Chris Hedges says Native resistance, both violent and passive, didn’t work in the face of oppression. He also doesn’t want to advocate violence in the face of global catastrophe brought on by the world’s corporate elite. But he won’t stand idly by and just watch it happen, and he’ll go down swinging like Crazy Horse. I’m confused here? Am I supposed to pick up my rifle and go on the war path? Or eschew violence and lock arms with pansy liberals who may or may not lift a finger if and when the time comes to throw down and protect my people, lands and way of life?
Native Americans’ resistance to the westward expansion of Europeans took two forms. One was violence. The other was accommodation. Neither worked. Their land was stolen, their communities were decimated, their women and children were gunned down and the environment was ravaged. There was no legal recourse. There was no justice. There never is for the oppressed. And as we face similar forces of predatory, unchecked corporate power intent on ruthless exploitation and stripping us of legal and physical protection, we must confront how we will respond.
Those native communities that were most accommodating to the European colonists, such as the peaceful California tribes—the Chilulas, Chimarikos, Urebures, Nipewais and Alonas, along with a hundred other bands—were the first to be destroyed. And while I do not advocate violence, indeed will seek every way to avoid it, I have no intention of accommodating corporate power whether it hides behind the mask of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. At the same time, I have to acknowledge that resistance may ultimately be in vain. Yet to resist is to say something about us as human beings. It keeps alive the possibility of hope, even as all empirical evidence points to inevitable destruction. It makes victory, however remote, possible. And it makes life a little more difficult for the ruling class, which satisfies the very human emotion of vengeance.
He also says we’re communists. I have a problem with tying Native economies and societies to communism, egalitarianism and modern day leftism. This is because it is a gross over simplification of how our societies functioned and is generally done to tie us to the causes of the left which at this point seems to be about universalism (which is in direct contrast to tribalism,) across the board egalitarianism (our tribes functioned as meritocracies,) redistributism (our lands were already redistributed away from us, we don’t want a fair share of the pie, we want our lands back,) and about being whiny and weak (our people were fierce, strong and complained very little.)
Native societies, in which people redistributed wealth to gain respect, and in which those who hoarded were detested, upheld a communal ethic that had to be obliterated and replaced with the greed, ceaseless exploitation and cult of the self that fuel capitalist expansion. Lewis Henry Morgan in his book “League of the Iroquois,” written in 1851 after he lived among them, noted that the Iroquois’ “whole civil policy was averse to the concentration of power in the hands of any single individual, but inclined to the opposite principle of division among a number of equals. …” This was a way of relating to each other, as well as to the natural world, that was an anathema to the European colonizers.
While Hedges does not advocate for reform of the system, this is, in general, the strategy put forward by the left and has been all that the Occupy movement, for which Hedges has written and participated in, has managed to accomplish. They seduce us to join their cause, and we fall into the tired trap of strengthening the very system that has crushed us time and time again. It ought to be our strategy not to reform the system, but to smash and replace it with our indigenous institutions at the local level.
As to the Guy Fawkes mask adorning our hero, when I go to war against the system I will either be wearing a Tlingit war helmet while I lay low riot police with my war club, or more likely I will be wearing a ski mask as I steal through the night to bring pain and destruction to my enemies. Until my people call upon me to do these things I will take to heart the Tlingit story of the Strong Man, and train quietly and in private until my community needs me to step forward. I will also seriously consider what sort of men I want at my side.