We fight because most of us live on stolen land. I live in Canada, a place renowned for being rich in “resources” and which depends economically on resource extraction. But “our” resources were acquired through conquest and colonialism. The land has been occupied and taken by force (as is the case for unceded territory), or deception (as for land taken but treaties not honored), or both. The land doesn’t belong to the settler state or the settlers. It belongs to the Algonquin, the Cree, the Ojibwe, the Haudenosaunee, the Haida, the Dene, the Inuit, to many other Indigenous groups, and to the nonhumans who have lived here for thousands of years.
At what point does an occupation based on genocide become legitimate? Imagine that the Nazis had succeeded in conquering the entire planet, that they had driven out or exterminated everyone they considered undesirable. Imagine that they had ushered in a global Third Reich. When would that occupation become legitimate? When would it be acceptable? I would answer: never. The Good Germans might forget the crimes their society was based on. Some of their descendants might, one day, become critical of those crimes. But that would not reverse the atrocities that had taken place. That would not change the fact that their society’s foundation, its template, was conquest and occupation.
Colonialism is not an inconvenient afterthought in an otherwise good culture. It is not a misunderstanding that comes from failing to value the arts and culture of Indigenous peoples. It is the Original Sin of civilization. It is the sine qua non of modern, technological society. Industrial capitalism in the Americas—indeed, the entire world—exists only because Indigenous cultures were attacked and dispossessed of their land. Without this, there would be no resource base for industrial society.
How do you reform a system which is based on wholesale genocide and the theft of entire continents from their rightful inhabitants?
Colonialism is not part of some quaint bygone age. It is not something that we can all forget about because it happened a long time ago. It continues. You only need to read the news to see that attacks against Indigenous people continue daily in North America and around the world. Expansionist civilizations may have conquered most of the planet, and they have exploited most of the resources, but they are always hungry for more.
The dominant culture is based on overconsumption and the myth of infinite growth. It must expand because it destroys its own land base. Which means it must take over the land bases of others. It has done this for thousands of years, and it will continue to do this until it is stopped. Until we say “stop!” and mean it, and are willing to put ourselves and our lives in the way.