As a spiritual person whose politics could be described as grass roots socialism I was intrigued by the position that Russell Means was taking. Was he asking questions that were going to help me?
To begin with the first point to note is that of acculturalisation, basically neo-colonialism. The tradition of American Indians is oral history, and by writing as opposed to oral history there is already a power imposition. To add to this “The process (BZ of writing) itself epitomizes the European concept of “legitimate” thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken”; this is undoubtedly true – our education definitely encourages us to have a belief in books.
And we have to understand that the publishing of books is controlled by the 1% – it is market-driven; Barbara Cartland and Jeffrey Archer pulp is published sooner than erudition. At the same time with publishing the media companies control the distribution, so even if materials are published what the customer perceives as being published (what the average book-consumer sees) is not what is available. I also like this point “the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people.” I have gained a great deal from particular books, to the extent that I have written bookblogs when I study, but the reality is that if I had personal time with such authors I would learn a great deal more.
This issue is one that I have pushed with regards to the internet. Many people, mostly young but not solely, delude themselves that online relationships have similar depths to those of in-person. With the internet now being part of everyday life the depth of human relationships is suffering, a 140-character tweet is communication? It was significant with Adbusters, one of the originators of the US-Occupy, that they were telling people that the internet was not enough. “So what you read here is not what I’ve written. It’s what I’ve said and someone else has written down. I will allow this because it seems that the only way to communicate with the white world is through the dead, dry leaves of a book. I don’t really care whether my words reach whites or not.”
“It takes a strong effort on the part of each American Indian not to become Europeanized“; to paraphrase It takes a strong effort on the part of each individual not to become miseducated (deluded or indoctrinated). But specifically for Russell “the traditional values that our elders retain …. must come from the hoop, the four directions, the relations: it cannot come from the pages of a book or a thousand books. A master’s degree in “Indian Studies” or in “education” or in anything else cannot make a person into a human being or provide knowledge into traditional ways. It can only make you into a mental European, an outsider.” I recall the use of the term “human being” to refer to American Indians as opposed to white people, is that correct? Maybe I will come back to that.
“Each of these intellectual revolutions served to abstract the European mentality even further, to remove the wonderful complexity and spirituality from the universe and replace it with a logical sequence: one, two, three. Answer!” This is concerned with the delusion of abstraction, holding to an idea, withdrawing from the “wonderful complexity and spirituality” of life. In these intellectual revolutions he talks of “the so-called theories of Marxism and anarchism and “leftism” in general. Newton, for example, “revolutionized” physics and the so-called natural sciences by reducing the physical universe to a linear mathematical equation. Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each one of these “thinkers” took a piece of the spirituality of human existence and converted it into code, an abstraction. Europeans may see this (BZ Marxism) as revolutionary, but American Indians see it simply as still more of that same old European conflict between being and gaining. Being is a spiritual proposition. Gaining is a material act. Traditionally, American Indians have always attempted to be the best people they could.”
“The European materialist tradition of despiritualizing the universe is very similar to the mental process which goes into dehumanizing another person.” How can you kill someone you love? But if you make other people inferior you can treat them badly. This is part of western culture. Look at the terms first, second and third world! These are terms that are used in development, 1st world is more developed than the 3rd so it is acceptable the 3rd dies from hunger. As Walter Rodney – torrent – described the type of development is not intrinsic it is imposed. The levels themselves are subjective, effectively what the first aspire to are the benchmarks – in Russell’s terms what Eurpeans aspire to. I have to say however, Russell, that the trend for the “Europeans” in America is now far worse than the “Europeans” in Europe at this process of cultural imperialism – at this imposed superiority. [ 🙂 – I have just read this “Terms like progress and development are used as cover words here“]
Using natural resources is perceived as a gain from nothing, this means that the ONE planet is effectively considered as nothing by this “European” outlook. I have always used the term capitalist outlook, but I accept that the Marxist model has a “European” feel. Marxism does not require a ONE planet approach, although as a model it does respect human labour. This is an improvement on the “European” model of capitalism in that it respects all human labour, however it does make more of advanced industrial labour as compared to peasant labour. And of course in accepting this industrial model Marxism accepts mass production which is so inherently NOT ONE planet. I am Marxist in the political arena of capitalism but I agree with Russell in his “Human” arena Marxism is lacking. Unfortunately the world now functions in a capitalist arena, and as such a Marxist model is much more applicable – however although as an economic model it is sound its political strategies are now outmoded owing to the changes in the means of mass production.
“This is what has come to be termed “efficiency” in the European mind. Whatever is mechanical is perfect; whatever seems to work at the moment–that is, proves the mechanical model to be the right one–is considered correct, even when it is clearly untrue.” This brings to mind Fritjov Kapra’s “Turning Point”. One chapter in particular he focusses on what he terms the Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm, this could be paraphrased as the “mechanical model”. He talks of the turning point changing this paradigm, and this I believe Capra now terms the Web of Life. However intellectual one might view Capra, or the notion of One Planet there is some convergence to what Russell Means is talking about.
Being and gaining appears to be a distinction Russell wants to draw, being – spirituality, gaining – materialism. There is no doubt that Marxism is based in materialism (gaining). In defence of Marxism there is a notion of equitability, if not placed in a materialist context such equitability would be spiritual. Moving onto the notion of anarchism or socialist libertarianism these would extend the materialism of Marxism into more of a “spiritual” context. However this would be spiritualism arrived at from an intellectual point of view and therefore not complete. To summarise what is European as predominantly gaining whilst describing the few who have moved beyond gaining to being as exceptions to the rule doesn’t feel right to me – but in truth on reflection I can’t argue. For the simple reason that my arguments tend to involve Europeans who have been influenced by Eastern traditions. If you exclude the Europeans who have been influenced by the East there are very few you could describe as in touch with being – exceptions to the rule. I suppose I have to agree. Emotionally I want to counter but I cannot, so emotionally I ask Russell “Are all American Indians who he does not consider having white minds in touch with their being?”
But then my mind moves to those Europeans who have been influenced by American Indians, and I use licence to extend the description of American Indians to include Toltec Wisdom and therefore include the Four Agreements. I would suggest that Europeans who genuinely follow the Four Agreements would be included on the side of being.
I find this harsh “Capitalists, at least, can be relied upon to develop uranium as fuel only at the rate which they can show a good profit. That’s their ethic, and maybe they will buy some time. Marxists, on the other hand, can be relied upon to develop uranium fuel as rapidly as possible simply because it’s the most “efficient” production fuel available. That’s their ethic, and I fail to see where it’s preferable. Like I said, Marxism is right smack in the middle of European tradition. It’s the same old song.” This doesn’t ring true of the Marxists I knew, but it does fit into Marxist theory as I know it. In the theory there is nothing to prevent the exploitation of the planet for profit so long as that profit is re-distributed. But when you move beyond the theory and see how the people behave, these same Marxists have tended to ally themselves to the Green movement; the theory is lacking but the people themselves tend, and I stress tend, to be closer to be influenced beyond just gaining. It might well be good pro-American Indian politic to place Marxists as conceivably worse than capitalists, but in reality making this statement is more concerned with separation and non-alignment than genuine understanding. Of course the speech was written 30 years ago, and at that time I accept that ecology was not included in the mass movement as it is today. There is no way that the current “left-wing” movement Occupy would be solely interested in gaining.
“You cannot judge the real nature of a European revolutionary doctrine on the basis of the changes it proposes to make within the European power structure and society. You can only judge it by the effects it will have on non-European peoples.” This makes me think, but what? Revolutionary change means a change of class, a genuine change of class in which genuine democracy, grass roots democracy, is the new governmental principle. What effect would that have on non-European peoples? This could only improve the position of American Indian peoples. Let me clarify this democracy as it must include “Occupy” democracy. It is not a democracy of majority votes. I could conceive of a situation in which as a minority American Indians would lose a majority vote but in Occupy democracy I would hope that the majority would see that it was not in the interests of the minority, and allow the minority to persuade – to be included. Fundamentally this quote of Russell’s shows a misunderstanding – it cannot be called a revolution if the current power structure is maintained; if the current power structure is maintained there is no change in the class that rules.
This is because every revolution in European history has served to reinforce Europe’s tendencies and abilities to export destruction to other peoples, other cultures and the environment itself. But none of these revolutions have been in class terms, they have usually been wars in which one group of the ruling 1% replaces another whilst soldiers die to enable this. To place a Marxist revolution in the same context as other 1%-change revolutions is not appropriate, and the revolutions in Cuba, Russia and China never produced the desired class change, the power never devolved to the mass movement (he used actions of the USSR on the national question to justify his views). It sounds like Russell is discussing an establishment view of socialism. This is like accepting a European academic’s view of American Indian life as the truth, it seems to me that you cannot understand that lifestyle without understanding being. Whilst Marx was an academic, the mass movement, that is often described as a Marxist movement, cannot be understood without having a feel for the movement itself; don’t describe Occupy – be Occupy.
Later he says, about a different point:- Christians, capitalists, Marxists. All of them have been revolutionary in their own minds, but none of them really means revolution. What they really mean is continuation. They do what they do in order that European culture can continue to exist and develop according to its needs. Implicitly he recognises the true meaning of revolution – as genuine change in class, and further recognises that revolutionary change has not occurred there have just been different continuations. Under genuine democracy there would not be an acceptable solution for the mining that will destroy the American Indians homelands, an inclusive approach would be needed. I can accept that American Indians cannot join with those who adhere to the letter of Marxist theory, but genuine grass-roots socialists would need an inclusive approach that would be arrived at through agreement.
For me “There is the traditional Lakota way and the ways of the 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. ” This is the way of ONE planet, and it is the only way forward for a genuine grassroots democracy. The mass movement is part of Unity, part of Mother Earth – Gaia, and can only survive by recognising that. At present the mass movement is oppressed so its directions are those of greed – Gain. To begin with this might be what a mass movement would gravitate towards, but in the end that would just lead to self-destruction and if the movement develops the listening required of it it would turn to the “Lakota Way”. Of course at present to describe the mass movement in this way appears as pie-eyed idealism.
“All European tradition, Marxism included, has conspired to defy the natural order of all things. Mother Earth has been abused, the powers have been abused, and this cannot go on forever. No theory can alter that simple fact. Mother Earth will retaliate, the whole environment will retaliate, and the abusers will be eliminated. Things come full circle, back to where they started. That’s revolution. And that’s a prophecy of my people, of the Hopi people and of other correct peoples. ” Undoubtedly true.
“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. That’s revolution. ”
“we want white institutions to disappear.” Is that what I want? That is not easy to answer because the institutions and the 1% are so intertwined. The more I think of it the better the question the harder the answer. Factories, talking of Marx, – mass production; do we want mass production? To begin with we say yes, economies of scale and so on. But look at what is happening in factories. Environmental degradation. Does it have to be that way? Even that can’t be answered straight-forwardly? With the 1% in charge it is that way because they don’t care about Gaia. If they’re not in charge, can mass production work? Let’s start with food as that is easy, for food the answer is no. Mass production means unhealthy food – preservatives colourings etc. For medicine the 1% have turned medicine into making people ill for profit, can we produce natural medicine in factories? It doesn’t feel right, but maybe. Clothes can be made in factories, and probably cheaper, but we have to kick the 1% out first to get rid of exploitative working practices. Technology can only be made in factories. To remove factories would mean regressing on technology – that feels negative.
Hospitals – controlled by the 1% – makes them profits, teaches drug-dependent medicine. Can hospitals be homepathic rather than allopathic? Education fits people into business and industrial jobs – does not teach; but could teach. So when you ask the question the answer is that the European institutions are at present negative, need they be negative? No. Have they ever not been negative? Again, no. Simplistic Russell Means answer, I don’t want European institutions, but the answer cannot be simple.
“And when the catastrophe is over, we American Indian peoples will still be here to inhabit the hemisphere.” Will they? To begin with my answer was no. Whilst I suspect any catastrophe will obliterate the cities, there will be sufficient of the 1% who will have made provision. But then again without minions to take their load will the 1% survive? What happens when money loses currency. So my answer is that I agree, I am too dependent on money – and too old so I won’t be there. That’s OK though. Natural catastrophe to reshape the world or my death is a no brainer, I’m rooting for the Indigenous, the Gaians, the people of ONE planet.
Like this:- “We have a term for these people; we call them “apples”–red on the outside (genetics) and white on the inside (their values). Other groups have similar terms: Blacks have their “oreos”; Hispanos have “Coconuts” and so on. And, as I said before, there are exceptions to the white norm: people who are white on the outside, but not white inside. I’m not sure what term should be applied to them other than “human beings.” ” I would like to think I am a human being but am I?
Russell MeansPosted: 11/03/2014 in Insight, ONE planet, Struggle
Tags: Corporatocracy, division, intellect, Occupy