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Good interview

February 14, 2008

I ran across a rather good interview with Oren Lyons, from earlier this week: “Oren Lyons, faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation, has traveled the world to speak out against environmental destruction and other wrongs committed in the name of ‘progress.'”

I admire how much time and energy he has put in, over the years, trying to get across some fairly unpopular economic/political concepts (as close to “truths” as you’re gonna get, IMO).  It helps give me hope, knowing that there are people like Mr. Lyons out there, managing to get the message across that indeed there are other practical, more humane and ecologically sane ways of running a society and an economy. In this interview, he provides a fairly good introduction to one approach.

From Mr. Lyons:

What’s the problem? He says, well, as you know, if somebody is living in those terms, they’re not going to progress. They’re just going to be happy just the way they are. There’ll be no progress. And he says, as you know, the bottom line of our civilization is greed. . . And I don’t think he said greed, I think he said. … the bottom line of our civilization was selfishness. We have to teach them to be selfish, so they can progress. Not happy. Not about happy. It’s about progress.

The Dawes reference is very appropriate. I have considered, myself, that Dawes put his finger right on one fundamental difference in approach–even if he came down on the wrong side of the cultural divide. This is one of the many factors Jared Diamond willfully ignores. Cultural messages don’t just shape our perceptions of the world, they can be outright destructive.

What I’m saying is that the situation we’re in today is directly due to the idea of capitalism, the idea of private property. You know, they’ve been calling Indians communists since 1700, 1600, because we live communally. No, we’re not communists. We’re Indians. We’re Onondagas. That’s how we live. What’s wrong with that? That’s our basic value. Our basic value is to share.

It’s a rule of law.

There are two common laws across this North America — our hemisphere — and that was to give thanks, be thankful for what you have, and to share. And the third one would be respect. Those were laws. Those were rules that nations lived by. Everybody knew, everybody understood it and everybody used it.

That is the most succinctly I’ve ever seen this expressed. I had to quote that whole passage here, it states the position so well. Utopia, indeed.

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