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How Science Ignores The Living World — An Interview With Vine Deloria

This interview of Vine Deloria by author Derrick Jensen, was published in July of 2000, by The Sun Magazine.

Today, it is more relevant – and more important – than when it was published.

Deloria passed away on November 13, 2005.

 

July 2000: Vine Deloria is one of the most important living Native American writers. For more than a quarter century, he has produced an extraordinarily readable critique of Western culture. Central to Deloria’s work is the understanding that, by subduing nature, we have become slaves to technology and its underlying belief system. We’ve given up not only our freedom, but also our relationship with the natural world.

Deloria was born in 1933 on the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. For many generations, his family has straddled white and Indian cultures. One of his ancestors, the son of a fur trader and a Yankton Sioux headman’s daughter, had a vision that his descendants would serve as mediators with the dominant society.

Deloria’s father, a Dakota Episcopal priest, took his young son to the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre and pointed out to him the survivors who still lived on the reservation. Deloria left home at sixteen to go to a college-preparatory school in Connecticut. After graduation, he turned down an acceptance to the University of Colorado and bought a used car with his tuition money. He went on to study geology for two years at the Colorado School of Mines (my own alma mater) before enlisting in the Marine Corps reserve. In 1956 he enrolled in Iowa State University, where he met his future wife, Barbara Jeanne Nystrom.

They moved to Illinois so that Vine could attend a Lutheran seminary in preparation for becoming a minister, like his father. For four years, he studied philosophy and theology by day and earned money as a welder at night. Although he completed his education, he grew increasingly disappointed with “the glaring lack of solutions” the seminary provided.

In 1964, Deloria went to work as the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, and there he began to see the importance of building a national power base for Indians through grassroots organizing. He soon came to appreciate the need for trained Indian lawyers who could defend tribal sovereignty and treaty rights within the legal system, and in 1967 he enrolled in law school at the University of Colorado.

Deloria maintained his ties to Christianity, even being elected to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. In one of his books, however, he posed a challenge to the religion of his childhood: “If, as they claim, Christianity is for all people, why not let Indian people worship God after their own conception of Him?” Deloria no longer identifies himself as a Christian, but, if pressed, offers that he is a “Seven Day Absentist.”

Since receiving his law degree in 1970, Deloria has written many books and lectured at colleges all over the country. In both his writing and his speaking, he has never shied away from direct assaults on injustice. It’s as though he doesn’t have time or patience for the polite indirectness that characterizes so much political dialogue today. His book titles alone testify to this directness: Red Earth, White Lies (Fulcrum Books) won the 1996 Nonfiction Book of the Year Award from the Colorado Center for the Book; Custer Died for Your Sins (University of Oklahoma Press) brought accounts of the trail of broken treaties up to date; and God Is Red (Fulcrum Books) remains one of the best books written on Native American spirituality.

Deloria recently retired from his position as a professor of history, law, religious studies, and political science at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He lives in Golden, Colorado, with his wife, who edits much of his work.

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Jensen: What would you say is the fundamental difference between the Western and indigenous ways of life?

Deloria: I think the primary difference is that Indians experience and relate to a living universe, whereas Western people — especially scientists — reduce all things, living or not, to objects. The implications of this are immense. If you see the world around you as a collection of objects for you to manipulate and exploit, you will inevitably destroy the world while attempting to control it. Not only that, but by perceiving the world as lifeless, you rob yourself of the richness, beauty, and wisdom to be found by participating in its larger design.

Science insists, at a great price in understanding, that the observer be as detached as possible from the event he or she is observing. Contrast that with the attitude of indigenous people, who recognize that humans must participate in events, not isolate themselves.In order to maintain the fiction that the world is dead — and that those who believe it to be alive have succumbed to primitive superstition — science must reject any interpretation of the natural world that implies sentience or an ability to communicate on the part of nonhumans. Science insists, at a great price in understanding, that the observer be as detached as possible from the event he or she is observing. Contrast that with the attitude of indigenous people, who recognize that humans must participate in events, not isolate themselves.

Ironically, although science prides itself on being a search for knowledge, Indians can obtain knowledge from birds, animals, rivers, and mountains that is inaccessible to modern science. And Indians can use this knowledge to achieve better results. Take meteorology. Scientists know that seeding clouds with certain chemicals will bring rain, but this method of dealing with nature is wholly mechanical and forces nature to do our bidding. Indians achieved the same results more peacefully by conducting ceremonies and asking the spirits for rain. The two methods are diametrically opposed. It’s the difference between commanding a slave to do something and asking a friend for help.

Being attuned to their environment, Indians could find food, locate trails, protect themselves from inclement weather, and anticipate coming events thanks to their understanding of how all things are related. This knowledge isn’t unique to American Indians. It’s available to anyone who lives primarily in the natural world, is reasonably intelligent, and respects other life-forms for their intelligence. Respect for other life-forms filters into our every action, as does its opposite: perceiving the world as lifeless. If you objectify other living things, then you are committing yourself to a totally materialistic universe — which is not even consistent with the findings of modern physics.

The central idea of science, as it has been developed and applied, is to get machines or nature to do the work human beings don’t want to do. This is immensely practical, but in a shortsighted way.

Jensen: How so?

Deloria: Developing the automobile, for example, allowed people to get quickly from place to place, but at what cost, both in terms of accidents and of damage to the natural world? And what effect have automobiles had on our spiritual life?In a capitalist system, whoever supplies the money determines the technology. This means that science, as it’s applied, is never really for the good of humankind, but instead for the good of the financial elite or the military.

In a capitalist system, whoever supplies the money determines the technology. This means that science, as it’s applied, is never really for the good of humankind, but instead for the good of the financial elite or the military. It also means that science will be dominated by the authorities who have found institutional favor, whether they have the best evidence for their beliefs or not.

When beliefs and knowledge harden and become institutionalized, we turn to institutions to solve all our problems: people purchase food grown by others, settle their conflicts in courts and legislatures rather than by informal, mutually agreed-upon solutions, and wage extended and terrible wars over abstract principles instead of minor battles over the right to occupy land for hunting and fishing. Similarly, beliefs about the world are processed into philosophical and rational principles rather than anecdotal experiences, and religion is reduced to creeds, dogmas, and doctrines.

Now, every society needs educated people, but the primary responsibility of educated people must be to bring wisdom back into the community and make it available to others. Because of hierarchies, European thinkers have not performed their proper social function. Instead, science and philosophy have taken the path already taken by Western religion and mystified themselves. The people who occupy the top positions in science, religion, and politics have one thing in common: they are responsible for creating a technical language incomprehensible to the rest of us, so that we will cede to them our right and responsibility to think. They, in turn, formulate a set of beautiful lies that lull us to sleep and distract us from our troubles, eventually depriving us of all rights — including, increasingly, the right to a livable world. They, in turn, formulate a set of beautiful lies that lull us to sleep and distract us from our troubles, eventually depriving us of all rights — including, increasingly, the right to a livable world.

Rather than trusting our own experiences and senses, we often look to scientists for explanations of the world. In giving explanations, these scientists defer to the dogma and doctrine they learned in universities and colleges. It’s gotten to the point where almost anything anyone with a Ph.D. says is taken as gospel, rather than as someone’s opinion.

One example of this credulity is the widespread acceptance of the notion that Indians came to the Americas across the Bering Strait. Newspapers and textbooks say that archaeologists have proven there were waves of people moving to and fro across the Bering Strait, but they haven’t proven anything of the kind. Assuming that carbon dating is anywhere near accurate, and that the researchers didn’t throw out as “noise” any results they didn’t agree with, all they can prove is that a group of people lived in such-and-such a place, however many years ago. Everything else is just theory and speculation. Respect for other life-forms filters into our every action, as does its opposite: perceiving the world as lifeless. If you objectify other living things, then you are committing yourself to a totally materialistic universe — which is not even consistent with the findings of modern physics.

Jensen: So you view the theory that human beings came to North and South America across the Bering Strait as an article of faith, rather than as fact?

Deloria: I’ve yet to see any remotely convincing evidence to support it. It’s a doctrinal belief that institutional science has imposed on us.

The effort to deny that Indians are native to this land really started with the old Spanish clerics, who tried to identify Indians as either survivors of Noah’s flood or members of the lost tribes of Israel. So modern scientific theories are part of an entrenched line of thought: a Judeo-Christian insistence on seeing the world through Eurocentric eyes. Indians cannot simply be Indians. They have to have come from somewhere in or around Europe.

Jensen: Why is this issue of deep origins important?

Deloria: People want to believe that the Western Hemisphere, and North America in particular, was vacant, unexploited, fertile land waiting to be cultivated according to God’s holy dictates. The hemisphere thus belonged to whomever was able to “rescue” it from its wilderness state. We see the same rationalization at work today in the Amazon and elsewhere. If the Indians were not the original inhabitants of this continent but relative latecomers who had barely unpacked when Columbus came knocking on the door, then they had no real claim to the land and could be swept away with impunity. Thus, science justifies history and eases the guilt over five centuries of violence. Even today, I hear some non-Indians say, “Well, aren’t we all immigrants from somewhere?” The short answer is no. By making Indians immigrants to North America, Westerners are able to deny the fact that this is our continent.

Another way science has assuaged Western guilt is by claiming to prove that Indians are just as destructive as Westerners. You’ve probably heard of the Pleistocene overkill hypothesis, which states, without any real evidence, that as soon as Indians “arrived” here, they started killing everything in sight. When the hypothesis was first proposed some fifty years ago by Carl Sauer, it was shot down almost immediately by Loren C. Eiseley, who raised numerous concerns that have never been refuted. One is the fact that not only large mammals disappeared during the Pleistocene Epoch, but also birds, mollusks, and frogs, which could not have been hunted to extinction. Also, there is no evidence that tribal hunting groups using ancient techniques could exterminate — or even significantly alter — an animal population, unless the hunters and prey were restricted to a very small area. The example of modern tribes who still use Stone Age methods supports this.

So the overkill theory remained dead in the water until the 1960s, when it was revived by a book called Pleistocene Extinctions. Since then, as the destruction of the natural world has become ever more difficult to ignore, Westerners have needed ever stronger salves for their consciences, so the theory has risen up again in full force. Although there is still little real evidence to support it, its ideological function — to prove that destructiveness is part of human nature, and not just the result of a destructive way of living in and perceiving the world — is important enough to justify its admission into the scientific canon.

There’s even a new theory that Indians were responsible for the near extinction of the buffalo. According to this argument, Indian winter encampments deprived the buffalo of feed, and so the population plummeted.

Jensen: How could anyone make that claim?

Deloria: Simple: by ignoring all evidence that contradicts the thesis, such as 1870s newspaper reports of white hunters shipping out trainloads of buffalo hides. In the Dodge City area alone, hunters killed 3 million buffalo in three years.

Jensen: If Indians didn’t cross the Bering Strait, how did they come to inhabit this continent? What do the Indians themselves say?

Deloria: That last question isn’t asked often enough, and points out another problem with the scientific tradition. Somehow it is presumed that scientists, and thus Europeans, know better than the Indians themselves how Indians got here and how they lived prior to Columbus. That attitude is patronizing at best. Instead of digging and analyzing, why don’t researchers just ask the Indians? And then, having asked, why don’t they take the answers seriously?

Indians’ beliefs about their origins vary considerably from tribe to tribe. Many tribes simply begin their story at a certain location and describe their migrations. Others will say they came from another continent by boat. (Of course, archaeologists generally refuse to believe them, because they think Indians couldn’t have built boats, which is absurd.) A number of tribes say that they were created here. A few say they came here through a portal from another world. They walked into a cave or tunnel, for example, until it was completely dark, and they continued walking until a tiny light appeared ahead of them. As they kept moving toward it, it grew bigger, gradually revealing itself to be an entrance to a new world.

Personally, I like the Pacific Northwest tribes’ idea that, in the distant past, the physical world was not dominant, and you could change your shape and experience life as an animal, plant, or bird. Then the world changed, and some people were caught in different shapes and became animals, plants, and so on.

Much of the Indian knowledge of origins is revealed in ceremonial settings and involves views of time, space, matter, and cosmic purpose that the scientific perspective considers heretical. Because of this, such accounts are generally dismissed out of hand as superstition: nice campfire stories that have no connection to reality.

Jensen: Philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend has said that “whatever fails to fit into the established category system or is said to be incompatible with this system is either viewed as something quite horrifying, or, more frequently, it is simply declared to be nonexistent.”

Deloria: That’s standard scientific procedure. You throw out the results you don’t agree with, turn to the results that “make sense,” and say, “See, this is proven.” It’s nonsense.

Scientists gather data from what appear to them to be similar sources and circumstances and, after much meditation, announce the discovery of “laws” that govern the universe — with some notable exceptions we rarely hear about. Sometimes these “anomalies” are acknowledged and become the basis for fruitful discussion, but more often they’re simply swept under the rug. The increasing sophistication of scientific measuring instruments continues to reveal flaws in the previously agreed-upon canon, yet this seems not to bother a great majority of scientists, nor the rest of us, who should care far more than we do.

Scientists impose highly restrictive laws upon the natural world, thereby limiting its potential for response. They are asking incomplete questions of nature and, in many cases, irrelevant ones. In my opinion, fields purporting to be scientific should devote considerable time to reexamining what they can really prove and what is speculation, and then restate their principles. Standards of evidence need to be erected. There’s got to be some discipline and courage. Scientists should be willing to speak out when authoritative-sounding pronouncements are being made on the basis of questionable — or nonexistent — evidence.

I like the Pacific Northwest tribes’ idea that, in the distant past, the physical world was not dominant, and you could change your shape and experience life as an animal, plant, or bird. Then the world changed, and some people were caught in different shapes and became animals, plants, and so on.

Jensen: A friend of mine says that science is an even better means of social control than Christianity, because if you don’t believe in Christianity, you’re simply doomed to burn in a hell you don’t think exists, whereas if you don’t believe in science, you’re presumed to be stupid.

Deloria: I think science has replaced Christianity as the dominant religion in our society. You see evidence of this whenever someone goes to court to try to establish or protect religious rights. If science and religion come into conflict, religion always loses. That’s true for everyone from Christian fundamentalists to Indians to Orthodox Jews: anybody who has a religious view that’s unacceptable to scientists.

Jensen: What are some better ways of perceiving and living in the world?

Deloria: I would say one alternative to forcing nature to tell us its secrets is to observe nature and adjust to its larger rhythms. This alternative is practiced by many other cultures, but it scares a lot of people in the West because it derives information from sources that may be tinged with mysticism. For example, many centuries ago, three sisters appeared to the Senecas and said they wished to establish a relationship with “the two-legged people.” In return for the performance of certain ceremonies that would help them to thrive, the sisters would become plants and feed the people. The three sisters became beans, corn, and squash. And the soil of the Seneca farmlands was never exhausted, because these three plants, in addition to sharing a spiritual relationship with one another, also formed a sophisticated natural nitrogen cycle that kept the land fertile and productive.

The white man came later, planted only corn and wheat, and soon exhausted the soil. Then, after conducting many experiments, scientists “discovered” the nitrogen cycle and produced chemical fertilizers to replace the natural nitrogen. But now we know that these chemicals have unpleasant side effects that may be even worse for us than they are for the soil.

The point is that, for every scientific “discovery,” there may exist one or more alternative ways of understanding natural processes. But we can’t know what these alternatives are until we absolutely reject the idea of forcing nature to reveal its secrets and instead begin to observe nature and listen to its rhythms.

Jensen: I’ve heard about South American tribes who can take a poisonous plant and, by some complex process; boiling it three times, skimming off the froth, and so on — turn it into medicine. Usually, the tribes are assumed to have arrived at these processes through trial and error, but this seems ludicrous to me, because the original plant is a deadly poison. By contrast, you’ve written that “getting information from birds and animals regarding plants is an absurdly self-evident proposition for American Indians.”

Deloria: There are plenty of Indian stories where a plant will appear in a dream and speak to someone, or a person is walking through the forest, and suddenly a plant will say, “I’m edible, but you’ve got to do these various things in order to eat me.”

When I was much younger, I would bring Indian plant knowledge to scientists for them to investigate. But they always wanted to take the plant apart, break it down to see what its constituents were. Their efforts were pointless, because that’s not the way the medicine men use it. They use it whole, and then they get the natural product out of it by making a tea, or a poultice. You can’t chemically disassemble it, because it’s the whole of the plant that cures, not any one ingredient.

Jensen: This seems to get at the heart of the fundamental difference between Western and indigenous cultures: seeing the plant as a whole and letting it literally speak to you, versus putting nature, as Francis Bacon said, “on the rack and extracting her secrets from her.”

Deloria: That’s true, although most of the greatest scientists dabbled considerably in spiritual matters and believed that mystical and intuitive experiences provided them with knowledge. This is true even of Descartes, the first materialist, who is famous for articulating the mind/ body, human/nature split. He said an angel came and explained things to him. Heisenberg, Einstein, and Bohr all had sudden insights. What’s the difference between that and the Indian performing a ceremony and hearing the plant say, “Do this”?

Jensen: I’ve heard of ceremonies in which Indians would sing to the corn. How does that help? What does singing do for the plant?

Deloria: We’re giving energy and respect to the plant. It’s kind of like when you’re trying to teach your kid how to play basketball, and even though he can’t hit the hoop, you say, “Hey, that was really a good one.” You’re not only telling the plant, “We respect and appreciate you”; you’re also making a fuss over the fact that it’s growing. It’s a straight transfer of energy.

Any fool can treat a living thing as if it were a machine and compel it to perform certain functions. All that’s required is sufficient force. But the result of force is slavery, both for the victim and for the wielder.

Jensen: In one of your books, you cite the Osage chief Big Soldier on this: “I see and admire your manner of living. . . . You can do almost what you choose. You whites possess the power of subduing almost every animal to your use. You are surrounded by slaves. Everything about you is in chains, and you are slaves yourselves. I fear that if I should exchange my pursuits for yours, I, too, should become a slave.”

Deloria: That’s the best thing any Indian ever said. I teach at the University of Colorado, and so many of my students are convinced that they are free, yet they act just like everyone else. They all do the same things. They all think alike. They’re almost like a herd, or clones. They’re enslaved to a certain way of life. The thing is, once you’ve traded away spiritual insight for material comfort, it is extremely difficult ever to get it back. I see these kids hiking in the mountains, trying to commune with nature, but you can’t commune with nature just by taking a walk. You have to actually live in it. And these young people have no way of critiquing the society that is enslaving them, because they get outside of it only for the occasional weekend. They may see beautiful vistas and develop an aesthetic appreciation of this other world, but they’re not going to get to a metaphysical understanding of who they really are.

In this sense, poor Appalachian whites and rural blacks are much closer to the natural world than my students, because they live in it twenty-four hours a day. These groups also have in common their oppression by industrialization and the destruction of the land on which their lives depend. Their connection to the natural world teaches them who they are. And it’s not just an abstract connection, but a relationship with a particular tree or a particular mountain.

Jensen: How does being in one place for a long time teach you who you are?

Deloria: If you live in one place long enough, you begin to lose the defenses you’ve erected in order to survive in industrial civilization, and you fall into the rhythm of the land. You develop a different sense of the natural world and no longer have to think of things in the abstract. You think, instead, of how the land looks and what it’s telling you. I would think many Appalachian people have this sense, especially the ones who’ve lived back in the hills for five or six generations. They have begun to adjust to the land, as opposed to forcing the land to adjust to them. If you talk to them, you’ll find they don’t have many of the abstract concerns that so-called civilized people have.

Jensen: What sort of abstract concerns?

Deloria: Always wondering who you are. Always trying to prove yourself, to prove that you are good enough, strong enough, rich enough, good-looking enough. Always trying to define yourself in terms of what you do for a living or what your hobbies are or what you can buy. I can see how that would be an effective survival technique in New York City, but if you live in a place where you’re not always having your identity called into question, you don’t need to worry about those things. You can simply be yourself.

Because of the industrial machine, no one really has an identity anymore. So you have to keep giving people numbers and meaningless ways to define themselves. If you look at the bestseller list, you see all these books offering to tell you how to be yourself. Well, when the land gives you a foundation, you don’t have to struggle with that question. If you live a long time in one place, you have an ongoing experiential context. If you don’t, your life is limited to little disconnected experiences. To really feel alive, you’ve got to grab as many of these experiences as you can. Thus, you’ve got MTV and malls and discos.

Why do Western people — and the Near Eastern peoples from whom their religions are derived — need a messiah? Why is their appraisal of the physical world a negative one? . . . Why do they insist on believing that ultimate reality is contained in another, unimaginable realm?

Jensen: How have modern Indians been separated from the land?

Deloria: Obviously, there are some whose tribes came from the swamps of south Georgia, but who live on a reservation in Oklahoma, or on the south side of LA. People my age mostly grew up on reservations or in towns near reservations, but now a substantial number of young Indians grow up in the suburbs. When these kids come back to Indian culture, they are grasping the images rather than the substance. That’s why it’s important to live in one place, or at least to visit your place and your people often: to stay in touch with who you are, you need to know not just your peer group, but your family and your ancestors and the tribe you were born into. Young suburban Indians often can’t distinguish between the Indians of their tribe and all the information put out about Indians in general. Black Elk Speaks has become a kind of bible for a whole generation of Indians, but it’s really only about one Sioux medicine man.

Loss of ethnic identity, of course, is not just an Indian problem. It’s happening in the big cities. Take Roman Catholic churches. It used to be that you would have an Irish Catholic church, and two blocks over an Italian church, and then six blocks down a Lithuanian church. Now, for financial reasons, the three churches have to consolidate into one, and people lose that sense of community based on ethnicity. They become homogenized into one great big church that stands for nothing, because they’ve had to make so many compromises.

We all need to relearn our own cultural traditions. About six years ago, I brought together traditional people of different tribes for several conferences on Indian knowledge. The whole thing was very emotional, almost traumatic. Few of the Indians in the audience had heard real Indian storytellers tell about their own traditions. A storyteller would get up and speak for forty minutes, and the entire audience would be in tears. People would come to me and say, “I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life.” I’d respond, “Well, this is what our ancestors did. They didn’t spend twenty-four hours a day hunting buffalo. They’d kill a buffalo, have a feast, and then take a few days off to sit around the campfire and tell stories.” Those traditions built incredibly strong characters and happy people.

Jensen: How can we revive that sort of community?

Deloria: Well, in my own case, I would start by pulling together what’s been written down and getting to know it reasonably well, but then I would go out and ask some of the elders how accurate it is. Most books tell only part of the story, and some actually get things wrong. The authors just happen to find some Indians who want to talk and write down what they say. Once it’s in print, it becomes absolute: “This is what Sioux Indians believe,” or “This is what Shoshones believe.” But medicine men and elders often know better.

Many of these elders probably reached adulthood in the 1930s. This means their grandfathers did not grow up on reservations, but were the last generation brought up in freedom. Now we’re losing the last people who ever spoke to the last people who were free. We’re at a very dangerous time. When my generation goes, people are not even going to remember rural communities with no paved roads. In the small towns near reservations, there are no longer any benches where people can sit and talk. Where can we find the coming together, the old visiting? Not at the tribal councils, which are just about policy decisions. Not at the powwow, where everyone is trying to win the dance competition. The old kinship responsibilities are all fading away. How many people today, Indian or otherwise, know where their grandparents are buried? There are no family cemeteries anymore. There is no returning to a place where you feel at home.

Jensen: Why do you think the West destroys every traditional culture it can reach?

Deloria: I don’t think those in power want it known that there are other ways of living, because for the industrial state to succeed, all the citizens have to be part of the economic machine. If you have people living out in a rural area pretty much self-sufficiently who spend their time singing and writing poetry, it tempts those who are still part of the machine to try to seek better lives themselves. If you saw the lack of stress in indigenous people, and then looked at the stress created by the industrial machine, you’d realize that the whole system has gone crazy. We don’t control machines; they control us. So the system has got to crush any alternatives.

This is the legacy of Christianity. The stated Christian ethic is to “love thy neighbor,” but, historically, Christians have been afraid and suspicious of any neighbor unlike themselves. And if those neighbors won’t change, they’ve simply killed them. Certainly, millions of Indians were given the choice of Christianity — and enslavement — or death. The same thing happens today, but it’s generally couched in economic terms, rather than religious ones.

Jensen: How are Indian religions different from Western religions?

Deloria: Most Indian cultures never had a religion in the sense of having dogmas and creeds, nor did they have the sort of all-powerful deity that Christians speak of — a specific higher personality who demands worship and adoration. Rather, they experienced personality in every aspect of the universe and called it Woniya (“spirit”) and looked to it for guidance.

Jensen: So Indians believe everything has spirit?

Deloria: Not exactly. It’s not something they believe. What happens in the different Indian religions is that people become so intimate with their particular environment that they enter into a relationship with the spirits that live there. Rather than an article of faith, it’s part of their experience. I think non-Indians sometimes experience this, too, when they spend a long time in one place.

Indians believe that everything in the universe has value and instructs us in some aspect of life. Everything is alive and is making choices that determine the future, so the world is constantly creating itself. Because every moment brings something new, we need to strive not to classify things too quickly. We must see how the ordinary and the extraordinary come together into one coherent, mysterious story line. With the wisdom and time for reflection that old age provides, we may discover unsuspected relationships.

In this universe, all activities, events, and entities are related. Thus, it doesn’t matter what kind of existence an entity enjoys; whether it is human or otter or rock or star, it participates in the ongoing creation of reality. To Indians, life is not a predatory jungle, “red in tooth and claw,” as Western ideology likes to pretend, but a symphony of mutual respect in which each player has a specific part to play. We must be in our proper place and play our role at the proper moment. Because we humans arrived last in this world, we are the “younger brothers” of the other creatures and therefore have to learn everything from them. Our real interest shouldn’t be to discover the abstract structure of physical reality, but rather to find the proper road down which to walk.

I would also say that another major difference between Western and indigenous religions is that aboriginal groups have never had any need for a messiah. In fact, there really is no place for one in their cosmos.

Jensen: Why is that?

Deloria: If the world is not “a vale of tears,” then there’s no need for salvation. Indians know nothing of a wholly different world — a heaven — compared to which this world has no value. Indian religion is instead concerned, as sociologist Robert Bellah has noted, with “the maintenance of personal, social, and cosmic harmony, and with attaining specific goods — rain, harvest, children, health — as men have always been.” The North American Indians don’t desire transcendence. They simply want to learn more about the reality that confronts them.

Why do Western people — and the Near Eastern peoples from whom their religions are derived — need a messiah? Why is their appraisal of the physical world a negative one? Why do their societies suffer such crises? Why do they insist on believing that ultimate reality is contained in another, unimaginable realm beyond the senses and the span of human life? I don’t understand it. Religion, as I have experienced it, isn’t the recitation of beliefs, but a way of helping us understand our lives. It must, I think, have an intimate connection with the world in which we live, and any religion that favors other places — heaven and the like — over the physical world is a delusion, a mere control device to manipulate us.

Jensen: What, then, to an Indian, is the ultimate goal of life?

Deloria: Maturity: the ability to reflect on the ordinary aspects of life and discover their real meaning.

Now, I know this sounds as abstract as anything ever said by a Western scientist or philosopher, but within the context of Indian experience, it isn’t abstract at all. Maturity is a matter of reflection on a lifetime of experience, as a person first gathers information, then knowledge, then wisdom. Information accumulates until it achieves a sort of critical mass, and patterns and explanations begin to appear. This is where Western science derives its “laws,” but scientists abort the process there, assuming that the products of their own minds are inherent to the structure of the universe. Indians, on the other hand, allow the process to continue, because premature analysis leads to incomplete understanding. When we reach a very old age, or otherwise attain the capacity to reflect on our experiences — most often through visions —we begin to understand how experience, individuality, and the cycles of nature all relate to each other. That state seems to produce wisdom.

Because Western society concentrates so heavily on information, its product is youth, not maturity. The existence of thousands of plastic surgeons in America attests to the fact that we haven’t crossed the emotional barriers that keep us from experiencing maturity.

Jensen: I’m friends with an Okanagan Indian, from British Columbia. I once asked her where dreams come from, and she said, “Everybody knows the animals give them to us.” How would you answer the same question?

Deloria: You have to remember that the Indian relationship to the land is not abstract, but very particular, tied to one piece of ground. My people come from the plains, so we say dreams come from the spirits, not from animals. This is because, if you look around the Great Plains, you see only three large wild creatures: the buffalo, the bear, and the wolf. And you don’t run into them all the time. On the other hand, in the Pacific Northwest, where your friend’s from, there are so many living things that a person is in danger of disappearing into the crowd. So if she says that dreams come from animals, she’s absolutely correct — for her area. If I say dreams come from spirits, I’m correct, but only for the plains.

Jensen: It seems pretty clear to me that if the dominant culture has its way, it will destroy the planet.

Deloria: No question about it.

Jensen: What can we do, then?

Deloria: So long as we perceive science to be a cure-all for everything and a means to overcome nature, there’s nothing we can do. Our answer to increasingly violent weather, for example, is to build cement bunkers to protect us from tornadoes. We’re adjusting to the destructive system rather than abandoning it.

Jensen: You’ve suggested the beautiful possibility that extinction might not be forever, but that, instead, the endangered creatures go away and come back when their habitat is once again being treated properly.

Deloria: About ten years ago, I spoke to members of the Society for Ecological Restoration. I told them that traditional Indian knowledge says that beings never become extinct. They go away, but they have the power to come back. I predicted that, in their restorations, if they were preparing the area right, plants they thought were extinct would begin coming back unaided after four or five years. Plants would come back first, and then animals, and then birds.

Of course, my audience thought I was crazy. But later, when I went to get a cup of coffee, several people followed me. They said, “You’re right. We’re seven years into a swamp restoration in Wisconsin, and all the original plants are back.”

This is not as extraordinary as it might sound. The elders tell us that the buffalo used to go back and forth between two worlds. In the summertime, people would find themselves in the middle of a big herd for weeks. But in the wintertime, there would be only a few buffalo down in the river bottoms, or up in the grasslands. Where were the huge herds? According to the Sioux, they were underground. There were about ten places where they went in or came back out.

When I first heard that, I didn’t believe it. Then I talked to some of the elders, who said, “Of course,” and showed me the buttes where the buffalo used to come out in the springtime. I thought, This is insane, so I scoured the literature, but I couldn’t find any accounts of big buffalo herds in the wintertime. Then, come June, the damn plains were covered with buffalo. In the fall, they started disappearing again.

I’m still working on this one. But that’s what life is all about. You take disparate facts, bring them together, and say, “Now, what’s the real question?” And so often you’re amazed to find that the matter is much deeper than you ever imagined. But the point is to ask the questions, and keep asking them.

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

 

Mammon’s Mania

A Culture of Imbeciles

February 9, 2016

by Jay Taber

change paris2

 

In a culture of imbeciles — assaulted by advertising, and fed on fantasies – the pursuit of authentic life, liberty and happiness faces the formidable obstacles of complacency and wishful thinking. As this toxic commercial onslaught on our collective psyches becomes pandemic — and pandemonium ensues — the plague of profit prophets threaten to plunge the planet into a state of total chaos. At that point – and events indicate it isn’t far off — no amount of reason can save us, leaving panic and hysteria to reign.

 

Download: Imbeciles Guide to the Spectacle1
[First published as ‘Part 1: The Concept of the Spectacle’ in Anselm Jappe’s Guy Debord, University of California Press, 1999. This edition published by Treason Press, February 2004]

 

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website:www.jaytaber.com]

WKOG Op-Ed: Mining for Blood

Wrong Kind of Green

November 12, 2015

by Forrest Palmer

 

ademov-iphone2-1

If Apple’s gold-tinted iPhone 6 isn’t enough for you, now you can upgrade to the real thing. For $7,300, luxury electronics store Ademov will sell you an iPhone 6 plated in 24-carat gold. Even the Apple logo is given special treatment, plated with 18-carat gold and encrusted with VS1 white diamonds. [Source]

As I sit here at my computer, I realize the cost in human lives that came from the production of this outlet from which I am writing this presently. When people look at the electronics equipment and luxury items that are a staple of the Western world and our lifestyles, they rarely ever look at these objects within the context of what it takes to bring them to market in regards to the human life and environmental cost that is sacrificed to do so. As Western consumers, we have been indoctrinated into believing that the birthplace of our goods is the item residing in the packaging and the plastic that surrounds it as we throw it on the cashier conveyor belt to purchase it. The most costly dependence on bringing our smartphones, computers, gaming systems, car circuitry and innumerous other equipment to market is the outlay of human lives through manipulation of labor in the Third World or Global South. For however much importance we put on the Amerikkkan loss of life in mining (which is minimal at best), we feel as if it is simply “the price of doing business” for any life residing outside of its borders and progressively less ambivalent the darker the hue of the people providing us these resources through mining practices.

child_in_mines

AFRICA | Half of gold miners in Africa could be children: According to the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) up to one million children aged as young as five work for small-scale mining and quarrying operations around the world. The statistics are particularly stark in Africa where more than a quarter of the world’s child labourers live. [Source]

Regarding the loss of life in the Global South, which is more pronounced as many of the mining activities in the Western world have become mechanized in comparison to their counterparts in the aforementioned region, manual human labor is needed in the most impoverished nations to provide us with the precious and rare Earth metals that power Western lifestyles, with much of it being child labor. And in a nod to how exploitation of labor is at the foundation of the capitalist system, although the countries and workers that provide us with these elements should be rich, the fact of the matter is that they are the most impoverished regions in the world. Now, the narrative expressed by the leaders, media pundits and talking heads in the West is that in the Global South, comprised of continents like Africa and Asia, the problems reside in corrupt and/or inept leadership .

Cell Phones and Western Children

UNITED STATES | And where approximately half of of gold miners in Africa are children, in the U.S. a new survey finds most children get their first cell phone when they are just 6 years old. The study also found that 96% of children have a cell phone, 83% have a TV or sound system, 75% have a tablet, 71% have a handheld gaming console, 65% have an eBook reader and 51% have an Xbox or Playstation. [Source

However, as even Western labor is starting to lose the gains that it was able to garnish over the past 70 or 80 years due to globalization and the need to extract labor at as minimal amount of cost as possible, it must now be recognized that any leaders in the Global South will be acceptable to the Western world as long as they can control the labor market to hold down wages to as low level as feasible and provide regional stability, a component which is rarely discussed as far as importance to the production of Western consumer goods that needs global commodities. As inanimate objects don’t have the ability to be controlled regarding the amount of money invested in them (for example, the cost to mine, to transport, to turn into manufactured goods), the only variable that can be manipulated by the corporate state is how much capital is expended on labor (to clothe, to feed, to house and provide MINIMAL resources to workers). Therefore, any entity that can control the cost of labor is seen as an ally of Western corporate interests, be it a despotic regime or the president by way of a “democratic” coup. As a capitalist state, the United States is more than willing to support anyone and everyone who can provide labor at the cheapest cost possible as well as keep stability in place that will never impede the daily transportation of resources from the Global South to its necessary destination in the Global North. Although the United States is most guilty since it has about 6% of the world’s population, but uses over 30% of its resources, the Western world is built upon cheap consumer goods with electrical devices being at the foundation of the present industrial age (which is rapidly declining).

Ultimately, the Western world must exploit the Global South for its resources to power this energy intensive lifestyle. Since corporations will not eat the cost of a rise in production of goods and services and the consumer can only be expected to absorb the rise in prices of consumer goods to a certain extent, the producers of these goods can only depend upon labor providing the resources for manufactured goods at a lesser and lesser expense. As raw materials have always been provided by the ones who are seen as inferior, the Western world learned to view the physical conduits that provide us with these materials as useless adjuncts of resource procurement in regards to their humanity, be it the Western slaves of yesteryear that provided sugar or cotton or rice to the modern version today that provides coltan and cobalt in the mines of the Congo. With the caveat being that Western labor has been able to procure some concession from business, the story of all labor itself has been one of being perpetually viewed as living, breathing machinery that is nameless, faceless and always replaceable. Yet, it has been these few rights provided by the corporate state to Westerners that has disabled the totality of labor to ever be in solidarity, as there is the Global North and the rest that resides in the Global South, with the division being a seemingly insurmountable barrier of culture, ethnicity and nationalism.

ISweat-660x440

So, as we are presently, the link between affordable consumer goods and labor exploitation in the Global South are both inextricably intertwined with one another. Hence, there can be none of the trappings of the Western economic system without some type of exploitation of someone or something, no matter how people want to frame it as far as trying to find a “humane” way of living our current lifestyles and not blatantly taking advantage of those at the lowest rung of society that provide our toys and goodies.

Although mining has been a part of man’s existence since ancient times, it is now turned from one of mere extravagance to a necessity to keep us alive since the everyday processes of all our existences is dependent on technology to some degree, with the basis being mining. However, the question now is how much longer can this continue?

Time will tell, but until that day comes, the one externality that can’t be accounted for in any economic system in regards to this issue of mining: the present blood on our hands in the Western world.

 

[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.]

Edited with Cory Morningstar, Wrong Kind of Green Collective.

 

FLASHBACK | Nostalgia for Origins – Miguel Amorós

Libcom

October 18, 2007

by Miguel Amorós

Translated in December 2012 from the Spanish text obtained from the website of the Spanish journal, Argelaga: https://argelaga.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/la-nostalgia-de-los-origenes/.

Aeneas and Venus

 

A 2007 essay on nationalism, whose “most progressive” historical variant “in the human sense” stood for the defense of “old customs and traditions, communitarian institutions, egalitarianism [and] the rejection of the industrialization process”, a tendency that is currently “being jettisoned in favor of an extreme economic modernization” in which “local oligarchies that are intimately linked with world finance” dominate ethnic and regional separatist movements and the real historical foundations of “peoples” in the old sense have been suppressed and replaced with fake “nationalist paraphernalia, neo-folklore, flags, anthems … and subsidized culture”.

Nostalgia for Origins – Miguel Amorós

“Undaunted youths, go, seek that mother earth
From which your ancestors derive their birth.
The soil that sent you forth, her ancient race
In her old bosom shall again embrace.”

Virgil, The Aeneid

The dissolution of all social bonds that are not reducible to transactions that bear within themselves the total reign of the commodity over human life arouses two kinds of reactions: one rational, and the other foreign to Reason. The first reaction was concretized in a radical democratism that broke with bourgeois liberalism to converge with a socialist anti-capitalism, with its first most incisive variant, in our view, being the anarchist naturist school. But the annihilation of memory that goes hand in hand with commodity colonization favors irrationality to the detriment of reflection and historical critique, and therefore it is also prejudicial to legitimate resistance to capital, especially when this irrationality is expressed among rural social groups, and is often manifested in sentimentalism, conservatism and religious traditionalism [de manera … ultramontana]. Although the first tentative expressions of anti-capitalism often speak the language of religion, it is a struggle that only requires the consciousness of what it is actually doing in order to become revolutionary. The local impulse to rally around “the old laws”, tradition or the absolute monarchy, which responded to the same causes as the millenarian peasant revolts or the Luddite riots of the weavers and miners, occurred in various locations on the Iberian peninsula during the 19th century. The deepest roots of regional nationalism were embedded during this era, and in the case of the Basque Country they are quite evident, but nationalism properly speaking is manifested in very diverse ways in accordance with the class interests that use it as an ideological or political umbrella, depending on the specific weight of the proletariat and the degree of capitalist development that has been attained. At the present time, now that the process of industrialization has culminated in the transformation of society itself into one vast global industry, when the standardizing steamroller of mass culture has abolished differences, and when deracination is leading to nostalgia for lost identity, many are those who share the search for their “mother earth”, and nationalism, often mixed with other ideologies, is coming to the fore. The question concerning what relation the nationalist polemic can maintain with projects for social emancipation has different answers depending on the type of nationalism involved and the specific historical moment. To begin with we can say that at the present time almost all identity-based nationalisms and patriotisms are in practice alternative political approaches for carrying out capitalist development, approaches that oppose central State regulation of capitalist development, which is why their relation with freedom and the end of oppression is nil. Precisely the most interesting part of nationalism, and the most progressive in the human sense, that of its romantic origins, that is, the defense of old customs and traditions, communitarian institutions, egalitarianism, the rejection of the industrialization process and, in general, everything that really sets it apart, is the ballast which is being jettisoned in favor of an extreme economic modernization that is supposed to set the standard for and provide the new pattern for development in less developed nations. Most contemporary nationalists do not want to defend their identity by preserving their territory from global financial flows, but instead seek to create a profitable local franchise that will attract those flows. The development of regional metropolitan systems as nodes of the networks of globalized capitalism provide them with the best secessionist arguments: the conurbation-State is the most adequate political form for economic globalization, the form that provides the highest profits. This nationalism therefore defends the interests of the local oligarchies that are intimately linked with world finance; the differences that distinguish various nationalist trends, to the degree that these differences have any meaning, respond to the variable impact of the emerging middle classes in their schemas, which are more or less oriented towards independence depending on the greater or lesser need for or fear of the central State power.

Nationalism is based on the assumption of the existence of a separate, homogeneous, ethnic population with its own interests, which speaks its own language, has its own culture and therefore constitutes a nation. By “historical right” it is supposed to be entitled to the development of its own sovereign institutions, the products of the popular will, in the framework of an independent State, with its parliament, its officials, its police, its army, its judges and its borders. We shall attempt to show that all of this is false. Everything that could define a people has long since ceased to exist and for that reason there is no popular will, either. The need for a national market created the central State, ruined the local non-capitalist economies and abrogated their laws. The rural areas were impoverished, their “historical” institutions were abolished, their popular folklore and traditions were lost together with all social relations extraneous to the economy (relations based on reciprocity, mutual aid, the gift, redistribution, barter…), communal lands were confiscated, guilds were dissolved, classes arose, migratory movements were set in motion and, finally, the individual was uprooted from his community and thrown onto the market. In the transition from a pre-capitalist society to a capitalist society, populations were gradually standardized and homogenized, that is, transformed into a proletarianized social class. Any community or harmony of interests that might have been able to exist among the Estates of the Ancien Régime disappeared, erased by the capitalist intrusion into society. Economic interest dominated every other kind of interest, popular culture passed away and the popular language ceased to be used among the elites. Despite the meritorious cultural renaissances linked to the local intelligentsia or to bourgeois sectors in conflict with the State (due to the unequal development of the ruling classes), the process nonetheless continued, and with the appearance of mass culture, that is, of the spectacle, of generalized entertainment, of the mass media, etc., language lost its validity as a vehicle of culture and means of communication—any language—putting an end to its role as the last sign of surviving identity. The current institutionalization of culture and teaching of regional languages has the same effect as the erstwhile institutionalization of Castilian culture and the promotion of the national language: no language can be used to communicate. The modern conditions of existence prevent any serious communication; language and communication do not go hand in hand.

The uniformity achieved under capitalism means the end of peoples and nations. The real content of popular resistance to the implications of this standardization, that is, the resistance against the creation of a market for money, land and labor, was distorted by the local bourgeoisie and petty bourgeois by way of the contrivance of ethnic stereotypes and national myths, the manipulation of history and the invention of a spurious tradition amalgamated with folkloric residues. The nationalists need a Golden Age whence they can extract idyllic images and fabulous visions that serve as models for the patriotic imagination and their electorate. This is never enough, however, and the active presence of the militant proletariat, a new factor, forced the nationalist movements to define themselves with respect to the proletarian movement. There was no lack of individuals who discovered that the revolutionary working class was the only subject capable of resolving the problem of the national question. The proletariat, as “working people” and social majority, became the depository of the essence of the fatherland. In general, the diverse socialist tendencies reacted against this trend. The anarchists, for example, opposed national independence in the name of the unity of the proletariat, and opposed the formation of a new State in the name of their principles. In its time, the CNT rejected the Catalan statute, despite the fact that the majority of its members had voted for the nationalist party, the ERC (the Catalan Republican Left), because the proposed new State was conceived in accordance with capitalist interests. The social revolution was real independence. Proletarian federalism went even beyond the statist secessionist movement, which diverted the attention of the workers and left exploitation as it was. The CNT recognized the “Catalan people”, but not the Catalan bourgeoisie; Catalonia was a country, but not a nationality. Nation and State were only artificial creations. Catalonia would be free only as a sum of federated municipalities, without borders, rather than as a State. The defense of the oppressed Catalan culture and language was perfectly compatible with the class struggle, for even though the proletariat is internationalist and has no fatherland—its fatherland is the world—it does have a language. Indeed, Catalonia was never more free than during those two and a half months when it was ruled by the Committee of Anti-fascist Militias, but this was not the kind of freedom that was desired by the diverse interests camouflaged under the flag of Catalanism, with the exception of those who were represented by the POUM. These interests were transformed during the civil war into the vanguard of the counterrevolution, excavating an abyss between the workers and Catalan nationalism that has yet to be bridged. The ephemeral resurgence of the workers movement in the sixties and seventies gave way once again to a socialistic nationalism, and even led to a certain type of anarcho-patriotism that hardly made any contribution to the identity debate and even less to libertarian theoretical renewal. The lure of lost roots caused the workers movement to fall into the trap of recovered “identity”, endorsing with greater or lesser enthusiasm the most suspect nationalist paraphernalia, neo-folklore, flags, anthems, [linguistic and cultural] “normalization” and subsidized culture, all of it presented by the local oligarchy as the recovery of national identity, while it is actually nothing but the obligatory supplementary curriculum for the subject who desires to prosper in the new political framework.

Today—in the Iberian peninsula and, more generally, in the countries where modern conditions of production and consumption prevail—there are no peoples, and to prove this we shall note the decline of the birth rate of the native population, the indisputable aging of the population and the flood of immigrants that maintains the level of exploitation that the functioning of the economy requires. Nor are there any specific places or landscapes; unrestricted urbanization has merged the countryside with the city by destroying both and scattering over the surface of the land a single predatory model of territorial occupation. Constant mobility has done the rest. There are no more real roots, or particular ethnicities, or national interests, or any greater identity than the one that is disseminated by the generalized uniform way of life. Under the absolute rule of capital, amidst the full-blown globalization of the economy, what causes people to resemble one another, regardless of their background, is much greater than what sets them apart. The levels of consumption or the degree of repression may vary, but the standardizing tendencies are increasingly erasing any and all differences. In a manner of speaking, everyone will end up either singing along with the “Macarena” or hating it. Even racial mixing and mixed race children are the inadvertent result of the planetary rule of finance. There are more than fifty languages spoken in every conurbation. The national interest is nothing but the interest of international capital represented in the “national” territory by its political-economic oligarchy. Only the oppressed are a nation. Does this mean that nationalist demands are reactionary? Not necessarily; at least not in their anti-capitalist and anti-centralist tendency. Not as the historic reference to a life outside the market and separate from the bourgeois State. It is reactionary, however, as bourgeois mystification and an alibi for leaders. It is reactionary as spectacle. The struggle against the oppression of the tide of globalization is essentially a local struggle and a struggle for the reassertion of local rights, but everywhere it is the same; freedom must start from the bottom, concretizing in local forms, direct relations, communities speaking their own languages, and this, without deviating from the cosmopolitan exigencies, will lead us to the real discovery of the past. This does not involve a return to the past, or disinterring an extinguished society, or giving life to a mummified people, forgetting about the rest of the world. It is not a return of the kind recommended by the god Apollo to Aeneas in our quotation from Virgil. It is rather a matter of recovering memory, identifying the point where society first took its demented turn, discovering in the old wisdom and the old collective practices of the peoples, but not only in them, the forms of a lost freedom, with the intention of availing ourselves of them in our modern anti-capitalist battles. It is in this historical connection between past and present, between local experience and the polyglot reality, that, in order to orient ourselves by real radical struggles—struggles that go to the root—we shall all have to find the signs of our future identity.

Islam, Hip Hop and the Liberation Struggle w/ Daulatzai & Almustafa

Published on Feb 9, 2015

Islam, Hip Hop, and the Black liberation struggle as discussed with acclaimed author and professor, Dr. Sohail Doulatzi. Plus the People’s Poet, Kahlil Almustafa. teleSUR

 

 

 

Communication: the Invisible Environment

A Culture of Imbeciles

January 22, 2015

 

In his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman — American media theorist, humanist and cultural critic — noted that “new technology can never substitute for human values.”

hqdefaultIllustration by Stuart McMillen

In American society today, our social amusements have come to occupy not only our pastimes, but everything about our lives, politics, values and beliefs. Even our most heartfelt emotions and concerns have been hijacked by the amusement industry, penetrating so deeply into our collective psyche, that we have become social robots.

huxleyorwellIllustration by Stuart McMillen

amusing ourselves to death7Illustration by Stuart McMillen

Capitalizing on this corrosion of civil society, Wall Street marketing agencies like Purpose and Avaaz — sponsors of campaigns to support “humanitarian war” and the “new economy” — have designed and exploited an advertising niche to make money from this social pathology.

conformity-is-unity-3Illustration by Mark Gould

While American faith about the truth in advertising might suffer as a result of these amusements, the deaths that result take place mostly in the Third and Fourth World. As Americans are herded into waving signs and marching around Manhattan wearing the color blue, millions around the world are dying from starvation, disease and murder resulting from American consumerism.

 

 

As a professor of Culture and Communication, Postman taught a course called Communication: the Invisible Environment. While he was concerned primarily with the decline in the ability of mass communications to share serious ideas, Postman was aware that the turning of complex ideas into superficial images — that become a form of entertainment — leads to a society where information is a commodity, bought and sold for entertainment, or to enhance one’s status. In contemporary society, mediated by technology, individuals will literally believe anything.

havas-worldwide-prosumer-report-communities-and-citizenship-52-638

Imperialism, Arrogance & Privilege on Full Display: Greenpeace Damages World-renowned Nazca Lines in Peru – Peru Seeks Criminal Charges

Associated Press

December 9, 2014

by Frank Bajak

542-ip8Fv.AuSt.55

LIMA, Peru (AP) – Peru will seek criminal charges against Greenpeace activists who damaged the world-renowned Nazca lines by leaving footprints in the adjacent desert during a publicity stunt, a senior government official said Tuesday.

“It’s a true slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred,” Deputy Culture Minister Luis Jaime Castillo said of Monday’s action by the environmental group at the famed drawings etched into Peru’s coastal desert, a U.N. World Heritage site.

“Focus on tangible climate actions”: “Hop the Scotch” for Climate Change

Wrong Kind of Green

Sept 21, 2014

HoptheScotch

 

In his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman — American media theorist, humanist and cultural critic — noted that “new technology can never substitute for human values.”

In American society today, our social amusements have come to occupy not only our pastimes, but everything about our lives, politics, values and beliefs. Even our most heartfelt emotions and concerns have been hijacked by the amusement industry, penetrating so deeply into our collective psyche, that we have become social robots.

Capitalizing on this corrosion of civil society, Wall Street marketing agencies like Purpose and Avaaz — sponsors of campaigns to support “humanitarian war” and the “new economy” — have designed and exploited an advertising niche to make money from this social pathology.

While American faith about the truth in advertising might suffer as a result of these amusements, the deaths that result take place mostly in the Third and Fourth World. As Americans are herded into waving signs and marching around Manhattan wearing the color blue, millions around the world are dying from starvation, disease and murder resulting from American consumerism.

As a professor of Culture and Communication, Postman taught a course called Communication: the Invisible Environment. While he was concerned primarily with the decline in the ability of mass communications to share serious ideas, Postman was aware that the turning of complex ideas into superficial images — that become a form of entertainment — leads to a society where information is a commodity, bought and sold for entertainment, or to enhance one’s status. In contemporary society, mediated by technology, individuals will literally believe anything.

When the NYC Purpose marketing agency finds spare time from selling hate for empire [Two Minute Hate] and creating mass mobilizations for their clients that will ignite the illusory green economy, the Avaaz co-founders of Purpose are busy working on campaigns like the one below.

“Hop the Scotch” for the continued annihilation of species. Balance on a handrail rail for  unprecedented ocean acidification and collapse of ecosystems. Walk the moonwalk for continued genocide of Indigenous peoples. Walk in fancy shoes for  unprecedented venting of methane and melting permafrost. Do a flip in the air for disappearing ancient glaciers.

As we stare vacantly at the multiple crises that comprise the greatest threats to all life on the planet, greater than anything that our species has ever faced, we find ourselves on the doorstep of complete madness and idiocy. Yet, oddly, and tragically, Euro-Americans continue to be enraptured by the spectacle, hypnotized by their false prophets.

 

8 ways people are walking the walk on climate change

World leaders are meeting in New York City next week for a historic UN summit on climate change.

Using the slogan “catalyzing action,” the UN is bringing together world leaders to “focus on tangible climate actions.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn’t the only one who can’t make it, so NYC-based Purpose has launched the #WalkTheWalk campaign for those who can’t march themselves at the People’s Climate March on Sunday in the lead-up to the UN meeting.

Here are eight must-see short #WalkTheWalk videos:

In fancy shoes:

In ski boots:

Or penguin feet:

Or why not hop the scotch?

Try balancing on a handrail (talk about a balanced approach!) :

Or moonwalking the walk:

Meanwhile, others aren’t satisfied to just “walk the walk” on climate change. They think our whole approach to climate needs a backflip:

And hey, look, Desmond Tutu is walking the walk:

Historic Speech by Uruguayan President, Jose Mujica, in the UN [Video: Spanish & English]

Semana

September 25, 2013

PRONUNCIAMIENTOEl presidente de Uruguay impactó con su intervención a los demás mandatarios reunidos en la Asamblea General.

JoseMujica

José Mujica durante el debate general de la 68 Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas en la sede de esta organización en Nueva York, Estados Unidos. Foto: EFE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Amigos todos, soy del Sur, vengo del Sur”, se presentó con simpleza el martes el presidente uruguayo José Mujica, sorprendiendo a la Asamblea General de la ONU con un discurso poético en el que destrozó al capitalismo salvaje y la situación mundial actual.

Como si estuviese cantando “Cambalache”, el célebre tango del poeta Enrique Santos Discépolo que pinta un mundo en decadencia, Mujica entregó a los líderes mundiales reunidos en Nueva York una visión oscura de los tiempos que corren.

“Soy del Sur y vengo del Sur a esta asamblea. Cargo con los millones de compatriotas pobres en las ciudades, páramos, selvas, pampas y socavones de la América Latina, patria común que está haciéndose”, afirmó Mujica, de 78 años, en la gran cita anual de Naciones Unidas.

“Cargo con las culturas originarias aplastadas, con los restos del colonialismo en Malvinas, con bloqueos inútiles a ese caimán bajo el sol del Caribe que se llama Cuba. Cargo con las consecuencias de la vigilancia electrónica que no hace otra cosa que generar desconfianza”, agregó, enumerando algunos de las grandes cuestiones de la región.

Ante las miradas cómplices de las delegaciones latinoamericanas que ya lo conocen y la estupefacción de las de África, Medio Oriente o Asia, Mujica criticó el orden económico mundial actual con metáforas y no tanto.

“Hemos sacrificado los viejos dioses inmateriales y ocupamos el templo con el dios mercado. Él nos organiza la economía, la política, los hábitos, la vida y hasta nos financia en cuotas y tarjetas la apariencia de felicidad”, afirmó.

“Parecería que hemos nacido sólo para consumir y consumir”, martilló, señalando que si la humanidad aspirase a “vivir como un norteamericano medio” serían necesarios “tres planetas”.

“El hombrecito promedio de nuestras grandes ciudades deambula entre las financieras y el tedio rutinario de las oficinas, a veces atemperadas con aire acondicionado. Siempre sueña con las vacaciones y la libertad, siempre sueña con concluir las cuentas. Hasta que un día el corazón se para y adiós, dijo.

“Sería imperioso lograr grandes consensos para desatar solidaridad hacia los más oprimidos, castigar impositivamente el despilfarro y la especulación”, sostuvo Mujica, más como una expresión de deseo que como una propuesta.

“Tal vez nuestra visión es demasiado cruda, sin piedad”.

Mujica, un exguerrillero que sobrevivió a casi 14 años de cautiverio en manos de la dictadura militar (1973-1985), asumió en 2010 como el segundo presidente de izquierda en la historia de su país.

El mandatario ha atraído la atención en el mundo por algunas medidas impulsadas por él o aprobadas en su gobierno como la legalización del aborto, el matrimonio igualitario, así como por el proyecto de legalización de marihuana

Este singular cóctel ha hecho que figuras de la política y del espectáculo hayan citado y elogiado a Mujica, que en Nueva York debía ser seguido de cerca por el cineasta serbio Emir Kusturica que filmará un documental sobre él.

Ante la ONU, el mandatario aseguró que la humanidad entró en otra época aceleradamente, “pero con políticos, atavíos culturales, partidos y jóvenes, todos viejos ante la pavorosa acumulación de cambios que ni siquiera podemos registrar”.

“Tal vez nuestra visión es demasiado cruda, sin piedad”, admitió en una breve pausa a su devastador panorama.

Lo cierto es que nadie se salvó en su discurso, y si bien habló de la ONU como una organización “creada como una esperanza y un sueño de paz para la humanidad”, dijo que el planeta tiene “una democracia planetaria herida”.

El final de su alocución no fue mucho más optimista: “Necesitamos gobernarnos a nosotros mismos o sucumbiremos; sucumbiremos porque no somos capaces de estar a la altura de la civilización que en los hechos fuimos desarrollando. Este es nuestro dilema”.

Vea aquí el discurso completo:

[With English Translation]

[Spanish Only]

 

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