Note — Oct 04, 2020

Revolution and American Indians: “Marxism Is as Alien to My Culture as Capitalism”

Seen in → No.144

Source →

Quite an incredible read, a speech from 1980 by Russell Means, member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, and an important figure of the American Indian Movement. He goes through a fascinating exercise, looking at European culture (which includes current North American culture in this framing) through the influence of the works of important thinkers. In his words: Newton reduced the physical universe to a linear mathematical equation; “Descartes did the same thing with culture; John Locke did it with politics; and Adam Smith did it with economics.” Each taking some of the spirituality of human existence and converting it into code, an abstraction.

Means then goes through Hegel and Marx, and in perhaps the most useful insight for today and the oft mentioned re-connection with nature and re-discovering of native values and practices, he shows that even Marx, who’s resurfacing today and part of the inspirations in visions of socialism and more common good, is far over on the other side from the American Indian (the term Means prefers) view because he’s part of the “European materialist tradition of despiritualizing the universe” and in a posture against capitalism, not removed from it. There’s a lot more in there, highly recommended.

Being is a spiritual proposition. Gaining is a material act. Traditionally, American Indians have always attempted to be the best people they could. Part of that spiritual process was and is to give away wealth, to discard wealth in order not to gain. Material gain is an indicator of false status among traditional people, while it is “proof that the system works” to Europeans. […]

Revolutionary Marxism, like industrial society in other forms, seeks to “rationalize” all people in relation to industry—maximum industry, maximum production. It is a doctrine that despises the American Indian spiritual tradition, our cultures, our lifeways. […]

There is another way. There is the traditional Lakota way and the ways of the American Indian peoples. It is the way that knows that humans do not have the right to degrade Mother Earth, that there are forces beyond anything the European mind has conceived, that humans must be in harmony with all relations or the relations will eventually eliminate the disharmony. […]

A lopsided emphasis on humans by humans—the Europeans’ arrogance of acting as though they were beyond the nature of all related things—can only result in a total disharmony and a readjustment which cuts arrogant humans down to size, gives them a taste of that reality beyond their grasp or control and restores the harmony. […]

Mother Earth will retaliate, the whole environment will retaliate, and the abusers will be eliminated. Things come full circle, back to where they started. That’s revolution. And that’s a prophecy of my people, of the Hopi people and of other correct peoples.