John Kaminski: Ghost dance
Winter Solstice Of A Species
By John Kaminski
“Tomorrow's leftover lies
layering the scars in your eyes.”
- John Trudell, "Bad Dog"
One hundred twelve years later, the human species sits frightened, wrapped in its security blankets, hunched by its hearthfires, awaiting the same inexorable, unstoppable technological doom that erased Sitting Bull and his Sioux family from the face of the Earth on the snowy plains of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in the year of our Lord 1890.
It was the Ghost Dance that had made the white man nervous, they said. A five-day paroxysm of ritual that united the living with their deceased ancestors was what totally freaked out the Bible-thumping whites, who, like Christopher Columbus, could not understand why these savages refused to accept the Almighty Power of Jesus Christ. In this acceptance, it must be remembered, the natives were required to give up the lush lands they had gently tended for generations, and were expected to move to areas that were of no use to anyone else. This was the will of God, and the American government. As a result, just like Columbus, just like the Israelites in the Old Testament, the jittery American heroes felt justified and holy when they slaughtered the hapless pagans.
Who knows what small events make fights start, make wars break out? Just as the white man broke every single treaty he ever made with the original inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere (103, I think it was; we kept none; we're still breaking them, here and elsewhere), it was a stray shot that rang out and the shooting started. Or so the white man's history recounts.
Killed was the last great American Indian leader, Sitting Bull, and the faded remnants of once a great nation of hunter/gatherers, who exhibited a respect for nature and the land that has not really been seen since. This paltry, starving group took its place among the nameless corpses of 60 million human beings eradicated from the sacred Earth in the drive by "the greatest country the world has ever known," the United States of America, on the way to fulfilling its date with manifest destiny. A manifest destiny of mass murder, repeated over and over, forever and ever, Amen. As we see in the continued unjust imprisonment of Leonard Peltier and the imminent plans to obliterate Iraq for very spurious reasons, this destiny continues today, with ever renewable fury.
The ghost dance, which after the massacre at Wounded Knee soon faded from widespread Indian practice ó but not consciousness ó accurately foreshadowed what was to come for the luckless Lakota. Surely, some of innocent souls must have known they were dancing with their own ghosts. We all must surely realize that now, at this very moment, we too are dancing with our own ghosts.
The history of the human race, particularly as it manifests now with all manner of horrific atomic and biological devices poised and aimed to strike more hapless peasant humans with darkly tinted skin, can now be seen as a ghost dance of its own kind, an innate human drive to kill for abstract concepts like "glory" and "freedom" and, God help us, "homeland security." It is a ghost dance, macabre and horrible, all its own. Perhaps this is the single most obvious distinguishing characteristic of the human race.
Though of course it was preceded by millenia of random slaughter from the Stone Age onward, the 19th century extermination of the American Indians became the paradigm of modern imperialist behavior, as the Brahmins of every country find ever more warped reasons to extinguish the lives of the dark-skinned indigenous peoples of the world. In every conflict in every nation ó Israel, Iraq, India and throughout Asia and the Americas ó it is the colonialist whites who continue to exploit their dark cousins. The prized commodity may change as time passes ó most recently from tea to oil ó but the colors of the conquerors and their dead victims do not. The rationales today are cloaked in cryptic economic invective, but at bottom, it is the race issue that divides the planet into haves and have nots. Every single person of color knows this in their hearts.
Realizing this, racism, then, can be seen as the driving force behind this colonialism and imperialism that threatens, even now, every one of us inhabiting the Earth, for the killer is no less damned than the victim, in the hateful system he is forced to live in.
The rise of capitalism in the 16th century in the form of British banks coincides exactly with the rise of African slavery and this horrid legacy continues to be the dark side of American freedom to this very ugly day. If there were no slaves, capitalism would fail, and there you have the evil engine that powers "the greatest nation in human history" and also continues to keep the world in a state of endless war.
So now we can see clearly that the World Trade Organization, or the deceitful brutality perpetrated by the out-of-control Israelis, is nothing more than a continuation of the murderous Crusades that white European rationalists have perpetrated on dark Asian, Arab and African victims since the days of the Roman empire. For all the sophisticated rhetoric, the Crusades have never ended, and now, with weapons of incomprehensibly devastating power about to be unleashed, everyone is threatened by it, both the user and the used.
What is going on now has always been going on, with the vast majority of people far from the battle zones comfortably distracted by their precious material possessions and meaningless quests for social style, not realizing that as accessories to mass murder, they will be just as profoundly affected by this unsolved human riddle as any child disfigured by the evil legacy of depleted uranium ammunition contaminating the earth in the fields where they play.
This is the legacy of civilized human behavior. For all of us, this is our very own ghost dance.
In this time of fear and fascism, however, some people are still trying to think clearly.
The Gaian philosopher William Irwin Thompson writes, if Bush decides to use nuclear weapons against Iraq, we are clearly on the brink of a new dark age and all bets are off for the survival of everyone.
"We ceased being an educated society when television made politics an extension of the entertainment industry," Thompson writes in Annals of Earth, Vol. 20, November 2002, in an essay titled "We Become What We Hate."
He notes: "Violence on the part of the state is called military operations; violence of the part of the revolutionaries or the stateless is called terrorism by those holding the monopoly on state violence," and concludes: "One cannot simply put one's faith into one single institution: political, financial, religious, or academic, and trust that its leaders will be right."
"The world knows that there is an Islam that is not that of the terrorists, but does the world know there is an American other than Hollywood, McDonald's and Coca Cola ads that camouflage a foreign policy of arms sales and military support of authoritarian regimes?" To which I would add, is there ... really?
Thompson believes we are on the hinge of changing eras, from one of nation states to idea groups.
The founder of the New Age think tank Lindisfarne Foundation, Thompson foresees the world political system in the midst of change from nation-states to philosophical entities and developing systems that are not contained in any one country or any single religion. He also notes that recent democratic progress in Iran, one of the world's oldest continuous nations, and China, which has recently opened itself up to democratic economic reforms, are positive signs on the world's political spectrum, and ones that need to be acknowledged, rather than resisted and exploited by America and her supercilious allies.
But if America continues to try to plunder the rest of the world with its military superiority and financial manipulation, as it appears ready and willing to do, then we are facing a new dark age that will affect everyone in the worst possible way.
Will we wake up, or goosestep our way into oblivion, performing our own ghost dance, like Sitting Bull and his family, for the last time?
The United States broke every treaty it ever made with the indigenous native Americans. This is a telling fact all the peoples of the world should take notice of.
Would that our leaders perform that ghost dance and hear the long-dead echoes of the Arapahoe chant:
Light is Returning
Even though this is the darkest hour
No one can hold
Back the Dawn
In January 1889, a Paiute Indian, Wavoka, or Jack Wilson, had a revelation during a total eclipse of the sun. It was the genesis of a religious movement that would become known as the Ghost Dance. It was this dance that the Indians believed would reunite them with friends and relatives in the ghost world. As the movement spread from tribe to tribe, it soon took on proportions beyond its original intent and desperate Indians began dancing and singing the songs that would cause the world to open up and swallow all other people while the Indians and their friends would remain on this land, which would return to its beautiful and natural state. The unity and fervor that the Ghost Dance Movement inspired, however, spurred only fear and hysteria among white settlers which ultimately contributed to the events ending in the massacre at Wounded Knee.
In the Ghost Dance, Grandfather [a universal title of reverence among Indians and here meaning the messiah] says, when your friends die you must not cry. You must not hurt anybody or do harm to anyone. You must not fight. Do right always. It will give you satisfaction in life.
For more on the Massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890,