Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: "Solar Storms" by Linda Hogan

A story both soulful and righteous, Solar Storms is the tale of clashing cultures; industrial and indigenous, sustainable and insatiable.

Author Linda Hogan, a Chickasaw poet, begins the novel with Angel Wing, a young indigenous woman living in the city, long-ago disconnected with her family and people. Angel was abused and neglected as a baby by her mother and has grown up with the inevitable effects, including a tendency towards self-destruction.

This all changed, though, when Angel rejoined with her Grandmothers in a territory still held by the Native people called Adam’s Rib, a land of mostly women. There, Angel began to realize her true self—her humanity—and learned again an ancient way of relating to the land that had, until that point, been waiting inside of her to come forth.

Tragically, the inhabitants of Adam's Rib begin noticing that the fish are suffering, and the river along with them. They get word that the cause is construction of dams by Whites encroaching in a territory more North. This spurs Angel and her Grandmothers to travel by canoe on more than a week-long journey in hopes of finding a way to assist their fellow tribal communities in resisting the destruction of the land.

Upon arrival, it’s clear they have found the place of conflict and resistance. Native people had been organizing community meetings to discuss how to resist the dam-building, which would divert the river. Some construction of roads had already begun, evident by the dying natural communities who had once flourished in its fatal path.

Tulik, a man well known for having affinity and wisdom about medicinal plants, summed up his people’s attitude in a verbal response to outside corporations offering to bring in electricity: “What could be better than what we now have? We have food. We have animals. We grow our own garden. We have everything. For us, this is better than what you offer.”  Dora-Rouge, the eldest Grandmother of Angel, commented further: “We were happy before you came here. We treated the land well. We treated animals well. Our children wanted to live.”

Many activists and warriors descended on this area to help fight back. A plan of action was decided: The train tracks were to be blockaded. The action saw success and lasted for many days, predictably leading to the harassment of prominent activists, and eventually an armed stand-off between corporate forces—including their military arm, called the Police—and protesters.
Throughout this conflict, Angel had many important reflections on resistance and the traditional ways of her people which I think brilliantly sum up the urgent struggles that indigenous communities and the natural world are currently facing.

“For my people, the problem has always been this: that the only possibility of survival has been resistance. Not to strike back has meant certain loss and death. To strike back has also meant loss and death, only with a fighting chance.”   

Before civilization, she said, “we knew the languages of earth, water, and trees. We knew the rich darkness of creation. For tens of thousands of years we spoke with the animals and they spoke with us.”

“Those with the money, the investments, the city power, had no understanding of the destruction their decisions and wants and desires brought to the world. If they’d known what their decisions meant to our people, and if they continues with this building in spite of knowing, then they were evil. They were the cannibals who consumed human flesh, set fire to worlds the gods had loved and asked the humans to care for.”

In the end, the dams were stopped. But, this victory was not without struggle and loss; there were significant deaths of humans and non-humans which could not be reversed.

The lessons we can learn from this story should be obvious. The time to fight against dams, and other industrial projects, is not when the fish are completely dead and the rivers are dried up. The time is now. There are countless rivers in the world today struggling to survive in spite of countless life-choking dams. If any of us could muster even a fraction of the courage of the resisters in this book—or of traditional indigenous communities resisting such projects in reality today—there might be a real chance for defending what’s left of our landbases and seeing them flourish once again.

Reading this book made me feel more human and fulfilled the sacred task of all pieces of art and literature by inspiring me to continue fighting with all I have for the life of this beautiful planet.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Report-Back from Feminist Anti-Pornography Conference, June 16th-19th

Pornography has hijacked our sexuality and makes billions of dollars each year by debasing and dehumanizing women. This was the reason that radical feminists from around the world gathered in San Diego, California from June 16th-19th for a conference and training put on by the activist group, Stop Porn Culture (SPC). I was honored to attend and left with a renewed sense of rage and determination to stop this ongoing war on women; and also a renewed sense of humanity after being welcomed into this struggle with such brave and wonderful people.

The first half of the conference was training in how to present a slideshow that SPC has made about the pornography industry, titled “Who Wants to Be a Porn Star?”, including how to answer common questions and challenges that anti-porn activists often receive.

Also in this time-span were various presentations about the history of radical feminism, screenings of related films, and a panel with men speaking on masculinity and pornography.

The last half of the conference felt more like a seminar, and was titled Contemporary Radical Feminism in the Age of Porn.”

As put by SPC, the goal of this section was “to rebuild a vibrant, radical, unapologetic feminist movement that energizes and mobilizes women and pro-feminist men into fighting the porn industry, and fighting for real liberation. Presentations will explore how to make radical feminism timely and relevant in the lives of young women, and how to build activist movements on the local, national and global level.” In my opinion, it was very much a success.

Dr. Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, delivered a notable presentation with a title that speaks for itself: “From ‘the personal is political’ to ‘the personal is personal’: Neoliberalism and the Defanging of Feminism.” Gail spoke with eloquence and force about the necessity to move past the myth of individualism to real political movement that can fight for justice, and win.

In addition, conference attendees were honored to hear from two women who are survivors of prostitution speaking on a support network that they have created for other survivors. Another activist showed how the economic system of porn is all intertwined and essentially an empire. There was also a discussion of “Queer/Alternative porn” and how, in all its proclaimed uniqueness, it rests on the same eroticizing of domination and woman-hating that are the hallmarks of industrial pornography.

To end the conference, a panel of anti-porn feminist activists from various countries—Norway, Australia, U.K., U.S.—spoke to the various approaches that have been taken in combating sexual exploitation. Activists from Norway, who were part of a 30-year campaign that eventually led to the abolishing of prostitution in their country, led a brainstorming session on the next steps for action.

The horrors exposed throughout the conference were staggering: Over half of the women in the porn industry have been victims of incest; the most cruel, body-punishing, degrading pornography is the fastest growing genre; pornography is often used as a blueprint for rapists. The list could go on.

All of this is why pornography to me looks like the end of the world. The way ahead will involve many facets of struggle, including legal action, writing, and organizing. Feminists have been combating this industry for decades, and we must pick up the torch until our sisters are free and it’s impossible for the pornographers and pimps to exploit any longer.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Report-Back from Pine Ridge Solidarity Action, June 9th

What is now called North America was once inhabited entirely by indigenous human cultures nestled into natural communities. White settlers have been waging a campaign against these human cultures and the land for the last 500 years in countless actions which can only be understood as insanity.
As a descendant of these settlers, and because my skin is white, I’ve been born into societal privilege afforded to some at the expense of others. Yet, I see the blatant perversion and inherent wrongness o the dominant culture, and choose instead to ally myself with the natural world and indigenous communities striving to maintain their traditional ways of life.

This is what led me to recently join a caravan to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to stand with the Oglala Sioux tribe of the Lakota people in opposition to an ongoing genocide faced by their people at the hands of predatory liquor sellers in the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska.

Whiteclay has a population of 14 and consists of one short road lined with four liquor stores. Collectively, the town sells around 12,000 cans of beer every day, primarily to the Native population of Pine Ridge, which has banned alcohol within its borders. Now, one in four children on the reservation is born with Fetal Alcohol Disorder and the general population’s life expectancy is the lowest in the United States.

Lakota activists have been taking action against Whiteclay for years, but some wanted an escalation in the battle and chose to invite members of the radical environmental movement, Deep Green Resistance (DGR), to join them for an act of civil disobedience.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

We Need All We Have

Image by Meredith Stern, Just Seeds
In these times of omnicide­­­­—the ongoing attacks on all ecological and communal integrity—every one of us must ask ourselves what gifts we have and how we can best use them in the service of life. As many as there are problems created by the dominant culture, there are opportunities to resist systems of oppressive power and renew just and sustainable ways of living. It’s urgent that each of us begin identifying and meeting these opportunities. This planet cannot afford any less.

The diversity of efforts I see in my own community is greatly inspiring. Many different people—of various ages and backgrounds—are doing many different forms of crucial work, all of which is, in the end, complimentary and intertwined.

Some of the activists I know focus on community events. They put together music and art shows that tell stories of love and resistance. They organize discussion groups about radical, meaningful, and locally relevant subjects. They establish spaces where women can meet and discuss outside of men’s habitual domination of group dynamics and subject matter. They establish spaces that are safe for lesbians and gays to meet without experiencing discrimination. They screen films about social and environmental justice, and make time afterwards for discussion.

Some of the activists I know focus on the landbase. They learn and teach about the different creatures who call this place home. They find which natural communities are suffering from industrialism and exploitation and strive to help them to restore. 

Some of the activists I know focus on food. They have started a community garden, which offers around one hundred plots available for use. They run small-scale, organic farms, and strive to teach people about growing food in a way that’s healthy for humans and the land. They run projects that help distribute good food, encouraging others to take care of their bodies and helping tie together local food systems.

Some of the activists I know focus on literature. They are radical librarians, fighting against book banning and for community. They run literature distribution projects to disseminate inspiring revolutionary information.

Some of the activists I know are healers. They learn and teach about medicinal plants, healing themselves and their friends in a natural way. They offer counseling for those struggling through challenging situations. They teach about the healing powers of food.

Some of the activists I know focus on social justice. They fight systems of oppression that negatively impact women, lesbians and gays, the poor, indigenous communities, and people of color. They fight the attacks on their community by the ruling class and the colonialism and warfare used against communities around the world. They dare to challenge capitalism in favor of a more sane and just way of life.

Some of the activists I know are artists. They make music, writing, and art with themes of fighting back. They donate their gifts and work to add an artistic element to the projects of other activists.

To know so many activists dedicating their lives to justice and sustainability is deeply inspiring. When we see the scope of the crises this planet faces in its full horror, it is overwhelming. But resistance starts with a recognition of our own agency and power. It may not be easy, but, if you love life as I do, you know it must be done. My hope is that the activists I know continue doing what they are doing, that their endeavors keep growing and inspiring others. My goal is revolution, and we’ll need all we have to get there.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fascism and Resistance in Wisconsin

Given the current social climate of the dominant culture, it shouldn't be a big surprise that Wisconsin's Governor, Scott Walker, has been re-elected in the recent recall elections and, further, continues to rapidly gain power despite his overtly fascist practices.

This individual example of social destructionWalker's attacks on the natural world, deconstruction of labor unions, reversal of civil rights, and widening of the gap between poor and richis consistent with the actions of those in power, globally. In fact, these actions are systematic and necessary in order to maintain industrial capitalism. Their system is now in the midst of collapse, and corporate hands are grasping for whatever power remains in their reach.

A "Left" movement, as I define it, entails the understanding that capitalism is inherently unjust and unsustainable, maintaining the goal of it's elimination. Mainstreams Leftists, however, act most often as a "loyal opposition," if not in direct collusion with fascism.

As long as the channels for social change are limited to electing politicians and marching with signs, no significant challenges to power are made and the powerful will not concede or change in any meaningful sense. Frederick Douglass makes the point with this well-known and powerful quote:
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
Until we demand and end to Scott Walker's reign of control and destruction, and until we are prepared to use force to back up this demand, we can't even begin to stop the acceleration of these terrible circumstances. We certainly can't make change for the better. Look around. This is happening now.