De-colonization... where are YOU from?
I saw a Facebook post the other day about how in the US it is common that you need to fill in forms that ask about your ethnicity. And it made me think. Coming from a Nordic country – that seems very strange. Why do you need to provide that information? What is the purpose behind asking for it? Why is it important to authorities, businesses and organizations to know what ethnic group you belong to? Isn’t that more important to you?
And in today’s global world – aren’t many of us a mix of ethnic groups? Isn’t ethnicity more about where your ancestors came from? What environment they adapted to live in originally? And the cultures that were built around the adaptations, hardships, victories, communities that were mourned and celebrated in every particular spot people gathered together to live and share their lives in?
I think it is VERY important to know where we come from. Where our ancestors come from. How they, how I, ended up where I am (living) today. And how that impacted those who already where there, are there, before me.
I recommend you see this short TEDx SFU video, “Decolonization Is for Everyone” with Nikki Sanchez on this extremely important topic in these times of fear, estrangement, blame casting, segregation, racism, sexism etc. She has some very wise and profound thing to say on the topic of De-colonization (and (re)-indigenization) .
How can we together de-colonize ourselves? Support global de-colonization?
This spring I took a course in Nonhuman Nature Research Methods based on Indigenous Research Methodologies (IRM) at the Kerulos Center for Nonviolence. I learned a lot. I am still processing the course, still exploring the rich material we were provided with in the course, the discussions the course leaders and all the participants contributed with. And of course, again, I learned about myself. And of course, it led to more questions than answers for me. Who is indigenous? Who is colonized? Who is in need of de-colonization? Can we include nonhuman animals in our de-colonization projects? Aren’t that what e.g. re-wilding (or wilding) projects are about? How do we learn to co-exist? Humans with humans? Humans with nonhumans? And how do we start to take care of our planet instead of destroying it? Destroying ourselves? Destroying everyone?
In my country we have the Sami people, who counts as an indigenous group by the UN. I am going to be totally politically incorrect now – aren’t we all indigenous people? I am saying that without any intent to take away anything from the harm settlers and colonizers has brought upon millions of indigenous people, native to the land the colonizers and settlers colonized and settled in – and then claimed to be theirs. I am not trying to make the term indigenous a wishy-washy term that does not really say anything in the end (and I am might be totally thinking of this in the “wrong” way”). But we are all born somewhere? Our ancestors are all coming from somewhere, this might not be where we live today – but we are all indigenous somewhere?
I am not even saying that I think it is important that we live where we were born, or where our ancestors were born, just saying that – we all come from somewhere.
I think that this “somewhere” is important to us. I think context is important to all people. Maybe I am extra sensitive to it – having moved around, being re-homed, re-homed myself – so many times – I lost the sense of belonging anywhere. I lack a strong sense of traditions and rituals, the ones I know about and grew up with often make me feel really creepy (traditions can of course be used to abuse people WITHIN a group too). BUT – a couple of years ago I discovered the fun of practicing living history – and as I always have been interested in history – I engaged for a couple of years in learning about and enacting Viking history. Now when I recently moved – I found all my Viking stuff. And I realize I miss it. I miss the connection it hands-on gave me to my own history. I know it is selective – the Viking era was a long time ago – ended almost 1000 years ago (officially 1066), there has been a lot of history going on also in my part of the world between 1066 and now. But it helped me get a sense of roots, belonging and context, and it invited me to craftsmanship, increased my love for natural materials, introduced me to new music, strengthened my tie with nature, and made me apricate other kinds of cultural expressions (I love Viking jewelry, hand-died cloth, archery, and the play with voices in Viking songs e.g.). Going to Mongolia – I realized I recognized some of my love for the Viking era in their traditional clothing, music, way of living and so on. Going to Ireland 2 years ago – I realized I recognized it in the Celtic and Irish culture too. The same I remember from falling in love with Latvian patterns in knitted cardigans, and even Chinese sings (“letters”).
So part of the problem with colonizers and settlers is that the easily lose their connection to their own history? Or the opposite – that they just focus on what separates themselves out from other culture’s histories and traditions – not seeing where we are the same? Isn’t this an ongoing problem? With and for anyone who moves around the globe? Which I would say is normal, many do not move, migrate, voluntarily – so there is fear involved, often very tangible survival fear. Then we cling on to what we know, what is familiar. Or we dump it – to adapt and melt in in the new environment.
How do we start being curious at ourselves, our own heritage and each other instead of fearing each other?
I have always been a curious traveler and extremely interested in other cultures – but I did not think I brought something with me myself, in my meeting with these cultures. What is seen as typically Swedish today – is not as rich as the Viking culture was. Now when I also work globally – with international colleagues in MiMer – I get so many points of references from others to help me see myself, my own country, my heritage, newer Swedish traditions, and older Viking ones. I have during travels throughout my life felt bleak, uninteresting, rootless – and often very impressed by the culture I traveled to (and my background did make me want to be anything, anyone, but me). I did become this world citizen, who adopts food, taste, music, traditions, rituals from many places – but when I saw that some of this was present in my own Viking heritage – it made me feel a bit like coming home. I suddenly felt that perhaps I too have some sort of roots? And I then also feel more like coming home when I travel.
We are such unique beings, individually, culturally, geographically – yet we are all the same – basically.
While I see this – I also see the oppressive side of colonization, and Nicki Sanchez speaks eloquently on the topic in her video. In that way I am privileged, and aware of my privilege, I have never been oppressed because of the color of my skin, what language I talk or what cultural background I have, or what religion I confess to. I know however what it was to grow up under other oppressive circumstances. That made me too live in fear and I too learned I was powerless, useless, worthless and unwanted. That I needed to change, become like others, to fit in.
How do we help people stop living in fear and dare to open up, be curious at ourselves, at each other? How do we create safe platforms for dialogue? Openness?
Nikki Sanchez says something else in this video that woke my curiosity. She speaks about that the time has come when “the eyes of the serpent can see through the eyes of the eagle” – meaning we can see the world through each other’s eyes. This is a thinking that I see elsewhere too, e.g. when I now re-read Eckhart Tolle’s “A new Earth” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_New_Earth). That shifts are possible when enough people have reached a new level of consciousness – or perhaps co-consciousness, with each other?
Is this the times when we will stop seeing only ourselves, see everything just from our own point of view – and embraces seeing the other and his/her point of view?
(Which with me being this science nerd also… I am proving you with a link to a newly published article on what consciousness might me:” Researcher proposes new theory of consciousness”.
https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-10-theory-consciousness.html?fbclid=IwAR1hdqsE3e8xi1SqrcCVRXfL6iRpoDNlJktAlt3kn6GZK7V7ZlfaY2UZWr0 (the original scientific article: https://academic.oup.com/nc/article/2020/1/niaa016/5909853).
But back to the original question? Where are you from? Geographically? Ethnically? Culturally? Spiritually? Educationally? Ethically?
I also want to bring up the question of appropriation. I see how my teenage and young adult kids are sensitive to the question of appropriation. For them, it is very disrespectful to use another person’s culture as pure decoration and costuming, to make fun of, to play with in a disrespectful way. And I agree with them. I do also see appropriation as a way to access cultural heritage when you have very little of it yourself. It is easy to make fun of and play with things you might long for, but have little or no access to, namely a heritage, a place in the world, context, a sense of belonging, inclusion and so on. While appropriation is a misguided outlet for those lacks, or at times just springs from insensitivity and ignorance – I think it can be a form of jealousy and longing for something lost or never had.
We all need to go “home” – and from “home” – we can visit each other with curiosity, openness, dignity, and respect.
By going home – I mean going home in our minds, hearts, and spirits – not necessarily geographically. Many of us cannot go home geographically, while that might be just the thing many of us long to do. When we still have wars, violence, famines, poverty, racism, sexism and other social injustices and social oppression going on in our world – my strong belief is that we need to help and welcome anyone who needs to flee from dire circumstances, and are on a search for a better life for themselves and their families, and are ready to be open-minded and curious back – to what opportunities there might be in a new place.
For this to work – there needs to be help also to heal trauma from war, migration, violence, neglect, powerlessness etc. And in that sentence – I do highlight why much of this curiosity, openness dignity and respect for each other does not work… trauma makes you scared and blind – and perpetuates, the victim, oppressor, helper stuckness – instead of helping us all move forward into a more reciprocal sharing of lives worth living – together – for everyone. With respect for everyone, and where we come from. Some of us will never know where we come from, do not know much about our history before us, but we can always connect with our cultural heritage, a geographic place, an place or a culture’s history, there is always some context to be had. And I do think we all need context - to feel not only embodied - but "emplaced".
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