Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Breaking the Silence: Fulfilling The Promise, by Marimba Ani

I just found this statement, this declaration, by Marimba Ani. It is linked to here:
"Breaking the Silence: Fulfilling The Promise"

[An excerpt follows:]
It is now Tuesday, November 4, 2008. Is this the final act of assimilation, accommodation, and integration? Is this how we are fulfilling our promise to the Ancestors? Has America made restitution for what was done to them, still being done to us? Is the Maafa over or has it merely morphed into another, more insidious form of genocide? Are we now experiencing a life-threatening condition of cultural AIDS in which our immune system has turned on itself? Has the Yurugu virus mutated so that it looks like us? Are we participating in our own self-destruction?

We are witnessing a time of the most blatant acts of genocide such as “Katrina” (Maafa - 2005), in which thousands of our people were slaughtered, left to die, placed in disease-producing holding pens, forcibly relocated, separated from their families and support-systems, and their (our) children “lost”, all this for the purpose of corporate profit and for the illegal misappropriation of land.

[Text by Marimba Ani; for the rest of this work, click on the title-in-quotes above the except.]

Marimba Ani's Critique of Western Civilization

It is fortunate for all of us that portions of Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior, Marimba Ani's brilliant book of philosophy, sociology, ethnography, ethics, and politics, is available to us online.

Below I link to those portions of two chapters from that book. It should go without say that Yurugu ought to be read in its entirety. It is my strong believe that that any literate person from the West ought to be required to read it. I believe much of men's radical perspectives on race, gender, and civilization rises out of the work and perspectives of many women including Marimba Ani. Women, particularly women of color, have been telling this truth-tale among others for centuries, only to be silenced by the white noise of Western male arrogance and aggression.

Part of that arrogance is defining Great Philosophers as people who are usually white, and always men. Part of the aggression is endemic rape and the on-going Western patriarchal colonisation and exploitation of women and girls, also called gynocide. Gynocide, the atrocity, may also include the overtly organised or seemingly random execution of women and girls by men, but does not have to include that dimension of human destruction to appropriately describe what female human beings, raised as girls and women, endure interpersonally and institutionally through white male supremacist values and behavior.

Biographical information about Dr. Marimba Ani may be found here.

An except from chapter 1 of Ani's book Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of
European Cultural Thought and Behavior
may be found here. It is called "Utamawazo: The Cultural Structuring of Thought".

An excerpt of chapter 6 of her book Yurugu may be found here. It is called "Hypocrisy as a Way of Life".

The Savage and the Sustainable: Part Four [of four] (Derrick Jensen)

Derrick Jensen, Endgame, vol. 1:

'There's another problem, though, that trumps all of these others. It has to do with a characteristic of this civilization unshared even by other civilizations. It is the deeply and most-often-invisibly held beliefs that there is really only one way to live, and that we are the one-and-only possessors of that way. It becomes our job then to propagate this way, by force when necessary, until there are no other ways to be. Far from being a loss, the eradication of these other ways to be, these other cultures, is instead an actual gain, since Western Civilization is the only way worth being anyway: we're doing ourselves a favor by getting rid not only of obstacles blocking our access to resources but reminders that other ways to exist, allowing our fantasy to sidle that much closer to reality; and we're doing the heathens a favor when we raise them from their degraded state of society. If they don't want to join us, simple: we kill them. Another way to say all of this is that something really grimly alchemical happens when we combine the arrogance of the dictionary definition, which holds this civilization superior to all other cultural forms; hypermilitarism, which allows civilization to expand and exploit essentially at will; and a belief, held even by such powerful and relentless critics of civilization as Lewis Mumford, in the desirability of cosmopolitanism, that is, the transposability of discoveries, values, modes of thought, and so on over time and space. The twentieth-century name for that grimly alchemical transmutation is genocide: the eradication of cultural difference, its sacrifice on the altar of the one true way, on the altar of the centralization of perception, the conversion of a multiplicity of moralities all dependent on location and circumstance to one morality based on the precepts of the ever-expanding machine, the surrender of individual perception (as through writing and through the conversion of that and other arts to consumables) to predigested perceptions, ideas, and values imposed by external authorities who with all their hearts--or what's left of them--believe in, and who benefit by, the centralization of power. Ultimately, then, the story of this civilization is the story of the reduction of the world's tapestry of stories to only one story, the best story, the real story, the most advanced story, the most developed story, the story of the power and the glory that is Western Civilization.'

The Savage and the Sustainable: Part Three (Derrick Jensen)

Derrick Jensen, Endgame, vol. 1:

'I have another problem with Mumford's statement. In claiming that the widening of communication and economic intercourse are admirable, he seems to have forgotten--and this is strange, considering the sophistication of the rest of his analysis--that this widening can only be universally beneficial when all parties act voluntarily and under circumstances of relatively equivalent power. I'd hate to have to make the case, for example, that the people of Africa--perhaps 100 million of whom died because of the slave trade, and many more whom find themselves dispossessed and/or impoverished today--have benefited from their "economic intercourse" with Europeans. The same can be said for Aborigines, Indians, the people of pre-colonial India, and so on.

'I want to reexamine one thing Mumford wrote, in part because he makes an argument for civilization I've seen replicated so many times elsewhere, and that actually leads, I think, to some of the very serious problems we face today. He concluded the section that I quoted above, and I reproduce it here just so you don't have to flip back a couple of pages: "ultimately the purpose [is] to make available to all men [sic] the discoveries and inventions and creations, the works of art and thought, the values and purposes that any single group has discovered." But just as a widening of economic intercourse is only beneficial to everyone when all exchanges are voluntary, so, too, the imposition of one group's values and purposes onto another, or its appropriation of the other's discoveries, can lead only to the exploitation and diminution of the latter in favor of the former. That this "exchange" helps all was commonly argued by early Europeans in America, as when Captain John Chester wrote that the Indians were to gain "the knowledge of our faith," while the Europeans would harvest "such riches as the country hath." It was argued as well by American slave owners in the nineteenth century: philosopher George Fitzhugh stated that "slavery educates, refines, and moralizes the masses by bringing them into continual intercourse with masters of superior minds, information, and morality." And it's just commonly argued today by those who would teach the virtues of blue jeans, Big Macs TM, Coca-cola TM, Capitalism TM, and Jesus Christ TM, to the world's poor in exchange for dispossessing them of their landbases and forcing them to work in sweatshops.

'Another problem is that Mumford's statement reinforces a mindset that leads inevitably to unsustainability, because it presumes that discoveries, inventions, creations, works of art and thought, and values and purposes are transposable over space, that is, that they are separable from both the human context and the landbase that created them. Mumford's statement unintentionally reveals perhaps more than anything else the power of the stories that hold us in thrall to the machine, as he put it, that is civilization: even in brilliantly dissecting the myth of the machine, Mumford fell back into that very same myth by seeming to implicitly accept the notion that ideas or works of art or discoveries are like tools in a toolbox, and can be meaningfully and without negative consequence used out of their original context: thoughts, ideas, and art as tools rather than as tapestries inextricably woven from and into a community of human and nonhuman neighbors. But discoveries, works of thought, and purposes that may work very well in the Great Plains may be harmful to the Pacific Northwest, and even moreso in Hawai'i. To believe that this potential transposition is positive is the same old substitution of what is distant for what is near: if I really want to know how to live Tu'nes, I should pay attention to Tu'nes.

The Savage and the Sustainable: Part Two (Derrick Jensen)

Derrick Jensen, Endgame, vol. 1:

'The first is that it presumes that uncivilized people do not communicate or participate in economic transactions beyond their local communities. Many do. Shells from the Northwest Coast found their way into the hands of Plains Indians, and buffalo robes often ended up on the coast. (And let's not even mention noncivilized people communicating with their nonhuman neighbors, something rarely practiced by the civilized: talk about restricting yourself to your own community!) In any case, I'm not certain that the ability to send emails back and forth to Spain or to watch television programs beamed out of Los Angeles makes my life particularly richer. It's far more important, useful, and enriching, I think, to get to know my neighbors. I'm frequently amazed to find myself sitting in a room full of fellow human beings, all of us staring at a box and listening to a story concocted and enacted by people far away. I have friends who know Seinfeld's neighbors better than their own. I, too, can get lost in valuing the unreality of the distant over that which surrounds me every day. I have to confess I can navigate the mazes of the computer game Doom 2: Hell on Earth far better than I can find my way along the labyrinthine game trails beneath the trees outside my window, and I understand the intricacies of Microsoft Word far better than I do the complex dance of rain, sun, predators, prey, scavengers, plants, and soil in the creek a hundred yards away. The other night I wrote till late, and finally turned off my computer to step outside and say goodnight to the dogs. I realized, then, that the wind was blowing hard through the tops of the redwood trees, and the trees were sighing and whispering. Branches were clashing, and in the distance I heard them cracking. Until that moment I had not realized such as symphony was taking place so near, much less had I gone out to participate in it, to feel the wind blow my hair and to feel the tossed rain hit me in the face. All of the sounds of night had been drowned out by the monotone whine of my computer's fan. Just yesterday I saw a pair of hooded mergansers playing on the pond outside my bedroom. Then last night I saw a television program in which yet another lion chased yet another zebra. Which of those two scenes makes me richer? This perceived widening of communication is just another replication of the problem of the visual and musical arts, because given the impulse for centralized control that motivates civilization, widening communication in this case really means reducing us from active participants in our own lives and in the lives of those around us to consumers sucking words and images from some distant sugar tit.

The Savage and the Sustainable: Perspectives on Civilization

As I see it, there are two fundamentally different types of societies: the savage and the sustainable. Men who are now termed white have managed, through perpetrating genocidal genocidal gore and writing and worshiping pro-European/U.S. lore, try, with alarming success, to equate "the savage" with "that which must be destroyed or made holy" by the white man. The success of centuries old campaign of brain-washing and brain-bashing is an ugly testament to the intellectual, spiritual, and political brutality of Western Civilization.

Note: I intrusively add adjustments to a quote by a white man named Mumford and another one named Diamond, which appear in brackets below with a single asterisk at the beginning of each of my additions. Anything else in brackets is in the original text.

From Derrick Jensen, Endgame, vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization (pages 18 to 23):

'The story of any civilization is the story of the rise of city-states, which means it is the story of the funneling of resources toward these centers (in order to sustain them and cause them to grow), which means it is the story of an increasing region of unsustainability surrounded by an increasingly exploited countryside.

'German Reichskanzler Paul von Hindenburg described the relationship perfectly: "Without colonies no security regarding the acquisition of raw materials, without raw materials no industry, without industry no adequate standard of living and wealth. Therefore, Germans, do we need colonies."

'Of course someone already lives in the colonies, although that is evidently not of any importance.

'But there's more. Cities don't arise in political, social, and ecological vacuums. Lewis Mumford, in the second book of his extraordinary two-volume Myth of the Machine, uses the term civilization "to denote the group of institutions that first took form under kingship. Its chief features, constant in varying proportions throughout history, are the centralization of political power [among men], the separation of classes [*including arranging gender as a male supremacist hierarchy], the lifetime division of labor [*especially negatively impacting women and/or the poor or enslaved], the economic exploitation of the weak [*including those politically weakened by rape, those coerced or forced into systems of prostitution and heterosexual patriarchal marriage], and the universal introduction of slavery [*including sexual slavery] and forced labor [*including the labor of caring for men, the labor of birthing, and the labor used by women and girls to resist being forcibly sterilized, and the labor of child rearing] for both military and industrial purposes." (The anthropologist and philosopher Stanley Diamond put this a bit more succinctly when he noted, "Civilization originates in conquest abroad and repression at home.") These attributes, which inhere not just in this culture but in all civilizations, make civilization sound pretty bad. But, according to Mumford, civilization has another benign face as well. He continues, "These institutions would have completely discredited both the primal myth of divine kingship and the derivative myth of the machine had they not been accompanied by another set of collective traits that deservedly claim administration: the invention and keeping of the written record, the growth of visual and musical arts, the effort to widen the circle of communication and economic intercourse far beyond the range of any local community: ultimately the purpose to make available to all men [sic] the discoveries and inventions and creations, the works of art and thought, the values and purposes that any single group has discovered."

'Much as I admire and have been influenced by Mumford's work, I fear that when he began discussing civilization's admirable face he fell under the spell of the same propaganda promulgated by the lexicographers whose work I consulted: that this culture is really "advanced," or "higher." But if we dig beneath this second, smiling mask of civilization--the belief that civilization's visual or musical arts, for example, are more developed than those of noncivilized peoples--we find a mirror image of civilization's other face, that of power. For example, it wouldn't be the whole truth to say that visual and musical arts have simply grown or become more highly advanced under this system; it's more true that they have long ago succumbed to the same division of labor that characterizes this culture's economics and politics. Where among the traditional indigenous people--the "uncivilized"--songs are sung by everyone as a means to bond members of the community and celebrate each other and their land-base, within civilization songs are written and performed by experts, those with "talent," those whose lives are devoted to the production of these arts. There's no reason for me to listen to my neighbor sing (probably off-key) some amateurish song of her own invention when I can pop in a CD of Beethoven, Mozart, or Lou Reed (okay, so Lou Reed sings off-key, too, but I like it). I'm not certain I'd characterize the conversation of human beings from participants in the ongoing creation of communal arts to more passive consumers of artistic products manufactured by distant experts--even if those distant experts are really talented--as a good thing.

'I could make a similar argument about writing, but Stanley Diamond beat me to it: "Writing was one of the original mysteries of civilization, and it reduced the complexities of experience to the written word. Moreover, writing provides the ruling classes with an ideological instrument of incalculable power. The word of [*a patriarchal male] God becomes an invincible law, mediated by [*patriarchal male] priests; therefore, respond the Iroquois, confronting the European: 'Scripture was written by the Devil.' With the advent of writing, symbols became explicit; they lost a certain richness. Man's word was no longer an endless exploration of reality, but a sign that could be used against him.... For writing splits consciousness in two ways--it becomes more authoritative than talking, thus degrading the meaning of speech and eroding oral tradition; and it makes it possible to use words for the political manipulation and control of others. Written signs supplant memory; and official, fixed, and permanent vision of events can be made. If it is written, in early civilizations [and I would suggest now], it is bound to be true.

'I have two problems with the claim that the widening of communication and economic intercourse under civilization benefits people as a whole.

Mass Media Speaks of Us Living in a "Post-Feminist Era": WTF?!?!

In my own view, post-feminist will have relevance as a term only when all male supremacist societies, and all patriarchal men, are dead.

For an older article on a still-alive topic, see a post-feminist era?