Friday, October 15, 2010

Toby Hemenway: How Permaculture Can Save Humanity and the Earth, but not Civilization. Vandana Shiva: Human Freedom and a Fragile Planet

ALERT: DEMOCRACY NOW! on FRIDAY, 15 OCTOBER 2010 ECD will feature Derrick Jensen and many other important guest speakers. Please tune in locally or find the program on Democracy Now!'s website. Hopefully, I'll be posting the program to this blog some time within the next 24 hours so stay tuned here if you can't hear the program when it airs live.


What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? Perhaps for some of you here today, I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am a woman, because I am Black, because I am lesbian, because I am myself — a Black woman warrior poet doing my work — come to ask you, are you doing yours? -- Audre Lorde, "The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action"
I appreciate the information in this lecture, even while I have concerns and criticism of it. But I want to thank Toby for doing his work. I want to thank him for speaking his truths. And I want to remind us that there are many truths that remain unlistened to. Most people's voices are not heard in media. I dare say that the most important people's voices, the most knowledgeable people's voices, the smartest people's voices, and the most necessary voices are not listened to. Instead we have Rupert Murdoch and advertising executives and pimps speaking up a great deal to sell us an idea of civilisation that is utterly calloused, savage, and in profound denial. It is a death culture, promoting pollution, heteropatriarchal atrocities, and and white supremacist destruction. One key privilege required to believe one is good while doing evil is this: the privilege to not see or feel the consequences of own's own actions. I am speaking primarily collectively here, not as much individualistically. It may apply interpersonally too, but this is more about whole groups of people with privilege believing we are all only individuals--except those we oppress as groups, not as individuals.

I'm speaking about what the exorbitant price paid for Western Civilisation, from the vantag epoint of Indigenous people globally, from the perspective of poor people in the Global North and the Global South, from women everywhere. If we are privileged in many ways and are only willing to listen to those with similar levels of privilege, it is guaranteed we will never know what we need to know to be good, loving people co-creating a better world. By better I mean this: sustainable, not oppressively hierarchical, living with rather than on the Earth among the other Living Beings here, not establishing dominion over them, and not engaged in any form of warfare because resources will be maintained locally and regionally, not internationally or across continents.

Indigenous people's voices, especially Indigenous women's voices, from thousands of diverse societies across the globe, are largely silenced in dominant media. Almost completely silenced. This media is designed to promote a very narrow voice within the Western white het male supremacist mono-culture.

Why are so many voices silenced through slaughter or trauma? Why are their words, when spoken, not listened to? I believe it is because the dominant "we" would rather not be reminded of what its civilisation does to that of the other "we"--the people who are struggling to survive. To know in one's body and mind, in one's heart, that suffering is manufactured on a global scale, and that it isn't necessary at all, is to come into a kind of compassion that requires action. To feel that suffering as if it were one's own--and often enough it is one's own--requires that one have support to bear it and the validation from loving people that there is reason to believe it will be different one day.

It is quite terrifying to know that my life requires rape and death across the globe. It is something my people--whites, males, Westerners, class-privileged people--want to shut out. I see it happening every day. It is frightening how easy it is to ignore human suffering that is happening on massive scales to millions of people and to pretend, as a very privileged person, that one's own pain is the only pain that matters.

I see reports of the despicable ways the U.S. military leaders treat soldiers--sending them back into warfare after they report having major post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal feelings. And what I think about is how invisible the people U.S. soldiers are, because the U.S. media never informs us about their post-traumatic stress, and what it means that President Obama sent more troops into Afghanistan when he became president.

What levels of denial or coercion does he live with to make that decision and think it is morally, or good, or loving? How do you decide to send mostly poor people overseas to commit atrocity and witness horror, to mass murder people you are trained to not see as human-like-you? How does a president do that and sleep at night? What does he tell himself that makes not only not ending war, but escalating it, an acceptable policy?

How do whites mistreat, ignore, stereotype, and discriminate against people of color and think that's a good, loving thing to do? How do men subordinate, rape, batter, pimp, procure, enslave, harass, and discriminate against women and think of themselves as good people at  the end of the day? I am speaking collectively, not only individually. I mean how to whites, men, Westerners, participate without objection to social arrangements that are brutal for some and beneficial for others, and think that is necessary or acceptable?

When I listen to people I structurally oppress speak, what I hear over and over again are two things: frustration at not being seen or heard, and the knowledge that the oppressor cannot and will not liberate the oppressed because they wake up one day and realise the horror of what they've been doing for hundreds of years. I also hear an awareness of how oppressive systems work that oppressors may know, but won't admit to.

The main problem I have with videos, lectures, and writings by white men about matters of sustainable living is that the audiences, usually of relatively privileged people, are not brought into awareness that maintaining our dominator societies require whole groups of people, plants, animals, waterways, and land masses to become diseased and die. Necessarily. And if white men don't give their privileged platform to people who are suffering in ways white men are not, they are keeping the idea, the myth, alive that the information we need to survive must come from Western white men. This is a dangerous idea. Even while some white men have very useful, loving things to say about humanity and the Earth, such as men like Derrick Jensen. I hope you tune in to hear him on Democracy Now!

When privileged people are listening to oppressed people not because oppressed can teach the oppressor, but simply because oppressors need to know what we're doing and to stop doing it, then something radical will have occurred: radical love will flourish on Earth when that happens. When oppressors change their/our behavior not for ourselves, but for other people who are not us.

I leave you with these lectures, by Dr. Vandana Shiva and hope that her voice is at least as meaningful to you as Toby Hemenway's.

Part four of Vandana Shiva's talk for Moravian College as their fifth Peace and Justice Scholar. Dr. Shiva, an internationally known scientist, environmental activist, ecofeminist philosopher, author, and recipient of the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize), is speaking on the topic of "Human Freedom and a Fragile Planet."

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