NOT Stuff White People Like (or a Forum on Indigenous People We’ve Barely Heard About)

Evo MoralesIn the past month of writing on WordPress, I’ve noticed that a blog called “Stuff White People Like” always seems to top the list of popular blogs. I thought I’d break ranks and look at some stuff white people do not seem to like very much. As the Clinton-Obama media spectacle roars on and the papal smoke leaves our post-9/11 air, the 7th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues opened today with barely a whimper. Evo Morales (Bolivia’s first indigenous President) led the opening ceremony at UN Headquarters this morning, launching a two-week long discussion on the session’s special theme:

“Climate change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges.”

Climate Change. Sustainability. Hunger. These are timely issues, HOT topics. Stuff white people seem to like very much lately. But, from the perspective and for the benefit of Indigenous Peoples. Now this makes a huge difference. Would it still count as stuff white people like or care about? Looking at coverage on the major English-speaking news publications, apparently NOT. As I’m writing this entry, there have been only two (2) news mentions. One in BBC News (< clicking on this link is a waste of your time) titled “Capitalism Harms Planet – Morales” where Morales’ speech is basically reduced to a single quote: “If we want to save our planet earth, to save life, to save mankind, we have a duty to put an end to the capitalist system.” This seems so uninteresting to the reporter that she barely manages to write a halfway decent summary of Morales’ other points: “In a side swipe at Brazil, major manufacturers of the biofuel ethanol, he said some presidents were putting cars ahead of people.” Okay.

The second news mention appears in Reuters UK. Titled “Bolivia’s Morales says biofuels serious problem to poor”, it’s at least a better snapshot of the complex issues now facing Bolivia and indigenous peoples. The multinational push for biofuels is driving up food prices, climate change, and social unrest. The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer, as policies and programs of the IMF and the World Bank widen the gaps. In standing for the poor and the indigenous, Morales now faces intensifying opposition from provinces that are seeking autonomy from his central government.

We read about wars, food riots, worker strikes, and government lockdowns and wonder what the world is coming to. We are seduced by talk of change from any stage, university or pulpit. We like to think we can teach “other people” better solutions. The pathetic news coverage of this forum is a clear indication of how much we really care. Maybe all we really care about is Stuff White People Like. I want to disagree. We need to listen, particularly to indigenous peoples who are losing everything. And give greater coverage to leaders who do not arrive in white robes on Shepherd One, but in everyday clothes of working people.

Links to background on Bolivia’s President Evo Morales: commondreams.org, democracynow.org, and a 9-minute video of Jon Stewart interviewing Morales on “The Daily Show” back in September 2007.

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