Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Us vs. Them (Part One)

So I'm leaving Mexico in a few days. And I can't believe it's been a month. In an attempt to begin to consolidate what I've learned here... here we go:

There's this dominant worldview, often labeled as the "Western," "European," "Northern," "modern," or "developed" perspective which includes a value system of capitalism, globalization, economic growth and profit, technology and domination of land and peoples. It is a static system of hierarchy based on positivism and keeping up with the Joneses. It values the scientific method, categorical pigeonholes of "right" and "wrong," and standardization and it strives for uniformity.
Dominant, however, does not mean majority; nor does it mean balanced or healthy. There are other approaches, suppressed and restrained. Indigenous worldviews- native cosmovisions- tend to be more dualistic, sustainable, community-oriented, and holistic. These epistemologies are more fluid, respecting the ever-changing nature of life, passed down orally. It is, as Sylvia Marcos has said, a "harmony of tensions," a perspective of things in motion- moving constantly for equilibrium. It is an integration of the individual, the community, the Earth, and spirit. It values the collective, the wisdom of ancestors and nature, it isn't afraid of the gray areas, and it fosters biodiversity. However, these opposite views of how to live on this planet have created a paradigm war. Native lands, bodies and minds are being commodified and exploited because these two paradigms are so dissonant- they simply cannot continue to co-exist the way they have.
"Economic globalization, and the corporations and bureaucracies that are its driving forces literally cannot survive without an ever-increasing supply of oil, natural gas, forests, minerals of all kinds, fish, freshwater, and arable lands, among other crucial needs. They also require supportive infrastructure- new roads, pipelines, dams, electricity grids, airports, seaports, etc.- to take the resources from the often pristine places where they are found and carry them across vast terrains and oceans to is no small irony that the very reason that native peoples have become such prime targets for global corporations and their intrinsic drives is exactly because most indigenous peoples have been so successful over millennia at maintaining cultures, economies, worldviews and practices that are not built upon some ideal of economic growth or short-term profit-seeking." - Jerry Mander, Paradigm Wars: Indigenous Peoples' Resistance to Globalization
Multinational corporations and foreign investment have wreaked havoc on Indigenous lands and the life it had supported for thousands of years. There are examples out the wazoo of the exploitation and destruction caused from Argentina and Bolivia to Mexico, Niger, and Zimbabwe. The "short-term profit-seeking" corporations are boundless, and the world has been their oyster. And we have allowed this. Treaties and trade agreements including (but not even close to limited to) NAFTA and TRIPS have eliminated obstacles of globalization and destroyed whatever protection these marginalized peoples and lands had. NAFTA removed the ability of Indigenous peoples to own land communally- stripping them of a basic right inherent in their community-based culture and essential to their identity. TRIPS made it legal to patent life forms; i.e. seeds, plants, herbs and animals based on the obscene assumption that biological living organisms could be owned as private property despite the fact that a life form is inherently self-organizing. It imposed the corrupt and broken US patent system on the rest of the world, it rewards biopiracy and turns those who have developed the crops over centuries into thieves. And all this without prior informed consent. This "Western" system demands that every place on Earth adopts identical economic systems and thus political and social structure and the values and lifestyles that go along with them. In short, it is working towards a Global Monoculture: a world with zero diversity in land, people, culture, food and ideology- a planet that cannot sustain living organisms, and a world that cannot be sustained on a finite planet.

To Be Continued...

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