Written by Mama D Ujaje
Who are we that we can determine what is and what is not relevant to any discussion which concerns the fate of the Earth? We are the Earth. We are, in each element of our being, a part of the substance, feeling and memory of this planetary being. In recollecting this, we re-member ourselves as response-able for retaining the ebb and flow of planetary dynamics. But we are not alone.
Let us move into becoming more present: Now is a time of acknowledgement. We are surrounded by beings with as much right to planetary balance as we each and collectively have, if not more, because many beings have been here, long before we materialised as humans. Consider our elders: the rocks, the mountains, the soil, the trees, the grass and many species of animal, fungi and unicellular and acellular life. Consider each of these as having even older forms in ancestral states of being, going back into the where and when of time making that makes no sense to us – as humans. Yet…Do we respect our elders?
Now, as you are seated, hearing my voice, feeling the air on your skin, the soles of your shoes beneath your feet, or the carpet or floor surface, aware of the weight you place on your seat. Feel also the cloth touching your birth-skin. Then, remember. All of this is from the Earth. It has been sacrificed in service to you. Without being consulted, in the context of aggressive policy making, in the absence of grounded knowledge of the long term consequences of its extraction, as a response to certain individuals’ quests for personal accumulation and greed – in which we are all complicit by following habits, fashion, mindlessness and various protocols of ‘irrespons-ability’.
That it has come to you as various forms of convenience is also due to the ingenuity, repeated practice, application of intelligence and a lot of unpaid or underpaid physical, mental and emotional labour of those who came before us. Those we call Ancestors. Many of whom remain unnamed, uncited, considered irrelevant or whose memories have been erased. Yet -When did you, when did we last give thanks?
Take this opportunity now to move your breath into a place of gratitude. With each breathe, acknowledge to yourself your relationship to the state of things in which we find ourselves and as you breathe in, be inspired to move towards transformational change. As you breathe out, commit to leaving inaction behind, breathe away the staleness of old habits that do not serve you or us collectively, being assured that what we will be bringing today will support every breath you take to be of profound and meaningful consequence. Ase!
In traditional stories we are often enabled a last chance to succeed. Where the hero or heroine can reach their goal, achieve success, escape death or punishment. In many of these cases, the extra chance is enabled by a 13th spirit, the fairy, angel, sprite, witch, or nature being, one that has the power of undoing the spell or enchantment that has been cast by those who have power over the order of things.This extra embodiment of energy has the capacity to dissipate evil, to undo the terrible spell, to revoke the enchantment that everyone is fixated by. Often it has to be invoked to act against a kind of spell which has everyone apparently in a mode of deep sleep.I think you know what is coming!
The Racial Justice Network makes no claims of being magic or even of possessing extra resources of power and energy to undo what has been already done. What we do have, however, is a conviction that ‘another way is possible.’ Or perhaps that ‘Another way is necessary’!
Arundhati Roy said: ‘Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.’ The inevitability of a solution arriving for a problem or challenge that has been brought into being is something we have demonstrated to us in what we refer to as nature: The dock leaf growing where stinging nettles abound. The appearance of the cleansing herb, cleavers or goosegrass in spring just when we need to detox after gorging ourselves over the winter holiday. Our exposure to healthy soil rewards us with feel-good hormones when we cultivate it in the least harmful way.
So what this 13th Recommendation brings us is an invitation or a warning, you decide, to become aware of the toxicity of the current status quo and to remind us that many things have to change if we are to transform the system in a way that brings balance, stability and security for all being dependent upon our Earth system. And who isn’t? What it states is this: Colonial legacies and International perspectives on climate must be acknowledged and heard and factored in as a form of internationalism that brings Justice. Climate justice must be understood as being as relevant and critical as social justice. The Interconnectedness of oppressions and struggles must be realised across the diasporas and across the globe. Activist solidarity must play a central role in realising our aims.
What we can take this to mean is that in order for any human strategy to work we must recognise the connectedness of the past, present and future. Not as a linear and indefinite concept but as a cyclical feature of our existence. What this invokes is responsibility and accountability. What has happened in the past is brought into the present by simple (and complex) cause and effect. The person who feels this effect most is the best witness to the case: We must recognise that understanding colonialism to be a systemic injury to the Earth and all of her beings defines the beginning of transformation.
When we talk of the climate, we are also talking of the ways in which, during the current epoch, the so called Anthropocene, the entire environment in which we live exists in the form it does AS A RESULT OF HUMAN IMPACT at some time in the past. The claiming and shaping of Earth to suit the purposes of human greed creates what has been called territory. Territory is simply another word for Land. (Think: ‘Landed gentry’, ‘The aliens have landed’. To Land is to arrive and to claim territory!)
When people in the past colonised the Earth and ravaged her in the many different and terrible ways in which they did, what they were doing was territorialisation: creating territories over which they would have control. They referred to these territories as Land. Having control of territory meant creating a sense of having power. This was a power, however, that created trauma as it disconnected the Earth from the people and the people from the Earth.The Earth operates as a system, a delicately balanced system which responds to any and all changes to any and all parts of it.
The process of creating Land erases the integrity of the Earth which in turns creates Trauma: Trauma for the Earth and all her beings (being disfigured and misunderstood is a very terrible thing). It creates imbalances, now experienced as ‘climate crises’. Trauma for the humans involved in the process: those who were totally erased in acts of genocide and damaged through violent acts of separation from the elements of Mother Earth and Trauma for those who had historically experienced different scales of erasure, exploitation and extraction from their own. This resulted in multiple types of traumatised behaviours that have threatened and are threatening to shape our future responses to healing and resolution of the damage caused. Trauma for those who significantly perpetrated much of this violence and who are reluctant to cede control. They too are fixated by TRAUMA. REMEMBER: ‘SHE WHO FEELS IT KNOWS IT’.
People who have stayed committed to a part of the Earth for a long time, have had greater opportunity to witness what this commitment means, and so their knowledge ought to be respected and enabled to define the processes of seeking healing and resolution. We call these people indigenous (meaning belonging to the Earth they live with) because in our shame/guilt we have lost the sense of responsibility that would otherwise be in place within us if we recognised that we belong to the Earth and not the other way around. So, what the 13th Recommendation brings to us is a reminder, a possibility to re-member again that what is broken, separated, segregated and infiltrated needs definitive acts of HEALING: of being recognised as a system which is being experienced by multiple beings, over time and space. This system has been and is currently still being deformed by trauma inducing colonisation in its many forms. and what this coming together represents is an opportunity for us to ACT, to Act by Becoming decolonial, to Act by developing decolonial strategies, to ACT by embracing our common humanity through an acknowledgement of past harm so that we can all engage in present healing.
Find the reading of Mama D’s ’13th Recommendation, Grounding and Provocation’ below: