In 2007 I had the opportunity to visit Nepal for a couple of weeks, half of which I spent in Kathmandu. I happened to be in the city during a nationwide demonstration by the indigenous peoples of Nepal. There are more than 50 distinct peoples who call Nepal home, and although they’ve been overrun by settlers for many centuries, at least 50 of those nations still have their languages and cultures despite being forced to speak Nepalese. The motivation for their demonstration was, in part, because the Nepali Supreme Court ruled that the indigenous languages of Nepal would not be recognized and allowed to be spoken in the courts.
Here’s what I saw that day: a united, nationwide protest that shut down all airports, banks and businesses. There were no cars, buses or trucks on the road that day, no one made any money because no one went to work. It was the most well planned and executed protest I have ever witnessed, wherein all the different indigenous nations of Nepal were in solidarity and because of that solidarity they were able to control the country without firing a weapon or injuring anyone. They simply shut it all down, and Kathmandu, one of the noisiest cities I’ve ever visited, was silent.
What’s happening now in Canada has the same power, clarity and unity that I saw in Nepal. And it’s spilling into the United States.
I hope the fire they’re starting makes its way across the sea and wakes up Na Kanaka Oiwi, and calls us to stand in solidarity with them. They need it… we need it.
This is a link to just one of the many blog postings out there. It’s by author and educator Leanne Simpson, and her blog is called “Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society.
Here are links to 2 really well articulated critiques of the film, one from the world of political activism, the other from the world of anthropology.
Deep Green Resistance News Service
The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology
Deep Green Resistance is a movement majorly influenced by indigenous peoples’ ways– it’s a movement to stop the fast forward motion of the human destruction of nature. Animals aren’t causing climate change, fish aren’t making the tides rise, it’s people. And more specifically, it’s the institutionalized, governmentalized machinery invented by people doing the damage. DGR gets a bad rap by many because at the core of their mana’o, patriarchy is something to be dismantled, along with the capitalist train it rode in on. But DGR really frightens people because they hold a Malcolm X, “By Any Means Necessary” position. Of course, that’s me presenting the skinny– DGR speaks for itself and I suggest people read up on their mission.
This post is about something that came across the DGR News Service today, a post about a kid named Amanda Todd. It’s what I admire about DGR movement in general: they look beyond the surface and examine the systems that are informing and shaping events. I’m sharing this post because it’s a thoughtful analysis of the politics and culture that played a role in the how and why a 15-year old girl was cyber-bullied to death.
Beautiful Justice: The Life and Death of Amanda Todd
by DGR News Service
By Ben Barker / Deep Green Resistance Wisconsin
“Hello! I’ve decided to tell you about my never ending story.” These were the words written on the first two flashcards that 15-year old Amanda Todd shows viewers in the silent video she created about two months before she recently committed suicide to escape social torture.
Anti-bullying posters hang in every public school across the United States, yet kids continue to harass and hurt each other without intervention. Every school day, 150,000 students stay home out of fear of being picked on. Bullying has become epidemic, but still is only a symptom of the broader culture in which it exists. Despite even the most earnest efforts, youth problems and school problems cannot be solved until social problems and cultural problems are.
Amanda Todd is dead not only because she was born into this culture of bullying, but because she was born into it with a female body. Her flashcards continued: “In 7th grade I would go with friends on webcam meet and talk to new people. Then got called stunning, beautiful, perfect, etc. Then wanted me to flash. So I did. 1 year later I got a msg on facebook from him. Don’t know how he knew me. It said if you don’t put on a show for me I will send ur boobs. He knew my address, school, relatives, friends, family names. Christmas break. Knock at my door at 4am. It was the police. My photo was sent to everyone. I then got really sick and got anxiety, major depression, and panic disorder.”
While tragic to be sure, Amanda’s case is but one among countless more that lead girls and women first to crippling depression and then to their deaths. ( go here to read the rest of “Beautiful Justice” http://dgrnewsservice.org/author/dgrnews/ )
The PLDC issue is something that will likely play out for sometime to come, but it’s worth tracking the story to keep up on connected issues and who opposes and who supports what the state is doing with regard to the so-called “ceded land.” These are the Crown and Government Lands of the Hawaiian Kingdom. How does a nation go about ceding their public lands to a foreign country?
FSRN broadcast of the story
The Dam Boom in the Amazon (published July 1, 2012)
A confrontation between the insatiable appetite for energy and the enduring need for habitability is under way in Brazil as it moves aggressively to harness the power of its rivers with plans for dozens of hydroelectric dams.
Such projects are engineering and aesthetic marvels that provide hydroelectric power and can also control floods and direct water for irrigation. But they also divert rivers, destroy animal habitat, displace entire communities and drown vast amounts of land beneath reservoirs.
He produced and directed a super important documentary about the dam, which is posted at the Yale Environment 360, an environmental website.
One project has galvanized the anti-dam movement in Brazil — the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon in Pará State. At a cost of roughly $16 billion, it is one of 30 large dams that have been announced for Brazil’s Amazon region.
At last month’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development here, it was hard to miss the irony of delegates gathering to promote a “cleaner, greener and more prosperous world for all” as opponents of Belo Monte protested in the streets of Rio and Indians occupied the dam site.
Belo Monte’s first turbine is expected to be operational in three years, the entire project in seven. It will be the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam, capable of generating more than 11,000 megawatts of electricity. (In New York, Consolidated Edison’s record demand is 13,189 megawatts, set last July.)
The Brazilian government and executives at Norte Energia, the consortium of companies behind the dam, say the project is vital to meeting the energy needs of a country poised to become the world’s fifth largest economy by 2017. They argue that in 10 years, Brazil will need 56 percent more electricity, and that hydropower is the cleanest, cheapest and most dependable option.
The finished dam will stretch nearly four miles across the majestic Xingu. It will also radically transform the land and the lives of at least 20,000 people, including thousands of Indians who have lived along the river for centuries. The project includes two dams, two canals, two reservoirs and a system of dikes. More earth will have to be dug than was moved to construct the Panama Canal, according to the environmental group International Rivers.
Other environmental groups say the dam will flood more than 120,000 acres of rain forest and release an enormous amount of the greenhouse gas methane from rotting vegetation suddenly placed on the bottom of a reservoir. Critics also say the seasonal variability of the river’s flow will yield much less power than advertised.
Belo Monte is one of dozens of major dams under way or in the planning stages around the world. According to Philip M. Fearnside, a professor at the National Institute for Research in Amazonia, Brazil’s plan for energy expansion calls for 48 large dams by 2020.
Altamira, a long-neglected, sleepy city in the north of Brazil, has swiftly become a hub of industry. Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, is selling Belo Monte as a shining example of an aggressive “growth-acceleration program,” one that will create jobs, raise living standards, close the gap between rich and poor and generate energy.
Such a narrative, as told in videos slickly produced by Norte Energia, glosses over Belo Monte’s negative impact on the Xingu region, impossible to miss in Altamira.
When I arrived last November with the Canadian videographer Todd Southgate to document the growing conflicts created by Belo Monte, I found a city in chaotic transition. Pedestrians, bicyclists, horse-drawn wagons, cars and huge Belo Monte trucks competed for right of way at nearly every intersection, where traffic lights were broken or simply did not exist.
“You have an environmental impact study of Belo Monte that is 36 volumes, around 20,000 pages, and it’s basically a work of fiction,” said Mr. Fearnside. “Belo Monte is a spear point for dismantling the whole system of environmental licensing and regulation here.”
In 2010, James Anaya, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, urged that concerted efforts be made to ensure that “adequate consultations” were made with the Indians and that there be consensus on the project. Based on my talks with indigenous leaders, it’s clear these conditions have not been met.
AT Norte Energia’s headquarters in Brasília, I met with João Pimentel, the director of institutional relations.
“Electricity to us means comfort — not only for us, but for everybody,” he said. “It means my computer, it means my iPhone.” Noting that Belo Monte had been radically scaled back from earlier plans, he said the dam’s environmental impact would be minimal. The river will be navigable, he added, even during the dry season, and no indigenous lands will be flooded. “They will have their way of life preserved,” he said.
Mr. Pimentel argued that the energy generated by the Belo Monte dam would provide dependable electricity to millions of Brazilians and help solve an embarrassing problem — blackouts. But Mr. Fearnside contends that only a quarter of the electricity the dam produces will go to the public. Roughly 30 percent will support heavy industries like aluminum smelting.
Where lawsuits against the environmental licensing process and other issues have stalled in Brazilian courts, opponents have drawn an eclectic coalition to their struggle. The movie director James Cameron and former President Bill Clinton are among those who have urged Brazil to reconsider.
Brazil has never wanted the international community to influence its environmental or other policies. Yet as the so-called country of the future continues to make its remarkable entrance onto the world stage — with a growing economy, the World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics two years later — it’s whittling away at one of the planet’s most vital resources, the Amazon, while ignoring the continuing drama facing the people who live along the Xingu River.
Here comes the Fourth of July, number 236 since the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence and riders on horseback rushed it to the far corners of the thirteen new United States — where it was read aloud to cheering crowds. These days our celebration of the Fourth brings a welcome round of barbecue, camaraderie with friends and family, fireworks, flags, and unbeatable prices at the mall.
But perhaps, too, we will remember the Declaration of Independence itself, the product of what John Adams called Thomas Jefferson’s “happy talent for composition.” Take some time this week to read it alone, to yourself, or aloud with others, and tell me the words aren’t still capable of setting the mind ablaze. The founders surely knew that when they let these ideas loose in the world, they could never again be caged.
Yet from the beginning, these sentiments were also a thorn in our side, a reminder of the new nation’s divided soul. Opponents, who still sided with Britain, greeted it with sarcasm. How can you declare “All men are created equal,” without freeing your slaves?
Jefferson himself was an aristocrat whose inheritance of 5,000 acres, and the slaves to work it, mocked his eloquent notion of equality. He acknowledged that slavery degraded master and slave alike, but would not give his own slaves their freedom. Their labor kept him financially afloat. Hundreds of slaves, forced like beasts of burden to toil from sunrise to sunset under threat of the lash, enabled him to thrive as a privileged gentleman, to pursue his intellectual interests, and to rise in politics.
Even the children born to him by the slave Sally Hemings remained slaves, as did their mother. Only an obscure provision in his will released his children after his death. All the others — scores of slaves — were sold to pay off his debts.
Yes, Thomas Jefferson possessed “a happy talent for composition,” but he employed it for cross purposes. Whatever he was thinking when he wrote “all men are created equal,” he also believed black people were inferior to white people. Inferior, he wrote, “to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” To read his argument today is to enter the pathology of white superiority that attended the birth of our nation.
So forcefully did he state the case, and so great was his standing among the slave-holding class, that after his death the black abolitionist David Walker would claim Jefferson’s argument had “injured us more, and has been as great a barrier to our emancipation as any thing that has ever been advanced against us,” for it had “… sunk deep into the hearts of millions of the whites, and never will be removed this side of eternity.”
Annie Pau and I first met at the Farrington Highway Starbucks on the Waianae Coast of Oahu.I was working on a story for Al Jazeera and needed a Hawaiian who was willing to be interviewed about what life is like for thousands who can’t afford rent. Parts of Waianae resemble refugee camps, so it felt wrong, meeting with a homeless person inside the mother ship of gentrification.
But nothing else was open at 6am on Sunday near Lualualei Beach Park, where Annie and her husband, John, were living in a tent with their two dogs. That beach is nicknamed “Sewers,” for the stench from a sewage treatment facility wafting across the road.
Hawaiian names are often derived from an event or legend. Sometimes they’re metaphors, other times they describe something literal. But they always have meaning, although many have ended up on the sacrificial altar of tragic irony. Given its name millennia before the sewage, Lualualei means, “Beloved one spared.”
When I arrived at Starbucks that morning, Sinatra’s voice crooned over the din of hissing spigots and grinding beans. Those in need of stimulus lined up dutifully, awaiting their single soy this and double whipped that. And there was Annie, wearing frayed coveralls, perched uneasy on the corner of a sienna toned sofa, ready to bolt if the manager looked askance in her direction. Though her life, her story began not far from here, she was incongruous in the newly built Starbucks narrative.
Annie had a short, shocking white mane, and skin so darkened by the sun she looked more black than brown. She rose when I approached and smiled apprehensively. The last of her teeth sat side by side on the bottom front row, like two moviegoers staying behind to read all the credits. Somehow the lack of enamel took nothing away from the warmth of her smile.Her face was kind and expressive. There was nothing hidden or deceitful about her.
People like Annie, ragged and anonymous, are insurgents in the war of politics and culture, their marginalized lives embodying resistance to assimilation. To quote Hawaiian activist and folk-singer, Skippy Ioane, “ ‘Dem get democracy, us get survive.”
I asked her what she’d like to eat and drink and she declined, saying, with a tobacco-scorched voice, “When we’re done talking-story I’d like a large Coke from Burger King and a pack-a-smokes from Longs, if that’s okay.” The most she’d let me buy her from Starbucks was a croissant for her husband.
Standing beside me at the register, she was flanked on the other side by a row of plastic “Ethos” water bottles, shipped from 2,500 miles away and destined to spend eternity in a Waianae landfill. A placard in front boasted that a nickel of the dollar-eighty price goes to a clean water cause in a developing country. I guess it takes the other buck seventy-five to get that nickel from here to there.
We sat down at a table and I imbibed sweet Chai Latte and Annie’s fierceness. During the 40-minute drive to Starbucks, I’d prepared myself for meeting someone who was possibly drug addicted or a little crazy.No doubt a projection of what I figured I’d become if I lived on that razor’s edge. Annie was neither.However hopeless her situation appeared to be, she was what Hawaiians call koa, a warrior. She had righteous anger without being self-righteous and the courage to speak it.
Ask her about being homeless and she takes you and your paradigm to school: “You mean houseless. How can a Hawaiian be homeless in Hawaii?” she says. “Even if I have to sleep on the ground, Hawaii’s my home.”
I interviewed Annie twice and shared a meal with her several times, but rife with paradox and contrast, the Starbucks meeting is seared in my memory.
After the police swept everyone off Lualualei, she, her husband and their dogs relocated several more times, eventually ending up at the Haleiwa Boat Harbor on the North Shore. That was where I saw her last. She looked unwell, had a cut on her foot and wore a sock on it in a futile attempt to keep it clean.
She talked about wanting to find a house, but in the same breath refused to consider living in a homeless shelter because it would mean giving up the dogs. “And besides,” she said, “in the [homeless shelter] system, you go into lockdown… they gotta lock us up to help us?”
One night, 4 months later, Annie’s husband found her collapsed in the dirt outside their van.She’d suffered a stroke. This beloved one, spared none of the ravages of poverty, died the next day, in a nice, clean hospital bed.
Annie’s last name, Pau, it means done, finished, complete. It also means consumed, destroyed.