Note 2: Body/Soul. 1/4/99

Derrida makes such a wonderful place for a haunt like me to roam:

"[The] tyranny [of writing] is at bottom the mastery of the body over the soul, and passion is a passivity and sickness of the soul, the moral perversion is pathological" (38).

Put simply and directly, native Americans do not engage in the dualism of the mind (soul)/body split that has plagued Western metaphysics for the entire course of its history. The concern Derrida expresses in this passage, that writing is a moral perversion of physically driven passion over the calm, rational, and measured precincts of the soul, that writing is a tyranny of the body over the soul, is an idea a person cannot even express in, or about, a culture which does not recognize a binary distinction between soul and body in the first place. In Derrida's terms, at least, and perhaps in every other version of Eurocentric discourse as well, truth is held hostage by the irrational assertion that (wo)man is (wo)man because she/he, in every respect, is a being in possession of nothing more than a single, physically apparent, animal body which cannot be made, or considered, whole and complete unless it also has an invisible, non-apparent, deity-derived, deity-driven supplement, which no other animal possesses, called a soul.

The sign of the soul, an empty signifier if ever there was one, because it can be filled with virtually any content whatsoever, since it has no content of its own, is one sign of the arrogance of Eurocentric exclusivity. What I mean to suggest by saying so is that European discourse in general has been predicated on the assumption that (wo)man as a creature has been chosen by God to possess a unique feature, occurring in no other animal and in no other place, which elevates her/him into a position of dominance over every other creature (See Augustine), and by simple extension, over the environment every other creature occupies. (Wo)man is special. (Wo)man is unique. (Wo)man is superior to every other form of life that has ever existed or that will ever exist and because of that superiority has been given the absolute right and absolute power to dominate and destroy, not only every other creature on the face of the earth, but also the entire ecosystem that sustains every other form of life in the universe.

Take an example: because (wo)man has a soul she/he has the right, even perhaps the duty, to strip-cut the rain forest of Honduras. Anyone who believes that native Americans benefited from that decades-long logging operation is blind to the material reality of contemporary Eurocentric multinational corporations that systematically exploit for profit all areas and aspects of our (shared) ecosystem. In October of 1998 a spirit descended on the strip-cut mountainsides of Honduras, where thousands of impoverished natives and mixed-blood people lived (?) on the profit-blasted wastelands produced by Eurocentric corporate greed. The spirit (hurricano) was given the culturally neutral name "Mitch" and spent four or five days doing just exactly what spirits of that kind do periodically over and between and among the mountainsides of Central America. As many as 15,000 people died as a result of the visitation of the spirit (hurricano) to the ecologically vulnerable environment where no person of European descent was very likely to be caught dead.

Native American practice, of course, and the point of this discursive adventure, tells us that every animal, every plant, every kind of wind, in short, every living creature, every animate object, including, I suppose, a stone rolling down a hillside, can be, and probably has been, perceived as a spiritual force at one time or another. Spirit, in native American life, is everywhere, is in everything, touches us inside and out in every way we can be moved, shaken, pushed or pulled from where we are to where we need or want to be.

Spirit, most importantly, is a force that equalizes the field on which all of us play. (Wo)man is no more special or significant than crow, owl, coyote, skunk, oak, pine, hemlock, jade, diamond, gold, or tin. The spirit of plain dirt gives birth to corn which feeds crow who tells us how the spirit of dirt gives birth to corn which sustains the voice who tells us what we would not know or imagine otherwise. If we write that truth in a stone, if we tell it to our grandchildren in a story, can we doubt its truth because it does not exist in a form that reaches the whiteman's soul? My first question has always been--what soul?

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