Might does not make right. All the power in the world cannot save us, if we lose sight of reason and justice.
This is why we need to listen to the indigenous voice. It’s not just for their survival, it’s for all of us. Those voices that were dismissed, are the voices of our own human heart. A heart that has been silenced for the punitive ideology misnamed progress.
This ideology assumed that humanity would be saved by industry, war, colonization, and consumerism. These have given us many things from silk to medicine, but the instruments of this ideology also centralized power within the hands of an elite, and a new more devastating sickness infiltrated our minds and extended to our communities.
It’s not that our leaders were stupid, absolutely selfish or entirely corrupt, but that we were all influenced by the operating system – the matrix. We (those born and raised in these systems) were taken in by the teachings of our elders who had learned how to avoid falling into the machinery in factories and on battlefields.
Children in the industrial cities who refused to submit to doctrines that didn’t make sense to them would have their pants taken down, ordered to bend over and then caned in front of their classmates. If they cried, if they showed emotion, they would be forever branded as weak. If their sisters got pregnant out of wedlock they were cast away from their families. If the continual humiliation had forced their rage and despair into their subconscious, they would not know they are walking time bombs looking for someone with less muscle to punish; someone to bully to enable a fleeting feeling of power. If they kill another on the street they are publicly hanged, and they refuse to kill on the battlefield they are executed by a firing squad.
This is how the great nations became great. By squeezing the human impulse out of humanity and replacing it with abstract disciplines far removed from the human heart yet which benefited the most powerful institutions.
Now after World War I and World War II we are able to see this system brutalizing the indigenous peoples of the entire globe. That is, we are able to see it if we dare look back to that little child sitting in a classroom not knowing what the future holds for him, raised by adults who believe they must beat all the potential errors out of him before he makes a mistake. If we dare see the many ways we were punished for being ourselves, dare feel the heart that was once full of hope, empathy, and love, dare feel the vulnerability that was ridiculed and the dignity denied throughout our formative years before we found our own power, we shall make the connection.
In terms of our culture, what does it mean if we have learned how to survive in systems that reward brutality and punish vulnerability. What do we learn from economies where managers who value their staff get fired while managers who are ruthless are promoted?
People who maintain their humanity in these institutions struggle to hang onto their jobs and their sanity. Those who give up, pretend to themselves that nothing matters except winning their own private game.
We live in the age of the game, a labyrinth of stereotypes that fail to reveal who we are. The media, the mall and the economy has failed to reflect our real lives and our personal struggles. People who have needs, who love, who feel pain, people who want good health for their relations, people who seek joy, people who want a hopeful future. People who fight quietly against extraordinary odds.
As Reinhold Niebuhr has been quoted, "nothing but madness will do battle with malignant power".
If we fail to see our own humanity in the struggles of our indigenous nations, we shall perish along with them. Most of them know this. They get it. They are us, only more so.