rn:Humans & Nature: Terrorism, Commodification & Community


Jan Slakov

Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 09:41:25 -0800
From: Tom Atlee <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Humans and Nature:  Terrorism, commodification, and community

Dear friends,

Part of what we need to have a wise democracy is the capacity to recognize
the large patterns of thought and behavior into which we have been woven by
our cultural history, and which we can and must reweave.  Institutions like
citizen deliberative councils provide forums through which we can at last
do that reweaving from the top of our society.  But the reweaving must also
be done broadly through every level of the culture, especially widespread
at the grassroots -- in our own hearts, minds, groups and communities -- in
our lives, individual and collective.  It is a massive undertaking which
rests on a few extremely important insights.

How do we articulate those insights?  There are many ways, and many people
undertaking the task.  Some speak of "paradigm shifts".  Others call for
compassion or spiritual awareness of the Whole.  Still others point to our
intrinsic and ever-increasing interconnectedness.  All of these have
something to do with our being in relationship, being participants, being
co-creatively involved with the unfolding of life.  The bottom line is that
we are not as separate as we thought.  Unique and diverse and individual,
yes.  But not separate.

We are All.
In This.

And what of the social forms -- the economic and political systems we have
created?  Do they take this into account?  The two essays below question
that, poignantly.  They challenge the culture of consumption,
commodification, exploitation.  They call for the renewal of diverse
natural and human communities pursuing together the satisfaction of their
deep, natural needs for sustenance, relationship, freedom and meaning.

This is the most essential shift, I think -- the one that will make the
most difference.

We are All.  In This.  Together.


Note:  At the end of these two essays, I've added a PS about violence and
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Earth: Commodity or Community?

A major crisis of our time is being shaped by a conflict between two
radically different perspectives of our planet. Within industrialized
societies the dominant perspective views Earth as a COMMODITY. With this
view the modern world has built an extractive economy, which uses Earth as
a rich warehouse of resources to be mined, developed, and exploited for the
benefit of humans. Individuals are seen as primarily as consumers. This
perspective and resultant practices are endangering the future of Earth and
the entire life community.   

We need another view. The ancient perspective of world religions sees Earth
as COMMUNITY. Humans are part of the web of life and interdependent with
all earth systems. Let's join in an inquiry of how to recover a sense of
Earth as Community and remember how to balance use with reverence. Our
human destiny is to leave a healthy Earth for future generations.

Excerpt from promotion for a gathering in Oakland, CA
Sunday, March 3, 1:30-5:30 pm Holy Names College.
Speaker: Rabbi Dan Goldblatt
Followed by wisdom circles of the attendees.
For further information: Cindy Spring (510-655-6658) •••@••.•••

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


Terrorism As Cannibalism
By Vandana Shiva

Year 2001 will be etched in our memory as a year in which the vicious
cycle of violence was unleashed worldwide. Of the Taliban bombing the
two thousand year old images of peace, the Buddhas of Bamiyan.

Of terrorists blowing up the W.T.C. on September 11, and attempting to
blow up the Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir on October 1, and the Indian
Parliament on December 13. Of a global alliance bombing out what
remained of Afghanistan after two decades of super power rivalry, and
civil war. Of Pakistan and India threatening to go to war as 2001 gave
way to 2002.

Why is violence engulfing us so rapidly, so totally? Why has violence
become the dominant feature of the human species across cultures. Could
the violence characterizing human societies in the new millennium be
linked with violent structures and institutions we have created to
reduce society to markets and humans to consumers?

Animals of any species tend to become violent when they are treated with
violent methods.

Pigs love to root in the fields, wallow in the mud, grunt to each other.
However when denied this freedom in factory farms where they are
confined in over crowded, steel barred crates or multiple stacked cages
known as battery cages, pigs become bored, stressed and anxious. They
start gnawing cages, picking on each other, biting each other's tails
and ears and resorting to what agribusiness industry has called
"cannibalism". (Ref. Michael Fox, Old MacDonalds Factory Farm)

Pigs are not cannibals. When they start to display cannibalism, the
normal question industry should be asking is why are pigs behaving
abnormally. The organic movement and animal liberation movement has
raised the question and found the answer in the violent methods of
factory farming. In humane farming pigs have been liberated and allowed
to roam and roll in the mud. Stopping violence against animals is the
best way to stop their violent behavior.

Industry has a different solution to "cannibalism" induced by the
concentration camp conditions of factory farms. Operators of pig
factories chop off the tails of week old piglets without any anaesthetic
to prevent other pigs from chewing them off. They also remove eight
teeth with wire cutters. Male piglets have their testicles cut off to
reduce their aggression in crowded areas.

While removing tails and teeth is the solution offered to violent
behavior in pigs, chicken in factory farms are debeaked, and cattle are

Beaks are the most important feature of chicken. When roaming in the
open, a chicken needs its beak for eating, pecking, preening, cleaning,
grooming. When confined in battery cages, chicken start to attack each
other with their beaks. According to industry, chicken are debeaked to
protect them from one another. A day old chick's beak is pressed against
a red hot metal blade at 800oC. Often it injures the tongue.

Chicken injured during debeaking die of starvation. What industry is
blind to is that it is not chickens beak that is the cause of violent,
abnormal and cannibalistic behavior among chicken, but the overcrowded,
unnatural conditions of their living in cages. Free-range chicken do not
kill each other with their beaks. They find worms and food for their own

The horns of the cow are its most distinctive feature. We adorn them
with bells and decorations. At Muttu Pongal, the horns of cattle are
decorated with flowers and balloons. In organic agriculture cow horns
are used to increase the potency of compost. But in factory farming,
cattle are dehorned because they attack each other under conditions of

The problem, clearly, is the factory cage - not the teeth and tails of
pigs, the beaks of chicken, the horns of cattle. It is the cage that
needs removing, not the tail, or beak or horn. When animals are denied
their basic freedoms to function as a species, when they are held
captive and confined, they turn to "cannibalism".

Humans are animals. As a species we too have basic needs - for meaning
and identity, for community and security, for food and water, for

Could terrorism be the human equivalent of the abnormal behavior of
"cannibalism" in animals exhibit under factory conditions?

Humans are of course, not being confined to iron cages (though in the
U.S, in Australia, a large percentage of blacks and aborigines are
behind bars). Human society is being caged and controlled through
complex laws and policies, through violent economic and political
structures which are enclosing of their spaces -- spiritual, ecological,
political and economic.

Humans are experiencing their religious spaces enclosed when militaries
occupy sacred lands as in the Mid East. Humans are experiencing
enclosure through occupation as in Palestine. The children in affluent
America are also experiencing a closing of their lives, and are turning
to mindless violence as in the case of shooting at St. Columbines. And
across the world, ecological, economic and political spaces are being
enclosed through privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation.

These multiple processes are breeding new insecurities, new anxieties,
new stresses. Cultural security, economic security, ecological security,
political security are all being rapidly eroded.

Could the violence being unleashed by humans against humans be similar
to the violence pigs, chicken and cattle express when denied their
freedom to roll in the mud, peck for worms, and roam outside the
confines of animal factories?

Could the coercive imposition of a consumer culture worldwide, with its
concomitant destruction of values, cultural diversity, livelihoods, and
the environment be the invisible cages against which people are
rebelling, some violently, most non-violently.

Could the "war against terrorism" be equivalent to the detoothing,
debeaking, dehorning of pigs chickens and cattle by agribusiness
industry because they are turning violent when kept under violent
conditions? Could the lasting solution to violence induced by the
violence of captivity and enslavement for humans be the same as that for
other animals - giving them back their space for spiritual freedom,
ecological freedom, for psychological freedom and for economic freedom.

The cages that humans are feeling trapped in are the new enclosures which
are robbing communities of their cultural spaces and identities, and
their ecological and economic spaces for survival. Globalisation is the
overaching name for this enclosure.

Greed and appropriation of other people's share of the planet's precious
resources are at the root of conflicts, and the root of terrorism. When
President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that the goal of
the global war on terrorism is for the defense of he American and
European "way of life", they are declaring a war against the planet-its
oil, its water, its biodiversity.

A way of life for the 20 percent of the earth's people who use 80
percent of the planet's resources will dispossess 80 percent of its
people of their just share of resources and eventually destroy the
planet. We cannot survive as a species if greed is privileged and
protected and the economics of the greedy set the rules for how we
live and die.

If the past enclosures have already precipitated so much violence, what
will be the human costs of new enclosures being carved out for
privatisation of living resources and water resources, the very basis of
our species survival. Intellectual property laws and water privatisation
are new invisible cages trapping humanity.

IPR laws are denying farmers the basic freedom of saving and exchanging
seed. They are, in effect, enclosing the genetic commons, creating new
scarcities in a biologically rich world, transforming fundamental
freedoms into criminal acts punishable with fines and jail sentences.

Water privatisation policies are enclosing the water commons,
transforming water into a commodity to be bought and sold for profit,
creating water scarcity in a water abundant world.

Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer had been using his own seeds for the
past fifty years. His Canola seed was genetically polluted with
Monsanto's GM Canola through wind and pollination. Instead of Percy
being paid compensation in accordance with the polluter pay principle,
the courts fined Percy on the basis of Monsanto's IPR case which argued
that since the genes were Monsanto's property their being found in
Percy's field made him a thief irrespective of how they came to be

The violator becomes the violated, the violated becomes the violator in
the perverse world of patents on genes, seeds and living material. Such
perverse laws are transforming agriculture into police states and
farmers into criminals. They are the invisible cages which are holding
humans captive to market processes and corporate rule.

The Privatisation of water is another threat to human freedom.

Perhaps the most famous tale of corporate greed over water is the story
of Cochabamba, Bolivia. In this semi-desert region, water is scarce and
precious. In 1999, the World bank recommended privatization of
Cochabamba's municipal water supply company (SEMAPA) through a
concession to International Water, a subsidiary of Bechtel. On October
1999, the Drinking Water and Sanitation Law was passed, ending
government subsidies and allowing privatization.

In a city where the minimum wage is less than $100 a month, water bills
reached $20 a month, nearly the cost of feeding a family of five for two
weeks. In January 2000, a citizens' alliance called La Coodination de
efensa del Agua y de la Vida (The Coalition in Defence of Water and
Life) was formed.

The alliance shut down the city for four days through mass mobilization.
Within a month, millions of Bolivians marched to Cochabamba, held a
general strike, and stopped all transportation. At the gathering, the
protesters issued the Cochabamba Declaration, calling for the protection
of universal water rights.

The government promised to reverse the price hike but never did. In
February 2000, La Coordinadora organized a peaceful march demanding the
repeal of the Drinking Water and Sanitation Law, the annulment of
ordinances allowing privatization, the termination of the water
contract, and the participation of citizens in drafting a water resource

The citizen's demands, which drove a stake through the heart of
corporate interests, were violently rejected. Coordinadora's fundamental
critique was directed at the negation of water as a community property.
Protesters used slogans like `Water is God's Gift and Not A Merchandise'
and `Water is Life'.

In April 2000, the government tried to silence the water protests
through market law. Activists were arrested, protesters killed, and the
media censored. Finally on April 10, 2000, the people won. Aguas del
Tunari and Bechtel left Bolivia and the government was forced to revoke
its hated water privatization legislation.

The water company Servicio Municipal del Agua Potable Alcantarillado
(SEMAPA) and its debts were handed over to the workers and the people.
In the summer of 2000, La Coordinadora organized public hearings to
establish democratic planning and management. The people have taken on
the challenge to establish a water democracy, but the water dictators
are trying their best to subvert the process. Bechtel is suing Bolivia,
and the Bolivian government is harassing and threatening activists of La

By reclaiming water from corporations and the market, the citizens of
Bolivia have illustrated that privatization is not inevitable and that
corporate takeover of vital resources can be prevented by people's
democratic will.

The resource hunger of a corporate driven consumer culture is attempting
to enslave, own and control every plant, every seed, every drop of water.

The suicides of farmers are one aspect of violence engendered by a
violent world order based on markets, profits, consumerism. Suicide
bombers are another aspect. One is directed towards the `self'. The
other is directed towards the `other'. And in a fragmenting and
disintegrating world, where everyone feels caged, everyone has potential
to become the dangerous 'other'. Like animals in factory cages, we are
attacking ourselves or each other.

Animals have the animal liberation movement to speak for them and set
them free when the industry which has held them captive under violent
conditions perpetrates further violence to deal with the cannibalism
that captivity is causing.

What is needed is an animal liberation movement for humans - a movement
sensitive to the captivity of consumer culture and global markets, a
movement compassionate enough to sense the deep violations humanity is
experiencing, a movement that recognizes that it is not the teeth of
pigs, beaks of birds, horns of cows that need to be removed, but the

The multicoloured, diversity based movement against the structural
violence of global markets and the consumer culture has elements that
could grow to liberate the human spirit from the degradations and
deprivations of corporate globalisation. Reclaiming our freedoms and
spaces from the new enclosures is as essential to us as it is to other

Animals were not designed to live imprisoned in cages. Humans were not
designed to live imprisoned in markets, or live wasted and disposable if
they cannot be consumers in the global market.

Our deepening dehumanisation is at the roots of growing violence.
Reclaiming our humanity in inclusive, compassionate ways is the
first step to peace.

Peace will not be created through weapons and wars, bombs and barbarism.
Violence will not be contained by spreading it. Violence has become a
luxury the human species cannot afford if we are to survive.
Non-violence has become a survival imperative.

_ _ _ _ _ _

PS from Tom Atlee:

Violence is not just the physical harms that individuals do to each other,
nor is nonviolence simply the refraining from committing such harms.  More
often violence is dynamically built into social systems.  Sometimes
systemic violence harms by instigating individuals to destroy or degrade
other lives -- whether directly through militaries, prisons, factory farms,
and clearcuts -- or indirectly through the violence of unemployed men,
impoverished mothers or alienated youth -- or the violence of the toxins
tucked away, almost incidentally, in food, water, air, mothers' milk....

Other forms of systemic violence harm directly, but diffusely, replacing
meaning with emptiness, community with television, love of place with
patriotism, leaving lives shallow, perplexed, frantic, degraded.

So nonviolence, then, extends beyond the unwillingness to strike another,
and even beyond acts of love for one's fellows and the earth.  Nonviolence
includes the thoughtful, persistent creation of social systems that enhance
the lives of those who live in and around them.

And more than that.  To me, above all, nonviolence includes all work to
increase the CAPACITY of societies to continually and wisely recreate
themselves to be ever more life-enhancing.

An oft-repeated adage declares: "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for
a day.  If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for his whole life."
Along these same lines, I suggest that if you resist violence, you end the
wars and injustices before you.  If you enable society to improve the ways
it enhances life, you will soon render war and injustice strange memories
of a barbaric and distant cultural past.

In the end, it is only through a culture's capacity to wisely co-create
itself that nonviolence will be sustained.  Because then it will then no
longer be "nonviolence."  It will be simply Life, rich and full, creatively
renewed, over and over.

We are All.  In This.  Together.


Tom Atlee * The Co-Intelligence Institute * PO Box 493 * Eugene, OR 97440
http://www.co-intelligence.org *  http://www.democracyinnovations.org
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