Thursday, June 23, 2016

SDG 15 and Peace: "We are but one thread ... "

The connection of peace/war and SDG 15 (Life on Land)? Think US history -- especially the decimation of the buffalo and the Native American genocide.

The UN International Day for Peace 2016 has been tied to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Life on Land is goal #15.

You can certainly see the truth about a country's attitude toward people by watching how it treats other forms of life on the land.

National mammal

Just weeks ago, the American Bison was named the US "national mammal" -- a reminder of the inexplicable slaughter of that animal in the American West at the end of the 19th century, and of that slaughter to genocide carried out on Native Americans.  It took me less than a minute to reference this quote from Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown:

Of the 3,700,000 buffalo destroyed from 1872 through 1874, only 150,000 were killed by Indians. When a group of concerned Texans asked General Sheridan  if something should not be done to stop the white hunters' wholesale slaughter, he replied: "Let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated, as it is the only way to bring lasting peace and allow civilization to advance." (p, 254, in Chapter 11, "The War to Save the Buffalo")

The decimation of the buffalo, like the decimation of the native people, was a decades-long process. More information is in the Wikipedia article on bison hunting.

"Slaughtered for a Pastime"
"Shall the Buffalo Go? Reminiscences of an Old Buffalo Hunter"
Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly, Vol. XV, May 1883, New York,
Original vintage wood engraving, 1883. 11.1 x 15.9 cm
(Source: )

I have always carried with me the memory of a painting of the hunters shooting buffalo from a passing train. Searching for it led me to the image above. Please take a moment to look at the many beautiful images of buffalo on the website of )

If looks could kill . . . 

When I was a teenager, back in the 1970s, I was a huge Beatles fan and would spend hours at the piano and guitar playing through all of their songs -- often just starting at the front of the book ("Act Naturally") and going straight through to the end ("You've Really Got a Hold on Me"). So, of course, when I got to the C's I would play "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill." Even as I was playing, I would be thinking, "What kind of a song is this? It's not a love song . . . it's not a rock 'n' roll song . . . it's not psychedelic . . . I think it's a satire but . . . what's the point?"

The children asked him if to kill was not a sin
"Not when he looked so fierce", his mummy butted in
If looks could kill it would have been us instead of him
All the children sing . . .

I didn't quite know what it was saying at the time, but it has stayed with me.

Over the years I've realized that the most perceptive observers of a culture tend to be outsiders, and sometimes the only way insiders can hear the truth is to sit with it for a few years -- or decades. The Beatles were perfectly positioned to help with that. "If looks could kill it would have been us instead of him" is sort of the US explanation for everything it does in the world.

The last word . . .

"Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it . . . . "
(Please share this message.)
More and more, people are looking to the wisdom of indigenous people to give us strength as we confront the climate crisis and other problems. Apt words come from Chief Seattle:

Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.

I guess this is another of those truths that is hard to hear, and takes years to sink in.

Where else in the world do we see this connection between the presence or lack of respect for other forms of life in the land, and justice and peace for people?

Related posts

It will benefit us antiwar activists in the US to attend to and reflect upon the importance of these Sustainable Development Goals to achieving the goal of ending war.

(See PEACE DAY 2016: What comes first? Demilitarization? or Development?)

"We need to first acknowledge the genocidal origins of OUR nation’s history of ethnic cleansing and occupation."

(See Native American Rights: Acknowledge the Occupation)

In much of the 20th century, conflict and war centered on oil resources and the Middle East. Will the 21st century see conflict and war center on fisheries, particularly in the Pacific?

(See Pacific Fisheries' Futile Conflict: How about sharing?)