Native Americans & the Occupy Movement: Potentially a Powerful Partnership
by Colin Denny Donoghue
[updated June 28th, 2015]
A very poignant fact about the history of Wall Street:
“The African slaves built the wall that gives Wall Street its name, forming the northern boundary of the colony and warded off resisting natives who wanted their land back.”
That really encapsulates the whole situation. What is now called the United States was founded on the genocide of Native Americans and the slavery of Africans, and in a much less harmful but similar dynamic, the 21st century urban Occupy Wall St. campers being evicted from city parks across the country are getting a first-hand experience of what it’s like to be violently forced off the land, out of their small dwellings, dissolving their communities, and forced (back) into a social-system of (monetary) slavery. Of course the Occupy camp evictions and the police-brutality that has come with it (and preceded it), though inexcusable, is still nothing compared to the indiscriminate killing and physical slavery that occurred on this continent not too long ago, yet it would be productive to consider where similarity between the two events does exist, and what that means as far as understanding what the root cause of social-injustice really is, and what the most effective strategy against it is.
Many activists today seek to “evolve” the same imperial powers that enslaved and committed wars of aggression and genocide against sovereign peoples around the world, and have since gone on to massacre millions of other innocent women, men and children in other acts of mass-violence. These activists believe the existence of governments can still actually advance liberty & justice, they believe it is just a matter of somehow making these so-called democracies actually live up to that promise, like through more protests, voting and petitioning. However, one may progress to the realization that the violence and slavery committed by those calling themselves government officials never actually ended with their nation-forming; the violence and slavery has continued on in forms old and new, and all social-systems depend on this continuous violence and slavery to varying degrees for their existence.
In America during the past two centuries, activists have tried to reform this institution of war and ecocide over and over, without understanding that this government, like all governments, not only still regularly commits atrocities and was founded on such violence and destruction, but also in fact continues to be violent and destructive on a daily basis just by its very existence alone. What do I mean by that? We are actually always experiencing the violence and destruction of an ongoing eviction by social-systems, an eviction from the Earth, an eviction from a natural way of life that harmonizes with Nature and each other. These current Occupy camp evictions make partly visible once again how the 99% have all been prevented from living in harmony with Nature and each other, through the existence of social-systems, and the taxes and land costs that come with those systems of human farming. The fundamental issue is lack of personal sovereignty and land sovereignty. We are sovereign women and men of the Earth, and a fair share of land and water for the purpose of self-sufficiency is our birthright; resistance to that fact by officialdom is the root of empire, it is the root injustice.
Sovereignty is what Indigenous peoples like those in Hawaii are trying to reclaim, and lack of sovereignty is also ultimately what’s behind the massive amount of home foreclosures & evictions occurring (over 4 million foreclosures in the U.S. in the past few years alone); people are being denied their individual sovereignty (forced to pay into a destructive social-system) and denied their birthright to their fair share of the land that would allow them to escape the degradation and exploitation of being a money-slave consumer-citizen. With that denial of individual and land sovereignty comes all kinds of other cruel injustices too, like Native/Aboriginal families having their children taken away from them; and those in “civilized” society are not safe from these violations either, as recent news stories like this illustrate: “Police State kidnaps couple’s baby for getting a second opinion on his medical treatment.”
Social-systems are simply vehicles of violence and enslavement; it basically consists of armed government agents acting on behalf of the ruling class (royalty, head bankers, heads of multinational corporations, the ultra-rich, complicit government officials, etc.) forcing people to abandon natural & sustainable living, so the rich can get richer and the poor made poorer through a paradigm of domination and exploitation (“for your own good” they say of course). The ideal of natural & sustainable self/community-sufficiency is opposed through multiple channels of tyranny, but it all comes down to the same root cause: not allowing people to live as free and natural women & men of the Earth, pushing them down into deeper monetary-slavery and dependence. This is most obviously true with what has happened with Indigenous peoples throughout the world, but it is also true for all that are forced into an artificial social-system where they have to struggle just to pay others to live on this planet:
“Entrapped in our concrete reservations, indentured to our corporate masters, impoverished of our land, separated from the earth, and at last placed at odds with nature herself, many no longer see the issue of freedom as relevant. For them the ring of the liberty bell has long ago been silenced. And, having lost our connection with our mother earth, we have lost our connection with ourselves. … [It’s] an unholy alliance between the living, who must love and respect the earth, and the dead corporate King, who is bent on destroying the earth for profit. People must work, but more and more their work compels the injury or destruction of their mother earth.”
– From Freedom to Slavery by Gerry Spence (St. Martin’s Press, 1995), p.142, 134
Two excellent documentaries that also visually show this root injustice repeating of denying people their birthright to land and sovereignty are “Broken Rainbow” (about the Navajo in the Southwest) & “The Garden” (about community gardeners in Southcentral Los Angeles); in both you see the state bulldozing the gardens of people trying to live more self-sufficiently and naturally. Other examples include the “Diggers” group in England (past and present) being evicted by the state when they try to establish a sustainable small eco-village on unused land; the state bulldozing of a community garden in Hempstead, New York; a Canadian family being told by the government they have to tear up their vegetable garden that’s on their property; and the US military bulldozing the orchards of Iraqi farmers as punishment for not being productive informers. The way back to the Garden of Eden (i.e. human and ecological balance) isn’t blocked by some sword-wielding angel, it’s blocked by government.
“The Hopis were entrusted with this land from the Great Spirit. To take care of this land so they could live a long time, by protecting this land so that we can have something for our future generation. This is what the Federal Government don’t see. They sell all the land and split us apart. They fence the land around. Our ancestors said that’s wrong. When the government takes over the land then we’re getting out of balance, because that’s not what the Great Spirit wants for all mankind.”
– Manuel Hoyungowa, a traditional leader of the Sovereign Hopi Nation, from the documentary “The Big Question: A Film About Forgiveness”
By forcing us into dependence on an unnatural way of living we are also simultaneously forced to fund the military-industrial-complex; we are forced to fund wars we don’t want (and the sickening extreme cruelty that comes with them, like that occurring now with drone attacks in the Middle East, and which occurred in Vietnam, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, etc.), and we are forced to live in a way that destroys the natural environment we need to survive; and yet all this comprises what is spuriously called an advanced society.
“We live in a very low state of the world, and pay unwilling tribute to governments founded on force.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his essay Politics
Those deeply indoctrinated by irrational praise of modern civilization condescendingly put the label “primitive” on the way many Indigenous peoples throughout the world live now, and how all our ancestors used to live (much more in harmony with nature and each other, having little to no major impact on the ecosystem as a whole). Is that modern elitist perspective emblematic of an advanced intelligence? Advanced ignorance is more like it.
Is the never-ending toxic pollution filling the atmosphere and acidifying oceans, along with extreme over-fishing which has decimated not only the fish populations but with them the plankton and blue-green algae that produce the majority of oxygen on Earth (yes, more than rainforests!), a rational thing to do? Is massive natural gas drilling across America that is polluting the entire water supply so much that people’s tap water has become flammable a sign of an advanced society? Or how about conducting nuclear bomb tests and building extremely expensive and dangerous nuclear reactors (to just boil water for steam-generated electricity!) that spread radioactive material across the world which takes millions of years to decay and causes epidemics of disease? (1/3 of Americans live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant, feel safe with that?) And off-shore petroleum-oil drilling, that led to the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, creating another massive “dead-zone” in the Earth’s waters? Continuing the ecocide, is destroying bee colonies (with pesticides and EMF pollution) that pollinate about 70% of the world’s food supply, show any sanity? And destroying the last remaining large rainforests in order to make more top-soil depleting cattle ranches, anything but extreme stupidity? Or how about putting sodium fluoride, a neurotoxin, in our drinking water? And chlorine, another toxin put unnecessarily in our water (non-toxic sanitation methods are available, and the chlorine can at least be easily removed after being used at the treatment plant), which is harmful to ingest (it destroys beneficial bacteria in our digestive-system), soak in and inhale when we breathe in the chlorinated water vapor during a hot shower, how smart is that? Like fluoride and chlorine, another free “gift” of government is cancer causing radiation: a) Wi-Fi routers are put in schools (despite the countless cases of ill-effect and corresponding parent’s objections) covering them in cell-damaging radiation, b) food irradiation is done for our “safety,” and c) now they are requiring “smart” digital wi-fi meters be installed in homes that emit even more damaging radiation… And then there’s eating and drinking out of containers that contain toxic chemicals like BPA and DEHP, children and adults rolling around in bedding covered in toxic (and ineffective) fire-retardant, using cleaning and personal care products containing a multitude of other toxic chemicals (that can be deceptively labeled on the ingredient list as simply “fragrance“), etc…. (See my “Toxins & Tyranny” post for more on this.)
Additionally, do you think it’s well thought-out to be completely dependent on a centralized source of electricity for your survival, that can go out of service at any time, for many reasons? Or to only have a few days worth of food available at your supermarket for the surrounding urban population? What are you going to do if those shelves are empty on your next visit?
Examples like these of society actually going in the wrong direction just go on and on, and keep increasing in number… how is all this an improvement from what our ancestors did? Is all this really “moving forward” or is it wicked/backwards insanity? We are being poisoned, irradiated, suffocated and put on the constant brink of disaster by this crazy industrial machine which runs on profit and greed, all in the name of “progress.”
“We come upon a contention which is so astonishing that we must dwell upon it. This contention holds that what we call our civilization is largely responsible for our misery, and that we should be much happier if we gave it up and returned to primitive conditions. … During the last few generations mankind has made an extraordinary advance in the natural sciences and in their technical application and has established his control over nature in a way never before imagined. The single steps of this advance are common knowledge and it is unnecessary to enumerate them. Men are proud of those achievements, and have a right to be. But they seem to have observed that this newly-won power over space and time, this subjugation of the forces of nature, which is the fulfillment of a longing that goes back thousands of years, has not increased the amount of pleasurable satisfaction which they may expect from life and has not made them feel happier.”
– Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)
In order to establish a sense of sacred relationship with the land and Nature, rather than an attitude of disconnection and exploitation, people need to be physically rooted in the land, otherwise it is much more likely to be ignorantly treated without respect, care or reverence. For example, if all the waste your household produces had to go into your backyard, you would probably reduce your waste output immediately. Likewise, if the plants around your home were your food and medicine, you probably wouldn’t spray toxic chemicals all over them, or otherwise contaminate the botanical and soil ecology.
Our disconnection from the land is not only a disconnection from plants and wildlife, but also from our neighbors, family and surrounding community.
“One major difficulty which non-Indians face… is the absence of any real or lasting communities. Non-Indian Americans, not the Indians, are the real nomads. White Americans are rarely buried in the places they were born… living in as many as a dozen places, and having roots in and accepting responsibility for none of these locations. … Land, for traditional peoples, includes the other forms of life that share places with us. … We thus move from simple appreciation of land to an apprehension of its sacredness and to the discovery that our analysis must include proper relationship with animals. … It is apparent that the Indian relationship with the land is one brought about by prolonged occupation of certain places. Non-Indians can work toward this condition, but it cannot be brought about by energetic action or sincerity alone.”
– from the essay Reflection and Revelation: Knowing Land, Places and Ourselves by Vine Deloria, Jr.
And what is the main obstacle to “prolonged occupation” of the land? The fact that we have to pay other people just to live somewhere on this planet! This is why so many of us move around so much, looking for a different job or because we can no longer afford to live where we are; we are money-slaves, not free, sovereign and natural humans inhabiting the Earth. So people’s lives are oftentimes reduced to a mind and body degrading daily grind, working at jobs they hate, going through fast-food drive-thrus, buying GMO and chemical-covered/filled foods from corporations that damage their health, treat animals hellishly, and further decimate the Earth.
And by the way, what would be a truly “proper relationship with animals,” referred to in the above quote? I, and many others (increasing in number), would say it is a relationship free of the violence and slavery that we wish to escape ourselves, i.e. a vegan ethic. (I will expand on this point later.)
Just as immense centralized power in the hands of the few is unnatural and causes those with it to become mentally disturbed, so it is with the immense artificiality of our society for the many; living so disconnected from the Earth and a natural lifestyle disturbs all those within it to varying degree. “Eco-therapy” is a growing field of healthcare as more and more urbanized people realize that spending time in natural settings and doing natural activities like gardening are very healing. One of the main factors leading to distress is modern man’s lack of free time that could be spent in healthier and more fulfilling activities (including non-actions like meditation). People actually have less free time in our consumerist/corporatized society than they could in a free and natural one. Without free time the likelihood you’ll ever attain peace of mind, happiness, or gain crucial knowledge of self, society and cosmos, is little to naught. Developing a philosophy of life used to be a main priority among people, now it is often just earning a lot of money and using the latest technology; it is a sickness of the soul, which some have given the name Affluenza.
Many in techno-industrial society don’t realize just how much of their stress and ill-health is really due to their unnatural environment and lifestyle, and so they suffer from stress and illness which they often accept noxious treatment for, e.g. artificial pharmaceutical drugs from misguided doctors who are quick to label them with various “genetic disorders”; the real disorder is this modern way of life, a drugged populace is not the solution, living in a natural way (and eating natural foods) is. It is no coincidence that the most mental illness and drug-addiction is found in city-centers, and that cities are also the most destructive to the ecosystem as well; what’s bad for our inner nature is also bad for outer nature.
“The trauma endured by technological people like ourselves is the systemic and systematic removal of our lives from the natural world… This is also the systemic and systematic removal of our lives from the kinds of social and cultural experiences our ancestors assumed when they lived in rhythm with the natural world.”
– Chellis Glendinning, from the anthology Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind
We are currently in the period of fastest mass-extinction of species in the Earth’s history, faster then when the dinosaurs died, and about a thousand times faster than the natural rate of extinction. Knowing that the Earth’s ecosystem relies on biological diversity, this is obviously a threat to the human species as well, on top of other major threats like global-warming/climate-change and nuclear radiation. To think that humans have now reached a pinnacle in their evolution makes no sense; shouldn’t evolution be progressive rather than increasingly destructive? Shouldn’t we be happier and healthier rather than more miserable and diseased? Tens of millions of Americans are now taking dangerous artificial anti-depressants (giving record profits to the pharmaceutical industry), and cancer is being accepted as “just a part of life” (giving the harmful and mostly ineffective surgery, chemotherapy and radiation “treatment” industries immense profit as well), the masses believing the lies of industry that it’s your genetics that are the cause of both, when the truth is of course that the cause is mostly all the degradation, toxins and radiation we are exposed to in this artificial/unnatural/toxic society.
Some people praise modern technology as representative of advanced natural curiosity and holistic intelligence, yet they ignore all the environmental destruction and exploitative centralized power that goes with its production (and disposal), missing the cause-effect reality/truth that bad origins produce bad outcomes. It seems that as techno-industrial civilization continues to erode the natural environment, it also erodes people’s critical thinking, morality, and sense of true quality-of-life; it’s as if they are hypnotized by the money-game along with the screens of their TV’s, computers and cellphones, unable to articulate what really matters in life anymore, and unable to see the real natural world around them any longer. The complexity and unnaturalness of the modern world has led to increased derangement, as the healing and natural characteristics of a simpler and more sustainable life becoming less and less common.
“Continuing global “development” with the same world-view and institutions that have produced the deadly global situation we now face reminds me of one of the popular definitions of insanity: the act of trying the same thing over and over again while expecting to get a different result each time.”
– Red Alert! Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge, by Daniel Wildcat, p. 79
Taking this obsession/addiction with modern technology to the extreme, more and more we are propagandized (in movies and TV shows especially) with the Transhumanism idea that the next step in human evolution is a merging of man and machine (i.e. becoming cyborgs), and even “uploading consciousness” into supercomputers for so-called “digital immortality.” Never-mind that only the powerful few will be able to design and build this artificial intelligence cyborg tech (and thereby be able to further control individuals via the limitations of the design and the possibility of your cyborg components being “hacked” into and controlled), or what their environmental/health effects will be, or what connection with Nature and Spirit is being lost. The same goes for nanotechnology, propagandized as a means to cure cancer (if you can afford such treatment!) and allow humans to possibly live forever, yet the similar negative effects/realities and terrible dystopian possibilities are ignored. This obsessive (and unwise) push for cyborg technology and nanotechnology is another destructive and unprincipled endeavor of man, like nuclear power and GMO’s, that we would be much better off with not existing at all, and, of crucial importance to understand, only exists because of the funneling of wealth to the few via social-systems. The key to keep in mind is that if the origins are unnatural and unprincipled, so will be the results; this is what makes this technology inevitably destructive, it’s a cause and effect dynamic.
Modern technology does not equate to superior experience, intelligence, creativity or curiosity. Let’s be real, most of us don’t know how to make a cell phone (or computer, or stereo, etc.) and understand how it works exactly; by speaking of electronic tech as a product of humanity as a whole, people are taking credit for knowledge and techniques that have been developed by a relatively few specialists (who are dependent on computers/robotics for their work), and generalizing it as the work of all mankind. The truth is most of us are completely ignorant and hapless consumers only concerning this technology; we can put our favorite ringtone and images on the device, but that’s about as far as consumer input goes in most cases. Most people do not have the very expensive resources necessary to create these devices (and many in the world can’t afford to even use them), and on top of that, how many of us would really want to bother with learning this robotic programming/manufacturing anyway? As John Zerzan says in this passage from his book Running On Emptiness:
“Sure, people are naturally curious. But about what? Did you or I aspire to create the neutron bomb? Of course not. That’s crazy. Why would people do that in the first place? … [T]he fact that I don’t want to create a neutron bomb doesn’t mean I’m not curious. Curiosity is not value free. Certain types of curiosity arise from certain types of mindsets…” (p. 82)
Mindsets that are motivated to create weapons of mass destruction and other destructive (to mind, body and environment) technology are disturbed mindsets, they are not more intelligent than the so-called primitive mindset.
Just as the modern mind-set is not necessarily more advanced than the more natural one, modern technology does not make for a truly advanced society in an ethical sense. Let’s not forget about Freedom, Equality and Justice in this distracting technological whirlwind! When right principles are lost, so is humanity.
Though there has been some post nation-forming progress in social-justice through reform, such as the end of the physical slavery of Africans, has not that slavery just been refined and expanded through greater monetary-slavery for everyone except the 1%?
Why do we need to earn money in order to survive? Why do most of us have to work at jobs we don’t want to, and often struggle to even find one of these jobs? Why are people forced to give their life away to working for others and be subject to various forms of exploitation, discrimination and abuse? Why do people have to unhappily work in toxic factories and for corporations that act against their values? We constantly hear talk of the job-market in the mass-media, but is it really a market of jobs or a market of wage-slaves? What is really for sale? Jobs or people? Don’t we go to perspective employers and try to sell ourselves with resumes, cover letters and interviews? This is of course normal in this society, but it is not natural or dignified, it is a reality of subservience and dependence, denying man the option to make an honest living by his or her own natural labor, to be his or her own master, subservient to no one, living off the land as a natural human being. The job market is in fact part of the human farm we are forced to live within, and us humans are put out on that market for sale every day. (The second listed definition for the word prostitute is: “Someone who debases themselves or their abilities for money.” Working in the corporate world is often prostituting oneself then isn’t it?) And even if you find a job you find tolerable, you must always live with the anxiety that it can be taken away from you at any time, just like how your investments and pensions that you may be dependent on can suddenly vanish, as has happened to countless people.
Being a commodity on a farm is not a secure or happy way to live, nor is being dependent on bank notes that may lose their value at any time (as they have many times in many countries). Our forced alienation from the natural world by the monetary-system is destructive to us and the environment, it is an artificial way for humans to live on this planet; as the Native American saying says, when the last tree has been cut down and the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that we can’t eat money. Our dependence on money and employers is due solely to the restriction from claiming our birthright to our fair share of land & water; we should have the option to not be wage-slaves and instead be self-employed via natural work, subservient to no one.
“When a family cannot support itself, and secure the food, clothing, and shelter it needs by getting employment in a factory, or an office, or a store, the only sensible thing for it to do is to support itself by producing these things for itself on its own homestead. … Insecurity and Industrialism are Siamese twins. You cannot have one without having to accept the other. Insecurity is the price we pay for our dependence upon industrialism for the essentials of life. … …[N]o man can afford to be dependent upon some other man for the bare necessities of life without running the risk of losing all that is most precious to him. Yet that is precisely and exactly what most of us are doing today.”
– Flight from the City: An Experiment in Creative Living on the Land, by Ralph Borsodi, p. 139-147
Obviously there is no such dependence in traditional indigenous societies, there is no monetary-slavery, because these people are living more naturally and freely, they are sustained by the Earth and each other, not by controlling and exploitative governments and corporations. This way of life points us in the right direction, away from this globalized money-machine. This machine has advanced some things, for sure, like: exploitation, destitution, illness and environmental destruction. This advancement of degeneration is now very acute among First Nations Peoples who have been subjected to the statist agenda, like the Lakota, who I will quote here at length:
“Today, real unemployment and corresponding poverty among Lakotas is over 90 percent. The level of self-sufficiency evidenced among even those who have somehow managed to cling to a few acres of land is nearly zero. This among a people who have always been productively occupied in the past, and who have never been truly impoverished.
Meanwhile, the wealth of our land, our water, our very habitat itself is being stripped away, inch by inch, pound by pound, all for the use and profit of others.
And the price we pay for this “progress”? It cannot be measured only in the depths of our destitution. Besides the obvious costs, there is the radioactive and chemical contamination of what little water remains to us, a matter which has led to spiraling rates of cancer, stillbirth and genetic mutations like cleft palate. Every new stripmine, uranium mill, power generating plant and production facility serves to up the ante of the consequences we endure.
The situation is already bad, and it promises to become much worse in coming years. Lakota territory is extraordinarily rich in minerals, and both the federal government and its corporate partners are once again offering “jobs, income and prosperity” to those foolish enough to grant them easy access.
What happens when the “resources” are gone? Look around you. The conditions currently prevailing at Pine Ridge are but a small taste of what is to come. The example of Laguna Pueblo, which placed its faith in uranium mining, is very much to the point. Only a few years ago [i.e. 1977], Laguna had the highest per capita income and lowest unemployment of any reservation in North America. Then the uranium played out, and with it went the jobs and royalties which had made Laguna “prosper”. Now the corporate sugar daddy is gone, the water is radioactively contaminated, and so are the foundations of homes and community buildings, the roadbeds and the farmland. The old economy of Laguna cannot be reconstructed, the new economy is bust, and the chances are that the people will not even be able to remain on their homeland because of the contamination. The people of Laguna are rapidly being reduced to absolute dependence upon unemployment compensation, welfare, ADC [Aid to Dependent Children], commodities distribution, the Indian Health Service and “Christian charity.” So are the Lakota people. The only difference between them and us [the Lakota people] is that their situation is likely permanent, and ours doesn’t have to be. But it could be. If we follow their lead, if we allow the trend of industrial “progress” to continue, our present situation will not be temporary. It will be permanent. There will be no way to regain self-sufficiency in terms acceptable to our own Lakota tradition.
Insofar as the United States and its corporate allies are presently seeking to leave us no alternative but to accept such a fate, they are guilty of denying Lakota self-determination in the most egregious manner imaginable.”
– quote taken from the 1982 Campaign Platform of Oglala Sioux/Lakota member Russell Means, the first National Director of the American Indian Movement
What Occupiers who are trying to reform social-systems need to recognize is that such systems are unnatural and unprincipled in any form. All forms are based on force (e.g. evictions) and theft (e.g. taxes) and so are therefore unprincipled. The domestication of humans through social-systems is not natural, it is a forced deviation from the wild order of Nature, a deviation which has had extremely negative consequences. These unnatural practices are the root cause of most of the despair, violence and environmental destruction in the world, and so doesn’t that reveal the source of what the Hopi call Koyaanisqatsi, life out of balance? Is not something continuously extremely destructive to our Mother Earth, not at all fitting into Her ecology, unnatural? “No, it’s corporations that exploit people and destroy the environment, they are the problem, not government,” you may object, but where do corporations come from? Governments! (They create corporations). And what caused us to become dependent on corporate goods in the first place? Governments! (They tax us and force us off the land which makes us $-slaves). “Well technically yes, but…” But nothing. When you ignore the root cause, irrationally believing it is somehow good, though the majority of destruction on Earth comes from that root, you are delusional if you just keep looking at the branches (like individual corporate acts) and think pruning those will save the day.
“[W]hen we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government which we might expect in a country without a government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence: the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers [i.e. natural dwellings] of paradise.”
-Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)
As the Occupy activists are being removed from living freely on the land, like Native Americans were, we glimpse at the root injustice, the injustice which allows for empires to exist and grow in the first place: making it illegal to live as free and natural women & men on the Earth. In some places it has even been made illegal to collect rainwater! That injustice encapsulates the whole root problem we face as a society.
The government claims you are subject to their jurisdiction because you are living in “their” territory. Yet how did this territory become theirs? Officials say their jurisdiction was made valid by the absurd (and racist) “Discovery Doctrine,” that proclaims “lands lay with the government whose subjects explored and occupied a territory whose inhabitants were not subjects of a European Christian monarch.” Uh huh, insane religious conquest/imperialism… real solid so far. “The doctrine has been primarily used to support decisions invalidating or ignoring aboriginal possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments.” So a few Christian European officials sailed over to somewhere they had never been to before, and Bam! it’s all theirs, further than the eye can see! And everybody already living there (e.g. indigenous peoples) are now under their control! Yeah, sounds super legit!
On top of this bullshit doctrine there is the fact that this territory was established via the massacre of Native women, men and children; hardly legitimate means to property rights! The fact is that all nation-state territory was at some point established by conquest (followed by the conquerors arbitrarily and without valid authority drawing lines on maps, designating “their” territory); this is just force, violence, coercion and slavery in-action, none of these territories and jurisdictions are actually valid.
Saying you “agreed” to the rules of a nation-state by simply being on a piece of Earth state officials claim is their territory (i.e. “implicit consent”) is completely fraudulent, just as the so-called “social-contract” that none of us have actually signed and has been forced upon us, is invalid.
Social-contract theory relies on the “implicit agreement” of the public, that is, even though you don’t specifically agree to something, like taxation for protection, you supposedly implicitly agree by accepting some of the benefits of the state, like using roads or whatever (which are necessary for survival as a money-slave). Yet even if you explicitly object to this arrangement and say you want to live off the land and be left alone, this is ignored! Somehow your “implicit agreement” trumps your explicit objection! How absurd it is to call a contract valid that you never signed, can’t opt-out of, and are told that you gave implicit consent for, by simply being alive!
All of the major imbalance and destruction we observe in the world, from extreme disparities of wealth to ecocide, is a result of humans not living in proper relationship with Nature and each other. Since there aren’t enough resources for everyone to live like wealthy Americans or Europeans, obviously the answer isn’t for everyone to live that way, nor should the tragedy of people dying of starvation and malnutrition-related disease be tolerated either. The way we can end this great disparity of wealth and restore ecological balance is for there to be equal and free access to a fair share of the land and water for every sovereign human and family, so they can live more self-sufficiently via homesteading. This would end the monetary-slavery that creates the massive inequality and hunger that exists in the world. Once we no longer have to pay to live on the planet, we can much more easily and readily help one another achieve greater self-sufficiency; we can have much healthier and supportive communities that aren’t divided within by the stress of individuals trying to survive in unjust monetary social-systems.
In order for lasting justice to be achieved, focus needs to be on these evictions from the land, past and present, while not confusing these current occupations with imperial ones of the past; not all occupations are equal. What distinguishes imperial/colonial occupations from just occupations is the former is the taking of more than is needed to live naturally by the occupiers; the taking of more than your fair share, which is more than a homesteading scale; it is thereby the theft of land and water from other people and species.
Stealing is taking what belongs to others, e.g. forcing someone off land they are currently using or taking more than your fair share preventing other people from using it. Yes people may have been gathering & hunting occasionally through an area, but to say a new homesteader there is “stealing the land” just begs the question of which and how many people are allowed to use that land before it is called “stealing,” and what is a fair share of land & water for each human being? Can I rightly say that a thousand mile radius from my place of birth is my territory, and anyone who tries to grow a garden within that area is stealing my land? Of course not. Well, what about a hundred mile radius? 50? Still no. What actually makes the most sense for just property rights, something that is actually applicable world-wide (and therefore worth talking about), in keeping with the principles of equality, justice and compassion, along with the fact that everyone needs a place to live on this planet, is clearly a homesteading scale. Saying so doesn’t make me an insensitive racist who doesn’t respect anything of native cultures. Colonialism is military conquest by nation-states, it is slavery and genocide, it is forcibly denying people the ability to live their traditional/natural free way of life on Earth. Establishing a homestead peacefully on an unoccupied/uncultivated piece of land is a completely different thing, it’s not murdering/enslaving/stealing like Christopher Columbus. Migration of humans from one continent to another is a natural and blameless phenomenon, colonial conquest is not; making the two an inseparable whole is mistaken. Yes, many people, like my Irish ancestors escaping famine, moved after a militaristic conquest by English and other European governments, but they were not part & parcel to those governments (and to say so to an Irish woman or man would probably be responded to by laughter at your ignorance or worse for the insult). My great grandmother was sent on a months-long journey to Ellis Island on a “coffin ship” alone at the age of 17 because she was the healthiest and the only one the family could afford to send. To equate that Irish girl with the king of England is extremely stupid and completely false. There are of course countless other examples like this of migrating people just trying to survive with no ill-will toward native peoples, yet this fact is often amazingly absent from opining by radical activists, essentially spouting little more than “colonialism, colonialism, colonialism!”, a view which keeps implying the false/ignorant equivalency of “all white people = colonizers” and also seems to be ignorant of the fact that every “white” baby born on this continent is actually a human individual! The main mix-up here is assuming/implying that every “settler” living on this continent has the same mindset as fascist/racist imperialists, that they’re the same as the governments who have deemed them their “citizens,” and that these individuals don’t care about Native Americans, don’t want to live in harmony with them, and are all just mindlessly going on a “white/colonial privilege” ride through the countryside without any consideration for who may already be living in the area. And in staying stuck on that narrow/false thought, one can totally miss the ecological and rational basis for homesteading as a sustainable and fair-to-other-life way to live (especially veganic homesteading); they’re ironically actually caught up in a racist way of thinking (against “white people”) which is muddling their critical thinking; they’re exercising the psychological phenomenon known as projection, i.e. saying someone else is doing what they are in fact the one doing (e.g. being racist).
“White privilege” does exist (mainly because of social-systems, which is the real root problem that should be focused on and countered with anarchism), but how is the best way to deal with that being to deny the freedom and equality of the so-called white people? You can’t peacefully set up a garden anywhere on this continent because your skin color is similar to tyrants like George Washington? Send them all back on a boat to Ireland or wherever? That’s obviously totally impractical, irrational and wrong isn’t it? As is the less obviously foolish activism which seems to have as its sole goal trying to make others feel guilty about things like the color of their skin and where they were born. What’s the solution-oriented point to that? There isn’t any, which is sadly then just serving the status-quo. [side note: Rather than focusing on advocating the main solution of anarchism and being on equal grounds with each other (i.e. equal land and water access), radical activists on both sides often get sidetracked in a divide & conquer program they don’t even realize they are participating in; in academia/off-target fashion, “anarchists” sadly just become another tool of the State/status-quo.]
The answer is therefore that we need to take back the land as sovereign individuals, establishing voluntary communities of sovereign homesteads, in solidarity and cooperation with indigenous peoples of the areas in which we live. The imperialist agenda that led to the genocide of Native Americans and slavery of Africans is of course quite different from the agenda of the Occupy activists who peacefully occupied parks and other public spaces; in fact the motives of each are opposite to one another. When activists occupy a park peacefully for the purpose of greater social-justice, that obviously cannot be equated with the slave-trade or armies massacring women, men and children for the purpose of establishing new national territory or to secure “national interests” (like oil reserves in the Mid East); the former is nonviolent and non-hierarchical, while the latter is extremely violent and hierarchical.
Some object to any occupation at all based on the idea that “private property is theft,” but this perspective doesn’t make much sense as far as pointing to a harmonious way humans can live on the Earth together. That phrase is oversimplified, the truth is that property beyond your birthright of sovereign homesteading land is then the theft of that birthright from someone else. If there is no private property at all, then it is all communal property, and is that really a better idea? This theory, advocating the total elimination of private property, is defined as communism; and that theory has not played out well at all in the real world (a major understatement of course). If there is no private property, no personal sovereignty, then there is no protection from communal authoritarianism regulating the property (and your life); without private property, namely without sovereign homesteading land, concentration of power in one form or another is very likely, which inevitably leads to corruption, injustice and tyranny. If no one can claim and protect the land their family lives on, and must submit to so-called “community” authoritarianism, we are back to square one, a control paradigm, a social-system. Yes, “the Earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the Earth” but don’t we all deserve (and need for peace & harmony) our own places wherein we can commune with our families, Nature & Spirit without the interference of others? We shouldn’t get hung up on the term “ownership” concerning land. Yes the Earth belongs to everyone, but if we don’t designate portions to people to be their “own” during their lifetime, how can we insure personal freedom/sovereignty, peace/privacy, and independence? We can’t. That’s why we need to be a bit more rational and accept the fact that designating a couple acres of arable land per individual/small-family is necessary, it would be a principled occupation, not taking more than your fair share. It would also be unproblematic to trade one’s homestead land for someone else’s, not treating it as property in the sense that it equates to a monetary value, but rather as the birthright of all. These sovereign homesteads would make up voluntary communities; voluntary because any social-system or claiming of territory beyond your own fair share leads inevitably to conflict, corruption and calamity. Our “tribe,” or relations that we wish to be near for mutual support and friendship, would be in nearby sovereign spaces, but not subject to forcible membership in any collective or hierarchy.
We need to peacefully claim our birthright through such occupations and stop supporting unprincipled/violent social-systems, we need to stop submitting to false authority and hierarchy. The newer strategy within the Occupy Wall St. movement has been to occupy homes, to help families resist evictions and stay in their homes, creating eviction-free zones (very close to the more on-point declaration of private homes as autonomous zones) and this is a much wiser strategy than the park occupations were (good as those were), being that it is closer to the necessary self-sufficiency dynamic for social, ecological and economic balance, i.e. sovereign homesteads making up voluntary gift-economy communities. Eviction resistance can be a viable transition to a truly revolutionary movement, but thus far the home occupations have not been declaring free and sovereign homesteading land as a birthright, and so the dominating economic and legal apparatus of the state is not being adequately challenged and rejected in a way that can have permanency; the current tactic of settling for some renegotiated payment-plan with a bank is not a real victory, it’s just making the slavery more livable, for a time. There is no just compromise solution within an unjust system, the only logical and ethical way is via complete noncompliance to forced citizenship and having to pay to live on this planet, i.e. declaring individual sovereignty as women & men of the Earth, to whom a fair share of free land and water is a birthright. Then people will have the stability of having a place to live they don’t have to pay for, and community solidarity and organizing can take off to new levels impossible under current restraints.
“Gandhi envisaged for India an ideal that was the opposite of a modern centralized state, monopolizing decision-making and buttressing itself and its decision with varieties of coercion. He hoped… small-scale communities would regulate their own affairs without the use of force. He called this ideal “Enlightened Anarchy.” … From this it followed that individuals were obliged by their duty to pursue Truth, to withdraw cooperation from a state that became immoral, and to refuse to obey laws that were clearly wrong and immoral. “Satanic” was the worst, most profoundly critical adjective he used of the British raj [i.e. rule] and the reason he gave for noncooperation with it…”
– Gandhi, Freedom, and Self-Rule, edited by Anthony J. Parel, p. 92-93
Before the police evicted the Occupy Portland camp and fenced it off, I saw a sign left behind, staked in the ground, that read “I can’t afford to be here.” Yes, we have to pay the Rent don’t we? We have to pay off those Student Loans! We can’t afford the time to do things like share food and discourse with our community and be a part of some nonviolent social-justice movement; we can’t afford to be the change we wish to see in the world. We are ensnared by modern techno-industrial society and so have lost sight of what it means to be a natural woman or man on the Earth. Through land control/cost and taxation, governments force us to be money-slaves and assimilate to an unnatural consumerist lifestyle that destroys minds, bodies and spirits. The wisdom and understanding of Native Americans who are demanding real freedom and sovereignty is needed by many activists who are still just aiming for some reformation of the system, reforms that will not solve the root problem to the social and ecological imbalance we see growing throughout the world. Additionally, knowing how to grow your own food, build your own home, make your own clothes, etc. are not “primitive” skills, they are valuable natural human skills that take a lot of intelligence and skill to master (and are satisfying creative activities too); modern social-systems have actually de-skilled the populace, we are less capable of doing the many natural and sustainable things our ancestors could, having become dependent on electronic technology, corporations and governance. Occupy members can unite in solidarity with Native peoples to reclaim their own sovereignty and humanity, breaking the governmental chains that still bind them both.
The countless injustices against Native Americans has been an ongoing tragedy that needs to be rectified, rather than just continuing on with the countless examples of dishonor and insults added to injury, like these:
“During World War II, in 1942 the Department of War annexed 341,725 acres of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for use by the United States Army Air Force as an aerial gunnery and bombing range. It condemned privately held land owned by tribal members and leased communally held tribal land.
Among the 125 families forced to give up their land was that of Pat Cuny. He was an Oglala soldier with the 83rd Infantry Division, who landed in Normandy at Omaha Beach two weeks after the Normandy invasion in 1944 after his transport was torpedoed in the English Channel, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, helped liberate the Langenstein concentration camp, and fought to the final conquest of Nazi Germany.
Another family forced to give up their land was that of Dewey Beard, a Miniconjou Sioux survivor of the Wounded Knee Massacre.”
[Quote taken 7/9/2012 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_Ridge_Indian_Reservation#Taking_of_Badlands_Bombing_Range%5D
There has been successful resistance by First Nations Peoples however, like the 1970 occupation of Fort Lawton in Seattle. Actions like that, which make sovereignty and land their foundation, are what should continue, and non-First Nations Occupiers/activists are in a perfect position to help. As I pointed to years ago in my essay “Native Americans & Hemp: A Call for Reverse Colonization Through a New Sustainable Paradigm” there is the potential for “Americans” to side with Natives in reclaiming their sovereignty & land (along with claiming their own, cooperating together), and not have the land & water further decimated by government-backed corporate destruction like coal and uranium mining. There has been some collaboration already of course, like there was among radical American activists of the 1960’s who devoted an entire issue (#8) of their San Francisco newspaper, The Oracle, to the “American Indian”, which included the following:
“As the machine increasingly dominates our lives, replacing trust, love and sense of community, Uncle Sam finds it necessary to remove Indian heritage and plug its people into the system. Indians are not a resource to be developed! “America, the great melting pot” has turned into a coerced illusion, forcing the Indian into completely relinquishing his real heritage, as it has done to most minorities. Keep in mind, however, that American Indians are not minorities of the United States, but sovereign nations surrounded by Americans. … [They] now have to pay for the land which they previously occupied without charge. If they cannot pay, as most will be unable to do, they will lose their land…”
The solution for all who wish to live freely, naturally and sustainably on this planet is the same: claiming personal/land/food-sovereignty, so that we no longer have to live under domination and destruction.
What made the Native culture decline so rapidly was of course the genocide, forced colonial schooling and restrictions from speaking their languages and practicing their ceremonies; it has also been due to their forced dependence on the corporatist social-system, the monetization of the Earth’s resources. The reason why most Natives (and non-Natives) now can’t afford to live naturally is because of being forced to pay people, calling themselves “officials,” for “services” that were never signed for in contract; it’s an illegitimate social arrangement, it’s tyrannical. We all need a place to live, we all need food, clothing and shelter. The question is whether governance is the best means to obtain these necessities; the answer, based on an objective view of the present and past, is a definitive no.
“We must learn the homely laws of fire and water. We must feed, wash, plant, build. These are the ends of necessity, and first in the order of nature, the house of health and life.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his essay “Poetry & Imagination”
“The essence of what I have said is that man should rest content with what are his real needs and become self-sufficient. If he does not have this control he cannot save himself.”
– Mohandas K. Gandhi, Gandhi, Freedom and Self-Rule, p. 107
Returning to the imperial conquest and colonization of the Americas, we must recognize what enabled this conquest in the first place: military forces. And where do military forces come from? Government. As most Americans know, the majority of their tax dollars go to the various armed forces; war and government go hand-in-hand, war as we know it would not exist if governments didn’t exist, and if it were not for social-systems of taxation and land control the 1% could not establish their hierarchical power (and military forces) in the first place. Sadly many have been propagandized into the short-sighted perspective that the government, and the military at their disposal, “protect our freedoms.” Isn’t the most fundamental freedom to live on the Earth as a sovereign human being, in relationship with loved ones, the Earth and Spirit, without being forced into subservience that you never agreed to? We are not made free by governance, we are made into unnatural slaves by it.
“We no longer see ourselves within the webs and cycles of nature. The loss of a direct relationship to the world terminates a once universal human understanding of our oneness with the natural world. The principle of relatedness is at the heart of indigenous wisdom: traditional intimacy with the world as the immanent basis of spirituality. This understanding is an essential and irreplaceable foundation of human health and meaningfulness.”
– John Zerzan, Twilight of the Machines, p. 124
Indigenous wisdom is desperately needed by those who think of themselves as citizens rather than humans, by those who are exploited and indoctrinated by social-systems, systems that are supposedly run by representatives who “serve” the masses. The truth is a rearranging of those letters, they don’t serve us, but sever us, from the Earth and from each other, through taxation, land control/cost, hierarchy and division of labor. Seeing through the deceitful promises of government, modern technology and industrialized society, we can reclaim our humanity and base our way of life on ecology, on nonviolence, equality and true freedom.
Tribes are sometimes associated with a hierarchical social structure, false authority and forced participation in customs, but this is not usually the case, for example tribal chiefs are usually not at all authoritarian, they are more a spokesperson and mediator who can be removed from their position at any time if they are found to be irresponsible in some way.
“Leadership in a tribe is an advisory role, not an authoritarian one. (There are exceptions to this, but the anthropological record shows they are rare.) … [E]arly European invaders of the Americas didn’t understand this: in fact, they considered it a sign of backwardness, and so sought out the “chief” or leader of a tribe, thinking that they could negotiate with that person and everybody else in the tribe would then have to comply. In fact, tribal leadership is usually held by a committee, and even that committee is more advisory than authoritarian. Power is shared among the members of the tribe, as are resources.”
– The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann, p. 175
That said, the reason I emphasize individual sovereignty over tribal, regional or community sovereignty, is that without that as the foundation of social relations we are still accepting some level of tyranny. Although tribal territory is obviously making a much more legitimate claim based on thousands of years of occupation, how can the group territory be defined definitely and justly? Who has authority to draw those lines on the map? And what about people that don’t want to be part of the tribe, or because they don’t have a certain percentage of ancestry from a particular tribe are not accepted to be part of it? We are all indigenous to the earth, all of us have tribal ancestors at one point or another, so it really makes no sense that you must have a certain percentage of blood from a certain tribe in order to be entitled to sovereignty and land; that would be an injustice to every child that is born someplace that does not have that percentage, discriminating against them and subjecting them to greater oppression just because of their physical likeness, and that’s racism. The key is equality; all of us being on equal ground (which would be best achieved via equal land & water access), which is exactly what I’ve heard many Native peoples advocate. If you want to live in a tribal fashion with others that want to do the same that’s fine, you can all live right next to each other, but if you make that structure the starting point of society, rather than sovereign individuals that can choose to be a part of a tribe or not, you are still making Nature secondary to an artificial system of man, and that always has negative consequences and inherent problems, as I just brought up.
The fundamental problem is force/violence/enslavement, whether it’s on the genocidal colonial end of the spectrum or the automatic membership in a tribe, they are both types of forced membership and collectivism (though of course very different in degree) and that’s fundamentally wrong, denying the birthright of everyone as sovereign women and men of the Earth; this creates inevitable negative ecological & social consequences. You can’t build a principled, balanced and harmonious society on a premise that is fundamentally unjust, unprincipled and untrue.
So the answer, which respects everyone’s sovereignty, freedom and equality, is to only have the right to make the rules for your own valid territory/property (be the “master of your own domain”), and the only just and valid territory/domain that can be established (respecting the equality and liberty of all) is that of individual or family homes, on their own sovereign homesteading land, utilizing their own fair share of land & water, and no more. We should all be Queens & Kings of our own sovereign domains, this is what a true Kingdom (Kin’s/family domain) of Heaven (right principles) is. (Of course these homesteads can be near others (friends & family) we wish to form communities with; this is not an “isolationist” model for society, it is a model for society that has as its base a respect for the equality and sovereignty of every woman & man on Earth.)
Tribal authority has the problem of individual sovereignty being superseded by a collective, and land being collectivized rather than distributed on a one-by-one basis, which is the same problem of nation-state forced citizenship, disallowing voluntary community and voluntary membership. I believe this is why, to a large degree, taking the treaty/law route to freedom has been unsuccessful: it is appealing to an illegitimate authority (e.g. the Canadian or U.S. government) and speaking on behalf of many individuals (like a state constitution does) in a collectivized territory, which as I explained, is also ultimately illegitimate. Unanimous direct democracy (in which everyone voting agrees on the measure being passed) is a legitimate form of social-agreement, but only if a person can choose to not agree or participate. Not allowing that is assuming that those in positions of power in some organization (whether state or tribal) are automatically more virtuous than those that are not in those positions, and thereby deserve powers which the others don’t have; an assumption that is irrational and without historical basis. For example there are countless examples of tribal governance going against the will of members of the tribe (often in collusion with the U.S. government). Since this corruption can and does keep occurring, treaties can be a form of false representation. Additionally, people don’t always agree, an individual may find no group mandate which she or he is in complete agreement with, so there must be the option of not being part of any collective, of being an independent person.
And in order for that to be a possibility, one must have the option of having their own space, namely their own sovereign piece of land, so that they can live self-sufficiently. Tribes, majority rule and even direct democracy are really no better fundamentally than a dictatorship if there is no option to not participate and instead be a independent woman or man on this planet, not forced to agree with others, not forced to forfeit individual autonomy; to acquiesce and relinquish that unwillingly is really to be no more than a child, submitting to the commands of those playing the role of authoritarian parental overlords, and that’s not what society should be based on, it should be based on dignity and respect, for ourselves and others. Many tribal leaders do have the best interest of those in their community at heart, and they certainly should continue to be leaders in their community, the key is that it’s on a voluntary basis and that they have no “representative” power over those who did not agree to that arrangement.
Speaking of respecting the lives of others, many mistakenly think that hunting was historically the main means of tribal subsistence, and under-emphasize their skills as gatherers, and especially as horticulturists. Regardless, today with the almost complete decimation of wilderness and wildlife, we can’t all rely on hunting and gathering for survival, nor should we commit violence against other sentient species unnecessarily, that would be hypocritical for those advocating justice. It’s proven that animal-products aren’t needed for optimum health, so there’s really no ethically sound justification for enslaving and murdering sentient animals for food. Sometimes animal-based meals are associated with a cultural tradition, but violence and slavery are certainly never what makes any culture or tradition great; having vegan versions of varying cuisines is not a loss to that culture, but a gain. Claiming the murder of animals is essential to the beauty and distinctness of various cultures (which is found in their arts, languages, etc.) really doesn’t hold up to analysis, nor does claiming one’s culture is inseparable from the government alongside it. Governance (a.k.a. statism), like human carnism, is a tradition of violence and slavery that also doesn’t add to the beauty or uniqueness of various cultures (in fact governments support a corporate mono-culture that destroys cultural diversity).
“It has also been established that most traditional native economies were based in agriculture rather than hunting and gathering–a clear indication of a stationary, not nomadic, way of life–up until the European invasion dislocated the indigenous populations of North America.”
– Struggle for the Land: Native North American Resistance to Genocide, Ecocide, and Colonization by Ward Churchill, p. 16
Therefore the way we can be in most in harmony with Nature, other species and each other, finally end tyranny, and live in true justice & equality, is through sovereign veganic homesteads, making up voluntary gift-economy communities. The restrictions of social-systems (land control, costs and taxation) won’t allow for that ideal way of life, and so that’s why we must reject systems of human farming altogether.
So yes, Occupy, but not to temporarily petition false masters to treat their slaves better, Occupy homesteading land permanently as sovereign humans to break away the chains to the lie of so-called “representative” democracy. Then we can unite and harmonize with the Earth, our true nurturing parent, and reject the false parental overlords who continue to deceive the masses into believing that they are better off with their “care.”
Urbanized Occupy activists need to remember the Earth beneath these concrete jungles, and they need to remember the indigenous societies that existed on that land for a long time before these unsustainable corporatist cities were built there. With ecology, sustainability, ethics, land and sovereignty as our main guideposts, we can move towards a truly intelligent, harmonious and principled way of living together on this amazing & beautiful planet.