I’m not totally sure how I stumbled upon John Trudell but I’ve been reading up the last few days on this fiery, eloquent spoken word poet-activist of Santee Sioux descent who cut his teeth back in the 1970s as chairman of the American Indian Movement, among other things. Surveilled by the FBI, he lost his pregnant wife Tina Manning (also a prominent activist) and three children to a suspicious house fire, barely twelve hours after he’d publicly burned an American flag at a protest in Washington D.C.
Six months after their deaths a deeply-affected Trudell began writing, saying that: “They’re called poems but in reality they’re lines given to me to hang on to” by his lost wife, “to stay connected with this reality.” He’s since had a successful career in writing, film and music.
His words are fascinating, re-framing things that should be probably pretty damn obvious to us as a collective species of “human being” — yet we are too tied to our imaginary, socially conditioned allegiances to really see this basic fact. In this speech called “We Are Power,” given on July 18, 1980 at the intercultural Survival Gathering, Trudell speaks:
We must move to the time when we truly understand our connection to real power because these people who deal with illusions and imitations, these men who have attempted to “improve upon” nature, they want to keep us confused. They want to keep us confused with sexism and agism, racism and class. They want to keep us in confusion so that we will continue to believe in one lie after another as they program them into our minds and into our society.
There is no hope for the American political system. The ruling class, the exploitative one percent who control world economics today, are not going to change under the existing political rules. They are going to lie to us and they are going to create the illusion of “changes,” and they are going to push one face after another in front of us, making promises. We have to understand our role as a natural power. We have to understand that when our oppressor treats us this way and do these things to us, we allow him to do it so long as we accept his lies. As long as we make excuses for his lies, as long as we tolerate his brutality, then we allow him to mistreat us. We have been allowing it too long. That’s genocide.
via: History is a Weapon
I guess the basic reality comes down to whether we are going to act as human beings who are aware of the fact of being human. This video of him speaking at the US Social Forum in Detroit captivated me (reminding me of the power of words when wielded well):
The idea that we are energy (or fact, hmm) is a recurring theme in Trudell’s words. In this interview with Newtopia magazine, he states:
Everything is about energy. Everything that ever goes on in this dimension of reality that we are in is about energy. This whole idea of the great programming I think that this has got to do with the planetary industrial ruling class. The programming has got to do with how they channel our energy, the energy of being, being human, to feed their technological needs. The programming takes place in how we’re civilized, educated, to see reality. Programming is about how to get our energy.
He’s also got some valid views of the Occupy Movement, which he describes as a mass reaction on an emotional level, with the obvious civil liberties repercussions in a society of mass surveillance. As Trudell states, we are supporting an insane system that is slowly killing us and the earth; instead of compliance, we must go the way of non-cooperation. It’s true that we’ve got to think, really think, what would constitute our non-cooperation in our individual lives. Remembering that where we think, our energy goes toward. And feel too, but as Trudell warns, with “clarity, coherency and intelligence.”