Indigenous vs Capitalist Values
“For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of society,”…“a little change here and a little change there, but now I feel differently. You have to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values.”
“We as a nation, must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-orientated society to a person orientated society When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important that people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” MLK, issued this call in his 1968 speech, Beyond Vietnam: He was not able to develop this in more depth, as he was assassinated a year later. Yet his call is still relevant today.
Most people are unaware that that Capitalism has values and that we were all raised with these values, which now reside in our thinking and lead many of our actions in the world. Because they are unconscious, we continue to act on them, in our personal, familial, professional and movement lives. We cannot decolonize ourselves if we are not aware what these values are. “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”― C.G. Jung
Plus, we need to find new values that are more just, equitable and sustainable. Indigenous values are almost diametrically opposed to Capitalist values and have been tested for over 90% of human history. Not just Native indigenous values, but all people of every race around the world have developed these Earth centered Indigenous values, including Europe before Christianity and the Roman Empire. Starhawk, with her group, Reclaiming, is aware of this, and understands why the witch burnings happened, which destroyed the connection, thru the women healers, to the Earth centered Indigenous values of European pagans and Wiccans.
These values answer MLK’s call and are the foundation of the new society that me must build to replace the rotting, cancerous death wish of a system that Capitalism has become. These new/old values, if made clear to activists in the U.S. and around the world, clarify the path we must follow, in this period in our history.
Murray Bookchin, shares these values.  “… he said the confederation of citizens’ assemblies would form a counterpower or a dual power against the nation state. He called this program libertarian municipalism, later using the word communalism… communalism, returns politics to its original definition, as a moral calling based on rationality, community, creativity, free association and freedom.
The Iroquois confederation, in their Longhouse councils, practiced direct democracy and did not have prisons or a state structure.
So do the Zapatistas, in Chiapas, Mexico, who chose to not take over the Mexican State. They practice autonomy from the Mexican state. They have their own schools, health clinics, libraries and communal gardens/farms. They also have their own defensive militia, the EZLN.
The autonomous confederations in Rojava, northern Syria, also don’t depend on the Syrian State. They emphasise women’s liberation and ecology. The also have their defensive militia, the YPG, including women’s only militia, the YPJ.
|INDIGENOUS VALUES||CAPITALIST VALUES|
|Generosity: Sharing, no hoarding. No one goes hungry or without shelter.||Greed: Hoarding, commodification of everything for profit. Inequality.|
|Cooperation: Working together. Taking care of each other.||Competition: ‘Dog eat dog’ fights over resources. Winners and losers.|
|Community: We are related, including plants and animals.||Individualism: Only care about yourself or immediate family.|
|Reciprocity: If you take, you must give back. Not just things, but also energy.||Patriarchy: Women subordinate to men, religions have male priests, men can control and use women and girls.|
|Commons: Land, water, soil belongs to everyone and cannot be bought or sold.||Private Property: Owners can mark off, then exploit/extract for private gain.|
|Earth-Centered Spirituality: All living beings are sacred and need to be nurtured and protected. Water is Life.||Materialism: The Earth seen as real estate, humans as commodities (slavery). Everything can be bought and sold on the Market.|
|Direct Democracy: Government is face to face and decisions are made by consensus. A balance between male and female leaders.||Hierarchy: Top down, authoritarian governance. ‘Representative’ democracy. The state has a monopoly on force. Mostly men as leaders.|
|Restorative/Transformative Justice: No prisons/jails or punishment. Community controlled. Wrongdoers and victims work out accountability and restitution.||Retributive Justice: Revenge, punishment, ‘an eye for an eye’. Isolation and shaming of ‘criminals’. Mass incarceration, private prisons, War on Drugs and militarized police.|
|Food Sovereignty: Growing your own food in local, decentralized organic garden and small farms.||Industrialized Factory Farming: Using pesticides, herbicides, toxic fertilizers and antibiotics.|
|Autonomy: Neighborhoods, towns and cities govern themselves. Not dominated by hierarchical state.||Centralized Hierarchical States and Empires: Plutocracies and authoritarian dictatorships.|
So many of the social justice movements in the U.S. have split or fallen apart because members were unconsciously still practicing capitalist values, like competition, patriarchy and authoritarianism. Values are like the foundation of a house. If they are not strong and part of an ethical, moral whole, the house will weaken and eventually fall.
These values answer MLK’s call and are the foundation of the new society that we must build to replace the rotting, cancerous death wish of Capitalism. These new/old values, if made clear to activists in the U.S. and around the world, clarify the path we must follow, in this period in our history. As Gopal Dayaneni put it, “What we are missing is a shared moral compass.”