Fwd: Louis on Indians and the Environment

kay mckinnon jmckinnonus at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 6 12:29:37 MST 2002

> I found this piece of drivel on Louis' homepage.
> It's pretty sad, really.
> I assume it represents Louis' current thinking
> because it the file was
> modified in November of last year. It shows just how
> far Louis has
> drifted from class consciousness into mysticism.
> To adequately critique the whole thing would take up
> more time and
> bandwidth than I care to waste. However, I'll make a
> stab at it and see
> how far I get.
> Ecology and the American Indian
>    >> Indian religious beliefs are intrinsically
> ecological since they
>    regard nature as sacred. The various tribes who
> inhabited North
>    America before the European invasion had been
> here for tens of
>    thousands of years, where they developed
> economically sustainable
>    hunting-and-gathering economies that were
> respectful of the
>    environment. They did not consider themselves
> ruling over nature, but
>    as part of nature. Humanity was sacred, but so
> were the animals and
>    vegetation that sustained it. Even the soil, the
> minerals and the rest
>    of the material world were part of a great chain
> of being. An assault
>    on a single element of this living fabric was an
> assault on the whole.
>    They had a radical interpretation of the old
> labor movement slogan,
>    "An injury to one was an injury to all."<<
> The first statement is complete gibberish. The term
> "ecology" refers to
> the study of living organisms and their environment.
> The term "study"
> refers to an organized, systematic investigation. To
> regard something as
> "sacred" is to place that thing beyond study, to
> shroud it in mystery, to
> veil it in awe. Thus, the first sentence is a
> contradiction in terms.
> The second sentence is also gibberish. What exactly
> does it mean to say
> that an economy is self-sustainable? Any actually
> existing economy is
> sustained by two things: its own internal dynamics,
> and its source of raw
> materials (ultimately, the sun). So is Louis saying
> that the internal
> dynamics of a hunter-gatherer society make that
> economy self-sustaining -
> a closed system? I think not: the second law of
> thermodynamics doesn't
> allow for that. No living organism is a perpetual
> motion machine. The
> fact is that nomadic peoples avoid permanent damage
> to the source of
> their economy - the land - by means of the simple
> expedient of staying
> mobile. Additionally, their small numbers ensure
> that environmental
> damage is minimal.
> The remainder of this paragraph reveals a
> classically pantheistic belief,
> and contains all the fallacies of such a belief. The
> first problem lies
> with the universal application of the term "sacred".
> To apply any term
> indiscriminately is to render it meaningless, since
> such application
> annuls any perception of differentiation amongst
> particular phenomena. In
> hte sentence, "Everything is sacred.", the term
> "everything" is exactly
> equivalent to the term "sacred"; and is thus the
> equivalent of
> "Everything is.", and a meaningless tautology.
> The term "great chain of being" can have two
> meanings: Either "a great
> chain of parts of a living being", or "a great chain
> of existence". Both
> usages render the sentence meaningless. Quite
> clearly, rocks and soil are
> not living beings, nor do they function as part of a
> living being. Plants
> and animals, while exhibiting all the functions of
> life-forms, have
> discernably discrete existence. The second meaning,
> on the other hand,
> renders yet another tautology, "everything is part
> of existence." No
> kidding.
> The old labour slogan, "An injury to one is an
> injury to all." was never
> conceived within pantheistic thought. It reveals a
> specifically human
> understanding of fundamental commnality of human
> life, based on an
> instinctive understanding of the motivations of
> those in power in a
> specific phase of the development of class society.
> To understand this
> requires an understanding of why Marx referred to
> the proletariat as the
> universal class. I don't feel like digging around
> for the appropriate
> quotes on this, you guys are the scholars - you do
> the research this
> time.
> Marx uses this term in several places. The one that
> stands out in my mind
> is from one of his early philosophic critiques, the
> title of which has
> been eluding me for weeks now. In it, he examines
> the claim that the
> civil service is the universal class, allegedly
> standing above society as
> a whole as a disinterested arbiter. After examining
> the class interests
> of the state served by the civil service, Marx
> proclaims the proletariat
> to be universal on grounds that it has no vested
> interests to protect. We
> have nothing to lose but our chains, because we have
> nothing - nothing to
> protect, nothing to defend, nothing but ourselves
> and our creative power.
> In other words, we are "man as he is"; and this is
> what we defend in the
> old labour slogan. At the same time as we are aware
> of our need for
> defence, we are aware of certain characteristics of
> the attack and its
> perpetrators.
> We sense, by the irrationality of the attack and its
> alleged
> justification,
> a lack of discrimination in the minds of the
> perpetrators, a lack that
> actively seeks to submerge the particular in the
> universal.  By this we
> see that the perpetrators don't really care who they
> hit - they're just on
> a rampage - and it is this that tells us we are all
> the target. The
> farthest things from our minds, at that point, is
> protection of the
> Company's plant and equipment, let alone "rocks and
> trees".
>    >> The Indian draws upon ritual to maintain a
> sustainable
>    relationship with nature. These rituals
> functioned as a surrogate
>    for ecological science. Instead of measuring soil
> acidity in a
>    test-tube or attaching radio-transmitters to
> bears, they simply
>    relied on empirical observation of their
> environment that they had
>    mastered. For example, the Hopi Indians had
> identified 150
>    different plant types in their ecosphere and knew
> the role of each.
>    There is even evidence that had learned from
> mistakes in their
>    past. If overfishing or hunting had punished a
> tribe with famine,
>    then it developed a myth to explain the dangers
> of such practices.
>    Our modern, "scientific" society has no myths
> that function in this
>    manner. We will simply exhaust all fishing stock
> in the oceans,
>    because there is profit in it for some.<<
> The first sentence is merely an unsupported
> assertion. The fact is that
> neither Louis nor anyone alive today knows what
> ancient rituals
> accomplished for their practitioners. As we have
> seen in Black Elk's
> words, posted by Hunter Gray, the old ways vanished
> over a century ago.
=== message truncated ===

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