Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Wisdom of our Indigenous teacher: Mother Earth Jurisprudence

Tom B.K. Goldtooth* in an interview with Chris Hedges, reported in Hedges’ column in truthdig.com, October 16, 2017, in quoted as saying:

This world is heading towards economic systems that continue to eat up life itself even the heart of workers, and it’s not sustainable. We’re at that point where Mother Earth is crying out for a revolution. Mother Earth is crying out for a new direction. As far as a new regime, we’ll need something based on earth jurisprudence, a new system away from property rights, away from privatization away from financialization of nature away from control over our …DNA, away from control over seeds, away from corporations. It’s a common law with local sovereignty. That’s why it’s important we have a system that recognizes the rights of a healthy and clearwater system, ecosystem. Mother Earth has rights. We need a system that will recognize that Mother Earth is not an object. We have an economic system that treats Mother Earth as if she’s a liquidation issue. We have to change that. That’s not sustainable.

*Tom B.K. Goldtooth is a Native American environmental, climate, and economic justice activist, speaker, film producer and indigenous rights leader.

“A liquidation issue”….as if every natural resource is available to anyone with the money to purchase at the lowest possible price, without regard to replacement and then spew the effluent from whatever process those resources undergo wherever and however is also the cheapest.

Goldtooth has put his finger, his brain, his conscience and his native culture on the target and on the line: our economic systems are eating up life itself. We are collectively, willfully (if completely unconsciously in a drugged state) and compulsively enmeshed in our own demise. It is an exercise of self-sabotage the like of which we have never witnessed in history.

·      The weapons of mass destruction (in our own arsenals and not undetected, unreported or unacknowledged) that can and will wipe civilizations from the planet,
·      merged with the unrestrained, unbridled ambition to acquire nuclear weapons by rogue states
·      linked to the persistent demolition of the clean air, water and land that we all need to survive,
·      linked to the political perversion into personal narcissistic ambition and instant gratification of the politicians and the complete disregard and even contempt for the people and the public good,
·      umbilically linked to an economic system that favours the rich and the powerful at the expense of the ordinary people,
·      linked to a level of detachment, disengagement and a total lack of trust in the system by ordinary people,
·      while the notes of terror, human rights violations, ethnic cleansing and the blatant defiance of the rule of law ring in our heads,
·      while we watch the undermining of all legitimate supports for truth, ethics and a common set of facts that measure our common reality (while the inverse, reality television, plays out on our screen).

And in the midst of such a stew of chaos, the nationalism that was so virulent in the 1930’s and 1940’s, at the heart of World War II, rears its ugly head, aided and abetted by unscrupulous (and elected) people like trump, aided, abetted and enhanced also by a new technology that invades our privacy, robs our credit cards and turns every person on the planet into both surveillance agent and potential criminal.

Epithets like “the rule of law” and a “nation of ideals” and “the land of the free and the brave” have been trashed and replaced by a Darwinian jungle of survival of the richest, the most corrupt and the least accountable. Tribal politics under the “cover” that political parties compete on a level playing field now has morphed into an internecine war of rape and pillage by the rich of the poor. And, without a formal voice at the table of our decision-making, Mother Earth is counted as completely expendable.

Literacy, of the kind that takes words, their meaning on both a literal and a symbolic and metaphoric level is sliding like the glaciers into the rising oceans of self-interest, identity politics and a culture of ‘gimme or I will kill you’….that, on its surface and in its deepest implications is a culture of death (the Greeks called it Thanatos, the will and the desire to die).

It takes all of our best energies, our most fervent prayers, our best brains and our health imaginations, not to mention our most profound hope to begin to conceive of a world that is not set on self-sabotage leading to self-destruction.

Extreme activities that challenge our physical and emotional limits, leading to the edge of death evoke Hemingway’s African hunts, bull-fights and all activities that demand that one pursue life to the edge of death, as if that recipe generates the fullness of one’s life and potential. (Ironically, and paradoxically, Hemingway took his own life, in 1961.) Surely we have moved past such an antedeluvian definition of masculinity and know the many positive impacts of that evolution.

Instead of putting our individual personal pursuit of our physical and our emotional limit, risking death itself, can we begin to redirect this deep reservoir of human potential and energy into something far more life-giving, life-sustaining and honourable legacy generating: providing a healthy and sustainable future for our grandkids?

Technology pretends to “connect” us, merely at such a minimal and fleeting and ethereal level as to author its own irrelevance. Our worship of these devices, as our new and most fascinating altars of worship in a religion that defies all deities, while we put our energies into our self-gratifying resumes, as just more steps on the “adventurous” hike to ‘success’ only to learn that our objectification of our very persons is and will continue to be our undoing.

The subjective is not confined or restricted to our need for baubles, BMW’s, corner offices, multiple degrees, sun-drenched homes and vacations, bigger diamonds and trophies both metallic and spousal. We are limiting our perceptions of our very human identities, by trying to do everything, say everything, buy everything and trumpet everything that we believe will get us the “best reviews” as if our comportment with the “best practices” of customer relations is the limit of our potential.

And while we have been doing this self-defying ritual and liturgy, turning our lives into sycophantic disciplines of the corporate ideology and even the corporate theology, we have filled our cancer wards, our cardiac wards, our bars and drug treatment centres will millions of prematurely dying human beings.

Do we even care?

Certainly, we cannot be uninformed about the damage we are both participating in and being victimized by. The evidence dominates our newscasts, our health reports, our economic forecasts and our research into our shared future.


Will voices like Tom B.K. Goldtooth finally be strident and melodic and rhythmic enough to register on our individual and our shared radar screens?  

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