How the Conquest of Indigenous Peoples Parallels the Conquest of Nature

by John Mohawk

Seventeenth Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures October 1997, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts Edited by Hildegarde Hannum ©Copyright 1999 by the E. F. Schumacher Society and John Mohawk

May be purchased in pamphlet form from the E. F. Schumacher Society, 140 Jug End Road, Great Barrington, MA 01230, (413) 528-1737,

Introduction by Kirkpatrick Sale: I can’t refrain from beginning by noting that today marks the seventeenth Annual Lectures, and seventeen brings to mind a story that reflects some of Fritz Schumacher’s ideas: the story about the man who dies and leaves his three sons seventeen horses. He says in his will that they should be divided, half to the first son, a third to the second, and a ninth to the third. Well, this was a perplexity to the boys. They had no idea how they were going to divide seventeen by a half or a third or a ninth, and so they went to the tribal elder, and the elder said, It is perplexing, but I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you one of my horses, and then you’ll have eighteen. That’s excellent, they said. Half of eighteen is nine, and a third of eighteen is six, and a ninth of eighteen is two, so let’s see, that’s nine and six is fifteen and two is seventeen. We’ll have one extra horse, and we’ll give it back to you. A story that tells us, as Schumacher would tell us, that however difficult things may look, there is a way for us to succeed. As some of you will know, Schumacher was a spiritual man, deeply spiritual, and his last book is devoted to it. It took many turns in his life, from Gurdjieff to Buddha to the Pope, but always he was guided by a spiritual sense. Somewhat late in my own life, I have come to an appreciation of this sort of wisdom and an understanding of the necessity for a spiritual approach to political problems and the environmental crisis we face. I’ve called my sense of spirituality ìecoism,î founded on a kind of nature-based spirituality in which one understands nature as living, the earth as living and holy and sacred, all species as holy, founded also on a biocentric appreciation that the human must recreate itself at the species level to fit in with all the other species. One gains moral guidance from this kind of nature-based spirituality by knowing that what is right for oneself is right for the other species and for the living earth. It is very much like Aldo Leopold’s moral statement that something is right when it preserves the integrity, stability,

If a student asked the professor. Describing the fortunes of this hemisphere’s and to some degree other hemispheres’ indigenous peoples provides an endless sequence of bad news. a compelling author. both as humans and as fellow creatures. But first let me mention some of the issues I find myself grappling with in social history. If we lived by that code. my thinking has been shaped by my official career. **** I want to begin by thanking Kirk and the Schumacher Society for arranging to have me come here today to share my thoughts with you. who occupied a narrow niche in the world of thought: they were all Western European. Each one was required to know what was said by the preceding one. they were all male. and it is wrong when it does otherwise. appreciates it more. We talked about areas of philosophical thought that have not been explored to their depths in the English language. In those days undergraduates were required to take a course in philosophy. I remember putting out issues in which we raised questions about the nature of the relationship of the human spirit to the natural world. For some twenty years I’ve been doing a range of writing. Lately. this ecoism is my newfound way of expressing something that is very old—indeed.and beauty of the biotic community. nature-based peoples. and a great friend: John Mohawk. I teach social history. Were there any philosophers in China or Africa?. It is an ancient tribal wisdom. although I imagine they’ve been explored at some depth in other languages. they were all from what we would describe as the elite privileged classes. I think. including journalism. and stick to the book. although I think it’s high time to make that connection. And none. and as a whole they stayed within a set of boundaries they defined for themselves. knows this better. an indefatigable speaker. At one time I was the editor of the largest American Indian publication in the Americas. which deals broadly with people’s everyday lived experiences in different cultural contexts and also with how people come to think and feel the way they do about what they encounter in the world. as it were. and tribal peoples. as a hobby. a subject not usually associated with ecology. As a writer I have brought people a lot of bad news. Akwasasne Notes. I need only say here that he has been a distinguished teacher. I won’t burden you with a long list of the wonderful things he has done in his career. for example. . the more or less curt reply was. I became interested in social history when I was in college. something that has been thought by 99 percent of human society. and each one was required to build on that. than the man who is our first speaker today. one would imagine. Now. in the course I signed up for I learned that there was really only one genre of philosophers. They belonged to a club. a small and conservative and Eurocentric college. we would be able to survive and thrive. throughout the world have had systems and beliefs very much like this. which dealt with ideas that at the time were definitely not mainstream. an inspiring editor. Not that I know of. though. and we broached the idea that human-created societies are inappropriately distanced from the physical realities of the world.

In Hitler’s Willing Executioners Daniel Goldhagen asks. of our culture.Having been exposed since then to the ideas of people of many different cultures. shoot women and children in cold blood. of military experience. I dutifully went back and started reading about the foundations of Western thought. Over thousands of years the populations of the Mediterranean had been conquered numerous times before the formation of the Greek citystates we associate with classical Greek culture. By the time we get to the Romans. But what were the Greeks actually doing? They were the creators of the most astonishing military organization in the world. they have a plan. and gave us our ideas about nature and society? I soon made a distinction between what the Greeks said and what they did. All of humankind’s problems are going to be solved by reaching this goal. This lack of indigenous culture leads me to William McNeill’s observations in The Rise of the West. After all. building on centuries. Successive waves of conquest destroyed any continuity of culture. Who were these Greeks. I saw them as an arrogant bunch who thought they had a new and better way to think about the world. Therefore. I think we need to study Western civilization in order to understand when certain narrow and limited ways of thinking first appeared and where we went wrong. This tied in with my reading of Isaiah Berlin’s The Crooked Timber of Humanity. But usually while they’re pursuing their goal. I asked myself. all we have to do is follow the real story of Western civilization . You can’t have a utopian society unless you’re willing to crack a few eggs. walk outside. I ask myself why these ideas are not part of the overall survey of philosophy even though the profession has loosened its collar a little bit in the thirty years since I was a student. they discover that there are other people who are standing in their way or at least occupying ground needed for them to carry it out. who gave us what we think of as the foundation of our thought. and it’s almost always necessary to crack other people’s eggs to get there. but actually Greece was old by the time of the classical Greeks. He points out that the utopian religions which appeared in the two centuries before and after Christ arose out of rootless urban populations who had no consciousness of place. in which he points out that episodes of horrific human slaughter and devastation throughout history often are the product of utopian ideologies. get up in the morning. My philosophy professor had described a group of men sitting under a tree philosophizing. as it were. It is difficult to find anything resembling the remains of an indigenous Mediterranean culture. trying to understand it in the light of other cultures. and then come back in the evening and have supper as though they were doing nothing more than making widgets? How could people act in such a cold-blooded manner? Well. Utopian ideology in the context I’m using the term means that people have an idea. even millennia. all of the peoples had been Hellenized. How could average everyday ordinary churchgoing Germans. who we all know were fully acculturated twentieth-century Western civilization people. Understanding the nature of utopian ideology helps us find answers to certain troubling historical questions. Classical Greece is taken as the starting point of European history. As I studied Greek philosophy. there certainly can’t have been only one stream of knowledge in all of history. Some clever people with good administrative and organizational skills put together armies that were able to march across the world and defeat everybody in their path relatively easily. and according to their plan a utopian society is at the end of their path.

who were then brought in and treated similarly. They are among the most interesting artistic forms ever produced by the West. According to some accounts. including the land.and we’ll see that there has been episode after episode after episode of people getting up in the morning. and stamped out. and murdering people. The success of herbalists in curing their patients contradicted this faith in the sole power of the Church. they were also cracking eggs along the way. they were really railing against nature as an evil power. You might say that the witches provided the early capitalization for the formation of European nation states. Individuals who had a spiritual relationship with plants or animals were considered to be practising magic. What we have is a pattern of behavior of utterly unbelievable cruelty in a society that claims to be civilized. This belief was a direct threat to the power of the Church. the Church was the only possible intermediary betwen humans and supernatural powers. and they then used these powers against their enemies. millions of people over three centuries were accused. Witches weren’t going to admit to using magic. Classical Greek philosophy also rejected nature-based religion. The war on magic was a psychological war on nature. who promised them the powers of nature in return. As far as I am concerned. an evil power that must be controlled. . they were herb doctors. Multiplied by hundreds of thousands or even millions of people over centuries. and then in 1492 the Jews were expelled from Spain. by the Church and the state in collusion with each other. What were they guilty of? They were herbalists. Another example of the consequences of utopian ideology is the campaign against magic during the three hundred years starting around 1450. Socrates argued that the world must be based on reason. Let’s turn to Socrates by way of example. and the Inquisition was invented in order to drag people into dungeons and twist their limbs until they confessed and even named their neighbors. I think it started in what we call the modern era at that moment when Western Europe exploded out of Europe and expanded all over the world. They were not only making war on nature. beginning in the 1450s when the level of intolerance in European societies rose enormously. People accused of being witches were frequently selected because they had property that was desired by the local authorities. so quite often doing away with a witch proved profitable for the coffers of both town and Church. and burned at the stake. the plunder must have amounted to a great deal. going out. They took the property. tortured. This same belief that people making use of the powers of nature must be getting their magic from the devil prevailed in New England: when John Mason or Cotton Mather railed against the practices of the Indians. What did Socrates say about the people who were in the temples interpreting dreams and making forecasts and telling fortunes? He said it was all nonsense that should be replaced by rational thought. which proclaimed that when Christ ascended to heaven. Until they returned to earth. overcome. so a certain amount of coercive force was required. Pogroms were started against the Jews. who believed that the powers of nature could heal the human body. God the Father and the Holy Spirit went with Christ. by the way. In the 1600s it was believed that these people had renounced Christ and were in league with the devil. It wasn’t waged by individuals but by the major institutions in Western culture. That was the beginning of the witchcraft trials—for the most part involving women. one of the great fountainheads of Western civilization’s understanding of the human spirit is actually the old Greek myths that Socrates disparaged. not on dreams and myths and the like.

Stzvetan Todorov raises the question of how the Spanish could be so callously indifferent to the lives of the Indians on the Caribbean islands. We’re a community of very bright people. in engineering. so many of this and that. Cuba. Instead. What happened during that generation-long occupation of Hispaniola. Another point needs to be made: one of the books I read said that the Indians were killed off by diseases. We’re evil exploiters. A military historian comes right out and says. it just happened. but he didn’t. We’d have to be hoeing the garden. they come to the conclusion that the purpose of organized armed aggression is to plunder. The Conquest of Paradise) say about the Caribbean islands? Samuel Morisson says in Admiral of the Ocean Sea that it was unfortunate the Indian population declined at that time. and we’re going to do it without any bad conscience whatsoever because we have the power and we can get away with it. As I kept delving deeper. the Spanish didn’t want the Indians to disappear. We’ll make these other folks do it because if they don’t. That is what the Greek city states really were. the plan was to use so many cannons. and we’re going to conquer these people. What do the major works (excluding Kirk Sale’s book. and if we think long and hard enough. by 1516 they were almost all dead. Aristotle could have said. we’ll come up with all the answers. In fact. He could have said that. When military historians study human behavior. Now. It’s a project of organized thought that will lead us to solve all of humankind’s problems in science. However many Indians there were. let’s not lose track of the point here: there was a catastrophic decline in the Indian population on the major islands the Spanish were occupying. They were not killed off by diseases. Apologists for the Spanish say the decline in the Indian population was not great because there weren’t that many Indians there. Or take Lewis Hanke’s . and we need someone to do all the drudgery. washing the dishes. Whether there were 800 thousand or 800 million. and all the rest. The agenda here was to plunder. we real bright people won’t have any time to sit under a tree and think about how smart we are. in art. we have the arms to do it. because what the philosophers are saying is entirely different from what is happening.I gradually came to believe that it’s not enough to study the history of philosophy. The viral diseases the Spanish had that devastated Mexico didn’t reach the Caribbean islands until 1518 or 1519. Puerto Rico? In his book The Conquest of America. he developed a rationale for one culture ruling another. I found that in the history of philosophy the part that deals clearly with what’s really going on is something we don’t ordinarily read in social history. But we need time to think. and that is military history. For me Columbus Day is a reminder of the Spaniards’ behavior in the Caribbean between 1492 and 1516. What he said was. The same question applies to the Spanish on the mainland of Central America and South America and to the English and then the Dutch in North America. Let’s consider the Caribbean islands. Columbus Day was observed recently. that’s something which should be inscribed on the library wall at Columbia: the purpose of organized armed aggression is plunder! I believe that philosophy was used by Western civilization to obscure the act of plunder by cloaking it in fancier terms. and the project we will set for ourselves is to define civilization. How could they? How can there be greater indifference to human life than was exhibited in the African slave trade? Western civilization is filled with such episodes. Military historians don’t shrink back from talking about political agendas. No they weren’t. the future of the world lies in the governance of the intelligent people of the world. in every arena. Socrates lived at a time when the major form of social organization could best be described as either military oligarchy or military dictatorship.

book. The King of Spain was embarrassed by all the reports about the cruelty of the conquistadors. And it went on and on for twenty-five years. He’s called the father of modern racism because of that. to move plants and animals out of the way—all in order to meet the development needs of modern industrial society. Hanke reports the existence of torture factories on the Caribbean islands. Sepulveda would have used pretty much the same language and the same reasoning to explain why the Spanish were justified in doing what they did to the parrots. in fact. John Bodley’s book on the conquest of indigenous peoples in South America today. Once you believe that one group is better than all the rest. by the way. murder is justified. so in 1550 he called for a debate. to the trees. The purpose of such cruelty was not merely to extract wealth. They can do this because of their belief system that says what they are doing is not only not wrong. There were torture manuals that recommended using green wood instead of dry wood to prolong the time it takes to burn somebody to death. Read his descriptions. In the late sixteenth-century the Dutch artist Theodor De Bry did a series of illustrations based on the reports of Batholomé de Las Casas. The Germans tended to torture people more at arm’s length. stepped forward to make the arguments. What will the payoff be? One view is that through science we will someday conquer the major diseases of the world. I think we look at this kind of racism from the wrong perspective in our culture. to move other people out of the way. He concocted every excuse he could think of to explain why it was all right for the Spanish to do what they were doing to the Indians. any act against nature is justified. and of course he started off with what the Indians were not—they were not Christian and they were not civilized. I have to tell you it’s gut-wrenching stuff. The real issue here is not Spanish racism toward the Indians. Aristotle and the American Indians. Juan Gines de Sepulveda and Bartolomé de Las Casas. a priest who was offended by the torture. but it’s essentially an unknown story. You won’t find it in any American history textbook. it has to be done in order to create a world which will be able to solve all of humankind’s problems in the future. The only thing that matters is the aggrandizement of Spanish culture. to every living organism on those islands: they were all biologically inferior beings lacking the consciousness and culture of Spaniards. How you get from that idea. although wealth was certainly one of the prospects. it went way beyond that. He wasn’t happy that they were getting out of hand and escaping the crown’s control over them. genocide is justified. two priests who were also lawyers. to the idea that it’s all right to bulldoze huge areas in the name of curing cancer is a . only the Spanish are a little more artistic. then read the chapters in Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners and tell me there is a difference between the psychology of those Germans and those Spaniards. whether human or nonhuman. to the fish. The same thing is going on. It’s the Spanish claim to superiority over every group. whereas the Spanish were up close and personal about it. seems to spend the most amount of time looking at how people rationalize to themselves their right to seize land. In all of the literature about what’s happening to indigenous peoples Victims of Progress. therefore. the Spanish were justified in treating them as they did. They didn’t have any rights and therefore could be enslaved and subjected to whatever the Spanish felt like subjecting them to—and the Spanish didn’t need to have a bad conscience. Las Casas wrote thirty pages describing what was happening on the islands. Sepulveda took the point of view of the conquerers. and we’ll be able to live forever.

that we have no choice but to follow it and sometimes crack a few eggs? Do we share that attitude? Every day about forty thousand children die worldwide from preventable causes. we’re pirates and thieves and murderers. According to him. They specifically forbid countries that have a lot of poor people from subsidizing food. Given that pervasive mentality long enough. right away they say. There’s not a single thing in the way of plundering the earth or destroying peoples that is necessary in order for scientists to be doing research on cancer. the whole of German society was in on it because they had so valued themselves and so devalued everyone else. What? You have to be two hundred miles from the nearest road killing trees in order to cure cancer? Think about the Germans in World War Two and the fact that not only were they willing to kill people but they were completely without conscience about it. Curing cancer has nothing to do with plundering. You can’t say that. Lappé says that’s not true. not just the Jews. They built up utopian ideologies that protected them from their conscience. Some of these children die from diarrhea. These programs are designed to create hunger. which claims they weren’t a little clique of criminals at all. The two aren’t connected at all. The core of Hitler’s message was that Germans as the privileged few deserved to have the fruits of the earth. What about us? Are we like that? Are we blind? Do we have no conscience? Are we so sure we’re on the right path. and they demand that measures be taken to drive down wages in those countries. . but usually it’s assumed that the major cause is the lack of enough food in the world to sustain the poorest people. What is in fact happening is that the major financial institutions in the world are imposing something called Structural Adjustment Programs on governments in poor countries. All through history. groups who plundered—like the American miners in California and the American military in the northern Great Plains—never reflected. and we’re going to solve all the world’s problems. we’re the perfect example of humanity. There is enough food. a number of people will die. It’s a question of distribution. This raises the question in my mind. We know that for every percentage point of deprivation they suffer. The point is to make the poorest people in the world subsidize the richest people in the world by keeping labor at the lowest possible cost. but there are publications like the United Nations report The Fate of the Earth’s Children and Frances Moore Lappé’s Hunger: Twelve Myths. Well. Well. most of us would be affected by it too. Those Germans never stopped to reflect about what they were doing. What should we do? We should find a way to get food to poor people. we have to do this because we have to cure cancer. and the Germans couldn’t either. they were just a little clique of criminals at the top of an aberrant order who had this crazy idea for a while. The Germans said. Most of us look back at that period with horror and ask. never asked themselves if what they were doing might be wrong. The same thing the Spanish said. taking up space and resources that should be Germany’s rightful inheritance. You have to look hard to find the literature about it. and we’re out to plunder. I encourage people who believe this to read Goldhagen’s book. but poor people don’t have the money to buy it. Oh. How could they have done that? And we say. although when you talk to people. either. the right and necessary path. But people can’t get up in the morning and say. it was one of the largest projects of armed plundering in world history. which can be caused by bad water. We’re the master race. shouldn’t we? But that’s not happening.tremendous leap. So this was not only about race. All the others were in the way. Those Spaniards never stopped to reflect.

We’re not cutting our trees because we’re cutting somebody else’s. I publish Daybreak. I don’t believe that anymore. a magazine in which you’ll find stories about indigenous people trying to think through the issues of free trade and globalization. Beyond the fact of hunger is the fact that the engine driving it is the same engine—the same thinking. opportunity for whom and opportunity to do what? The information age is concentrating wealth in the hands of the few who have access to and control of resources. and that’s why they’re able to do the things that they do. A good example of this is the electronic information revolution. Indians understand that self-sufficiency is the antithesis of the global economy. rational thought leads you to do that which produces the maximum amount of money for you. We’ll have to join it because it’s a way of communicating. According to John Locke. As a result of rational thought you try to transform nature into money. It’s electronic money we’re dealing with now. it’s going quietly to its death! The plan is to make everyone part of a worldwide web. it’s not even plastic anymore. We don’t notice that our newspapers still come from trees. Read Wired magazine. for example. This revolution will sweep most of us along. Is the world growing a brain? No! But our brains are going dead! People who think in the wired mode see a marvelous world of opportunity. that is at this very moment driving the extinction of the great fishes of the sea. You’re not going to need engineers from North America any more because you’ll be . Essentially. money is not solid and concrete anymore. Internet users have the same capability to communicate with people in another part of the world as with people right in their home town. whether we want to go or not—in the same way that my ancestors were dragged kicking and screaming into the print revolution. It asks questions like. We’re willing to be consciously ignorant. of whole species of plants and animals in many parts of the world. You can buy accountants for six dollars a day in Calcutta. For a long time I believed the problem was that people don’t have enough of a connection with nature. but we’re willing to live with it. because they don’t come from trees here. down to the last fish. This means even down to the last tree. It reads as though people have lost their minds. This means. Some people think the electronic information revolution is going to solve all our problems— the same kind of utopian stuff I’ve been talking about. without asking themselves.We know this. trying to figure out where they stand. in activities that are destructive in the long term. But this is happening far from our vision. The American middle class is being dismantled and it’s even cooperating. a worldwide marketplace. Locke argues that it’s a wonderful thing to have money because it transforms our wealth derived from nature into something solid and concrete. the purpose of the politics of the intellectual movement of the American Indians in the hemisphere as a whole and certainly in the southern hemisphere is to encourage biological diversity and encourage local food production for local consumption—the kinds of things Schumacher talked about. Here in New England reforestation is actually taking place. I propose to you that we live in an age of utopian excess that is driving us away from doing what would be sustainable and survivable and is diverting us into participating. the same structured institutions—that is driving the destruction of forests and the extinction of animal species. in ways we’re not even conscious of. that you’re not going to need accountants from North America anymore. And I think we need to understand that the global economy is playing a major role in the destruction of our natural resources and of species and is rationalizing that destruction in terms of John Locke’s definition of what is rational. Of course. what action they should be taking.

adjusted people who are not destroying their environment. it exists among the Australian aborigines. if I may say so. I went to visit a particular group of Indians living on what you might call a gravel pit. An individual can’t practice Lakota culture or Hopi culture. The reality is that for all of our ego. My God. or it may be a machine paradise. When we get there. The place is full of things you can’t see. Cultures that are nature based have reframed nature in ways that have given it life and color and energy and excitement. which seems to me colossally large. It exists among Buddhist communities throughout the world. it’s always so dry. To have a utopian vision you must believe that time is linear. I was just sitting there with members of the tribe. When that culture exists. It’s not going to happen. we listen to Michael Jordan saying. I wear these shoes. this is one of the most depressing places I’ve ever been. These are happy. and the cheapest labor of all is on the other side of the world from us. that essence which makes your lived human experience truly lived and human. the people in Marin County are trying to find that happiness. Most of us don’t ask ourselves. But in fact cheap labor does not solve our problems. that someday life will be better than it is here and now. from the ground. Human cultures have an enormous capacity to reframe things. a series of competing ideas about how we are going to get there. Once I visited a tribe on the northern Great Plains. Most of us don’t ask . That’s the long-term prospect. and you have to sacrifice others in order to make it happen. their world is full of spirits that come in from the sky. And what a wonderful world they have. for example. You need a whole group of people for that. the history of the to get all the engineering skills you need on the other side of the world. And we have rationalized our behavior in the context of that conquest and plunder. Not between the individual and nature. built by the creative internal aspects of human society. The idea is to have fewer people doing more things more cheaply. No trees. who are in fact celebrating their environment because they aren’t engaged in utopian thinking. no grass. so they must be good. The things that really matter in human society are not in computers. I looked around and thought. But they have something else: a culture. You can find people who are part of it and who don’t have very much money. we’ll all be happy. You’d look at that landscape and think to yourself. The actual trend over the centuries has been toward a politics of conquest and plundering. they’re trying to find that connectedness. and he’s a great basketball player. Instead. I think this has been. when we make choices about what we’re going to buy. Almost every few days the Hopis perform a ritual of one kind or another to acknowledge the spirits of their place. it has a sort of magic. Part of our problem in Western culture has to do with how we reframed nature. Of course. We are not going to make it to that place called Utopia. Why don’t they plant some grass? The place is a desert as far as the eye can see. that establishes a beneficial relationship between the society and nature. And where is there? It may be heaven. and they bring that place to life for you. folks. They’re reliving a cycle instead. No trees. Then you talk with the Indians. our life span and the space we occupy are incredibly small. How does this purchase implicate me in the plunder? Most of us don’t talk to people who are from Indonesia before we go and buy our Reeboks. it never rains. it exists among Indians in the deep rainforest. but they are living more happily than the people living in California’s affluent Marin County. and the distance between here and Utopia is insurmountable. Live with the Hopis for a little while. and they’re not in any utopian vision about solving all the world’s problems.

Well. I don’t believe it’s necessary to cut down the rain forests to satisfy consumer demand for cheap lumber. to tell briefly that story about your friends in Australia and the lizard? This is something that happened years ago when I was editor of Akwesase Notes. which is produced in the Third World. We should step back and ask ourselves some serious questions: Just how much of that world market economy do we really need? What costs are we paying for what we get? Thank you for your kind attention. I asked what kind of help he needed. I began by saying I wanted to emphasize the connection between ecology and social history. it’s not there because if the college offered a course like that. could I first ask you . they tend to buy things that come from places which create social orders they’d prefer not to support. Most people I know can’t tell me where the clothes they wear were manufactured. or what the conditions were under which they were manufactured. . But I personally don’t believe we have to take steps to starve people in the Third World in order to drive down the price of labor. I think this kind of information is part of social history. destruction of towns and villages.000 children every day in order to maintain the world market economy.ourselves. It also has to do with what expectations you have concerning the kind of life you might live. pollution? In choice after choice that people make. You can say. with what options you have for choosing the quality of life you want. exploitation of people. they’re going to destroy the lizard. who manufactured them. who started her own line of clothing. Excerpts from question period: Kirk Sale: Before we take questions. We need help. its funding would be jeopardized. Once we recognize this connection. which in my opinion shouldn’t be retained in its current form. I said. and I asked how many lizards were left? He said. Who are you? and he said. we don’t know anything about it. So people commonly will buy things in the grocery store that were grown 3000 or 4000 miles away. This is the only one. I don’t believe it was necessary to murder all those Indians in the Caribbean. We’re such and such a tribe in Australia. And he said. which I couldn’t pronounce. Where do you find courses on values? Show me a course about choosing your options. John. If you believe that’s necessary. What’s behind my purchase? Could there be military dictatorship behind it. we are led to obvious choices. The phone rang around 5:30 in the morning. This kind of information is not offered to people in college. but in fact they do choose those products because they can claim innocence of the underlying conditions. Social history has to do with where the things in your life come from and what the conditions are that produced them and how the conditions that produced them contribute to the life you’re living. He had a name for it. of course. then you can support the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. and the voice on the other end said. We’re all like the television star Kathie Lee Gifford. I don’t believe it’s necessary to create conditions that kill 40. Well.

and in that moment of consciousness everybody acted correctly. and the door is shut. it’s part of them. On the other hand. The way I think about the future is a lot less . Here in this place is where we belong. that’s described as the Golden Age. yet you could walk about Australia forever and never get a sense of its magic unless you know all the wonderful stories associated with it. — How are they going to do that? — They’re going to drill right through it. and no one can go there and look at it and say. on the other hand. mind you. and there seems to be a tendency in a lot of Western cultures to have a cosmology of a lost Golden Age and some kind of trek back toward that Golden Age. I’m not familiar with that many aboriginal philosophies and their sense of the circularity of time. you have linear history. The ceremonies were all performed perfectly. We had a long conversation. I think that in a culture where this is done. and the whole array of relationships between humans and animals was perfect. no one knows where the Garden of Eden was. Those stories make the land sacred. How is your idea of a future that would be better than what is happening now not a utopia? I define utopia as a place that is conceived by human agency undertaking steps to create a world in which all of humankind’s problems are solved forever. and you can’t get back. which is a kind of utopia. They look at a formation and to them it’s a lizard. They are embedded in the culture. In the history of modern conquest. Go to Australia. they’re getting ready to do that. In other cultures there’s a period. But they still live. — They’re going to drill through the lizard? — Yes. a moment of consciousness. everybody was paying attention. There’s no Elder to carry children to the top of the mountain. the space and the place and the timelessness of the place become important. You were booted out. The goal then is that you have to strive to restore it all. This used to be the Garden of Eden. There’s something basic and fundamental about that. The walkabout is the way to experience the land. It was a lizard during the dream time. It’s a wonderful thing. Well. The landscape of Australia is alive with history for the aborigines. I’ve been interested in different people’s cosmologies for a long time.— I said. the West has the Garden of Eden. Look at the land and listen to the stories of the aborigines. people are not grounded in one place. it looks like a mountain.and it’s going to be destroyed by a mining project. but it all began to decay. or to tell them. which means that people’s attention is not focused forward but rather on reestablishing a cyclical past. and in that regard those with utopian visions have always believed they’re on an almost sacred path and that there’s no cost which shouldn’t be paid to reach their goal. The Garden of Eden fits nicely into linear history. where they can experience the rising of the sun. everybody was doing the right thing. and of course in Australian thinking the earth has lots of beings who were alive in the dream time and who appear to us now as geological formations. In the West. except that you can’t get back there. Is there a similarity there or would you say that the idea of a lost Golden Age might be some sort of crumbling decaying little root that drives us to think in terms of progress and needing to move forward? Many cultures have a story about how things were long long ago in the unimaginable past. which the Australians live and everybody else only muses about. and it turned out that the lizard is a mountain. Could we back up a little bit? What does the lizard look like? And he said. The West does too.

I see tastes changing. We should regard the food producers as the heroes of our culture. history doesn’t focus on this kind of cooperation. To the extent that we can produce more locally—that means having local tailors and local bootmakers. although I do have to qualify that.t You have to keep this global electronic communications system in order to achieve something local that won’t give rise to what I conceive of as the tendency of human nature to consider one’s group. I think our attitude toward farming should be turned around. just try it! To be a farmer you have to be a mechanic. and in which we can actually spend time enjoying what are considered the simple things. is or isn’t a good thing. I also think it is possibe to live in human cultures in which food is abundant and good. you know. the living surroundings are good. I communicate with people in small villages and in very remote . but if we don’t communicate all over the world. It’s like a lot of what we have to deal with: it’s there now. Human societies have not in fact been voracious destroyers of other human societies. It’s starting to happen. There are places where people have lived for very long periods of time in harmony with people who were very different from them. for example. But I do think people have the capacity to live in coexistence with others without exploiting them and without destroying them. People think farmers are not very bright. but we will also get better products. I think this approach is more crucial than ever because in my opinion self-sufficiency is the bane of the global economy. the worst elements of it. Not only that. I do not mean individual self-sufficiency. I mean regional selfsufficiency. an accountant. The world I would like to see would assign more value to those things we can do for ourselves and to building on that. I don’t think we need to worry at this point about whether the reach of global communications into the Third World. a botanist. What you do for yourself is almost always better than what’s made up for you in an assembly line. we will slow down and stem the global economy. for example—two things will happen: first. That’s not what’s been going on in the world most of the time. It would pay attention to rebuilding a culture and an economy around localism. No. People are tending to want organically grown produce if they can afford it. In the future I envision. looking to our neighbors for those things they can do that we can’t. however. I certainly don’t want to crack anybody’s eggs. no. and sometimes you have to be a lawyer. a negotiator. I am of course in favor of localizing economies. in which there’s a continuity of our communities and our cultures. I do believe. one’s tribe as worthier than others. All those skills are needed. an engineer. then we’re not going to know when one group starts to think it’s better than the res. The simple things require a lot of skill. We’re buying more than that. I was a truck farmer when I was in my twenties. It’s an arguable point of view that the reason it hasn’t been going on most of the time is that people haven’t had the capacity to do it.ambitious than that because I don’t believe the world is perfectible. and second. What is presented to us as history is pretty much the story of conquests. we will approach our spending moments by thinking about what it is we’re spending on. we will gain control over our own lives again. the people around us are good. Well. because the pair of shoes we buy is not just shoes.

I think. even though we will communicate with them that way because the means exist. In fact. I know it also means that many of us who would never have had the resources can now concentrate enough equipment on our desktop to be able to do documentary films on a shoestring. people recognized it as a bad thing. The belief system ultimately expressed by Adam Smith is that as time goes by the economy will grow in such a way that everybody’s boat in the whole world will rise with the rising tide. For two hundred years we’ve been tending to be too big. but even so. I have to say the computer revolution scares the hell out of me. I do it by e-mail. and the economy will keep on getting better and better. But we don’t need to have a consciousness that helps paddle it down the stream. as opposed to looking at progress as something linear. to adopt programs and procedures from the school board on up to the legislature to make things big. and I’m going to use it because I have no other way of reaching people in remote places. investment. Is it going to take a total collapse before we can begin to turn ourselves around? It’s probably because I’m familiar with so many non-Western cultures and their thinking that I believe the antidote to progress is cultural. Yet I have to acknowledge that frightening as it is. we’re caught in it. change. I give a course in which we explore everything from Adam Smith to Maynard Keynes and how the whole ideology of progress has been sorted out and worked out. and we’re not likely to get out of it. is to consider the quality of the world that’s being built. It wasn’t designed for electronic communication with poor peasants in small villages in the backwaters. though. Excerpt from the speakers’ panel with Arthur Zajonc and Greg Watson following the lectures: . it’s a system designed for world domination. Now we’ve got to begin thinking small. Overall. and it’s about hugeness. it’s a system that is going to benefit banks doing credit card verifications. philosophers. that the real point. Yes. What bothers me is that we say we’re going to benefit from a global network. So many things have been that of Latin America all the time. The electronic communication system exists. and they have no other way of reaching me. Never has so much informtion. but I’m going to get some right away. I’m clear about that. Almost all of the late twentieth century economists. What about the gunpowder revolution? When gunpowder was first invented. it’s a system that is going to facilitate greatly the ability to move currency speculations in huge numbers across the globe. It really helps students to understand what that ideology is all about because it has been one of the underpinnings of and one of the most powerful forces in the capitalist system. and economists still agree with that. though. and yet there were those who said. From Adam Smith all down the line. so much power been concentrated in so few hands. about unending expansion. Everybody has been inculcated with the idea that we’ve got to grow. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. I have to say that on balance the computer revolution is frightening. we’ve thought in terms of progress. At the university where I teach.

People ask. and they have to be local in their output. A great Resource for Lectures such as this. At the same time. That’s more important now than it ever was before. we are getting clearer about their getting worse. His books include: Exiled in the Land of the Free (written with Oren Lyons). How can you stay so cheerful. John Mohawk is a Professor of American Studies at SUNY Buffalo. People occasionally ask me. and I don’t believe it’s going to be changed by moral coercion. although things are getting worse. on new institutions to solve those problems with. people have to be cosmopolitan in their outlook. E. you have to balance between optimism and reality. Act locally but think globally. I’m also the messenger of a not very pleasant story—about technology. A Basic Call to Consciousness. Back to Ongwhehonwhe Home Back to Indigenous/Green Politics E. about corporations getting bigger and militarism getting worse.F Schumacher Society Publications Index. and I say. It’s not going to be changed by pure brute force. Despite my own realism about how things are. And I think it’s this clarity that will help us change direction. It’s going to happen by working on new ways to solve problems.I think that to be in this kind of work and not have an optimistic personality would probably take one into the depths of despair.F Schumacher Society Home Page . And in the end they are finding little ways. and The Red Buffalo. I still remain optimistic because we’ve had a lot of people with a lot of intelligence and experience over a long period of time working on trying to find ways to bring about change. How can you come back so energetically week after week and have a lot of positive things to say? On the other hand. and it’s not going to get any less important in the future. Well. In fact.

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