Saturday, December 3, 2011

"Land is Life"

Indigenous people have convened from around the troubled planet to bring the voice of life to the death-dealing corporate-controlled nation-states at climate talks in Durban, South Africa on today's Global Day of Action. Democracy Now! tweeted the photo above, and is providing ongoing coverage of the demands of those "outside" the conference to those "inside" representing the 1% who profit while using the water, air, and lands that should be held in common by the 99%.

This week I returned to my alma mater, Bowdoin College, a school for mostly the progeny of the 1% where I was a scholarship student in the 70's. I was invited by Robbie Benson, a first year student, to participate in a teach-in on the Occupy Wall St. movement. Occupy Bowdoin is getting started and has been holding weekly rallies at a branch of Bank of America in Brunswick, Maine, where the college is located. Robbie had attended a Bring Our War $$ Home teach-in a couple of months ago organized by Ricardo Zarate, a second year student. At that time Robbie shared his own story: his sister has leukemia and medical bills caused his parents, both of whom hold law degrees, to fall behind on their mortgage payments. So the bank foreclosed on the family, forcing them out of their home.

At that teach-in Robbie also shared that he had gone with a sign protesting the foreclosure and stood in front of the bank in his hometown in Massachusetts. There a police officer told him he was breaking the law and would have to apply for a $50 permit from the town to stand in public with a sign.
photo source:
During the Occupy Bowdoin teach-in about 100 people in a mixed crowd of students and community members participated in a lively discussion following brief remarks from the panel I was on. There was a good long debate sparked by conservative students who complained that the Occupy movement wanted to take money away from people like Steve Jobs, founder of Apple computers, who earned his wealth by having a good idea. Other students pointed out that Apple had prospered by exploiting cheap labor in Asia and elsewhere, with the word "wealth" being defined and re-defined in terms of human capital.

I voiced my belief that wealth needed to be defined even more broadly to include natural resources, which were once commonly held, but now are used by corporations mostly free of charge to generate profits for the few. Taxpayers pay for Superfund cleanups while CEOs collect bonuses. A ripple of approval and agreement told me this point of view was shared by many in the audience. Later in the discussion Bruce Gagnon of Bath rose to state that Native Americans had reported that European settlers who came were blinded by the "green frog skin" i.e. dollar bill, to the point that they were unable to perceive the real wealth of the Earth.

It is my firm belief that unless we return to the wisdom of indigenous peoples' stewardship of the Earth we all depend on -- and soon -- the human race is doomed.
photo source: Bangor Daily News "Penobscot River Revivial packs information, fun into celebration"

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