GLOBAL – TRIBAL – UTOPIA ?
We are not going to make it to that place called Utopia, folks. It’s not going to happen. The reality is that for all of our ego, which seems to me colossally large, our life span and the space we occupy are incredibly small, and the distance between here and Utopia is insurmountable.
Human cultures have an enormous capacity to reframe things. Part of the problem in Western culture has to do with how it has reframed nature. Cultures that are nature based have reframed nature in ways that have given it life and color and energy and excitement. I went to visit a particular group of Natives living on what you might call a gravel pit. No trees, no grass. Why don’t they plant some grass? The place is a desert as far as the eye can see. You’d look at that landscape and think to yourself, Oh my, this is one of the most depressing places I’ve ever been; it never rains, it’s always so dry. Then you talk with the Peoples, and they bring that place to life for you. The place is full of things you can’t see. Live with them for a little while; their world is full of spirits that come in from the sky, from the ground. Almost every few days they would perform a ritual of one kind or another to acknowledge the spirits of their place. And what a wonderful world they have.
I also visited a tribe on the northern Great Plains. I was just sitting there with members of the tribe. I looked around and thought, No trees. But they have something else: a culture, built by the creative internal aspects of human society, that establishes a beneficial relationship between the society and nature. Not between the individual and nature. An individual can’t practice Lakota culture or Hopi culture. You need a whole group of people for that. When that culture exists, it has a sort of magic. You can find people who are part of it and who don’t have very much money, but they are living more happily than the people living in California’s affluent Marin County. Of course, the people in Marin County are trying to find that happiness; they’re trying to find that connectedness, that essence which makes your lived human experience truly lived and human. It exists among Buddhist communities throughout the world, it exists among the Australian aborigines, it exists among Indians in the deep rainforest. These are happy, adjusted people who are not destroying their lands, who are in fact celebrating their environment because they aren’t engaged in utopian thinking. They’re reliving a cycle instead. BUT as we all may know this is not alway the case in contemporary times, with the invasion of corporation that exploit the resources, affect the indigenous peoples on all levels of thier existence – Unfortunately most of these people today have been coerced, through political, economic and institutionalized methods, into consuming meat products that contribute to planetary degradation, and who are also denying there part of the damaged caused, collectively, as we have all been assimilated and are part of this industrial society!
To have a utopian vision you must believe that time is linear, that someday life will be better than it is here and now, and you have to sacrifice others in order to make it happen. I think this has been, if I may say so, the history of the West, a series of competing ideas about how we are going to get there. When we get there, we’ll all be happy. And where is there? It may be heaven or a hell on earth, for example, or it may be a machine paradise.
The actual trend over the centuries has been toward a politics of conquest and plundering. And we have rationalized our behavior in the context of that conquest and plunder. Most of us don’t ask ourselves, when we make choices about what we’re going to buy, How does this purchase implicate me in the plunder? Most of us don’t talk to people who are from Indonesia before we go and buy our Reeboks. Instead, we listen to Michael Jordan saying, I wear these shoes, and he’s a great basketball player, so they must be good. Most of us don’t ask ourselves, What’s behind my purchase? Could there be military dictatorship behind it, exploitation of people,animals, destruction of nature, towns and villages, pollution?
In choice after choice that people make, they tend to buy things that come from places which create social orders they’d prefer not to support, but in fact they do choose those products because they can claim innocence of the underlying conditions. So people commonly will buy things in the grocery store that were grown 3000 or 4000 miles away. Most people I know can’t tell me where the clothes they wear were manufactured, who manufactured them, or what the conditions were under which they were manufactured. We’re all like the television star Kathie Lee Gifford, who started her own line of clothing, which is produced in the Third World; we don’t know anything about it.
I wanted to emphasize the connection between ecology and social history. Once we recognize this connection, we are led to obvious choices. I don’t believe it’s necessary to cut down the rain forests to satisfy consumer demand for cheap lumber. I don’t believe it’s necessary to create conditions that kill 40,000 children every day in order to maintain the world market economy, which in my opinion shouldn’t be retained in its current form. If you believe that’s necessary, then you can support the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. But I personally don’t believe we have to take steps to starve people in the Third World in order to drive down the price of labor. I don’t believe it was necessary to murder all those Indians in the Caribbean. We should step back and ask ourselves some serious questions: Just how much of that world market economy do we really need? What costs are we paying for what we get?
Our civilized life styles is an exploitation of innocent sentient beings that we share this planet with, animals, earth and nature based peoples living on the fringes of our civil progress, as fast as it moves is as fast as many lose, development and progress severed from the Natural Reality – The food… The clothing… The housing.. The medication..etc, etc. The jobs and now that progress a nice word for cultivating the DEATH of Nature!