When Columbus landed in San Salvador, the Arawak Indians, living in ease and splendor greeted him as friend. They as did most of the Indians, lived on Mother Earth as her gift to them. There was no ownership. The act of sharing was with ever expanding kinship which included friends. Plants and animals were related to as siblings, earth, sun and water as divine. As in any family, the emphasis was on keeping all alive.
Columbus looking at these relaxed and friendly “savages,” stated that with 50 men, he could turn them into servants, by which me means slaves which he did. He caused the extinction of a vast number digging for gold, the most valued object of man. He sometimes killed them just for sport. He had guns. He worked those native who could not escape to death.
Columbus saw the Indians and island produce as things to own, use, use up. This life philosophy has grown to the point where the whole earth now is regarded as an object. Thanks to advanced ways of seeing what is down there, there are no wild places left. All is assessed for its monetary value, for its purpose in what you manufacture or collect. There is no seeking the consequences of your collection beyond the now.
People can be looked upon as commodities as well. Why now do we have 25 percent of the world’s imprisoned people when we are only 5 percent of its inhabitants? Poor people, largely black and Hispanic are not longer needed to work in factories. That work has been shipped to areas of the world where people work for less, are without health benefits, retirement pensions, vacations.
What to do with the unemployed auto workers as in Detroit from which the automobile industry has fled? Put them in jail for all kinds of minor offenses. Jailing has become a main industry in the US and is farmed out to private agencies which can make 50 thousand dollars a year for a prisoner. They offer few services, health care, education, job training. Rehabilitation and a successful return to society are not their goal. Unemployed man is a commodity to the jailing corporation. We the tax payer pay the bill.
We have been educated and shaped by TV, raised to be consumers, given credit cards which encourage us to “get it now” and pay later, taught to see the world in terms of what we can get from it. Lately and increasingly, it is becoming difficult to be so blasé, ignorant and hungry. Treating the world as an inanimate object to own, use up, destroy, forget, has gone beyond the earth’s capacity to recover. Now the temperatures are rising due to our burning things: coal, gas, oil, wood. The oceans due to ice melt and are reclaiming low islands first and then our coast line with all the major cities. Dehydrated forests are bursting into flame. Warm oceans are killing all the fish from plankton up. Everywhere there is death: butterflies, polar bears, animals small and large…. And at the end of the chain of life is us.
How to get out of this, if indeed we can, if it isn’t too late? The world is alive, every molecule. We need to see it, feel it and treat it as so. We are to share and love and sustain life, to live without any sense of ownership. We need to stop needing and getting “things” so that life small and large can find a place to be again.
We may not want to know this because the anxiety of awareness is so high. If we hide out heads in the sand a la ostrich, we can count on losing everything. To love the earth, Mother Earth is to feel the pain of loss, to feel what our exploitative ways have destroyed, to be driven to live differently. To love is to feel. There is no other way.