Last week I read a quote in reference to the war in Iraq that has stuck in my mind. One of the coalition leaders said that in order to save the city of Baghdad, they were going to have to destroy it. As evidence of this we hear in the news about some new wave of heavy bombing taking place in the city as they try to liberate and save it. The whole idea is not one I am completely comfortable with. However, I do know of another similar quote that reads “Every act of destruction is an act of creation” and vice versa, which is an idea that I am more comfortable with. Both quotes mean the same thing though, basically that in order to build something new, you need to destroy what was there before.
One of the reasons it has stuck in my mind is that I have been perplexed with a slight dilemma over the past few days. It comes from the fact that I am a writer but the vocation almost seems to go against my duty to look after Mother Earth. The act of writing takes a lot of casualties in the form of trees. I am not quite sure how other native people make peace with their obvious contradictions in doing what they do.
As native people, we are trying to get our voice heard; we are seeking equality and justice. And rightly so, yet the very nature of doing that means that we take advantage of the earth, in the form of paper, gas, electricity, and other resources. It’s kind of like a catch-22 situation, where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
In terms of the plight of native people across the country, if we sit back and continue to let ourselves be taken advantage of, we are eventually going to have no resources and nothing to identify with. If we do something about it, then we are using a lot of money and a lot of other resources of the earth that we are supposed to protect. Where is the middle ground? I tend to think that a good gauging point would be to look seven generations down the line and see what damage or good we are doing for them with our current activities.
Obviously we cannot just sit back for the next seven generations, there would be nothing left for the future but a once proud history as the noble people who originally inhabited this continent. On the other hand, we cannot let ourselves get caught up in the non-Native way of doing things where by we start think it’s ok to take advantage of the environment as long as it doesn’t directly affect us, or we don’t take into account the damage it does. We need to remember that every few pounds of paper we use for our cause is another tree gone; if we want a cell phone to make the calls to those who have the power, then the towers have to be built in order for it to be in service wherever we want to use it; and another hundred kilowatts of energy we use for our computers and faxes, is more justification to the hydro electric companies for building another dam.
We want to and we need to keep up with the times, therefore we need the tools that are required. We need the computers, the faxes and the cell phones. It makes sense that in order to fight the power, we need to know what they are working with and use it to our own advantage. It seems to be a fact, especially with the current war in Iraq, that one can’t wage a fair and equal battle without same or equal weapons.
But apart from that, where does the battle end and where does the desire for personal gratification start? We have so many heroes to look up to that have been written about in the pages of books about native history and native future. Part of us would no doubt like to be remembered that way. So where do we draw the line? At what point does it become more important to take advantage of the environment in order to “save the city’?
I ask this question from the point of view as a writer and a native person, contemplating writing a book. While it might seem somewhat frivolous in the grand scheme of things, the book might possibly raise awareness and bring forth new ideas and new knowledge for everyone. Then again, it might simply kill a lot of trees to get it out there to a public that has no interest.
I do try to be mindful of my activities on Mother Earth and I try to think seven generations down the road in terms of what effect my actions will have. I also try to look to our native leaders and elders for guidance in what they do. I see them as role models, even if I don’t always agree with what they do and say. Again, I wonder how native leaders, elders and writers have put this issue at peace within themselves. If anyone has an answer, please let me know.