On “taming”

“You were wild once here. Don’t let them tame you.” — Isadora Duncan

I was out of half & half this morning so at 6am tried to figure out what would be open. Once I settled on a store that wasn’t too close, but close enough, I sent a text to my sleeping daughter in the off chance she woke while I was out and worried: Ran out for cream. Back in a few minutes. Love you.

Leaving the neighborhood, a cardinal was standing in the center of the road and quite still. Perhaps it was pecking gravel or some crumb it had found there.

Image source: Wiki Commons

It didn’t seem to notice my car and startled too late, finally rising into the air at that last moment — only to ricochet off another oncoming car. I looked back and in my rear view mirror saw its wild tumble of flight through the air and to the ground. Little being who’d been up early like me. Little flame. I felt a pang in my chest, but tried to hold on to hope, planned to check on it when I came back.

On the street, there was no traffic, the town mainly sleeping in on a Saturday morning. I marveled at this, at the green lights I kept making. I made my way swiftly, easily.

The store was gleaming and shiny, almost empty save for a few employees filling and straightening shelves. Lines of freezers packed with brightly packaged meals, marketed as enticingly exotic or comfortably familiar. So many to try, I marveled. I don’t usually shop at this store, having traded in all those questionably-processed national brands for food not sold in packaging, whole and minimally unprocessed — at least whenever possible, whenever I can afford it or when my kids aren’t asking for the chips or cookies or mass-produced breakfast foods they love. But in that store and seduced by so many bright flavors and color, I was momentarily spell-bound and seduced. In a split second, I’d almost decided I should try and shop there. I mean, shop there, taking my time to see everything they have and choose from the selections.

Mining had far-reaching ecological consequences throughout much of colonial Spanish America. It deformed the landscape, introduced pollutants such as sulfur, mercury and salt into the biosphere, and caused human settlement of sparsely populated or uninhabited regions. Forests succumbed to the charcoal makers’ axes. Workers’ lungs filled with silicosis-causing dust. Cave-ins snuffed out lives or crippled those they spared. (Source)

I shook myself and returned to pay and return to my car. Three crows perched on the roof and peered down at me, talking amongst themselves, grooming their beaks on the metal edge. As soon as I shut my door, they took off in the direction of my home, but as the crow flies, you know, a quicker trip than the streets I’d taken. I decided to follow them and take a short cut. A quick check of my phone, no message from my daughter. She was still sleeping.

I remembered to enter the neighborhood the same way I’d left, so that I could check on the cardinal. As I approached the intersection, I hoped fervently it wasn’t there. But what I’d seen, I’d seen, and it lay in the road like rose petals after a storm.

As unhealthy as mining was elsewhere in Spanish America, it was reported to have been especially harmful in the central Andes at Huancavelica. Workers there suffered the common diseases and injuries associated with the industry such as respiratory disease and broken limbs. They also had to overcome the challenges of arduous labor at high altitude. Most pernicious of all was the toxic nature of the mercury they were mining. (Source)

Pollution left behind at the Idria mercury mine. Source: Flickr

I pulled over and got out, walking back to where it lay, small and bright, red and bunched like a silk scarf. At the same moment, another car approached the intersection from a side street. I couldn’t bring myself to focus on the driver, simply looked in their direction and held up my hand. Wait. Don’t run over her, please. I reached the bird and knelt, speaking to the small pitiful thing softly, and cupped her still-warm body in my palms. She was still so warm. When I lifted her, her head fell over my fingertips at an awful angle.

I took her a few feet away and laid her gently in the grass at the curb. I didn’t know what else to do for her but bow my head, but had had the thought to at least get her out of the street because I do know cardinals will mourn each other, and didn’t want another one to be hurt.

I know it’s just a bird, and I know or would guess that there are a lot of that species, It’s also the state bird and they say that if you see a cardinal, the dead are visiting you.

But there are so many species that are going extinct right now and largely if not solely due to our conveniences. Even just one flourescent bulb in that one bright and shiny store contains mercury, which is terrible for the environment and is also found in high blood levels in the men who mine it. And those are just lights and in how many stores? I mean, we could talk about more than lights. In every way, so much that we take for granted is at the same time destroying the health of someone else, and/or the health of our planet. At what cost our many, many conveniences? We don’t even know, yet we seem to be willing to pay it —

White spiral CFL lightbulb, which contains mercury.

Colonial critics asserted that Huancavelica was an environmental tragedy that placed workers in exceptionally dangerous conditions in order to produce the mercury needed by silver refiners to amalgamate and refine their ores. The critics claimed that the mercury mines’ human cost was immoral, yet their cries of despair and outrage could not overcome quicksilver’s crucial importance to the imperial economy. Killing and maiming, Huancavelica earned for itself an infamous reputation as the mina de la muerte (the mine of death). (Source)

Listen: the dead are visiting us. Everywhere is unrest. Do you think our country can escape its karmic reckoning?

“Our ancestors … tamed a continent” … “we are not going to apologize.” President Donald Trump speaking at a Naval Academy commencement address on Friday, May 25th, 2018. (Source)

The super-wealthy are preparing to mine in space and I woke this morning with the thought that someone somewhere was probably already building weapons to be used in space, or that these many privatized space companies were probably already putting weapons on board their spacecraft.

Private companies and national space agencies from over the world have been working for years to develop technologies that could allow us to extract minerals from space, and ship them back to Earth where they can be sold. (Source)

Asteroid mining. Source: Wiki Commons

But “taming” is another word for controlling or exploiting and we’ve got to stop trying to both tame people and the planet.

[R]esearchers describes a situation in which one private company wins the race to space mining, immediately reducing the value of once precious commodities on Earth. The situation is not unlikely to happen in the future given current advances in technology. (Source)

Let’s be precise. We didn’t “tame” a continent or a planet. We have genocided indigenous beings and exploited the land of its resources. We brutally abuse and enslave labor. Wicked and greedy men write laws to keep others in economic shackles. We do this in all quarters — not just mining, but in every industry.

And we continue to exploit. Walmart has paid its investors $20 billion which could have paid their workers a livable minimum wage. We exploit cheap labor and expensive entertainment alike, and when a football player takes a knee to protest police brutality and the disproportionate affect on brown and black bodies and lives, he will be punished.

The wealthy are getting wealthier and these systems are becoming more and more entrenched. I want to say we can create a world where communities feed and shelter one another, where we honor one another and turn away from the rapacious and exploitative practice and products of colonization and industrialization. I want to say we can vote our way to this, but in present-day America, our two-party system seems largely complicit.

I want a different world. I want us to write the solutions to the gross devastation our species is causing the planet, our home. I want us to find another word for tame, like honor, like protect, like make sacred. I want us to feed the hungry from open palms, but at the same time respect that being and its own life and right to exist and live and be free.

Writer, editor, mom, activist, poet. Wears a mask. melissahassard.com

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