The History And Obsolescence of “Sprawl”

Every European that came to the “new world” was descended from an extended history of aristocratic governments. Peasants had long envied royalty and when Potosi silver brought about a new mercantile period in Europe that allowed for the development of a middle class, all of Europe dreamed of ascending a personal throne. The resources potential of the Americas to allow this ascendancy was a greater equalizer of the classes and allowed people of every background to “reach for the stars” in their quest to build their own personal fiefdoms.

The fantasy of “royalty” is built into European mythology. Becoming a prince, princess, king or queen dominated the fairy tales and early cinematic cartoons of our era; however its roots were firmly entrenched from the beginning. New World Europeans, long under the boot of aristocracies, cherished the “freedom” to own their own property and lands, and create whatever personal “castles” they could with as much of a buffer between themselves and their neighbors as they could afford. In fact, this has been the standard for determining one’s status of wealth in the Americas. The more square footage; the more acreage; the more isolation one can achieve is a direct measurement of financial achievement. Today’s monoculture still exhorts the rags-to-riches mythology—a procreation of the desire to become royalty.

This desire translated geopolitically as new immigrants automatically looked to creating their own kingdom—which was eventually watered down to houses in the hills, Beverly, or otherwise. The American dream encompassed a desire to, in some small way, achieve the goal of becoming a king or queen of one’s domain—the essence of the philosophy of private property. If an individual can autonomously control the right to affect one’s property and lands with impunity—one has, in some small measure, achieved royalty.

Some people claim that I am misguided, and that this tendency toward wanting one’s own is inherent in the human psyche and can be evidenced in the behavior of children. Unfortunately, it is they who are misguided. The type of selfish behavior our children often display relating to toys and possessions is primarily a First World trait. You do not find that behavior evidenced in communally oriented communities, certainly never in Indigenous communities. It’s like the myth that all teen agers are rebellious. It simply isn’t true anywhere but in the fat First World. Teenagers the world over in Third World countries suffer no such alienation and social repugnance. It wasn’t even common in America until around the aftermath of the Second World War, when James Dean and Marlon Brando gave the myth of rebellious teens its face.

The Provinsalia (sp?) project proposed for Clearlake is a classic example of “sprawl.” It contains all the elements that have contributed to the creation of the word in the first place. What are those elements?

First is the desire to escape urbanity, with all its attendant poverty, slums, lows property values and feeling of closeness as opposed to space. Of course urban areas were constructed that way, even though space could have been incorporated if it had been deemed important. But rural planners and developers have responded to areas of poverty in the same way. Their answer is to ignore or isolate them and then relocate or develop in other areas. Redevelopment is always a last option when there are new and more pristine areas to conquer!

Second is the desire to create “upscale development—supposing that bringing in wealthier people will somehow “trickle-down” wealth to the general populace and improve values. Of course, there’s no evidence that this has ever happened. The presence of wealth has never elevated the poor… The poor areas remain poor—the wealthier people just move further away so they aren’t offended by the needy. It’s the same mentality that created landfills and Indian reservations.

Third is just plain old selfishness. Upscale people want their gated community in a safe and beautiful location. However developers and proponents never admit that, sooner or later, other development will follow. A gas station convenience store here, a mini-mall strip there…the simple drive to bring necessities closer (even if it’s only a five minute drive to town) will cause that development to ultimately take place. After all, it makes good business sense. If you have a community of 500 families and can build a business that provides services they need closer to them than other competitors—whom do you suppose they will go to? Sooner or later—the new development is consolidated into the old town and you have “sprawl”. Yes, it could take a generation, even two or three, but it will happen. That’s the model of American development we must break.

In the modern world, short of an unlikely total philosophical reversal, the issue of private land ownership rights cannot be altered, but reasonable provisions must be added that recognize the new/old understanding that we share this worl–and what we do with it, both individually and communally, will have a lot to do with whether or not we survive as a species. A communal sense of responsibility for the land and its resources must come into play, even while recognizing a right to private ownership. The concept of individual authority, cherished as the basis of the private property paradigm, has heretofore freed property owners from any community responsibility, giving them carte-blanc on their own lands. Unfortunately, no matter how entrenched this philosophy has become in the American psyche, it has become obsolete and must needs be discarded for Americans to embrace the changes that must be made.

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A Nation of Laws Of Convenience

I love the short memories of American politicians as it relates to American history and current events. I remember hearing both Newt Gingrich and Glen Beck both attack President Obama for his Justice Department’s decision not to argue the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. Actually, if you read the decision, the Administration directed Justice to enforce the act in every way except in its defense as constitutional in Appeals Courts.

Of course, the cacophany of outrage at Obama usurping the law always starts with this fallacy–“We are a Nation of Laws, we live by the Rule of Law.  In your dreams maybe.  Natives know that the United States has never observed the Rule of Law except when it serves its own interests or those of the propertied elite.  

Here is a statement from the 18th century new United States government answering a fear that constitutionally ratified treaties, the Law of the Land, might not be honored.

”  …When therefore a treaty is constitutionally made, ratified and published by us, it immediately becomes binding on the whole nation, and superadded to the laws of the land… Treaties derive their obligation from being compacts between the sovereign of this and the sovereign of another nation; … surely the treaties so formed are not afterwards to be subject to such alterations as this or that state legislature may think expedient to make. … Were the legislatures to possess and to exercise such power, we should soon be involved as a nation, in anarchy and confusion at home  …Contracts between nations, like contracts between individuals, should be faithfully executed, even though the sword in the one case, and the law in the other, did not compel it.   Honest nations, like honest men, require no constraint to do justice; and though impunity and the necessity of affairs may sometimes afford temptations to pare down contracts to the measure of convenience, yet it is never done but at the expense of that esteem, and confidence, and credit which are of infinitely more worth than all the momentary advantages which such expedients can extort. … Be pleased, sir, to lay this letter before the legislature of your Nation. We flatter ourselves they will concur with us in opinion…that the most honorable way of delivering ourselves from the embarrassment of mistakes, is fairly to correct them!”

And these little tidbits…

The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards Indians; their land and property shall never be taken from them without their consent.”   Congress, 1789

No wrong will ever be done to you by our nation.”  Thomas Jefferson

As everyone knows, the minute the US decided it was more profitable to abrogate treaties and break its own laws it did so.  Add to it all the illegal things America has done to its own people and others since, and it’s clear that the Rule of Law in the US is arbitrary and subject to being bought off or ignored at will.  Its unfortunate that many of our “leaders ” have decided that half-truths and misleading propaganda is the only way to manage a democratic republic, but their commitment is not to making ” a more perfect union”.  Any kind of “Union” has no interest for them and very little has changed in the last two hundred years except for a great, and continuing, forgetting of the events of the past.

Always Relatives- (Time-lines and American History)

It’s the Northern Cheyenne July 4th Powwow in Montana. Around the dance grounds flutter 20 American flags. (Hardly a hotbed of insurrection or separatism!) Four honor flags are raised and lowered every day in memory of Veterans. An honor guard representing all three services walks near the front during each Grand Entry. One of the many Give-Aways honors a returning serviceman. The Cheyenne are proud of their warriors, past or present.

Next comes the Honor Dance for descendants massacred by Colorado Volunteers at Sand Creek. For those unfamiliar with the story, the Cheyenne camp was under the protection of the US military and had been given a US flag to fly should troops approach the village. The flag did not help the Cheyenne as Chivington’s Volunteers paraded dissected Cheyenne privates through the streets to the cheers of Colorado citizens.

This Dance illustrated the differences that separate Indins and non-Indins. If you asked any of the hundreds of Indins in that dance the names of their relatives killed there, they would have immediately responded.

How many Americans know the names of their relatives seven generations back? It is natural for Indins to feel affection and respect for their Elders, even those gone-on more than 100 years. That is why our past and present blend together. Our history is personal and real– not just dusty pages in a book.

To some it may seem that American Indin struggles for Sovereignty are selfish and un-necessary. But the Constitution supports our existence within the legal treaty structures every Tribe should have been party to. We carry our dual citizenship with pride. But one is family, the other–business.

The Washington State Republican Party 2000 platform carried a plank that called for the absolute termination of tribal governments with use of every branch of the Armed forces to quell any tribal resistance.

The U.S. Government has always been wishy washy about its laws and how they are enforced—or not. On one hand we are constantly reminded that this is a Nation of laws and we must adhere to that principle to protect Democracy…but whenever the government is faced with an unpopular or necessary conflict between the law and what it needs or wants either the application of enforcement or, as with treaties, the outright abrogation of the statute is allowed.

And History circles….

Morality and the Jihad of Fanaticism

My opinion represents only my family, not any Tribe or Nation.

Those who carry the jihad of hatred, intolerance or disrespect– from any Nation- cannot be moved from their paths by words. This is not about Iraq, terrorism, or foreign policy. This is about the direction and purpose of modern civilization.

Many of us recognize that modern culture seems to be enamored with its toys and successes, never examining what price has been paid in human life and destruction for those achievements. American society is consumed with violence and the desire to preserve its luxury and status at any cost. Institutional Islam seems intent on keeping its mouth shut while fanatics twist the teachings of their great Man of Peace into exhortations to sacrifice innocent life in suicidal acts of resistance against their age old religious enemies-both Christian and Hebrew. The cycle is endless, with centuries of history to drive it.

Morality relates not only to the actions of human beings toward other humans but toward the entire planet as an integrated living being. I suppose that this is the major difference between the three great religions that descend from Abraham and much of the indigenous world. The concepts that death, violence, and tragedy are unnatural conditions, and the belief in judgement, punishment, and reward has created an absolute fear of death in some, while encouraging acts of violent sacrifice in others–the two bloody sides of today’s coin of terrorism. Both sides court war, not only in revenge, but in the misguided belief that in causing death one can prevent future deaths. Life by the sword.

I’d like to present another view of morality– The entire earth is a living being. Every physical form upon it is comprised of the same elements moving and interacting. Earth, fire, air, water, rocks, trees, animals, and human beings. Indigenous peoples consider all these forms to be alive for differing purposes in our global family. The rock does not speak because that is not its purpose. Human beings have our own purpose. But Indigenous people do not ascribe to humanity any superiority or greater value than our environment– because we could not sustain our lives separate from it. If we depend on it, how can we be superior to it? To be very frank, some of our Elders predicted these circumstances a century ago because they recognized the selfish belief that considers humanity to be the preferred species of the earth rather than as an integral equal part of the whole.

We are asked to possess three characteristics: respect for Creation, responsibility to act in the best interests of Creation, and gratitude for that Creation. We do not perceive natural violence and death as punishment, but only a mysterious addition to Creation that is, for the moment, beyond our understanding.

Indigenous people revere Creation. It is all sacred. We view death as a natural process. Just as we eat, so we are eaten–and give back our spirits to Creation. We know that the basic elements of creation are everlasting and cannot die. No guilt, no blame .

As the volcano pours its lava into the villages below, we are assured that someday flowers will sprout in the enriched soil of that destruction. That is what separates natural violence from the violence of men. Natural violence will always result in new creation. But the horrors men put upon each other do not guarantee that from those horrors new flowers of great beauty will sprout. There is a difference between the mysterious order and purpose of natural destruction in Creation and the willful, contentious and calculated violence of human beings purposely disturbing and destroying the very relationships that should give their life meaning, purpose and joy. For every good and noble virtue we find a counterpoint of darkness. My uncle used to say that it was the fear of death, the fear of judgement, the fear of loss, the very selfish fear of personal extinction that leads men to evil.

In our family we think that it is part of man’s purpose in creation to search for a balance between fate and choice. Today we live in the bubble of plenty while the rest of the world struggles for the basic necessities of life. Particularly in America we have created a world which pretends that we can safely continue this lifestyle indefinitely while 75 percent of the rest of the world is lacking nutritious food, shelter, or a safe place to sleep. To raise the standards of the world to our level we would have to speed up the harvest of natural resources six times the present speed—something the world could not support. It is a myth that there are enough resources for the rest of the world to share our standard of living. Even if the entire world were to model their political and economic systems after ours this could not be accomplished without finding 6 more earths to plunder. This is what the current crisis is really centered around. Those who have chosen war and conflict will not be convinced or changed. As my friend Clayton says–they are the people of ruin, everything they touch they ruin–that has become their purpose. In America, one would expect that a people experiencing such plenty would be overwhelmed with gratitude for our many blessings and overflow with compassion. For our leaders to act with attitudes of arrogance, superiority and a willingness to exercise a violent spirit can only lead to our losing those blessings.

The designs of small and powerful groups of men keep us intent on the path of destruction called progress. Modern civilization’s God is consumerism and comfort. No discussions of peace or morality will move us toward balance until we are willing to change our direction. We cannot expect to move away from revenge and violence toward morality and gratitude until we acknowledge the absence of the sacred in this modern path. Until we revere Creation. Meaningful change can only be led by people who demand that the moral principles of our spiritual heritages be applied without compromise to the principles of the republic. Lip service and rhetoric only increase the danger. Our foes are all the dark vices embodied in the greed and corruption of the men of power around the world.

Our hope is in gatherings of neighbors. We don’t have to possess exactly the same perspectives and beliefs, only to agree that our goal is not to loose unnecessary and unjustified evils upon the world merely to preserve a standard of living that it will be impossible for the rest of the world ever to share.

The noise we make must be heard above negotiations, even above the bombs. I’ll end with this quote:

“Goodness does not thrive in the absence of evil. Selfishness, small vices and jealousies dominate mankind in those times. True goodness only emerges in the threat and presence of Shadow–nestling in the crook of its arm, whispering in its ear, until the Shadow goes mad and men relinquish their fears to cry once more for compassion and the creative spirit.”

Traditional Learning (A Personal View)

Among my people, many of our Grandfathers never asked if we wanted to learn something. (The only exception being the Medicine People, who were chosen.) They waited until we approached them, with respect, and usually a gift of some sort. Sometimes they made us wait or assigned us some menial chores to perform before finally allowing us to “watch”. Often they did not explain what they were doing or what we were to do- they just did it in a manner that we could observe clearly. We copied their actions, memorized the songs or prayers or accompanying words and they corrected us until we did it right. Neither did they always explain “why” we were doing something, what it meant, or why we were doing it just that way. If we asked , they’d just say, “that’s just how we do it”, or “that is how it’s done.” And it didn’t do any good to ask further. If they wanted to tell you, they did, if and when they were ready.

We accepted this because we had respect for them and we wanted to learn “our” Way, not “my” way. One of the great problems we face today in the education of our children is that, for generations, many have abandoned these traditional teaching methods. Also our children, having grown up in a fast food world, with instant media, and constant sensory gratification, are simply unprepared to take the time to learn in this manner. In the absence of patience , respect, and a burning desire or circumstantial necessity to learn, they lose interest and motivation quickly. They do not see the value of the long run, prefering the short sprint.

So we must ask ourselves- can we restore this type of teacher/student relationship? Is it important to do so? If not, what do we replace it with, that still reflects our values and Traditions?

Do we wait for them to mature, hoping they will eventually come to us? Do we write it down so it will be available to whomever looks for it?

How do we encourage them to identify with values and beliefs not familiar to them or instilled in them since birth?

Should ancient knowledge be allowed to pass away as obsolete if no one steps up to learn it in a traditional way?

Different peoples have become assimilated at different rates. Some have lost touch with almost all their heritage while others still maintain a good part of their values and beliefs. Where do the Pomo fit into that puzzle? And finally, how much, and exactly what, of the Old Way, needs to be preserved. How much is remembered and who is left to teach it?

One nation, when it was finally realized that those who knew were about to pass away- a few middle-aged men and women took it upon themselves to press them for information, teaching and language. Sometimes it was necessary to compromise and creatively update Ways to tie them into todays reality. Fortunately they were willing and we were successful at preserving much of what would have been lost.

We all face the similar danger that so much will be lost that, in the future, we will become just like the Irish, Italian, Chinese–all great cultures who have lost what makes them special- who have assimilated and become just racially different Americans.

What we represent as Indins, our viewpoint and heritage, is important to the future of this land. We must not become just another race for the American melting pot– paying lip service to sovereignty and holding onto our special government status, while losing our tribal identity and culture in the process.

Protect The Seeds

The myth of better productivity and reduced environmental danger, long promoted as the benefits of genetic engineering in plants and animals, has now been exploded. It is only better for the patent holders, intellectual property seekers, and corporate conglomerates. It is in their best interests to keep the consumer ignorant. Science is no longer the neutral Switzerland of pure curiosity it once was, if it ever was, and fewer than 5% of all scientists are now economically dependent of corporate sponsors. 95% are paid to skew or engineer their results to favorably reflect on the interests of their “sponsors”. The democracy of science no longer represents the consumer.

No laws exist that limit biological pollution—biological contamination is potentially much more dangerous than chemical. Recent studies indicate that only 60 transgenic fish introduced into a population of 60,000 wild fish led to the extinction of the entire species group in as little as 40 generations and in a storm off the Atlantic Coast up to 100,000 farmed Atlantic Salmon escaped. Biologically engineered species destruction is exponential. Transgenics do not coexist in the wild, they invade and ultimately destroy all natural competitors—this is true of fish, pigs, cows, sheep, soybeans, canola, corn & rice. Diversity is destroyed in the name of scientific progress. There is no natural uncontaminated soy or canola seed left on the whole continent of Canada. Similar contamination and destruction of corn cultivars is occurring in Mexico and in India, of the original 200,000 cultivars of rice, only 256 varieties remain today. Today, seed, and plants themselves are being patented in the US Patent Office to corporations like Monsanto and Bayer. Only seed activists are bucking this tide.

Even human genomes are being studies for patenting. Native peoples in danger of extinction have been targeted by corporate pharmaceutical giants to bring back blood samples in the hope of discovering new and potentially patentable characteristics. A company actually convinced the Icelandic government to allow data mining of every patient medical record of every citizen in Iceland for genome research that specifically goes to pharmaceutical and life and medical insurance giants. The myth of miracle cures—pushing the fetal implant, gene therapy, and stem cell research projects is not only naïve, but dangerous. Ultimately, designing an a new and improved child may seem like a good idea to some parents—at least until they have their next child and improved technology allowed for significant improvements over the first. We may reach a point where our these children become obsolete, like Windows 95 compared to the Windows 2003 editions of technological human development upgrades.

The control technique of plant and animal contamination today is a terminator technology or engineered sterility. Scientists claim these technologies will effectively protect the environment but the pollen from terminator genes has been proven to cause sterility even in the seeds of other, unrelated species of plants. All this technology seems to represent the Cartesian model that all life is a machine, a mechanistic myth that promotes the idea that genes are the tinker toys of scientific progress and life may be creatively engineered—a kind of manifest destiny applied to the natural world.

Experimental data now exists to confirm that in consuming genetically altered DNA, organisms may incorporate that DNA rather than eliminating it. This calls into question the safety of consuming transgenic foods, yet there are no laws governing the labeling of fish, vegetables or meats in the US today that tells us if the products we consume are transgenic. New evidence seems to indicate that transgenic experiments in the real ecosystem may generate alarming disease rates and extreme species contamination, even to the point of species extinction. This lack of labeling is part of an intentional effort to keep us ignorant & misinformed while we are made the control group test subjects for corporate patent holders. It’s certainly cheaper than real science. We are the new guinea pigs. By supporting organics and seed activism, we can resist corporate science, protect our fragile ecosystem, and help make healthy alternatives affordable for our grandchildren.

Anthony Bourdain–The Essence Of Han

The internet defines “Han” as a “collective feeling of oppression and isolation in the face of overwhelming odds.” It is “infused with aspects of lament and unavenged injustice.” Recently deceased Writer, Journalist, and Traveler–Anthony Bourdain, a family favorite of ours, describes it as “a burning sense of injustice, besiegement, and desire for revenge.”

We grieve over his passing. He helped many understand cultures defined as foreign and sought to bring understanding of how our differences and peculiarities are never as important and defining as our similarities and commonalities are. So here is just a taste of how he educated us on the Korean psyche.

Just after the United States began the invasion of Afghanistan I wrote an essay describing the history of conflict there and the reality of the socio-political structure of Tribal peoples as opposed to nationalistic entities in establishing peace. Today, sixteen years later, the reservations I had then about our military success there have been borne out and we are no closer to helping the different groups there find harmony and self-government than we were right after the Two Towers collapsed. I attribute this failure as much to the general Western disinterest and misunderstanding of Tribal values and world-view than to any military weakness or lack of applied resources.

What we are now facing in North Korea is a similar crisis. While having another armed nuclear power in the world is definitely destabilizing and scary, for a person who lived through the sixties hiding under a school desk practicing for Nuclear War the really scary part is that West is making no more of an attempt to understand the motives and mindset of the North Korean’s than we did the Afghan Tribes prior to starting our Nation’s longest, and seemingly unending, war.

In order to understand North Koreans you must keep three things at the forefront of any consideration. One– The Japanese ruled the country in their own despotic fashion from 1910 thru 1945 and are almost as universally hated in Korea as they are in China. Two–Kim ll Sung was a guerrilla leader against the Japanese prior to the end of the war and the government has subsequently been controlled by the personality-driven iron hand of Kim ll Sung, his son and grandson for almost 73 years. The people have known no other leadership for almost three generations. Three—the concept of Han dominates the psyche of Koreans in general across the world, including the U.S. 

Current journalists, in their questioning of average Koreans, find an almost fatalistic response in their view of where the current crisis is going. Since their government is preparing them for nuclear war, the concept of Han is forming their attitudes about the “survivability” of such a conflict. One response was that “at least a few thousand would survive.” So despite the loss of 25 million of its citizens, under the weight of Han, North Korea would consider it a victory if only a few thousand people survived the conflict! This is in keeping with their current belief that they defeated the U.S. In the Korean War.

The current president and our leaders need to take “Han” under consideration in their decision-making. We are discussing the virtual extermination of a people and countless casualties in South Korea and Japan. They, the South Koreans and Japanese, stand to lose the most in any conflict. The final decision should be theirs. 

Thanks be to Anthony for this enlightening viewpoint. Rest in peace!