Friday, October 14, 2011

Consensus is a beautiful thing

This is the nature of the popular uprising that is the Occupy movement: it's a process, not a protest- people actually communicating and co-creating without hierarchal organization. This is how we peacefully disassemble the pyramid out from under those who would rather stay on top.

Peace, Love and Revolution. We are all in this together.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Hopi Ten

Chumash elder Choqosh Auh-ho-oh was some years ago summoned by a prestigious group of Hopi elders. They told her they have a message for her to share.

They said, "

You've been telling people the 11th hour is approaching. Tell them it is here, and there are things to be considered."

They gave her a 10-point Hopi Checklist to consider:

1. Where do you live (not just geographically)?

2. What is it that you do?

3. How are your relationships?

4. Are you in right relation with the Earth?

5. Where is your water?

6. Know your garden (and nature around you).

7. Speak your truth; it is time now.

8. Be good to each other.

9. Don't look outside yourself for the leader.

10.This could be a good time.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Decolonize Your Mind

It is with a grateful heart and hope for this movement, that I report that the Occupy Boston General Assembly has ratified a memorandum of solidarity with indigenous peoples. It was an honor to be part of the drafting committee for this resolution, and I am extremely grateful to all who supported this decision to found the future deliberations and decisions of this movement on this necessary bedrock of respect and healing intentions. Below is the complete text of the resolution, followed by an elaboration of personal thoughts I have had related to these issues. Please note that beyond the language of the resolution contained directly below, all statements and opinions contained herein shall not be construed as official statements or opinions of “Occupy Boston.”
The following resolution was passed by the Occupy Boston General Assembly on October 8th, 2011:

RESOLUTION: Memorandum of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples

WHEREAS, those participating in “Occupy Boston” acknowledge that the United States of America is a colonial country, and that we are guests upon stolen indigenous land that has already been occupied for centuries, Boston being the ancestral land of the Massachusett people; and

WHEREAS, members of the First Nations have continued to resist the violent oppression and exploitation of the colonizers since they first arrived on this continent, and as a result have a great amount of experience that could strengthen this movement; and

WHEREAS, after centuries of disregard for the welfare of future generations, and the consistent disrespect and exploitation of the Earth, we find ourselves on a polluted and disturbed planet, lacking the wisdom to live sustainably at peace with the community of Life; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That we seek the involvement of the First Nations in the rebuilding of a new society on their ancestral land; and

As a signal to the national “Occupy” movement and to members of First Nations who have felt excluded by the colonialist language used to name this movement, it shall be declared that “Occupy Boston” aspires to “Decolonize Boston” with the guidance and participation of First Nations Peoples; and

Extending an open hand of humility and friendship, we hereby invite members of the First Nations to join us in this popular uprising now taking place across this continent. We wish to further the process of healing and reconciliation and implore Indigenous Peoples to share their wisdom and guidance, as they see fit, so as to help us restore true freedom and democracy and initiate a new era of peace and cooperation that will work for everyone, including the Earth and the original inhabitants of this land; and

We hereby declare that Columbus Day should be referred to as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

It has taken centuries of playing out a story of domination and exploitation for many to realize what the people most consistently oppressed during this time have known all along: that this game will not last. As the pyramid economy tumbles down and oil-addicted machinations scour the land in their final and devastating death-throws, (ie. Tar Sands, Fracking, MTR), we find ourselves with the opportunity and motivation to start building a new society which honors and heals the Earth and all of its inhabitants.

It seems as though everything is falling apart around us. It's become readily apparent that it's time to build something radically different. However, many of us living in America today have little experience to draw upon, lacking precedence for a society based on anything but selfish greed and destruction of the natural world. If we are to transform the broken pieces of our nation into a body that functions and heals on all levels, who better to turn to for guidance and leadership in creating this new society than those who have resisted the now ailing and awkward machine since it first arrived on this continent, and who maintain our most recent connection to a mode of consciousness and way of life that actually works?

Thousands are currently occupying public spaces in Boston and cities across the country in solidarity with those occupying Wall Street: the seat and symbol of western financial power. The 99% are uniting against the 1% who have concentrated wealth and influence over our lives. Those on top of this pyramid have played out their roles in a story of exploitation and domination that has lasted many generations. Now this story is coming to a close, and we have an opportunity to write a new story: one that works for everyone, including Mother Earth, the original inhabitants of this continent, and other historically oppressed and underrepresented people.

Further, let us recognize the fact that America is already being occupied, and that we are guests upon stolen indigenous land. As noted by native activists and bloggers, by calling this an “occupation” without recognizing the historical context and legacy we are part of, we are inadvertently disrespecting and excluding a long-marginalized segment of the 99%. If we are going to build a new society, and break the cycle of colonialism and oppression, it is only right that we seek the consent and participation of indigenous populations in any foundational change we may pursue on their ancestral lands.

We must decolonize our minds and decolonize the “Occupy” movement, meaning we must realize the historical context of this movement, and examine the underlying assumptions on which we base our understandings of the world and possible solutions we will chose to manifest, lest we recreate a new society based on same old systems of deeply ingrained oppression and systematic violence. As explained in the #decolonizewallstreet flier copied below, “colonization continues to this day, with indigenous communities across the globe still under attack. To dismantle corporate greed and imagine a different world we must make connections between the histories of colonialism, genocide, capitalism, human trafficking, globalization, racism, imperialism, ecocide, patriarchy and so much more.” This is what is meant by “Decolonizing” our minds and our movement. We must recognize and cast off the colonialist mindset.

As Columbus Day approaches, we should celebrate not the exploits of the famous rapist and slave-trader, but rather, celebrate in solidarity with the descendents of the original Americans, who continue to resist cultural oppression and the ongoing exploits of our most destructive industries. Let us reflect on 519 years of indigenous resistance with gratitude and hope!

Over the past several decades, as wealth has become concentrated in a world with dwindling finite resources, the majority have now become the target of the top 1%. Members of the First Nations have continued to resist the violent oppression and exploitation of the Empire since it first arrived on this continent, and therefore, along with the descendents of slaves and other long-oppressed peoples, have a great amount of guidance to provide to the rest of the 99%.

It is a well documented, albeit widely repressed aspect of American history, that the wisdom of the Iroquois Confederacy provided the foundational inspiration and guidance for American Freedom and Democracy as it was initially envisioned by the Founders of the United States. As noted by historian and healer David Yarrow, “the founding fathers found their best working model for their new government through their direct contact with the Iroquois League”, from their foundational symbols (the Tree of Peace/Liberty, and the Eagle clutching a bundle of arrows) to their “sophisticated political system founded on reason” as delivered in the Great Law of Peace. Unfortunately, these wisdoms were applied in a fractured and incomplete manner, without honor for the Sacred or for the original Americans who provided this wisdom. The ideas of “Freedom” and “Democracy” were then perverted by generations of immature and selfish empire-builders.

After centuries of disregard for the 7th Generation, and the consistent disrespect and exploitation of Mother Earth, we find ourselves on a polluted and disturbed planet, lacking the wisdom to live sustainably at peace with the community of Life in honor of the Sacred.

We, therefore, must once again turn to members of the First Nations for their consent and support in this transformational time. We must, first and foremost, do what we can to further the process of healing and reconciliation of our painful past, and invite our Older Brothers and Sisters to share their wisdom, guidance, and Original Instructions, as they see fit, so as to help restore true freedom and democracy and initiate a new era of peace and cooperation that will work for everyone, including Mother Earth and the original inhabitants of Turtle Island.

The Legacy of Columbus

Below is an excerpt from Thom Hartmann's book "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight." This book transformed my view of the problems facing our world, and as Daniel Quinn (author of "Ishmael") put it, it's "A wake-up call, loud and clear, that must literally be heard round the world."

On this Columbus Day, I share the following passage, for your consideration:

"Christopher Columbus not only opened the door to a New World, but also set an example for us all" - George H.W. Bush (b. 1924), 1989 speech
If you fly over the island of Hispaniola off Haiti, the island on which Columbus landed, it looks like somebody took a blowtorch and burned away anything green. Even the ocean around the capital of Port-au-Prince is choked for miles with the brown of human sewage and eroded topsoil. From the air, it looks like a lava flow spilling over into the sea.

The history of this small island is, in many ways, a microcosm for whats happening in the whole world.

When Columbus first landed on Hispaniola in 1492, almost the entire island was covered by lush forest. The Taino "Indians" who lived there had an idyllic life prior to Columbus, from the reports left to us by literate members of Columbus's crew, such as Miguel Cuneo.

When Columbus and his crew arrived on their second visit to Hispaniola, however, they took captive about sixteen hundred local villagers who had come out to greet them. Cuneo wrote; "When our ships... were to leave for Spain, we gathered... one thousand six hundred male and female persons of those Indians, and of these we embarked in our ships on February 17, 1495.... For those who remained, we let it be known [to the Spaniards who manned the island's fort] in the vicinity that anyone who wanted to take some of them could do so, to the amount desired, which was done."

Cuneo further notes that he himself took a beautiful teenage Carib girl as his personal slave, a gift from Columbus himself, but that when he attempted to have sex with her, she "resisted with all her strength." So, in his own words, he "thrashed her mercilessly and raped her."

It was a common reward for Columbus's men for him to present them with local women to rape. As he began exporting Taino as slaves to other parts of the world, the sex-slave trade became an important part of the business, as Columbus wrote to a friend in 1500: "A hundred castellanoes [a Spanish coin] are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten [years old] are now in demand."

While Columbus once referred to the Taino Indians as cannibals, there was then and today still is no evidence that this was so. It was apparently a story made up by Columbus-- which is to this day still taught in some U.S. schools -- to help justify his slaughter and enslavement of the people. He wrote to the Spanish monarchs in 1493: "It is possible, with the name of the Holy Trinity, to sell all the slaves which it is possible to sell.... Here there are so many of these slaves, and also brazilwood, that although they are living things they are as good as gold."

However, the Taino turned out not to be particularly good workers in the plantations that the Spaniards and later the French established on Hispaniola: they resented their lands and children being taken, and attempted to fight back against the invaders. Since the Taino were obviously standing in the way of Spain's progress, Columbus sought to impost discipline on them. For even a minor offense, an Indian's nose or ear was cut off, so he could go back to his village to impress the people with the brutality the Spanish were capable of. Columbus attacked them with dogs, skewered them on poles from anus to mouth, and shot them. Eventually, life for the Taino became so unbearable that, as Pedro de Cordoba wrote to King Ferdinand in a 1517 letter, "As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth.... Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery."

Eventually, Columbus, and later his brother Bartholomew Columbus, whom he left in charge of the island, simply resorted to wiping out the Taino altogether. Prior to Columbus's arrival, most scholars place the population of Haiti/Hispaniola at around 300,000 people. By 1496, it was down to 110,000, according to a census done by Bartholomew Columbus. By 1516, the indigenous population was 12,000, and according to Las Casas (who were there), by 1542 fewer than 200 natives were alive. By 1555, every single one was dead. (Today not a single Taino is alive: their culture, people, and genes have vanished from the planet.)

As the transplanted population of slaves brought from Africa grew in Haiti, people began cutting the forests to create farmland and to use the trees as firewood for cooking and boiling water. As a result, today trees cover less than 1 percent of Haiti. The denuded land, exposed to rainfall and runoff sped up by the slope of the country's hills, has been so thoroughly eroded that it has mixed with sewage and carried the stain a full four miles out to sea from Port-au-Prince. Millions of people are crowded into the cities, where they provide a ready pool of ultra-cheap labor for multinational corporations, as well as cheap domestic help and inexpensive child and adult prostitutes for the European and American managers of those corporate interests and occasional tourist.

The legacy of Columbus is that life in Haiti is more than poor, it is desperate. As much as 16 hours a day are spent by the average country-dweller in search of food or firewood, and an equal amount of time is spent by city-dwellers in search of money or edible garbage. Diseases ranging from cholera to AIDS run rampant through the overcrowded population.

While Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, it is not unique. The Dominican Republic, which shares the island, is moving in the same direction, as is much of the rest of Central and South America.