By Mankh (Walter E. Harris III). Axis of Logic
Until recently, until the burgeoning of the People’s Movement, the center of American society has been “a job.” The impetus and guiding force of the schooling system, especially college, is considered a stepping stone, and once you have “a job” you are then an accepted member of society, able to pay your way and play the game. Whether the car insurance industry or property taxes (a good chunk of which goes to pay for other people’s education if you don’t have kids) it is a rigged game with paper money and dice that let you advance or force you off the board. With “a job” you can presumably afford the rigged antes while also enjoying some of the benefits.
Yet, the current wave of Occupy sites, gatherings, rallies, protests, call them what you will, provide both a useful pun as well as a literal shift of focal point. Not able to find “a job” many people are making the work of transforming society and the world their “Occupation.” This is a shift toward a communal, world-service oriented approach to life and business, along with putting faith in the blueprint of mythologist Joseph Campbell’s advice: “follow your bliss.” Whereas the previous focal point has been, ‘get a job, and then you can follow your bliss on weekends,’ the center is now shifting to, ‘follow your bliss, and you’ll be taken care of while taking care of the world.’ Donations of supplies and money to Occupy Wall Street attest to this.
|"Not able to find 'a job' many people are making the work of transforming society and the world their 'Occupation'.”
To put the shift in perspective let’s take a look at some of the underpinnings of the organically evolving tapestry some are calling Global Revolution.
There is poetic justice with the fact that Zuccotti/Liberty Park is so very near the site of the Attacks on the World Trade Center. Whereas 9-11 helped produce the War on Terror, a seemingly limitless National Security budget, Islamophobia, torture, etc., Occupy Wall Street and related sites are organically producing a democratic, egalitarian, and peaceful means for making things pleasant for more people aka the 99%.
The mythological phoenix1 is being reborn from the ashes and toxic dust. Add to that the self-immolation of a Tunisian vendor that, reportedly, sparked the Arab Spring, and it’s not outlandish to say that: mythology has its place in the real world.
Treading the Path
It is time to stop calling that infamous day “9-11” because the association gives those innocent and well-meaning numbers a bad name. In New York City specifically, the date refers to the Attacks on the World Trade Center, and that tells this wordsmith that the gist of what the WTC’s demise and subsequent uprising of the People’s Movement is symbolically saying is that: we are dealing with a global issue (World), and that it has to do with finances and related issues, for example, how we get what we get and why can’t some get enough and why do some get too much (Trade), and that these finances have ruled the world (Center) . . . but it is time for a change! As stated on the Occupy Wall Street site: “We are our demands.” 2 The focal point has shifted.
The true Center of a democratic society has to do with “people over profits,” as one placard slogan states. One’s “trade” or “occupation” or “livelihood” is often an innate skill that helps forge one’s path in life; the roots of the word “trade” are “course, path, track, akin to tread.” Getting on such a track often requires a leap of faith (and probably some friends and/or family helping to pay the bills), and “following one’s bliss” allows for a pathway other than the stereotypical 9 to 5, other than the stereotypical cubicle serfdom to a corporate master. Thus, the very Center of World consciousness and day-to-day Trade activity is shifting because masses of People have decided to behave differently, have started to improve world conditions and not simply their own.
It’s also helpful to remember that “following your bliss” does not preclude hardships, as witness those brave souls sleeping under tarps in the rain, risking arrest, and getting pepper sprayed. “Following your bliss” can also include a group experience, as the various Occupy group meetings are showing.
Occupying Time and Space
One end goal of trusting in one’s blissful Trade is to have autonomy of consciousness and not be ruled by a System that glorifies trade, a System where only material success at trade determines a person’s worth. When meeting people who play by those rules, typically the first question they ask is “What do you do?” rather than “Who are you?”.
Everyday the two-fold question arises to human beings around the world: ‘How will I occupy my time and where will I do it?’ For some it is a pre-determined necessity or choice, while for others there is a go-with-the-flow adaptability.
Over the years many guides and teachers have said the same thing in different words to this traveler, and so the assumption that it is applicable to anyone: find your “work” in the world, your true “calling” or “function,” the reason that you are here. Buddhists call it, in part, “right livelihood,” though it is far more than just “a job.” In layman’s terms, if you provide a valuable service to society and your fellow human beings you will naturally get appreciated and compensated, whether monetarily, through barter, or a roof and food. This is the artistically proverbial “singing for your supper,” and it does work! . . . unless the System is rigged, hence the Occupys and Global Revolution.
One of the first things they teach at driver’s education is to check the blind spot. New York City and much of America has a blind spot. Case in point: the New York City seal has a picture of a “sailor colonist” and a “Lenape Native.”3 But you wouldn’t know that from the way things get done in “the greatest city in the world.”
An ongoing issue has to do with taxation. While sales of cigarettes and other items on Native lands have been non-taxed, the State has been itching for a piece of the pie, and the situation has been heated. In 1992 and 1997 there have been incidents where the Seneca burned “cars, tires and other debris” on a N.Y. Thruway in protest of attempts to tax Indian cigarette suppliers.4
In August of 2010, with regards to the Native cigarette tax issue, Mayor Bloomberg stated on his weekly radio show:
“I’ve said this to David Paterson [then Governor of NY], I said, ‘You know, get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there’s ever a great video, it’s you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, ‘Read my lips - the law of the land is this, and we’re going to enforce the law.’”5
Even though most if not all such cigarette sales occur outside of NYC, the comment was, in effect, attacking the very symbol that the Mayor, as ‘caretaker’ of the city, is supposed to represent. In response to a question Bloomberg offered a weak apology: “I don’t know that there were very many Indians offended,” the Mayor said during a Harvard panel discussion on the midterms. “If they were, I apologize to them. Nobody intended to do that.”6
A recent change has mandated that national-brands be taxed, thus many Native stores have decided to only carry native-made brands.
“It could be cigarettes today; it was beaver pelts 300 years ago,” the Seneca president, Robert Odawi Porter, said in an interview. “What we have to defend is the principle: that the State of New York has no authority to reach into our nation.”7
Ironically, also near Wall Street is WBAI, an independent radio station, and one of the shows is First Voices Indigenous Radio which features interviews with Indigene around the world. The host, Tiokasin Ghosthorse of the Cheyenne River Lakota (Sioux) Nation, states the following at First Voices Indigenous Radio.
|"We have always understood the bigger war is the war against Mother Earth.”
“It is said, ‘if the lies continue about Native peoples it will create an illusion, all Americans will dearly pay for in the future...and the future is now.’ What kind of world are Americans creating with their privilege of denying Native people’s voice and the reality of truth Natives experience daily . . . Many people who continue to support systems of warmongering are not only destroying their own ability to live with Mother Earth, but also only think of wars as political, religious or racial hatred. First Voices Indigenous Radio since 1992 has been bringing the voices of Indigenous peoples defending Mother Earth. We have always understood the bigger war is the war against Mother Earth.”
In a wonderful and informative book, Native New Yorkers: The Legacy of the Algonquin People of New York, Evan T. Pritchard points out that:
“. . . in 1653, the Dutch built a palisaded wall to keep the Lenape out, site of today’s Wall Street. That wall came down in 1699, when the English felt securely rid of their predecessors. Near here the Dutch, in the early 1600s, exchanged stocks of food, wood, and furs with the Natives. The New York Stock Exchange may be traced back to this shady spot along the road where a large buttonwood tree once stood.”
“The Dutch came asking only for enough land to grow a little bit of corn, not far from a spot where the Lenape grew their corn, and that was readily agreed to. They were to share the same land, and be neighbors, but it wasn’t long before the Dutch had completely walled themselves in, blocking Lenape use of the island of Manhattan from Wall Street to the southern tip of the island. Their 'fortress' contained the once-sacred Council Elm at Bowling Green, and prevented the Lenape from visiting or meeting there . . . The Lenape would have been happy to instruct them in the best use of the land, but as it turned out, the Dutch had other ideas.”8
We need to check our blind spots so as to better see, respect, and listen to the original stewards of the land. We need to grow our food, both literally and figuratively, together.
“A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”
At the end of Shakespeare’s Richard III there is a powerful scene in which the King is stranded on the battlefield and cries out, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”. His revelatory plea says, ‘my vast kingdom is worthless now and I would trade it all for a simple horse on which I might save my life.’ That particular theatrical moment reflects what would seemingly be a karmic justice experience for the 1% honcho-oligarchs. O, to hear them, standing on a city street corner, crying out:
“A taxi! A taxi! My bailout and bonus and offshore haven and tax free paycheck and severance pay for a taxi!”.
The horse also serves as a potent symbol for staying connected with what is truly needed. The horse is both functional necessity and bliss. The horse is a friend giving you a ride to the store to buy groceries. The horse is your passion that helps you get through the day. The horse is your connection to the land and your ‘fair trade,’ rather than your desire to dominate others. The horse is the natural way and it takes a leap of faith to get on and ride . . . to “follow your bliss.”
The Shifting of the World Occupation Center
To bring this all back to the center, from the Amazon comes a prophecy of the Eagle, Condor, and Quetzal:
“Mayan shaman/priest Wandering Wolf speaks of the wisdom of the Southern peoples, the Inca, the 'condor' coming together with that of the Northern peoples, Hopi, Iroquois, the 'eagle', at the Center, the place of the Quetzal, the land of the Maya.”9
While that prophecy refers to a specific geographical location it also seems worthy of being applied to groups of people wherever they are on the planet, as well as to centering one’s very self. To quote Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota Wičháša Wakháŋ (Medicine Man): “The center of the universe is everywhere.”
Though the full extent of positive results may be some time coming, let it be known that the World Occupation Center has shifted. The People now have the will, the means, and the way to not be beholden to the corporate master thugs, to not be beholden to the, thus far, not too violent yet showing neo-fascist tendencies police departments whose main goal, as exhibited at a number of Occupy rallies, is to keep everyone in line, in neat little rows so they can have their free speech, yet allow business as usual to continue.
But the 99% are tired of business as usual! And this is not just about free speech, it is about “right action,” to quote the Buddha again. It is about words dovetailing with actions. It is about the demise of the Orwellian doublespeak and destruction that has, at least since 1492, wrought havoc on the Peoples of Turtle Island and the very land they call Mother Earth. In his book, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, David Korten suggests that empire’s dominance of the worldly scene goes back 5,000 years yet is currently fading fast. However one dates it, the time for a shift has arrived.
What with the newly formed “OccupyWriters” and “Parents for Occupy Wall St.: creating change now for our children’s futures” one can see that birds of a feather are finding each other and beginning to work for the benefit of the greater aviary of the world, where phoenixes really do rise again.
And while many fledglings are finding their way, it would be wise to pay close attention to what some tough old Native birds are saying. The following quotes are from “An Indigenous Platform Proposal for Occupy Denver" (see Indigenizing Occupy Wall Street) and Occupy Denver endorses Colorado American Indian Movement's indigenous proposal) --
“As indigenous peoples, we welcome the awakening of those who are relatively new to our homeland. We are thankful, and rejoice, for the emergence of a movement that is mindful of its place in the environment, that seeks economic and social justice, that strives for an end to oppression in all its forms, that demands an adequate standard of food, employment, shelter and health care for all, and that calls for envisioning a new, respectful and honorable society.
“If this movement is serious about confronting the foundational assumptions of the current US system, then it must begin by addressing the original crimes of the US colonizing system against indigenous nations"
Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. You can contact him via his literary website
READ MORE OF MANKH'S POEMS AND ON AXIS OF LOGIC
Also - Don't miss truth in humor as
Native Americans reclaim their land in Manhattan
Occupy Wall Street. Unsettling America
- Phoenix (mythology)
- Seal of New York City
- Seneca Nation targets NY Thruway in tax dispute and Senecas Clash With Police Over Tax Ruling and Senaca's voice carries beyond its reservation
- Bloomberg tells Paterson to cowboy up
- Bloomberg’s Sort-Of Apology to the Indians and Bloomberg didn’t offend Indians?
- Highway Fight Widens Gulf Between State and Seneca Nation
- Native New Yorkers: The Legacy of the Algonquin People of New York, Evan T. Pritchard, (pp. 74 and 151), Council Oak Books, 2002.
- The Prophecy of the Condor and the Eagle