Part 3 of Apocalypse No!
The Law of Life and the Law of Death
by Juan Santos
1. The Great Emergency: Global Warming, Mass Death and Resource Wars in the 21st Century
"We are the watchers. We are the witnesses. We see what has gone before. We see what happens now, at this dangerous moment in human history. We see what's going to happen, what will surely happen unless we come together---we, the Peoples of all Nations---to restore peace, harmony and balance to the Earth, our Mother."
--Chief Arvol Looking Horse, from White
At the Sundance Film Festival Al Gore declared, "We have a category five denial of this issue [global warming]. I believe our political system is broken, however, I have optimism and hope. A rebellion is gathering." But rebellion isn’t what Al Gore is fostering. Speaking at NYU against what one commentator called a “stately backdrop of American flags,” Gore’s comments were focused on “uplift,” and calls to action slathered in a “thick layer of patriotism” and good old capitalist know-how. He seemed oblivious to irony, saying of the
The feel good approach Gore pushes is dead wrong: Economic growth and saving life on Earth are not compatible goals. Industrial civilization isn’t harming the Earth, it’s killing the Earth. The system has long since passed the limits of growth - it can’t be sustained.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a four-year analysis of the world's ecosystems sponsored by the Worldwatch Institute, showed that 15 out of 24 ecosystems essential to human life are "being pushed beyond their sustainable limits," toward a state of collapse that may be "abrupt and potentially irreversible." These ecosystems and the civilization that is killing them are both approaching an endpoint.
People are calling Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth the most terrifying movie you will ever see – but really, Gore’s film is a soft sell, one that underestimates the dangers we face and that veils not only the root causes of global warming, but the drastic military responses the US is planning in the event of an abrupt shift in the climate.
Call it Category 4 denial. Gore ignores the real problem. Global heating isn’t “caused” by CO2, it’s caused by industrial production and those that profit from it – capitalists in oil, gas, coal, electricity and automobiles, among others. And the system isn’t “broken,” no matter what Gore claims. The system is producing what it’s supposed to produce; power and profit and the corollaries of power and profit; denial and death.
For those addicted to power and profit, who are “winning” at the expense of all life, global warming is business as usual.
Try telling an abusive alcoholic he’s taken one drink too many, that animals and plants, even other people, are not objects, that he’s beaten his wife one too many times, or that, as Brother Malcolm put it, the chickens are coming home to roost. Unless he’s hit bottom, he’s not listening. Even George Bush has publicly acknowledged the obvious: the system is addicted to oil. But he’s not listening.
The analogy to addiction is not facile and the denial of the crisis we face is no accident; it is both conscious and deliberate. In this system, denial of suffering is the key to success. The ability to distance themselves from the meaning of their actions is what put those who are on top on top in the first place.
Look at Exxon and its global warming disinformation campaign. They’ve spent millions on propaganda to consciously deceive us about the reality of global warming and the impending mass death it implies, much like the Nazis told their victims they were heading for a shower, not a gas chamber, like the cigarette capitalists told us smoking carries no harm. But the genocide the Nazis perpetrated was not this extreme. This is different. This is not ethnocide or genocide. This is omnicide. Life on Earth is in the balance.
The stakes, the costs of this crime and its coverup, could not be higher. World renowned paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey tells us, “Whatever way you look at it, we're destroying the Earth at a rate comparable with the impact of a giant asteroid slamming into the planet, or even a shower of vast heavenly bodies."
Within 50 years a million species will be extinct. Within 100 years 50% of all species now living - 5 million forms of living beauty - will be gone forever. Within a mere 30 years, a quarter of all mammal species may be gone.
Today, bears are no longer hibernating in the north of
Fish are starving to death in the
Forty percent of the world’s species will die with the Amazon.
The new Age of Extinctions is being driven by global heating, ozone depletion, toxic chemicals, habitat destruction, and invasive or infectious species. The cause isn’t just CO2, it’s our whole way of life. The Earth is in its most profound crisis since the mass extinctions of the Eocene period, 54 million years ago.
Before that, two hundred and fifty million years ago at the end of the Permian era, 95% of all species perished due to runaway global warming, warming that occurred due to the same kind of positive feedback loops that we see emerging in today’s heating trends. Scientists call it The Great Dying, a period in which life on Earth was all-but wiped out.
The Permian mass extinction was apparently caused by a series of gigantic volcanic eruptions, triggering a runaway greenhouse effect. Geologists have said the impact of this "post apocalyptic greenhouse" was so severe that only one large land animal was left alive. 100 million years would pass before species diversity returned to its former levels.
In light of such potentials, how many people are willing to wager that the world scientific community is wrong and that George W. Bush – the idiot savant of the Christian Fascists – is right when he claims the verdict is still out on global warming? How many will be willing to leave the fate of the Earth, of their children and their children’s children, in the hands of propagandists for ExxonMobile? The impact of global heating - on humans alone - would be almost beyond imagining.
James Lovelock, who developed the Gaia Theory – the scientific theorem that Earth acts as a single self-sustaining, self-balancing organic system – tells us that by 2100 there will only be 500 million humans left on Earth. The Earth, he says, will no longer be able to sustain more than that. There are 6.5 billion of us now; by 2050 that number will rocket to 8.9 billion, then drop precipitously. If Lovelock is right, only one out of 18 people will be left alive at the century’s end. 95% will be dead. And Lovelock is only looking at global warming. He isn’t counting the threats posed by Peak Oil or nuclear resource wars over oil, water and arable land that, if current trends continue, will become all but inevitable.
The glaciers of the
By the summer of 2040 all of the sea ice in the
With the collapse of the Gulf Stream, temperatures in
Would Europe, with its vast armaments and its history of colonization, genocide and global wars aimed at re-dividing world resources and markets, slip quietly into a frozen death - or would it find war, even a Third World War, preferable to collapse and relentless famine at home?
The question is far from academic. Ice sheet melting from the Greenland ice cap into the Greenland Sea and the melting of floating ice during the 1980s caused the
Which lands a frozen
Exxon-Bush Inc. would have us believe these impacts and their causes are debatable. Republican Senator James Inhofe would have us believe that the world scientific community is perpetrating an elaborate anti-capitalist hoax – the biggest hoax in human history, with the highest stakes. Rush Limbaugh says global warming is just another way to make civilized white people and capitalists feel guilty, the moral equivalent of a commie plot. The Right wants to cast doubt on climate science and the impending realities of climate chaos, because by pretending that there is a debate, they can defer action and continue to profit. For these men, the world itself can end, but not profit.
The fossils of our time sit in
As resources of petroleum peak and begin to expire, the Bush regime offers no alternative other than resource wars – war, not to end the use of the fuels that are destroying the Earth – but to get more of them, the last of them. Their aim is not to save the world, but to ensure their continued ability to dominate it by controlling the rapidly dwindling sources of oil. This, after all, is what the war in
The ruling elites know exactly where we are heading and exactly what they are doing. Quietly, they call global warming a “national security threat.”
A 2004 Pentagon report, "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security," cautions US strategic planners that in a scenario of abrupt climate change “Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.” The report predicts that
The Pentagon report suggests that there could be global economic depression, destruction of technological infrastructure on a global scale, nuclear war, mega-droughts, famine, mass migrations from
“Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,” the Pentagon says. “…warfare would define human life.”
The report calls for the development of what it calls “no-regrets strategies” by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Welcome to the apocalypse. This is the Great Emergency. The future of all Life on Earth is in our hands, in the hands of this generation. We have two choices: stop them, or prepare our children and grandchildren to be among the 5% who might be so fortunate – or unfortunate – as to survive.
The Law of Life and the Law of Death
“If we are to survive, we need to learn to discern the difference between real and false hopes. We must eliminate false hopes, which blind us to real possibilities, and bind us to unlivable situations.” - Derrick Jensen -
“Indigenous people still live in a universe, but we don't; we live in an economic system.” - Thomas Berry –
Facing the reality of our times, facing the apocalypse, means stripping down. As bare as you can get. The truth about the condition of the world, if you can take it in – even in part - will lay you flat, for days, or weeks. It will take your breath away. Adrienne Rich speaks with depth, prayerfully, of what reckoning, real reckoning, can cost:
It will not be simple, it will not take long
It will take little time, it will take all your thought
It will take all your heart, it will take all your breath
It will be short, it will not be simple
It will touch through your ribs, it will take all your heart
It will not take long, it will occupy all your thought
As a city is occupied, as a bed is occupied
It will take your flesh, it will not be simple
You are coming into us who cannot withstand you
You are coming into us who never wanted to withstand you
You are taking parts of us into places never planned
You are going far away with pieces of our lives
It will be short, it will take all your breath
It will not be simple, it will become your will
To face the apocalypse you will have to strip what you call your life away. That’s what it means to acknowledge truth. It’s like fire sweeping through chaparral; in fire ecologies there are seeds that only germinate and grow when the brush burns; new life requires fire.
It is time to strip away denial to make room for remembering ourselves, our primal selves, the tribal self, the knower, the one that knows its life and environment like any other living creature knows it; intimately, directly, totally - the deep one inside us who lives on Earth without the plagues of doubt, contingency and anxiety that fill our every day with disease.
We will not survive otherwise. Otherwise we are blocked, locked in a double bind that forbids recognition of what lies before us, blind to the simple and obvious. The distress that led us to this end cannot itself undo this end, the disease cannot heal itself. The false self can only produce false solutions, the self in denial can only produce solutions formed from its own matrix of denial.
There is every indication that our society, civilization as we know it, is on the verge of collapse. Whatever and whoever is left, it will not be you; not as you know yourself today.
“You,” as you call your civilized self, are on your way to extinction.
Maybe you don’t want to know... Maybe you should put this down now.
Apocalypse is not an event, and it’s not by the numbers. Apocalypse is a process. It’s a way of life. It’s this way of life. And whatever else may be said of it, this way of life is finished. You are finished with it; it is time for it to be finished.
Some have said that there are no more warnings to be had, that the time for warnings has passed, none are needed. Anyone who looks can see. “Doomsday” is not approaching; it may already have passed. The scales may already have tipped without our having noticed the finality of the moment; that moment when the extinction of millions of species or the probabilities of a final war became inevitable – irrevocable and irreversible.
We’ve been living with this knowledge for a generation now. It’s permeated every aspect of our lives, whether we’ve acknowledged it or not.
I remember as a child, standing in the window near the front door of the little wood frame house, looking out, wondering if we were going to the country, to see the family; if there would be time, if the highways would be too crowded and if it was far enough away. I had a plastic army helmet on my head – a plastic liner for a WWII US Army helmet - and a stuffed tiger under my arm. It was the Cuban Missile Crisis.
We knew then it could all be gone.
The youth of the early 80’s knew it too. By then we were painting red and orange mushroom clouds on public walls, clouds slashed through by the “no” sign. We were marching by the millions to stop Reagan - with his cowboy hat, death squads, nuclear tipped cruise missiles and charming grin - from committing omnicide. We all knew what that grin hid. Reagan was a front man for the Empire, an evil empire run by people who know exactly what they are doing.
They are killing the world.
If you’re an activist, you know just what this means. Whether its polar bears, seals, coral reefs, rain forests, mountaintops blown into gaping pits, minefields, human rights, incest, torture, wife beating, police beatings and murder, nuclear war, animal rights, nuclear waste, global warming, rape, racism, genocide, mass incarceration, mass deportation, mass starvation or mass extinction, you spend your time doing one thing: staving off or seeking somehow to transform the omnipresent reality of utter destruction spawned by this system at every conceivable level.
One need look only at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the genocide of 100 million Native Americans and 100 million Africans, to understand exactly what those who rule intend and the inevitable conclusion of their logic. Plainly stated it is a Hitlerian logic. Hitlerian rationalism. It’s never been otherwise. Only the thinnest of veils separates the cult of every day life from the mass reality of a new, global holocaust. We face that holocaust today. The system we live under is producing it step by logical step.
Death underlies the logic of industrialism – that’s its premise. No one has kept this a secret - for a generation it is has been impossible not to know. Industrialism is nothing without the logic of efficiency in production - capitalism not only produces, of course, but only the most efficient, ecologically reckless and exploitative producers survive. Beyond that, capitalism creates crises of overproduction that lead to global economic depressions and world wars aimed at re-dividing resources and markets between competing capitalist empires.
Modern production is a wedding of opposites, a two faced god: its other face is destruction. Consumption for one is starvation for the Other. Production for one is destruction for the Other, and like a cancer, production has grown beyond all limits: the industrial system lives by destroying without limit, by ignoring the limits to growth.
Derrick Jensen makes it plain:
“It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.”
The logic is this. There is a strict relationship between the denial of kinship and empathy – objectification – on one hand, and the willingness to produce the unlimited death of the Other – to wipe out every Indian and every
Jensen takes us one step further:
"Production is the manifestation in the physical world of the psychic process of objectification. It is the turning of the subject (a cow for example)into the object (profit on the hoof, as agribusinessmen say).To do so, necessarily kills the subject, first inside the objectifier's experience, and then in the physical world. Production, however, is not the end point. Production, deified as it has become, is not the god who stands behind the god. The god who stands behind the god is annihilation. Where does our production lead us? Psychic death. Emotional death. Physical death. And, as should be increasingly clear to anyone paying attention whatsoever, it is leading us ever more quickly toward the death of every living being."
Jensen walks right into the heart of the matter, into the final result of objectification, denial of the inner reality of the Other, the denial of kinship, and the soul murder involved in “rational” and efficient” production.
“The endpoint of civilization is assembly line mass murder. The assembly line mass murder of the Nazi Holocaust is production stripped of the veneer of economics. It is the very essence of production. It took the living and converted them to the dead. That’s what this culture does.”
This is where Hitler’s logic in the efficiency of the production of death – the horror of the death camps – comes from. It is not abnormal; it is merely the intensified expression of the dynamics of the cult of every day life; which, of course, is a cult of death rooted in the denial that we are part of a living planet, and that all life, and the balances of life, are sacred.
Like a cancer industrial capitalism must grow to survive, it must consume its host to prosper. In consuming its host, it lays the foundation for its own cessation. When the body dies, the cancer also dies. In The Final Empire William Kötke writes:
“The culture of empire has severed itself from its center in the life of the earth. Civilized people find their survival not in the life of the earth but in human society. They are dependent upon what human society produces. The empire feeds on the earth like a tumor, irrespective of natural patterns. The individual person in the culture of empire does not directly feed from the earth, as do forager/hunters, that person feeds from the tumor body.”
With globalization, the culture of the production of death is being exported to the whole world. Two thirds of all Earth’s “resources” have already been consumed. Other cultures, including indigenous cultures, the cultures of life, are also quickly being consumed.
Life itself is being turned into death, and consumed.
The “Real” World
Globalization is the spread of the logic of industrialism everywhere; it is the spreading of the logic of mass death to everything. Globalization means the mass death of everything, the cancer metastized.
Look around you. There is no other logic in control. We’ve killed 90% of the large fish in the oceans; seals go mad from the toxic results of human shit dumped in the sea; they bare their fangs and bite the heads of their newborns.
They call it “peace,” or “democracy” when any madman can see it is nothing but destruction and death, racism and power lust. Any madman can see they cry “peace, peace,” when there is no peace.
The “great tribulation” is on us, and it’s not what they told us it would be.
This is not about geopolitical strategy – even though there are profound and sometimes moving analyses of that aspect of the science of death lust and of the clinical coldness of the ruler’s calculations.
The plans of the Christian fascists and US Neocons for global empire and the concrete strategies they pursue are like the plans of a serial killer for his next murder; understanding them is only useful insofar as it might tell us just how close we may be to the final disaster, and what openings, if any, might occur in which we might intervene. But at bottom, their plans aren’t the basic thing. The sickness is.
All the cold thought, like all the “rational” plans and cold science behind Hitler’s death camps, is still just necrophilia, the sick, sexualized psychological thrill of power over others, of manic killing, death, and cold bodies.
It’s not just the torture camps at Abu Ghraib and
And it’s not just one thing - it’s not just our social prison – it’s everything. There is a continent of floating plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean as large as
Ten thousand years of civilization have so traumatized us – ten thousand years of trauma have so civilized us, that it can no longer be endured or contained.
Civilization is undergoing a psychotic break, and to paraphrase Ward Churchill, you’re locked in a room with it, as its mask of “niceness” falls away; as its cold face shows; when it looks, for all the world, like there’s nothing you can do. After all, the psychopath writes your check. They’re selling us so much Prozac and Ritalin that it’s filtering into the soil, polluting the waters, imbalancing the brains of other mammals. 80% of people in the
It’s called competing survival drives. We have to survive in the system, but the system creates death as its product. As Thomas Berry put it, “Indigenous people still live in a universe, but we don't; we live in an economic system.” We depend on the production of mass death to live. We live in a system of death, where survival means self-destruction and destruction of the Earth. Trying to survive, we destroy ourselves and the world. It’s as simple as driving to work.
Listen. I’m not leaning out the window screaming “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” And this is not 1984. It’s different. It’s worse than anything Orwell postulated. It’s not just Freedom is Slavery and War is Peace.
It’s Life = Death.
Like shocked and beaten prisoners, like concentration camp inmates, most of us can’t stop and look or even think for ourselves – and when we do, for even a moment, we tell ourselves to calm down.
This calming down, this containment and redirection of fear, grief, pain and rage, this inability to remember ourselves, is what we call “civilization,” and “being civilized.”
We’re domesticated. Like any other beaten, cowed, tamed, rewarded and cringing animal. This is what we call being “nice.”
We forget, we refuse to acknowledge, that the wealthy own us. They, not we, spend our lives.
Forgetting, we make it safe for the destruction to continue. Like any other inmate, we do our jobs quietly, not so differently than how others did our jobs in Germany, under the Nazis, not so differently than the death camp inmates did their jobs. The product of our work is ultimately the same; our own deaths: and the deaths of the Others.
All My Relations
It hasn’t always been like this. The world renowned paleoanthropologist, Richard Leakey, came to a stunning and beautiful conclusion about human evolution. He says that what set us on the path to human-ness was one thing: sharing - that sharing is the key to our evolution and the primary cause of the evolutionary leap that created us.
No other primate shares its food. While other primates occasionally hunt, and have even been seen to hunt cooperatively, no other primate gathers its food and shares it with others. Other primates don’t gather food and share it, they forage for it, and eat it themselves, where they find it.
No other primate has a division of labor that is predicated on sharing what the gatherers gather with the hunters and what the hunters hunt with the gatherers. Leakey suggests that in the most literal sense sharing fueled human evolution, making immense stores of energy available to our ancestors. Sharing fueled our growth in every sense.
Sharing food involves what Leakey calls reciprocal altruism; those that shared had better chances of survival; he says that our evolution “selected” for certain traits; “sympathy, gratitude, guilt and moral indignation” – empathy, in a word. Those who will not or cannot share are ostracized; their chances for survival plummet.
Leakey is unequivocal. “We are human because our ancestors learned to share their food and their skills in an honored network of obligation,” he writes in People of the Lake (emphasis added.)
In every original, ancient human culture this sense of sharing, honor and obligation – this sense of kinship – extends beyond the self to the family, beyond the family to the band, beyond the band to the tribe, and beyond the tribe to the plants and animals, to the very stones.
Our primal sensibility is that we are related, that we belong, that we are wrapped in a matrix of living that is fundamentally secure, and that our part is to reciprocate, to ensure the balances that sustain our living matrix, our living mother.
The Lakota nation has a word for this: mitakuye oyasin: all my relations. The term so deeply expresses the indigenous sensibility of an honored and beloved network of reciprocal obligation with land and life that it has been adopted as a byword, a sacred expression, by indigenous peoples throughout the
But something has gone terribly wrong. Around the Earth those who hold to this original law have been systematically destroyed.
Such destruction is called genocide, but it is more than that. It is the mass murder of the keepers of the Law of Life, the Law of the Land. It is an act of profound spiritual darkness.
The destruction of those who remember the original law of our being implies, in the most obvious and literal sense, the abandonment, destruction and repudiation of the Law of Life and the destruction and repudiation of our actual, practical relationships to one another and to life itself.
The violation of this Law, and the spirals of pain that have resulted from it, have set us on a path to suicide, to omnicide. For ten thousand years, since the advent of “civilization,” we’ve been on a path to a single destination: apocalypse.
The “fathers” of civilization have, at some level, always known it: that’s why the myths of a coming apocalypse have been with us for so very long.
Entrapped in what we call “civilization,” we live by another law. Robert Oppenheimer, progenitor of the atomic bomb, understood himself, and perhaps he understood the matrix of pain and destruction that has captured us:
“I am become Death, destroyer of worlds,” he said.
The law we live by is more than obvious. We live by the law of death. We have replaced the Law of Land and Life with the law of death, with a law of reverse evolution we call “progress.”
The Aboriginal peoples of
“In their cultural detachment from the true dynamics of life’s origins and the fundamental burdens and boundlessness of time, these arrogant intruders are hopelessly confused. Not knowing what to remember and what to forget, they follow dead laws, fail to recognize living ones, and in their power and denial promote death.”
“The original instructions of the Creator are universal and valid for all time. The essence of these instructions is compassion for all life and love for all creation. We must realize we do not live in a world of dead matter, but in a universe of living spirit. Let us open our eyes to the sacredness of Mother Earth, or our eyes will be opened for us.”
-- Traditional Hopi Elder David Monongye
It wasn’t always like this; other cultures have known other ways.
Deborah Bird Rose suggests that the Aboriginal ethos can be summed up in four main points, four basic Laws about the respect and the kind of relationships we owe to other living beings:
“Balance: A system cannot be life enhancing if it is out of kilter, and each part shares in the responsibility of sustaining itself and balancing the others.
“Response: Communication is reciprocal. There is here a moral obligation: to learn to understand, to pay attention, and to respond.
“Symmetry: In opposing and balancing each other, parts must be equivalent because the purpose is not to “win” or dominate, but to block, thereby producing further balance.
“Autonomy: No species, no group, or country is “boss” for another; each adheres to its own Law. Authority and dependence are necessary within parts, but not between parts.”
These laws – laws that are fundamentally about kinship, reciprocity and balance - bind the people in eternal relationships to the Earth and Life. Native Americans have similar understandings; there were original agreements between humans and animals that must not be broken; these are expressions of an original medicine that serves to heal and keep the world in harmony. One of the central images of the Hopi Nation is a symbol that means “Together with all nations we protect both land and life and hold the world in balance.” Indigenous peoples follow the Law of the Land; they do not seek to impose their own laws on the land, or on other living beings.
The ethic of protecting land and life, and the consequences of not doing so, are conscious for indigenous peoples. Jim Kipp describes the understanding of his people, the Blackfeet:
”…Creator gave me a choice in life – a 'red road' leading to him or the path that is curving, dangerous, and leads to death. Being able to live in a respectful way in Creator's name teaches how to be humble because it acknowledges that Creator's presence is in everything.”
In the Maori language, Whenua, the word for land, is also the word for afterbirth; the relationship of living creatures to the living Earth is like that of a fetus to the placenta. The Maori word for a sub-tribe or band is the same as the word for a pregnant woman. The same sense of kinship permeates the Maori sensibility at every level;
The Māori believe that they have whakapapa (genealogical) links to everything - not just to humans but to the universe as well. As such, forests, mountains, seas, rivers and lakes are viewed as siblings (brothers and sisters) in the same family tree (whakapapa). Their sacred relationship with the natural world was visible in the strict laws of tapu (sacredness) and mana (divine spiritual authority) - developed to live in harmony with their world – and still holds true for many Māori today. The land is part of who Māori are as a people, and links them to their tribal roots. These spiritual and family connections are what make Māori tangata whenua … the people of the
The science of genetics tells us unequivocally that we are, in fact, related to every other living being on Earth. But we think we’re different. We’re here to dominate life, not to share it. Our “god” tells us so.
A recent poll shows that some 58% of people in the
Life isn’t real to us now; we’ve adapted to a new environment, a new matrix made of asphalt and electronics. Our relatives are traffic signals and policemen; those we loved most, our families, our fathers and mothers, were the agents of our indoctrination. They taught us to live in the death camp, to accept it as normal, to deny our most basic instincts, feelings and intuitions, to accept a system of control, reward and punishment. They taught us to perform, and called it success and life.
Aboriginal peoples in
Aboriginal Tent Embassy Outraged with Kangaroo Massacre
The Aboriginal Tent Embassy demands for an immediate stop to the massacre of aboriginal animals at Googong Dam in the A.C.T. Environment ACT described the shooting of 800-1000 eastern grey kangaroos at Googong Dam as “Operation Success.” The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is vocalizing the uproar from the Aboriginal community, which has been traumatized by the recent massacre of the kangaroos. "They same way they killed our old people, dig a big hole and put all their bodies in it, we still feel their spirits. It’s too much," said Lorna Laurie, resident of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
"This massacre is a desecration of Aboriginal law and spirituality, to kill so many creatures, for no good reason, and just dump their poor carcasses in the ground is an abomination of these ancient laws" declared another embassy resident Arinya Freeman. "Even though the government is saying they have completed the cull we can’t be sure they are not planning to massacre more kangaroos - we want it all to end".
"We can’t see the reason for why this would need to happen. The reason being given is that there is not enough food or water for the kangaroos, but we know it’s for the expansion of development, farming and industry to perpetuate this economic system. Indigenous people from all over the world are facing genocide from this same system," stated Gungalidda elder Aunty Wadjurlabinna.
"The government do not care about the land or water, if they did care about the land and water then they wouldn’t be selling it all off to foreign corporation for mining, or cotton irrigation, they would close down the wood chip mills. They need to understand that the kangaroos have been living in this country long before they came so they have more rights to use the water then anyone" said enraged embassy resident Terra Freire.
Under section 116 of the Constitution, the Commonwealth cannot use its powers to prohibit freedom of religion. "This land has its own law, this other law is foreign, it belongs to a foreign system, not our system; people had better come to learn, respect and understand our system, the kinship system. We are sovereign people of this land and our law is sovereign in this land. To continue to violate these ancient laws of Aboriginal culture, to disregard Aboriginal natural and spiritual law, while contradicting the constitution, is further perpetuating genocide against indigenous people" continued Aunty Wadjurlabinna.
"Under natural and spiritual law through the kinship system, the kangaroo is my mother and uncles. These disconnected people are killing my mother and uncles. They are part of the system like us, related to us the same as people, we are all equal under the rule of natural law, that binds us through our language, this is the Aboriginal way," stated Gungalidda elder Aunty Wadjurlabinna. "Genocide has taken many forms, this is another example of the genocide against our people and our lands and everything that makes our continent. The animals are part of us. The kangaroos and other indigenous animals are related to us through a unique and powerful system known as the kinship system. They are family. This system is made up of the rule of natural law and spirituality that has been in place since the dreamtime, the beginning of time. No one has the god given right to destroy these sacred animals."
It is difficult, at best, for us to experience such a quality of connectedness or the morality that arises from it - we experience it only occasionally, or as an epiphany. Our common experience is an experience of the alienation and isolation that we call individualism. Native peoples belong; they are in place. We feel we have no place. Our rulers call having no place being “free.” Walter Lippman wrote:
“These are the prisoners who have been released. They ought to be happy. They ought to be serene and composed. They are free to make their own lives. There are no conventions, no taboos, no gods, priests, princes, fathers or revelations which they must accept. Yet the result is not as good as they thought it would be. The prison door is wide open. They stagger out into trackless space under a blinding sun.”
This is among the deepest fears of indigenous people – to be cut off, excommunicated from the family of the living, the tribe, the Mother, and the rituals and symbols, the culture, feelings and morality that keep us connected to the web of life. To be cut off is to be subject to demonic forces, to the diabolical; that which divides. To the indigenous the most powerful and most disconnected among us are like the central figures in the dark film Natural Born Killers. They dreamed of the demon years before. Now it walks among them.
The most profound evidence for the power of kinship, among us, the disconnected – at least when we are in our “normal” state of consciousness - is to be found in our own experience of its absence. Most of us who are not in the deepest kind of denial acknowledge, at least in private – even if only to ourselves – that our constant experience is one of uprooted-ness, insecurity and deep loneliness. We wonder if we are the only one who feels this way.
The answer is “no.” Our senses of relatedness, of place, belonging and autonomy have been radically and systematically undermined. It’s not only that we have been made alone and lonely: the reality is that to pierce the shell, to reorder our lives, to reconnect, to come together in new ways threatens the very stability of a system that is built and depends for its functioning on our sense of unworthiness and isolation, and on cultivating in us a sense of being both without hope and ineffectual. A deep sense of kinship is a fundamental threat to a system that can only establish itself on the basis of denying, “rationally” reordering, and containing our abilities to relate.
And because we are adapted to such a system, breaking through the barriers of isolation threatens our own emotional defenses, as well, and the defenses of those around us. We are allowed to care, but only for certain animals we call pets, only for certain people we call family, and only within certain limits; to show our feelings only to certain people, who we pay; the rest remain emotionally untouchable. The question is one of identity and loyalty, who we are together.
The Critical Art Ensemble writes:
“To be sure, kinship (which may or may not be based on genetic connection) is a manifestation of nonrational forces that can transcend the alienation of separation. For this reason, the true intention of authoritarian culture is the destruction of kinship. If such human bonds were allowed to exist, people could define themselves, and thereby find self-esteem, by means other than one's labor role, bureaucratic affiliation, and consumption process. Kinship loyalties, as with friendship, and other forms of affinity, could lead to an inversion of the structure of duty. People would be loyal to other individuals rather than to institutions and offices. The authoritarian channeling of kinship into the nuclear family is the authoritarian answer to such a possibility. The intention is to reduce kinship to the specialized micro-role of the reproduction of the work force and of consumer markets. The meaning of "family values" is efficient reproduction that solely benefits the macro processes of production and consumption. The family has no value in and of itself; it has value only in relation to market forces. Whenever kinship escapes this rational order, powerful resistance through transgression has occurred.”
In other words, what remains of kinship in our experience has been restricted and channeled into the service of “production,” into the service of the death camp.
The kinship that resists and escapes the demands of the death camp is not at all the same thing as socialist “solidarity.” Kinship carries the sense of an intimate, personal commitment, not an abstracted and generalized political comradeship at arms. We have to go deeper than that.
All of the mass social movements of the past century – communism, the counterculture, the various anti-colonial revolutions and cultural nationalisms – even mass advertising - have had, as their most enduring appeal, the implicit promise that we don’t have to be alone anymore. To break through, to end the oppression and separation, to come together, was the great, global hope of the 1960s.
Slavery = Progress
But the premises of civilization – viewed from the Right or the Left - are the direct opposite of the indigenous laws. The Earth is not here to serve us as property, neither the property of a “superior” collective or of “superior” individuals. The oppression inherent in the dominance of life by the powerful demands a skewed system, one profoundly imbalanced, aimed at meeting human needs above all others. By definition an oppressive system, an oppressive culture, is one that forgets that we are all equal under the rule of natural law, one in which disconnection, objectification and death have become the new law.
The establishment of human dominance and the subjugation of non-human beings lead directly and inevitably to the dominance of human over human - to meeting the needs of only certain humans without regard to Others. For this reason, no theory or practice that fails to shatter the chains of human domination over our Mother, the Earth, can free us from our social prison. The model for the enslavement of humans is the enslavement of animals.
Jim Mason writes in The Animal Question: Uncovering the Roots of Our Domination of Nature and Each Other:
“As movers of the mind, thought and feeling, animals are very strong stuff to human beings. No wonder our ancestors believed they had souls and powers. After centuries of manipulative animal husbandry, however, men gained control over animals and their life processes. In reducing them to physical submission, people reduced animals psychically as well. Castrated, yoked, harnessed, hobbled, penned and shackled, domestic animals were thoroughly subdued. They had none of that wild mysterious power of their ancestors when they were stalked by hunter-foragers. Domestic animals were disempowered by confinement, selective breeding, and familiarity with humans. They gradually came to be seen more with contempt than awe.
“In subjugating animals, farmers reduced animals and nature, in general, because crop conscious farmers saw wild species as pests, and natural elements as threats. But it was animal husbandry, in particular, that nudged people from seeing animals as spiritual powers to viewing them as commodities and tools. It drastically upset the ancient human-animal relationship, changing it from partnership to master and slave, from being kin with the natural world to lord over it.”
Once the premise of enslavement is established in the first instance, the logic of enslavement unfolds and encompasses culture, and our relationships to the land and all life.
Seneca traditionalist John Mohawk writes in A Basic Call to Consciousness: The Hau de no sau nee Address to the Western World :
“Herding and breeding of animals signaled a basic alteration in the relationship of humans to other life forms. It set into motion one of the true revolutions in human history. Until herding, humans depended on nature for the reproductive powers of the animal world. With the advent of herding, humans assumed the functions which had for all time been the functions of the spirits of the animals. Sometime after this happened, history records the first appearance of the social organization known as "patriarchy."
“…Within these cultures, stratified hierarchical social organization crystallized. The ancient civilizations developed imperialism, partly because of the very nature of cities. Cities are obviously population concentrations. Most importantly though, they are places which must import the material needs of this concentration from the countryside. This means that the Natural World must be subjugated, extracted from, and exploited in the interest of the city. To give order to this process, the Semitic world developed early codes of law. They also developed the idea of monotheism to serve as a spiritual model for their material and political organization.”
These laws stemmed from a need to predict and control the direction of a way of life uprooted from the natural world and natural law, and to control the actions of those who were now subjugated.
Each of these imperial religions and cultures has its own book or books relating its experiments in social and moral subjugation, and each posits the coming of a messianic figure who will set civilization aright, when all else has failed, saving it from the apocalyptic results of its following its own unnatural laws.
The death and assimilation of indigenous peoples and the destruction of ways of life rooted in reverence for the natural world meant that the survivors were left with no mooring posts, no common understandings or traditions. Having invented an artificial world predicated on subjugation, they must now invent artificial laws to predict, control and channel its direction.
They now lacked an intuitive understanding of the natural world – they had divorced themselves from it, and from the ancient cultural traditions that guided a life in balance with nature. They no longer had a self evident, empirically verifiable moral and cultural foundation, a natural way of life. They needed someone to tell them what to do; they needed someone to force others to do their bidding, if they were to continue to “profit” from the subjugation they had imposed on the world.
As Daniel Quinn has noted, the sense grew within them that something was terribly wrong. They called it sin, the failure to be a good slave to “god.” They had only the vaguest of understandings that what they called “god’s laws” were being violated, that “wickedness” and cruelty ruled their new world. They competed with one another to establish their own way of death as the “one way” all must follow, to impose their own religion and eschatology on others. This competition of ignorances and forms of control and subjugation became the foundation of modern and “post” modern morality, religion and culture.
Sadly, just like their capitalist counterparts, Marxists applaud the end of Earth based “primitive communism,” as they call it, and the rise of the family, private property and the state, of the new civilizations that arose some 10,000 years ago. Marxists acknowledge that the civilizations of the
This more “advanced” communism is thought of as the “promise” of “primitive communism” made real by technological and cultural “progress.” It is the final promise of a technological and organizational utopia based on the premise of human domination of the Earth and all her creatures.
Production is key to capitalism, of course, but also to Marxist and much of Anarchist theory. Not only are humans seen as producers by their very nature – the opposable thumb and tool using are imagined to be humanity’s most distinctive traits – but the entire theory of historical materialism rests on the centrality and supremacy of production.
The means of production and the relations of people to the processes of production are thought to define the “level” or “stage” a society has supposedly “reached,” and human rights to self determination and to land are thought to be contingent on how “advanced” a culture is. Animals are not thought to have rights at all. Indigenous, Earth based cultures – so-called “primitive” cultures - are slated for the “waste bin of history” – for elimination.
Socialism and Communism are said to represent new stages in the relations of production, the relations between people as defined by what they produce and how they produce it. New relations of production are said to lead to new cultures and to a new “socialist man.”
But while Marxism is, at one level, a powerful dream of becoming human again – of sharing again - sadly, its underlying premises reduce to a view of history that can be summed up like this: Slavery = Progress.
Intended as a theory of liberation, Marxism falls prey to the logic and laws of death. It views humans as “superior” to “nature,” and “advanced” humans as superior to “primitive” ones. It cannot find its way out of its civilized box. Like all modern, “civilized” political theories, it rests on the subjugation of the Earth, the destruction of our original sense of kinship, its replacement with new relationships based on new roles in industrial production, and the destruction of the cultures of those who have kept the Law of Life.
This holds true across the Left. Consciously or not, “progressives,” by definition, are as committed to “progress” as the most reactionary capitalist or Christian Fascist.
Progress in production is progress in “dominion” – in the biblically mandated domination of the Earth, a domination sanctioned by every civilization, a dominion that is the core principle on which civilization is founded. It is of course no accident that one faction of the Destroyers would call themselves “dominionists,” or that today that faction should be the cutting edge of the “dark side” in the center of the world empire.
The Hopi Traditional Elders, on the other hand, never lost sight of the principles of Land and Life. They say that one day, in a time of deep crisis that they call the Time of Purification, a brave person will stand up and demand of the elites, “ You profit at the expense of all life: come here and pay your debt!” That time, they say, is upon us.
The transition from a culture immersed in life to one immersed in death, from a culture that based itself in reciprocity among people and between people and bears, plants, insects, deer, stones, kangaroos and buffalo, to one that sought to dominate all life, to “conquer” nature and all natural beings and put them to a foreign “use” for one’s own benefit, the transition from a culture that honored all life to one that profits at the expense of all life, was nothing like a benign “enlightenment” or a natural “advance.”
Civilization begins and ends with the progressive disruption and destruction of kinship; kinship with the land, between humans and animals, between women and men, with the disintegration of kinship systems; it begins and ends with the destruction of our sense of relationships as sacred and their replacement by relationships of oppression.
No longer are there sacred animals, plants, stones and places. No longer do we live
in reciprocal obligation with the world around us. The world itself ceases to live for
for us, to be alive to us. It comes to be managed, controlled, suppressed and enslaved – killed. The life of the world is reduced to serve one end and one end only; it is now no longer our Mother, our nurturer, our home, where we belong. It has been reduced to utter servitude to human ends; the original relationship is shattered.
Our Mother, our matrix, the womb of our being, is reduced to “lifeless matter,” which is to say, in literal keeping with the Latin from which the term “matter” is derived, “Mater Morduus”: Lifeless Mother: Dead Mother.
This is the central tenet of the western world view: that matter is inert, that reality is “matter in motion,” dead matter moving. Dead Mother moving: this is the signal, sign and symbol of the death of relationship that is the hallmark of civilization. By its very nature civilization is totalitarian; when the Dead Mother does not move to suit us, our technology moves her, like Frankenstein’s monster on a wench. Like macabre scientists in a grade B movie, we “produce” movement.
In popular culture in the
The rupture of our sense of kinship with the world meant the end of our obligation to the sacred Other. The constraints on the exercise of violence that kinship implied were gone.
The rule of civilization, the systematic destruction of original kinship, has always been imposed by force, by violent destruction and disintegration of the cultures and peoples it has invaded and conquered, followed by a seduction into a new way of being, a new hierarchy with new mores. Civilization, as such, is based on the exercise of violence over the Other – plant, animal and human.
That’s how we got here, in this condition, in this time and place: we are the product of a violence divorced from feeling, from connection and meaning – a violence meant to reduce all meaning to the narrow scope of that which serves to enrich and make the purveyors of violence “secure.” Like a Jonah, we’ve been swallowed by something huge; we are inside it with no apparent way out and with no clear avenue for the exercise of our original integrity.
Civilization consumes and destroys original cultures. Indigenous cultures disintegrate before the onslaught of its illness just as Native American peoples disintegrated when touched by smallpox. All it takes is a touch of the sickness; as the delicate balances between human and nature and human and human are ruptured, the infection spreads.
Traditions and ancient authorities nested in millions of years of trial and error begin to unravel.
The lessons of power – for a people conquered - are profound and immediate. The new way has established itself supreme over the old. It has been imposed. The apparent “advantages” of new technologies seem palpable. For those who internalize the lessons, who internalize the terror and destruction, who internalize the meaning of the horrid power of the new weapons and the new language of the superior and the inferior, the powerful and the powerless, continued resistance seems to make little sense.
Emotional trauma precedes disconnection from our deep sense of kinship with all life, a kinship expressed through and embodied in culture. Trauma and disconnection precede hopelessness. Hopelessness precedes ambition, and ambition precedes conversion to the new way, the way of death.
After only a few years of contact and conquest, things begin to break down.
The Kogi people of
As the government and leftist guerrillas seize control of the land around them; as pesticides aimed at the coca plant blanket the forests; as people sicken from the poisons; and as it becomes dangerous in the face of right wing death squads for the priests and elders - for anyone - to expose themselves outside the confines of the community, the old traditions and the authority of the Earth based spiritual leadership have begun to come unraveled.
But the Kogi have sent us a message. Like the Hopi before them, the Kogi had maintained their culture and spiritual traditions largely intact throughout the period of the Conquest. And like the Hopi in 1945, the Kogi, in 1990, decided they must speak out to the rest of us. Too much was at stake to do otherwise. They brought their isolation to an end. Their prophecies had spoken of the coming of the Younger Brother and the destruction he would wreak. On their mountain, which they call the Heart of the World, snows had dwindled, the ice receded. Something was terribly wrong: the Heart of the World was dying.
"Up to now,” they said, “we have ignored the Younger Brother. We have not deigned even to give him a slap. But now we can no longer look after the world alone. The Younger Brother is doing too much damage. He must see, and understand, and assume responsibility. Now we will have to work together. Otherwise, the world will die."
The Kogi, who never succumbed to Spanish rule, who evaded it by fleeing high into the mountains, are now faced with their own subjugation and their culture’s disintegration in what some have called a final stage in the conquest of the Americas, a final stage in the destruction of the kinship between human beings, and the plants, animals and Earth that are our placenta, the womb and source of life.
The Kogi hold that they are the "Elder Brother," guardians of life on the Earth. Like the Hopi, they are called to hold the world in balance. Their spiritual leaders are “in agreement,” they tell us, “about what it is we are going to say and how to speak.” They work in the realm of the Mother, of "Aluna," the inner world they call Memory and Possibility. From there they speak to us, saying:
“They are cutting off the flesh of the Mother’s body. They have taken everything. They have stolen the spirits of all things from the Mother. They are stealing the very spirit and thought of the Mother... The Mother is suffering. They have broken her teeth and taken out her eyes and ears. She vomits, she has diarrhea, she is ill.
If we cut off our arms, we can’t work, if we cut off our legs, we can’t walk. That is how it is with the Mother. The Mother is suffering. She has nothing.
Does the Younger Brother understand what he has done? Does he?”
Today, in the Amazon, a shaman whose father survived an assassination attempt for his resistance to the encroachment of oil companies into the rain forest, declares, “Give me the gun or give me the arrow: I will die with nature!”
“I don’t want the people from
Many tribal groups – our ancestors - have so highly valued their kinship with Life and Earth that they have fought to the death to preserve it; untold numbers committed suicide during the Conquest to escape the new power of the new way; others, whole tribes, did the same for another reason, to avoid submitting to it – ever.
The choices before us today are every bit as fundamental as the choices made by our ancestors. This much is in our hands: to follow the Law of Land and Life, or the law of death. Chief Arvol Looking Horse speaks to us clearly:
“In our Prophecies it is told that we are now at the Crossroads, either unite Spiritually as a Global Nation, or be faced with chaos, disasters, diseases and tears from our relatives eyes.
“This new millennium will usher in an age of harmony or it will bring the end of life as we know it. Starvation, war and toxic waste have been the hallmark of the Great Myth of Progress and Development that ruled the last millennium.
“To us, as caretakers of the heart of Mother Earth, falls the responsibility of turning back the powers of destruction.
“We have come to a time and place of great urgency.
“The fate of future generations rests in our hands.
“We must understand the two ways we are free to follow, as we choose the positive way or the negative way.. the spiritual way or the material way.
“It's our own choice--each of ours and all of ours.
“You yourself are the one who must decide.
“You alone-and only you--can make this crucial choice.
“Whatever you decide is what you'll be, to walk in honor or to dishonor your relatives. You can't escape the consequences of your own decision.
“On your decision depends the fate of the entire World. You must decide. You can't avoid it.
“Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind.
“Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger?
“Know that you yourself are essential to this World.
“Understand both the blessing and the burden of that. You yourself are desperately needed to save the soul of this World.
“Did you think you were put here for something less? In a Sacred Hoop of Life, where there is no beginning and no ending!"
Chief Arvol Looking Horse19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White
Juan Santos is a