Mobilize or Perish

September 06, 2012

Skookum – *An online journal of the American psyche in transition*

by Jay Taber

So what it comes down to is either civil society mobilizes against Indigenous genocide, as it did against slavery and apartheid, or Indigenous peoples will perish. The neoliberal options of becoming either a caricature or a corpse, of course, are not an accident, but rather a logical consequence of EU, US, and UN policies against collective ownership. With the accelerated theft of Indigenous properties, instigated by the IMF and World Bank, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is becoming a tragic farce. Were it not so, we could expect UN peacekeepers to defend Indigenous communities, rather than stand aside while organized violence by NATO, police, and paramilitaries wipe them out.

By mobilize I mean both resources and the networks that need resources to function. People often mistakenly think mobilizing means organizing large demonstrations or spectacular events, but in my experience effectiveness depends more on strategic use of resources and networks of committed individuals engaged in research, education and communication–much as we’ve done at Public Good Project. As people shed the illusion of institutional protection through philanthropic foundations and large NGOs — that largely consist of public relations marketing and little else — they might come to realize that contributing regular donations to networks is a better way. When they begin doing that in large enough numbers, researchers, analysts, activists and independent journalists will have the means to sustain the human rights movement, including that of Indigenous peoples.

It’s mostly a learning curve for well-meaning people who’ve never personally experienced organized conflict firsthand. What most have experienced is secondhand participation in public diplomacy—mostly through writing checks or letters to the editor or marching in some parade. What some have cynically referred to as “whining their way to power.”

It doesn’t work, of course, but it feeds into their sense of pseudo-revolutionary identity, and it is relatively risk free since it poses no threat to the powers that be. This ineffectiveness is apparently fine since these people aren’t the ones fighting for their lives, as are most Indigenous peoples. For them, playacting is an unaffordable luxury.

Since global conflicts between Indigenous societies and institutions that do the bidding of markets are life and death struggles — not good faith negotiations — those who approach these conflicts for what they are are more likely to succeed. While pressuring institutions to enforce and live by international humanitarian law is good, it is far from enough, given the zero sum game of the Fourth World war.

Our networks and efforts are no secret, but as long as liberals are politically illiterate and organizationally infantile, they will continue doing what the philanthropic sector and other institutions (like most unions) tell them to. As liberals see their privileges and security crumble, they might start looking for answers elsewhere. When they do, networks like ours are ready to educate them so they can organize more effectively.

One hopeful sign is independent media like Real News and Intercontinental Cry, as is popularly accessible analysis as exemplified by Wrong Kind of Green, where the non-profit industrial complex is rightly and roundly criticized.

The Fourth World solidarity required of First World civil society comprises first and foremost a commitment to democratizing states. As we saw in Northern Ireland and South Africa, this involves research, education, organizing and action of civil society networks in the form of both political parties and self-defense.

First World affinities of the Fourth World liberation movement, in North America especially, would contribute more to the cause of social justice by democratizing First World elections and governance than they could ever accomplish by simply protesting or waving signs. That involves a lot more work, of course, but it’s what needs to be done if they want to pay more than lip service to Indigenous solidarity.