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Cultivating an Alternative Awareness That Doesn't Involve Destroying the Planet

Our own wisdom is telling us to evolve.

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Water Protector, and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota and South Dakota. Indigenous leaders from Brazil and allies held a non violent direct action outside the Permanent Mission of Brazil in New York City on April 23, 2019 to raise their voices and show solidarity with the indigenous resistance. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Water Protector, and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota and South Dakota. Indigenous leaders from Brazil and allies held a non violent direct action outside the Permanent Mission of Brazil in New York City on April 23, 2019 to raise their voices and show solidarity with the indigenous resistance. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Let's use up the planet and bless the future with its corpse.

If politics involved speaking the truth, those words could well be the core slogan of mainstream politicians and their media cohorts, with the purpose of the election process (you know, democracy) being, simply, to choose the specific ways in which we continue exploiting the planet and ignoring the consequences.

"What was seeded by the peaceful opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock in 2016 must grow into a planetary movement; one that is globally unified and that transcends cultures, borders and beliefs."
—LaDonna Brave Bull Allard

Should we destroy the rainforests quickly or slowly? How much should be invest in the next generation of nuclear weapons and—come on!—when do we get to use them to protect our freedoms? We can't afford to save the planet but we can definitely afford to kill it. But let's do it carefully and responsibly.

There's an alternative to this thinking, but I'm not sure when or how it will gain sufficient political and economic traction in today's world to have an impact: to change official thinking and basic assumptions about the nature of reality. This alternative emerges from wisdom at the core of human consciousness, which the "developed" world chose to abandon and forget in millennia past. It's often referred to these days as indigenous thinking, but it doesn't belong in a museum.

"What was seeded by the peaceful opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock in 2016 must grow into a planetary movement; one that is globally unified and that transcends cultures, borders and beliefs. It is clear this is not only an indigenous issue, but a world issue that affects all of us. . . ."

These are the words of LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, writing the manifesto of an organization called Defend the Sacred. Allard, who died earlier this month at age 64, was a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and had launched the resistance movement, which grew to global proportions, against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline cut across tribal land and threatened to contaminate the local water supply, not to mention violate the tribe's burial grounds.

Her manifesto—envisioning what she called "a global alliance to defend the sacred"—continues:

"Humans have begun to separate themselves from nature, and to stand as a dominant species that is trying to control the natural world, unleashing global devastation. The result of this fundamental separation is an environmental crisis and an inner crisis, violence against the Earth and interpersonal violence, which are two sides of the same coin. We now unite as a planetary community to stand together for the sacred; to midwife a transition to a world in which humanity will no longer dominate but cooperate with all life. . . .

"Though it is difficult to see, there is an emerging and different vision for humanity. This vision foresees a world without violence as the next chapter of our collective evolution. It shows a future humanity inhabiting this planet as a network of interconnected, autonomous communities of trust."

These are stunning words, at least if one chooses not to instantly negate them—cage them in cynicism, like a child at the border. To take them seriously is to grope for some clue as to what they mean. The next chapter of our collective evolution?

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And yes, there are things happening, even at the level of national politics:

"As part of what they are calling 'Green New Deal Week,' Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey on Tuesday led the reintroduction of their landmark resolution envisioning a 10-year mobilization that would employ millions of people with well-paying, union jobs repairing U.S. infrastructure, while reducing pollution and tackling the country's intersecting climate, economic, health, and racial justice crises."

But as I cradle the words of Allard's manifesto, I feel possibilities, hope, opportunity emerge beyond the Green New Deal. But a world without violence? Isn't that a proven impossibility?

Former Marine Matthew Hoh, writing at Common Dreams, unleashes skepticism about the progressive nature of President Biden's policies, noting, for instance, that his renewal of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (a.k.a., START) "is belied by his continuation of a $1.5 trillion US nuclear arms build-up and bellicose rhetoric and actions towards China and Russia—including the construction of new nuclear capable American missile bases within a ten minute flight time of Chinese and Russian cities."

But he pushes beyond that skepticism as well, not simplistically but with an awareness of the deep complexity of change, especially in the wake of twenty years of disastrous war, which have accomplished nothing except to inflict hell across the planet and make everyone less safe. Will Biden really withdraw from Afghanistan and close the "bleeding wound" of the monstrous War on Terror?

He has an opportunity, Hoh writes, to "begin a new era of U.S. leadership that accepts the failure of American warfare, atones for imperial hubris, and instead leads the world cooperatively."

Indeed, this could be the moment "to begin the long process of harm reduction in U.S. foreign policy. . . . Embracing peace, particularly by leading a diverse grouping of nations, including Russia, China and Iran, in assisting the Afghan peace process, can be the first of many achievements he has in the White House to undo military catastrophe, bring reconciliation and stability to broken nations, and actually strengthen America's standing in the world."

Maybe this is pure wishful thinking, but I feel something else resonating in these words as well: possibility. Disentangling from war, atoning for the harm one has caused, envisioning cooperative leadership as a means of growing stronger—hmmm, this is beginning to sound like the creation of "a network of interconnected, autonomous communities of trust."

We're capable, I'm certain, of evolving—not just as individuals, but collectively, which means politically—to this level of awareness. We already know it's the only way we'll survive.

Robert C. Koehler

Robert C. Koehler

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, "Courage Grows Strong at the Wound" (2016). Contact him or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

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