Posts Tagged ‘voices in the wilderness’

I haven’t updated in a while. I’ve been working hard, but my upcoming unemployment may change the rate of posts around here. It’s hard to gather up the energy to post, though, when so many people already are doing good stuff. I could just blog links. Oh well, onwards…

This essay about Julian Assange is easily the best thing I’ve read about Wikileaks since they’ve come to my attention (I probably shouldn’t conflate Assange and Wikileaks, but so it goes). Reading Assange’s own intentions in addition to zunguzungu’s breakdown-within-the-larger-context made me more enthusiastic about Wikileaks than I already was, and I’m all about open information networks.

There’s only a few more hours left to contact the EPA about stopping mountaintop removal. Please do it.

That’s about it.


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I have been doing a lot of reading on ecology and indigenous peoples recently. It is very, very fascinating. How sad to think of all the time wasted in schools when we could have been learning how to grow things, study soil, how to fix and mend our goods, where our goods come from, how all things are connected. Instead we got a lot of computer classes, math quizzes, pep-talks about the new and intense global economy, and read lots of books by white men. What a bummer. Anytime we talked about indigenous peoples it went something like: “How sad they are all gone now. We should try to save the rainforest or something. Now let’s have a bake sale for the newspaper, drive over to the game twenty miles away tonight, and waste lots of resources!!”

Digression aside, I’ve come across all sorts of inspiring actions and movements I knew nothing about, such as the incredible International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. They are wonderful.

Their lives and work are so phenomenal. All the bad news, the repetitive mantras of “economy, free market, deficits, Afghanistan, terrorism, security, unemployment, tea parties, filibusters…” it goes on and on and it doesn’t seem to stop. When I came across these women I felt a breath of relief for a moment. Here is something good happening. Here is something older than all of our fleeting concerns, here is something sustainable, here is something totally inspiring.

Here is the briefest of sketches: these women come from indigenous tribes, and they are the preservers of a wisdom which conflicts with much of our modern culture’s narratives. They apparently are the fulfillment of ancient prophecies among their respective peoples which speaks of the coming together of 13 grandmothers from all over the world. They speak profoundly about the loss of memory, the loss of much wisdom, about serving as guardians of the Earth, about the importance of prayer and connection to the land and our communities.

Here is their Statement of Alliance taken from their website:

WE ARE THIRTEEN INDIGENOUS GRANDMOTHERS who came together for the first time from October 11 through October 17, 2004, in Phoenicia, New York. We gathered from the four directions in the land of the people of the Iroquois Confederacy. We come here from the Amazon rainforest, the Alaskan Tundra of North America, the great forest of the American northwest, the vast plains of North America, the highlands of central America, the Black Hills of South Dakota, the mountains of Oaxaca, the desert of the American southwest, the mountains of Tibet and from the rainforest of Central Africa.

Affirming our relations with traditional medicine peoples and communities throughout the world, we have been brought together by a common vision to form a new global alliance.

We are the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. We have united as one. Ours is an alliance of prayer, education and healing for our Mother Earth, all Her inhabitants, all the children and for the next seven generations to come.

We are deeply concerned with the unprecedented destruction of our Mother Earth, the contamination of our air, waters and soil, the atrocities of war, the global scourge of poverty, the threat of nuclear weapons and waste, the prevailing culture of materialism, the epidemics which threaten the health of the Earth’s peoples, the exploitation of indigenous medicines, and with the destruction of indigenous ways of life.

We, the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, believe that our ancestral ways of prayer, peacemaking and healing are vitally needed today. We come together to nurture, educate and train our children. We come together to uphold the practice of our ceremonies and affirm the right to use our plant medicines free of legal restriction. We come together to protect the lands where our peoples live and upon which our cultures depend, to safeguard the collective heritage of traditional medicines, and to defend the earth Herself. We believe that the teachings of our ancestors will light our way through an uncertain future.

We join with all those who honor the Creator, and to all who work and pray for our children, for world peace, and for the healing of our Mother Earth.

For all our relations.

Margaret Behan-Cheyenne-Arapahoe Rita Pitkta Blumenstein–Yup’ik  Aama Bombo–Tamang,,Nepal Julieta Casimiro-Mazatec  Flordemayo-Mayan  Maria Alice Campos Freire-Brazil Tsering Dolma Gyaltong-Tibetan  Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance-Oglala Lakota  Rita Long Visitor Holy Dance-Oglala Lakota Agnes Pilgrim– Takelma Siletz Mona Polacca-Hopi/ Havasupai  Clara Shinobu Iura-Brazil  Bernadette Rebienot- Omyene”

I just can’t more highly recommend reading up more about what these women are doing, where they are coming from, and what they stand for.

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1.) Pretty much everything.

chris hedges

Here’s a very brief introduction in case you’re unfamiliar with him. Chris Hedges was born in 1956 and began working as a war correspondent in 1983. He constantly worked in the wrong place at the wrong time, such as Sarajevo, El Salvador, Iraq, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Sudan, the Gaza Strip, Yemen, and Colombia, and that’s only the beginning. After decades of witnessing the horrors humanity is capable of he returned to America and went back to school. His writing shifted from covering the worst events in the world for papers like The New York Times to analyzing and (often) condemning the underlying system which creates such events.

He’s written some highly informative (and some very controversial) books: War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, and I Don’t Believe in Atheists (a book whose name alone caused a lot of people to go apeshit). He now writes a weekly column for the online magazine Truthdig. Before talking about why I admire his thinking so much, I think a few excerpts would be a good idea.

“Corporations have intruded into every facet of life. We eat corporate food. We buy corporate clothes. We drive corporate cars. We buy our vehicular fuel and our heating oil from corporations. We borrow from corporate banks. We invest our retirement savings with corporations. We are entertained, informed and branded by corporations. We work for corporations. The creation of a mercenary army, the privatization of public utilities and our disgusting for-profit health care system are all legacies of the corporate state. These corporations have no loyalty to America or the American worker. They are not tied to nation states. They are vampires.”

-From ‘Why I Am a Socialist’ 12/29/2008

Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism and the Constitution while cynically manipulating internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions. Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens, but they must raise staggering amounts of corporate funds to compete. They are beholden to armies of corporate lobbyists in Washington or state capitals who write the legislation. A corporate media controls nearly everything we read, watch or hear and imposes a bland uniformity of opinion or diverts us with trivia and celebrity gossip. In classical totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. “Under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics dominates politics—and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.”

-From ‘It’s Not Going to Be OK’ 2/2/2009

“Massive military spending in this country, climbing to nearly $1 trillion a year and consuming half of all discretionary spending, has a profound social cost. Bridges and levees collapse. Schools decay. Domestic manufacturing declines. Trillions in debts threaten the viability of the currency and the economy. The poor, the mentally ill, the sick and the unemployed are abandoned. Human suffering, including our own, is the price for victory.”

-From ‘The Disease of Permanent War’ 5/18/2009

“The consumer goods we amass, the status we seek in titles and positions, the ruthlessness we employ to advance our careers, the personal causes we champion, the money we covet and the houses we build and the cars we drive become our pathetic statements of being. They are squalid little monuments to our selves. The more we strive to amass power and possessions the more intolerant and anxious we become. Impulses and emotions, not thoughts but mass feelings, propel us forward. These impulses, carefully manipulated by a consumer society, see us intoxicated with patriotic fervor and a lust for war, a desire to vote for candidates who appeal to us emotionally or to buy this car or that brand. Politicians, advertisers, social scientists, television evangelists, the news media and the entertainment industry have learned what makes us respond. It works. None of us are immune. But when we act in their interests we are rarely acting in our own. The moral philosophies we have ignored, once a staple of a liberal arts education, are a check on the deluge. They call us toward mutual respect and self-sacrifice. They force us to confront the broad, disturbing questions about meaning and existence. And our callous refusal to heed these questions as a society allowed us to believe that unfettered capitalism and the free market were a force of nature, a decree passed down from the divine, the only route to prosperity and power. It turned out to be an idol, and like all idols it has now demanded its human sacrifice.”

-From “The False Idol of Unfettered Capitalism” 3/16/2009

I am a big fan of unpopular truths. Shouldn’t we all be? If something is true, if our logic says “this seems accurate” and yet our deeply in-grained prejudices and need to conform and be comforted jerk us away from it… still, the facts remain. Sometimes I get pretty upset after reading an article by Chris Hedges, like the most recent “The American Empire is Bankrupt.” Not exactly fun stuff. But it would be wrong to let my own discomfort get in the way of facts (or prophecies). Now, things in this country might not be as bad as he believes. It would be nice if they’re not really. But there is still a world out there where billions of people, billions, live lives of unimaginable poverty compared to my own. The things I like to believe can never happen to me have happened to them. What makes my own life so immune?

One of the most frustrating things about reading history books is how time and again a small group of people who are doing very well by their own standards are utterly convinced their way of life will last. Then it ends, and the whole process starts all over again. No one learns any lessons (as in, maybe we shouldn’t have such an unequal distribution of wealth; maybe we shouldn’t concentrate all the political power in the hands of one or two people; maybe we should stop making war; you know, the usual) and the whole cycle repeats itself. I love where I was born and sometimes I love how I’ve been able to live, but I know it’s won’t last. As it shouldn’t, because it’s based upon a rotten foundation.

The word ‘prophet’ has multiple meanings. When I use the word prophet I mean the voice in the wilderness, the Cassandra who is able to see what is coming and tries to warn people to prepare. Many prophets, like Jeremiah and Jesus, were social prophets. They looked at a deeply unjust society and tried to convince people to treat their fellow human beings with the utmost love and respect. They tried to convince people to acknowledge that there is a part in each of us that wants to possess, that wants to make things permanent and to hide from a world where ultimately everything must pass. It’s not a popular message with people who aren’t ready to hear it, so they’re usually killed as soon as someone gets around to it. Our culture has a created a media which is loud enough to drown such people out from the conversation.

Chris Hedges seems like a sort of prophet. He’s made himself live looking at what is uncomfortable and horrible, and he’s come home to ask all of us to change our lives. He wants us to not live by slogans, to care about what happens to one another and accept responsibility for that. It doesn’t always make for pleasant reading, it doesn’t stroke egos, and no one anywhere is right about absolutely everything. But his intentions are good, and his knowledge of the world greatly exceeds my own. He is a person worth listening to.

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