"Balance" by Chicana Muralist Judy Baca (used by permission)

Friday, January 22, 2010

We Are the Ones

We Are the Ones

We've Been Waiting For

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.

Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour.

And there are things to be considered:

Where are you living?

What are you doing?

What are your relationships?

Are you in right relation?

Where is your water?

Know your garden.

It is time to speak your Truth.

Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

This could be a good time!

There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!

Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.

All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we've been waiting for.

—The Elders Oraibi
Arizona Hopi Nation

An anniversary—any anniversary—is a marker in space-time. You can look backward, or forward, or both. If you're very attentive, you can let it flow across your hand, letting its weight, its substance, its shape be there for a moment or two. You can decide to pivot your hand just a little to send it off onto to a slightly different course that might change everything. But you can't know with any assurance that it has.

On this first anniversary of Juan's death, I am holding the flow of his words. It has spread out, shallower in the world but broader too. What he said a year ago or two or three is not as fresh as it was then, but that is a good thing. His thoughts and writings are merging with others in what may be a great swell toward the shore of the Fifth World. He faced that shore, speculating about the vast unknown ahead. More see it now, a year later, and more give it words too, and many in the swell are simply heading where their own best human nature takes them.

My brother's greatest fear, one he rarely named but always addressed, was that humanity wouldn't survive the Shift with the rest of the planet. He sometimes speculated that it might be best for the Earth if we didn't, but his terror of that “hard landing” was beyond expression, a living, unending nightmare that drove him to send out warning after warning, to write until the last days of his life.

It was a place I couldn't go with him. I wasn't brave enough.

Today I see him munching down M&Ms, teaching me to stretch my aging, stiffening back in the ways he had learned over the years to relieve his own pain, walking with me across the Third Mesa, forcing me to go back to my small efforts at writing time and time again until I spoke what I truly know. Discovering what I truly know.

The mad rush to Apocalypse is clear now. The doublespeak has made transparent nonsense of words spoken by those leading the rush, those near them, those aspiring to power, those kowtowing to power. We have heard the greatest irony: the Peace Prize accepted with a vindication of war, the greatest orator of our time promising the destruction of anyone who stands in the way of the coming of the last days. We heard Obama's polemic justifying war between and within nations, remaking “just war” into any U.S. intervention in the name of global security, promising us no peace in our lifetimes. We heard it, the true promise of the agent of “hope” and “change.” Obama outlined his path to progress.

And it is, as Juan told us, the path to the Apocalypse, when all but the “saved” are left to a hell on earth. So health care is not only denied to the poor, it is made more remote for those who once had the money to pay for it. Economic recovery is applauded with the transfer of millions of dollars in bonuses to the wealthy and footnoted assurances there will be no jobs for the starving and homeless. Island nations are drowning in rising oceans, while wealthy nations pull up their gangplanks and sail away from Copenhagen.

The Earth heaves in cataclysm after cataclysm, and tens of thousands die while the U.S. deploys its well-armed peacekeeping army and turns doctors away. Food spoils on tarmacs, and soldiers march past people begging for water. Medical supplies are guarded on airstrips, just a few miles from people dying from untended injuries. The call goes out for more sheets to cover the dead, and the second wave of death from decaying and diseased corpses begins.

Obama's hope and change is only a slightly slower path to destruction, to the Armageddon, the great lottery where the god of Christianity, we are told, will draw the tickets of those who are truly saved. And those betting on their ticket have no care for the wretches left behind, for they are the damned.

If you are twenty-five, the mean temperature of the Earth has risen throughout your lifetime. If you are twenty-two, you have always lived with U.S. troops ravaging some small country. If you are eighteen, you've lived half your life with the Patriot Act, the right of the government to know your every move, read your most personal writings, sneak and peak in your home. If you're in the ninth grade, your education has always been about marching into lockdown to learn how to pass the test.

And among these people might be genuine hope: they who have only silly, old stories of what progress means, the ones who've grown up seeing nothing improve and little remain the same. For them, progress is marked only in less destruction. When Peabody Coal is stopped after destroying half the water supply of the Diné, we are told it is a victory. A new hearing that will almost assuredly result in the murder of a political prisoner might become a small opening for ending such killings someday. Leave only a couple of hundred to torture in Gitmo, and Amerika isn't as evil. If a cop goes to jail for the point blank killing of a subway rider, we will hear it is a victory. We are told this is progress, and some of us have lived nothing else.

Those are the people who don't hope for progress, who have no memory of a time when protesting wasn't a pre-negotiated surrender to the same cops who would just as willingly beat them if they step out of line. They know that justice is only an abstraction, nine dusty old geezers deciding who should be President or that a business is a person. They know that their favorite video game and TV show are indoctrination and sedative in one-hour doses.

They might just recognize that Amerika is under siege. Cops routinely prowl neighborhoods in military gear. Our cell phones track our movements across the country, and from the living room to the bedroom. Satellites take pictures of our streets, and cameras capture us as we walk along them. Our food supply depends on distant markets. Jobs depend on the largesse of bankers. Take it to court, and you and your lawyer might both end up in a prison for terrorists. Tens of thousands of us can't leave, trapped by “no fly” lists within national boundaries. The rest of us will soon stand naked before anonymous airport security guards if we try to get out. Some of us have known nothing else, have never walked the streets unobserved or eaten fresh-picked food or driven over the border without a passport. Freedom is an illusion, like the rest of it. Some of us know there is no hope, no change, and no progress, and no freedom.

We are nearing the crossroads, and human nature might just prevail over the purveyors of doomsday. It may be that people who have never seen progress, who've seen only lesser and greater despair, take a different path. It may just be that they see that progress is the mask of destruction, and change must change everything.

And it is these people, the ones without memories, who might create something new. They might truly be free to dream of a different kind of world, to freely celebrate its coming, to follow the Hopi instructions and come together in community and clarity about what must be, because, as Juan told us, what is will end.

We are a year closer to the Apocalypse Juan warned us of. Where are you living? What are you doing? What are your relationships? Are you in right relation? Where is your water? Know your garden. It is time to speak your Truth. Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader. If you know these are the questions and the answers, if this is what you remember to be true, then you belong here.

Since you've stumbled across this nearly abandoned website, stop for a moment. Read just one article, and then stop to feel its flow across your hand. Put what you discover somewhere close to your heart for a day, carry it with you. You might discover what you already know, as I have. Then come back to discover more.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Next Steps

Rafael's life here may be over, but for those of you who truly admired his writing, I am hoping to collect some of it and publish it (really, with a cover and everything) in the months ahead.

Rafa left his work, very consciously, to be finished, and he knew he could not finish it alone. I have some idea where he was going, but I can't go there alone, either. So I invite everyone who comes here to look through the Apocalypse No! series especially, but the rest of his writings too, and add to this thread your analysis, questions, and ideas about the next steps. Invite friends who might be on the same path to come and take a look. Rafa has handed us much of a roadmap to the next world: we only need to fill in the next few steps.

Thank you to all who have shared my loss, for your thoughts and prayers. I have felt them deeply, and they have sustained and strengthened me. Rafael has been honored in several public ceremonies, Western and Indigenous, and in innumerable private prayers and rituals, but the greatest honor we can offer him for the gifts he has given us is to continue his work and his course. I invite you to do so.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

On to the Fifth World

Juan Rafael Santos of the Aztlan Mexica Nation Harmony Keepers/American Indian Movement, my brother, passed into the spirit world on Thursday, January 22. That gentle, fierce, loving, brilliant, poetic soul outgrew the shackles of his body and this realm. He is on his way to take his place with the ancestors so he can be with us all. He has found life in balance, but he is not resting, not Rafa. He's writing and laughing and righting great wrongs and showing us all the way to the Fifth World. He has joined the spirits where he can even better shine his truth-revealing light, rescue our Mother Earth, and inspire what he took to calling a Green Renaissance. Listen for him.

--Leslie Radford

Monday, January 19, 2009

Obama, King and Kennedy: Empire and the “End” of Racism An interview with Juan Santos

Obama, King and Kennedy: Empire and the “End” of Racism An interview with Juan Santos

“King spoke Truth to Power, while Obama spoke Lies to get in Power.

One might say that other than that, and other than the fact that King stood up to end Black people’s suffering while Obama stood silent in the face of it, they’re just alike.”

Juan Santos is a member of the Aztlan Mexica Nation Harmony Keepers/American Indian Movement, and author of the essays Barack Obama and the “End” of Racism, and Obama's Denial: The Fear of a Black Messiah.

Andrea Luchetta interviewed him for a feature piece on Obama’s inauguration for the Italian daily Il Manifesto. The following is the full text of that interview.


Luchetta: I‘ve interviewed Ms. Makeeba Lloyd, of the "Harlem4Obama Commitee". According to her, racism is nowadays a minor problem. The main conflict, for her, is of a class nature, rather than racial in nature. The social dividing line, she says, is now between the rich and the poor, not between the white and the black. What do you think of this position?

Santos: This is nonsense, Lloyd’s claim is in line with Barack Obama’s utterly false claim that peoples of color are “90% of the way to equality” with whites in the US.

Ms. Lloyd is wrong. The poverty line is a race line. Race determines who is poor and who is not. Roughly a quarter of black and brown people in the US live in poverty, while less than 1/10th of Euro-Americans live in poverty. A black person in the US is 3 times more likely to be poor than a white person.

That’s 90% of the way to “equality”?

No. The very best thing I can say about the idea that peoples of color are approaching equality with whites in the US is that it is an example of extremely bad math, or of people promoting an illusion in hopes that it will come true.

Black unemployment in the US is currently at 11.1% - almost double the average for white people, whose rate of unemployment is 5.9%. Among the general population, - by which I mean those outside of the reservation system that imprisons Native Americans on the remnants of their lands - Blacks have the highest rate of unemployment in the US, followed by Latinos, at 8.8%. Among Black youth unemployment reaches a stunning 32.3 %. From 1976 through today, a new study shows, Latino unemployment rates typically exceeded that of the white population by some 65%. The absolute rate of unemployment for Native Americans on the reservations is, however, roughly SEVENTY PER CENT.

50% of Native American reservation homes have no phones and 1/5 of the homes lack complete kitchen facilities

It might be interesting to show these figures to Ms. Lloyd to see if, reading them, she is still willing to claim a distinction between a race divide and a class divide in the US.

But economics is by no means the only measure of equality.

Race also determines who is imprisoned and who is not.

Black people in the US are 8.5 times more likely than whites to be imprisoned.

On any given day 1 in 9 young Black men are in prison.

Latinos are 4 times more likely to go to prison than white people.

68% of all U.S. prisoners are people of color, although Black, Latinos and officially recognized Native Americans together make up slightly less than 25% of the overall population of the U.S.

The US has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world. It is a system of mass imprisonment aimed at the control of people of color, who, the elites fear, have the potential to violently and politically rebel again as they did in the 1960s. People in other parts of the world simply cannot begin to imagine the conditions that exist here; the US holds 25% of the world’s prisoners – a Gulag comprised mostly of prisoners from the minority populations of African and Native American descent – Blacks and Latinos.

This is no “minor problem,” contrary to what Ms. Lloyd suggests. It is a form of mass social control of potentially dissident and rebellious populations based on race and class status. Ms. Lloyd has missed the point entirely.

It’s not a matter of race versus class – race and class are in many ways one thing here in the US.

Usually that kind of system is called a caste system. Despite a few exceptions, like Obama himself, that’s exactly what exists in the US: a caste system.

What the white ruling class did here was this: following the mass rebellions and the burning of major US cities in the 1960s, the white ruling class decided on a strategy of divide and conquer. They created a Black middle class almost overnight, largely using government employment to do so, while at the same time they found another way to deal with the millions of people of color who could not fit into the system; mass imprisonment. These developments are 2 sides of the same coin. Ms. Lloyd’s failure to see this is why she can make the kind of mistakes of analysis she’s making. See this link.

Luchetta: You wrote that the price for Obama's election was silence about the racial question. Yet, don't you think, as many participants to the "Great Harlem Debate" have suggested, that his silence was rather tactical?

Santos: Yes it was tactical, but the question is this; what strategy did the tactic serve?

And: Who did that strategy serve? And: Who did that strategy harm?

As someone put it, “Hope is not a strategy.” Hope is nothing but a slogan.

And here’s another question.

If, as Obama claimed, Blacks in the US are “90%” of the way to equality with whites, then why was the tactic of silence necessary in the first place?

If this claim were the truth and not a lie, anyone could talk openly about race and discrimination, openly celebrate the reality that there is only 1/10th of the way left to go, and put forward plans to quickly eliminate the remaining 10% of the problem. If this were true, such a campaign would draw millions upon millions forward as volunteers, people who would be thankful with all of their hearts, joyful to be part of the push to bring racism in this former Apartheid state to its complete end.

If racism were 90% eradicated in the US, if Blacks and other peoples of color were 90% of the way to equality, there would be absolutely no reason or need for silence.

If 9 out of 10 former racists were no longer racists, the tiny number which remained would already be isolated and powerless. There would be no need for a tactic of silence about racial oppression, because the racists who remained would be so small a group that they could not change the outcome of an election – not against a population that was 90% anti-racist or non-racist. But Obama’s claim was a conscious lie, as I demonstrated in answer 1. There I dealt with the quantifiable measures – the facts of social inequality which disprove Obama’s claim. The verifiable, statistical facts disprove Obama’s claim, and they are widely available for anyone to see who cares.

Obama’s silence showed one thing- that he knew his claim about equality was false, that he knew that to dare to talk openly about race and oppression would alienate the millions of white center-right voters whose support he needed to win the election.

So, Obama’s strategy was to give those voters what they wanted to hear, and to give them silence on what they didn’t want to hear. The tactic he used to give them what they wanted to hear was to offer the lie about “90% equality.” This erased any need on the part of his white audience, the white electorate, to deal honestly with the actual conditions of people of color here in the US. They could believe the lie of racial progress, and never have to think about the millions in poverty and the millions more in prison. That worked just fine for Obama.

Instead of blaming the system and white racism for the conditions of Black people, he could blame Black youth for a lack of “personal responsibility” – that’s exactly the tactic of white racists, and it looks like that is what Obama means by creating “unity” between peoples of color and white people – to unite with white racists in their tactic of blaming the victim of racism for the impacts of racism.

That’s the same kind of logic wife beaters use to justify their brutality.

In effect, Obama filled the silence about the actual conditions of peoples of color with the lie about an “equality” that clearly does not exist, and with a tactic of blaming the victim. So, looking back, it wasn’t really silence at all. It wasn’t wrong to say that this silence was the price of Obamas’ election, but more basically, the price of his election was a price now being paid by Gazans, and by the hungry, incarcerated and unemployed people of color in the US.

A lie filled the silence and took the place of the truths that demanded to be spoken and dealt with. Obama’s strategy and tactics served white racism and served to deeply harm peoples of color by erasing our conditions of life from the imagination of the majority here.

Claiming that Gazans have “almost achieved equality” with Israelis would not make it so, and remaining silent about the rain of bombs will not make them stop exploding. Obama has remained silent about the literal bombs in Gaza, and he has remained silent about the explosively unjust social conditions for people here. In both cases, the bombs keep falling, people keep going hungry, and here, the US Gulag continues to devour the lives of millions of imprisoned people of color.

Along with the wealthy Anglo ruling elite, that’s who his strategy served, and that’s who his strategy harmed.

Yes, Obama’s Black supporters you interviewed in Harlem were correct.

The silence was, in fact, a tactic.

Luchetta: Why don't you seem to believe in the possibility of a change coming from within the institutional framework? What is then the possible alternative?

Santos: Change won’t come from within the system because the wealthy profit from the mass impoverishment of peoples of color here and around the world – wherever their money can penetrate to get the cheapest labor for the most work. Having a color- based caste who you can discriminate against increases the rate of profit. They also profit at the expense of the Earth; they profit from the Earth’s destruction – actually, and in practice, they profit at the expense of all life. They’re not going to give that up because someone votes for them to give it up. They have police and military power at their disposal, and the bullet always trumps the ballot.

Racism rewards the powerful. They have no reason to stop racism unless its continuance results in a level of resistance that endangers the system of profit itself.

To put it in plain words, the system rewards the rich for hurting people. So, from their emotionally deadened standpoint, and given their control of the bullet, why should anything change?

For me, the most important example of an alternative is the EZLN; the Zapatistas and the Mayan people of Chiapas in Mexico are a shining example. They have found a striking balance between autonomy and resistance, and between self determination and the nurturing of their culture and the Earth. The Mayan people have a profound sense of the meaning and potentials of our times. I’m an indigenist and associated with the American Indian Movement.

I’m also enamored of Evo Morales and his MAS party in Bolivia, and I have an intellectual and moral admiration for Hugo Chavez, for his willingness to confront the US and Israel, and to unite other oppressed nations in a bloc of opposition to imperial hegemony, but not for his personal style of management or emotional tone.

And at this juncture in history anyone with a heart has to admire Hamas; I do, even though I don’t view them as a viable alternative… but, then, I don’t have to; it’s not my place to make that determination. I’m not Palestinian.

But, finally, the all-but undeniable reality is that the Empire cultures like the US and the European powers are quickly heading toward “the trash bin of history.”

Their systems are completely irrational, and tend to eat themselves – and the Earth – and us – alive. They have no future.

Increasingly, it seems, the writing is on the wall, and in the hearts of people around the world. I think the alternative is to begin to build a new way and a new culture, establishing autonomy and independence and sustainability for ourselves as communities, even as these Empires collapse as flat as the two skyscrapers in New York a few years ago. One good collapse deserves another, I always say.

Luchetta: You seem quite skeptical toward Obama's rhetoric. What is the "Change" that Harlem's people would really need? Which actions would be needed to tackle the racial question?

Santos: Well, we’ve seen plenty of “change” since the 1960s. But what people forget right now is the common folk wisdom that “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Really, the only thing the system can do for us is collapse, go away, and get out of our lives. I’m a big fan of the American Indian Movement slogan that says, “U.S. out of North America!”

Really, the system can’t do anything to change the caste system that it’s founded on and that it relies on for its continued profit and its continued existence.

As far as tackling the race question goes, they can never tackle it from our perspective and for our good. Just like in the 60s and 70s, they can only tackle the race problem their race problem, not ours.

We are their race problem, and I’ve never been one to ask bullies to tackle me. It’s not a sound or productive strategy.

Luchetta: Don't you think that, if compared with the situation of the Civil Rights Movement era, a lot of progress has been made on the racial question?

Santos: Again, the old folk saying; “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

My answer?

Sure, if you count a new Black middle class, on one hand, combined with the mass incarceration of peoples of color on the other, and a day to day war in our neighborhoods called the “War on Drugs” - which is really a “War on Us” - if you want to count that as “progress” …then yes, there’s been “progress.” But anyone who actually believes that that is “progress” is lying to themselves.

At the systemic level, there’s been no qualitative, fundamental “change” at all, really. But at the cultural level, yes, there’s been change, and that change - with all of its dramatic difference and all of its dramatic limits, is what Barack Obama represents at his best - as a cultural symbol, not as a champion of the People.

But, yes there has been a limited but very welcome change in people’s attitudes, ethics and their emotional and cultural open-ness. That much has changed. The system, though, hasn’t changed at all.

Luchetta: Why, in your opinion, is Barack Obama often compared with JFK?

Santos: It’s a kind of obvious comparison in terms of their charisma, their intelligence, and their ages. But, it’s not just their personalities or spirits. January 2009 is very much like the period of JFK’s reign. Then - looking back on it now, it’s plain to see that there were two major trajectories the world could take – toward Nuclear Holocaust or toward a Cultural Renaissance. As it turned out, the cultural Renaissance, an effort toward Cultural Revolution, was the path taken from the bottom-up.

The Ecological Holocaust we face today is very similar in it’s meaning to Nuclear Holocaust, and, according to Michael Oritz Hill, the author of a book called Dreaming the End of the World – which is focused on people’s dreams about Nuclear Holocaust and Ecological Holocaust, there are even deep correspondences and similarities between the symbols in these kinds of dreams. By the same token, the feeling is thick in the air today, at least here in California, that another cultural Renaissance is being primed; A Green Renaissance – no, not a “green economic stimulus” – something more profound, and from the bottom-up is coming; that’s how it feels now. I’m sure that if you were in San Francisco or Greenwich Village in the early 60’s, it felt pretty similar.

In the early 60s, Kennedy embodied both potentials, for renewal and destruction. Obama is like that, too – a mix of contradictory elements and psychological, cultural and political trends embodied in a single, charismatic leader. Neither of them brought any focus whatsoever on paths to liberation.

Kennedy was an imperialist and a Cold Warrior. Obama is the 21st century equivalent of Kennedy – a smart Hawk whose basic commitment is to the existence and furtherance of capitalist imperialism.

As a fine essay in Revolution points out, Kennedy sent the young and hopeful he’d inspired to die and carry out imperial genocide in Viet Nam.

Obama will do the same in Afghanistan, and, perhaps, Iran.

Beyond that; moving out of the Bush era is not unlike moving out of the 50’s and the McCarthy era here, out of a time of a deep grey repression into open air and sunlight. Just getting finished with the Bush years is enough to give people “hope.” Obama just stepped up and rode that wave; he didn’t inspire it; he was just the one to ride it –he was a “fit.”

There are lots of little correspondences; John McCain, Obama’s rival, was almost as stiff and bad on television as Richard Nixon, Kennedy’s rival.

History and Time run in circles and spirals and cycles, not in straight lines. Things come back around. The world is a complete circle. In fact, the Aztec (Mexica) name for the world was Cem Anahautl – “Complete Circle.”

Luchetta: Why did most black people vote for Obama? And why did the US choose a black president just now?

Santos: Because he’s Black. Because Black people are routinely and systematically excluded from full participation and any kind of empowerment in US society, Because they dared to “hope” he might actually turn out to be one of their own, to actually turn the tide for them, despite the political evidence to the contrary. It was largely a symbolic vote, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t truly important at the level of culture. In fact, symbols are, in many ways, the substance of culture.

Look, the guy’s smart, charismatic, and his game is really complex. There is no way that it would be right to “blame” most black people for not seeing through the complex political game, and there is no way that one could fail to love Black people when you take even a second to see it through their eyes; to so many the election of Barack Obama looked exactly like the fulfillment of the Dream - Martin Luther King’s Dream. In one way, in terms of what it said about the changing culture, it had an element of truth, at least in part. At the level of the system, it has no truth at all.

Nor is it the case that Obama represents anything like the values King held to his heart – quite the opposite.

King spoke Truth to Power, while Obama spoke Lies to get in Power.

One might say that other than that, and other than the fact that King stood up to end Black people’s suffering while Obama stood silent in the face of it, they’re just alike.

The Lessons of Gaza in a Time of Collapse and Rebirth: Apocalypse No! part 8

In loving memory of the late Mayan priestess Jo'b No'j Chomiha (Rosa Maria Cabrera)

By Juan Santos

It can no longer be hidden. What is happening in Gaza is, transparently, ethnic cleansing - genocide.

That genocide has been ongoing for sixty years, sometimes in intense, rapid, and explosive junctures, sometimes more slowly, routinely – but always, it has been executed methodically.

To see clearly the historical and cultural trajectories toward genocide in Palestine or elsewhere, one has only to map the intersection of the stated intentions of the perpetrators and their actions over time – or experience a sudden revelation or flash of deep insight.

I was one of those who saw it all at once. At sixteen years of age, it hit me with an overwhelming and intensely intimate force, one that would require an essay in its own right to elucidate.

I had been watching a documentary on public television about the Nazi Holocaust.

Later that night it hit me: What happened in the Holocaust was not the exception to the rule – it was the most profound expression of the rule; it was a concentrated expression of the way things are in everyday life, in the blind cult of everyday life as we live it. The Holocaust could not have come from nowhere, it was not an aberration, it arose from certain conditions, like a pimple from oily skin – and, like the blemish itself, the Holocaust was only a symptom of what underlay it – the conditions from which it arose. Outbreaks of genocidal horror in concentrated form arise from the norms that underlie them. If there is no basis for a thing to exist, it cannot come into existence.

What is happening in Gaza today is no accident; it is an expression of underlying logics, of underlying and all-permeating attitudes and feeling tones in Israeli culture; logics, attitudes and feelings that rest on a set of fundamental premises.

The most fundamental of these premises is one shared by every civilization and empire on Earth over the historical period of the last several thousand years: that the members of a given culture are vulnerable, whether that vulnerability is to human enemies or the conditions of nature, and that this vulnerability rightly translates into a mindset of kill or die, kill or be killed, conquer or be conquered.

Every empire culture has determined to be the killer rather than the one who dies or who is killed, the conqueror rather than the conquered, and the ruler rather than the ruled. At some point the trauma of some real and limited threat become generalized and embodied in the psychology of individuals, and then in entire cultures, as an ongoing state of psycho-cultural emergency, a mass “neurosis” or “psychosis.” The sense of being threatened became a given of existence and the foundation of a way of “life.”

Every empire faces what it considers an existential threat (indeed, each embodies the mentality that existence – life itself – is a threat.) The founding and continued existence of Israel, and the dispossession, ongoing oppression, and slaughter of the Palestinian people has been “justified” for decades now by the unreal claim of a perpetual threat of a new anti-Jewish Holocaust, one from which Israelis and other Jewish people must perpetually defend themselves. This kind of ever-vigilant self defense is what civilization is fundamentally about.

In the case of Israel, the now-defunct idea was that if any people had a “right” to become wanton killers and conquerors, it was the Jewish people. Israel could kill and rob with impunity; it was justified by the “threat” Jews faced of a new Holocaust, a threat alleged to be so grave that any crime was justifiable in defending against it.

In part because of the Holocaust, in part because of the long and deranged history of European persecution of the Jewish people, the Zionists demanded, and were granted, a blank check to kill. To question that “right” was to be branded as living, walking proof of the ongoing “reality” of the existence of the perpetual threat; it was to be branded an “anti-Semite,” one who is living proof of the potential for a new anti-Jewish genocide, and as a virtual advocate of another anti-Jewish genocide.

Thus, Israel established a sort of unassailable “right” to “defend” itself from “threat” – to eliminate the Palestinian “threat” – which is to say Palestine itself and the Palestinian people. The “threat,” as always, became a license for genocide.

Without cultural agreement on the nature and meaning of an existential “threat,” no empire can justify its existence. Almost all “progress” is measured in terms of overcoming perceived threats, and Empire culture, civilization itself, and all of the horrors it perpetuates, are justified by the “progress” it represents.

It is important to understand, for example, that most Israelis today view the genocide in Gaza as “progress.” That’s why opinion polls show their overwhelming support for it. Likewise, the Nazis had made “progress” in dealing with the “Jewish Question,” until they reached the point where it seemed possible to progress to the point of a cure for the “Jewish disease” they said threatened the German people. Call it the promise of a Final Cure, a Final Solution, a Final Progress. Call it the promise of a Final Redemption, a cultural liberation from the existential threat, the promise of the ultimate “success” of civilization.

There is nothing at all unusual in it. Every aspect of our daily lives is permeated with such promises, and every one of them is a lie. It is the job of politicians to make such promises, and that is why we tend to despise them, even though every one of us is looking forward to the “final solution” of something or another, however serious or however petty.

Every TV commercial is a walking, talking final solution, a new “miracle” cure; real progress – a must buy.

That’s because every time we buy an advertised commodity we aren’t buying an object, we are buying an idea, a culture, a promise, a solution; whether the solution is to the “threat” of bad breath or the “threat” of “global terrorism.” As we make our purchase we are also buying into the basic notion that life is a threat and that civilization and “progress” are its cures. For most Israelis, excluding a tiny conscious minority, the white phosphorous Israel is raining on the people of Gaza is not a burning poison – its medicine – it’s a cure, a solution; if you buy it.

But listen - don’t blame them; you’re not immune, either; you buy into the same lie, in some form or another. “They” are not different; you are not different. They are from the same culture as most of us; one of the Empire cultures - in this case, the West. In the West, as in all Empire cultures, “threats” are dealt with by eliminating them. So, the Nazis sought to eliminate the Jews; The Jews in Israel now seek to eliminate the Palestinians – they call it the Palestinian “threat,” so that the very name “Palestinian” has come to represent a threat in the emotional subtexts of Western empire culture.

Israeli writer Uri Avnery, writing on the genocide in Gaza, makes it plain:

“Every baby metamorphosed, in the act of dying, into a Hamas "terrorist". Every bombed mosque instantly became a Hamas base, every apartment building an arms cache, every school a terror command post, every civilian government building a "symbol of Hamas rule." Thus the Israeli army retained its purity as the ‘most moral army in the world’…”

And, if only Israel would smile as they kill, send in a few doctors and some medicine to anesthetize the pain, they would be both “moral” and “nice.” And no one could object. The slaughter could continue undiluted.

Just as Israel is out to eliminate Palestinians, you, cowboy, sought and still seek to eliminate Indians. Yesterday’s “savage” is today’s “terrorist”… threat…

In the US, Black people are a “threat,” so their elimination is sought in other, diluted ways, ways that don’t look like genocide - through mass incarceration of millions under the guise of “fighting crime” or the “War on Drugs”, or the War on Gangs,” anything that can be made morally justifiable and enlist the support of “nice” people. But the undiluted reality is that we, the descendants of Africans and Native Americans, are your Gazans. And your perception of us as a threat operates in your culture in just the same way as the Israeli perception of the Palestinians. You stole our land, our bodies; just as Israel is built on stolen Palestinian land; only in this case we are talking magnitudes of scale far beyond a small strip of land on the coast of the Mediterranean. We are talking two continents in this hemisphere, and the enslavement and Conquest of Africa, and Australia as well.

Here in the Americas, your ancestors killed 95% of my ancestors – David Stannard in has seminal American Holocaust, published by Oxford University Press, puts the numbers at around 100 million dead. And you thought the 20 million the Nazis killed was unprecedented. That’s what you were taught, that The Nazis were an evil exception to “civilized” rule.

No, the Nazis were not an exception to the rule any more than Israel is an exception to the rule. Neither are the Europeans in the Americas.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the Conquest of the Americas, The Conquest of Africa, with its fifty million dead, The Nakba (the initial Conquest of Palestine), the US/Mexican War of conquest - all of them are made of the same dynamics: “Progress” and expansion, the elimination of the “Threat”, and the need for internal cultural coherence against the threat (that’s where the stereotype of the “self-hating Jew” comes in – it is a stigma meant to reinforce the internal coherence of Jewish culture in the face of the “threat,” so that those who do not believe in the threat, or who are unwilling to kill to eliminate the “threat become the “internal enemy” – a part of the “threat.” If that a sounds like an extension of the mass psychology of Fascism to you, there is a reason for that. All Empires and colonial settler states, from Rome to Mussolini to the U.S. to South Africa to Israel operate on the same basic premises and through the same basic psycho-cultural dynamics. Empire is Fascism.

Your upbringing was little more than a process of indoctrination into the internal cultural coherence of the Empire, and a way of aligning your life-purposes toward your culture’s promise of the elimination of the threat. To be a “success” means that you have eliminated threats in a way that can be construed or falsified as “nice”. That’s what you buy into with every product and lie you buy. You buy into genocide; you buy into ecocide. You buy into the elimination of life on Earth.

Life itself, after all, is the most fundamental existential threat; life embraces its complement, death. Life is full of wild things, threatening things. The word “wild” in its origins, pertains to life which is unbroken, untamed, undomesticated, uncivilized. In its origins, “wild” means self-willed. Life itself is a threat that must be eliminated. That’s the final logic of the final solution, of the fascistic psychology and culture of Empire.

The “dark” “wilderness,” of course, is simply full of threats. We were taught that, too; it is a sensibility so deeply embedded in Western culture that it barely warrants reference, it’s absorbed through fairy tales and through the pores of the skin.

And if you are a white “American” it is manifestly your destiny to conquer the wild threat, to tame it, to break it- to eliminate it. If you are part of Nazi Germany, your purpose is not so different; if you’re Israeli, Greater Israel is your manifest destiny; or South Africa; or Australia. Name your colonial settler state. It may shake you to look at Israel’s genocide in Gaza as a mirror: but, regardless, you are part of the same genocidal and ecocidal pattern.

This is the most elementary of understandings necessary for an honest approach to and assessment of our current global crisis. It is the single most important factor in understanding white European culture and its dynamics in the Americas and as a global Empire. It is fundamental to any understanding of the basic cultural assumptions that guide our daily lives and understandings of one another. It is an understanding so important, it describes a reality so all pervasive, that without it one simply cannot be an ally to oppressed peoples – in Gaza or anywhere else.

Without this understanding one has understood nothing. One’s “compassion” reduces to do-good-ism and elite rescue missions to the poor miserable brutes - the imperial rabble - beneath one.

Without this understanding the dynamics of Empire and genocide, one cannot be an integral part of the healing that we as humans, the Earth as a living being, and the animals we love so urgently need. Without this understanding one cannot conceive of the actual realities of the “old mind” vs. the “new mind.” Without this understanding one doesn’t even know what the old mind is.

Without having immersed oneself in fundamental understanding of the culture-driven realities of genocide and ecocide, one does not know where we are, the conditions we face, or the depths of denial that surround us about our current crisis. In fact, without this understanding having been deeply integrated into one’s world view, one is by definition in denial. One is by definition part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Without this understanding one hasn’t a clue about the indigenous experience so many would like to emulate. Much less has one approached anything akin to indigenous American “wisdom” – or, for that matter, African experience and wisdom. If that is what you are looking for, then, here is some indigenous wisdom:

In the US today, Lakota men’s life expectancy on the rez in the US doesn’t just “happen” to be 44 years –the lowest on Earth. Lakota teen suicide rates don’t just “happen” to be 150% of the norm in the US. The Lakota unemployment rate and the extremities of Lakota poverty don’t just “happen” to be the case. Native Americans don’t just happen to have the highest incarceration rate on planet Earth, higher, even, than that of African Americans. These conditions are all are a direct result of having been conquered and being kept in subjugated state by an enemy people who promised and intended to wipe Native Americans off the face of the Earth – just as the Nazis intended to wipe the Jews off the face of the Earth. The rez is white America’s Warsaw ghetto (by the way, they don’t call the Black ghetto a “ghetto” for nothing) and people of indigenous descent, be they Lakota or Mexican, are, along with Black people, the “Jews.” Better put – the Palestinians.

In fact Hitler openly admired the extermination of the Indians, and the reservation system, and consciously took them as models. The South African Bantustans and the system of Apartheid had a similar origin, as does the division and colonial settlement of Palestine. Gaza is a temporary Indian reservation, “Indian Territory” only waiting to be taken, an open air concentration camp. Here and there, it’s the same.

Where did you think you were?

Palestine is everywhere.

If one hasn’t faced the historical, ongoing reality of genocide and of the US as a white colonial settler state and global empire immersed in, permeated by, and oozing genocide from every pore, then one doesn’t grasp the pain of oppressed peoples, its daily meaning, or the context of the daily experience of oppressed people here in the US or anywhere else on the planet. One cannot but react – be a reactionary (and I use the term advisedly, deliberately and consciously) when encountering the pain of oppressed people. One cannot understand the anger engendered by utter invisibility felt by those who face the realities of cultural and physical genocide everyday and when who, most often, face it alone, with no recognition from their supposed white “allies.” One will fail to see that what is happening in Gaza has a particular meaning for those who are living through it and dying in it. The drama of the mass slaughter of an innocent people there is only a concentrated expression of the blind cult of oppression that constitutes their every day lives, of the cult of everyday life.

Without conscious understanding of the dynamics of genocide, one can only blame the victim for their pain and anger, and fail to understand that one’s own blindness to the most elementary and basic of realities of everyday life presents a locked box to the oppressed – the same locked box oppressed people confront with their active persecutors and overt enemies – the locked box of denial.

Most of all, without such a conscious understanding one cannot see the reality facing the world today, the utter congruity and continuity between genocide and ecocide, and the ways that the denial and operation of one mirrors the denial and operation of the other, or the ways in which the daily details of a killing culture flow into the stream, the river and the sea of planetary death.

Without understanding genocide, one doesn’t understand anything essential -much less is one among the ranks of the “wise.” Without having faced the fundamental reality that shapes one’s culture and its daily interactions with other cultures, one cannot fully approach “wisdom” or humility or self-reflection, or even understand in a mature way what is happening around and in oneself.

Thank the spirits that the denial that has shaped us is, as we speak, at last, beginning to shatter.

Because what’s happening is that a new choice is being made between life and death on a global scale. The choice before us is also an individual one to be made in the context of one’s own, particular culture and life history; it impacts and shapes every aspect of our lives including our deepest senses of community and intimacy.

But the choice is not between killing or bring killed, killing or dying; it’s between killing and living. And like the choices of the ancient peoples who chose Empire, the choices we make now will affect life at every level and on every scale. Our future will hold either a truly final “solution” - a Final Killing of Life on Earth, or it will hold the foundation of a way of Living that can last for the entire natural life span of our planet and solar system. It’s all in the Balance; right now, in this moment. As the Lakota Chief Arvol Looking Horse has emphasized, it rests with your decision.

It’s important to understand, in this context, that Life on Earth isn’t “dying.” The furry ones, the four footed ones, aren’t “dying.” They’re being killed by a culture that is their conscious and self-declared enemy.

Here, in the midst of the greatest mass extinction in 65 million years, all that is “wild” doesn’t just “happen” to be dying, any more than Gazans “happen” to be dying. The Wild happens to be being killed by a culture that has openly and confessedly intended to eradicate, eliminate the wild, to conquer, tame, subjugate and destroy it all – a culture that is the active enemy of all life – certainly of all self-willed – wild life.

It is a culture that uses dynamite to blow up wolf cubs in the den as if they were so many Palestinian children in their homes; and that, death squad style, Israel-in-Gaza style, then uses helicopters to hunt their parents down from the sky.

If life is endangered, if “endangered” species are a symbol of that, then this is what they are “endangered” by - conscious killers. They are not endangered by accident, not by “well meaning” but ignorant people, but by killers - a culture of killers - even if, by chance, it might be rightly said that the killers do not understand, and dare not face themselves as such. (The reason oppressed people find it a relief to deal with overt racists is that it’s a relief to face someone who knows what they are. Most white middle class people in the US don’t face the nature of their culture. They sense that they can’t afford to face it.

To do so would be to break the code of silence called being “nice.” And being “nice” is what it means to smile as you kill. One must kill. There is a threat. But one can only continue to kill by pretending that what you are doing is something else. Mass murder becomes “defending democracy”; Conquest become “spreading the word of god and saving souls.” As I was told by a dear friend, a radical white feminist lesbian, being “nice” functions something like an anesthetic. (Now that doesn’t hurt, does it?)

There are layers upon layers of misdirection, obfuscation, double entendre, doublespeak, half truths and manipulation that enable the killing, and that make up the cultural context in which the killing can go on without acknowledgement or feeling.

Wisdom, in this context, means, in part, being wise about how to deal with a culture of killers. “Wisdom” cannot be divorced from context, any more than it can be divorced from culture, or from experience within a given culture, or how we navigate – mediate - between cultures.

Without a deep grasp of the dynamics of genocide, one doesn’t even start to get this culture, and one is utterly unfit to mediate between the cultures of the oppressor and the oppressed, much less is one fit to guide the creation or foundation of what is most urgently needed - a new culture and an authentically “new” mind – a mind which, in practice, can only be the outcome and product of a new culture that comes into being as this one collapses and as we consciously dismantle the consciousness that drove it. A “new mind” will be the sign of the new culture coming into maturity over the course of the coming generations.

Beyond that, without a firm grasp of the reality of genocide, and thus ecocide, one cannot love the world – not with competence, and not if love is the ability and will to extend oneself for the spiritual growth of others. One cannot extend oneself to guide others in a terrain one doesn’t understand – not without betraying them. Not if love, like “wisdom,” is actually a verb; an ability in a context.

And here is our context as the world and the Earth around us are on the verge of disintegration: it is the context of the death throes of a death system; the orgasm of a necrophiliac.

A mature capacity to love, in this context, is typified by four activities.

1. Guiding others to see what they are part of;

2. Guiding them to reject what must be rejected;

3. Helping each person we guide to undo the trauma; to learn that they are safe while they re-emerge and deprogram themselves from the cultural matrix of “threat” and “solution”, and;

4. Helping to restore the foundations of original, indigenous, pre-Empire cultures and laying the foundations for a new culture that is utterly different, while saving what we can, within the limits of our abilities, of life on this Earth.

These four things will, ultimately and of necessity, become part of a new mythology. They are, fundamentally, religious tasks.

They will become and must become a part of laying the foundation for a culture of life, and they must be encoded in the new culture that arises from the death of the Empire cultures.

A new culture must know where it came from, where it is going, where it refuses to go, where it is on the path and in its stage of development, and why. Otherwise, it could easily repeat and replicate the most devastating aspects of the death culture which is now collapsing around us.

If we don’t know where we are, and where we come from, we cannot know where we need to go, why we need to go there, and we can provide no means for others to gauge where they are in the stages of development from the old to the new. In other words, lacking such knowledge, we are useless to the future as any kind of leaders or guides; rather, we represent a dead end and a failure of understanding.

It is, by the same token, very dangerous to assume that one “knows” what the “new mind” is or will be. That is in part because what we (both as a species and as specific cultural groupings) do now and in the future will become part of the myth/story that shapes the new mind and the culture that it arises from. Since we don’t know what we are going to do, at best, some of us who intend to help lay the foundations for a new culture can only live as if our story might come to embody worthwhile lessons for the coming generations, if there are to be any. But we cannot predict the outcomes or the meanings of the stories and myths they will comprise.

In the same way, the Hopi who lived through the experiences later embodied in their Emergence Stories could not know the outcome before it unfolded. As they moved thru the Passageway they followed from the destruction of the Third world into the Fourth World, they did not know they would be followed by a “witch” who would corrupt the new world, or other key elements of the story that would give full shape to their culture as it deepened and evolved.

It is such stories that deeply shaped the traditional Hopi world experience or “mind,” and our story, as it will be told by our children’s children’s children, based on how we have actually lived it, will shape the “new mind” of the coming generations. This will happen in the same way that it happened among those who lived long ago, who lived and shaped the story of the “existential threat” and the “final solutions” of Empire, the story that shaped our culture and our minds all these generations later.

So, yes, Gaza is our mirror, it is the shattering mirror of a shattering world system of Empire and domination; it is the magic mirror into which we can look to see the truth of our cultural situation and the forces that drive our psyches, the painful mirror that can lead us to grief and transformation, in which we can see what is revealed, and what, and who, must change, and how. What is happening in Gaza is a Revelation, an Unveiling of the nature of things. That is why we cannot tear our eyes – or our hearts – away.

And as we watch the drama, the tragedy of Empire, oppression, genocide and ecocide unfold before us in Gaza, we will no doubt find occasion to feel both deep grief and rage.

Grief over, and rage at genocide is completely justified. But it is important- central - to remember that the worst thing oppression does to us is make us someone we're not, to rob us of choice, to reduce us to being reactive, to limit our ability to feel and think clearly and with compassion about ourselves and others.

Becoming reactive to the threat of oppression forces us into the mindset wherein what “threatens” us determines our being; our existence becomes little more than a reaction to that “threat.” Then the Empire mentality has “got” us. Empire itself is a form of resistance, and resisting it, while necessary, is a two edged sword. To the extent that our response to trauma and oppression reduces and limits our abilities to make conscious choices, we have become the victims of genocide within ourselves; we have become less than the promise of our full humanity; we are robbed of our birthright.

The ultimate freedom is the freedom to choose from the deepest place of authenticity within us - from our hearts in right relation with all life. We must learn to live and act from love of our peoples, of the land and all life, and not from reaction and mere hatred of those who have foolishly made of themselves our enemies.

This freedom – the freedom to love, foster and nurture life, can never truly or entirely be stripped from us, as the indigenous ancestors and elders - all of those who have handed down the still living traditions from before the time of Empire - have shown us with their lives.

The spiritual elders and guides of the Maya of Guatemala are a recent and deep example of this. The Maya are just recovering from a genocide that took the lives of a quarter million of their people in the latter part of the 1900s; but, even though the denial had not yet shattered, even though the world was silent about their condition then, in that time just before the internet, they kept faith with their ancient traditions, knowledge, and prophecies, and emerged as a people who hold a deep spiritual light for a world in crisis. They re-emerged, as if according to schedule, for this time.

The Zapatistas, born of the Mayan culture of southern Mexico, are another shining example. They have found a striking balance between autonomy and resistance, and between self determination and the nurturing of their culture and the Earth. Let us look closely with the Mayan people at the meaning and potentials of our Time.

Let us live, to the best of our capacities, like them.

- Juan Santos is a member of the Aztlan Mexica Nation Harmony Keepers/American Indian Movement, and a Los Angeles based writer and editor. His essays can be found at: http://the-fourth-world.blogspot.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: Juan_Santos@Mexica.net.