Decolonising the “We” and the Tyranny of illusion. Part 1
Ketana Saxon : 22 DECEMBER 2015
“If there is any hope for the world at all, it does not lie in climate-change conference rooms or cities with tall buildings. It lives low-down on the ground, with its arms around the people who go to battle every day to protect their forests, their mountains and their rivers because they know that the forests, the mountains and the rivers protect them.”
With the dire state of affairs facing all life forms on this planet there is a frequent chant being heard from emerging “Climate change/ Climate Justice movements. “We are all in this together”, “to change everything we need everyone”, and various versions of this call for a “Global Movement”. It is easy to understand the attraction to the collective euphoria of imagining, and on the few occasions when large groups join a large march, the brief euphoria of experiencing, “we” can change things, turn the disaster around, “create a new world” and so on. There is a growing assumption that if only all activist groups and movements around the globe could just come together on the same mission, “the system” (whether you define that as capitalism, and/or industrial so called civilisation) can be defeated. The current popularity of Naomi Klein and her book and movie is in its ability, (in large part due to the sheer scale of resourcing of that ability, more on that later) to both capture and fan this euphoria.
Many excellent and in depth writings abound that have spelled out with extensive and conclusive evidence the scale of what humanity and all other life forms are facing which is as devastating and dire as imminent total life systems collapse. The questions I want to raise however, address the response to that reality within which the following assumptions are becoming prevalent, potentially tyrannical and even instrumental in ensuring our fate:
1. The strength needed to “defeat the system” requires a “global mass movement”.
2. ”We” must “put our differences aside” in order to work together to create that “global movement”.
3. The “urgency” is such that “taking too much time” in the process will weaken “unity” without which all is lost.
4. And last but by no means least, the “message” ( promoting all of the above via the slickest possible means ) is even more important than the outcome in real time.
First lets look at the “We” apparently required for the “global movement”. In recent weeks there have been numerous reports written by indigenous peoples on their experiences of participating in climate action marches coinciding with the Paris Cop21. (see below links). These incidents, where Indigenous groups have been pushed to the back of the march by organisers (often from the large NGO’s), and voices and presence silenced and sidelined, highlight that colonialism and racism is, of course, as pervasive as it always has been wherever groups gather in combination of peoples from the global North and South. The responses from the climate march organisers to the challenges from the peoples affected, have been dismissive and patronising such as “we are all in this together” the “planet” needs us to “work together” and there’s “no time to get hung up on our cultural differences/rights” and various versions of such arrogant avoidance. Herein lies the inherent colonising and re colonising power of the “We”. “We”, like it or not, when declared by those to whom the status quo bestows advantage, and privilege ( whether or not they actively collude with that privilege does not remove the privilege bestowed by the system) is loaded to the hilt with ( fake) entitlement,( to take over, go first, know better etc) with assumed superiority, and is nearly always entrenched within the domain of access to considerable resources( including corporate sponsorship) that back up and ensure that false, but within the current system powerful, position. Such oppressive behaviour and positioning props up and perpetuates the very system that is driving the climate emergency that “we” claim to be “all fighting together”.
“We” need to rise up in a “global movement”
Globalisation is the corporate tool hoovering up power and resources. It has got that way, and is ever increasing its reach, by destroying the identity and strength of communities, and has based its devastating greed and profit driven madness on destroying the very foundations of family and community and small scale food growing systems, and is especially destructive to indigenous peoples, land, water, and all other life forms. Living systems do not gain strength by all the individual components trying to “fit” into one overriding function or identity. Living systems gain maximum overall strength when each element or component develops and expresses its own inherent uniqueness, through strengthening the inseparable mutuality of its relationships with other components, and hence maximises the sum strength health and contribution of the whole. Resisting and weakening the corporate death system, is far more likely within the paradigm of living systems if/when multiple communities, activist groups and causes, and indigenous peoples, LOCALLY strengthen their own unique identity and take back autonomy (sovereignty) which the global corporate juggernaut has, through the age-old colonising process, diluted, appropriated and decimated. The sum total of that localised taking back of power processes, connected through wider national and global networks rather than “merged” (colonised) “movements”, is more likely to undermine and weaken the grip of the colonial industrial system globally. This outcome is fundamentally different from, and poses a far greater threat to the system than the (dream of) many peoples, groups, and causes trying to dilute their identity and strengths by merging into “one movement” based on “one issue” were that even possible! For the communities themselves, such a process is also more likely to equip them for facing the realities ahead rather than getting seduced by the feel good “put all our energy into the mass movement” paradigm. The amount of energy drain and distraction in multiple groups and causes trying to “fit” into (“agree on”) “one” approach with one platform/vehicle for that approach, undermines real resistance which is inevitably recolonised repeatedly by the dominating ( “we”) behaviour of the groups and so called ( these days often celebrity) “activist leaders” from the global North. It is no accident therefore, that this “oneness” message is now captured, endorsed AND promoted by corporate funding. There has been a growing buy-in to the message that climate change will be THE issue to “bring us all together” ( one ring to bind them all! ) however, climate change is the RESULT OF, not cause of, destruction of sovreignty of indigenous peoples and communities and ecosystems, by corporate global colonisation. Magical thinking about a “global movement” brings with it real danger of recreating more of the same. In these times when information, media and social media messaging is corporate funded to the tune of $ millions, this globalised, “single issue focused we can change everything” is a clever seductive message, taken over and proclaimed by the global colonial “we”. This message has been corporate funded and packaged through media especially social media (see below links )via, political party “campaign” culture”, big “green” NGO’s “single issue campaign culture”, and currently via the book and film “This changes everything”. This is insidious corporate marketing genius at its most powerful and is thus most difficult to expose. For those who are committed to real responses to the realities of these times however, underestimating the power of this sophisticated weapon of the system will be at our increasing peril. The genuine aspirations and urgency and commitment of those who fight on the front lines for change and survival are being appropriated, colonised and effectively sold back to the people with great “hopium” appeal, but under such a “show time” banner, will more realistically be the kiss of death, through take over by distraction and dilution, to any real response remotely appropriate to the scale of the catastrophic machine that peoples and all life forms are facing.
Ketana Saxon lives in Waiotemarama, New Zealand and is a member of the Hokianga Environmental Protection Group
Part 2: Forms of resistance and who controls the narrative (work in progress..)