Image: Watch Your Dirt
“If you want to create a change, you must challenge not only the models of Unreality, but the paradigms that underwrite them.”
- Stafford Beer
Imagine you are a 7-month-old baby and your older brother or sister is about 520-years-old. Wouldn’t you want to know something about how he/she has lived that long, survived intense hardships, and yet is still able to sing the songs and walk the talk? This is not some Methuselah story. This is about those who have dealt with and are still dealing with occupied territories.
The toddler Occupy movement can barely occupy a small territory, what with police forces across the board running the people off the sites they attempt to claim and typically have Constitutional rights to be on, “peaceably to assembly, freedom of speech, or of the press” and all that Amendment jazz. While there are many small victories -- the saving of homes, various 1%-er meetings disrupted, getting people to close bank accounts, and lots of group activities, etc. -- how much has really changed with our conditions here on Earth since the movement’s inception on September 17, 2011, over 7-months ago?
That’s a hard question to answer but a yardstick we need to address. While doing so it is good to remember that real change goes beyond grassroots, it is tree-roots and deeper. The older brothers and sisters of Turtle Island know something about all that, having, especially since 1851 when the United States Congress passed the Indian Appropriations Act, been forced onto reservations aka POW camps. Or especially since 1492 when the European colonizers arrived. The Original inhabitants are, in a manner of speaking, the occupied movement.
The “Port Huron Statement”1 of 1962, written primarily by Tom Hayden, is getting attention recently as a kind of reference point for the Occupy movement, and all along people have been readily giving a nod to Gandhi, MLK Jr., Thoreau, and others, yet what is often missing on the Occupy movement’s re-occupied territories list is greater respect for the Original inhabitants. Occupies within occupies within occupies. It is also interesting to note that the Huron aka Wyandot are Indigenous peoples.
Are We Dreaming or Waking Up?
Recent online articles have mentioned factions and possible co-optation of the movement by the The 99% Spring, MoveOn.org, and Van Jones. While this writer doesn’t have enough information to comment fully on the actions of these organizations and individuals, he does find some of the website statements troubling.
On the main page, with a photo of Van Jones, it states: “Rebuild the Dream is a movement made up of hundreds of thousands of real Americans—from seniors to students, moms, dads, brothers and sisters—who are working for economic justice and building a better life for all.”2 The question begs: What are “real Americans”? And what “Dream”?
While the website’s 10 Critical Steps to Get Our Economy Back on Track embraces “liberty and justice…for all,” the emphasis on the economy raises questions about the bigger picture. If one saves a house from foreclosure on land that then splits due to an earthquake, what is it worth? The recent wave of tornadoes in the Midwest shows how abruptly nature can act. What good are brand new windows if a tornado shatters them.
"The MoveOn family of organizations gives real Americans a voice in a political process dominated by big money and armies of lobbyists. With over 5 million members across America - from carpenters to stay-at-home moms to business leaders - we work together to realize the progressive promise of our country.”3
At this point one could presume that “real Americans” means those not involved with corruption, crime, and dirty politics, but again, what about the Indigenous and those who may be part American but also decidedly something else; are African or Asian Americans real Americans?!
The 99% Spring website proclaims: “Things should never have reached this point. Every day, the American Dream seems a little farther away...”4
On a small town level, a friend had a positive experience. He emailed me:
“The [local] 99% Spring was not political party driven, no Obama buttons, no political flyers. Organized by a Unitarian minister and others, there are actions planned to raise awareness at post offices on Tax Day, and in upcoming weeks at a few banks (with additional account withdrawals from Chase) as a start, with future actions regarding those fine power-wielding institutions who are now viewed as individuals by our esteemed Supreme Court.”
This report reminds us that organizations nowadays can get spread out diffusely, and while some may state an outdated, fantasy penchant for “the American Dream,” some may take the idea and create positive change. Whatever the case, the question that must be asked again and again is: If this benefits me, does it also benefit the Earth?
Everyone Agrees That Action Is Needed, but Where?
The following was a ‘tagline’ for Occupy Wall St.’s Occupy Earth Day: “The future of Earth will be won in the STREETS!”5 Well, not exactly; examples further on in this article will show how some of the battles are taking place directly on the lands that are in jeopardy of being taken over.
Impressively, the “Occupy Wall Street Project List for April/May” lists 59 “ongoing occupy actions and activities around New York City,” including “Occupy Mainstream Media”, “Movimiento Allies Unite!”, “Occupy Yoga and Meditation”, “Occupy Your Workplace”, “Stop the Empire Tour”, and so on.
Some recent articles reflect the changing times and explore possible rifts in the Occupy movement, as well as possible directions:
“Battle for the Soul of Occupy”6
“On Saving the ‘Soul’ of Occupy”7
“Occupy, the 99% Spring, and the New Age of Direct Action”8
“Occupy Wall Street: what is to be done next?”9
And this one, by Robert C. Koehler, gets to the core of what’s needed:
“When We Grow Up, We Will Fall in Love with Earth”10
In his excellent article “Where Next for Occupy?” Charles Eisenstein suggests the benefit of taking on more civic duties that directly help people, for example, better distribution of food that typically goes to waste, in part, because of cover-your-lawsuit expiration dates. (See the documentary, “Dive!”11) Another idea is to utilize abandoned buildings, and the phrase “social service activism” gets one thinking anew. Eisenstein aptly suggests that the future will not just be won in the streets: “Imagine what would happen if the same energy and dedication that went into occupying Zuccotti Park were devoted to occupying fracking sites, mountaintop removal operations, gas pipeline projects, and other venues of environmental pillage.”12
In the book “Revolutionary Wealth,” by Alvin and Heidi Toffler, a brief chapter, “The Clash of Speeds,” explores “de-synchronization.” Essentially the Tofflers show how various organizations or activities act at different speeds. While information-age technology allows people to learn, communicate, and take action with others at rapid speeds, most institutions, for example the judicial and legislative systems, continue to move at bureaucratically slow paces. The Tofflers also highlight how life-and-death struggles can hang in the balance: “A case in point is the excruciatingly long time it takes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to test and approve new drugs while desperate victims of disease wait . . .”
Applying the concept of de-synchronization to the Earth, Indigenous Peoples, Institutional Systems, and Technology may help us to better understand and find solutions for current problems. The Indigenous have the knowledge and experience of how to live in harmony with land, air, water, and nature beings. Yet their harmonious and wild landscapes have, for the most part, been ruined or taken over. So, how do we utilize an ecologically harmonious wisdom that dates back over 520 years and apply it to a world that has been decimated almost beyond recognition? I know there are real answers out there! About the best this writer-citizen can say is that it will require blending modern technology with the ancient wisdom and common sense not based on profit motives. It will require dialogue between the likes of scientists and techies & Natives and others who have the knowledge of how Mother Earth works.
It is worth noting that synchronization is typically optimal for well-being yet some de-synchronization is necessary as part of a learning process and natural cycle of balance, as nature teaches us with its cycles of blooming plants, food production, and seasons. Yet some synchronization is imperial and destructive. The oil industry, for example, is amazingly synchronized so as to get oil around the world and to four gas stations on each corner of one intersection! However, the price we and the Earth pay is not just with dollars.
The proposed Tar Sands pipeline has brought environmentalists and Natives together to prevent further destruction. A recent live video shows the Lakota people standing their ground so as to prevent oil trucks from going through their Nation’s lands.13 (One of the best news websites for finding out about these types of daily challenges that Indigenous Peoples face is Censored News Also, Indigenous Environmental Network.)
Other positive examples include:
- Various occupy cities have accepted “An Indigenous Platform Proposal,”14 but to this writer’s knowledge Occupy Wall Street, for one, has not.
- Bolivia’s first indigenous President, Evo Morales has “…introduced the concept of the buen vivir or “Living Well” into Bolivia’s discourse. His argument was that the western world was based on material accumulation, and this led to economic policies that were destroying the planet. Rather than trying to “live better,” he said our goal should be to “live well.” His suggestion has taken the Indigenous world by storm and now is a common theme in Indigenous summits. It has also been incorporated into the new Ecuadorian constitution and adopted by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Other countries as far flung as Norway and Spain have shown an interest in what is going on in Bolivia.”15
- The Ecuadorean Constitution includes “Rights of Nature,” beginning with: “1. Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature before the public organisms. The application and interpretation of these rights will follow the related principles established in the Constitution.”16
- Pachamama Alliance: “Connecting indigenous wisdom and modern knowledge for a just, sustainable, and thriving world.”17 The Alliance launched the “Awakening the Dreamer Changing the Dream Symposium.”
- First Voices Indigenous Radio18 helps give voice to those typically silenced by the corporate media.
- The Kogi call themselves the “elder brothers” and in 1990 they sent out a warning to the younger siblings. The documentary “From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brothers’ Warning” explains.19
- “On September 13, 2007, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly… Eleventh Session, 7-18 May 2012, UN Headquarters, New York. Special Theme: The Doctrine of Discovery: its enduring impact on indigenous peoples and the right to redress for past conquests (articles 28 and 37 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”20
- For a good introductory comparison of Indigenous and non-Indigenous ways, see David Korten’s article “A Plea for Rio+20: Don’t Commodify Nature.”21 And the article references what looks like a wonderful book, “Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future.”22 (The footnote link provides excerpts.)
The Greek root of the word “paradigm” is: “to show side by side, to compare.” When a paradigm shift occurs, we see and do things very differently. One side is suddenly perceived in a new light. E-mail represents a paradigm shift from snail-mail but we still use snail-mail. Even though one’s consciousness shifts and actions shift (how many people write letters anymore?), both can get along side-by-side. Yet some paradigm shifts are meant as true solutions or healings; therefore with regards to the planet, we need such a shift for the positive that eliminates or minimizes the destruction and the pollution of the environs . . . and of our very selves.
Along with the above mentioned shifts, how do we as a People and as individuals help the shift to the positive side of the paradigm? A few suggestions:
With any action, from the purchase of cleaning liquids to the building of a house, ask if it both benefits you AND the planet. As the saying goes, “Think Global Act Local.”
Realize that Indigenous Peoples are not just characters in history books. In fact many are currently dealing with struggles to protect Mother Earth. The Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement that Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl and John McCain are pushing to pass is one example of a potential abuse that the Indigenous are aiming to stop.
Re-examine so-called American History which is often riddled with myths (in the negative sense of the word) and avoids real origins. Books such as Lies My Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America, by James W. Loewen, can help to re-educate. Wherever you are located, learn something about the various people in your area; those who have been there the longest probably know some stuff.
Explore the process of decolonizing your mind. Reach out, converse and meet with those from different backgrounds. Visit a museum or somehow connect through websites and online videos. The recent Rights of Mother Earth conference at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, had lots of wonderful speakers, (search online to view). Read books by those with direct experience. For Indigenous Eyes Only: A Decolonization Handbook edited by Waziyatawin Angela Wilson and Michael Yellow Bird shows how the decolonization process is more than about land, it has to do with cultural heritage, language, diet, education, and so on.
For that matter, do the same with any marginalized groups: African Americans, LGBT, the poor, etc. Do something to bridge the gaps, the man-made cracks of our dried Earth minds.
Ultimately There’s Nothing to Occupy
Afghanistan is occupied, Iraq occupied, and so, it sadly goes. The ultimate paradigm shift will be when land is no longer occupied, that is, when there is no longer a need to occupy (as with the current movement), and no more greed to occupy (as with the corporate-state colonial takeovers). Since any occupied land is only a transitory thing, whereas the sustainability of the land itself is an ongoing endeavor, we must therefore put more attention to the healing and sustainability of Mother Earth.
A good psychiatrist or teacher has the goal to give the patient or student the ability to take care of him/herself, rather than enslavement into endless sessions or classes. Both Occupy movements (that of the 99%-ers and that of the global corporate empire or “industrial elite,” as John Trudell refers to them) are, in the long-range view, temporary occupations. The end goal is: to not have ANY occupied territories . . . and to simply live in harmony with Earth. A tall order but the sky’s the limit, if enough people go along with the paradigm shift.
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. He recently edited and published the book, The (Un)Occupy Movement: Autonomy of Consciousness, Practical Solutions, Human Equality.
You can contact him via his literary website.
- “Port Huron Statement”
- “Rebuild the Dream” & “Van Jones on Rebuilding the American Dream”
- The 99% Spring
- “Occupy Earth Day!”
- “Battle for the Soul of Occupy”
- “On Saving the Soul of Occupy”
- “Occupy, the 99% Spring, and the New Age of Direct Action”
- “Occupy Wall Street: what is to be done next?”
- “When We Grow Up, We Will Fall in Love with Earth”
- “Where Next for Occupy? “
- “No Tar Sands“
- “Occupy Denver endorses Colorado American Indian Movement's indigenous proposal“
- “’Living Well’ in Bolivia”
- “Ecuador has a new constitution“
- “The Pachamama Alliance“
- First Voices Indigenous Radio
- “From the Heart of the World“
- United Nations: Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
- “A Plea for Rio+20: Don’t Commodify Nature”
- “Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future”