~ Yana Barbarian
~ Yana Barbarian
An excerpt from Derrick Jensen. Very pleasing to come across again today.
“Sustainable development” is a claim to virtue. The word “development” used in this sense is a lie.
The word “develop” means “to grow,” “to progress,” “to become fuller, more advanced.” Some synonyms are “evolution, unfolding, maturation, ripeness,” and some antonyms are “deterioration, disintegration.” And here is a real usage example from a dictionary: “Drama reached its highest development in the plays of Shakespeare.”
But here’s the problem: A child develops into an adult, a caterpillar develops into a butterfly, a stream harmed by (say) mining might possibly in time develop back into a healthy stream; but a meadow does not “develop” into white-box houses, a bay does not “develop” into an industrial port, a forest does not “develop” into roads and clearings.
The reality is that the meadow is destroyed to make the “development.” The bay is destroyed to “develop” it into an industrial port. The forest is destroyed when the “natural resources” are “developed.”
The word “kill” works just as well.
Think about it. You’re going about your life, when someone comes along who wants to make money by “developing” the “natural resources” that are your body. He’s going to harvest your organs for transplantation, your bones for fertilizer, your flesh for food.
You might respond, “Hey, I was using that heart, those lungs.”
That meadow, that bay, that forest were all using what you call “natural resources.” Those “natural resources” were keeping them alive. Those “natural resources” are their very body. Without them they die, just as you would.
It doesn’t help to throw the word “sustainable” onto the front of whatever you’re going to do. Exploitation is still exploitation, even if you call it “sustainable exploitation.” Destruction is still destruction, even if you call it “sustainable destruction.”
One sign of intelligence is the ability to recognize patterns. We industrialized humans think we’re smarter than everybody else. So I’m going to lay out a pattern, and let’s see if we can recognize it in less than 6,000 years.
When you think of Iraq, is the first thing that you think of cedar forests so thick that sunlight never reaches the ground? That’s what Iraq was like before the beginnings of this culture. One of the first written myths of this culture was of Gilgamesh deforesting the hills and valleys of what is now Iraq to build great cities.
Oh, sorry, I guess he wasn’t deforesting the region; he was “developing” the natural resources.
Much of the Arabian Peninsula was oak savannah, until these “resources” were “developed” for export. The Near East was once heavily forested. Remember the cedars of Lebanon? They still have one on their flag. North Africa was heavily forested. Those forests were destroyed—I mean “sustainably developed”—to make the Egyptian and Phoenician navies.
Greece was heavily forested. Ancient Greek philosophers complained that deforestation was harming water quality. I’m sure the bureaucrats at the Ancient Department of Greek Sustainable Development responded that they would need to study the problem for a few years to make sure there really is a correlation.
In the Americas, whales were so abundant their breath made the air look perpetually foggy and were a hazard to shipping. “Development” of that resource removed that hazard. Cod were so numerous their bodies slowed the passage of ships. “Development” of that resource fixed that, too. There were so many passenger pigeons that their flocks darkened the sky for days at a time. Once again, “development” of that resource got rid of them.
Do you know why there are no penguins in the northern hemisphere? There used to be. They were called great auks. A French explorer commented that there were so many on one island that every ship in France could be loaded and it would not make a dent. But that “resource” was “developed” and the last great auk was killed—oops, I mean “developed”—in the 19th century.
Two hundred species went extinct just today. And 200 will go extinct tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that.
Every biological indicator is going in the wrong direction.
And we all know why. The problems are not cognitively challenging.
“Development” is theft and murder.
“Development” is colonialism applied to the natural world. “Development” is kleptocracy―a way of life based on theft.
Here’s another test of our intelligence: Name any natural community—or ecosystem, if you prefer mechanistic language—that has been “managed” for extraction, or that has been “developed”—by which is meant industrialized—that has not been significantly harmed on its own terms.
You can’t, because managing for extraction is harmful, as we would all recognize if, as in the example above, it happened to us. We would all recognize that if an occupying army came into your home and took your food and a couple of your relatives that your family would suffer.
So why, with all the world at stake, do we suddenly get so stupid when it comes to “sustainable development”? Why do we have such a hard time understanding that if you steal from or otherwise harm a natural community, that natural community will suffer harm?
Upton Sinclair wrote: “It’s hard to make a man understand something when his job depends on him not understanding it.” I would extend that to read: “It’s hard to make people understand something when their entitlement depends on them not understanding it.”
In the 1830s, a pro-slavery philosopher argued that slavery was necessary because without it the slave owners would not have the “comforts or elegancies” upon which they had become so accustomed.
The same is true here, when we extend the understanding of slavery to the natural world, as this culture attempts to enslave—read, “develop,” oops, “sustainably develop”—more and more of the living planet.
In short, we’re allowing the world to be killed so we can have access to ice cream 24/7. And we call it sustainable development so we can feel good about ourselves as we do it.
The good news is that there are a lot of people who see through the bullshit. The bad news is that this doesn’t, for the most part, affect policy……
A story may help make this clear.
Before the big Rio Earth Summit in 1992 (and wasn’t that a success! Things are so much better now, right?), the US ambassador to the United Nations sent out high level assistants across the country, ostensibly to get public input as to what should be the US position at the summit. One of the meetings was in Spokane, Washington, where I lived at the time. The hall was packed, and the line of people to speak snaked to the back of the building. Person after person testified that “sustainable development” was a sham, and that it was just an excuse to continue killing the world. They pointed out that the problem is not humanity, but this culture, and they begged the US representative to listen to and take a lead from Indigenous peoples the world over who lived well and lived truly sustainably on their lands, without “development.” (In fact, they lived well and sustainably because they never industrialized.) They pointed out that “development” inevitably forces both Indigenous peoples and subsistence farmers off their lands. Person after person pointed out precisely what I’m saying in this article.
When we were through giving our testimony, the representative thanked us for our support of the US position and for our support of “sustainable development.” It was as though he hadn’t heard a word we said.
Here’s the problem: The word “sustainable” has since been coopted to not mean “helping the real world to sustain,” as in playing your proper role in participating in a larger community that includes your non-human neighbors, but instead to mean “sustaining this exploitative lifestyle.”
Think about it: What do all of the so-called solutions to global warming have in common? It’s simple: They all take industrial capitalism (and the colonialism on which it’s based) as a given, and the natural world as that which must conform to industrial capitalism. This is insane, in terms of being out of touch with physical reality.
The real world must be primary, with whatever social system you are talking about being secondary and dependent, because without a real world, you don’t have any social system whatsoever. “Sustainable development” is a scam and a claim to virtue because it is attempting to sustain this exploitative, destructive culture, not the world on which it depends.
And that will never work.
So many Indigenous people have said to me that the first and most important thing we must do is decolonize our hearts and minds. Part of what they’ve told me is that we must break our identification with this culture, and identify instead with the real world, the physical world, the living Earth that is our only home.
I want to tell one final story. In his book, The Nazi Doctors, Robert Jay Lifton asked how it was that men who had taken the Hippocratic Oath could work in Nazi death camps. He found that many of the doctors cared deeply for the health of the inmates and would do everything in their power to protect them. They’d give them an extra scrap of potato. They’d hide them from selection officers who were going to kill them. They’d put them in the infirmary and let them rest for a day. They’d do everything they could, except the most important thing of all. They wouldn’t question the existence of the death camp itself. They wouldn’t question working the inmates to death, starving them to death, poisoning them to death. And this failure to question the larger framing conditions led these doctors to actively participate in the atrocities.
With all the world at stake, it’s not good enough for us to paste the word sustainable in front of the deceptive word development when what we really mean is “continue this exploitative and destructive way of life a little bit longer.” That destroys the words sustainable and development and, of course, contributes to the ongoing destruction of the world. It wastes time we do not have.
With all the world at stake, we need to not only do what we can to protect the victims of this culture, but we have to question the continuation of this death camp culture that is working the world to death, starving the world to death, poisoning the world to death.
“If you want to change the world love a man, really love him. Choose the one whose soul calls to yours clearly who sees you; who is brave enough to be afraid. Accept his hand and guide him gently to your heart’s blood where he can feel your warmth upon him and rest there. Burn his heavy load in your fires. Look into his eyes, look deep within and see what lies dormant or awake or shy or expectant there. Look into his eyes and see there his fathers and grandfathers and all the wars and madness their spirits fought in some distant land, some distant time. Look upon their pains and struggles and torments and guilt; without judgment. And let it all go. Feel into his ancestral burden and know that what he seeks is safe refuge in you. Let him melt in your steady gaze and know that you need not mirror that rage because you have a womb, a sweet, deep gateway to wash and renew old wounds.
If you want to change the world love a man, really love him. Sit before him, in the full majesty of your woman in the breath of your vulnerability, in the play of your child innocence in the depths of your death. Flowering invitation, softly yielding, allowing his power as a man to step forward towards you… and swim in the Earth’s womb, in silent knowing, together. And when he retreats… because he will… flees in fear to his cave… Gather your grandmothers around you… envelope in their wisdom, hear their gentle shushed whispers, calm your frightened girl’s heart urging you to be still… and wait patiently for his return. Sit and sing by his door, a song of remembrance, that he may be soothed, once more.
If you want to change the world, love a man, really love him. Do not coax out his little boy with guiles and wiles and seduction and trickery only to lure him to a web of destruction, to a place of chaos and hatred more terrible than any war fought by his brothers. This is not feminine, this is revenge. This is the poison of the twisted lines, of the abuse of the ages, the rape of our world… and this gives no power to woman it reduces her as she cuts off his balls. And it kills us all and whether his mother held him or could not show him the true mother now. Hold him and guide him in your grace and your depth, smoldering in the center of the Earth’s core. Do not punish him for his wounds that you think don’t meet your needs or criteria, cry for him sweet rivers, bleed it all back home.
If you want to change the world love a man, really love him.
Love him enough to be naked and free, love him enough to open your body and soul to the cycle of birth and of death and thank him for the opportunity as you dance together through the raging winds and silent woods. Be brave enough to be fragile and let him drink in the soft, heady petals of your being. Let him know he can hold you, stand up and protect you. Fall back into his arms and trust him to catch you even if you’ve been dropped a thousand times before. Teach him how to surrender by surrendering yourself and merge into the sweet nothing, of this world’s heart.
If you want to change the world, love a man, really love him. Encourage him, feed him, allow him, hear him, hold him, heal him. And you, in turn, will be nourished and supported and protected by strong arms and clear thoughts and focused arrows because he can, if you let him, be all that you dream.”
…from a random tumblr post
Image of homelessness from the now-defunct Italian blog Moving & Learning.
Big Pharma loves to invent new ‘diseases’ so that they can then invent dubious new drugs to ‘cure’ them, give them an official-sounding acronym (“ED” for hawking Viagra to men with low self-esteem), and then frighten you into hounding your doctor to ask if their new drug “is right for you”.
Ever since the term Information Sickness was coined, and ever since I started saying that in our modern overcrowded world we’re all suffering from a form of mental illness, I’ve been looking for a label to put on this ‘illness’. So I thought I’d invent a new disease. I’ve decided to call it Civilization Disease. I thought of calling it a ‘sickness’ but the term ‘disease’ is truly ancient, and before the invention of medicine meant literally ‘lack of room or opportunity’. Ancient peoples understood that crowding and confinement really are the causes of ‘dis-ease’.
So having named this new disease, it’s only appropriate that I provide an appropriate medical summary of it : Symptoms & Diagnosis, Causes, Treatment & Prognosis, and Prevention.
Symptoms & Diagnosis:
Causes and Sources of Infection:
Treatment & Prognosis:
“Depression is a global epidemic. It is the main driver behind suicide, which now claims more than a million lives per year worldwide. One in four Americans will suffer from clinical depression within their lifetimes, and the rate is increasing with every generation.
It robs people of sleep, energy, focus, memory, sex drive and their basic ability to experience the pleasures of life, says author of The Depression Cure Stephen Ildari. It can destroy people’s desire to love, work, play and even their will to live. If left unchecked it can cause permanent brain damage.
Depression lights up the pain circuitry of the brain to such an extent that many of Ildari’s psychiatric patients have called it torment, agony and torture. “Many begin to look to death as a welcome means of escape,” he said in a Ted Talks presentation.
But depression is not a natural disease. It is not an inevitable part of being human. Ildari argues, like many diseases, depression is a disease of civilization. It’s a disease caused by a high-stress, industrialized, modern lifestyle that is incompatible with our genetic evolution.
Depression is the result of a prolonged stress-response, Ildari said. The brain’s “runaway stress response” – as he calls it – is similar to the fight or flight response, which evolved to help our ancestors when they faced predators or other physical dangers. The runaway stress response required intense physical activity for a few seconds, a few minutes, or – in extreme cases – a few hours.
“The problem is for many people throughout the Western world, the stress response goes on for weeks, months and even years at a time, and when it does that, it’s incredibly toxic,” Ildari said.
Living under continually stressful conditions – as many modern humans do – is disruptive to neuro-chemicals like dopamine and seratonin, which can lead to sleep disturbance, brain damage, immune dysregulation and inflammation, Ildari says.
Civilization is the disease
Epidemiologists have now identified a long list of other stress-related diseases as “diseases of civilization” – diabetes, atherosclerosis, asthma, allergies, obesity and cancer. These diseases are rampant throughout the developed world, but virtually non-existent among modern-day aboriginal peoples.
In a study of 2000 Kaluli aborigines from Papua New Guinea, only one marginal case of clinical depression was found. Why? Because the Kaluli lifestyle is very similar to our hunter-gatherer ancestors’ lifestyle that lasted for nearly 2 million years before agriculture, Ildari said.
“99.9 percent of the human experience was lived in a hunter-gatherer context,” he added. “Most of the selection pressures that have sculpted and shaped our genomes are really well adapted for that environment and that lifestyle.”
In view of nearly 3 million years of hominid existence, since homo habilis first began use of stone tools, our genus has undergone rapid environmental change since the advent of agriculture about 12,000 years ago. And in the last 200 years, since the industrial revolution, our species has had to cope with what Ildari calls “radical environmental mutation.”
While our environment has radically mutated, our human genome is essentially the same as it was 200 years ago, Ildari says. “That’s only eight generations. It’s not enough time [for significant genetic adaptations].”
“There’s a profound mismatch between the genes we carry, the bodies and brains that they are building, and the world that we find ourselves in,” he said. “We were never designed for the sedentary, indoor, socially isolated, fast-food-laden, sleep-deprived frenzied pace of modern life.”
Though he’s not entirely opposed to medication, Ildari says we can throw all the drugs in the world at the depression epidemic, and it won’t make a dent.
Anti depressant use has gone up 300 percent in the last 20 years, but the rate of depression has continued to increase. One in nine Americans over age 12 is currently taking an antidepressant, and one in five have been on them at some point.
The answer, Ildari says, is a change in lifestyle. He says the results of his six step program have exceeded his wildest dreams:
2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
4. Healthy Sleep
5. Anti-ruminative activity
6. Social connection
In his presentation, he emphasized the importance of exercise and social connection, as they are two of the hardest parts of the program for modern Americans.
Exercise is ‘not natural’
Ildari says the results of exercise on depression are so powerful that if they could be reduced into a pill, it would be the most expensive pill on earth. The problem is 60 percent of American adults get no regular physical activity. Ildari says it’s not their fault. Between long days at work and household and family responsibilities to attend to, who has the time or energy to hit the gym?
The dirty little secret about exercise, Ildari says, is “it is not natural.” We are designed to be physically active “in the service of adapted goals,” not to exercise on a hamster wheel.
Hunter gatherers get four or more hours of vigorous physical activity every day, but if you ask them they will tell you they don’t exercise, Ildari says. “They don’t work out. Working out would be crazy to them. They live.”
“When you put a lab rat on a treadmill … it will squat down on it’s haunches, and the treadmill starts to rub the fur and the skin right off it’s back side,” he said. “When you stare at a piece of exercise equipment, there is a part of your brain that’s screaming out ‘Don’t do it! You’re not going anywhere!’”
If you can’t go out gathering your own nuts and berries or hunting your own meat, Ildari recommends brisk walking with a friend. Walking for 30 minutes, three times a week, has better effects on depression than Zoloft, he said.
Another huge factor in modern depression is the lack of social connection in our modern nuclear-family bubbles. “Face-time with our loved ones puts the breaks on our stress response,” Ildari says.
The problem is we’ve replaced face-time with screen-time. “Our hunter gatherer ancestors spent all day every day in the company of their loved ones.”
Unfortunately illness, including mental illness, triggers people to isolate themselves, which only makes depression worse.
“Resist the urge to withdraw,” Ildari says, “because when you’re ill, your body tells you to shut down and pull away. When you have the flu, that’s adaptive. When you have depression, it’s the worst thing in the world you could do.”
Rewilding and Tribal Living
What Ildari didn’t mention in his Ted Talk is how difficult his cure is for most modern humans to attain. Sure, we’d all like more fresh air, sunlight, exercise, a better diet, better sleep, less monotonous work, and more interaction with loved ones, but who has time for all that?
I’m stuck here staring at my screen typing about it in an effort to make a living for myself, and many of you don’t even have time to read this article because you have 50+ hours-a-week jobs of your own. Meanwhile, immediate-return hunter-gatherers work an average of 17 hours a week. In this world, we certainly can’t just quit our jobs to be less stressed, when the financial stress would create more stress.
In my opinion, the answer lies in baby steps. Baby steps away from dependence on civilization, and toward nature, earth skills, and self-sustaining communal living. These are things I plan to learn more about while building this website. I’m excited to share what I learn with you, and hope you’ll share your knowledge with me.”
“Our era is calling us into unknown territory. This uncharted place cannot be held in your hand but is a realm within the mind. This is a prohibited realm, as taught to us by our foremothers and forefathers. This forbidden world is the land of self-love.
In many cultures and in many ages, humanity has defined itself as a misfit of creation. Whether it is Adam and Eve as blemishes in the heavenly Garden of Eden, or our current self-assignment as “the planetary pest,” there seems to be a profound sense of non-belonging in our collective unconscious.
Today we are being asked to move beyond this misunderstanding of self. We are being asked to muster enough faith to remember that everything in creation is wanted and here for a reason. We are being asked to re-assume our identity as beloved children of the Earth.
Something alchemical occurs when one holds oneself in one’s arms and says to oneself: “You are precious and I love everything about you: your perfections and your imperfections.” I would challenge you to look into the mirror and say this, but one must be ready for the experience. If you are anything like me, it may trigger some very strange, foreign and maybe even uncomfortable sensations. Not because it isn’t true, but because it has been so many hundreds of generations since many of us have actually said this to ourselves and meant it.
The poem I share here is based on the Diné philosophy that we are not only accepted by Creator and Creation, but that we are celebrated by Creator and Creation. We in turn celebrate Creator and Creation. This all makes for one grand party that my Diné ancestors knew quite well.
In fact, our European ancestors knew this world quite well, too. The only difference between the white woman and the red woman is the white woman’s ancestors were slaughtered and tortured much further back in time. We often forget the 8-9 million European Medicine Women who were burned alive, drowned alive, dismembered alive, raped, beaten and/or tortured as “witches.” We often forget how this not only harmed them, but spiritually wounded their brothers, husbands and sons who loved them. These were the women who prayed to stones, who made herbal medicines, who knew the land and the language of the land. We often forget how this episode and others served to severe our connection to the sacred motherland of Europe and engendered this sense of non-belonging.
Even in the face of this trauma, it is never too late to abandon the lie and enter the forbidden dimensions of self-love. For it is not the Creator who forbids us, but the dark. We are not only permitted by the Creator to enter this land, we are begged to enter it. For only then, will the party start again. Only then, will humanity know the joy it was created for again.
The topic of this poem is Hozhó (zh is pronounced like the j in taj mahal). Hozhó has been translated as beauty, but it means something more close to joy. Joy/Hozhó is the natural result of knowing oneself. Because to know oneself is to understand the grand celebration we are a part of. It is to know, profoundly, without a doubt, that we are loved, profoundly, by the Creator.
There are many things that keep us from feeling loved by the Creator. For women, rape can make us feel unlovable if we think it was our fault. For boys, domestic violence can make them feel unlovable if they believe they failed to protect their mother. It is our divine task to fight through the voices that say we are unloved and unworthy and find our Creator.
Only when we accept the truth of our beauty, will we let go of fear and insecurity. And only when we let go of fear and insecurity can we begin to have a real relationship with Mother Earth. A relationship that is not based on domination, separation, hierarchy, or other forms of insecurity, but a relationship that is akin to the relationship between a tree and the sun. Like this tree, we become the grateful receiver of life who, in the midst of this gratitude, is moved to give life to others, lovingly offering everything it has (shade, fruit, wood, beauty) to all that it sees.
What is really spectacular is when you have a community of these givers. In the context of the forest, even the giver is gifted with blessings unconditionally. It is not a trade. It is two beings that happen to be pouring out their heart at the same time, overtaken by the splendor of living in and as Creator’s design.
This is who we were created to be. Perhaps the pain we feel is the pain of trying to be something we are not. We are not the black sheep of the earth. We are the welcomed sons and daughters of the land. Remember this, and you will be doing your part to heal the whole earth.
It is dawn.
The sun is filling the sky
and my grandmother and I
are singing prayers to the horizon.
This morning she is
teaching me the meaning
Although there is no direct
translation from Diné Bizaad
(the Navajo language)
every living being knows
what hozhó means.
For hozhó is
every drop of rain.
It is every eyelash.
Every leaf on every tree.
Every feather on the bluebird’s wing.
Hozhó is undeniable beauty.
It is every breath we give to the trees.
And every breath they give to us in return.
Hozhó is reciprocity.
And my grandmother knows this well
for she speaks a language that
grew out of the desert floors
like red stone monoliths.
A language like arms
out of the earth
reaching into the sky,
praising creation for all
of its brilliance.
Hozho is remembering that we are a part of this brilliance.
It is finally accepting that
you are a sacred song that brings the Diyin Diné’é
to their knees in an almost
Hozho is re-membering our own beauty.
And my grandmother knows this well
for she speaks the language of a
She speaks the language
of hooves hitting the dirt
for she was a midwife and would
gallop to the women in labor.
She is fluent in the
language of suffering mothers;
fluent in the language
of joyful mothers;
fluent in the language
of handing a glowing newborn
to its creator.
Hozhó is an experience.
But it is not something
you can experience
the eagles tell us
as they lock talons
in the stratosphere
and fall to the earth as one.
Hozhó is inter-beauty.
And my grandmother knows this well
for she speaks the language of the Male Rain
which shoots Lightning Boys through the sky,
pummels the Green Corn Children
and huddles the horses against cliff sides
in the early afternoon.
She also speaks the language of the Female Rain
which sends the scent of dust and sage into our hoghans
and casts rainbows in the sky.
Us Diné, we know what hozhó means!
And you! You know what hozhó means!
And deep down I think we know what hozho
does not mean.
Like the days we walk in sadness.
Like the days we live for money.
Like the days we live for fame.
Like the day the conquistadors came,
climbed down from their horses
and asked us
if they could buy
We knew this was not hozhó
because we knew
you could not own a mountain.
But we knew we could make it hozhó once again.
So we took their silver swords
and we took their silver coins
and we melted them
with fire and buffalo hide bellows
and recast them into beautiful
squash blossom necklaces
and placed it around their necks.
We took the silver helmets
straight off their heads
and transformed it into
a fearless beauty.
We made jewelry:
Hozhó is the transmuting of broken bones.
Hozhó is the prayer that carried us
through genocide and disease.
It is the prayer that will carry us through
through this global fear
that dances like a shadow
in our minds.
This morning my grandmother is teaching me something
She is teaching me that the
easiest (and most elegant) way
to defeat an army of hatred
is to sing to it beautiful songs
until it falls to its knees
‘It will do this,’ she says, ‘because it has finally
found a sweeter fire than revenge.
It has found Heaven.
It has found Hozhó.’
And so my grandmother is talking
to the colors of the sky at dawn
and she is saying:
(beauty is restored again…)
It is dawn, my friends.
Copyright 2016 (c) Lyla June Johnston