Endgame Premises Archives: 8: The needs of the natural world are primary

The needs of the natural world are more important than the
needs of the economic system.
Another way to put Premise Eight: Any economic or social system that does
not benefit the natural communities on which it is based is unsustainable,
immoral, and stupid. Sustainability, morality, and intelligence (as well as justice)
require the dismantling of any such economic or social system, or at the very least
disallowing it from damaging your landbase.

DIY Resistance: Resistance is Sexy

Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who first published this article

By Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance

Love-Revolution-1_largeI suffer from a profound sense of loneliness. I always have. I do not know why. And, I suspect I always will. Sometimes, I wonder if I cling to some strange addiction to loneliness. There are too many decisions I’ve made in my life knowing full well the alienation that would follow.

I chose to study English in college knowing the strange looks I’d get from my coaches and teammates. These strange looks were only matched by the incredulity some of my professors viewed me with as I walked into a Shakespeare class, a classical tragedy class, or a women’s literature class in a Dayton football sweat suit hustling my way back from practice. I chose to go to law school knowing the student loan debt that would pile upon me stressing out my family and any potential romantic partners that might choose to build a life with me. I chose to pursue a career as a public defender representing people most of society despises for a salary forcing me to live paycheck to paycheck. I chose to foster the voice in my heart that demands I act in the face of the suffering in the world baring my breast to the vulnerabilities that accompany embracing the empathy we were all born with.

Finally – and most importantly – I chose the ultimate alienation, twice, when I drank down full bottles of pills in an effort to leave forever. Having survived suicide, I also feel the weight of worried gazes from loved ones who think I’m not aware. I’ve made myself a person that friends and family cannot fully trust to answer truthfully when they ask, “How are you, Will?” I’m marked in only the ways someone who has traveled to the nether regions of spiritual darkness can be.

Despite the choices I’ve made, when I look at myself from a healthy place I realize two things about the loneliness. First, the loneliness is not my fault and, second, the seriousness of the predicament facing us demands that I learn to work through the loneliness and fight back. I have written extensively that my continuing recovery from suicidal depression involves the realization that depression – by itself – is simply an emotion and as an emotion cannot kill me on its own. I can kill me, but the emotional experience some call “depression” cannot kill me. The same is true for loneliness.

I have not yet pushed this idea to its fullest. The omnicidal processes destroying life on earth are physical processes literally killing everything. It is true that our emotional state can prevent us from acting, but no amount of inner emotional work without a corresponding effort in the real world is going to save us. I know how horrible depression is. I know how horrible loneliness is. In this installment of DIY Resistance, I encourage you to learn how to fight through these emotions and to recognize the way these emotions are expressed through your personal choices. We do not have much time left and if we are going to win we must shore up our strength to act.

Monkey-love_Jet-Armstrong

***
It is embarrassing to admit, but one of the ways I’ve sought to ease my loneliness is through committed romantic relationships. I’m naturally introverted. I value quality over quantity in my friendships. Most of the time, I would rather dive into a deep conversation with one person than chitchat with ten. Desperately seeking connection and a release for the tension my inner dialogues produce, all interpersonal relationship becomes a strong source of anxiety for me.

Romantic relationships have acted as a medicine for the loneliness. Once I share an authentic experience with someone, I feel I am carrying a precious, fragile treasure that could break in my hands if squeezed too tightly or flutter away in the breeze if I do not hold on to it. Adding sex to a connection intensifies the medicinal effects. Sex is both terrifying and magical for me. It is terrifying as an external performance. I recognize sex as an opportunity to give my partner a gift, but also as an opportunity to demonstrate my inadequacy. Sex is magical because it comes oh-so-close to filling that lonely void as an expression of emotional trust while the physicality brings me literally as close as possible to another human.

The commitment involved in a romantic relationship reassures my poor self-esteem that at least someone loves me. The commitment is something I can return to when I am caught in my self-pity. Common scenes from my romantic relationships show me replaying conversations over and over in my head – “Is she saying she loves me?” -poring over text messages with compliments in them to squeeze out every last drop of reassurance left in them, and listening to saved voicemails from years ago as proof that I am, in fact, lovable. I only recently was able to delete a voicemail an ex-partner left me the morning after my first suicide attempt where she said many compassionate things about me. I had to delete it because I have to learn to rely on myself for compassion.

Maybe it’s obvious to you how sick I’ve been and the mistakes I’ve made? But, it’s taken me over 27 years to realize that relying on another person to alleviate my loneliness is incredibly selfish. No one can take my feelings of loneliness away from me if I do not know how to take the loneliness away myself. Ultimately, my frustrations with my partners’ inabilities to heal my own loneliness have turned into resentment leading me to walk away from the relationships.

Of course, seeking redemption in the form of romantic relationship is damned from the outset for the simple reason that our emotional needs were never meant to be fulfilled by only one other person. The incessant search for a romantic partner that so many of us engage in is an expression of the way the dominant culture destroys true community by forcing us to spend too much of our time laboring to support ourselves and encouraging us to define ourselves as individuals instead of members of natural communities.

***
Clinging to romantic relationships can also work to limit resistance. My fear of being alone often leads me to remain in relationships far longer than I should. In my failed relationships, I found it difficult to make the decision to devote myself to resistance because I knew my decisions could hurt my partners. Resistance is far from lucrative. Resistance often takes you away from your partner. Resistance often affects your mood. It is difficult to share your life with a partner who will rarely have much money, who is often traveling to put his body in front of the forces destroying the world, and who struggles with the depression and anxiety that so often accompanies activist work.

I lost my last relationship when I decided to leave San Diego for the Unist’ot’en Camp. To travel to the Camp, I had to spend all my savings and give up weeks of work with the income that comes with the work. This meant I would not have been able to go on trips my partner and I were planning. This meant I might not have been able to contribute my half of the rent. This certainly meant I would be away from home for at least a few weeks. It wasn’t until my partner asked me, “Will you always love the cause more than you love me?” that I realized what I had to do – I had to go to the Unist’ot’en Camp.

I realized I will always love the cause more than I love any one person.

This realization caused me a tremendous amount of guilt. This former partner is a truly wonderful woman. She realized what was happening and called the paramedics from San Diego the night I tried to kill myself in Milwaukee. She realized what was happening and rushed me to the emergency room the morning after I tried to kill myself in San Diego. She stood by me when so many others would have left. She loved me when so many others couldn’t have.

I’ve learned to let the guilt go. One of the ways I’ve done this is by understanding that her question, “Will you always love the cause more than you me?” is essentially meaningless. Embracing the struggle to defend the land is embracing love for everyone including your partner. It is my hope that more of us will understand this. While ever more of our loved ones are murdered by environmentally induced cancers, by the diseases of civilization, by male violence against women, by suicidal depression produced by the alienation this culture creates, how long will it take us to realize that to love anyone demands that we devote ourselves to resistance?

But, that’s not even the point. Romantic relationships are not the point. My loneliness, your loneliness, any emotional state, being loved, not being loved, who you love, or who I love is not the point. The point is the world is being murdered in front of us. Seeking a healthy romantic relationship must simply take a backseat to the destruction of life. If we do not stop the forces burning the world, it will no longer be possible to engage in romantic relationships.

I am not saying that romance and resistance are mutually exclusive. They are not. I am saying putting your emotional desires above the health of your land base spells disaster for the real world. I am asking would-be resistors to stop asking “How do I make time for resistance around my relationship, around my family, or around my job?” and start asking instead, “Do I have time for a relationship, a family, or a job when our only hope is serious resistance?”

Finally, you just might find something beautiful when you embrace land defense as absolutely the most important thing in your life. You just might find people that love the world as you do. You might even find a pure kind of romance with someone who happens to find resistance sexy. Even better than experiencing romance, you might gain a true community that will strengthen your commitment to resistance.

Browse Will Falk’s DIY Resistance series at the Deep Green Resistance Blog

Lessons from Unist’ot’en Camp: Is Your Integrity Intact?

Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who first published this manuscript. 

Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

Will-Falk-Integrity

Resistance is often lonely.

I learn about loneliness waking up on a cold, hard storage room floor at 3 AM in a new friend’s house after a nightmare involving confronting all my old co-workers in the Kenosha, Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office, hanging my head again in defeat and shame as I explain that I will never come back to work there. I stare at the ceiling asking myself just how in the hell I ended up in Victoria, British Columbia to stop the spread of fossil fuels in Canada.

I learn about loneliness watching the supply of my daily anti-depressants dwindle in the bottom of the orange pill bottle. I’m too embarrassed to ask how I would go about refilling my prescription. I’m confused about whether I even want to re-fill it after forgetting to take my medications for a few days and feeling the welcome return of swift, spontaneous emotions welling up to heat my body like a touch of whiskey on a winter day.

I learn about loneliness when I unexpectedly run into the ex-partner I left in San Diego to come to Unist’ot’en Camp after close to 3 years together while  making my bus transfer in downtown Victoria. The unlikeliness of this encounter sinks in and I look around for friends who understood the relationship to help me laugh about it. Obviously, those friends are not here.

I learn about loneliness sitting in a living room on a foggy, rainy night with people I just met gazing across the Salish Sea south from Vancouver Island. Two beautiful American women are singing American folk songs while I look at America from Canada and ponder the meaning of home. There’s a mandolin hanging on the wall next to me that reads “Made in Kentucky” and I think of my Kentucky-born, Kentucky-raised mother. I miss her. I miss hearing southern accents. I think of my father teasing my mother about her accent all while developing his own southern accent from decades of loving my mother. I miss my father.

I learn about loneliness as I realize that spending too much time pitying myself for my loneliness while the world burns is a luxury the world cannot afford. Then, I learn I’m lonely for a world where I can sit with my melancholia for as long as I wish.

I’m lonely for a world that isn’t burning.

***
A few nights ago, I sat in a crowd gathered for a Unist’ot’en Camp fundraiser in the Fernwood neighborhood of Victoria listening to Unist’ot’en spokesperson Freda Huson and her husband, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief, Toghestiy speak about the mission of the Camp.

I spent the few days before helping to prepare for the fundraiser. I was tired from moving tables, loading vans, and riding my loaner bike all over Victoria hanging posters on telephone poles and in coffee shops. As so often happens to me in large gatherings of people who seem to all know each other, but who don’t know me, I was feeling very lonely. I wanted to share hugs with people I’d hugged before. I wanted to talk about football – American football in this time of the World Cup – with someone, anyone.

It was in this emotional place that Toghestiy’s words found me. He talked about the Camp volunteers who had turned their back on mainstream middle-class lifestyles to make their way off-the-grid to Unist’ot’en Camp. He explained how recently Camp volunteers woke in the early morning before dawn to the sound of a low-flying helicopter. Helicopters often try to land equipment and men on Wet’suwet’en land to establish work camps to begin pipeline construction. They jumped in a pick-up and took off down a forestry road to chase the helicopter off.

Toghestiy told a story about an indigenous friend who was called to the offices of a pipeline corporation so they could offer her a job and ask her to encourage support for the projects with her people. The woman took a drum to the office and beat it every time a pipeline executive tried to speak until they realized her answer was, “No.”

Toghestiy then told the story of his grandfather. Toghestiy was raised on the cultural lessons of his late grandparents – Madeek and Sa’itne. Toghestiy’s grandfather – also a hereditary chief – held an illegal open-air feast for his people. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested Toghestiy’s grandfather in the middle of the feast and held him in jail for several months. As soon as Toghestiy’s grandfather was released from jail, he gathered his people together to finish the feast. It was through actions and stories like these that Toghestiy was taught that a hereditary chief has a responsibility to ensure there is always something for his people and their future generations.

Finally, Toghestiy described the genocidal processes that are destroying First Nations. What began with murder and rape at the time of European first contact and carried on through the forcible removal of indigenous children from their families to residential schools for cultural whitewashing is perpetuated by the continual dispossession of First Nations land, the slashing of government aid programs, and a nearly complete unemployment rate in many First Nations communities. Unist’ot’en Camp stands in resistance to genocide. The Camp offers indigenous people and the world a glimpse into the power and humility of traditional Wet’suwet’en ways of living while physically blocking the spread of destructive fossil fuels.

Then, Toghestiy said, “These stories are about integrity. Corporations and the government think they can buy our integrity with the right price, but my integrity cannot be bought or sold. I want to ask everyone who is not resisting, ‘Is your integrity intact?’”
***

Is your integrity intact?

It is a simple and direct question. Integrity means being honest and having strong moral principles. In a world where many of us claim to be concerned for the future of our children, it means stopping the forces that will make their future a living hell. In a world where most of us claim to love life and at least some other living beings, it means protecting what we love. In a world threatened with annihilation by economic development and colonialism, it means everything.

We all must answer Toghestiy’s question for ourselves. First, each one of us must decide what to base our moral foundation upon. I encourage you to base your morality on the natural world because without the natural world nothing is possible. The most delicious food you’ve ever tasted comes from a functioning soil system. The most enjoyable learning experience you’ve ever gone through is only possible because your brain is housed in natural minerals (your skull) and nourished with physical nutrients (remember that delicious food?). The best glass of wine you’ve ever had starts with clean water. The most incredible sex you’ve ever experienced would never have happened without the clean air you and your partner shared in those magical moments.

Choosing to base our morality on reality is not enough, though. Regardless of what we say or think or say we think, integrity is demonstrated by action. It’s as simple as my father’s favorite adage, “It’s not what you say. It’s what you do.” Honesty is only proven through honest actions. You honestly love trees? Stop them from being deforested. You honestly love salmon? Knock down the dams keeping them from reaching their spawning beds. You honestly love your children? Ensure that they have a livable future.

This is what integrity looks like.

***
Answering Toghestiy’s question myself has given me the strength I need to overcome the loneliness that so often accompanies resistance because it gives me the articulation I need to remember why I am willing to face loneliness to keep resisting.

Why am I willing to feel loneliness? To keep my integrity intact.

The dominant culture works very hard and very well at nullifying resistance. It pushes capitalism on us to force us to work most of our waking hours to buy food and shelter. It pushes colonialism on indigenous peoples because the dominant culture simply cannot tolerate that there are – and always have been – better ways to live. It offers us money, alcohol, drugs, pornography, television, meaningless vacations, and so-called “security” to encourage us to accept or ignore or deny these terrible arrangements of power.

I could sell my integrity, of course. You could, too. They’re offering some very attractive signing bonuses. I could give up on the pipelines resistance up here and come back to friends and family to alleviate my loneliness. I could use my law degree and legal experience to make a more than comfortable living to salve the feelings of financial insecurity I often feel. I could allow myself to be seduced by the smiling face and feel good ethic of a bourgeois existence that says that being nice, maximizing personal happiness, and spending quality time with friends and family is the ultimate goal of life.

But, I won’t and I hope you won’t, either. My integrity is not for sale. I want my integrity to be intact.

Browse Will Falk’s Unis’tot’en Camp series at the Deep Green Resistance Blog

The Unist’ot’en Camp – Preparation: Home, Language, Self

Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who transcribed and first published the original handwritten manuscript.

Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

May 4, 2014

 

I am going to the Unist’ot’en Camp in northern British Columbia. The Unist’ot’en Camp is a resistance camp built by the Wet’suwet’en people on the path of seven proposed pipelines from the Tar Sands Gigaproject and where corporations are extracting liquid natural gas from the Horn River Basin Fracturing Projects.

I am nervous. I am excited. I am scared. Mostly, I just want to get started. Writing helps me organize my thoughts, sift through my emotions, and steel my heart, so I offer this up as my trip approaches.

***

Friends and family are asking me, “Why are you doing this?”

The short answer is: To stop the pipelines. First and foremost, we have to keep pipelines carrying fossil fuels off of First Nations’ land. Corporations have no right to be there. The Canadian government has no right to be there. None of us – but the Wet’suwet’en and whomever they allow – have a right to be there.

After that, we must stop the pipelines from being built anywhere. The cost of fossil fuels fluctuate tremendously and the longer we can delay these projects the less profitable they become and the more likely the corporations will give up. In a world suffocating from the burning of fossil fuels, increased consumption of fossil fuels is simply something life cannot afford.

Of course, it may be too late to save the planet. We may have pushed the world past the tipping point while we squabbled amongst ourselves asking whether climate change was really happening, while we placed our faith in a false God that told us we’d find reality when we were dead, and, finally, while we listened to a seductive science that told us we were too smart to let this happen, even while it was happening.

One thing is for certain, though, it is not too late to go down swinging. It’s not too late to die with honor. It’s not too late to achieve the satisfaction of a spiritually peaceful death that can only come with the dignity of earned bravery.

***

Another answer is my spirit tells me I have to go.

When I read the calls for volunteers from groups of people putting their bodies on the line to save their corner of the world, I feel like a liar ignoring them. My spirit recoils and I begin to feel that dark sickness that only comes from lying to myself.

Jack D. Forbes, in his diagnosis of western culture Columbus and Other Cannibals: The Wetiko Disease of Imperialism, Exploitation, and Terrorism explains it better than I can. He writes, “Religion is, in reality, living. Our religion is not what we profess, or what we say, or what we proclaim; our religion is what we do, what we desire, what we seek, what we dream about, what we fantasize, what we think – all these things – twenty-four hours a day. One’s religion, then, is ones life, not merely the ideal life but the life as it is actually lived.”

I say I love the world. I say I love pristine snow on towering, rocky peaks. I say I love the feel of pine nettles on my bare feet, the sight of a baby black bear pawing a bee hive for honey, and the sight of two lover hummingbirds chasing each other around purple and yellow flower patches. I say I love drinking clean water, the taste of salmon, and the gentle wash of sunshine on my bare chest.

I say I love the world. But, when I know the world is being destroyed, when struggling people call for my help, and when I ignore them failing to act, how can I be anything but a liar?

***

Before I go, I know I must be adequately prepared. I just finished reading Simon J. Ortiz’s prologue to his book of poetry, Going for the Rain, and he explains what this preparation may look like, “A man makes his prayers; he sings his songs. He considers all that is important and special to him, his home, children, his language, the self that he is. He must make spiritual and physical preparation before anything else. Only then does anything begin.”

So, I ask myself, what is important and special to me?

The most important thing to me is a livable world. Breathable air. Drinkable water. Soil that can grow food. What could be more important than these things? Without a livable world, we have nothing. And all these things are under attack.

I consider my home.

I’ve written that I have given up on finding a home in North America. For me, a home built on the backs of conquered peoples and tortured natural communities, in uninhabitable, and I refuse to claim it as mine. I will not lay roots in a soil fertilized with the blood of the murdered.

This does not mean, however, that the world in general is not my home. In fact, it is the only home we have.

I also have no problem claiming my interpersonal relationships as types of abstract homes. My dependence on my parents for life as a child, my dependence on my parents and little sister for human connection, and my dependence on my friends for companionship all form a type of home for me. I must be careful to explain, however, that the current arrangement of power makes many of these relationships shabby imitations of what they would be if it were possible to grow true roots in a true home. My sister, for example, lives in Tennessee and my parents in San Francisco making it more likely that I associate their voices with my cell phone instead of their real bodies.

Oh, yes, I could move in with my parents. I could forsake the resistance to build a home (and by home I really mean a shoddy imitation of a home, or a home made available to me through murder and slavery which as I have said before is no home at all). I could settle into a permanent relationship with all the compromises that come with one, settle into a full-time job where I would spend most of my waking hours working to make someone else money, and sign a long-term lease committing myself to paying someone for letting me stay in one physical location.

But these types of home – if that’s what we can call them – are a luxury we simply cannot afford right now. When the hangman’s noose slips around your neck, your only worry is removing the noose.

***

I do not have any children, so the next thing I ponder is my language.

First, though, I think it is important to explain that Ortiz is an Acoma from what is now-called New Mexico and his language and culture have been under attack for over 500 years. Knowing this adds significance when Ortiz says we must consider our language. For the Acoma, maintaining their language, in the face of a culture hell-bent on silencing it, is an act of resistance in itself.

The only language I know how to speak is English and oftentimes I hate it. English has long been the language of conquerors from the colonization of Ireland and the outlawing of Irish Gaelic to American forces in Afghanistan screaming at villagers to “Face the wall! Face the fucking wall!

But, nonetheless, I love my language when it is used in defense of people and natural communities. My deepest love of language comes in the form of poetry and I agree with the poet Lew Welch when he wrote, “For I think that poetry is the intense telling of a thing, and that the intense way is always the clear way…” Additionally, my friend, the Poet Laureate of Milwaukee, WI, Jim Chapson, once told me “poetry is like a prayer. You just do it.

I love writing poetry and I love the English language when it forms a good poem. Borrowing from Welch, I see my own poetry as my intense telling of my search for a spiritual connection to the land. Borrowing from Chapson, I pray through my poetry that we can save the world and poetry will still be possible. But, to return to Forbes’ statement about religion, I know that poetry and prayer are not enough. I must go to the Unist’ot’en Camp to make chopping wood, digging post-holes, and preparing food my religion.

***

The final thing Ortiz considers before his poetic journey in Going for the Rain is “the self that he is.”

Who am I? I am my history, of course. I am my childhood, my Catholic upbringing, my father’s son, my mother’s son, the suicide attempts, the kisses I’ve given, the tackles I made on college football fields, several surgeries, a whole lot of Phish shows (48 to be exact), nights in Joshua Tree under the stars, and the tears streaming down my face seeing yet more destruction.

I am my body, too. The dark brown hair I wear long so that the wind can play with it. The blue eyes that seem to get red too quickly causing people to think I’m perpetually high. The long legs – too skinny – and shoulders that slouch – can’t help it. I’m a big nose that develops an unexplainable white line on the bridge when I get sunburnt.

More importantly, I am my relationship to everything. I am the air that you exhale and I breathe in. I am the coffee I just drank. I am the sun that grew the coffee bean, the soil that housed it, and the water poured over it. I am those two lover hummingbirds that are still chasing each other around making me laugh.

It would be correct to say that everything that I have written here is the self that I am, but it certainly is not all of it. The truth is, I am not sure how to guide a reader through my process for finding the self that I am.

I hope it will suffice to say: All of this is me. And more.

***

It is time to go, now.

I am as ready as I can be to get to work. Please join me in fighting for what you love wherever you are. Life needs all the help it can get.