Thursday, June 23, 2005


Telling Protest

Two seemingly disparate yet inextricably related news and opinion items caught my eye in the press yesterday morning: one a communique at the Independent Media Center from the Zapatistas command announcing their civil leadership's imminent going to ground; the other an op-ed in the Irish Times that begins with the statement, "The triumph of modern capitalism is to persuade people who are excluded from decision-making that they are the decision makers..."

This bizarre syncronicity between the radical American and mainstream European media reminded me of two essential points often lost in the American ether: 1. There is a global post-colonial indigenous peoples movement of self-determination taking place that--although the basis of most armed conflicts in the world--is still invisible to the ignorant and arrogant; and 2. This right to perpetuate aboriginal culture, language, economics, and governance--sometimes referred to as a way of life--is no more negotiable than the right to exist, for they are, in the end, one and the same thing.

Having recently read a paper on the potlatch economic system of Pacific Northwest Salish peoples in the Washington/British Columbia region, I was cognizant of the striking differences between how wealth was acquired and distributed amongst the First Nations and the Euro-American newcomers. Putting it succinctly, hoarding was (and is) a sociopathic behavior in the former, an exalted virtue in the latter. Granted, philanthropy is valued in the dominant society, but this often demeaning and phony practice is hardly the same thing as rituals and ceremonies where the life-sustaining blessings of the planet are redistributed as part of a system of well-understood and recognized obligations and responsibilities toward each other as human beings.

Pondering these various readings, I recalled an obtrusive remark made by some idiotic US Congressman at the time of the November 1999 Battle in Seattle to the effect that perhaps there are aspects of the Free Market that are at times less than salubrious, but this does not mean that the capitalist economic system itself is flawed. And I remembered thinking at the time, "He doth protest too much."


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