Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Out to the Confrontation

Hope, as we know, is not something found in the promises of politicians or the propaganda of public relations puppets, but is mostly an emotional sentiment of the politically infantile. Once freed from this false promise, though, the impossible becomes achievable. Not in the hope of anything, as Momaday wrote, but hopelessly -- neither in fear nor hatred nor despair of evil -- as we venture out to the confrontation.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Curious Meandering

When I was forty-seven, I liquidated my assets to take a year to travel. Four of those months, from April to August 1999, I toured Western Europe by train.

I had planned nothing in advance, except my point of entry, leaving the rest to chance. Once I landed in Western Europe's oldest city of Lisbon, I began my serendipitous journey, selecting destinations, hotels and restaurants as I went. Sometimes, with a vague direction in mind, I would strike up a casual conversation with a local who spoke some English, and ask what they would recommend. Surprisingly, this turned out to be one of the best ways to go. Combined with my pocket travel guide describing each region, local knowledge led me to marvelous discoveries and delightful encounters.

From Alfama to Amalfi, the first half of my journey was enriched by ancient architecture, dramatic landscapes and rich, authentic culture. The influence of the Phoenicians, Romans, Celts and Iberians emanated from the complex cultures, cuisines and cadences that enveloped me. The unique ambience of locales like Arles and Cauterets put pale to more commercial touristic enclaves. Wandering at leisure without bother was a luxury I treasured, knowing all I had to do was ask if I relished something more invigorating.

Having sampled Iberia and the Mediterranean, with a brief pause in the Alps and Paris, I extended my journey to the British Isles, foregoing London for Penzance, followed by a curious meandering through Ireland's Counties Cork, Kerry and Clare. Had I not been exhausted, I might have then ventured to Scandinavia, but alas, that will have to wait for another window of opportunity.

For now it is enough to extract what was vital from my first great adventure. Then, maybe in a few years, I'll see if I can muster the energy and resources to try it again.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Return of the Conquistadores

Since 2007 when the UN General Assembly passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, indigenous nations in Ecuador began reversing health and education policies that kept them in poverty. Today, as President Correa's death squads murder indigenous peoples defending their territories from Chinese mining companies invited by Correa to plunder their copper and gold, indigenous nations face both poverty and genocide. Correa's recent attack on indigenous health and education programs for indigenous peoples confirms his vision as a return of the Conquistadores.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Inequality for All

The movie.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Environmental Racism

Listening to Mohawk activist Shawn Brant describe the apartheid design of indigenous poverty in Canada and elsewhere as a means of creating hopelessness and despair in order to continue colonial resource extraction, I was reminded that contrary to popular myths, there never were any good colonial intentions. Speaking at the Osgoode Law symposium, Brant argues the time is right to defend indigenous territories by denying the legitimacy of Canada and the corporations it represents. Taking it a step further, he says that if Canada and its corporations attempt to overwhelm indigenous nations by force, they should be met with the same.

Meanwhile, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, is seeking information on extractive and energy industries in or near indigenous territories. As part of the UN study of industrial impacts on human rights and indigenous peoples, Dr. Anaya has established an interactive website for comments and information about environmental racism practiced by corporations, as well as by the U.S. military.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Earth Day Every Day

As corporations and politicians engage in economic environmental extortion over North American energy export of Tar Sands crude and Powder River coal, others are weaving a new narrative for survival. At the heart of that narrative are the sacred stories denoting the obligations and responsibilities of indigenous peoples to the health and well-being of all living things.

Honoring those stories through mutual defense in protecting the sacredness of creation was the impetus for the Ceremonial Grand Council gathering January 23-25 on Ihanktonwan homelands in South Dakota, where an international treaty was signed in support of the Rights of Mother Earth Accord and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In the crosshairs of the treaty was the Tar Sands project in Canada, that has generated widespread opposition from indigenous nations across North America. As the corporations and politicians attempt to fast-track pipelines, rail lines and shipping terminals to profit from foreign markets, the indigenous nations whose territories would be ransacked by mining and shipping pollution are uniting against the environmental insanity of turbo-charged fossil fuel consumption in the era of increasingly catastrophic climate change.

As the sickness in the land from Tar Sands metastasizes in the form of cancers and other terminal diseases, indigenous peoples are joined by others in saying that there is a better way. Protecting the sacred by connecting with indigenous spirituality leads down a path of healing and renewal, while the path envisioned by Tar Sands promoters leads to utter devastation.

For those of us who came of age with the first Earth Day, relegating creation to the status of a fond memory is not an acceptable course. As corporations and politicians steer us on the rocks, seizing the helm from them becomes a matter of urgent necessity.

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