Category Archives: Original Peoples

Decolonization Displaces Neoliberalism in Bolivia

In the central interior of the Canadian province of British Columbia is the unceded territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. A corporate entity, Coastal GasLink (CGL), abetted by colonial-government structures, is preparing to lay a pipeline in this territory. The Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’ (hereditary chiefs) did not grant consent for this; in fact, the proposal from CGL was unanimously rejected.

On 22 July, the Gidimt’en (Wolf and Bear) Clan of the Wet’suwet’en filed a lawsuit against CGL in the BC Supreme Court connected to the enforcement on 7 January when 14 people were arrested resisting a BC Supreme Court injunction granting CGL access to the pipeline right-of-way through Wet’suwet’en territory.1

Given the state of siege and corporate Canada’s unwelcome intrusion onto Wet’suwet’en territory, what is crystal clear is that colonialism continues unabated.

Ongoing colonialism and ongoing genocide remain a reprehensible and undeniable fact in “British Columbia.”2

Overcoming Colonialism and Genocide: The Bolivian Template

To combat the insidious effects of colonialism the colonialism must be undone. South of Turtle Island is the landlocked nation of Bolivia where decolonization has been underway. Author Benjamin Dangl chronicles this in The Five Hundred Year Rebellion: Indigenous Movements and the Decolonization of History in Bolivia (AK Press, 2019). The brilliance of The Five Hundred Year Rebellion is that it lays out one actionable template for reclaiming what settler-colonists robbed from Indigenous peoples.

There are 38 different Indigenous groups in Bolivia; populous among them are the Aymara, Quechua, and Gurani. Indigenous peoples in Bolivia have mobilized en masse to reclaim their history and empower themselves through grassroots activism. The movements were labor-, union-, academic-, and politic-oriented.

Dangl writes that after the Spanish destroyed Incan society, the Indigenous-led National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) sought to reconstitute and solidify Bolivian ayllus (a centuries old community structure in the Andes). The Andean Oral History Workshop (THOA) reconstructed the historical narrative of Indigenous Bolivians.

Bartolina Sisa and Túpac Katari © Hugo Quispe

Important in restoring the historical Indigenous narrative was Katarismo organized by campesino movements in the 1960s and 1970s. Kararismo is named after the Aymara martyr Túpac Katari. In 1781, Katari with his wife Bartolina Sisa (women were an important part of the movement; p 71-78) and thousands of campesinos used road blocks (an effective tactic often used by the Indigenous resistance movements) to lay siege to La Paz, the seat of government in Bolivia. However, this uprising failed and Katari was brutally quartered by the Spanish. Katari, subsequently, has been used as a icon of the resistance against the police state and military regimes. (p 49, 61)

Out of Katarismo arose the Unified Syndical Confederation of Rural Workers in Bolivia (CSUTCB). The Kataristas resisted the military governments in Bolivia and the National Revolutionary Movement (MNR) that overthrew a military government in 1951. While the MNR brought in some land reforms, it sought to erase Indigenous identity. (p 25-28) The Kataristas, however, reinvoked Indigenous memory.

The CSUTCB indigenized the Bolivian Workers’ Central by, for example, recognizing Indigenous sartorial. (p 65) The solidarity was important in overthrowing military regimes.

Dangl details the importance of THOA in bringing Indigenous history to the forefront after years of being suppressed by colonialism, academia — and even Marxism (p 93). After the ayllu network was reconstructed by CONAMAQ, Indigenous surnames were retained, Indigenous narratives were incorporated into education, and Indigenous languages and culture were promoted. (p 94-104)

One particular history recovered by THOA was of the Indigenous resistance leader Santos Marka T’ula: “T’ula’s life is the vehicle of the narrative, positioned as a crucial step in a much longer journey toward justice.” (p 126)

Notable in the history of the Indigenous peoples has been a strong socialist component from the days of the Incan empire, Tawantinsuyu, to the Movement toward Socialism (MAS) governing Bolivia today. The ayllus are communal, featuring sharing and mutual aid (p 139- 140) — and even anarchistic in that leadership is rotational and decision-making consensus-based. (p 153)

Dangl describes the election of an Indigenous leader, Evo Morales, as a “watershed moment” in Bolivia. (p 163) Morales is currently standing for election to a fourth term as president of Bolivia. This is hardly rotational, but his MAS governments have made great strides for the people of Bolivia while continuing to face challenges and criticisms.

The Five Hundred Year Rebellion traces the historical path of colonial repression, historiographical and cultural destruction which was met with Indigenous resistance and the struggle for decolonization.

Solidarity is a key, and the Wet’suwet’en have reached out in their fight against colonialism.

Bolivia offers a template that might be useful in Indigenous contexts elsewhere. As such, Dangl’s book is an important source to consider for carrying out a successful resistance and achieving justice.

  1. .See Unist’ot’en.
  2. See Kerry Coast, author of The Colonial Present: The Rule of Ignorance and the Role of Law in British Columbia (Clarity Press and International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, 2013). Review; Tamara Starblanket, Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State (Clarity Press, 2018). Review; Tom Swanky, The Great Darkening: The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific plus The Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations Resistance (Burnaby, BC: Dragon Heart Enterprises, 2012). Review; James Daschuk, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life (University of Regina Press, 2013); Robert Davis and Mark Zannis, The Genocide Machine in Canada (Black Rose, 1973).

Our Vanishing World: Rainforests

East Creek investigation finds clearcutting rare intact old-growth on Vancouver Island


Rainforests are a crucial feature of Earth’s biosphere. Apart from being critical to Earth’s climate and vital carbon sinks, the major player in Earth’s hydrological (water) cycle, a massive producer of oxygen and home to most of the world’s species, rainforests are the home of a large Indigenous human population. They are also the source of many vital resources, including medicines, used by humans around the world.

However, the vast range of ecological services that rainforests have provided for the 400 million years of their existence, and which have been critical to the survival of Homo sapiens since we first walked the Earth 200,000 years ago, are not measured and valued by accountants and economists. Have you ever seen a balance sheet or set of national accounts that includes an entry for ‘Value of ecological services taken from nature and on which life and our entire production of goods and services depend’?

Because these services have been available without the need for human management or intervention, and given the primitive conception of accounting and economics that humans use, the ecological services of rainforests are given no monetary value. Hence, essential ecological services are treated as worthless by virtually everyone in the industrialized world. As a result, modern industrialized humans have decided to systematically destroy the rainforests in order to extract a vast amount of short-term profit for the benefit of a few and the temporary satisfaction of many. So if we do not value ecological services such as oxygen and water generation as well as climate and weather-moderating capacities, what is it that we do value by destroying rainforests?

A small proportion of rainforest is logged to provide attractive rainforest timbers – such as teak, mahogany, ebony and rosewood – for a variety of decorative purposes, including making furniture, which can last hundreds of years.

However, a much wider range and vastly greater quantity of rainforest trees are cut or burnt down for purposes such as the following: acquiring timber used in construction, clearing land to establish cattle farms so that many people can eat cheap hamburgers, clearing land to establish palm oil plantations so that many people can eat processed (including junk) foods based on this oil, clearing land to establish palm oil and soy bean plantations so that some people can delude themselves that they are using a ‘green biofuel’ in their car (when, in fact, these fuels generate a far greater carbon footprint than fossil fuels), mining (much of it illegal) for a variety of minerals (such as gold, silver, copper, coltan, cassiterite and diamonds), and logging to produce woodchips so that some people can buy cheap paper, including cheap toilet paper.

In essence then: We trade the essential life-giving and sustainably-available ecological services of Earth’s rainforests, also home to Indigenous peoples and countless wildlife, for hamburgers and other processed junk foods, carbon-intensive ‘biofuels’, paper and some building and furniture materials, as well as some minerals. Obviously, some humans are far from clever at ‘making deals’.

But if you think that is bad, consider this: ‘by one estimate, a hectare of livestock or soy is worth between $25 and $250, while the same hectare of sustainably managed forest can yield as much as $850’ harvesting, depending on the location, such products as medicinal plants, rubber, nuts and fruits while benefitting from a range of ecotourism services and research opportunities. Of course, you have to know how to manage the forest sustainably to yield this much income but that sort of intelligence is rare and invariably escapes those focused on destruction for short-term profit.

So how bad is this rainforest destruction? Well, worldwide we are currently destroying rainforests for these unsustainable and mainly short-term products at the rate of 80,000 acres each day.

Moreover, beyond the devastating impact this has on Indigenous peoples, forcing increasing numbers of them to leave their destroyed homes in the rainforest to try to survive elsewhere, this rainforest destruction is also the key driver of species extinctions globally with one million species of life on Earth threatened with extinction. As reported in the recent Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services researched and published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) – the scientific body which assesses the state of biodiversity and the ecosystem services this provides to society – ‘Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history. The IPBES Global Assessment ranks, for the first time at this scale, the 5 direct drivers of change in nature with the largest global impact. So what are the culprits behind nature’s destruction?’ Number 1. on the IPBES list is ‘Changes in land and sea use, like turning intact tropical forests into agricultural land’.

Let me briefly illustrate the nature and extent of this destruction by discussing rainforests in just three locations (the Brazilian Amazon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia/West Papua) where the destruction of rainforest was greatest in 2018 and which are representative of elsewhere around the planet where even World Heritage listed areas are ongoingly under threat.

The Brazilian Amazon

While the Amazon in South America occurs in several countries, two-thirds of it lie within the borders of Brazil. Unfortunately, since his fraudulent election in 2018, the neofascist, corrupt and insane president Jair Bolsonaro – see the definition of sanity, which Bolsonaro does not come close to meeting, in “The Global Elite is Insane Revisited” – has promptly eliminated years of painstaking effort by committed indigenous and environmental activists to convince previous governments to protect the Brazilian Amazon from the worst corporate and other depredations.

For just a taste of the documentation on Bolsonaro’s actions in accord with elite interests and to the detriment of Indigenous and environmental well-being, see the following articles/report.1

The key drivers of rainforest destruction in the Amazon are soy production and cattle ranching. Brazilian soy accounted for 14.3% of the country’s total exports, generating $31.0 billion in 2017, while cattle exports accounted for about $5.4 billion. Because Brazil leads the world in exports of both of these commodities, it is the world market for these products that is driving these industries to aggressively expand activities to the detriment of the rainforest and Indigenous peoples.

But the Amazon is huge, you might say: Does it matter if we destroy some of it for soy and cattle farming? Well, one recent study suggested that deforestation of 20–25% of the Amazon would be the tipping point beyond which it would cease to be a functioning rainforest ecosystem and this, as you might expect, would be catastrophic. Moreover, recent severe droughts appear to be ‘the first flickers of this ecological tipping point’ suggesting that it is already imminent.

So, to reiterate, the key driver of rainforest destruction in the Brazilian Amazon is consumer-generated demand for certain products in other parts of the world. And while the US and European countries play critical roles in destruction of the Amazon, China is the largest importer of agricultural products from Brazil so its government and consumers are complicit too. For example, as China’s demand for Brazilian soy surges due to the trade war between the United States and China, ‘it could drive further ecological catastrophe: 13 million hectares (50,000 square miles) in the Amazon and Cerrado could ultimately be cleared to meet this additional demand.’

The point then, is this: governments and ordinary people (in their role as consumers) in other parts of the world can play a vital role in defending the Amazon and its Indigenous peoples by choosing what they buy from Brazil. Boycotting rainforest timber, beef and soy bean products are powerful options to consider. But don’t forget, there is no point simply identifying and boycotting Brazilian timbers, beef and soy beans. If you want impact on the total market (to prevent one country’s timber, beef and soy beans being substituted for another’s), then you must boycott them all (unless you can clearly identify the source of the product as local and sustainable). Obviously, this takes commitment. The future of the Amazon depends largely on enough of us making that commitment.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa

The rainforests of the Congo Basin in central Africa are the second largest on Earth. Much of this rainforest lies within the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, crippled by corrupt government for decades and a new president elected earlier this year who has inherited a corrupt and inefficient state apparatus.

Unfortunately, therefore, rainforests in the Congo have long been under siege on several fronts. With rebel soldiers (such as the Rwanda-backed M23), miners and poachers endlessly plundering inadequately protected national parks and other wild places for their resources, illegal mining is rampant, over-fishing a chronic problem, illegal logging (and other destruction such as charcoal burning for cooking) of rainforests is completely out of control in some places, poaching of hippopotami, elephants, chimpanzees and okapi for ivory and bushmeat is unrelenting (often despite laws against hunting with guns), and wildlife trafficking of iconic species (including the increasingly rare mountain gorilla) simply beyond the concern of most people.

The Congolese natural environment – including the UNESCO World Heritage sites at Virunga National Park and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, together with their park rangers – and the Indigenous peoples such as the Mbuti (‘pygmies’) who live in them, are under siege. In addition to the ongoing mining, smaller corporations that can’t compete with the majors, such as Soco, want to explore and drill for oil.2

Unfortunately too, as with rainforests elsewhere, ‘What Happens in the Congo Basin Doesn’t Stay in the Congo Basin’: it impacts on regions across Africa playing a part, for example, in recent droughts in Ethiopia and Somalia causing millions of people to depend on emergency food and water rations.

As with the Amazon, you have some powerful options to consider if you want to save the Congolese rainforests and their Indigenous peoples. Again, refusing to buy rainforest timbers, conflict minerals and wildlife products is a good start but remember that key minerals in your computer and mobile phone are illegally sourced from the Congo so your thoughtful consideration of minimizing how many of these devices you own can play a part too. For a fuller account of this exploitation and its destructive impact on the rainforests and its Indigenous peoples, with references to many other sources, see ‘500 years is long enough! Human Depravity in the Congo’.

Indonesia and West Papua

Indonesia has the most extensive rainforest cover in Asia – and is home to hundreds of distinct Indigenous languages and over 3,000 animal species including Sumatran tigers, pygmy elephants, rhinoceros and orangutans – but the forests are being systematically degraded and destroyed. Rainforest cover has steadily declined since the 1960s when 82 percent of the country was covered with forest; it is less than 50 percent today. The rainforest is being destroyed by logging, mining, large-scale agricultural plantations (especially for palm oil), colonization, and subsistence activities like shifting agriculture and cutting for fuelwood. Much of the remaining cover consists of logged-over and degraded forest although large areas, including of the island of Kalimantan/Borneo (shared with Malaysia and Brunei), have been stripped bare.

Logging for tropical timbers and pulpwood (to make paper) is the biggest cause of rainforest destruction in the country where as much as 75 percent of the logging is illegal. Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of tropical timber, which generates more than $US5 billion annually. And more than 48 million hectares (55 percent of the country’s remaining rainforests) are concessioned for logging. Destruction of the rainforest in Indonesia has opened up some of the most remote places on Earth to development: as rainforests in less remote locations have been decimated, timber corporations have stepped up practices on the island of Kalimantan/Borneo and the occupied West Papau, where great swaths of forests have been cleared in recent years. In fact, 20 percent of Indonesia’s logging concessions are in West Papua, despite ongoing resistance by West Papuans.

Unfortunately, the fastest and cheapest way to clear rainforests for plantations is by burning. Hence, every year ‘hundreds of thousands of hectares go up in smoke as developers and agriculturalists feverishly light fires before monsoon rains begin to fall. In dry years – especially during strong el Niño years – these fires can burn out of control for months on end, creating deadly pollution that affects neighboring countries and causes political tempers to flare’.

Mining operations, including for coal, also have a devastating impact on the rainforests and their peoples. By far the worst of these projects, however, is the gigantic gold, silver, and copper mine in occupied West Papua, run by Freeport-McMoRan. As widely documented, the mining company has dumped appalling amounts of waste into local streams, rendering downstream waterways and wetlands ‘unsuitable for aquatic life’. Relying on large payments to Indonesian police and military officers, the mining operation is ‘protected’; this has resulted in many West Papuans being killed.

The waste from the mine, estimated by Freeport at 700,000 tons each day, covers several square miles and Government surveys have found that tailings from the mines have produced levels of copper and sediment so high that almost all fish have disappeared from vast areas of wetlands downstream from the mine.

Like other powerful corporations in Indonesia (and elsewhere), Freeport-McMoRan is well aware that there is little official interest in its abuses of local people and the environment as long as corrupt officials are given sufficient incentive to ignore them. As elsewhere in many parts of the world, therefore, corporate access to resources includes serious human rights abuses and persistent conflicts between companies and local communities which is ignored by corrupt politicians.

Apart from the rainforest itself and the millions of people who live in them, destruction of the rainforest threatens the habitat of iconic species like Sumatran tigers and orangutans, as well as many others, and plays a part in destroying the climate too.

But the damage does not stop with the issues noted above. Forests across the world are being destroyed to make fabrics for clothing we wear every day. Fabrics like rayon, viscose and modal are all made from trees and, every year, more than 120 million trees are cut down to make clothing. This is done by companies such as Forever 21, Under Armour, Foot Locker, Prada Group and Michael Kors. You can join the Rainforest Action Network in campaigning to get these laggard companies to adopt responsible sourcing policies for their forest-based fabrics.

Bizarrely, while its incredible rainforests, along with its coral reefs and beaches, play a part in attracting tourists from across the world to see Indonesia’s charismatic native species – such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Komodo dragons, whale sharks, sea turtles and manta rays – and to experience its adventure and dive destinations, this tourism also contributes significantly to the destruction as rainforests make way for tourist facilities.

So, as with Brazil and the Congo, you can boycott rainforest products from Indonesia and other countries where rainforests are being destroyed. Along with suggestions made earlier, responsible choices about the clothing you wear and the tourist destinations you choose (or boycott) will all make a difference.

The ‘Big Picture’ Fight for the Rainforests: What can we do?

A great deal. Halting rainforest destruction might be a complex undertaking but it is imperative if we are to have any prospect of preserving life on Earth. So I hope that you will consider the many options I have offered above and those I mention now and do as many as you can, even if you are already working on other critical issues such as the climate and the struggle to end war and the threat of nuclear war.

If you want easy options, you can support the campaign efforts of organizations that defend rainforests, Indigenous peoples and wildlife such as the Rainforest Action Network, the Rainforest Information Centre, the Rainforest 4 Foundation and Rainforest Rescue which work closely with Indigenous and local communities while campaigning against the governments and corporations destroying rainforests, as well as the banks and insurance companies that support this destruction.

If you recognize the pervasiveness of the fear-driven violence in our world, which also drives the massive over-consumption of resources by people in industrialized countries then consider addressing this directly starting with yourself and by reviewing your relationship with children.3

If you wish to campaign strategically in support of Indigenous peoples and local communities in their struggles to halt the destruction of Earth’s rainforests.4

The governments and corporations that profit from the destruction of the rainforests are deeply entrenched and not about to give way without strategically focused campaigns to make it untenable and unprofitable for them to do so. This will include convincing key personnel, whether company directors of corporations involved in rainforest destruction, cargo ship owners, trade unionists (in many industries) and the many other agents involved in the rainforest destruction-to-customer supply chain, as well as ordinary consumers of rainforest products, to make conscious choices about the products they supply, use and/or buy. So strategy is imperative if we are to get corrupt and/or conscienceless governments and corporations, as well as people further removed from the source of the destruction, to end their role in rainforest destruction before it is too late.

The big deforestation drivers are timber, palm oil, cattle and soy while mining, oil drilling, clothing and dam construction all play significant roles too, depending on the country. And, as reported by the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project): ‘The ABCD (The Archer Daniels Midland Company [ADM], Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus Company) trader companies have a large impact on countless commodity supply chains. For example, they represent up to 90% of the global grain trade. With a wide array of clients that go from Nestlé to McDonald’s, their role in managing deforestation risk is crucial’ and, so far, grossly inadequate.5

Given the strategic sophistication necessary to tackle this complex problem effectively, if you want to view a 15 minute video of (or read a couple of short articles about) the inspirational Melbourne Rainforest Action Group (MRAG) that successfully led a national campaign from 1988 to 1991 to halt imports of rainforest timber into Australia, you can view it here: ‘Time to Act.’

In those cases where corrupt elites control or occupy countries, such as those controlling Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and West Papua, it might be necessary to remove these corrupt governments as part of the effort thus helping to restore the political space for local populations to defend rainforests and their rights.

You might also consider joining the global network of people resisting violence in all contexts by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.’

But if you do nothing else while understanding the simple point that Earth’s biosphere, including its rainforests, cannot sustain a human population of this magnitude of whom more than half endlessly over-consume, then consider accelerated participation in the strategy outlined in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth.’

Or, if none of the above options appeal or they seem too complicated, consider committing to The Earth Pledge

Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

  1. I will listen deeply to children (see explanation above)
  2. I will not travel by plane
  3. I will not travel by car
  4. I will not eat meat and fish
  5. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
  6. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
  7. I will not buy rainforest timber
  8. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
  9. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
  10. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
  11. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
  12. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
  13. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

Feeling overwhelmed? Still prefer something simpler?

I wish I could, in all sincerity, offer you that option. If it were still 1990, I would. But the time for simple actions to make a difference is long past and time is now incredibly short.

In essence, you have a choice: understand and act on the crucial importance of rainforests before we destroy their integrity and lose them completely. Or help to accelerate the human rush to extinction as a consequence of failing to do so.

  1. Bolsonaro Caps Natives’ Lands, Pleasing Farmers in One of First Acts,” “Rainforest on Fire: On the Front Lines of Bolsonaro’s War on the Amazon, Brazil’s Forest Communities Fight Against Climate Catastrophe,” “Bolsonaro’s Clearcut Populism. ‘The Barbarism has Begun’,” this report from Amazon Watch: “Complicity in Destruction II: How northern consumers and financiers enable Bolsonaro’s assault on the Brazilian Amazon” and “Amazon Deforestation Accelerating Towards Unrecoverable “Tipping Point”.”
  2. For a taste of the reading on all of this, see “Virunga National Park Ranger Killed in DRC Ambush,” “The struggle to save the ‘Congolese unicorn’,” “Meet the First Female Rangers to Guard One of World’s Deadliest Parks” and “The Battle for Africa’s Oldest National Park.”
  3. If you want to understand and address the fundamental cause of violence in our world, see “Why Violence?” and “Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.”
  4. See “Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.”
  5. See “Revenue at risk: Why addressing deforestation is critical to business success” which contains a long list of hundreds of companies (on pages 39-46) which are making zero effective effort to end their rainforest-destroying business practices.

Land and Freedom

From the genocidal aftermath of Columbus’ accidental “discovery” of the New World, to the ever-deeper encroachments of Israeli settlements into the West Bank — five hundred years of European colonialism has cast a long shadow over this world. Colonization, in its supreme arrogance, carved up the globe according to the imperial logic of accumulation, imposing artificial borders on foreign lands and seeking to subjugate restive native populations through religious indoctrination and force of arms. But despite their military superiority, ideological warfare and constant recourse to savage brutality, colonial regimes have consistently failed to crush the will of colonized people to fight back. And the reason for this is simple. Occupation breeds resistance.

Anarchists, especially those of us who have never experienced the sharp edge of colonization, have much to learn from those waging this resistance. We also have a principled imperative to align ourselves with those facing acute forms of state violence and dispossession. To this end, this episode of Trouble draws on two examples of contemporary anti-colonial struggle – those waged by the Palestinians and the Mohawks of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy against their respective oppressors, the Israeli and Canadian settler-colonial states, in hopes of drawing out lessons and increasing our capacity for producing meaningful solidarity.

Top End Travels: The Tiwi Islands, the Catholic Church and King Joe of Melville Island

Lush mangroves, the spray of emerald water from the Timor Sea, the sense of the untainted: the journey to the Tiwi Islands, some 80 kilometres north of Darwin, was crudely advertised as one of the Things to Do in the Northern Territory. “Take the opportunity to have a truly fantastic day out.  Visit Bathurst Island for this special day and a chance to view and buy Tiwi Island artwork and watch the grand footy final.”

The ferry service seemed a sloppy operation. Locals heading back to the Tiwi Islands knew something visitors did not: do not bother pre-purchasing tickets.  Do them on the day itself, and avoid the queue.  On getting to Bathurst Island, the elegant wooden structure that is St. Therese’s Church is swarming with worshippers and guests: a wedding is about to take place.

Background reading on the Tiwi Islands lends one to squirming discomfort.  They are glossily advertised as singular in their indigenous quality.  But this count soon unravels.  The populace on both islands, Bathurst and Melville, became witness to both the Catholic Church and the obtrusive efforts of roughing pioneers of the British Empire.

One such figure was Robert Joel Cooper, a figure who looks like a man who killed everything he came across.  Anybody termed a pioneer in this particularly harsh environment would have to have a certain acquisitive tendency.  What was seen, witnessed and met had to be possessed.  His grave stone in Darwin’s ill-kept Gardens Cemetery suggests the flavour, reminding us of his known title of “King Joe of Melville Island”, “a man of courage and love for everyone”.

He had all the attributes of the ruthless frontiersman: patriarchy, a tendency to sow his not-so-royal oats, a capacity for a certain work regimen, a firm disciplinarian.  He established the buffalo industry on Melville Island, extracting some thousand hides a year.  He took an Aboriginal wife, Alice, in what seemed like a primordial gesture.  One of his brood, Rueben, became a figure of sporting repute, adept and talented across a range of codes and ultimately minting history as a formidable player of Australian Rules Football, known colloquially in these parts as “footy”.

Cooper’s resume reads like that of any figure of conquest deemed important after the fact.  His entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography shows suitable wildness, with hints of admiration from the authors.  Along with his brother George Henry (Harry) Cooper and pastoral lessee E. O. Robinson, he ventured to Melville Island “despite hostile Aborigines”.  He did not seem discouraged in being speared in the shoulder; if anything, it emboldened him to “to abduct four Tiwi Aboriginals”.  While such acts might well have been seen as those of a traditional looter of specimens and possessions, the authors of the entry condescend to suggest that he “treated his captives kindly and learned their language.”  (The rough pioneer as accomplished linguist?  Go figure.)  In 1905, Cooper became the first “settler” since Fort Dundas was abandoned in 1828, using twenty Port Essington Aborigines to allay the fears of any locals as to what his intentions might have been. The ruse worked; he established his name.

Cooper’s profile matched like attitudes adopted to the indigenous populace more broadly speaking.  They were there to be used, abused and infantilised, their autonomy relegated to the level of trinket exotica.  Indigenous parenting was effectively disregarded: the Chief Protector in the Northern Territory, by virtue of the Northern Territory Aboriginals Act 1910, became the “legal guardian of every Aboriginal and every half-caste child up to the age of 18 years” irrespective of whether the child had parents or other relatives.  This came with the power to confine “any Aboriginal or half-caste” to a reserve or Aboriginal institution.  In the Aboriginal Ordinance of 1918, the clutches of the Chief Protector were extended to Aboriginal females from birth to death unless married and living with a husband “who is substantially of European origin”.

Cooper, the hunter, was also Cooper the connected figure.  The Catholic Church, through the figure of Father Francis Xavier Gsell, was convinced by him to focus on neighbouring Bathurst Island to set up a Catholic mission.  The good Father got to work, landing on Bathurst Island in 1911 and buying rights to marry Tiwi girls.  Fiancées and fathers were won over (again, the message of seduction and appropriation are never far) with cloth, flour and tobacco.  With due boastful extravagance, Gsell would recall his time on the island in his memoir, Bishop With 150 Wives.

The influence of Gsell and the church has become part of a formidable public relations exercise executed by the Vatican, masking the effects of what came to be known as inculturation.  Publications of praise such as Australia: The Vatican Museums Indigenous Collection, conveys the impression of church guardianship and preservation of Tiwi tradition.  No tincture of irony is present in the work.  The collection itself boasts an early set of Pukamani poles (tutini) from the islands, grave posts that had made their way into church possession.

Anthropologists were not be left out of the stealing game, and German anthropologist Hermann Klaatsch, the first anthropologist to successfully make his way to Melville Island on September 20, 1906, recounted several feats of theft of Pukamani poles, lamenting that, “due to the smallness of my boat I could not transport more examples.”  The penny, he was relieved, never dropped. “Luckily, we remained unnoticed by the blacks in our grave violating enterprise.”

The account might have been somewhat different.  A certain Harry Cooper, no less the brother of Joe, may well have distracted the islanders by firing shots over their heads while Klaatsch did his deed.  “There, that sounds more like it,” wrote Marie Munkara acidly.

The lingering Catholic presence, through immersion with Tiwi custom as both position and adjustment, has left its own traumas.  The missionaries used “psychological warfare”, insists Munkara, a process which “corroded our ancient beliefs.”  And much more besides.

Having assumed the role of converters and educators, the Church mission on Bathurst Island would eventually be shown in its ghastly manifestations.  Protectors, whether religious or secular, became ready abusers.  In 1993, claims that some 40 children who had been to St. Xavier’s Boys’ School on Bathurst Island had been sexually abused by Brother John Hallett were reported.  Two years later, he received a five year jail sentence, one quashed five months later by the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal.

Cooper’s circle of intimates supplies a direct line to the spoliation of the Tiwi Islands, but more broadly, the indigenous population in the Northern Territory.  Professor W. Baldwin Spencer, the anthropologist who became Chief Protector in 1912, stayed with the King of Melville Island at stages in 1911 and 1912 as he was conducting his own investigations.  There was a meeting of minds: one appropriator to another.

Spencer’s 1912 report furnished the natives with a terrifying vision, executed with brazen cruelty towards children who had, by law, been executively entrusted into his care.  “No half-caste children should be allowed to remain in any native camp, but they should all be withdrawn and placed on stations.”  The mother should, as a matter of necessity, accompany the child “but in other cases, even though it may seem cruel to separate the mother and child, it is better to do so, when the mother is living, as is usually the case, in a native camp”.  Unsurprisingly, Cooper, having obtained the confidence of Spencer, would himself be deputised in this less than protective role.

Visiting the Tiwi Islands has the discomforting effect of moving around in a historical zoo.  The islands are haunted by Church, the Coopers, and civilizational predations.  While the idea of the reserve is now regarded as a vestige of administrative barbarity, the Tiwi message and advertisement is one of false purity and the deceptively unspoilt.  This has the effect of a museum feel with damaged artifacts.  The wondering tourists with heavy wallets, backpacks, hats and sunscreen resemble the plundering pioneers of old.  This time, instead of abducting native residents and doing a spot of grave robbing, they prefer to purchase the art.

Idealisation becomes hard to ignore; the spectator and viewer effectively participate in an exercise of unwarranted elevation and the words of Klaatsch in his Ergebnisse meiner australischen Reise (1907) come to mind.  “When you see the black man walking by, with his erect posture, his head decorated with feathers, with the spear in his right hand, then who cannot help form the impression that you have a ‘savage gentleman’ in front of your eyes, a king in the realm of the surrounding nature, to which he is so well adapted.”

The brochure language does little by way of improvement on Klaatsch’s observation.  In fact, it replicates it as a timeless fib, a gallery caption.  Instead of the “Island of Smiles”, you are greeted by dazed wanderers of the walking wounded playing out a distorted cultural play.  In 1999, attention was brought to the fact that the Tiwi Islands was facing a suicide epidemic.  The then resident medical practitioner, Chris Harrison, noted a number of instance: 100 attempts, meaning that 1 in 16 or 1 in 20 on the islands had attempted some form of suicide.  Nothing to smile at, let alone induce cheer.

When suggestions were made that such rates might be attributed to the influences, amongst other things, of the Church and its predatory practices, officialdom fumed.  As then Bishop Ted Collins explained with irritation, “I think they’re trying to put the blame somewhere outside the people rather than acknowledge that it’s happening within the people.”  How ungenerous of them to think otherwise.

Beside the Bathurst Island cemetery are two men, seemingly hypnotised, finding shelter under a lonely eucalypt.  They gaze aimlessly at a billy boiling over a roughly made fire.  There are no fragrant smells of cuisine, no sense of culinary wonder.  Instead, there is a distinct sound of eggs clanking against the rim, no doubt hard boiled to oblivion.  On the island, there are no food markets or stalls of fresh produce.  Food items, canned and frozen, are imported.  It is the afternoon, and the islanders migrate from their homes to the various shady spots under suitable vegetation.  Lit fires across the island send their bluish plumes towards the sea.  The church, in its wooden majesty, is quiet but for the whirring fans.  The guests have left, the singing done.  We leave Bathurst Island with a sense of loss, and not a smile in sight.

Is Trump a Racist?

President Donald Trump has once again stepped into the doggy-doo of comments that point to being a racist. Tweeted Trump:

The House of Representatives voted 240-187 to condemn Trump’s tweets as racist. The vote largely followed party lines with the exception of four Republicans who voted against their president.

Elsewhere in the supposed Land of the Free, ICE raids are being carried out to apprehend any undocumented people. And migrants/asylum seekers are being detained in what are likened to concentration camps.

The charge of racism has plagued the entire duration of the Trump presidency.

In the run up to the 2016 US presidential election, Hillary Clinton described half of Donald Trump’s base as “deplorables” holding racist attitudes. Indeed, many of Trump’s policies do negatively target people of color and leave working Americans worse off. But is the question of whether Trump is a racist not a distraction for a bigger elephant in the room?

On 11 January 2018 while discussing immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries United States president Donald Trump was quoted as asking, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville was quick to denounce Trump: “There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

Democratic senator Dick Durbin – who was at the meeting with Trump – affirmed the quotation: “Shithole was the exact word used once not twice but repeatedly.”

Trump denied the quotation attributed to him, and he denied being a racist. Republican senator David Perdue, who was also at the meeting, called Durbin’s claim “a gross misrepresentation.”

Nonetheless, criticism of Trump was widespread. The effect will be minimal as Trump appeals to a different base. He plays the patriot’s card to curry favor with the working masses. Hence his nostalgic campaign slogan was “Making America Great, Again?”1

What was Trump’s plan to reestablish the greatness of America?

PolitiFact noted that Trump’s campaign promises were targeted at changes to immigration, trade, taxes and foreign policy.2 Of the top 10 campaign promises, five are clearly aimed against non-White countries.

The pledge to build a wall along the US-Mexican border hearkens to keeping brown-skinned Mexicans out; and to up the ante, Trump stated he’d even make Mexico pay for the wall. Mexico is a country that the US fought, defeated, and forced to cede over half its territory.

A second promise was to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US. And on 27 January 2017, Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee admissions and temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. All are countries that the US has attacked militarily in recent times.

Trump then called for tariffs on goods made in China and Mexico. China represents the largest trade deficit for the US. But why Mexico? The US’s trade deficit with Mexico is smaller than that with the European Union (or even just Germany). Hence, the call for imposing tariffs appears ethnically targeted, although Japan, the US’s third largest trade deficit partner, is excluded from the call for imposing tariffs.3 Japan, however, is a crucial lynchpin for US military objectives in East Asia, hosting several US bases.

Middle East

Although Trump says he opposed the invasion of Iraq, he maintains that the US ought to have kept the oil fields in Iraq. Nonetheless, he desires another chance to get the oil.

Keeping the oil, however, would require an invasion, long-lasting occupation, and a costly reconstruction.

Trump’s Middle East policy has been intensely and unapologetically pro-Israel as demonstrated by the appointment of his son-in-law Jared Kushner as presidential advisor and assigning him responsibility for negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine. It is a questionable appointment beyond the apparent nepotism as the Jewish Kushner and his family is deeply connected with the Israeli government and Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu.4 Thus, it is unsurprising that Trump went against decades of US policy and United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 and recognized Jerusalem/Al Quds as the capital of Israel. UNGA 181 had designated Jerusalem as a corpus separatum to be governed by an international regime. The US embassy move was opposed by a 14 to 1 vote of the UN Security Council, the lone vote against being the US veto. The UNGA also weighed in against the embassy move by a vote of 128 to 9.

In essence, the US has picked sides, marginalized the UN, and is breaking international law by defying the special status of Jerusalem.

Trump has supported Israeli goals through US violence against the Syrian government.5 He also pleased Netanyahu by decertifying Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement. This he did despite it being contrary to the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the P5+1, and the US government that Tehran is in compliance.

Iran is being backed into an economic corner by sanctions. The worse case scenario is WWIII. Maladroit political posturing and military brinksmanship could foolishly unleash the forces of a war in the region that might spread to engulf the world.

East Asia

Trump – chagrined that a nuclear deterrent, purportedly within range of continental America, has been achieved by the Democratic Republic of Korea – spoke ominously to the UNGA that “if it [the US] is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” First, North Korea pledges a no-first-use of nuclear weapons. Second, no rational person would suggest for a moment that North Korea would initiate an attack against the US or its allies. Consequently, serious analysts look upon Trump’s genocidal threat as dangerous bloviating.

North Korea’s neighbor, the economic powerhouse China also engenders Trump’s undiplomatic scorn. From a Chinese viewpoint, Trump must be considered a mixed bag.6

The slights are many, from offering China’s Communist Party chairman Xi Jinping a burger dinner, side-stepping the one-China policy, haranguing China on North Korea, to complaining about the trade balance as “very unfair and one-sided.” Said Trump, “… what [Xi’s] done is sucked all of our jobs and he’s sucked the money right out of our country…”

Another flashpoint is the South China Sea where the US insists on causing waves by sending warships.7

Thus China felt the need, according to some reports, to intentionally unveil China’s most powerful ICBM, the Dongfeng-41, at the time of Trump’s inauguration. Konstantin Sivkov, president of the Moscow-based Academy of Geopolitical Problems, stated: “This is China’s response to threats pronounced by the new US president, Donald Trump.”8

Looming over the Pivot to Asia that Trump inherited from his predecessor, Barack Obama, are the dark economic clouds of Trump’s trade strategy that has the debt-ridden US mired in a trade war with China, a spat that is threatening the world economy.

On the Homefront

While honoring Navajo veterans of World War II at the White House, Trump caused a brouhaha by referencing “Pocahontas.” An op-ed in the New York Times excoriated Trump who “once again underscored the degree to which he is openly hostile to people of color — I call that racism and bigotry” … “The Trump Doctrine is White Supremacy.”9

Is “Pocahontas” a racial slur? For words to be a slur, then there must be intent. At worst, Trump is an open racist; at best, Trump comes across as blithely ignorant.

In the vein of actions speaking louder than words, Trump’s signing of the Dakota Access Order dismayed the Standing Rock Sioux, aligned Indigenous peoples, and environmentalists opposed to the pipeline project fearing it will contaminate drinking water. Tom B.K. Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, released a statement calling Trump’s actions “insane and extreme, and nothing short of attacks on our ancestral homelands as Indigenous peoples.”

That White supremacism flourishes among a segment of Americans was attested to by violence that flared between the extreme right and counter protestors in Charlottesville, VA that led to the killing of Heather Heyer and injury to 19 people. Trump condemned the murder saying, “I thought what took place was a horrible moment for the country, but there are two sides to a story.” Two days later he repeated his condemnation of “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”

Likeliest there was violence on both sides; seldom will one side remain completely passive in the face of violence against it. However, what critics were seeking was a clear-cut denunciation of racism from Trump without the obfuscation of which sides were involved in the violence.

Trump’s ire was also evoked by the peaceful protests of National Football League (predominantly Black) players who were taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem. This was started by blackballed quarterback Colin Kaepernick (no pun intended, but Kaepernick has since been denied employment by the NFL’s all-White team ownership – excluding Pakistani-born owner Shahid Khan who showed solidarity with his players against Trump’s divisive comments) who took a public stand against systemic oppression, police brutality, and the lack of justice for people of color in the US. Right-wingers, however, transmogrified the protests into disrespect for the flag and the US military.

Trump had a suggestion: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired.’”

Trump called the taking of the knee “a total disrespect for our heritage; that’s a total disrespect for everything that we stand for.”

Among Trump’s “we” is a section of the working class whose “cultural anxiety”10 Trump successfully tapped into at the ballot box. But bolstering military spending and tax cuts that preponderantly reward the wealthy (right-wing Fortune magazine called it a win for big business11 do little to ease the economic plight of working Americans. The liberal magazine Nation argued that Trump has worsened the worker’s situation:

The rollback of labor rights and protections since Trump took office is staggering. It puts worker safety at risk and guarantees that many workers will earn less, but that’s not all. Measures to help victims of discrimination receive redress are on the scrap heap. Unions are running scared.12

Race and Politics

Aside from being ineloquent, is Trump appreciably worse than previous US presidents? A dozen US presidents, including so-called founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were slave owners.13

Moreover, is the US not a nation state established through warring against the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island14 and depriving them of their territories?

The first US president George Washington regarded Indigenous peoples as wolves: “both being beasts of prey, tho’ they differ in shape.”15 The Haudenosaunee called Washington the “town destroyer” for demolishing their villages.16

Thomas Jefferson boasted: “in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them.”17

Andrew Jackson referred to the Indigenous peoples as “savage dogs” and bragged of preserving a scalp collection.18

Theodore Roosevelt’s racism was unabashed, “I suppose I should be ashamed to say that I take the western view of the Indian. I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indian is the dead Indian, but I believe nine out of every ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth. The most vicious cowboy has more moral principle than the average Indian.”19

Is Trump a Racist?

Trump denies being a racist. Orrin Hatch, the Republican senator for Utah, agreed, “I know Donald Trump. I don’t think there is a racist bone in his body.”

Trump’s policy plank seems to indicate a racially motivated policy. But does the policy substantially differ from that which the Democrats pursued during their days in political office?

The ICE raids of today hearken back to the Palmer Raids to round up immigrants in the early 20th century. Concentration camps are also not new to the US as Indigenous peoples and Japanese Americans found themselves interred in such facilities.

The focus on whether Trump is racist, and whether Trump has genuine concern for American workers, serves as distraction. A spotlight is usually shone on American leaders who will invariably claim that the US is a beacon on the hill, an indispensable nation, an exceptional nation. Leaders have a role, but they function within a system. History reveals that the US is a system born out of racism, a system whose Declaration of Independence derided the original occupants of Turtle Island as “merciless Indian savages” and removed them from their land, a system that exploited slave labor, a system that currently exploits wage slaves, and is a war-based economy.

Many countries in the world can be described as economic backwaters, yet much of the blame for this can be laid at the feet of the White world for, among other things, a history of colonialism, slavery, economic exploitation, support for dictators, corrupt lending practices, and odious debt.

Trump has had an embattled presidency. A section of the system is fighting Trump – who is also a part of the system. Removing Trump would change the face in the Oval Office, but the system would continue. Deplorable as Trump is, the biggest enemy of a moral universe is the system of militarist-capitalism.

  1. For what MAGA implies, see Kim Petersen, “Making America Great, Again? Racism, Poverty, Violence…,” Global Research, 23 July 2017.
  2. Linda Qiu, “Donald Trump’s top 10 campaign promises,” PolitiFact, 15 July 2016.
  3. See 2016 figures for “List of the largest trading partners of the United States,” Wikipedia.
  4. See “Flynn Plea Shows Collusion With… Israel?Real News.com, 2 December 2017.
  5. One ought to view with sharp skepticism US claims that it is fighting ISIS in Syria. See, e.g., “Russian Journalists Blow Lid Off Alleged US Terrorist Training Network in Syria,” Sputnik, January 2018. The US is also providing safe haven for ISIS remnants in Syria. See Steven Sahiounie, “US Coalition in Syria Using ISIS at Al Tanf,” Global Research, 27 March 2019.
  6. See Kim Petersen, “What is Trump Signaling about China?American Herald Tribune, 30 January 2017.
  7. I discuss this in some depth in “Sovereignty in the South China Sea,” Dissident Voice, 7 June 2016.
  8. Analyst Believes China’s Missiles Near Russian Borders Target USA,” TASS, 24 January 2016.
  9. Charles M. Blow, “Trump, Proxy of Racism,” New York Times, 30 November 2017.
  10. Emma Green, “It Was Cultural Anxiety That Drove White, Working-Class Voters to Trump,” The Atlantic, 9 May 2017.
  11. See “The GOP Tax Plan: 3 Big Wins for Business,” Fortune, 2 November 2017.
  12. Helaine Olen, “The Rollback of Pro-Worker Policies Since Trump Took Office Is Staggering,” Nation, 1 September 2017.
  13. Evan Andrews, “How Many U.S. Presidents Owned Slaves?History, 19 July 2017.
  14. Who should determine the designation of a continent: the people who have resided there since time immemorial or newcomers from the continent of Europe? Europeans chose the designation “North America” after one of their citizens. “Turtle Island” is a designation stemming from the legends of Indigenous peoples. See Kim Petersen, “America: The Morality of a Geopolitical Designation,” Dissident Voice, 6 August 2014.
  15. David E. Stannard, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World (London: Oxford University Press, 1992): 119.
  16. From Roland Bainton, Early Christianity (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1960). Cited in Stannard, 120.
  17. Stannard, 120.
  18. Stannard, 121.
  19. Hermann Hagedorn, Roosevelt in the Bad Lands (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1921): 355.

An Interview with Daniel Kovalik

In his last book on Venezuela, Daniel Kovalik, a lawyer and a long standing friend of Latin American people in countries such as Colombia and Central America, is tearing away the veil of war propaganda: “The humanitarian part of the intervention is now barely a fig leaf for the real and usual intention – the control of another country’s oil supplies“. To know more about the ins and outs of The Plot To Overthrow Venezuela, we have interviewed author Mr. Kovalik.

 *****

Alex Anfruns: In a chapter of your book on the birth of the Bolivarian Revolution, you point at some historical figures from the pre-revolution period that have been concealed to the western public opinion. I quote an excerpt: “A report mentions that critical poverty had tripled from 11% of the population in 1984 to 33% in 1991, meaning that only 57%” of Venezuelans could afford more than one meal a day”. Which conclusion should we draw if we compare those figures to the situation that has prevailed the last 20 years of Bolivarian government?

Daniel Kovalik: Certainly between 1999, when Hugo Chavez became president, until 2015, the government did a great job of eradicating poverty and extreme poverty; of building houses, providing free education to children – which also included a hot meal every day, etc.  So that was a real critical piece of Bolivarian Revolution. They struggled after 2015 with those social programs because of the lowering of oil prices — which was done intentionally by Saudi Arabia and the United States beginning in 2014 — and then, because of the sanctions that were imposed on 2015 and have been ramped up ever since.

But even in spite of the sanctions, the government has made huge efforts to get food to people through the CLAP program (Local Committees for Supply and Production in Spanish) and it continues to build housing for people. It has built 2.5 million housing units. The gains of the revolution continue to exist, but the sanctions are certainly cutting into them.

AA: You also highlight the rights that Venezuelan government has given back to the Afro-descendant and indigenous people, the majority of which are supporting the revolution. Could you draw a comparison with the situation of these people in the US and how their specifical rights are being treated there?

DK: Well, there is really no comparison, because indigenous groups in the US have been treated in a horrible way. Since the initial years of the US, the attacks against indigenous peoples can only be described as genocidal. It was an extreme genocidal violence against them. And still, to this day, you have massive amounts of poverty amongst the indigenous peoples in this country  – the suicide rate is huge; you have situations in which indigenous children are taken away from their families on a huge scale. In truth, indigenous peoples have been pushed to the margins of society, where they remain.

In Venezuela, on the other hand, the government made a huge attempt, since the Bolivarian Revolution in 1999, to enshrine the rights of indigenous peoples in the Constitution, not only to recognize their languages but actually to preserve them.  They have gone out of their way to create programs to preserve indigenous languages. They gave stolen land back to indigenous peoples.

So I mean the differences in both countries are very stunning, and similarly with Afro-descendants! This country (the US), of course, was built on trade slavery, and then there was Jim Crow and legal segregation, and still today African Americans are living much worse than the rest of the population in terms of poverty, hunger, and access to social services and critical infrastructure. You have disproportionately high rates of infant mortality, maternal mortality amongst African Americans. And there is the huge rate of incarceration of African Americans in this country. The first thing to say about this is that the US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world — in both absolute numbers and by percentage of the population. Over 2.2 million people in this country are incarcerated, and about 40% of those are African Americans even though they only make up around 14% of the total population. So you see, African Americans are still being greatly oppressed in this country.

And again in Venezuela, the Bolivarian Revolution has given land back to Afro-descendants, has recognized their rights as a people, in a way which really didn’t exist before the revolution. And that’s the reason why Afro-Venezuelans and indigenous people are supporting the government there. And, of course, it makes sense in many ways that the US government, which oppresses indigenous and Afro-descendants here, have aligned with the white elite in Venezuela to try to topple the government.

AA: Ex ambassador of the US in Venezuela has recently admitted it, in other words, explaining why a traditional military intervention couldn’t be put into practice in Venezuela contrarily to the case of Libya’s, for at least two reasons: the lack of rebel forces ready to overthrow the government, and the state of the public opinion, still not unanimous enough against Maduro. Can this “collapse strategy” benefit somehow the Venezuelan opposition or is it rather a political impasse?

DK: Obviously the goal is to destroy the Venezuelan economy and to blame all of this on the Venezuelan government, with the hopes to overthrow the government and bring the opposition into power. But even the opposition and Juan Guaido have recognized that, though they have supported that strategy, they have also recognized that if the economy is destroyed beyond repair — by sanctions and other means — then, how are they going to govern if they take power? So Juan Guaido, for example, asked Trump a few months ago to lift the international sanctions which prevent Venezuela from getting international financial assistance and loans. Again, he didn’t want to see the economy hurt so badly that he would inherit a mess if he came to power.  However, Trump turned him down on that.

So the point is even the opposition recognizes that the damage could be too great and could be irreparable. And indeed, we are seeing that the US is imposing such draconian sanctions on that country, that they really could destroy the economy in a way that it would be nearly impossible to repair. I don’t think this economic warfare is going to work to replace the Maduro government, but certainly it could destroy that nation.

By the way, that’s the alternative goal of the US.  If you look at US regime change operations throughout the years, if the US is unable to unseat the government it wants to unseat, it will accept as an alternative simply destroying the nation. Vietnam is a great example. The US knew at some point that it would not defeat the national liberation forces in Vietnam and so it simply proceeded to bomb that country to the stone age so as to leave them with nothing. If we look at Libya there is a similar situation, in Venezuela and Iran too.  The US would settle for just destroying which is quite shocking and obscene, and people should oppose it. But I do think we are witnessing that strategy being played out.

AA: Venezuelan government has denied there is a “humanitarian crisis”. On the contrary, the opposition has been using on purpose this concept, which is linked to the UN’s “responsibility to protect” norm that could lead to a military intervention. To which extent are US sanctions affecting Venezuelan people?

DK: There is a recent report that was put out by The Center for Economic Policy Research which was co-authored by Jeffrey Sachs, a very well-respected economist from Columbia University. They have concluded that at least 40 thousand Venezuelans have been killed by the sanctions since August 2017 when Trump imposed a very draconian round of sanctions which cut Venezuela off from the international financial markets. So they are virtually unable to get things like HIV medicine, dialysis equipment, chemotherapy medicines and food.

This report concludes that because of this, 40 thousand Venezuelans have died, and they also conclude that at least another 40 thousand or more will die this year.  So the sanctions have been very devastating for people there, which, of course, exposes the lie that this is a humanitarian operation. If you truly wanted a humanitarian operation, you wouldn’t intentionally cut people off from medicine and food.

AA: So, how has the Venezuelan government been dealing with them in order to protect its own people’s rights?

DK: What the government has done in response is the CLAP program in which it buys mostly locally grown food, and then provides it at very cheap cost to those who need it. For a long time they were providing food to people once a month, and now they are trying to do it every 15 days in order to make sure people are getting food. The government try to get medicines from the eastern market like China, Russia, Iran, because it can’t get them from the West. And again, incredibly the US now wants to sanction the CLAP program that is providing food for people. So this is an obvious attempt to starve the population. The hope of the US is that the Venezuelans cry uncle (specifically, Uncle Sam) and overthrow the government. This is a form of terrorism, clear and simple!

AA: A few people have denounced how the western public has been disinformed by propaganda in favor of a coup d’Etat during the first half of the current year. Do you think the debate about foreign issues in the US public opinion will evolve, specially now that there is a dialogue process between the Venezuelan government and the opposition?

DK: I can only speak about what is happening in the US, and in the US the press is very one-sided in its coverage of Venezuela. It barely covers the negotiations that have been taking place between the government and the opposition. Once it became evident that Juan Guaido was not going to succeed in overthrowing the government, the press just stopped covering Venezuela like they were covering it before.  Instead of trying to deal with the situation in an honest way, and reconsider whether this gambit of supporting Guaido was right to begin with, the media just moved on. The point is that it would be hard for most of Americans to be forced to reassess the situation, because the media isn’t giving them any information or any reason to rethink what’s happening there.

AA: In the 2000’s you have had a rich experience in defending Colombian trade unionists – there is a documentary film that talks about that. Nowadays we learn about the killing of Colombian social leaders on a daily basis, but it seems that this issue is not important enough to make big news…

DK: That’s another point that I mention in the book: if you look at Colombia, which is right next door to Venezuela, there are record numbers of social leaders being killed, including trade unionists. This year has been terrible for them, with about over 150 social leaders being killed in the last year, and that number is really climbing. There is massive displacement of people. Colombia has the largest internally displaced population on earth, at around 8 million people. And disproportionately, the displaced are Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples. So there is a terrible human rights record in Colombia, but again it’s not being covered in the press.

The press barely whispers anything about Colombia. So people don’t understand what the reality of Colombia is, especially as compared to Venezuela’s. The other thing that the media doesn’t talk about is the fact that 5.8 million Colombians are living in Venezuela. There has been a mass migration going the other way, from Colombia to Venezuela, which is not talked about. So people are then led to believe that Venezuela is a uniquely troubled country in the region when that is far from truth.

AA: In your opinion what is the importance of that country for the US, and what is your view on the future of the Colombian peace agreement?

DK: The government never honoured the peace agreement in a serious way. There has been 130 ex-FARC combatants murdered. The government has never halted the paramilitaries as it was required to do by the peace agreement. So the peace agreement is dead. That is a fact. Colombia is the US’s beach head in South America. The US operates from over at least 7 military bases there, its regime change operations for Venezuela are largely staged from Colombia. Some people say Colombia is the Israel of South America, the US’s surrogate in South America. That’s why the US is so protective of Colombia and gives it so much military aid, because that is where it projects power from.

Indigenous Resistance as Re-occupation of Land at the Forefront of Climate Justice

Protest against Trans Mountain pipeline in BC.

I write as a settler on this land. I am not speaking on behalf of Aboriginal people but rather as an unconditional ally to their struggles. I will specifically address Indigenous resistance in the form of re-occupation of Turtle Island and in particular of so-called Canada. Re-occupation of the land is a kind of resistance and decolonization to dismantle settler relations to the land as commodity or as property. It is a form of what Nishnaabeg Leanne Betasamosake Simpson calls Indigenous resurgence that is based on restoring Indigenous relationships with the land and how to treat the land in a reciprocal and profoundly respectful way: “It refuses dispossession of both Indigenous bodies and land as the focal point of resurgent thinking and action…. It calls for… radical resurgent organizing as direct action… against the dispossessive forces of capitalism, heteropatriarchy and white supremacy. These are actions that engage in generative refusal of… state control… and they embody an Indigenous alternative.”1 As I understand it this alternative implies both the return of the land to Aboriginal people (and thus the dismantling of settler colonialism) coupled with the literal social, political and economic overthrow of the settler, capitalist state that has wreaked havoc on the planet. More on the tactic of re-occupation shortly. But first, some context on how settler colonialism and ecocide go hand in hand is in order.

Ecocide or the annihilation of the planet and our very life support system is also an industrial genocide of Indigenous peoples symptomatic of what many scholars have called the cancerous diseases of capitalism and settler colonialism. They are both predicated on infinite expansion and growth, the reduction of earth to a lifeless commodity, the mindset of land as frontiers of conquest and the obliteration of what Naomi Klein calls sacrificial zones and people standing on their way. Under capitalism “the expansion of commodity frontiers fosters conditions of social and environmental degradation and conflict.” The commodification process inherent in capitalism begun with the sugar complex in the fifteenth century, spurred early colonialism, and continues to operate in settler colonialism and land grabs through mining and fossil fuel industries and corporate interests: “[f]urther expansion is possible as long as there remains un-commodified land, products, and relations. Here land should be seen the equivalent to the space to grow food or to extract minerals, or the sea for oil or gas exploration.”2 Although today the process of commodification has been exported from the European colonial empires to its colonies and it is rampant globally under the new neo-liberal world order it was initiated within Europe with the uprooting of European peasants, their loss of traditional forms of subsistence, their disconnection from the soil and natural environment, the subsequent flow of products from the countryside to the big urban centers and the degradation and toxification of the places of extraction and consumption. The rise of wage labour accompanied the commodification of land and labour while the “dispossession of subsistence farmers and herders from common land resulted in the proletarianization of rural populations, who flooded to urban centers in search of work…Those still in possession of land generally became indebted, fostering instability and overexploitation by capitalists. This process led to declining productivity, driving the frontier further in search of fresh supplies of labour and land.”3

The story of commodity frontiers and capitalist expansion is more or less similar around the globe. Capitalism goes hand in hand with settler colonialism and both are based on the principles of expansion and commodity frontier as well as the “doctrine of discovery” or in the words of some commentators “the doctrine of Native genocide.” As land is being exhausted in one place, “new” land needs to be “discovered” and thus occupied. And as social and environmental effects of extraction of resources increases, the quantity, quality and availability of resources decrease. Consider for instance that the expansion and the commodity frontier have now moved to a new whole other level in which the oil industry is after increasingly difficult oil to extract that requires large amounts of water, produces more waste and pollution and particularly affects the well being of Indigenous communities as is the case of extraction of dirty oil in the tar sands of Alberta in Canada.

Settler states such as Canada are founded on colonial narratives about the land as sites of conquest, as hard-won property, as real estate, as conquered territory and thus as an agentless object of domination. In contrast, Indigenous people understand the land and the earth as a living entity with its own agency, its own “personality.” Emma Battell Lowman et al. write that this is precisely why “it is often difficult for many settlers to understand why Indigenous struggles about the land are not about holding private property title to land in Canada and fair payment for land appropriated by the state or having equal rights under the law.”4 For many Indigenous people the water, the air, the living things such as plants and animals, the rocks and earth have thoughts of their own and are relatives of the people that depend on them for their own survival. Kyle White explains this relationship as a sort of kinship of humans and non-human others. It entails: interdependence with the land, and between humans and non-humans in the ecosystem; responsibility to care for the environment and the land in which human communities act as caretakers and stewards of the land; reciprocity and mutuality between the human and the non-human (natural world). White maintains that: “Indigenous ecology is an ecological system of interacting humans and non-human beings (animals, plants) and entities (spiritual, inanimate), and landscapes (climate regions, boreal zones) for the continuity of life that is based on “consent.” Notice here the gendered language implicit in the issue of consent. In this Indigenous ecological worldview the earth has agency for its ecosystems are not to be dominated but respected and asked for their consent to continue to sustain human and non-human communities alike. In turn, we are to protect her by taking care of her the way we would take care of our own kin or our mothers.

Settlement is not only a colonial but also a patriarchal project that seeks the very violation of the earth, the land and of Indigenous peoples. This is a point that Blackfoot/Sami filmmaker, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers has made abundantly clear in her short film, Bloodland, in which the earth is depicted as an Indigenous woman violated and ravaged by the oil and fossil fuel industries. It is not coincidental that all extractivist projects in Indigenous territories are accompanied by gendered based violence against Indigenous women particularly through the construction of man camps that house the industry’s workers and are notorious for preying on the Aboriginal women and girls living in nearby communities and reserves. It is also important to see the violence on the land/earth within the context of the phenomenon of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in Canada, an issue of epidemic proportions and (very much analogous to a similar problem in the U.S). As a recent inquiry termed this epidemic sexualized genocide aiming at removing Indigenous women from this land it is ironic that mainstream conservative, white male, settler politicians in Canada debated the merit of the term genocide to refer to this violence. This resembles the way the fossil fuel industry and Canadian economic elites continue to be tone deaf to Indigenous communities’s refusals to give consent to extractivist projects in their territories, who see these projects as forms of industrial genocide of land and people.

The cultural basis of settler relationships with the land and the earth is that they are anthropocentric and rooted in the idea that humans are an exceptional species, unique in creation and as such the land must render benefits to human communities and the earth must serve human interests rather than having inherent value of its own. Human and settler interests supersede those of Indigenous communities, their land or those of non-human others. Indigenous peoples are understood not as sovereign people with their own sacred relationship to the land, their own governance and sovereign policies but as an impediment to the mindset of the commodity frontier and the rampant exploitation of the land and its so called resources. This is why the Canadian government always fails to consult in a meaningful way with Indigenous peoples when it undertakes development or extractivist projects. Canada as a settler state practices the logic of commodity frontier (i.e as land is exhausted, “new” land must be found, occupied and exploited), and ultimately reserves and exercises the right to simply ignore any Indigenous claims to land if it is in its so-called national or economic interests. Canada uses its colonial law and its institutions to legitimize its settler and capitalist impulse of land grabs, and harm Indigenous communities by displacing them and giving way to the settler state. Often this process unfolds into the violent deployment of the military and police to accomplish the expulsion of Indigenous communities, which, in turn, are criminalized and framed as standing in the way of Canada’s national or economic interests. Both federal and provincial state bodies often pit so-called law-abiding citizens against Indigenous peoples in this land by constructing settlers as the proverbial hard-working white settler and family folk, who just want good paying jobs to feed their families. In contrast, Indigenous people are seen as irrationally obstructing economic growth and a hindrance to the prosperity of law-abiding Canadians.

Examples of this abound. In British Columbia, the federal government just purchased with tax payer money the defunct Trans Mountain pipeline despite the fact that at least a hundred BC First Nations have not consented to its approval and have mounted countless legal challenges in courts. Even BC premier, John Horgan, who during the election campaign had promised that he was not going to approve this pipeline is currently fighting in court the Squamish nation: “defending the Trans Mountain pipeline approval…[The BC government’s] conduct flies in the face of their commitment to use every tool in the toolbox to defend our coast, increasing the chance this risky project goes ahead. It also breaks their promise to take reconciliation with First Nations seriously.” And all this happens in a province that is unceded and unsurrendered to the colonial state.

The most glaring example of this form of ecological devastation coupled with settler colonialism is the recent militarized invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory. The Unist’ot’en Camp is a homestead maintained for ten years now by members of the Unist’ot’en house group, which is part of another Wet’suwet’en clan on adjacent territory. The Unist’ot’en have been using the tactic of re-occupation of their land and have already defeated multiple pipeline projects. On December 14 a court injunction ruled in favour of a gas company called Coastal GasLink to begin construction on the Wet’suwet’en unsurrendered territories despite the fact that neither the Crown, nor Canadian courts and its colonial institutions such as the RCMP have any jurisdiction on Wet’suwet’en land governed under the leadership of their hereditary chiefs. The violent invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory, the arrests of defenders and eviction from their land by the industry and by colonial forces dressed in army fatigues and carrying military rifles were acts reminiscent of numerous murderous, settler colonial removals of Indigenous peoples and genocidal expulsions of the past. As the colonial police assailed their territory the Wet’suwet’en resisted on ground refusing entry to colonial authorities that were bullying them on behalf of the gas industry. Freda Huson, spokesperson for the Unist’ot’en speaking on the occasion of this invasion clearly links it to unlawful trespassing with the intent to displace Indigenous people and plunder their home/land: “We’re in the right. We’re not doing anything wrong. This is my home. This is my land. They want to break down my door.”

These violent acts happened under the auspices of the provincial government that has approved the GasLink project and the federal government of Canada, which among meaningless and empty words about reconciling with Aboriginal people have utterly failed to implement Article 10 of the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples (UNDRIP), which states: “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands and territories.”

Let there be no mistake: as the latest attempt at dispossession of Indigenous people from their land clearly indicates settler colonialism, or what some might call resource colonialism, is on going as is fierce resistance to it. Although the Wet’suwet’en have decided to de-escalate the violent attempts of the provincial authorities to invade their land by allowing company workers to do pre-construction work in their territories they still remain firm in re-occupying their land and resisting against the pipeline. Re-occupation means that they do not give their consent to its construction. This is not over: “The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have by absolutely no means agreed to let the Coastal GasLink pipeline tear through our traditional territories.”

Re-occupation as it has been playing out in the Unist’ot’en case is much more than a blockade and resistance against the fossil fuel and gas industries. The Unist’ot’en have built a camp with a healing center” and become a space where Wet’suwet’en and others come to reconstruct and nurture land-based relationships” Their re-occupation of land is similar to other re-occupations by “Indigenous peoples at Standing Rock, at Oka, at Gustafsen Lake” or by the Secwepemc, whose fierce women-led Tiny House Warriors have been building tiny houses and placing them on the path of Trans Mountain pipeline to block it from crossing unceded Secwepemc territory. In this way, through re-occupation these communities also assert their law and jurisdiction over their land. Indeed, re-occupation also serves as a form of re-indigenizing Canada because ultimately it implies the resurgence of Indigenous sovereignty and law and the dismantling of colonial institutions and structures. It aims at consolidating Indigenous governance based on responsibilities to, and taking care of the land that sustains both human and non-human communities and as such it is a return to land-centric or ecocentric “economy” that in White’s terms strives for “the continuance of all life.”

This is why re-occupation as a form of resistance is profoundly unsettling (pun intended) to economic elites and to settler states. It moves beyond the demands of mainstream environmentalism that works within the terms provided by settler states and capital. Mainstream environmentalism often avoids colliding head on with the state by gearing itself toward reforms such economic or environmental policies (taxes, corporate regulation, timber or fishing quotas, optimal rates of resource extraction and so on). In contrast, Indigenous people who re-occupy their land have anti-reformist, anti-state and anti-corporate positions and do not call themselves environmentalists but rather use terms that refer to themselves as defenders of their home (which for the settler, capitalist state is nothing but a commodity frontier); or they recognize themselves as protectors of the water, the coast, the river, the forest (etc). Some Indigenous re-occupation movements are also radical in the sense that they are not after so-called sustainable development or green technologies (wind, solar power etc), or hydroelectric dams (see the Treaty 8 First Nations opposition to site C dam in BC) but favour scaling down and returning to land, what some may call deep ecology.

As Leanne Simpson puts it when Indigenous people re-occupy their land they do so with an anti-capitalist mindset because they do not re-occupy resources: “’Capital’ in our [Nishnaabeg] reality isn’t capital. We have no such thing as capital. We have relatives. We have clans. We have treaty partners. We do not have resources or capital. Resources and capital, in fact, are fundamental mistakes within Nishnaabeg thought… and… come with serious consequences… the collapse of local ecosystems, the loss of prairies and wild rice, the loss of salmon, caribou, the loss of our weather.”1 Re-occupation then is not an environmentalist tactic in the strict sense of environmentalism. Although many people mount a tremendous resistance to environmental injustices and even die defending the environment, Indigenous people and “[p]oor people do not always think and behave as environmentalists…. The environmentalism of the poor arises from the fact that the world economy is based on fossil fuels and other exhaustible resources, going to the ends of the earth to get them, disrupting and polluting both pristine nature and human livelihoods, encountering resistance by poor and Indigenous peoples who are often led by women [as is the case of the women-led Tiny House Warriors movement]. Poor and Indigenous peoples sometimes [may] appeal for economic compensation but more often they appeal to other languages such human rights, Indigenous territorial rights, human livelihoods, and the sacredness of endangered mountains and rivers.”5 They even appeal to their own oral stories that describe how human greed and the drive for accumulation can desecrate the land and undermine the balance between the human community and the environment that sustains it. (See, for instance, the Nishnaabeg story of Nanabush, who “engages in a host of exploitative and extractivist practices at the expense of plants, animals, or the Nishnaabeg, and this results in his demise.” Simpson 2017). These stories function as what Carolyn Merchant (2005) calls “ethical or normative constraints” that prohibit the community from exploiting its landbase or from treating the land as a commodity frontier.

Indeed, I believe that if there is any chance to avert the pending collapse of the planet driven by unfettered capitalism in consorting with settler colonialism, this chance lies in Indigenous re-occupation of their land. It lies in how we as settlers and by extension the state can relinquish claims to unceded land and work outside colonial state institutions and along Indigenous peoples in their efforts to take back their territories and reclaim their sovereignty. This process requires us that we learn from Indigenous knowledge and practices in their wisdom of land stewardship. Ultimately, these practices are based on an ethics of radical empathy and care for the earth. Radical empathy toward the earth means that we learn to relate to her as our kin (indeed as our sacred mother) rather than as a lifeless trove of so-called infinite resources. At the same time we need a widespread cultural transformation that remodels our society based on this kind of ethics: we need to start telling ourselves new cultural stories that take their cues from those of Indigenous peoples and culturally constrain us from pillaging the earth. These tales must not be about frontiers of conquest or the uniqueness of our species or man-made constructs such as the economy, the market, the state, (etc), which are irrelevant to the physics of material reality and inconsequential from the point of view of the biosphere. In effect, in a dead planet there can be neither economy, nor market nor state.

These tales must be imbued with profound humility ensuing from the incontrovertible fact that in the large scheme of things the earth does not need us: we need Her.

  1. Simpson, L.B. (2017). “Kwe as Resurgent Method.” “Nishnaabeg Anticapitalism.” As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  2. Conde, M. And Walter, M. (2015). “Commodity Frontiers.” In D’Alisa, G et al (eds). Degrowth: A Vocabulary For a New Era. New York and London: Routledge.
  3. Conde and Walter, 72.
  4. Battell Lowman, E. et al. (2015). Settler Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Fernwood Publishing.
  5. Martinez-Alier, J. (2015). “Currents of Environmentalism.” In D’Alisa, G et al (eds). Degrowth: A Vocabulary For a New Era. New York and London: Routledge.

Why are Anti-Migrant Arguments in the E.U., U.S. Pure Hypocrisy?

Almost every day we read about the latest outbursts in Europe, targeting pro-immigration policies. There are protests, even riots. Right-wing governments get voted in, allegedly, because the Europeans “have had enough of relaxed immigration regulations”.

That is what we are told. That’s what we are supposed to understand, and even sympathize with. Anti-immigration sentiments are even pitched to the world as something synonymous with the desire of Europeans “to gain independence from Brussels and the elites”. The right-wing, often racist, spoiled and selfish proletariat is portrayed by many as a long-suffering, hard-working group of people, with progressive aspirations.

If seen from a distance, such arguments are outrageous and even insulting; at least to the billions of those who have already lost their lives, throughout history; victims of the European and North American expansionist genocides. And to those individuals who have, until this day, had their motherlands ruined, livelihoods destroyed, political will violated, and in the end, free and unconditional entry denied; entry into those very countries that keep violating all international laws, while spreading terror and devastation to virtually all corners of the world.

*****

In this essay, let us be as concrete as possible. Let us be brief.

I declare from the start, that every African person, every Asian, every citizen of the Middle East and every Latin American (how perverse this very name “Latin” and “America” is, anyway) should be able to freely enter both Europe and North America. Furthermore, he or she should be then allowed to stay for as long as desired, enjoying the free benefits and all those goodies that are being relished by Westerners.

To back this statement, here are several (but not all) basic moral and logical arguments:

First of all, Europe and North America do not belong to their people. They belong to the people from all corners of the globe. In order to build the so-called West, close to one billion (cumulatively, according to my friends, the UN statisticians) had to die, throughout modern and the not so modern history. Virtually everything, from theatres, schools, hospitals, parks, railroads, factories and museums, have been built, literally, on the bones and blood of the conquered peoples. And nothing much has really changed to these days. Europe and later North America invaded almost the entire planet; they looted, killed, enslaved and tortured. They robbed the world of everything, and gave back nothing, except religion and a servile and toxic bunch of ‘elites’, who are continuously plundering their countries, on behalf of the West. Therefore, Europe and North America were built on credit, and now this credit is due.

Secondly, the Western culture, without any competition, is the most violent civilization on earth. I repeat, without any competition. It cannot be defeated militarily, without further losses; losses which could be easily counted in billions of human lives. Therefore, the only possibility of how to reduce the scale of further global tragedies is to ‘dilute’ the West and its fundamentalist culture of racial and cultural superiority. The fact that Westerners are now in minority in such cities like London or New York, has not fully stopped the U.K. and U.S.A. from committing monstrous crimes, attacking and pillaging foreign countries. But were Europe and North America still homogeneous, there would hardly be any free, independent country left anywhere in the world. Migration to the West is helping, at least to some extent, to save the world. Migrants, from the first and oldest generations, demand that the voices of non-westerners, would be listened to, at least some extent.

Furthermore, and this is, of course, a well-known argument: the only reason why people from previously wealthy countries like Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Iran or Syria are forced to emigrate, is because their nations were either bombed back to the Stone Age, or destroyed through sadistic sanctions. Why? So, there would be change of the government, and instead of local citizens, the profits from natural resources would benefit Western corporations. Also, of course, in order to prevent the “Domino Effect”. The West hates the idea of the “Domino Effect”: read, the regional or global influence of Communist, socialist or progressive governments which would be determined to improve the lives of their people. West needs obedient, frightened slaves, not great heroes and bright thinkers! To stop the “Domino Effect”, millions had to die in the 1965 coup in Indonesia, in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, to name just a few unfortunate nations. If you come to a rich, socially-balanced nation, rob it of everything, overthrow its government, and reduce it to a ‘failed state’, in order for your own nation and people to prosper, would you be shocked if some of its people were to decide to try to follow the resources that you have stolen; meaning, moving to your own country?

The reason why people in the West do not follow this train of logic is simply because they are thoroughly ignorant; trying extremely hard, for decades and centuries, to remain blind. If they claim ignorance, they don’t have to act. They can just enjoy the loot, without paying the price. It is simple, isn’t it?

*****

Are those right-wing voters in the U.K., in Hungary, in Greece, France and Italy, as well as in other EU countries, really so blind, or so morally corrupt, that they do not see the reality?

Do they expect to have a ‘free ride’ for another century or two?

Do they teach history in European schools? I wonder. And if they do, what kind of history? I was shocked to realize that even some of my Spanish friends who are working for the United Nations, have absolutely no clue about the barbarity their country had committed in Central and South America. Or Portugal, in what is now Brazil or Cape Verde.

Now, the Italians with their Northern League (oh yes, “anti-establishment”, they love to say) firmly in government, are criminalizing people who are helping the ‘boat people’ sailing from Libya and other devastated African countries (mainly ruined by France and other EU nations) to reach Italian shores. Good ‘working people’ would rather if the refugees sank in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, as hundreds and thousands already have. And this anti-immigration rhetoric is actually being glorified as ‘brave’ and ‘anti-establishment’. How beastly, how low, the European culture continues to be. It was always ultra-violent and aggressive, but now it is also shallow, illogical and fanatic. It is not racist anymore. It is far beyond that. It is turbo-racist, monstrously selfish. I often describe it as ‘fundamentalist’, not unlike what one encounters in the so-called ‘logic’ of movements such as ISIS and al Nusra.

In the U.S.A., the situation is not much better. Wall on the Mexican border? Study your history! The United States robbed half of Mexico, through expansionist wars. Most of migrants who are crossing the border illegally, are actually not Mexicans (Mexico is, with all its social problems, an OECD country), but from impoverished Central American nations. And why are these nations impoverished? Every time they democratically elect their progressive governments which would be ready to work on behalf of the people, the U.S. immediately applies its fascist dictatorial “Monroe Doctrine”, overthrows the government, injects right-wing death-squads, forces privatization, and strips the country of everything, like a locust. Don’t the people from Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras or Dominican Republic, have the full right to follow the loot, too, and settle near it, in the United States?

*****

The Western doctrine is simple and at the same time, absolutely irrational. It is not defined, but if it were, it would read like this: “We can attack, rob, migrate wherever we choose to. Because we are white, Christian people with a superior culture and much better weapons than everyone else. No other reason, but this should suffice. Other people have to stay away, far away. Or else! If they disobey, they will be sunk by the Italians, beaten with rubber hoses on the open seas by the Greeks. Walls will be built, and people concentrated in repulsive camps, like what is being done if refugees try to cross from the south to North America.”

Oh, North America, where predominately first but also second and other generations of Europeans hunted down local native people like animals. Where the great majority of the First Nation died horrible deaths. Where the native people, in the U.S.A. and Canada, are often forced to live, to this day, in total destitution. North America, but also Australia – the same culture, same pattern, same ‘logic’.

And after murdering native people, what came next? Millions of Africans, in chains, brought as slaves by the Europeans, to build “the new world”. Men tortured and robbed of their dignity. Women tied in the fields and raped, day after day, by white plantation owners. Democracy. Freedom. Western-style.

Does such a ‘nation’, like the United States, have any moral right to decide who should cross its borders, and who to settle on its territory?

I don’t think so. Do you?

*****

Things can be very different. Look at Russia during the Soviet Union. It never occupied the Central Asian republics. They joined voluntarily, and if you talk to people in Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan, a great majority would happily join Russia, again; almost all feel nostalgic about the Soviet Union.

During the USSR, Moscow made sure that the standards of living in Tajikistan or Kirgizstan were almost the same as in Russia.  Instead of plundering, Russia provided great subsidies and internationalist support.

And then, after the Soviet Union was destroyed by external forces, (the arms race with the West and by Western propaganda), the country broke into several independent states. And the flow of migrants began.

Russia never closed its borders. Travel from Central Asia (destabilized by Washington) to now rich Russia is easy. Millions of people from the former Soviet republics are happily working all over the Russian Federation. And there is no ‘moral obligation’ that the Russian state has towards them. All this is actually just common sense, respect for shared history and values, and normal human kindness.

*****

Some will say, what the West did, it all happened long time ago. But no, it did not. It is still happening now, right now.

Of course, if you are frying your brains in some pub or club in London, or if you are sitting in a posh café in Paris, you would never think so. All you want is to be left alone, and to live your suave European life. A life built on the bones and blood of hundreds of millions of victims.

Huge and super-rich Europe cannot accommodate even one million of people flowing from the ruined Middle East? Seriously? Tiny Lebanon managed to survive an influx of 2 million refugees at the height of so-called “Syrian crises”. Crime rate did not skyrocket, country did not collapse. You know why? Because Lebanese people have heart and decency. While the West has nothing of that nature.

If your family became rich because it was robbing and murdering, would you want to return the booty? Would you open the doors to those whom your parents and brothers tortured and pillaged? Some would. After opening their eyes, they would. But not the West. It only takes. It never gives. It hates those who give. It smears, even attacks all decent nations.

The horrors are still happening right now, in devastated Afghanistan, a country reduced to ashes, after being designated as a training base for the fundamentalists ready to infiltrate and damage China, Russia, former Soviet Central Asia republics, Iran and Pakistan. I work there, I know. Or Syria. I work there too. Or Venezuela, one of my favorite countries on earth. And the list goes on and on.

I cannot anymore read those self-righteous, hypocritical outbursts, coming from the British, French, Italian, North American and Greek voters who only want benefits, while choosing to remain blind to the global genocides their regime is committing all over the world.

These people could not care less about who pays for their welfare, or how many millions die supplying them with their privileges.

They want more. They always complain “how poor and exploited they are”. They do not want to stop neo-colonialism. They only desire more money and better living conditions for themselves. “We are all humans”, they say. “We are all victims”. And then they vote in the extreme right-wing, and demand that the “refugees” be kept out.

They have blood on their hands. And most of them are not victims, but victimizers. They are not internationalists. Just mini-imperialists, selfish products of their culture of colonialism.

The West has to open the doors to the world which has been devastated during the long centuries.

Some people ‘outside’ have been literally turned into beggars, so the West could thrive.

‘Political correctness’ in London or New York lies, saying how wonderful the world outside is. No! It is not. Much of it is poor, gangrenous, horrid! Disgusting. Because it was made like that. Because it was beaten, violated, and robbed for centuries.

These people, the true victims, are demanding only two things: to be left alone and to be allowed to build their own nations, without Western military interventions, without self-serving NGO’s and Western-controlled U.N. agencies. That’s one.

Two, to go when they want to go, where their stolen riches are!

Either they will be let in, compensated and asked for forgiveness, or they will do what is their right: break the gates!

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Thousands of Goldminers Invade Yanomami Territory

Up to 10,000 goldminers have invaded Yanomami lands in northern Brazil, spreading malaria in the region and polluting many of the rivers with mercury.

Although most Yanomami are in contact with non-indigenous society, one uncontacted group is known to live in the area being invaded, and authorities are investigating signs of up to six other uncontacted communities living there.

One of the many illegal gold mining sites in the Yanomami territory. © FUNAI

The massive influx has been blamed by local indigenous leaders for the deaths of four children already. They say the miners are building settlements and airstrips, emboldened by President Bolsonaro’s support for land invaders, and constant attacks on indigenous people.

Some mining camps are just a few miles from uncontacted Yanomami.

The Yanomami association Hutukara estimates the number of miners at up to 10,000. They also report devastation to the fish and game they rely on for their livelihood.

The communal house of an uncontacted group in the Yanomami indigenous reserve.
© Guilherme Gnipper Trevisan/FUNAI/Hutukara

The Yanomami are pushing the government to remove the miners. Earlier this year Brazilian Indians led the biggest ever international protest for indigenous rights, after President Bolsonaro effectively declared war on them and their rights.

The 35,000 Yanomami straddle both sides of the Brazil-Venezuela border. 20% of the Yanomami population in Brazil died from diseases brought in by goldminers during a previous gold rush in the late 1980s and early 90s.

After a long international campaign led by Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, Survival and the CCPY (Pro Yanomami Commission), Yanomami land in Brazil was finally demarcated as the ‘Yanomami Park’ in 1992. The Yanomami territories in Brazil and Venezuela together form the largest forested indigenous territory in the world.

Davi Kopenawa, known as “the Dalai Lama of the Rainforest” said: “Four of our rivers – the Uraricoera, Mucajaí, Apiaú and Alto Catrimani – are polluted. It’s getting worse, more miners are coming in. They’re not bringing anything [good], they’re just bringing trouble. Malaria has already increased here, and killed four of our children.”

In Indonesian Borneo: Humiliate Native People, then loot their land

You will never read about it, but Dayak people, the “First Nation” of the enormous island of Borneo, are broken, robbed and brainwashed.

“Unity in diversity” it says; the motto of Indonesia. But it could be argued that the opposite is true. There is very little unity, and less and less diversity, as the country is controlled from Jakarta, an enormous, overpopulated stinky and sinking megapolis which is located on the island of Java.

Jakarta does not want to allow any dissent. For half a century it has made sure that everyone on this huge and unfortunate archipelago thinks the same, while desiring no improvement. Here, everyone is religious, everyone anti-Communist and fanatically pro-capitalist. The result is: the country collapsed, a long time ago, but ‘no one noticed’. While the Western media is paid ‘not to notice’.

“It is a modern-time colonialism”, I heard thousands of times. Java is perceived by many who are living on those proverbial thousands of islands (the Indonesian archipelago has over 17 thousand isles which are spread over a great area), as a colonialist, aggressive and morally corrupt entity. No wonder: after independence from Netherlands, the country was formed, generally, along the old colonial boundaries.

During the era of the progressive anti-imperialist President Ahmed Sukarno, Indonesia was at least a co-founder of the Non-aligned Movement. It nationalized its natural resources, while building an enlightened socialist motherland.

That did not last very long. Following the West-sponsored brutal military coup of 1965, socialism was destroyed, Communists and atheists murdered, and the US-style neo-colonialist rule managed to smash all hopes for a better future.

Ever since, most of the islands have been run as colonies: pillaged, and oppressed. The ‘transmigration’ policy has been turning local people into a minority, at least in the various ‘strategic’ areas. Those have literally been flooded with state-sponsored immigrants from Java, Southern Sumatra, and other densely-populated Sunni Muslim parts of the country.

Modern-day Indonesia has lived through three cruel genocides in its modern history: one triggered during and after the fascist coup (1965/66), then one that was perpetrated in (formerly) occupied East Timor, and the one, on-going one, in the conquered West Papua. But that is not all: terrible inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts have been shaking Indonesia for decades: from Aceh to Sulawesi, Ambon, Kalimantan (Borneo), to name just a few. Anti-Chinese pogroms have been common for centuries.

If there were to be a referendum, most of the islands, including the tourist island of Bali, would opt for independence. But that is a hushed fact, as it would never be allowed. The unproductive and depressingly over-populated island of Java virtually lives off the plundering of the riches of the entire archipelago. Indonesia’s ‘wealth’ mainly comes from commodities; from unbridled plundering of the outer islands.

Polluted waterways of Kalimantan

That, of course, is true about one of the biggest booty – the enormous Kalimantan.

Many of the filthy rich Javanese families are connected to the plunder. Their wealth comes directly from destruction of the archipelago. The five-star hotels surrounded by Jakarta’s slums, malls with overpriced European brand names, and tasteless villas in gated communities, are built on blood and robbery.

*****

The island of Borneo is the third largest island on earth, after Greenland and Papua. It is shared by Indonesia (where it is known as Kalimantan), and also by Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. And it has, or more precisely, it used to count on all kinds of imaginable treasures, from oil to coal, gold, uranium and timber.

 

 

Entering Indonesian Kalimantan from Malaysia

It also used to be one of the most pristine and stunning parts of the world, covered by plush native forests, which grew all along the mighty and clean tropical waterways.

Borneo’s native people, the Dayaks, used to live in true symbiosis with nature. Whatever their internal problems were, they never tried to conquer other islands.

But this self-contained paradise had been brutally penetrated and eventually destroyed; first by the Dutch colonialists, and later by the legendary Javanese greed united with Western multi-national companies.

Today, Borneo, or at least its Indonesian part, is almost entirely ruined. Most of its forests have been cut down, giving way to the endless and toxic oil palm plantations. Rivers where gold is being mined both legally and illegally, are poisoned by mercury, while entire mountains are levelled by local and foreign mining companies. Coal mines are of tremendous proportions, and expanding.

Horrid palm oil

The wisdom of the local people is still alive, but only deep in what is left of the native forests. Most of the ‘modern-day’ Dayak people have been cannily incorporated by the regime into the system which thrives on plundering of the land and of all that nature holds above and below the surface.

*****

Mr. Krisusandi, the chief of “Dayakology Institute” located in the city of Pontianak, West Kalimantan, does not hide his frustration, when he sits across the table from us, in his office:

West Kalimantan has more than 150 ethnic groups of Dayaks. Each has its own language and culture… and that’s only in the area of West Kalimantan! To call them all by the same name – Dayak – is derogatory, inaccurate.

Local people used to inhabit some of the richest lands on earth, in terms of natural resources,” I suggest. Mr. Krisusandi agrees:

Precisely. And this is precisely the curse; the key to understanding why, compared to other indigenous societies, the oppression of Dayaks is the worst.

During Suharto’s ‘New Order’, the regime developed stigmas and stereotypes, belittling and humiliating Dayaks; like that they are ‘backward’, ‘primitive’ and ‘uncivilized’. The military, the fascists, got used to judging Dayaks as forest dwellers and destroyers. The result: Dayak society got discriminated against, losing its culture, independence, and even began feeling shame for being what it is.

Because of that shame, Dayaks have been lulled into converting to Islam, or to Christianity. And after that, they were not Dayaks, anymore! Consequently, they were forced to accept the centralized education system, which has been totally ignoring the local knowledge.

That was, of course, not all. The so-called ‘New Order’ of Suharto’s pro-Western cronies and collaborators, was determined to liquidate all left-wing beliefs. That’s what it was ordered to do by Washington. And Indonesian culture before 1965 was at least ‘communitarian’, if not out rightly Communist. The cultures of Dayak people were no exception.

Mr. Krisusandi confirmed, readily:

’New Order’ believed that it had hegemony on ‘modernization’. And they saw even traditional ‘longhouses’ as something ‘Communist’. They used to call them ‘filthy’, or even ‘fire hazards’. The regime was totally anti-Communist, and it branded all Dayaks as ‘Communists’. Actually, it went to such an absurd extreme that each and every person who refused to abandon his or her longhouse and traditional way of living, was branded as a Communist.

To be a ‘Communist’ was, for decades, synonymous with the highest crime, punishable by death.

It was terrible suffering to be a Dayak then, and in many ways, it still is now. On top of it, all this was accompanied by the theft of land.

As I mentioned before, most of the Dayaks were forcibly converted to Islam, or Christianized. For some, it was the only way how to get ahead. Those who accepted Islam were registered as ‘Malays’, and as a ‘reward’, some were even allowed to became government officials.

*****

Julia, a female activist and researcher from West Kalimantan, now a PhD student at Bonn University in Germany, gave a similar testimony as Mr. Krisusandi’s:

The marginalization and stigmatization of Dayak people in West Kalimantan during the New Order era occurred in a structured and in a systematic way. For example, at the beginning of the New Order period, there was a massive demolition of longhouses, Dayak traditional settlements, in West Kalimantan. Only few survived, and those that remained were only in the inland areas, such as Kapuas Hulu. Infrastructure facilities (mainly roads) to access Dayak settlements in remote areas were also very far behind, with the consequences such as the lack of access to education, health services, etc. The social stigma was created: Dayaks were perceived as backward, stupid, and primitive. Most of Dayak people have been feeling embarrassed to be associated with their Dayak identity. There were even attempts made to rename “Dayaks”, calling them “Daya”.

Ms. Fidelia, a retired schoolteacher, who lives in Singkawang, West Kalimantan:

Based on my experience as a primary school teacher during the 1980s, I felt that compared to the other students, my Dayak pupils found it relatively more difficult to grasp knowledge. Most of the Dayaks live in the interior of Borneo. For more than three decades, Suharto’s government made the conditions of the rural Kalimantan very tough; the interior of the island remained underdeveloped and very hard to access. Because of this isolation, people have been experiencing lack of basic services and facilities, such as education.

Misery in rural Kalimantan is widespread. Enormous palm oil plantations turned huge areas into monocultures. Local people who stayed, are now forced to basically import everything from outside. Life has become extremely expensive. Thousands of villages are literally surrounded, choking by commercial entities. The traditional, natural way of life is totally ruined.

*****

To obtain any substantial information in the cities and villages of Kalimantan, is almost impossible. That is why the tragedy of this plundered island is almost ‘undocumented’.

People are scared to talk, or they do not comprehend their own conditions and their position in the Indonesian and global context.

In Banjarmasin, Palangkaraya, Pontianak and in other urban and rural areas of Kalimantan, people who live in absolute destitution, are refusing to even admit that they are poor. The inhabitants of filthy and hopeless slums lacking almost all basic services, consider their life ‘normal’, and most of them describe their state as ‘pasrah’, which means ‘abandoning, surrendering their lives to fate and God’.

Just as in the rest of Indonesia, oppressive forms of religion (mainly Saudi-style Wahhabi Sunni Islam) have already managed to take full control over the population. Under such conditions, no rebellion is possible. This is, of course, a brilliant arrangement for savage capitalism and for the bunch of corrupt captains of the Indonesian regime.

Since 1965, the logic of pro-Western rulers was simple and effective: ‘Do not allow the arts, philosophy and creativity to ‘pollute’ people’s minds. Kill everything socialist and communist. Make Indonesian citizens simple, pious, uniformed, and uninformed. Smash everyone who is different.

Native people in the resource-rich parts of the archipelago (such as Kalimantan) were the most affected. They have been treated precisely as the South Americans were treated by their Spanish or Portuguese colonialist masters and tormentors: all the resources have been stolen, while local beliefs and languages smashed. Simultaneously, totally foreign religious concepts have been pushed down their throats. Those who were willing to collaborate, were given important government and academic positions, ridiculous titles, and at least some cut from the loot.

Monstrous mines in Borneo

The price was terrible: the destruction of both land and the original population. The ‘primitive people of the forest’ were actually much more advanced than their conquerors. They knew how to live with their nature, their environment. Before colonialism, rivers and forests, mountains and villages were intact and thriving. The destruction of local culture led to the collapse of the environment, and in the case of Borneo, of the entire island.

*****

I am making a long documentary film here: about this damaged culture, and about the whole island that used to be much closer to ‘paradise’, than any other place on Earth. As I film, in all the corners of Borneo, I feel terrified. What I see is indescribable. I have to use visuals, images, to prove the point. Words are not enough. It often feels that the destruction is unreal; that all this is just a nightmare, that I will wake up, that the horror will go away. But it is real; nothing goes away. People, their greed, are capable of ruining anything, even the most stunning places on our planet.

Mr. Krisusandi speaks about his Institute of Dayakology with pride:

We established it, in order to return dignity to our people.

Then he recalls the terrible on-going struggle:

In the beginning, when the destruction of the longhouses began, there was a fight. But the government was canny; it introduced so-called logging concessions. It also accelerated trans-migration from several over-populated parts of Indonesia, predominantly from Java. In the name of ‘development’, government took over all land, and sold it to companies that began planting palm oil, or introducing indiscriminate mining. Dayaks could do nothing. They became powerless; coolies on their own land.

During the so-called ‘reform period’, after Suharto stepped down, the situation marginally improved; but by then, the Dayaks had almost no intellectuals. And those who were ‘educated’ during ‘New Order’, had typical ‘developmentalist’ mindsets. They sold out; they even began oppressing their own people.

A prominent educator from West Kalimantan, who did not want to be identified out of fear of losing his job, clarified:

On my island, being so-called educated could lead to something negative. A Dayak person who goes through the formal Indonesian education system, could and usually would end up following only his or her own mercantile interests, and consequently do harm to both community and nature.

What he meant is that the person often chooses to work for the companies or the government, that are intensively ruining the Borneo island, while further indoctrinating and disempowering local population.

%22Communist%22 – the-longest longhouse in the world deep-in-rainforest

While deep in Borneo, one year ago, we visited a longhouse, where we were told by Mr. Paulus, the elder in a traditional Bali Gundi longhouse in the Putusibau area:

People who go to school; they get smarter and cannier and then they work for the government and companies, they forget to help their villages and hometowns. As long as they get money they do not care anymore.

Recently, President Jokowi decided to at least give some land back to the Dayak people. It was a symbolic gesture, but practically, nothing changed, and almost nothing was returned to the native people.

As confirmed by Mr. Krisusandi:

It is now actually almost impossible to give anything back to the people. West Kalimantan consists of roughly 12 million hectares of land. Concessions, those for palm oil, mining and other commercial activities, were already given 13 million hectares. With national parks, a total of 16 million hectares is already committed. So, just calculate: it is 4 million hectares more than total area of West Kalimantan!

I think about those once mighty and pure rivers, endless tropical forests, deep and ancient cultures of local people. I close my eyes, trying to imagine hundreds of already vanished species of fauna and flora. Then, I imagine the huge, repulsive, kitschy dwellings of local ‘elites’, in Jakarta and Surabaya. I imagine European and North American cities built from the loot of places such as Kalimantan.

Kalimantan Devastation

“Will Dayak people fight for their rights?” I asked.

“Maybe the next generation will,” comes the hesitant reply. “But not this one. Definitely not this one.”

In Palangkaraya city, we spoke to one of the most prominent Dayaks, an author J.J.  Kusni, a man who spent long years in France, but finally returned to his native land.

I filmed his long, passionate testimony, in which he expressed sadness, even outrage over the state into which the Dayak people were reduced.

“Philosophically, a Dayak is a fighter,” he said.

But the spirit of Dayak people was obviously smashed. Most of them have become victims, while others were convinced to convert themselves into collaborators. The entire Indonesian part of the Island of Borneo is now burned down, poisoned and logged out. There are few ‘protected parks’, but even in the middle of them, commercial activities are now detectable. Entire original cultures here are humiliated. People are confused. Most of them gave up, accepted, resigned.

Destruction and thorough ruin are being propagated as ‘progress’, by the Indonesian regime. Brainwashing is passed as ‘education’.

“Through the national and even village government structures established by Suharto, everything in Kalimantan became “Javanized”,” explained J.J. Kusni.

“So, what are the Dayak people doing?” I asked.

“They are crying,” he replied curtly.

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek