Never Forget “Western Civilization” Based upon Murderous Ecocidal Evil

Native peoples are strong and their movements are gettinggetting stronger

Native peoples are strong and their movements are getting stronger. Picture from Hawai’i.

Journalist: What do you think of Western civilization?
Gandhi: I think it would be a good idea.

“Take it from this old rich white man. Cross-cultural communication that seeks truthful expression of how to live within nature and with others who are different is vital. No one culture has all the answers, but together we almost certainly do, to such pressing matters that threaten our shared existence as perma-war, injustice, inequity, and ecological collapse. We need to listen to each other and seek a synthesis of the Western and non-Western, that reflects an ecology and humanity ethic truly worthy of the moniker “Universal Civilization”. — Dr. Glen Barry

Earth Meanders, Deep Ecology Essays by Dr. Glen Barry

WESTERN CIVILIZATION IS A MYTH

If ever a society was conceived in original sin, it is the Western democracies, Europe and North America in particular. Dominance of Western Civilization is based upon centuries of murder and enslavement of indigenous peoples and nature that continue to this day.

Some 500 years ago European tribes spilled forth into the world in a wave of ecological colonialism. Thus began an ongoing onslaught of murderous genocide, enslavement, rape, and ecocide in the name of christianity, capitalism, and country. Characterized by a pernicious greed and certainty in their own superiority; European cultures built a mysterious worldview that justified their callous mistreatment of others and destruction of the natural world.

Key among the sinister Eurocentric worldview was the mistaken notion that natural ecosystems, non-European people, and other sentient life existed solely to be exploited for their profit. Millions of plant and animal species, thousands of ancient cultures and their knowledge, and innumerable other human beings with different appearances and worldviews existed only to serve Europeans and their colonies, and if they refused, their massacre was justified. Indeed, given their less than fully human nature, eradication through murder of other cultures was the civilized thing to do.

Not unlike a cancerous mutation, at a global scale a deeply flawed ecocidal and genocidal worldview radiated forth that pursued material comfort at the expense of other people, life forms, and the environment.

And the invading murderers had the gall to call themselves Western Civilization.

European and American exceptionalist rhetoric does not align with the history of settlers’ colonialist expansion. Or the continued ramifications upon the Earth, indigenous peoples, and plants and animals arrayed into ecosystems, of this miserable worldview being nearly universally accepted. Such a brutal and evil worldview has metastasized into our current over-populated, inequitable, unjust, and war-torn world; and threatens, after having destroyed nature and other more biocentric cultures, to topple the biosphere and end being.

But not before much more dramatic suffering and pain, of the sort first inflicted upon native peoples by Western civilization.

KNOW YOUR HISTORY

In the Americas alone around 100 million people – about 90% of the original population of  indigenous peoples – died from Western disease – including smallpox, measles, and cholera; or were murdered and/or violently displaced including through rape, warfare, and genocide by settlers.

Firsthand accounts of the slaughter are replete with tales of entire tribes being massacred, as children were pulled from their parents and impaled, women were raped and enslaved, as men fighting to protect their families and land were wantonly murdered.

Why? Because they were savages and would not surrender their land. And Europeans were the chosen ones.

An estimated 12.5 million Africans were kidnapped and shipped to the Americas with some 10.7 million surviving the journey, of which about 1/3 of a million were tortured and enslaved in North America. The brutal savagery of slavery is difficult to comprehend, yet was similarly justified by claims of superiority of white christian capitalist culture.

Granted, slavery, mass migration, and warfare existed for a long time and were practiced by many cultures. But none so ruthlessly and at such scale as the genocide wrought by Western civilization’s expansion. Such savagery has continued into world wars, carpet bombing of civilians, militarism to steal resources such as oil, and the final clearance of natural ecosystems that make life possible.

Over 80% of Earth’s naturally evolved old-growth forests have been mowed, around half of the world’s land mass is under some form of cultivation, oceans are dying as they are scraped of life, water and fertile soil are increasingly scarce, and our very climate is spinning out of control. The biosphere is dying.

Such is the history of western civilization.

It is not my intention to downplay advances such as personal liberty, material comfort, and relative democracy associated with western civilization. But it has come at a heavy price, leaving traumatized societies and brutalized natural systems and animals, placing at risk the well-being of future generations and the very habitability of our Earthly home. And given the rise of fascism in Western democracies, such advances appear to be fragile and impermanent.

Western civilization has certainly not been civilized given any objective measure. The marvels found in entire cities such as Amsterdam, Venice, and New York City have been built upon plunder and murder.

Western abuses of indigenous peoples continue unabated to this day, as indigenous land and peoples are routinely violated. Genocide continues to be waged on native peoples as industrial capitalism seeks to access and liquidate every last natural ecosystem. Out of such an abominable worldview has come an over-populated world that has wantonly destroyed its environment, is in a state of perma-war, as the biosphere nears final collapse. And now in a last wave of outrage, indigenous and other non-Western peoples are the most impacted upon by abrupt climate change and other impacts of collapsing natural ecosystems.

The author has been blessed to play a small supporting role in many successful indigenous campaigns including We Are Mauna Kea, Standing Rock, and many others

The author has been blessed to play a small supporting role in many successful indigenous campaigns including We Are Mauna Kea (pictured), Standing Rock, and many others

EMBRACING NATIVE KNOWLEDGE

There are innumerable worldviews regarding humanity’s place in the cosmos and understanding of right-living. Important knowledge exists such as the use of plant materials, how to sustain yourself from an ecosystem without degrading or destroying it, and how to minimize conflict. Native knowledge encapsulated in ritual has kept water, oceans, land, and fields largely intact for millennia. Along with natural ecosystems, this indigenous knowledge has been nearly wiped from the surface of the Earth by Western settlers.

It is not my intent to over-romanticize non-Western cultures. Many were warlike and locally over-exploited environments. But never has a culture matched Western imperialism’s grim need to proselytize, force their worldview upon others, and murder all those that resisted; including global claims of European sovereignty to non-Western land and resources. Huge amounts of knowledge have been lost regarding how to sustainably live at peace with Earth and each other. Sadly, many indigenous peoples have embraced the expansionist ecocidal behaviors of their colonizers.

Much native knowledge regarding justice and truth as known by indigenous peoples continues to exist, and is present in contemporary movements ranging from Black Lives Matter to Standing Rock, and millions of active and empowered local native communities. Globally indigenous, non-Western peoples are leading in demonstrating ways of being that do not kill others including destroying our shared natural ecosystems.

Daily the ill-gotten progeny of colonizing settlers are being being shown (if we care enough to notice), that there are other ways of being that do not depend upon systematic murder and ecocide to fuel economic growth for some (and misery and death for the rest). In Western democracies there is much discussion of rights. But rarely does this include the rights of the native people  whose lands were stolen, or of natural ecosystems and their wildlife to continue to exist.

Native cultures and their peoples are strong, and their movements getting stronger. With the humility of a reformed settler, seek to understand and support social movements based upon indigenous sentiments. Join together to end fossil fuels, protect and restore old-growth forests, grant opportunity for self-reliance to all peoples, and resist continued human rights abuses upon those first peoples who have suffered enough.

THE WAY TO OUR SHARED HOME

Globally 370 million indigenous peoples from about 5,000 groups continue to live in their natural locales, yet their rights continue to be suppressed due to the legacy of colonialism, and ongoing authoritarian nationalism. It is estimated these cultures continue to control lands (however precariously in the face of industrial expansion) that hold 80% of Earth’s remaining biological heritage, and some of the last large functioning ecosystems that make Earth habitable.

Around the world indigenous based and other non-Western social movements are flourishing. Yet sadly, intersectionality shows us that numerous systems of oppression and domination continue to lead to discrimination against all who are not rich white males. Systematic racism continues to exist and pernicious attacks upon natural systems and their rightful occupants continue to be the rule.

Nonetheless, take it from this old rich white man. Cross-cultural communication that seeks truthful expression of how to live within nature and with others who are different is vital. No one culture has all the answers, but together we almost certainly do, to such pressing matters that threaten our shared existence as perma-war, injustice, inequity, and ecological collapse.

We need to listen to each other and seek a synthesis of the Western and non-Western, that reflects an ecology and humanity ethic truly worthy of the moniker “Universal Civilization”. Imagine and build a world that protects and renatures water and soil, forests and wetlands, oceans and cultures; based upon the combined knowledge and experience of the thousands of cosmological worldviews which have evolved as Homo sapiens peered from the forests to the stars.

Technology, commerce, and governance will all have a role in the coming Universal Civilization; as the rights of those that are smart and work hard to have more are protected. But the personal accumulation of wealth – the bedrock of western thought – will no longer come at the expense of unmet basic human needs or a living Earth that can essentially last forever. Small government and business will serve bioregional communities, as all have the opportunity to live well ensconced within natural life-giving ecosystems.

Salvation for the human family and all species requires atoning for the wrongs wrought by Western lack of civilization. Reparations must be made both to indigenous peoples and the natural world. There is much de-colonizing and ecosystem regeneration yet to occur; as all knowledge possessed by Western thought AND indigenous cultures regarding justice, equity, peace, and ecology is truly embraced. Let’s come together to make amends for the West’s uncivilized past, as we once again embrace indigenous thought more attuned to nature.

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8 Responses

  1. Richard says:

    Regarding “Western Civilization is a Myth”. OK, but we live by Myths. Maybe see George Lakoff on that.

    Sure there is the naive view that modern liberals are “civilized” and “good”. The sort of ethos that, for example Hillary Clinton embodies.

    But that’s not the view of traditional conservatives who view “civilization” as a kind of veneer on the beast. Personally, I lean conservative. When I think of Hillary I think of her glib laugh as she declared “we came, we saw, he died” regarding her orchestration of the killing of Ghadaffi.

    Real “Civilization”, to me, is not just technology, its self knowledge, its conscious awareness of one’s potential evil. That comes from various spiritual sources, east and west, north and south.

    Basically knowledge, technology is a two-edged sword.

    The amount of damage that can be done by a person of a stone-age technology is limited in contrast to a person coming from a society having nuclear technology. That nuclear technology, for example, was discovered largely by a number of western white males was a blessing and a curse. If it hadn’t been discovered in the west, sure, 1000 years later, a mere drop in the bucket of geological time, it would have been discovered somewhere else.

    Anyway, that’s my reaction to your article. I’m not criticizing your article. Thank you for writing it.

    — Richard

  2. Sarah says:

    hi dr barry,
    just curious to know, is there a hawaiian independence movement?
    i keep hoping they will have the guts to get out of the usa one day.
    bye,
    sarah

  3. Marc Sommer says:

    I do hope the indigenous people will persist and we will perish.It is clear they cause relatively small en reversible damage to their surroundings

  4. aj weishar says:

    Great article on the removal of humans in the way of powerful people. Things in the way of “progress” get taken down as collateral damage. This article can serve as a warning to those currently not affected. We are all in the food chain of a barbaric, inhuman, business oriented march to profits. We live in a toxic wasteland battered every day by various forms or radiation, chemicals, modified foods, and drugs. Truths are hidden, censored, or replaced by alternate truths.
    That said we are part of a living organism, and it is beginning to purge the illness. Technology is getting battered by earth, the sun, and the rest of the universe. Best example, CME’s knocking out cable, cell, power, and waking up earthquakes and volcanoes. You can’t keep dropping bombs, using 180 Db sonar pulses, and drilling on fault lines. The Universe is reacting. The indigenous nations know how to survive these events, but they are not going to share it with ecocidal murderers.

  5. Peter says:

    Hi Glenn , Never Forget “Western Civilization” Based upon Murderous Ecocidal Evil is brilliant , the very best thing,I have read describing our terribel situation and its orgins Thank you !!
    Peter

  6. Monica says:

    Dear Glen

    Yes, I grew up in Toronto, Canada and speak English (integration with every Nation on the planet, but has not yet happened with the First Nations peoples) … not just about indigenous peoples, why is there No Monetary value for housewifes: As put very clearly by a man from Africa … women were the parrots in the cages (houses) and the African people were the newspaper on the bottom of that cage! I recently understood the Bob Marley song, Is This Love correctly … we all share the same (womb – Mother Earth) room is what he actually sings … we all need money and electricity to live, space for our things, clothing is mandatory and are pretty much all addicted to sugar (more addictive than heroin), I can’t drive more that one vehicle or sleep in more than one bed at a time). The reason the indigenous peoples were wiped out, was because they enjoyed life – getting mad you can be attacked … singing and having fun is hard to attack! Focusing on what is working and happening that is in a forward way … the poorest president in the world Pepe, in Uraguay has my vote … saw a documentary on him and it brought tears to my eyes and rekindled my hope for mankind … because we are not a human race … maybe that needs to be changed … we are a species but we are not in a race. Yes, vivre la difference as the French say. Christianity went Pagan about 1600 yrs ago, when Jesus was translated wrong and defined as similar to God, not the Son of God! We have the numbers … business is not more important than humans and we are not money bees! I realized that I got the Golden Rule wrong … you should love your neighbour as you love yourself … well, I was a hypocrite: I was treating everyone else better than myself … have adjusted and hope that next time I look that I’ll get a better note than an F (which I gave myself when I took stock). On that note …

    Beautiful Email and well done … started noticing things in 1999 when I realized something was fundamentally wrong, if I feel a greater sense of belonging to the indigenous peoples of Australia than towards the peoples who raised me and started observing … they have pretty much all been eliminated – from the Tree Peoples in the Asian area to where ever free people were living, who knew how to survive without money or electricity! As this Comedien put nicely, about genocide … I’ve been in a room with 10 Jews, but never with 10 Natives! Somehow there is a purpose … not sure exactly what it is … but have started trusting myself and other people … so giving it a chance!

    Love & Light

    Monica

  7. Jeffrey E Fish says:

    This is an injustice to the people as a whole. You have made a broad spectrum accusation that is not representative of the beliefs, ideas, desires, and feelings of those who are trapped in this construct and are just trying to survive. The evil you write of is a controlling percentage whose sum is a fraction of one again divided into units of whose sum again is very small. Myself and all those I surround myself with have longed for a way to live in harmonic balance with nature and all other humans. You have also generalized Christianity in a negative way when it is obvious that any type of spiritual belief has been made victim by those who would cloak their evil deeds in it’s name. Lest you forget or just did not want to mention it, let me remind you who owns some of the largest tax free gambling casinos outside of Las Vegas. Native Americans. In Alaska their is an Island named Afognak that was given back to the native Indians of the area who quickly sold the timber rights to huge logging entities who in turn clear cut the island and sold every tree to the Japanese. I could go on and on but the bottom line is that you are the one with hate and anger in your heart and not the masses who are just trying to get by in this global consumer based horror called life today, of which we are all victims.

  8. john hosie says:

    who were the real savages . Who claimed to be the light and projected their own shadow on the natural world.? who relegated the miracle of existence to the workings of their devil, and executed their agendas in their Gods Name? accumulating gold and enslaving souls in their wake. Conquistadors equatorial omnipotence And still we surrender our autonomy and prey to their Obelisk .

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