September 20, 2016 – “White People are Learning What Red, Black & Brown Peoples Have Known for Centuries: They Are Expendable Too”

Paul Cienfuegos’ September 20th, 2016 Commentary on KBOO Evening News

(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org/podcast, or subscribe via ITunes.)

Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.

Today, I’m going to share some brief excerpts from a new essay titled “Learning from the Standing Rock Sioux”. It’s a Community Rights analysis of the Native American resistance to the building of an oil pipeline through North Dakota. Here it is…

… Our native brothers and sisters have something to teach us – white people of European descent. Don’t turn away.

What is it that makes a culture devour itself and teach its young to take what it can get today – robbing future generations of health and hope? How does a majority of people settle for toys, entertainment and “convenience,” while a minority keeps them in their office cubicles and behind fast food counters as that minority wreaks destruction: raping Mother Earth by drilling holes miles down and wide; poisoning waterways that run like veins and capillaries through this world; making the air venomous with toxins that infuse our bodies and turn the atmosphere into a toilet; and crushing any people who stand in their way? …

Some Native Americans call the epidemic disease ravaging the colonizer culture “Wetiko.” The symptoms of Wetiko include the delusion that the dominator society is separate from nature, rather than part of it. … The Standing Rock Sioux and their indigenous supporters from around the world know the ravages of this mental disease all too well. They have suffered genocide, seen their numbers and their traditions decimated, and witnessed for hundreds of years the trashing of the continent. … What is happening at Standing Rock is a profound action by the people who are still human, taking a stand to protect Mother Earth and end the destruction wrought by a diseased culture. …

Communities in the U.S. began adopting laws securing the inalienable rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish in 2006. Some of our Native brothers and sisters wonder at those of us supporting the codification of Mother Earth’s rights in law. Perhaps establishing legal protections for the rights of nature seems odd to them, not because it’s false, but because it goes without saying. Why would there need to be a law to protect so obvious a truth? Mother Earth has rights. How could it be otherwise?

It was the rationalization of the barbarity of empire-building that converted generations of Christian “settlers” to believe that God had set them above and apart from nature, which is only a collection of exploitable “resources” that must be owned as property by a privileged minority. …

Today, the fact that Mother Earth is a living, breathing entity, and that all beings are an integral part of her, is denied by the lawyers trying to protect corporate privileges from the witnesses of conscience at Standing Rock. It is denied by the court system, the public and mercenary “security” personnel, and the clueless “media” gossiping about the standoff. Judges and lawyers assert without blushing that corporations – pieces of paper chartered into “existence” with ink and official sigils – have rights. But Mother Earth, rivers, and trees? Not in this empire.

That’s why some municipal colonies of the empire write laws codifying Rights of Nature. Because in European-rooted imperial culture, law is a tool of power over people. If it is not written in law, it is not enforceable. But to many Native Americans, the truth of Mother Earth’s rights is so deeply known that it need not be codified. But it must still be lived and defended. …

Without Protectors, communities – Native and non-Native alike – will continue to be the sacrifice zones of the oil and gas industry, and every other industry that sets its sites on ruining for profit the places where we live. White people are just learning now that we are not above being prey to corporate predators. They are learning what red, black, and brown skinned peoples have known for centuries: they are expendable. …

Most white people in the U.S. grow up believing they are a self-governing people. They believe they live in a democratic republic. They believe their elected officials are public servants, obliged to act on the will of the white people. …

And yet the propaganda that passes for general education is not true. Not only Native Americans and minorities, but white people are denied community self-government. Instead, they elect their jailers as they beat their chests and proclaim they live in the freest nation on Earth – while corporations poison us; profit from the destruction of whole species, oceans, and the climate; and our children’s future is made precarious. A Pine Ridge Lakota woman once smiled to learn how little power people in U.S. municipalities and counties have to protect the places where they live. She said, “At least we know we live on a reservation.” …

I have been reading some brief excerpts from an extraordinary new essay published on September 17th titled “Learning from the Standing Rock Sioux”. Authors Emelyn Lybarger and Ben Price offer a Community Rights perspective on what is unfolding in North Dakota. The entire essay is viewable at CommonDreams.org.

You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon, and on a growing number of other radio stations. I welcome your feedback.

You can subscribe to my weekly podcast via I-Tunes or at CommunityRightsPDX.org. You can sign up for my ‘Community Rights Updates’ at PaulCienfuegos.com. You can follow me on twitter at CienfuegosPaul. THANKS FOR LISTENING! And remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for.

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