We pick up trash. We pick it up from the street, from the dumpster, from the park. We feel it’s weight, texture, size. We carry it around. Show it to people. Dance with it. Sometimes we keep it. We wear it, we find some use for it. Like a second life, keeping it away from the landfills and oceans just for a bit longer. At some point in the past few months since we’ve been doing the trash outings, someone mentioned the famous saying: “A man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Well, no. It’s not about that. That saying makes it sound light. It takes away the blame from the first wasteful man.
Because that’s where the problem is.
That saying makes it sound as if there were always two men. One throwing away and the other one picking it up.
The reality is that there is no way there could be enough people dedicated to picking up and finding use to all the trash that gets produced in the world minute by minute. It’s not getting recycled either. No one is cleaning up our mess, and we’re reaching a breaking point.
We need to stop looking the other way.
That’s why we pick up trash and make people hold it with their own hands, make people see it as part of a costume or as part of a performance.
We want to put trash at eye level, in the center of it all. Because trash is a treasure, it is very valuable. It was produced with very costly materials. It took designers, factory workers, electricity, water. It took oil and natural gas. It took land. It took lives. And we throw it away. Because it became cheap.
How come something that costly to make became so cheap to consume, so easy to dispose?
Who is absorbing the real cost of trash?
Poor people, brown and black people, indigenous people, and nature.
Poor folks in Oklahoma are now convinced that there always used to be earthquakes in their hometowns, although those started when fracking came, now they’re spending their savings in earthquake insurance.
The Dakota Access Pipeline was built on Sioux sacred land, national guard and police removed all protesters from the site. It is already leaking.
The United States violates the sovereignty of other countries in order to gain access to and control over their natural resources. Such interference includes bribing corrupt politicians, training and arming police, paramilitary or terrorist groups, or taking direct U.S. military action. Thereby, powerful economies like the U.S. take not only land resources, but they also take control of the markets, making others dependent on their manufactured products. They also get cheap labor, to further economize in the making of their products. That is called colonization and slavery.
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A poor person is someone who is trapped in a situation they can’t control. Someone who can’t quit their jobs, can’t negotiate their salaries, can’t protest. A poor person is someone who has been stripped of their autonomy.
In many places around the world people have lived and could continue to live off their land, with small agriculture, fishing, hunting and just knowing how to build and repair things, and how to heal. When land gets taken, their lives get taken too. They are forced to participate in the global economy, as cheap labor. That is when they become poor, or immigrants. No more fish, no more hunt, no more medicinal plants, no more knowledge.
We have been stripped away from ancestral knowledge.
Some people weren’t raised with it at all. The operating ideological system in America has been for the individual to get ahead, no matter the cost. That makes people poor too. They have to work long hours so that they can buy what they need. A person needs to work hard to make a lot of money to be able to access “good” housing, education, or healthcare. No time for cooking? Get delivery. It broke, out of fashion? Buy a new one. Food went bad (because of “busy schedules”)? Throw it away. It’s more convenient.
The livelihoods of immigrants, refugees, and indigenous peoples around the globe, have been sacrificed for our convenience. We have traded our own livelihood, our autonomy.
We have also traded natural diversity, clean water, clean air. We have pushed species to the brink of extinction, decimated entire ecosystems, to produce things that get used once. To produce food that doesn’t get eaten. There’s no quantitative worth to nature, so it doesn’t add up to the cost of trash.
Trash is trash because determined human lives are cheaper. That’s what racism is. Some lives are less valuable. That’s what the colonizer made the poor and the slave believe. And the poor and the slave, and their descendants, assimilated these values. We have been made complicit, through consumerism, in the violence that is made against each other and against nature.
Before we move with trash, we reconnect to mother nature, as a way to heal from the violence of the impact of our actions. Through sensation and movement, we get in touch with the love and gratitude to life. We bring to our process the awareness of the equal value of all existing life forms to de-center western capitalistic human experience. We propose an embodied practice to change our consciousness.
Because that is the biggest challenge: to see that the reality that has been served to us is incomplete. That it doesn’t account for diverse forms of life, and it doesn’t account for a sustainable future on this planet. We need to wake up to reality. We need to find the root of the problem in our assimilated hierarchical behavior. We need to decolonize our bodies, our homes, our time. We need to reconnect to nature and its processes. Only through the recovery and the defending of autonomous ways of living, we can stand strong together and make a change.
Educate ourselves about and stand with indigenous and environmental resistance movements at home and around the world.
Educate our children about the impact of consumerist actions.
Spend time in nature. Observe animal life. Be quiet. Be humble.
Stop buying plastic.
Learn about the real cost of things, their carbon footprint, their manufacturing processes.
Learn how to’s (cook, build, repair, heal).
Observe hierarchical thought at the workplace, challenge it.
Get used to demand our right to a dignified life (access to housing, healthcare, education) from employers, institutions, politicians.
Reduce the amount of waste we and our families produce. Talk about waste.
Get involved. Find strength in the community of people who are fighting for justice.