We must not glorify any part of history. We must remember where we have come from.
We must honor the moments when our humanity shone its light upon truth, courage and justice. And we must tell the stories of humanities most horrible failings without edit. Then we must learn from every part of our past, the beautiful and the ugly. This is what it means to re-member, to put back together, our legacy.
Our history is not what we are taught in school or on TV.
That “history” is merely the narrative of the patriarchs: carefully selected stories that glorify the procession of the elites toward greater and greater wealth and power through time. Dominant “history” deliberately obscures the reality and experiences of indigenous peoples, women, slaves, workers, soldiers and non-conforming persons.
Civilization, as we currently know it to be, has produced great works of beauty and great works of horror. It has produced great works of engineering and great works of ecological destruction. It has aspired to freedom and committed itself to endless war.
Modernity is witnessing an unambiguous escalation of the paradoxes inherent to nation-state civilization culminating in the twin threats of nuclear war and global climate catastrophe.
We have achieved the unbelievable at the cost of the unbearable.
We can travel to the moon and we can send voices, data and moving pictures through space and time. We can lay waste to whole cities and nations with the push of a button.
But we do not care enough yet to feed the hungry, care for the ill, lift up the poor, empower women, stop hatred, turn away from war, share wealth, protect and serve the health of nature and respect diverse cultures.
Civilization, as we currently know and experience it, appears to be failing. Any young person who rejects the dominant indoctrination can see this truth clearly.
Donald Trump is the perfect leader of the most powerful state apparatus civilization has yet produced. He expresses as an individual what civilization has become as a system: a web of self-reinforcing narcissistic institutions consumed by greed and power, deliberately in denial of the obvious, and proud of it.
If it is not clear to you by now that the Republican Party in the United States is expressing a modern manifestation of what we called out and fought as fascism in Europe 80 years ago, then you are not being honest with yourself, or you are not paying attention.
The Democratic Party is at least struggling with the dilemmas of our times, even if its most accurate and vocal reformers are not fully capable of facing and addressing global and systemic truths head on.
The only movements that are fully facing the truth of our times are the international indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice movement and the most clear-sighted youth led factions of the climate justice movement.
This makes perfect sense because indigenous communities are and have always been at the business end of the rape, pillage, enslave and exterminate policies of state sponsored conquest and resource extraction. Youth are inheriting a catastrophe and they know it.
This does not mean that indigenous people and youth, alone, have the solutions for our existential global crisis.
It does mean that indigenous and youth voices represent points of view that we must strive to understand and work to elevate to a platform of leadership in global political and philosophical debate.
We must learn from indigenous cultural wisdom and from the indigenous narrative of modern history. We must hear the impassioned call, and the piercing critique, of the youth.
We must not turn away from the fact that nation-state civilizations have an unfathomable historic debt to pay for ruthless expansion, genocide, slavery, war and arrogance over the last ten thousand years.
The only way to pay our debt is to put every resource at our disposal to work turning around the damage we have caused culturally and ecologically.
Reparations are required for our mutual survival at this point in history. Cultural and ecological restoration is mandatory for survival.
What reparations need to look like must be a collective conversation, but not whether there should be reparations or not.
We must replace glorification of history with a real commitment to reparations for the horrors of our past. Then we will be prepared to move forward.