The Visionary Activist Show

The Visionary Activist Show – Protecting The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Caroline welcomes the return of Subhankar Banerjee, one of the foremost protectors of The Arctic National Wildlife,
Responding to threat with Trickster “Indigenuity” (thank you, Bob Gough, Dan Wildcat, Curtis Catawba for that word)
Becoming like what we love to be its protectors. To protect wolves – become more like wolves to protect Arctic and Bear Ears – let’s ally with the Intelligence of the land itself.

‘Subhankar Banerjee is an Indian born American photographer, writer, activist and environmental humanities scholar. He has been a leading voice on issues of Arctic conservation, indigenous human rights, resource wars, and climate change. He has also done work in the American Southwest that addresses desert ecology and forest deaths from climate change, and recently started a project to address climate change impacts and politics of ecology in the coastal temperate rainforests in the Pacific Northwest. His research focuses on the intersection of art, ecocultural activism and environmental humanities. Subhankar’s photographs, writing, and lectures have reached millions of people around the world.’


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  • I was especially taken by excellent guest, Subhankar Banerjee’s, reflections (about 30min in) on what was really at stake when the Arctic wildlife refuge and its indigenous inhabitants (“indigenous human rights”) are threatened with a capitalist assault on “resources,” in this case oil drilling. I’m referring specifically to what guest had to say concerning “creation myths” and “cosmology.” I’ve long been interested in the subject of indigenous *cosmology* (and “ontology,” since the indigenous peoples of the Caribu actually “become” . . .) as it pertains to *archaic mytho-ritual systems* (which encompass *shamanism,” at least in the northern, arctic regions, and also what the Visionary Activist knows as “indigenous animism”). But what I want to specifically address here about what guest called “a reciprocity of cosmology” is his concluding statement:

    “So, it’s a lot more than destroying life; it’s destroying the stories, the life-ways, the connections, and the beauty.”

    I applauded this because it speaks to something I have believed for a long time now (longer than the Visionary Activist has been on radio) when it comes to the history of the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the so-called “New World” (of which we all were just reminded this Thanksgiving when the Native Americans again celebrated their “Un-Thanksgiving” at Alcatraz).

    My viewpoint here turns the common narrative of the working of colonial subjugation and pacification on its head. In point of fact, my contention has been that if you’re a colonial empire and you want to do more than a half-ass job of completely subjugating a conquered native people, if you want to do a thorough job, you send in the *religious shock troops* first in order to *destroy their spirit*; you go after their worldview, their “indigenous cosmology” (as enacted cosmogonic creation myths in sacred rituals). In other words, first “conversion” to the conquerer’s religion and then bring in your army (as a sort of physical mop-up operation)! I think this is implied when guest speaks of “destroying the stories” and then qualifies the “actual lives.”

    This is what I call “spiritual colonialism.” So, in my understanding, this monotheistic/industrial civilization war on indigenous *story/myth* is a war on (archaic) animism (and contemporary revivals of, such as “neo-vitalism”), on polytheism, on Nature—and on “beauty”!

    And its threat—the “destruction of stories”—is enough to rouse otherwise contemplative types—the mystics, the poets, the artists, the intellectuals—to political action. Or what radio show host loves to call “visionary activism”!

    BTW, the book by David Abram, who great guest Subhankar Banerjee couldn’t remember is “The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World” (1996). His most recent that was mentioned is “Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology” (2010). The other name guest mentioned as doing work in (loosely) “philosophy,” whose work I also know (because she teaches at my old Alma Mater), is Donna Haraway, a Distinguished American Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness Department and Feminist Studies Department of UCSC.

    “Arktos meant the Bear (or North) Star.” I’m tempted to add my take on “Arktos” and “North Star”—it’s northern cosmology (of a prehistoric “paradise”), its shamanic star-map drums, and its relationship to the Arthurian myth (Arktos = Arthur) and its astrology.

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