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Offering Ourselves To Ourselves: Is This Self-Determination?

Offering Ourselves To Ourselves: Is This Self-Determination?

The world’s biggest new hydroelectric project has been halted after indigenous and conservation resistance, international opposition, and a Brazilian federal court order.

According to The Guardian, the Belo Monte dam “is one of the pillars of Brazil’s efforts to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.” But the court ruled that there had been insufficient consultation with the indigenous groups that would be affected by the dam’s construction.

Belo Monte will flood an area of 500 square kilometres along the Xingu and force the relocation of 16,000 people, according to the government. NGOs says the number of displaced may rise as high as 40,000.

The region along the Xingu river which will be affected by the Belo Monte dam. Photograph: Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty Images

Now, of course, as we’ve been talking about quite frequently here on Turning Wheel Media of late, most of us would like to see some way of reducing dependency on fossil fuels. That’s not the problem with this proposed dam. The main problem, as I understand it, is that it is a top-down measure in which many of the people being directly affected have no say. No autonomy.

The Buddhist teaching that comes to mind for me is a Zen one: a recorded dharma talk I heard one time, by Hozan Alan Senauke. It was Mother’s Day, and he was at Gil Fronsdale’s sangha in Redwood City, CA, explicating a passage from Dogen.

I love this next line.

“We offer ourselves to ourselves, and we offer others to others.”

How do we do that? How to we offer others…to others? For that matter, how do we offer ourselves…to ourselves?

It’s like, if we include everything in our meditation, and in our life, then we are allowing everything to be just as it is. This allows me to be me, and you to be you, with no separation between us.

I hear this, and I think of autonomy. What would our world look like if communities everywhere had real autonomy, real self-determination? It strikes me as kind of absurd that governments would plan dams displacing tens or hundreds of thousands — even millions of people — when those people have no say in the matter. This is not a political practice of offering others to others. It is more like offering markets to market, profits to profits, and rule to rulers.

And that is why, even though the dam seems well-intentioned, I personally am celebrating this week’s victory of the people.

But maybe I’m wrong! Been known to happen. Things are not cut and dry, as we know. Some of you probably know more about this situation than I do. (Please share with the rest of us!) Besides — how do I feel about offering others to others when people are promoting fascism? When riot police are gunning down striking miners in South Africa?

No easy answers. That’s why we stay studying. What do you think? What can “offering ourselves to ourselves, and offering others to others” look like in our political world?

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