By Janet Phelan
Saturday, November 26 at three pm Central Time, a small group gathered in an orchid garden in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico, to join in global prayer and meditation for the activists at Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Cedar was first burned to smudge the enclave and after a half hour of silent meditation, there was another half hour of drumming, singing and Indian chants.
The orchid reserve is close to a busy highway. The silence observed worldwide as an hour of solidarity with the Standing Rock water protectors was punctuated with the noise of cars and motorcycles less than fifty yards away.
That would be petroleum fueled cars and motorbikes, like those which transported us to the meditation session. And the small group, ten or eleven Mexicans and Americans, also brought food and water to share. That would be water in plastic bottles, a petroleum product.
So while we sat and chanted and sang in communion with the brave and imperiled community in Standing Rock, we also participated in the very sorts of behaviors which have fueled (no pun intended) the dependence on petroleum and its byproducts.
You can’t call us hypocrites. The reality is more complex than that. Every person who attended the meditation in San Cristobal has deep and abiding ties to both worlds — the world of concern and activism and the world of consumerism which relies so heavily on the very oil that Standing Rock does not want piped through its land. We drive. We leave the market with plastic bags laden with food. One of the women attending the convocation has a husband who works on a pipeline in Alaska. And I suspect that many of those in Standing Rock also maintain a level of relationship with petroleum.
We could have been doing penance. Couldn’t we? In the guise of heartfelt support for the protesters at Standing Rock we could actually have been in a kind of confessional, where our own complicity first breaks into awareness. We could actually have been taking the first steps toward purification. Not in hair shirts, not with self flagellation, but by dipping into a global hour of prayer and support, we could possibly have begun the necessary steps toward reflection on how we too have fed a mechanized monster which only demands more — more fuel, more energy, more stuff.
I was not the only one in the San Cristobal group who was struck by this paradox. As we were gathering our things to leave the orchid garden, another woman commented on this subtext to the event.
A worldwide movement towards understanding and confronting how we have unknowingly and unthinkingly colluded in creating this omnivorous need for More may have sparked in other groups, as well. If other communities, in other nations and cities and states, who gathered to support the protesters at Standing Rock, were also struck with their own complicity then maybe the planetary hour of solidarity might have had an unexpected outcome. Coming to terms with our own engagement with that which we profess to abhor is the very first step towards overcoming it. Nothing that takes place after the breakthrough into awareness will be easy. But nothing can ever change before that breakthrough occurs.
Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist whose articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The San Bernardino County Sentinel, The Santa Monica Daily Press, The Long Beach Press Telegram, Oui Magazine and other regional and national publications. Janet specializes in issues pertaining to legal corruption and addresses the heated subject of adult conservatorship, revealing shocking information about the relationships between courts and shady financial consultants. She also covers issues relating to international bioweapons treaties. Her poetry has been published in Gambit, Libera, Applezaba Review, Nausea One and other magazines. Her first book, The Hitler Poems, was published in 2005. She is also the author of a tell-all book EXILE, (also available as an ebook). She currently resides abroad.