The Earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the Earth. (Part 2)
Excerpt from The Illuminatus! Trilogy: 1 The Eye in the Pyramid
by Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
"If the BIA helps those real estate developers take our land," Uncle John Feather said, "that will be theft. But if we keep the land, that is certainly not theft."
Night was falling in the Mohawk reservation, but Hagbard saw Sam Three Arrows nod vigorously in the gloom of the small cabin. He felt, again, that American Indians were the hardest people in the world to understand. His tutors had given him a cosmopolitan education, in every sense of the word, and he usually found no blocks in relating to people of any culture, but the Indians
did puzzle him at times. After five years of specializing in handling the legal battles of various tribes against the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the land pirates it served, he was still conscious that these people's heads were someplace he couldn't yet reach. Either they were the simplest, or the most sophisticated, society on the planet; maybe, he thought, they were both, and the ultimate simplicity and the ultimate sophistication are identical.
"Property is liberty," Hagbard said. "I am quoting the same man who said property is theft. He also said property is impossible. I speak from the heart. I wish you to understand why I take this case. I wish you to understand in fullness."
Sam Three Arrows drew on the pipe, then raised his dark eyes to Hagbard's. "You mean that justice is not known like a dog who barks in the night? That it is more like the unexpected sound in the woods that must be identified cautiously after hard thinking?"
There it was again: Hagbard had heard the same concreteness of imagery in the speech of the Shoshone at the opposite end of the continent. He wondered, idly, if Ezra Pound's poetry might have been influenced by habits of speech his father acquired from the Indians—Homer Pound had been the first white man born in Idaho. It certainly went beyond the Chinese. And it came, not from books on rhetoric, but from listening to the heart—the Indian metaphor he had himself used a minute ago.
He took his time about answering: he was beginning to acquire the Indian habit of thinking a long while before speaking.
"Property and justice are water," he said finally. "No man can hold them long. I have spent many years in courtrooms, and I have seen property and justice change when a man speaks, change as the caterpillar changes to the butterfly. Do you understand me? I thought I had victory in my hands, and then the judge spoke and it went away. Like water running through the fingers."
Uncle John Feather nodded. "I understand. You mean we will lose again. We are accustomed to losing. Since George Washington promised us these lands 'as long as the mountain stands and the grass is green,' and then broke his promise and stole part of them back in ten years—in ten years, my friend!—we have lost, always lost
We have one acre left of each hundred promised- to us then."
"We may not lose," Hagbard said. "I promise you, the BIA will at least know they have been in a fight this time. I learn more tricks, and get nastier, each time I go into a courtroom. I am very tricky and very nasty by now. But I am less sure of myself than I was when I took my first case. I no longer understand what I am fighting. I have a word for it—the Snafu Principle, I call it—but I do not understand what it is."
There was another pause. Hagbard heard the lid on the garbage can in back of the cabin rattling: that was the raccoon that Uncle John Feather called Old Grandfather come to steal his evening dinner. Property was theft, certainly, in Old Grandfather's world, Hagbard thought.
"I am also puzzled," Sam Three Arrows said finally. "I worked, long ago, in New York City, in construction, like many young men of the Mohawk Nation. I found that whites were often like us, and I could not hate them one at a time. But they do not know the earth or love it. They do not speak from the heart, usually. They do not act from the heart. They are more like the actors on the movie screen. They play roles. And their leaders are not like our leaders. They are not chosen for virtue, but for their skill at playing roles. Whites have told me this, in plain words. They do not trust their leaders, and yet they follow them. When we do not trust a leader, he is finished. Then, also, the leaders of the whites have too much power. It is bad for a man to be obeyed too often. But the worst thing is what I have said about the heart. Their leaders have lost it and they have lost mercy. They speak from somewhere else. They act from somewhere else. But from where? Like you, I do not know. It is, I think, a kind of insanity." He looked at Hagbard and added politely. "Some are different."
It was a long speech for him, and it stirred something in Uncle John Feather. "I was in the army," he said. "We went to fight a bad white man, or so the whites told us. We had meetings that were called orientation and education. There were films. It was to show us how this bad white man was doing terrible things in his country. Everybody was angry after the films, and eager to fight. Except me. I was only there because the army paid more than an Indian can earn anywhere else. So I was not angry, but puzzled. There was nothing that this white leader did that the white leaders in this country do not also do. They told us about a place named Lidice. It was much like Wounded Knee. They told us of families moved thousands of miles to be destroyed. It was much like the Trail of Tears. They told us of how this man ruled his nation, so that none dared disobey him. It was much like the way white men work in corporations in New York City, as Sam has described it to me. I asked another soldier about this, a black white man. He was easier to talk to than the regular white man. I asked him what he thought of the orientation and education. He said it was shit, and he spoke from the heart! I thought about it a long time, and I knew he was right. The orientation and education was shit. When the men from the BIA come here to talk, it is the same. Shit. But let me tell you this: the Mohawk Nation is losing its soul. Soul is not like breath or blood or bone and it can be taken in ways no man understands. My grandfather had more soul than I have, and the young men have less than me. But I have enough soul to talk to Old Grandfather, who is a raccoon now. He thinks as a raccoon and he is worried about the raccoon nation, more than I am worried about the Mohawk Nation. He thinks the raccoon nation will die soon, and all the nations of the free and wild animals. That is a terrible thing and it frightens me. When the nations of the animals die, the earth will also die. That is an old teaching and I cannot doubt it. I see it happening, already. If they steal more of our land to build that dam, more of our soul will die, and more of the souls of the animals will die! The earth will die, and the stars will no longer shine! The Great Mother herself may die!" The old man was crying unashamedly. "And it will be because men do not speak words but speak shit!"
Hagbard had turned pale beneath his olive skin. "You're coming into court," he said slowly, "and you're going to tell the judge that, in exactly those words."
Federal Court for the 17th District of New York State. Plaintiffs: John Feather, Samuel Arrows, et al. Defendants: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, and President of the United States. For plaintiffs: Hagbard Celine. For the defendants: George Kharis, John Alucard, Thomas Moriarity, James Moran. Presiding: Justice Quasimodo Immhotep.
MR. FEATHER (concluding): And it will be because men do not speak words but speak shit! MR. KHARIS: Your honor, I move that the last speech be stricken from the record as irrelevant and immaterial. We are dealing here with a practical question, the need of the people of New York for this dam, and Mr. Feather's superstitions are totally beside the point.
MR. CELINE: Your honor, the people of New York have survived a long time without a dam in that particular place. They can survive longer without it. Can anything survive, anything worth having, if our words become, as Mr. Feather says, excrement? Can anything we can reasonably call American Justice survive, if the words of our first President, if the sacred honor of George Washington is destroyed, if his promise that the Mohawk could keep these lands "as long as the mountain stands and the grass is green," if all that becomes nothing but excrement?
MR. KHARIS: Counsel is not arguing. Counsel is making speeches.
MR. CELINE: I am speaking from the heart. Are you—or are you speaking excrement that you are ordered to speak by your superiors?
MR. ALUCARD: More speeches.
MR. CELINE: More excrement
JUSTICE IMMHOTEP: Control yourself, Mr. Celine.
MR. CELINE: I am controlling myself. Otherwise, I would speak as frankly as my client and say that most of the speeches here are plain old shit. Why do I say "excrement" at all, if it isn't, tike you people, to disguise a little what we are all doing? It's shit. Plain shit.
JUSTICE IMMHOTEP: Mr. Celine, you are coming very close to contempt of court. I warn you.
MR. CELINE: Your honor, we speak the tongue of Shakespeare, of Milton, of Melville. Must we go on murdering it? Must we tear it away from its last umbilical connection with reality? What is going on in this room, actually? Defendants, the U.S. government and its agents, want to steal some land from my clients. How long do we have to argue that they have no justice, no right, no honor, in their cause? Why can't we say highway robbery is highway robbery, instead of calling it eminent domain? Why can't we say shit is shit, instead of calling it excrement? Why do we never use language to convey meaning? Why must we always use it conceal meaning? Why do we never speak from the heart? Why do we always speak words programmed into us, like robots?
JUSTICE IMMHOTEP: Mr. Celine, I warn you again.
MR. FEATHER: And I warn you. The world will die. The stars will go out. If men and women cannot trust the words spoken, the earth will crack, like a rotten pumpkin.
MR. KHARIS: I call for a recess. Plaintiff and their counsel are both in no emotional state to continue at this time.
MR. CELINE: You even have guns. You have men with guns and clubs, who are called marshals, and they will beat me if I don't shut up. How do you differ from any other gang of bandits, then, except in using language that conceals what you are doing? The only difference is that the bandits are more honest. That's the only difference. The only difference.
JUSTICE IMMHOTEP : Mr. Marshal, restrain the counsel.
MR. CELINE: You're stealing what isn't yours. Why can't you talk turkey for just one moment? Why—
JUSTICE IMMHOTEP: Just hold him, Marshal. Don't use unnecessary force. Mr. Celine, I am tempted to forgive you, considering that you are obviously much involved with your clients, emotionally. However, such mercy on my part would encourage other lawyers to believe they could follow your example. I have no choice. I find you guilty of contempt of court. Sentencing will take place when court reconvenes after a fifteen-minute recess. You may speak at that time, but only on any mitigating grounds that should lighten the degree of your sentence. I will not hear the United States government called bandits again. That is all.
MR. CELINE: You steal land, and you will not hear yourselves called bandits. You order men with guns and clubs to hold us down, and you will not hear yourselves called thugs. You don't act from the heart; where the hell do you act from? What in God's name does motivate you?
JUSTICE IMMHOTEP: Restrain him, Marshal.
MR. CELINE: (Indistinguishable.)
JUSTICE IMMHOTEP: Fifteen-minute recess.
BAILIFF: All rise.