Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dr. Vandana Shiva: a Critique of the Green Revolution



Dr. Vandana Shiva is one of my Living Sheroes. I hope her work radically transforms and ends the ways of the white male dominated world so that people across the Global South and East, and girls and women in the Third and Fourth Worlds, as well as in the First and Second, can know peace as it is found in sustainable living and humane, non-oppressive cultures not ruled by gendered, raced, and regional hierarchies of exploitation, domination, and destruction.

10 comments:

Amna said...

Hey, I was wondering if you knew about the were- and wef- prefixes and man being a common noun in old English.

I would rather people tried to restore the prefix were, and therefore gendering "man", and keeping him from being synonymous to humankind.

This is why I have a problem when you write Shero or Womyn. It seems to lack knowledge about the original being of the world man, which is simply human.

Sorry for going on about this. I will listen to the actual video and comment later.

I simply say this because as a feminist, you have the authority to change things and taking language to the point where we separate the two genders or rather gender as distinct, makes her identity based more on gender than humanity/ personhood.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_(word)

Julian Real said...

Hi Amna,

I have heard about the wef/wife/wo-man etymology, but not so much about "were". But I agree with you about the need to not center "man" as not synonymous with "human", which leaves woman as other.

As I write in English, I am limited in the terms I have available to me.

What do you recommend, for referring to men and women?

Amna said...

I think wereman an woman. Did you see the wikipedia link?

The problem then arises with he/ she.

The only way to neutralize that would be to drop she and only have he. My language only has one word for that, although it's quite gendered in other respects. I know it would be extremely difficult to do that in English, especially with all the she revolution e.g., herstory.

It would be in the same line as saying actor, and poet instead of actor/ actress and poet/ poetess.

Simply, hero instead of hero/ heroine.

Julian Real said...

Hi Amna,

What is your first language?

In U.S. English, me using terms like "wer" and "wif" doesn't solve the problem of getting man and maleness out of the center of the terms used to described gendered humans--my blog isn't operating in any academic circles, or in any professional circles. I don't write dictionaries or have any influence over what terms most people use who speak English. I know for sure that most English-speaking white men not only don't read this blog, but, even if they did, wouldn't agree with what I have to say.

While men are in charge, I want to be sure that the sexism/misogyny of the language is made more visible, such as by using terms like "shero" as a gendered parallel to the very white and very male "hero"; Vandana Shiva's womanness is part of why it is she holds the views she does. Her perspectives and philosophies are woman-centered, not "ungendered", and so I think it is honoring her to call her a "shero".

While white male supremacy still dominates the English-speaking world, I support offering up other terms to counter the patriarchal problems with English, such as by using terms like "herstory" in addition to "history" (his-story). I don't think that doing this makes language more male supremacist. I think it makes it more obvious that there's a problem with male dominance in language and beyond language.

While I certainly think that language changes are important, but only along with dismantling white/anglo male supremacy. To do the language change without also, simultaneously, composing CRAP on all levels, in every area of life, is, to me, just to pretend we are farther along in reaching our goal than we are.

The English language is but one vestige of white male supremacy, and not by any means the most powerful, imo.

"Shero" at least balances out the use of the white male idea of hero. And "womyn" and "wimmin" at least get the "man" and "men" out of the words.

There is a reasonable argument that "woman" and "she" should become the English terms for "human" and the third person pronoun because they include the other terms too: S/he and wo/man. But it doesn't much help for those of us who are wanting language that also moves us beyond the gender binary. I'd want to see lots of institutional evidence that the systemic power of the gender binary is dissolving in addition to only adjusting the language.

As a blogger, I have very little power at all. I only have the authority given to me based on some privileges, which, while significant, is greatly reduced because I don't make deals with men and whites to support male and white supremacy.

Most white men, especially rich ones, especially academic ones, who have much more authority with language than do I, do not respect my words at all--no matter what terms I use. They don't even read what I write. They don't even know who I am. I'm not in denial about that.

My powers are relatively minor, but that doesn't mean I won't keep speaking out, and supporting justice for women globally, and Indigenous challenges to CRAP.

Finally, if I were to change the terms, I wouldn't use Old English terms. I'd use Indigenous ones. I see no reason to keep anglo language alive if we're trying to get rid of the idea that what whites come up with is the best solution to any given problem. What white men, including especially English-speakers, have come up with to "improve" society, has been the worst solution to every conceivable human rights problem.

Amna said...

I am not sure what your profession is, and therefore I thought you probably at least mingle with feminist cirles, etc.

My native language is Urdu (a combination of Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic.) It is very similar to modern day Hindi.

Urdu means caravan/ troop. It stands for an amalgamation of different languages. English is also such a language. A combination of many.

Were is a prefix that probably originated from Sanskrit.

The Wiki page also claims that the word "Man" may have originated from Sanskrit.

I don't know much about Vandana Shiva, but I do not think that her heroism is because of her womanness, but because of her humanity.
There are men activists out there.

I understand that using were and wif is also in a way gendering language. Perhaps, then if you really wanted to emphasize gender, you would still end up with Wo-hero or Wif-hero.

I don't mind Wo/wif-hero because it would take into account that the opposite is not simply hero, but were-hero.

Hero would be the common word.

Julian Real said...

Hi Amna,

I forgot to mention that, yes, I did read the information on etymology from Wikipedia that you sent to me, and thank you for sending it.

For others, here is that web page coded as a link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_%28word%29

I find English to be a very complicated language, in part because it is an amalgam of so many other languages.

I should explain something better: when I say that Dr. Shiva's activism and her womanness are inseparable, what I am talking about is her humanity. A term I made up, I think: womanity, and the term humanity are synonymous, to me.

To say "She is a great woman" is to say "She is a great human being", to me.

Amna said...

Ok, back to what Dr. Vandana Shiva is talking about.

I didn't know what Green Revolution means and I thought it had something to do with greening as in environmental conscious practice for lack of a better term.

Here is something I read as a critique to that:

http://survivalinternational.org/news/6732

People say that our consumption will not go down, and the demand will only move towards making things more environmentally conscious. However, I know that anything done out of propotion is going to cause environmental damage like algae boom in a pond killing all water life.

There will be damage somewhere or the other.

Dr. Vandana's speech is definitely enlightening as it tells of something very dangerous as opposed to simple documentaries like Food, Inc.

Btw, what do you think about White (presumably HET) males like Michael Moore, and Noam Chomsky.

Julian Real said...

Hi Amna,

Thank you so much for the link to the genocidal problems being faced by the Indigenous People in Borneo.

I may do a separate post out of that.

My understanding--correct me if I'm wrong--is that Dr. Shiva's work is about fostering local sustainable economies that are less and less dependent on what the Global North/West does and wants to do. That puts people from the Global South/East in a less dependent position relative to globalisation, the IMF, and the World Bank.

And that locally grown and consumed food that is not dependent on chemical fertilisers is a key component of such an anti-CRAP economy.

I believe she also supports Indigenous Peoples globally, and supports their efforts to have sovereignty and control over their own lands and "resources" as the West and North tend to define that term.

I invite you to read her book Soil Not Oil.

You can also see many more of her videotaped speeches on sites like Google Video, YouTube, and Vimeo.

I agree with your analogy of the algae boom. And the movie Koyaanisqatsi is a graphic example of the world out of balance due to the proliferation of non-Indigenous societies. That film may be seen *here on Google video*.

As for WHM like Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky. I feel very differently about each of them. About Michael Moore, I have less respect and regard for him and his work as I don't see him getting much about the condition of women globally, about Indigenous people globally, about queer people, or about how white supremacy, male supremacy, and heterosexism are each part of the other. He is, in my eyes, a progressive filmmaker who uses his ego and persona to bring attention to some important issues like corporate capitalism, the lack of democracy in the U.S., and the crimes of the current health care/health insurance system in the U.S.

I am grateful he has made the films he has and do try and see his movies. I don't find much about them very radical, however.

Noam Chomsky doesn't do too much better in any of these regards, but his analysis lends itself more to radical perspectives. I do consider him a radical white het man, which is better, in my view, than a progressive like Moore who is attached to many liberal ideas.

Chomsky seems to fully grasp the dangers of both neo-Conservatism and neo-Liberalism, and he also appreciates the fact that industries like pornography are inherently dehumanising and degrading to women and that the solution to things like prostitution and pornography isn't to "make life better" in those systems, but to dismantle them altogether.

So I have far more respect and regard for Noam. I also greatly appreciate his lack of egotism, his humility, and his great intelligence.

But I think Dr. Shiva is by far much more brilliant. I think she makes many more connections than either of those white men do, and also offers very practical solutions.

Moore tends to focus on what the problems are, using examples from other places as possible "better choices". Chomsky is primarily a social/literary critic, an historian and a philosopher, and his work is not so grounded in what poor and other oppressed people can actually do about their situations in CRAP. Dr. Shiva has the strength of a solid radical philosophy, the intellect, the grasp of intersectionality, the value of a global perspective, an interest in both human life and the Earth's other life, and the feminism sorely missing in especially Michael Moore's work.

Amna said...

Thank you for refering me to the book and the movie link.

Now that I have more understanding of her work, I'm thinking that she is definitely my Wo-hero as well. As a coloured person, who migrated to North America, and having learnt about neo-colonialism, I have been thinking that coloured and especially poor people of third world countries should look towards sustaining themselves, especially by learning from their indigenous people, rather than going for the Western education to make a living.

The reason I mentioned Moore and Chomsky is because I think they are making effort as humans. Moore is not a very educated person, to my knowledge. His documentaries are definitely sensational and meant for the general, less elitist public. I don't know much about their political orientation.

I definitely think that Dr. Vandana is doing better, more practical work (seems less passive than Chomsky, she being an activist?) and she definitely has a better grasp of the connections between the major problems we face today: food, climate change, women's status.

Julian Real said...

Hi again, Amna,

Now that I have more understanding of her work, I'm thinking that she is definitely my Wo-hero as well.

"Wo-hero"!!! I'm liking the creativity! :)

Have you read this speech by Dr. Shiva, Amna? I almost re-posted it because I like it so much.

As a coloured person, who migrated to North America, and having learnt about neo-colonialism, I have been thinking that coloured and especially poor people of third world countries should look towards sustaining themselves, especially by learning from their indigenous people, rather than going for the Western education to make a living.

It is beyond clear to me that trying to be part of a racist/misogynist, colonising/imperialistic economic-political system founded principles and practices of gross, flagrant, callous destruction is not going to do anything to slow down the Global North/West's genocidal/ecocidal practices. Western education teaches people how to value Western Civilisation, not how to end CRAP. That's a serious ethical problem with Western education, in my view.

The reason I mentioned Moore and Chomsky is because I think they are making effort as humans.

I certainly agree with you. No question about it. On my least of least favorite WHMs, they wouldn't make the list, by a long shot. I respect aspects of what each of them have done.

Moore is not a very educated person, to my knowledge.

I'm not sure about that. He comes across as very astute and knowledgeable to me, but just trapped inside a white het male supremacist liberal-to-progressive worldview and value system. He's probably better educated that most Harvard and Yale graduates. Because he's had to learn a whole lot about every subject he's tackled in his films, not pay people to write his papers, which is what college students who come from wealth typically do.

His documentaries are definitely sensational and meant for the general, less elitist public. I don't know much about their political orientation.

I do appreciate Moore's lack of academic elitism; and the fact that he makes thematic documentaries focusing on mostly white working people, means he's not trying to win any tenured positions at a prestigious college or university. Chomsky deals with complex ideas, but I think his style is relatively accessible. He speaks in clear language, in my experience. But in the U.S., he's seen as "the academic" of the two, to be sure.

I definitely think that Dr. Vandana is doing better, more practical work (seems less passive than Chomsky, she being an activist?)

That's an interesting point, Amna. Both about the passivity and the activism. Noam seems to respond to crises with analysis and insight, and with some historical perspective. And there's a place for that. But Dr. Shiva does all that as well, but also is a very active activist, who works beyond media and beyond the academy.

Noam Chomsky only works with the media--academic or alternative.

The same with Moore--but he makes popular/populist media and so he has more "reach" due to that, I think. Which is why I wish he'd "get it" about the stuff that Dr. Shiva gets, such as how atrociously destructive the West is. He never seems to question the value of Western Civilisation. I'm not so sure where Noam is on that.

They both lack radical feminist, queer, and Indigenist values and perspectives.

and she definitely has a better grasp of the connections between the major problems we face today: food, climate change, women's status.

Yes, to be sure. When you write it out like that "food, climate change, women's status" it seems so obvious that those all go together. And it's a wonder to me sometimes that people don't get how intricately they DO go together.

Thanks for your comments, as always.