How to Postpone the End
Audio - Stereo 14'36"
An artificial intelligence reads 10 excerpts of the book Ideas to Postpone the End of the World, written by the Brazilian indigenous leader and environmental activist Ailton Krenak. In between, you can hear chantings of the Kamayurá tribe from the upper Xingu region in Brazil, during the celebration of a ritual known as Kuarup, in 2019.
The notion that white Europeans could jump in their ships and go colonizing the rest of the world was based on the premise that there was an 'enlightened' humanity that had to go in search of the benighted humanity and bring those savages into their incredible light. This call to civilization was always justified by the idea that there is a right way of being in the world, one truth, or concept of truth, that has guided the choices made down through history.
Now, at the start of the twenty-first century, collaborations between thinkers with distinct visions derived from different cultures are enabling us to critique that idea. Are we really a humanity? How can we justify calling ourselves a humanity when 70% of us are totally alienated from even the minimal exercise of being — when the majority of us are denied any real agency because the world we are living in does not want or require our input, only our custom?
If we look at society as a company, you have the board of directors - which sets the Vision and Mission - and then you have the staff, who do what they’re told, working in the name of something that doesn’t belong to them. We are so high on progress that we allow a tiny segment of the population to create the narratives of our world.
4- Everything is Nature
(...) the myth of sustainability was invented by corporations to justify their theft of our idea of nature. But no company on this earth is sustainable, no matter what they say. But these companies and even whole sectors appropriate the concept of sustainability for its marketing value. Corporate sustainability managers have become the gurus of a new planetary order, self-righteously preaching something their employers by their very nature, cannot practice. (...) Not even the Indigenous communities are sustainable today because we can’t provide for all our needs in a way that is fully integrated with the land. No community that is in debt to the land can call itself sustainable, because we take out more than we can put back in. For a long time, we have been alienated from the organism to which we belong — the Earth. So much so that we began to think of Earth and Humanity as two separate entities. But I can’t see anything on Earth that is not Earth. Everything I can think of is a part of nature.
5- The Hopi people and the rock sister
An early twentieth-century European researcher traveled to the homeland of the Hopi Nation in northeastern Arizona. He asked for someone from the village to set up a meeting for him with an Elder he wanted to interview. When he went to interview her, she was standing in front of a rock. The researcher waited and waited. Then he finally said: "Isn’t she going to talk to me?" The inter-mediator replied: "She is talking to her sister". “But it’s a rock!”, said the researcher. “Yes, and so what?” Replied the intermediator. Just like the Hopi Elder who was talking to her sister - a rock - a lot of folks converse with the trees, rivers, and mountains. The folks who live in these regions, not only talk to them but make them parties and offerings and are gifted by them in return. Why do such stories not excite us anymore? Why are they being forgotten and erased, in favor of a superficial globalized narrative that wants to herd us all under a hegemonic history?
While humanity is cut off from its spiritual home, a bunch of greedy corporations takes over the earth. We, humanity, are going to end up living in artificial environments produced by the very same corporations that devoured all the forests, rivers, and mountains. Humanity is being extricated from this organism that we call Earth. The idea that we, humanity, should peel ourselves off the earth to live in a civilizing abstraction is absurd. This notion suppresses all diversity, denies the plurality of forms of life, of existence, and habits.
What is being done to our rivers, forests, and landscapes? We get so disturbed by the regional chaos we live in, and so furious over the lack of political policy, that we can’t see what really matters to people, collectives, and communities in their ecologies. Ecology should be an integral part of our everyday experience, inspiring our choices about where we want to live and the experience we want to have as a community. We need to be critical of this plasmatic idea of a homogeneous humanity that has long replaced what we once called citizenship.
The times we’re living in are expert at creating absences: sapping the meaning of life from society and the meaning of experience from life. This absence of meaning generates stringent intolerance toward anyone still capable of taking pleasure from simply being alive, from dancing, from singing. But there’s still a whole constellation of small groups of people who dance, sing, and make it rain. The kind of zombie humanity we’re being asked to join can’t bear so much pleasure, so much fruition in life. So they holler on about the end of the world in the hope of making us give up on our dreams.
There are hundreds of narratives told by Indigenous peoples who are still alive, who still tell tales, sing, travel, talk, and teach us more than this humanity cares to learn. We’re not the only interesting people in this world; we’re just part of the whole. Perhaps knowing that can put a dent in the vanity of the humanity we claim to be and reduce the lack of reverence that we show toward our fellow travelers on this cosmic journey.
The epistemic diversity of the world is potentially infinite. There is no ignorance or knowledge in general. All ignorance is ignorant of a certain knowledge, and all knowledge is the overcoming of a particular ignorance. There are no complete knowledges. As such, we need to replace the present-day “monoculture” of Western scientific thinking, with an “ecology of knowledges” that “opens up the dominant canon” and finally afford an equality of opportunities to different kinds of knowledge.
Based on the book: Ideas to Postpone the End of the World by Ailton Krenak
Translation: Anthony Doyle. Published by House of Anansi Press, 2020
Chantings: Kuarup ritual by Kamayurá tribe in the upper Xingu region in Brazil, 2019