an indigenist perspective
by Juan Santos
From the beginning, this culture—civilization—
has been a culture of occupation. - Derrick Jensen
It's scripted: a tragedy whose end is embedded in its beginnings, an
unfolding logic whose conclusion is the inevitable result of its premises.
It's simple. And obvious. We find ourselves in the midst of the most
rapid mass extinction in Earth's history; we have the power to all-but
end life on Earth. We can do so with nuclear weapons, today, in Iran,
or simply by turning the ignition switch on our automobiles and
gliding over paved surfaces where nothing can live. A little more
carbon dioxide, just a little, will tip the scale - unleashing our
potential for matching the greatest mass extinction ever – the one
called The Great Dying.
Science has given us until roughly 2012 to take radical action to
change the course we're on. In the next six years, they tell us, we
will determine the fate of the Earth.
With the US and its white colonial puppet Israel on a nuclear
collision course with Iran and Syria, we may have less time than that.
250 million years ago 95% of all species died. Only one large land
animal was left. Carbon dioxide and methane – the two most deadly of
the greenhouse gases – were responsible. We can do it again. We've
followed the script, we know our lines, and we've reached the final scene.
For that reason, this is a most exciting juncture for the Armageddon
mongers among us.
That's most of who believe in the colonizer's religion, in the Beast,
the Great Tribulation, the Four Horsemen, the Seven Seals, and the
other visions of St. John the Apocalyptic, whose hallucinogenic
fantasies penetrated clearly into the essence, unveiling the
inevitable end, the direction this civilization must head and the end
it must reach.
Fundamentalist Christians everywhere are working overtime to "bring it
on"; they want to fulfill the conditions for the return of Christ,
whose first priority and purpose in action, according to the book of
the Revelation, will be the destruction of the Earth.
But first, the fundamentalists believe, they must be certain of two
things: the stability and existence of the white colonial settler
state of Israel, and that the "gospel" is "preached to every creature"
Throughout history the "gospel" has been "preached" through conquest.
Otherwise there might not have been a single Christian in the
Americas, Africa, or, for that matter, Europe. Christianity spread
with the Roman Empire, and, in the midst of the Inquisitions, "spread"
to the Americas in the wake of the Conquest, a conquest in which as
many as 100 million native people died. It spread to Africa in the
late 1800s as Europe divided the continent and colonized it in wars
that cost another 50 million lives. It spread like a disease, bringing
death to millions as part of the two greatest, most racist Holocausts
in the history of "civilization."
A practical interpretation of the fundamentalist perspective might
view the matter this way: the fundamentalists believe that they have
failed to conquer the world, and Jesus, or the Antichrist (there's
little functional difference – both come as Destroyers) will come back
and conquer it for them in the battle of Armageddon. For this scenario
to unfold requires the existence of Israel, and, at a minimum, that
every living human has heard the "good news" of "salvation."
Then, Jesus will come back with a vengeance. Everything will be under
control; everything will be dead. And if it's not, then there's always
the Last Judgment for backup.
The images of the "end times," the symbols of the Revelation,
Armageddon, and the rest are familiar throughout "Christendom" – the
lands and peoples conquered by the church and its allies – the people
who survived, at least.
For many of us, they serve as a frame of reference that's not only
familiar, but normal – images lodged, unquestioned, in the
subconscious and that function as a mythic encoded drama – a script
about where we come from, where we are, and the nature of our destiny.
Like all such encoded dramas this one frames our identity. It's the
myth we're living, as Joseph Campbell would have it.
It doesn't matter if you "believe" in it or not.
If you live in a "Christian Nation" and think you're not a "Christian"
– if you think you're above all that, put aside the question of
"belief" for a moment. Dwell, instead, with the images: The Beast;
Armageddon; the Seventh Seal, and watch as their compelling power
A Way of Death
Our current sense of self is no more sustainable
than our current use of energy or technology. - Jensen
Since the dropping of the Bomb on Hiroshima the cultural identity
based on these images has been shattering.
No one openly admitted that "success," according to the script, meant
success as the total domination and destruction of Life on Earth –even
though we are on the brink of doing just that - or that the essence of
civilization's "meaning" is to be found etched in the shadows burnt by
the Bomb's atomic flash into Hiroshima's walls. No teacher openly
tells a room full of school children "Success means destruction and
meaning, in our culture, means death."
In the US, elements of the sixties generation either clearly
understood the matter – beginning with Allen Ginsberg's Howl and the
onset of the Black movement for freedom – or they were caught up in
the mass discontent that spread like a wave from Ground Zero, and from
the worldwide anti-colonial uprisings of the post-war era.
The most conscious elements of humanity got the deeper message – often
at great personal cost: not only that the Bomb is evil, or that
slavery, conquest and genocide are evil, but that this way we live is
a way of death, in its entirety. Many understood that there must be an
alternative, and they were by no means naïve or merely "idealistic" in
demanding it "NOW."
They were, rather, speaking the language of life, a language most were
unable to hear or speak.
This was the impetus behind the great cultural transformations of that
time. Much of the exploration, the seeking of a way out of here, led
toward an embrace of various forms of salvationist ideology and
practice – Marxist, Buddhist, Hindu and their thousand and one New Age
variations - none of which break the fundamental mold of the
civilization that shaped them.
So much has changed for nothing to have changed.
But underlying much of these explorations and permeating the approach
of many of the explorers was a "new" – actually ancient, paradigm –
one ultimately grounded in the science of ecology and the intuition of
ecologists and those close to the Earth – holistic thinking.
This approach to the world has gained a toehold in Western
Civilization over the last 35 years or so - just soon enough for many
to begin to remember what indigenous peoples have always held close.
The Earth is one living being. And now, as a species and as a planet
of living beings, we have nothing but a toehold between us and the abyss.
It's not just the bomb, of course, it's the whole thing – the Earth
isn't "dying" – we're killing Her. This is the Apocalypse; Mass
Extinction, Peak Oil, Agricultural Collapse, Ecosystem Collapse,
Nuclear War: the Apocalypse goes by many names. Its most occult name
is "Everyday Life."
Our "way of life" has never worked on planet Earth and it never will –
every empire in world history has collapsed, every empire overshot its
"resources" – and this empire will be no different.
We've had, as Daniel Quinn has put it, our Great Forgetting of our
place on Earth.
Now, we urgently need a Great Remembering.
Resource Wars and Fascism: Babylon's Way Out
Those in power rule by force, and the sooner we break ourselves
of illusions to the contrary, the sooner we can at least begin to
make reasonable decisions about whether, when, and how
we are going to resist. - Jensen
Cognizant that life itself has but a bare toehold on the planet, the
bible thumpers are thumping, the business as usual clock is ticking,
and the empire builders are gunning for oil.
They don't think that when it goes down, they'll go down with us. The
bible-ists think they'll be "raptured" into "Heaven." The capitalists
and super capitalists have their own brand of "rapture." They plan to
buy the lifeboats, to live in ease, squeezing the earth for every
copper cent and ounce of oil left in Her. And they mean for their
progeny to rule what is left after the wall comes tumbling down.
That's what today's massive and deliberate redistribution of wealth
and resources toward the rich is about.
They mean to run what's left on "clean nuke," as Bush calls it, even
though – like the reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas, uranium will
mostly be depleted by 2100.
They plan to control the world's nuclear weaponry, as best they can,
and thus what remains of the oil. As the rest of the world sinks into
oil starvation, economic depression, and mass starvation, no one – the
US imperialists hope - will be able to challenge their dominance of
the Earth's "resources."
In the meantime, they mean to overthrow or face down the Big 3, the
oil rich 3, the new evil axis of Iraq, Iran, and of course, the newest
target – Venezuela. Bolivia will not be far behind; it's also
hydrocarbon-rich, and its government is no more "cooperative" than the
rest. Mexico, with its stolen elections, and Saudi Arabia, with its
bloated royal family, are under control, for the moment, and Bush, the
idiot savant, will never let go of Iraq.
The current US/ Israeli assault on Lebanon and Hizbollah is phase two
of a plan to gain strategic control over the Middle East. US Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice calls it a "New Middle East," in the same
spirit as the "New World Order" declared by Bush1. Prominent members
of the Bush 2 administration, such as Vice President Cheney, Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others linked to the "Project for a New
American Century", speak openly of a Pax Americana and openly advocate
that the US totally dominate the globe militarily, beginning with the
The aim is to crush non-state resistance groups like Hamas and
Hizbollah, to squeeze Syria, and lay the groundwork for a massive
assault on Iran – whose vast reserves of oil and Islamic ideology
represent the most formidable block to utter US power over the region
and its oil reserves, and thus, over the world. "It is time for a
new Middle East, it is time to say to those who do not want a
different kind of Middle East that we will prevail; they will not,"
Rice said in Jerusalem.
The Project for a New American Century says Iran is "rushing to
develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons as a deterrent to
Even the hint that Iran might – one distant day - combine its vast
reserves of hydrocarbons with a nuclear capacity to defend them and
thus remove them permanently from the grasp of the American Empire,
has unleashed a storm of preparations for a major war - even a nuclear
war - one pitting the US, Israel and Turkey against Iran and its ally
Syria. Such an aggression could readily draw China, Russia, or even
France into the fray in an effort to protect their own stakes in
Iran's oil, lighting the fuse of a nuclear Armageddon.
Make no mistake, however – the elites of each of these nations mean to
milk Mother Earth of fossil fuels for their own benefit – not that of
the US, and certainly not in the interest of planetary stability and
the sustenance of Life. This is a way of death -rebel state, rogue
state and Empire alike. Only Cuba is different at all, and it has no oil.
All civilization is about power and the addiction to power;
Euro-American culture is permeated with nothing but power; all the
West does is in its pursuit. For now, at least, they're the "experts."
Enter the era of resource wars and fascism.
It's "necessary" if "civilization" and our "way of life" and "standard
of living" are continue for even a while – even for the elites.
We are entering the dark tunnel of the new era now. The US's colonial
war of occupation in Iraq is a resource war. The overt threats
against Iran, the rumblings and assassination plots against Venezuela
and the bombing of Lebanon portend more of the same.
As the economy – and thus the civilization – based on oil runs dry, as
it can no longer deliver, as it consumes itself in "economic
downturns" the powerful will see only one choice. War and mass repression.
As the availability of cheap energy evaporates, as oil production
peaks, Third World economies will begin to collapse, even as the Green
Revolution – the hydrocarbon based agricultural "miracle" that has led
to a doubling of the Earth's population – also begins to collapse.
Starvation, mass rebellion and insurrection will become the order of
the day for already impoverished peoples on a global scale. With the
onset of increasingly dramatic impacts of global warming and the
rapidly escalating depletion of the world's aquifers much of the Third
World may become as desperate and chaotic as sub-Saharan Africa is today.
The Pentagon has developed plans, not only for resource wars, but for
dealing with a global and vastly accelerating refugee crisis – their
aim is to keep the refugees out of the First World entirely. This is
the backdrop for today's targeting and scapegoating of migrant
populations within the US and Europe. Under such conditions the ruling
elites see migrant peoples as a potential source of acute internal
As the Empire seeks to establish its hegemony over oil and to maintain
its hegemony over its Third World puppets while suppressing its
colonized and dispossessed populations at "home"; as it is forced to
become increasingly brutal to carry out its aims (witness Lebanon)
mass discontent and rebellion could erupt, even in the belly of the
It would seem that mass repression –- even open fascism -– are the
only things that might keep the peasants –- us – starving in line.
Peoples of color within the US will be the first and most visible mass
targets. But every targeted group – including women, will be
increasingly at risk of overt, violent repression as the State careens
toward open fascism.
If the destroyers have their way, there will be no light at the end of
the tunnel we are entering, only starvation, limited but ceaseless
resource wars, and the thousand year reign of the Anti-Christ - a
permanent new Reich.
Their other option is Armageddon.
The City of God
"Hell is empty, all the devils are here." - William Shakespeare
Even as Israel launched its devastating assault on the Lebanese
people, US neo-con darling Newt Gingrich called it the opening phase
of World War lll, and over 3,000 members of a Christian fundamentalist
sect hit Washington DC in a mass lobbying effort to urge that the US
Their leader, the Rev. John Hagee, wants to bring on the apocalypse
and believes the Book of Esther predicts that such an attack would set
off the "End Times." His followers are not alone. In 2002 a Time/CNN
poll held that 59 percent of US citizens believe that the prophecies
of the Book of Revelations will come true. Other polls show that
roughly 40 percent of people in the US believe that a sequence of
events that presage the biblical "End Times" is now under way.
Hagee – a televangelist called "Pastor Strangelove" by some – is the
author of Jerusalem Countdown, which has sold some half million
copies. It was the nation's top "inspirational" book and stayed on
best-seller lists for weeks. Hagee holds that the US and Israel must
launch war against Iran to fulfill God's plan – that they must launch
the opening salvos of Armageddon.
Such is the wrath of god – or of those who claim to be god's earthly
representatives. As portrayed in the book called the Revelation it is
a wrath extreme beyond measure. The book's mixed metaphors, messages
and morality are equally extreme.
Revelation 11:18 brings the message – and the confusion – home: "It is
time," the passage declares, "to destroy those who destroy the Earth."
But that's not what happens. Instead, in his vengeance, the deity –
following precisely the logic of Western civilization, destroys the
Earth himself. The most generous interpretation that can be offered is
that he destroys the village in order to save it.
He then – having destroyed all Life - creates a new, "pure", and
patently sexless world to replace it. But really, it's not a world at
all; at least there is no description of the "New Earth." It serves
only as a backdrop to the "New Jerusalem." It's as if there were
nothing but a city, a city with no countryside, no surroundings, no
Earth, no sea, no animals, no life—a heavenly place, a place that can
at last be ruled with no disorder – with nothing left to destroy.
The creation of this Disney style future is the aim and end result of
god's "plan." It's "god's way" out of the conundrum of civilization,
the way out the "World" that Christian fundamentalists are taught to
"hate," and to destroy even as they replicate it. The "City of God,"
as Augustine preached, would ultimately triumph.
Babylon System: The City of Man
"The Babylon System is the Vampire" – Bob Marley
But the real City – i.e. civilization – obviously doesn't work like
that. The City, with its concentration of wealth, with its division
of labor, with the inability of its population to feed itself, cannot
exist without exploiting the Earth and the people that surround it.
As its population grows in both size and density, it must expand its
control of the surrounding territory in order to access more food and
resources. This is the foundation of all Empire and mass enslavement.
It is the beginning of genocide. As Daniel Quinn points out, the
cultures that stand in the way of the city's territorial expansion
must be destroyed, or assimilated, which amounts to the same thing.
To get rid of the city – the "World" – is among the main themes of the
Revelation. To do so, before he can create the Disney version, the New
Jerusalem, god must rid the Earth of the real city – Babylon. Here's
the message: god, like Bush and the fundamentalists, is going to make
civilization work – or kill us and all life while trying.
The most clear-cut and unequivocal action of the deity of the
Revelation is the destruction of the Great Babylon.
Represented metaphorically as a wealthy whore, Babylon is explicitly
identified as a city, a global capitol of commerce and corruption with
links to craven, lust-filled businessmen in a network that envelops
The Rastafarians, certainly, have taken this reading straightforwardly
and made of it a central image in their eclectic theology of
liberation. They're not the first and won't be the last, to turn a
repressive ideology on its head and make of it a liberatory one. Nor
have they been the first to selectively emphasize biblical passages to
fulfill their own cultural purposes – and the cultural purposes and
functions of this myth are altogether different in the Euro-American
While the oppressed – particularly those of African and Indigenous
American descent - have made of the bible a "way out" of their
oppression at the hands of their Babylonian captors, in a
Euro-American framework the Revelation offers a different "way out" –
a way to avoid responsibility for the destruction that comes as the
climax of their "civilization."
For the oppressed, in their theologies of liberation, apocalypse is
restorative. It restores the natural order – it is the restoration, as
well, of human justice.
In the syncretic Mayan Book of the Chilam Balam of Chumayal the
sentiment is clear; the return of christ means the end of Spanish rule
in Mayan lands. Once the Spanish have been driven out, the rule of
Jesus Christ and the Mayan leadership will begin again.
In the most coherent and morally consistent of the indigenous
prophecies -¬ that of the Hopi nation – it is said that during the
Time of Purification a brave person will stand up and demand of the
rulers, "You profit at the expense of all life. Come here and pay your
It is that payment – the moral and practical responsibility for the
debt of destruction - that the Euro-American script encoded in the
Revelation means to avoid.
Those who take refuge in god's "rescue" and god's "plan" fail to
realize that we live in Babylon as if it were the New Jerusalem, and
that there is no essential difference between them.
It is the emotional, psychological, cultural and economic compulsion
to ignore the reality of that which surrounds the City and its elites
that makes Babylon and the ecological destruction and human and animal
oppression it represents possible.
The New Jerusalem, the "City of God," is only an idealized projection
of the same dynamic – except that in the "heavenly" case it's
projected that there is no real Earth surrounding the City – it has
been and can be destroyed. Even under such conditions, the City –
civilization - can, must and will live on. The triumph of will, the
dominance of the City of God, is the triumph of Babylon, and both are
predicated on omnicide - the destruction of Life on Earth. The
so-called New Earth, in this scenario, is, apparently unworthy even of
description in the Book of Revelation. It has no reality.
"We also have to work… the dark side, if you will." - US Vice
President Dick Cheney
"In terms of the despiritualization of the universe, the mental
process works so that it become virtuous to destroy the planet." –
The distinction between a Hitler and a "Good German" is a distinction
without a difference.
Those who are not outright death mongers – which is to say those
unconscious of the implications of the script, don't get off the hook.
If they don't know, the chances are they don't want to know.
The Euro-American rendering of the tale of the apocalypse nonetheless
provides an inoculation against any real awareness of the reality of
our global situation and against taking responsibility for its
In the US, the middle class is as addicted to power and to things –
junk – as are the elites. The main difference is that they can only
access smaller doses of these pain killers.
The addiction to power and to things leaves us, like any addiction,
psychologically and emotionally "invulnerable." That's the whole idea;
someone gets hurt, but it's not us. We have ours. We don't sympathize.
Hierarchical civilization is based on just this, something so simple;
hurt, power, the repression of meaning and the evasion of
consequences. The Latin root of "evade" means to "walk out" on.
The meaning of the myth of the apocalypse in its Euro-American context
can't be abstracted from these fundamental dynamics.
The Revelation story means that the destroyers of the Earth who
"believe" in Jesus will be wisked away on god's great broom in a
moment akin to emotional/ mystical/ sexual "rapture." The believer /
destroyers get off the hook, and leave the "sinners" behind to suffer
the final destruction of the Earth.
They "evade" – they walk out on – the consequences.
They are, after all, the "elect."
We all know them; smug, fearful, arrogant: they all but identify
themselves to us at a glance. They consider themselves superior, if
not supreme, beings.
They "have theirs" – their small power, their willingness to hurt
those "beneath" them, and a veiled fear of the consequences. They are
the "civilized" ones. They keep the rest of us in line.
The script that underlies the Revelation has a message for them; it
tells them this:
"You need not – dare not – think about or authentically acknowledge
news about the impending death of the planet. You need not act. It's
in god's hands – where all "spooky" things, all "ghostly" and
frightening things belong. The signs of doom are not for you. This is
god's plan. It is not we but he who will destroy the Earth, in his
just wrath against evil.
"But remember, you are not "of" this World – you do not belong here.
The world is evil; you are to hate it as you love god. God himself
hates it and that is why he destroys it. That is why he saves you
–because you hate the Earth as he does."
Such is the madness of god's wrath. Such is the "secret" evil and
madness of his followers.
Having then, destroyed the Earth, god replaces it. But this is no
Garden of Eden – he's not making that "mistake" again. There will be
no innocence and no fall – those are no longer options. He replaces
the Garden with the City State – the shining New Jerusalem. He
replaces natural freedom in nature with civilized "security."
There are angels at every gate. Watching. God can't escape
civilization. The story, the script, can't escape its own premises. He
re-enacts the inherent logic of destruction embedded in civilization
by re-establishing the City State. He re-establishes the disease, the
City that cannot live without destroying the Earth. This time,
civilization is an act of god; god the Destroyer; god the Evader.
The Garden is gone. Forever. There is nowhere left to turn, no way
out. There is a guard at every gate.
He hasn't learned the most fundamental lesson: that life is
vulnerability; that power – this kind of power - is death.
Is it any wonder the Christian fascists resonate with this tale?
"The time of warnings, passive resistance and conformity is already
passed. All of us are now confronted with an enormous challenge:
SURVIVAL" - Council of Indigenous Elders and Priests of the Americas
"A growing body of western scientific evidence now suggests what
Indigenous Peoples have expressed for a long time: life as we know it
is in danger." - THE ALBUQUERQUE DECLARATION
We live in the most critical moment in the history of humanity on
Earth, and at one of the three most critical junctures in the record
of life on this Earth.
Hiding under our desks will not – no matter what they told us as
children – stop nuclear war. It will not stop Peak Oil, the collapse
of the Green Revolution in agriculture, the collapse of civilization
or of life on the planet. Neither will huddling behind the bible.
We urgently need a different script, a different vision. It is time
for a different kind of reckoning, a new Judgment. We need it now.
The possibility of global nuclear war is upon us in the Middle East.
The window of opportunity to avert the most horrendous impacts of
global warming is rapidly closing. By 2012 it will be too late. Some
scientists, like James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia theory, say
that it is already too late.
We need a new script – one that will tell us how we might save life on
Earth, how we might survive what the scientists and indigenous elders
alike tell us is coming. A script that will ensure we never make the
same mistakes again – if we survive.
Those of us who sought – inspired by the upsurges of the 60's – to
re-evaluate all values, were right. Those who sought to counter the
dominant culture, to decolonize, to seek more ancient and deep rooted
spiritual, cultural and political values were right.
Some intuited what indigenous cultures have always known; the need to
place our focus in beauty, balance, and the renewal of the world: to
protect land and life.
Many intuited the bottom line: that we are responsible.
This attitude of rectitude and reckoning is inherent in indigenous
cultures – which are, by definition, identified with the land, who are
identified with all the power and personality of Place, and who
experience themselves as an inseparable part of the web of life
particular to that place.
Indigenous peoples want no escape.
They know that to separate from the web of life is to destroy it; and
the very heart of their spiritual and ritual lives is to maintain the
balance between humans, Earth and Life in a spirit of reciprocity and
It's been written of one indigenous elder, for example, that he
"carries with him a little pouch filled with cornmeal… whenever he
takes anything he needs from Mother Earth, he puts or sprinkles a
little pinch of cornmeal at that place… By this gesture he pays homage
to the Source of all life and survival."
From the depths of this simple respect and from the understanding of
the implications of separation from the web of Life, has arisen a kind
of prophecy that, in its moral consistency and practical clarity is
the antithesis of the Revelation. Among them are the prophecies of the
Hopi, the Kogi, the Lakota and the Maya. There are many others.
Perhaps some who are interested in a different vision or a different
script might look there. My purpose is not to proselytize. No one
needs to be "saved" or changed into anything they are not.
We've already been "saved" and "changed" to the point that many of us
are out of our bodies and minds. We can, must, will and do find our
Our task, if anything, is to cast aside the script we've been handed –
to cast aside our colonization and "salvation"; to reckon simply,
intimately and directly with our life –and death – situation, and with
what we, personally, are going to do about it.
Perhaps we will be so fortunate as to learn that to know ourselves
once again is to know the power of place and our relationship to it,
to regain our role as caretakers of the land, and to find our place,
once more, as part of the Living Earth. Perhaps we will be so
fortunate as to survive.
"We need to take a close look at this and then really come to terms
with ourselves. To move ahead into the next 500 years we must leave
some things behind or they will contaminate or even eliminate the
future. We cannot go forward if we keep destroying the earth. But we
must also ask, what is good and healthy and helpful? Those good things
can be part of our foundation, part of our pathway into the next 500
years." - Navajo Elder Leon Secatero
The forces arrayed against us are immense, so immense that, even were
the world to suddenly awaken to the depths of the danger – even if the
rulers and the fundamentalists themselves were to awaken - the sheer
inertia, the momentum toward destruction, might still carry us over
But in the US some 60 million people say they are gravely concerned
about global warming. The war for control of the Middle East, and the
moves toward fascism in the US, have made George W. Bush the most
unpopular president of our time.
If – and it is a huge if – we were to wake up – to understand the
utter magnitude of the threat posed by the US empire to the world and
to all life on every front, then the possibility of an effective
movement spurred by a tremendous and urgent energy might develop in
time to make a difference.
It does no good, however, to note the slim odds – because if we don't
act in just this way, the odds of survival for most of the Earth's
species – ourselves included, drop precipitously.
For all that the Third World is destined to suffer the harshest of the
coming blows, it may well be in the non-industrialized areas that any
non-fascistic reorganization of society is possible. Cuba's response
to its national peak oil crisis is a case in point.
Not only are the Third World nations more susceptible to peoples'
struggles, but the fragmentation they will undergo under the
conditions on the horizon, combined with the relative closeness of the
peasantry to the land in those places, lends itself more readily to
the kind of small, local, sustainable solutions that appear to be the
only solutions that will be possible or desirable.
That is, if we manage, somehow, to avoid a nuclear World War lll, if
global warming and desertification don't turn the land into an oven,
if local ecosystems can be sustained, or only partially collapse; if
the aquifers aren't depleted; and if the rivers and lakes don't
disappear with the glaciers…
First World conditions are more likely to develop in a fascistic
direction. Going "back to the land" as a survival matter may not make
any more sense for tomorrow's survivors than it did for David Koresh
to hold up in his compound in Waco.
Those best positioned and prepared to survive independently will be
the remnants of the Native American nations, who have a recognized
land base, and, in most cases, at least fragmentary living traditions
and lore for living directly in tune with the land.
But there are no guarantees at all. The same ecological issues will
confront First Worlders as Third Worlders who join in local efforts at
How can we stop this? How can we survive if we cannot stop it?
The mind rebels.
Having spent thousands of years developing the tools of prediction and
control, civilization has now brought us to a juncture in which war,
water, weather, food, shelter and our very social structure will be
less predictable than they were when we rebelled against maintaining
our lives as hunters and gatherers, taking up instead what Quinn calls
totalitarian agriculture – the "Agricultural Revolution" - in order to
ensure a predictable survival. Our survival, human survival and
advantage came first; no matter what the cost to the animal and plant
life around us, no matter the cost to our fellow human beings who may
find themselves socially "beneath" us and no matter what cost we might
pay in our own tortured psyches.
We live – very truly – in a state the Hopi call Koyannisqatsi – life
disintegrating; life out of balance; a way of life that calls for
another way of living.
In 1980, Russell Means gave his most famous speech, called "For
America to Live Europe Must Die." In it, he points to another way of
living. Means said:
"There is another way. There is the traditional Lakota way and the
ways of the other American Indian peoples. It is the way that knows
that humans do not have the right to degrade Mother Earth, that there
are forces beyond anything the European mind has conceived, that
humans must be in harmony with all relations or the relations will
eventually eliminate the disharmony. A lopsided emphasis on humans by
humans - the European's arrogance of acting as though they were beyond
the nature of all related things - can only result in a total
disharmony and a readjustment which cuts arrogant humans down to size,
gives them a taste of that reality beyond their grasp or control and
restores the harmony. There is no need for a revolutionary theory to
bring this about; it's beyond human control. The nature peoples of
this planet know this and so they do not theorize about it. Theory is
an abstract; our knowledge is real.
"American Indians have been trying to explain this to Europeans for
centuries. But, as I said earlier, Europeans have proven themselves
unable to hear. The natural order will win out, and the offenders will
die out, the way deer die when they offend the harmony by
over-populating a given region. It's only a matter of time until what
Europeans call "a major catastrophe of global proportions" will occur.
It is the role of American Indian peoples, the role of all natural
beings, to survive. A part of our survival is to resist. We resist not
to overthrow a government or to take political power, but because it
is natural to resist extermination, to survive. We don't want power
over white institutions; we want white institutions to disappear.
"American Indians are still in touch with these realities - the
prophecies, the traditions of our ancestors. We learn from the elders,
from nature, from the powers. And when the catastrophe is over, we
American Indian people will survive; harmony will be reestablished.
With this understanding, we are free.
We have the freedom of truly having nothing to lose.
We are free to break down into madness, or into sanity. We are free to
rediscover, to nurture our role as human beings – as caretakers of the
It is totally in our hands, and totally out of our hands.
We are free to break down, tune in and stop living as madmen bent on
destruction. Free to give up our paranoia, our massive obsession with
prediction and control, free, sooner than later, of the cult of
We are free to, as the Elder Leon Secatero said, to leave some things
behind. Free to trust, once again, our intuition, our bodies, our own
thoughts, and to trust the rivers, the animals and our dreams. To be
part of the world again. To belong here.
Even to die here, just as it is. Knowing our Place.
As John Lennon once put it in another context, the dream is over. A
door is opening to the end of this madness.
We are free to walk through it.
Wherever it leads.
To life, or to death.