On Eurocentric Colonialist Environmentalism and Progressivism
Commentary By Arthur J. Miller
the People’s Voice ~ Monday, November 29, 1999
There is a growing problem of white chauvinism within the environmental and progressive movements which is turning some into nothing more than a continuation of Eurocentric colonialism. Some of those involved in this trend realize the reality of their actions, others are heading in that direction because the ignorance brought about by the conditioning of the dominant Eurocentric society. It is my hope that my words can begin a process of awareness to help reverse this reactionary tread.
All people come from indigenous roots. Many people today have been cut off from those roots by the Eurocentric process of assimilation. Though it is true that the process of colonialist assimilation was not first seen in what is now called Europe and there are other forms of that process today in different parts of the world, still the Eurocentric form is by far the most dominating and has become the greatest threat to the well-being and survival of the people of the world and to Mother Earth herself.
The Eurocentric colonialist process started in Europe long ago. It assimilated the people into Nation States in which the rulers sought to control by the use of authorities in all aspects of the people’s lives and to accumulate the greatest amount of wealth as possible. That which it could not assimilate the process sought to destroy. All resistance to the process was met with brutal repression. Thereas, indigenous tribalism was based for the most part on common needs and the well-being of the tribe, the Eurocentric process was based upon accumulation of power and wealth at the expense of the people and the natural world. Out of necessity indigenous tribalism sought to live in balance with the natural world. For in that balance the well-being of the people was found.
The assimilation of needs and social interaction into the control of authorities has almost been complete. Political interaction became controlled by the authority of the Nation State. Religion became controlled by the authorities of the institutionalized churches. The economy became controlled by the authority of the profiteers. The control over education, knowledge, science and ideas became the property of the authorities of the intelligentsia. Information became controlled by the authority of the ruling media. The people no longer defined who and what they are, rather all things are defined for them by some authority.
Culture, which originally was a bonding among groups of people, has been developed by the Eurocentric process into a commodity to be bought and sold. All aspects of life have been divided up into singular items or issues, under the control of some authority. Those with different views and interests on each item or issue compete for control and thus to become the authority.
Since the Eurocentric system is based upon control and accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the many, that process developed protections for the privileged few. The bottom line protection has always been the force of might. That force of might has been developed to the point of weapons that can destroy all in the protection of a few. Other protections were also developed. Since the Eurocentric system was a hierarchical system it developed classes of people and all that were assimilated were given their “place”. Barriers were put into place that made it nearly impossible for people to rise up the hierarchical system.
To justify this system, to help protect it and to help it expand it the idea of superiority was created. The following is how superiority became to be viewed. The ruling class was superior in all things to all else. The privilege of superiority gave them the right to control, exploit, or act upon anything that was in their interest to do so. Since the ruling class was white that meant the white race was superior to the other races. Since the ruling class was male, that meant the male sex was the superior sex. Since the ruling class originated in what became Europe (mostly Western Europe) then the Eurocentric cultural, religion, knowledge, economics and so on was superior. To them the privilege of superiority gave them the right to define all things.
The other classes within this system were conditioned to view themselves as superior to the classes below them. This was an important controlling factor and the reason why racism, sexism and ethnic bigotry became so institutionalized. And again the privilege of superiority was in having rights over those viewed as inferior.
A major part of the assimilation process is the making the people dependent upon the system for all things, survival, education, health, culture, religion, legal remedies and so on. As they became more dependent their indigenous self-sufficiency became more lost. As that happened they becamed more identified with their class than with their true natural function in the world. You can see this very clearly within much of the left. They speak of the working class as those that are employed by the employing class rather than those whose function in society is to produce through work the needs of society. In other words they identify with their exploitation and not their function. So when they speak of the working class struggle they speak of the struggle as, what many call “wage slaves”. But if they were to indentify with their function they would see the connection between them and those who also work but are yet to be assimilated. From that viewpoint the resistance to being exploited and the resistance to being assimilated into the system of exploitation is the same struggle.
The divisions of classes or groups of people is not just about economics. It is also about the attempt to destroy indigenous roots and thus allow for assimilation. Thus you have the grouping of people by race or ethnic background. All people from Africa have become African Americans, Native people have become Native Americans. This has been a well defined attempt to strip indigenous roots. For an example, even though the U.S. Government signed treaties with sovereign indigenous tribes, the administration of the affairs is done by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and not by a Bureau of Lakota Affairs or a bureau of affairs with any other sovereign tribes.
The groupings of people are also placed with the hierarchical Eurocentric system. This has come to mean that white people are higher up and have more privilege and people of color are lower down in the system and have less “rights”, in all things are viewed as inferior (except where it profits the system), and their needs and concerns are less important.
The Eurocentric system does not function in harmony within itself. There has always been and there will always be social conflict. But since the conditioning has made people view the elements in society individually rather than the reality that all things are connected, the social conflict does not become a threat to the overall Eurocentric system. The system has learn to assimilate much of the conflict and some of it has even become a source of further profit making. Those parts of conflict that is viewed as too dangerous to assimilate is crushed.
Because of the Eurocentric conditioning of Eurocentric superiority, individualization of ‘issues’, authority control and so on, the white environmental and progressive movements tend to be a continuation of the process rather than an agent of real social change. Mostly this is not something that they do on purpose, but rather because their conditioning does not allow them to see the whole process as one big picture. Because of this they tend to place their individual ‘issues’ as superior or more important, and with that superiority comes the privilege of attaining what they want at the expense of others. This is why, for example, you will find environmentalists blaming Native people, working people and so on for the environmental problems created by the system itself. Or having those people make sacrifices rather than those that are creating and profiting for the problems.
Nobody has all the answers to how things must be turned around in order to create real social change. Hell I ain’t done asking all the questions yet, so I don’t have all the answers. But to me there is a clear direction to proceed in which the answers will be found.
We must begin with the understanding that the overall Eurocentric colonialist system is harmful to all people and to Mother Earth. This system is heading us in the direction of an abyss of social and environmental suicide. Within that Eurocentric system as in the natural world all things are connected. The way the system treats humans is also the way it treats everything else including Mother Earth. Humans are not above or outside of the environment, but rather, no matter what they like to think, they are just one part of it and are dependent upon it to survive. Thus, dealing with human conditions is as much a part of dealing with environmental conditions as is dealing with the destruction of land, water and air. That makes fighting racism, for an example, an environmental struggle. So, in reality you cannot create real social change at the expense of others without being nothing more than a continuation of the problem. All things are connected.
Though it is impossible to directly struggle on all the harmful effects of the system at the same time, but in our struggles we should not place our struggle as superior to others and in time of need stand in solidarity with other struggles.
I do not advocate “white guilt” for the reason why white people should support the struggles of people of color. Rather I advocate two things; 1. That all people, outside of the rulers, have been victimized by the Eurocentric system and that they should join in common struggle against that which has victimized them. 2. That the Eurocentric conditioning keeps white people along with others stuck in their victimization and it has them victimizing others in the interest of the system. So for those reasons the white progressive movements need to learn to step out of that conditioning and also not use it to continue the oppression of people of color.
People need to directly deal with their own oppressions. White people are not oppressed by race, but the oppression by race, all things are connected, is a means of controlling all communities. So white activists need to struggle against racism in their own communities and stand in solidarity with other communities when needed. Since the groupings of people of color is one of the means of their oppression and those groupings are created to strip them of their own self-control, then to regain what has been lost to them the struggle for self-determination of their communities is paramount in the struggle against the Eurocentric system. And self-determination means beyond the control of even the white radicals.
The struggle of the remaining indigenous people is the front line of turning back the colonialist Eurocentric assimilation. This is important to all movements for surely we as a society will have reached the abyss at the point of complete assimilation. Though those who have lost their indigenous roots cannot just join those who still have them, indigenous tribalism is not like joining a political party or church, still we they can learn from them of how to set a direction to regain that which has been lost.
Though we all struggle for day to day things, we must create a resistance mentality that brings in all aspects of life. That includes everything that the system oppresses us with, be it in the home, our place of work, school, culture, all of the environment and so on. Upon that resistance mentally and the joining together as a collective resistance, through that power we can create the great refusal to function for the system and rebuild society based upon the restored living in balance with Mother Earth, including with each other. This would be discarding the values of the Eurocentric colonialist system of greed at the expense of others and Mother Earth and replacing it with the values of respect, balance, self-determination and the well-being of all.
Arthur J. Miller
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