Unfettered Capitalism is soulless. It has no heart, no spirit. It’s especially soulless for those who live under the destruction that capitalism leaves in its wake. It is great for those who promote it, for those who personally benefit. Capitalism creates wealth and only becomes redeemable when people who understand what money can do, decide to do humanistic things with it. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are proof of what benefits conscious capitalism can provide.
Investopedia defines Capitalism as:
“…an economic system in which capital goods are owned by private individuals or businesses. The production of goods and services is based on supply and demand in the general market (market economy), rather than through central planning (planned economy or command economy). The purest form of capitalism is free market or laissez-faire capitalism, in which private individuals are completely free to determine where to invest, what to produce or sell, and at which prices to exchange goods and services, without check or controls. Most modern countries practice a mixed capitalist system of some sort that includes government regulation of business and industry.”
Capitalism is the bedrock of the United States as we were founded on this core principal. Capitalism was clearly—and continues to be—at the core of the Standing Rock stand-off in North Dakota. Always follow the money, and in this instance, it’s $3.8 billion dollars at stake. Money that will not go quietly into the night because the Army Corp of Engineers and the outgoing Obama Administration say “no” to the pipeline. With the emergence of the Trump Administration, we are about to enter the late rounds of a two-year-old bout. The main event is Capitalism vs. Freedom of Religion. Our collective underwear as a nation is showing and the skidmarks of hypocrisy have left a stain.
Andrew Carnegie said, “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” If you have watched the relationship of what America has done in the treatment of the First Nation on what was once their land, it is what is ugly about America and how we came to power.
Charles C. Haynes, vice president of the Newseum Institute and founding director of the Religious Freedom Center said “The history of persecution, exploitation, broken treaties, unkept promises and adverse court decisions, the recent victory at Standing Rock is a rare win for Native American religious freedom”. The operative word here is rare. He went on to further state:
“What is considered sacred by indigenous peoples — including, in this case, water, burial sites, sacred gathering spaces — has been, at various times in our history, debased, mocked, bulldozed or completely ignored by government officials and courts. In fact, for much of our history, many Native American ceremonies were illegal and people were imprisoned for practicing their religion. The First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause is supposed to protect all religious groups, including those with rites and rituals rejected, feared or misunderstood by the majority.”
Over the course of the stand-off, there have been some 300 Tribes represented at Standing Rock in North Dakota. First Nation representatives (commonly referred to as Native Americans or American Indians) from all over North America have been protesting for two years (seven months on site) due to the development of a pipeline that runs through their land where the United States Government signed a Treaty or agreement to allow the tribes the self-determination they deserve. The planned pipeline goes through sacred burial grounds, the pipeline could pollute the water supply and the rivers and streams that provide life to this region…they are protecting the purity of the water that they, and the cattle in that region require for life. This “protection” is part of their religious beliefs.
If capitalism cared about the human organism, toxic water, community crises like those in Flint Michigan and Newark, New Jersey would not exist. Unsafe levels of toxic chemicals found in drinking water in 33 states contain high levels of fluoridated compounds that have been linked to cancer and hormone disruption according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH). Clearly, capitalism and the individuals driving the bus cannot protect us in this regard so I clearly understand the First Nations concern and desire to protect their interest and ours.
I am a big believer in respecting those who come before you…I prefer to call the Native Americans “The First Nations.” Despite propaganda brainwashed into our heads by Euro-centric thought that indoctrinate us to believe that Europeans “discovered” this country. It is far beyond me how you discover something and claim it as your own when someone else was living here before you showed up and planted a “flag.” You have to start here, it starts with the incorrect indoctrination in our education system that diminishes the role of a valiant proud people that did not want invaders.
In order to understand this struggle, Ego needs to be set aside and there must exist a desire to obtain some sort of spiritual awakening to achieve a higher range of thought and purpose for your life and the lives of others, the lives that have come before you and the lives that will come after you. For the Capitalist, this is about money and investment. In fact, President-Elect Donald J. Trump is an investor in the company that has a stake in the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP. This gentleman (and I use the term loosely) is now at the forefront of a belief that global warming is a hoax. His EPA pick—like most of his cabinet suggestions—have right thinking people saying “WTF?” It would seem that capitalism is a religion to some who bow to the Almighty Dollar.
The great religions of the world understand that this issue has its foundation in religious beliefs and religious freedoms:
Hinduism has always been an environmentally-sensitive philosophy. No religion, perhaps, lays as much emphasis on environmental ethics as Hinduism. The Mahabharata, Ramayana, Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas and Smriti contain the earliest messages for preservation of environment and ecological balance. Nature, or Earth, has never been considered a hostile element to be conquered or dominated. In fact, man is forbidden from exploiting nature.
The Maori have a unique relationship with their natural world. They view themselves as one with the natural world. The people, the land, the sea, the forest, and all living creatures are members of the same family. Maori have a direct “whakapapa” (genealogical) connection through their ancestors.
The Luhya of Western Kenya have a deep respect for nature as an important part of the universe. According to them, God turned Himself into objects of nature such as trees, rocks, hills, mountains, rivers after completing creation. They believe that each object of nature has an ancient name that is used to communicate with it and to command it to do His will. At a certain level of understanding in Luhya thought, there is no such thing as a nonliving thing.
In the case of the First Nations, their environmental wisdom and spirituality is legendary. Animals are respected as equal in rights to humans. Of course they were hunted, but only for food, and the hunter first asked permission of the animal’s spirit. Among the hunter-gatherers the land was owned in common: there was no concept of private property in land, and the idea that it could be bought and sold was repugnant. Many Native Americans had an appreciation of nature’s beauty as intense as any Romantic poet. They have and will continue to die for this belief.
There is an inherent beauty and wisdom in the First Nations spiritual mindset, one that capitalism has sought to systematically eradicate by marginalizing the First Nations by removing what is dear to them and polluting their world with drugs, alcohol, depression, oppression, mis-education and theft—exactly what was done to Africans and African-Americans.
The First Nations do not recognize our national government boundaries. North America as a whole (including Canada) has the audacity to consider the First Nations a “problem” that has to be reconciled and addressed. If you believe in karma of any kind, what was done to the First Nations will come back to haunt us…and it could be in the self destruction of “us” as a nation and “our” planet.
The First Nations viewed the white man’s attitude to nature as the polar opposite of theirs. The white man was hell-bent on destroying not just the Indians, but the whole natural order, felling forests, clearing land, killing animals for sport. It hasn’t changed. There is no respect for the Nature Spirit.
Jomo Kenyatta the first President of Kenya said “When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.” It wasn’t personal, it was Unconscious Capitalism.
The only responses now are spiritual, legal, and political:
- We need to support the First Nation in the manner that they need us to (this requires humility and the desire to ask, how can I serve?);
- We need to divest, in entities that support environmental destruction such as Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP
- We need to hold our politicians accountable (as much as I love President Obama, his silence on this is very painful);
- We need to show the hypocrisy:
- The fact that this new President-Elect is a Shareholder and he should immediately recuse himself from any decision making authority in regards to this matter;
- The fact that the White Armed protesters in Oregon essentially walked away “scot-free” despite armed conflict, while the water protectors at Standing Rock were under threat and physical attack, despite being unarmed.
We need to educate ourselves about climate change, the environment, what the world is doing about it, what we can do to help and spread the word.
We need to give money to support the effort: the First Nations will need the best lawyers that money can buy with an understanding as to why this particular argument requires an argument based on religious freedom. When the First Nations litigate, every right-thinking lawyer needs to file Amicus Curiae Briefs, Latin for “friend of the court.” (Frequently, a person or group who is not a party to a lawsuit, but has a strong interest in the matter, will petition the court for permission to submit a brief in the action with the intent of influencing the court’s decision.) Those law firms that benefit richly from Casino gaming revenues need to be forced to step up and take a position on behalf of their clients.
We desperately need to shame and vote out the elected officials who condone the type of continuous disrespect to the First Nations as we have seen with the North Dakota Pipeline, and to us as stewards of this country, this land.
Understand that the core of this issue is The First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause which is supposed to protect all religious groups, including those with rites and rituals rejected, feared or misunderstood by the majority. The Supreme Court has often failed to treat Native American religious practices on a level playing field with other religious claims. The Trump Administration will have the luxury of picking the next 1 maybe 2 Supreme Court picks. These 2 individuals will be part of the decision making process of what happens in decisions that affect the First Nations. We must hold that Administration responsible.
We need to respect and understand what this land means to the indigenous people and for the future of our children. If we are smart, it will mean exactly the same to us as it does to the First Nations. Our time here is as stewards, caretakers of this earth. Through education and understanding of the earth’s ecosystems, we can be the cure. So far, we have been the disease. We need to have some honor as a nation and keep our word, abide by the Treaty, protect their religious freedom, and allow these water protectors to do what many of us have failed to do.
The Great Sitting Bull said it best, “Every seed is awakened and so is all animal life. It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we, therefore, yield to our animal neighbours the same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land”
Photo credit: Getty Images