Conquest, Spirituality and Waste


“History doesn’t fall from heaven; we make history. ”   Jean Ziegler                                                       Creating a new world governed by an alterna­tive system that is not based on domination, coercion, and control, does not depend on an unrealistic goal of being able to fully describe a utopian society for all at this point in time. From our position of growing up in a patriarchal, colonial, and white supremacist world, we cannot even fully imagine how a world that is not based on structures of oppression might operate. Nevertheless, we can be part of a collective, creative process that can bring us closer to a society that is not based on domination.  This is the final paragraph from Andrea Smith’s book, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide.  She is Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies and Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside.                 

“Andrea Smith’s incisive and courageous analysis cuts through many of our accepted truths and reveals a new way of knowing that is rooted in Native women’s histories of struggle. More than a call for action, this book provides sophisticated strategies and practical examples of organizing that simultaneously take on state and interpersonal violence. Conquest is a “must read” for those concerned with violence against women and Native sovereignty. It is also a good resource for antiracist, reproductive rights, environmental justice, antiprison, immigrant rights and antiwar activists.” Julia Sudbury, Canada Research Chair in Social Justice, Equity and Diversity, Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto

This book was brought to my attention by Penelope Duus, a student of archeology and anthropology at Vassar College because I have been known to say, in her presence, that we need to prioritize care for our planet over care for more people.  My thinking is formed by a practical simplicity that without a healthy earth, there will be no people.

The first European immigrants came to America with a way of thinking about the earth that involved dominion over her natural resources.  This thinking is dissected in a chapter titled Rape of the Land, where Andrea Smith shows the correlation between exploiting the land and exploiting the native cultures, particularly native women.

The native cultures were observed to practice holism.  Holism is a lived experience. Everything belongs together and is directly translated into the actualities of daily living; a coherent world where the different aspects of the divine interact.  The individual parts are always considered in the context of which they belong both spiritual and physical.  This thinking was considered weak and unproductive.

The most distinguishing feature of the spiritual context is the pervasive respect for the intricately woven pattern of the universe within which the individual, despite his, her or its relative insignificance is embraced.  Exploitation of separate parts could destroy or affect the whole.  To the settlers, exploitation and the separate importance of resources meant improvement and was considered evolutionarily righteous .

Spirituality connotes a belief that all elements of reality contain a certain amount of life force.  It entails believing and behaving as if nonobservable and nonmaterial life forces govern one’s everyday affairs.  Thus, a continuous sensitivity to core spiritual qualities takes priority in one’s life.  It is vital to one’s personal well being in a collective whole. This went beyond the European immigrants’ one God concept and its church affiliations.  It connotes a belief in the transcendence of physical death and a deep sense of continuity with one’s ancestors and surroundings.

Holism’s orientation is social rather than directed toward the conquest of objects or personal recognition.   An overriding importance is attached to social bonds and balanced social relationships.  One acts in accordance with the notion that duty to one’s social group is more important than individual rights, privileges or needs because that connection makes the whole ecosystem thrive in unison.  Hence, one’s identity is tied to group membership rather than to individual status and possessions.  Sharing is rewarding because it confirms the importance of your interconnectedness.   Self-centeredness and individual greed are frowned upon.   This was most difficult for the first immigrant/explorers to embrace because domination, not participation was their reason for being there.

In conclusion, I am holding to my logical understanding of “no earth/no humans”, as simplistic as it is.  Yet, I am striving to understand how we can act in community to heal our earth and ourselves.  Our Waste Matters is about our waste awareness.  Our waste is a coherent visible symptom of the disease that is hurting us in exponential ways with complexities beyond our current comprehension.   Individuals acting on a collective moral scale is imperative.

How You Can Help:

  • Take note about the resources you use in relation to your actual needs.
  • Create close communities that show you how your actions affect others.
  • Calculate whether your needs benefit or deplete the earth and her resources.
  • Thank Penelope for broadening this important conversation.

Until next week,images

Garbage Girl


One thought on “Conquest, Spirituality and Waste

  1. simply gorgeous exposition… your facility with words is motivation to try and do the same
    Aud, you are a treasure and much loved


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