By Fe Bongolan, San Francisco
As Fukushima radiation — in the same category as Chernobyl, though still amounting to a tenth of that disaster’s output — travels over our west coast into our rainwater and grass, I watch as two political stories are being told. The stories are of the battle for the hearts and minds of human beings over the natural resources of the world, and an elegy for what we have been and should be calling civilized in this day and age.
While the White House and a Republican Congress were engaged in tense budget negotiations to stave off total government shutdown over the industrial regulatory and monitoring functions of the EPA and federal funding of Planned Parenthood, the nation of Bolivia has set the template for a new United Nations treaty giving Mother Earth the same rights as humans. The aim of the treaty is to have the UN “recognize the Earth as a living entity that humans have sought to ‘dominate and exploit’ — to the point that the ‘well-being and existence of many beings’ is now threatened.” The new treaty is based on Bolivia’s Law of the Rights of Mother Earth, signed into law in January of 2011 by President Evo Morales — the first indigenous native head of state in the world. The aims of Washington and Sucre, Bolivia may seem disparate, but to me the perspectives from both could not be more intensely connected. We are in a moral struggle on the inside and out, to keep the human race from further wounding our planet and killing ourselves in the process.
It’s a form of insanity, this state of denial that leads us to believe that because of budget considerations, the Earth can continue to take the shit we shove into her, stripping her of life and living resources, hoping she’ll continue to be quiet. That goes for our own resources as well as the natural resources of other countries. That goes for the ‘she’ next to you as well as the one upon which you live. The subjugation of women — like the funding attack on Planned Parenthood — is based on a direct reflection of those values, or lack of them, that refuse to respect the power of the planet itself. How we treat women, including the female planet upon which we live, is how we regard our future. Exploitation happens to both people and places. Right now, it doesn’t look like we have great expectations for times to come.
Looking at this last week’s budget battle will give you the snapshot of what’s important in the halls of power at present. De-regulation of industrial greed and denigration of the humanity of women would have left men and women fewer choices for how they will manage their lives as well as bodies, and the planet an even greater mess. Fortunately the proposed Republican budget cuts posed under threat of a shutdown of services failed — for now.
We’ve suffered compartmentalization of thinking based on lies and manipulation, guided by an agenda that has supported empire, industry and exploitation for over the last one hundred years. Our social awareness is blinded, compassion towards others belittled, and regard for the equality of others dismissed. And that is the point. If we saw everyone as equals we could not exploit them, brutalize them, subjugate them or deny them their humanity. That goes for this nation as well as others. If we were a compassionate nation, people less fortunate here would not be demonized. There would be more billionaires paying their fair share of taxes. We would nationalize energy resources.
This compartmentalization is a symbolic gap between the head and the rest of the body with a penis or vagina and a heart attached. It is a type of moral decapitation, separating ourselves from real values with regard to the sanctity of all life — not just those of unborn fetuses. Moral indignation disintegrates in the face of the dystopic push to reap profit off every last valuable resource our world has to offer, giving nothing back. In a desire to own and control everything, we have not only separated ourselves from the planet, we are separating ourselves from our bodies, our genitals cut off from view with some sort of distorted moral visor that cannot bear to look at our ‘junk’, let alone call it by its real names in public. We are separating ourselves from ourselves and each other.
Pachamama — respect for the creative female spirit which is the world — is at the core of Bolivia’s Law of the Rights of Mother Earth. According to the basic tenets of this law, the Earth is an equal being to all other life, including and especially humans. It is with her grace that we exist on her body and it is her fertility which sustains us. If we are to continue our relationship with her, we must respect her body which is not to be taken for granted, used or abused, or taken on an unbalanced or unnatural course. The basis of Pachamama is as old as the world itself, the worship of the female Earth. This is a religion whose framework is the fertility of the natural world in balance with all those living on it and is common to indigenous people — people who live close to nature — throughout the planet.
The irony is that this civilized law comes from the very forests far from the industrial world, which know nothing about cost-benefit ratios, CBOs and line-item vetoes. Sitting on the sidelines of the crazy show called the western industrialized world has afforded time to stay wise in the midst of insanity, and let the present play itself out to where it is now, as we track radioisotopes in the air and water, wondering how to get out of the mess we’re in. We look at this new law like an insider staring out from behind a grimey glass window at the shimmering natural world outside that this planet could be. This law does not come from the supposed leading nation of the free civilized world. We are neither respectful or civilized enough to warrant forgiveness from an all-too-forgiving planet. We need to re-engage both our civility and respect for our people and the place we call home to bust through that filthy glass and regain our freedom.