort that goes beyond a simplified NVDA that was used to allow black people the “privilege” of doing acts that are in hindsight trivial things, such using the same bathrooms as white people. The old stale tactics of the past can’t be used as the goals aren’t the same in this instance (self-determination from people who aren’t looking for integration as they want to be recognized as a sovereign nation within a nation) as those previously attempting to be obtained during the civil rights movement (an assimilationist integration based off of a wholly acknowledged acceptance regarding non-anglo inferiority by both oppressors and oppressed). To use sports as an analogy, this is akin to using a baseball bat on a soccer field or utilizing a hockey stick during a basketball game.

As this is the case, the strategy employed by the modern indigenous can’t be the same as those who preceded them in this country.  As Cuba famously utilized its guerrilla strategy in assisting African nations in their battles to end European colonialism, the devices employed by the First Nation members must be different than anything ever employed previously.  What is to stop the indigenous from aligning their interests with MEND in the Niger River Delta, whose enemy is also the multinational corporations trespassing on its land? This is another organization that is going through the same issues as the Standing River Sioux and numerous other tribes, like the Black Hill Sioux and their land being destroyed by uranium mining and coal mining on the Black Mesa plateau that has disaffected the water source of the Hopi and Navajo tribes. In addition, there needs to be a network of groups who have the same interests who must now band together with a common goal which is to stop the continuous encroachment of private interests in their particular domains at one level, as well as to address the fact that this will invariably be all of us.

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When all is said and done, this protest in North Dakota is the only portion of this conflict that is for the good of the public as the pipeline itself is anything but a benefit to humans or any other life form, no matter what portions of the mainstream society profess in this regard.  By any measurement of what is beneficial to the continuance of sentient beings on this Earth, the uprising in North Dakota is one of the few relevant ongoing acts presently. Although near-term human extinction (NTHE) is almost a certainty at this point, whatever portion of life that can be salvaged, be it human or otherwise, must start somewhere and it has to be at the grassroots level since the expectation that any portion of the establishment will save us is beyond insane when all evidence to this juncture has proven otherwise.

Ultimately, the First Nation members need to use this as a catalyst for an overall change in their collective living circumstances. Their problems reside in having their entire existence totally dependent on the goodwill of a white power structure that still sees them as savages. This structure, whose continuance is dependent on institutional racism, only gives a nod to the indigenous when they dress like them, use them as mascots or talk about the fact that their members’ great, great, great grandma was a First Nation member or something to that effect. Other than those few useless nods to the people and culture, the systemic need is to keep them isolated, weak and emaciated on a reservation where the only thing to be done is take the resources under their feet and relegate them to eternal impoverishment and disenfranchisement.

As the pipeline is a mere conduit of the resource that flows through its vessels, the uproarious response by the First Nations community is the conduit of the centuries long anger which as has been internalized on these outposts of human despair. We can only hope that the rupture of  First Nation emotions will make all of the previous pipeline fissures pale in comparison.

 

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

WATCH: The Utilization of Western NGOs for the Theft of Africa’s Vast Resources

Original Video Published January 26, 2015

The following in an excerpt from a lecture given by Mallence Bart Williams in 2015 (TEDxBerlin). 

Chanel Celebrity Fetish

 

Above: Mademoiselle Privé: “The fabric-lined room is a truly sensory experience… Surrounding the room with portraits of modern-day Chanel muses, from Lily Collins to Lily-Rose Depp, you will be enraptured by the beauty that is Chanel.” [source]

One thing that keeps me puzzled, despite having studied finance and economics at the world’s best universities, the following question remains unanswered. Why is it that 5,000 units of our currency is worth one unit of your currency where we are the ones with the actual gold reserves? It’s quite evident that the aid is in fact not coming from the West to Africa but from Africa to the Western world. The Western world depends on Africa in every possible way since alternative resources are scarce out here. So how does the West ensure that the free aid keeps coming? By systematically destabilizing the wealthiest African nations and their systems, and all that backed by huge PR campaigns — leaving the entire world under the impression that Africa is poor and dying and merely surviving on the mercy of the West.

Well done Oxfam, UNICEF, Red Cross, Live Aid, and all the other organizations that continuously run multi-million-dollar advertisement campaigns depicting charity porn to sustain that image of Africa globally. Ad campaigns paid for by innocent people under the impression to help, with their donations. While one hand gives under the flashing lights of cameras, the other takes in the shadows. We all know the dollar is worthless, while the Euro is merely charged with German intellect and technology and maybe some Italian pasta. How can one expect donations from nations that have so little?

Chanel Diamonds

Mallence Bart Williams

How super sweet of you to come with your colored paper in exchange for our gold and diamonds. But instead you should come empty-handed, filled with integrity and honor. I want to share with you our wealth and invite you to share with us. The perception is that a healthy and striving Africa would not disperse its resources as freely and cheaply, which is logical. Of course, it would instead sell its resources at world market prices, which in turn would destabilize and weaken Western economies established on the post-colonial free-meal system.

Last year the IMF reports that six out of 10 of the world’s fastest-growing economies are in Africa, measured by their GDP growth. The French Treasury, for example, is receiving about 500 billion dollars year in year out, in foreign exchange reserves from African countries based on Colonial Debt they force them to pay. Former French President Jacques Chirac stated in an interview recently that we have to be honest and acknowledge that a big part of the money in our banks comes precisely from the exploitation of the African continent. In 2008 he stated that without Africa, France will slide down in the rank of a third-world power.

This is what happens in the human world. The world we have created.

Have you ever wondered how things work in nature? One would assume that in evolution, the fittest survives. However in nature any species that is overhunting, over-exploiting the resources they depend on as nourishment, natural selection would sooner or later take the predator out, because it upsets the balance.

 

 [Mallence Bart-Williams was born in Cologne, Germany. She is a Sierra Leonean writer and filmmaker and a German fashion designer. She pursued her studies in economics and finance in Paris, Singapore, and Great Britain. She is the founder and creative director of the Freetown-based creative collective FOLORUNSHO, a ‘SHARITY’ (with no financial donations or aide) that she initiated with street kids in Sierra Leone.]

 

Avaaz – Imperialism’s Willing Collaborator

Middle East Monitor

March 5, 2015

by Ramona Wadi

 

PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ endeavours to obtain symbolic recognition of Palestinian statehood from European countries had, as intended, eclipsed the necessity of developing awareness of the importance of Palestine’s anti-colonial struggle.

With each assertion garnered, mainstream media hype created an additional illusion out of futile gestures. Meanwhile, seemingly on the periphery, international human rights organisations and NGOs continued with their strategy of working alongside the political hegemony advocating for the two-state paradigm.

Avaaz – the “global organization with a simple democratic mission,” which should accurately translate into the imperialist collaborator manipulating activism into diplomacy, has contributed to the agenda of rendering Palestinians subservient to Israel’s colonial demands.

In 2011, the Avaaz petition to UN member states calling for recognition of the state of Palestine contained a simplistic affirmation to “turn the tide on decades of failed peace talks, end the occupation and move towards peace based on two states.” The identical rhetoric was applied to another petition in 2012 prior to the UN’s recognition of Palestine as a non-member state, along with an update declaring the move a huge victory while once again eliminating the reality of settler-colonialism.

Prior to the European Parliament vote on Palestinian statehood, Avaaz urged its community “to support a resolution that calls for clear, urgent recognition of the state of Palestine, as a significant move towards a final agreement on a two state solution.” The European public’s support for Palestine, according to Avaaz, should enable Europe to lead “the way to peace”. The organisation’s tactic is an attempt to separate US and EU political dynamics, in an attempt to induce further oblivion among its global activist community about complicity in Israeli colonialism. The petition’s “success” was heralded with a hypocritical header that stated “Thanks! We’ve sent ripples of hope to Palestine and Israel.”

As expected, Avaaz refrained from explaining to its followers the implications of the two-state compromise; including the obvious seeking of legitimacy from the oppressor should the concept be implemented. Avaaz has maintained the unspoken international agenda – that of prioritising “occupation” over colonisation, in a manner that discards Palestinian history and memory for convenient terminology which lessens the implications of oppression inflicted upon the indigenous population by Israel’s colonial existence.

Avaaz’s global platform, allegedly 100% funded by “small online donations”, has become a principal actor in furthering the imperialist agenda. Its choice of causes, including the advocating of NATO intervention according to US agenda of regime change, are later interpreted as an expression of the global community – a reflection of the massive amount of signatures Avaaz is capable of garnering for their chosen agendas. However, its alleged dedication to fighting injustice and oppression is clearly subject to selective criteria, which is then packaged as an attractive, mainstream cause, divested of implications and disseminated online for people to sign and deem themselves participants in the struggle for Avaaz’s concept of justice. Millions of signatures later, the organisation publishes a congratulatory message on its website to maintain its community and Avaaz remains at the helm, retaining its duplicitous role as alleged activist and collaborator in imperialist oppression.

The Virgin Fallacy: From the Famine Cotton Board to the Millennium Village Project

Critical Investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa (CIHA)

February 13, 2015

by Cilas Kemedjio

 

In this three-part series (we post Part One today), Cilas Kemedjio takes on the ongoing crusade to spread neoliberal dogma and “western values.”  Part Two addresses William Easterly’s call to governments and aid agencies to be “guardians of virtue,” while Part Three moves to the continued efforts of Jeffrey Sachs to create development nirvanas in African (and other) societies.

 

TOE

The cover story in The Economist (June 1997) was “Emerging Africa.” It was a classic display of the arrogant paternalism that has come to be the hallmark of the new humanitarianism. We are told that poor countries, referred to as “swallowers of endless charity,” will continue to make “legitimate demands on the conscience of the rich world.” In order to maximize the efficiency of aid programs, reforming corrupt models of governance should be the priority of donors: “If a country’s government is too venal or incompetent to spend the money as specified, it must be told to allow non-governmental organizations to step in or do without aid altogether” (The Economist 13-14). William Easterly makes the case for this neoliberal agenda in the language of virtue in his book The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor. Easterly, a believer in the “Invisible Hand” theorized by Adam Smith, advocates an orthodox laissez-faire capitalism, that, coupled with democratic institutions, is the golden path towards growth. Jeffrey Sachs, in an article (“The Limits of Convergence: Nature, nurture and growth”) published in the same issue, credits Adam Smith for understanding better than modern economists the curse of tropical geography, that is, the link between geography and poverty (or growth). Sachs contends that global capitalism is “the most promising institutional arrangement for worldwide prosperity that history has ever seen.” Sachs claims that market-based policies and “fiscal rectitude” can help mitigate the “disabilities of the tropics.” The Economist, Easterly and Sachs all agree that good governance constitute the most important factor in the march out of extreme poverty: “Good government is not just a moral concern, or a basis for social stability and political legitimacy. Corruption, government breach of contract, expropriation of property, and inefficiency in public administration are found to harm growth.” For Sachs western economic domination may have been built upon the West’s nearly exclusive hold on capitalism. In the era of globalization, he suggests that economic prosperity should become “common property.” Jeffrey Sachs, the humanitarian at the center of Nina Munk’s The Idealist Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty, and Easterly, the unapologetic advocate of globalization, do find another common ground: the virgin fallacy.

idealistThe concept of virginity is at the heart of the undertakings of European colonization, from slavery to humanitarianism without borders by way of colonization. The tabula rasa authorizes the colonial project with the attendant exploitation of human resources whose privileged modality is constituted of forced labor. The virginal state presupposes a certain laziness or morbidity of native residents, whence the exotic mythologies of the unused reserves of human energy that precede the enslavement of peoples expropriated from their virgin lands. Allen Isaacman and Richard Roberts, in Cotton, Colonialism, and Social History is Sub-Saharan Africa (1995), argue that programs of cotton colonialism were built upon the empirical observations and fantasies of European visitors, traders, missionaries, and administrators. Their view of Africa’s potential to produce cotton stemmed from the nineteenth-century romantic images of Africa as a beautiful tropical region through the prism of neo-mercantile policies. Most expectations rested on the assumption that African rural societies enjoyed abundant leisure that could be used to fuel the cotton industry. The colonial production scheme was also based on the presumption of an underutilized labor force, the consequence of Africans being “congenitally lazy.” Therefore, it was the divine duty of colonial nations to “heal” this malady by forcing Africans in the cotton fields.

Jean-Paul Sartre, in his much-celebrated preface to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, writes that the invention of the native was a result of the reduction of “the inhabitants of the annexed country to the level of superior monkeys in order to justify the settler’s treatments of them as beasts of burden.” Starvation was only one of the modalities for achieving the complete breakdown of the humanity of the colonized. Isaacman argues that “Mozambican peasants underwrote the Portuguese textile industry with their labor and were forced to sacrifice their own food security” (Cotton is the Mother of Poverty 1996). The Famine Control Board, established by the Portuguese, could be said to represent a Humanitarian Mission at the heart of colonial exploitation.

If colonies were the grounds for the first Humanitarian missions of modern times, the battlegrounds of the Nigerian civil war, otherwise known as the Biafra war (1967-1970), became the theater of another experimentation: partisan humanitarianism. This new brand of humanitarian intervention, popularized by Doctors Without Borders, has recently become the cornerstone of the new ethical order world order. The Right to Protect, as it is known, institutionalizes the sovereignty of human rights over State sovereignty. Libya and Côte d’Ivoire have been, for better or for worse, targeted for this humanitarian experimentation. Jean Ping, the former President of the African Union Commission, laments how Libya is in chaos, after the NATO bombings that left the country in shambles and more than 50,000 deaths according to various estimates (Éclipse sur l’Afrique. Fallait-il tuer Kadhafi? 2014). Côte d’Ivoire has yet to recover from the disastrous French and United Nations military intervention following what amounted to be nothing more than a post-electoral dispute (Laurent Gbagbo selon François Mattei. Pour la Vérité et la Justice. Révélations sur un scandale français, 2014). I argue that this transformation of Africa as a ground where new experiments in international affairs are conducted proceeds from the Virgin Fallacy.

Easterly, in the name of fighting poverty, ends up casting Africa as a virgin land waiting to be molded by the conquistadores of morality and democracy, this time charged with the mission to protect the rights of the poor: “If you wonder what you can do about global poverty, here is virgin territory for action” (Easterly 34; emphasis added). The salvation of the poor, this theory surmises, will only come as a consequence of the spread of individual rights that are “Western values.” Sachs would probably agree with the assessment about the failure of development in Africa, but contends that it’s because foreign aid has been insufficient to generate satisfactory results. Sachs’s humanitarian approach to fight extreme poverty takes the form of the Millennium Villages Project while Easterly’s relies on the neoliberal dogma of free enterprise, globalization, and political freedom. Easterly is critical of Sachs’s philanthropic approach that seeks to create islands of successes in a sea of failure. Sachs’ humanitarianism is an experiment designed “to test his theories about ending poverty, and to demonstrate that his proposed series of interventions could be used on a grand scale to eradicate extreme poverty across Africa” (Munk 213). These theories, manufactured in Western laboratories, do not account for the complexities of African communities. The inability to learn from failures and successes that are written into the long history of fighting poverty in Africa calls into question this experiment that inevitably resurrects the tabula rasa mindset. In this sense, it does remain trapped within the paradigm of Africa as virgin territory.

 

[Cilas Kemedjio is Director of the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies at the University of Rochester and co-editor of the CIHA Blog.]