By Bobby Whittenberg-James, Earth, Spirit, and Anarchy
The Occupy Wall Street movement is growing around the United States. I’m not going to throw in with total support, but I’m also not going to throw in with total cynicism. I don’t intend to discourage participation in these events or call for any kind of boycott of these dissident currents. In fact, I think these currents need to be infused with more and more radicals and radical ideas. I would, however, like to ask participants to take some things into consideration and refocus, to break from the groupthink approach of mass movements and to think outside of themselves and to stop marginalizing the voices of those most adversely affected by the status quo.
As settlers, we have inherited a false notion that there is no longer any difference between being a settler and being indigenous, and that we are no longer even settlers. We are fed the lie that there has, at some point, been some sort of unification and that “we’re all in this together,” that bygones are now bygones, that the genocide and land theft is just (contaminated) water under the bridge. While it is true that civilization oppresses all people, all species, and the land itself, we can not equate the standing of settlers and Indigenous People in the context of a settler colony.
We must first consider that Wall Street, along with every other site to be occupied, is already under occupation. I point this out, not to demonize the term “occupation” to describe this tactic, but to provide some context that seems to be sorely missing from these movements and actions. The land on which these actions are taking place belongs to Indigenous People and was stolen from them by European settlers and held through a process of colonial occupation and genocide. As such, any change that takes place upon this land should begin with decolonization and manifest organically under a Native paradigm as opposed to being politically and/or economically driven under a colonial/settler paradigm. Anything short of decolonization and an end to the genocide of Native People and the ecocide of their land is simply another leftist attempt to put a friendly face on colonialism.
The illusion of the political left and right, or left and right of capital, is a Eurocentric construct coming out of pre-revolutionary France. In legislative bodies, the aristocracy would sit to the right of the speaker and the capitalist class, or bourgeoisie (then referred to as “common” people) would sit to the left. Of course now the bourgeoisie is considered to be the political right, and the political left, just as before, dishonestly portrays itself as the vanguard of “the common people.” This is what allows white settlers to simply claim to be part of “the 99%” and then go about speaking for those most affected and most marginalized by the 1%. By confining discourse to the false left/right dichotomy, more organic, more creative, community based, earth based currents are co-opted and brought under the paternalistic umbrella of the Left and thereby civilization and colonialism, maintaining the current order with minor changes in rhetoric and organization.
In some circles I hear references to “the White Left” but this is redundant. The left is a white construct, by whites, for whites. Leftism is simply an ideology and a method of organizing the political, economic, and social order of white society. Prior to European invasion of places such as Africa and “the Americas” there was no left or right of capital. The political left and right are Eurocentric means to Eurocentric ends. They are a false dichotomy that serves to limit discourse and confine us all to a civilized, Eurocentric paradigm. Considering this, it isn’t surprising that people are beginning to notice, identify, and call out the racist currents within these “Occupy” movements.
Many times leftist movements seek direct democracy as their form of government. How is majority rule justifiable by a people who have committed genocide? How do we call for majority rule after we have stolen land and killed off most of that lands’ first people? If the majority of people on this continent are settlers, and direct democratic rule is imposed, it isn’t difficult to see where the power would lie. Majority rule in a settler colony means “settler rule.” The list of demands presented on coupmedia.org had this to say:
“Opinions do not help our cause.
The numbers in the polling will naturally resolve your feelings democratically. If you strongly agree or disagree with proposed Demands, lobby your cause and get the votes up to represent your opinion. This is what democracy looks like.”
Indeed, this is what democracy looks like. Needs and desires are disregarded in favor of some homogenized, sanitized platform. Those with the most influence and/or the most power can get their “cause” pushed through and formalized into platform or policy. Those on the margins, those most adversely affected by the status quo are once again marginalized by the very same system, the very same dynamic, and the very same structures that marginalized them in the first place: civilization itself and its outcroppings such as work, production, economics, politics, and colonialism. The message is clear, those attempting to streamline and homogenize the thrust of these currents seek to silence those that are most marginalized.
Formal “Occupy” lists of demands (which could be more accurately described as requests) contrived by the co-opting leftist vanguard tend to be essentially a list of liberal reforms and a prime example of recuperation. These reforms do not include anything about honoring treaties with First Nations, ending “development” (better known as destruction) of sacred sites, recognition of tribal sovereignty or autonomy, release of Indigenous political prisoners such a Leonard Peltier, toxic dumping and other ecocidal practices on reservation lands and sacred sites, or anything of the sort. As such, they effectively shut out what should be the prime concerns of any currents seeking liberation, once again forcing Indigenous issues to take a back seat or become invisible altogether, continuing the genocide.
The idea of demands itself is a capitulation. A demand is part of a dialogue. Those in power have the option of not acquiescing to demands. There needs to be no dialogue with power, but a dismantling of the power structure. We can not rely on those in power to work against their own interests, and the mere idea of doing so is a disempowering notion. If change is to come, it will be through the collective action of the people desiring that change, not through the reluctant acquiescence of our overlords.
Changes may be rebranded by the Left as “social democracy”, “direct democracy”, “participatory democracy,” “socialism”, “communism,” “social anarchism”, or any other number of Eurocentric ideologies but the end product is the same, a mere altering of the details of civilization and colonialism. The decisions made and the changes implemented by settlers under a settler paradigm ultimately serve to maintain civilization and the existing white colonial order. We are told to “be realistic” and to take “baby steps.” This is a euphemism meaning that those most affected by the actions of the top 1% need to suck it up and tough it out while those at the top of the 99% fight for the opportunity to sell their labor at a higher price, to get free college education, to fulfill their white settler fantasies at the continued expense of and through the continued genocide of those whose land they occupy.
If we are truly seeking a change, a move away from the status quo, why aim so low? Why settle for the least common denominator? Why not attempt what we all know needs to be done. Calls for us to “be realistic” are euphemisms for discouraging radicals from challenging the white settler paradigm. As white settlers, collectively, we need to stop ignoring the fact that we are settlers. We need to break with our drive to control and colonize everything including dissident currents. This land is not ours to manipulate with our politics of paternalism, be they derived from the left of capital or the right of capital. The settler paradigm and the indigenous paradigm can not exist side by side. The settler paradigm and civilization in general are parasitic and based on conquest, infinite growth on a finite planet, and disconnection from the natural world. They require continuous access to parts of the earth commonly referred to as “resources” and earth-based communities stand in the way of access to those resources. For civilization and colonialism to be perpetuated, extermination of such communities is inevitable.
Decolonization is not a political process. It is not an economic process. The United States government could not, even if it so desired, legislate decolonization. Economists could not construct an economic formula for decolonization. Philosophers and academics can not synthesize a philosophy or an ideology for decolonization. It is not a matter of communism or fascism, socialism or capitalism, left or right. It is a matter of dismantling civilization and thereby the colonial structure, eliminating the existing paradigm in favor of one that is wild, decentralized, non-homogenized, and earth-based.
For settlers, decolonization includes uncivilizing ourselves. We too are descended from land based tribes, albeit much farther back, but we can not assume after years of colonization and genocide that we will be welcomed into indigenous communities. So if we are to be truly dedicated to decolonization, that means reconnecting with a land base and land-based life-ways. It includes decolonizing our hearts, our minds, and yes, even our rebellion. It includes creating communities and life-ways outside the walls of civilization, outside of the confines of economics and politics. It means giving up this cheap, plastic, throw away existence and embracing our humanity and our wildness. It means not settling for being just a settler. America is already occupied. It’s time to decolonize.
Until the Earth Is Wild Again,