28 July 2013

Colonizer Meets Colonized: From the Heart

In the theatre production "From the Heart," just finished its run at the Uptown Mall, the most moving vignette was the second one, the tete a tete about the play itself and the implications of awareness of colonialism in ourselves, the colonizers. "Not about guilt, not about negativity" - but about education, awareness, acknowledgement of what really happened and how we continue to benefit. Feelings of suppressed injustice and release arose as I listened, with the realization of how pervasive is this "settler's" curse - whether in Canada, the US, South Africa, Israel, or any other land that has seen waves of conquering armies, immigrant races, or marauding corporations decimate resources, cultures, and previous populations.

After the show Cedar brought the discussion to the present, a world where 99% of the people are now united in our colonization by the 1%. In this world we no longer need to be divided by issues and identities of separation on the basis of race, nationality or territorial seniority. The predominant separation that controls and overshadows all the other issues now - environmental, political, economic, cultural - is that between the 99% and the 1%.

Lest we jump to the witch hunt and lynch mob, the 1% is not even a class of people, per se. Those handful of wealthiest on the planet are, we presume, still human at the core; just as, on the other side of this unequal division, all of us in the 99% have seeds and remnants of rapacious tendencies in our DNA. The 1% is not so much a human demographic as a fiction of privilege: a manufactured bubble of power and protection propped up by such legal machinery as Admiralty Law and the notion that corporations enjoy the rights but not the responsibilities of actual, living and breathing persons. Its occupation of the apex of the pyramid is secured, most blatantly, by a combination of brute force, fear and intimidation, bribery and blackmail; and more insidiously, by controlling education, media, information and entertainment, accepted modes and boundaries of discourse, definitions of "normal," and social pressures to conform.

In the play about reconciliation with First Nations, we are told of the nineteenth-century ploy by the US government to wrest lands from the Lakota Sioux, forcing them to sell their treaty lands or be denied food payments under those same treaties: "Sell or Starve." In Canada today, 2013, the federal government repeats the tactic by denying funds to any First Nations band who refuses to support the new omnibus legislation (Bill C-45) further stripping them of rights and resources. A young man from the Nanoose band, sipping tea with us in the lobby after the play, shares that it's more complicated than simply reviving traditional culture and language; the world is changing so fast that everyone - young and old, First Nations and settlers - must negotiate the appropriate way forward, a way that is unclear and changing by the day. Henry Giroux, writing in this morning's blogosphere on the assault on critical thought in American culture, comes to the same conclusion:
Young people increasingly have become subject to an oppressive disciplinary machine that teaches them to define citizenship through the exchange practices of the market and to follow orders and toe the line in the face of oppressive forms of authority. They are caught in a society in which almost every aspect of their lives is shaped by the dual forces of the market and a growing police state. The message is clear: Buy/ sell/ or be punished.
If the native people of Canada are the First Nations, then the youth of America, and by extension the world, are the Last Nations. "In a Maryland school," Giroux notes, "a 13-year-old girl was arrested for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance." A logical development, in a time when "the war on terror ... has morphed into war on democracy." The assault is the same, the mounting crimes against nature and humanity, and time has come to hold this universal predicament to the light.

A pyramid by its very design cannot be simply "toppled," reformed by coup or revolution. Maintaining the hierarchy of power, one form of corrupt leadership replaces another, down through the centuries. Instead it is time for humans to recognize our innate equality, to level the playing field to the horizontal ground of natural democracy on a community level. The Occupy movements recently have demonstrated a nonviolent, consensus-based approach to grassroots participation in affairs that concern us on a human level. Growing past colonizer and colonized, we need to deal now with each other as equals, and to reconcile ourselves collectively with nature which still holds us.

Humanity in the collective can be considered a living organism; and as such it can be encouraged and trusted to carry out its innate healing powers. A few months ago I had a dermatology treatment using light and a photosensitive cream to zap precancerous cells under the surface of the skin. The results were ugly for the first few days, as red spots and blotches appeared all over my face. A few days more, and the red spots began to darken and dry. In two weeks they had all flaked and fallen off. The healthy skin, with no further intervention, had simply moved the offending dead cells up and out of the system, and restored itself to a healthy condition.

Awareness and acknowledgement are the first steps. Appropriate action and healing are the natural consequences to follow, given a continued willingness to listen and learn from each other.


Sal said...


A truly engaging piece, the product of the most skillful and compassionate of human intelligences. I especially loved the paragraph beginning "Lest we jump to the witch hunt and lynch mob..."

Please share more!

James said...

Well said. Let's keep this conversation going, toward deep decolonization. Healing ourselves and our culture through humility, listening and creativity.

P.J.Mora said...

Hi Nowick,
You have a very eloquent and clear description of the problem. Recognizing the problem is the first step in changing our political culture.

The next step is initiating solutions. You mention the occupy movement, and that is a promising ideal.
Ideals need to be discussed, written down and a significant number of citizens need to agree with the rules, status, and legislation of a new citizens' constitution.

You find an example of that on the booklet "Perpetual Direct Democracy" which is available on line at www.pasifik.ca

Nowick Gray said...

Thanks for your thoughts and link, P.J. - as we need new practical ideas and tools like that to move forward!