Dr Vandana Shiva

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HOW DID YOU IDENTIFY YOUR PASSION AND THE WORK THAT SATISFIED YOU VERSUS WORK THAT JUST PAID THE BILLS?

When I saw my favorite streams and forest disappear in the Himalaya in the early seventies, I took a pledge to fight for the defense of the earth and the living systems, even while I was doing my PHD on the ‘Foundations of Quantum Theory’, and then I discovered this amazing movement of women called ‘Chipko’ – hugging the trees – and I became a volunteer. That has shaped the rest of my life with the seeds, with agriculture, with the defence of rivers…every aspect of what gives us life.

FOR YOU PERSONALLY, WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FEMINISM AND EMPOWERMENT?

I actually find both words, inadequate. Both feminism and empowerment. Because narrow feminism, if it only copies capitalist patriarchy, is going to continue the destruction of nature, and going to continue the acceptance of subjugation of most life on earth and most women and most men. On the other hand, empowerment is a sad term because women are powerful, and no has to give us power, they just remove the structures of disempowerment, the structures of capitalist patriarchy. That is why I talk about the celebration of the liberation of all life, the smallest of microbes to the giant mammals and humans in between, with all our diversities of genders and races and religions, and colours and tribes.

WHO WILL ETERNALLY BE A WOMAN YOU ADMIRE AND RESPECT, AND WHY?

My mother was an inspiration when she was alive, but her inspiration has increased after she passed away. She became the first woman in her tribe to get highly educated. She was trapped in what became Pakistan when India and Pakistan were split. She came to Indias as a refugee. She had studied all the way to university and become an inspectress of schools, but said I have broken all glass ceilings in the formal system, now I will be a farmer again. I admire her because she lived on her terms and she lived for others, but on her terms.

IN LIGHT OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF OUR HASHTAG #WHYITRIBE, WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO CELEBRATE WHO WE ALREADY ARE TODAY?

I think the most important issue today is to celebrate the diversity that we are. Every being, every person is unique unto themselves. What has happened with industrial capitalism, what has happened with colonialism, what has happened with capitalist patriarchy, racism and religious fundamentalism, is using one measure, one uniformity, one monoculture of the mind to dominate over others, crush them exterminate them. Celebration of our diversities, the self-organized poetic evolution of our being, and an enlargement all the time while we give space to all others to expand their spaces. That is the most important issue today, both for the planet survival as well as stopping the culture of hate and fear that is spreading like a virus in all our societies today.

WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN SHY AWAY FROM CELEBRATING OR PRAISING THEMSELVES SO MUCH?

Well you know, capitalist patriarchy is a structure that put women down and when women internalize those values, they put themselves down. That is why we need a shift in worldview. That is why we need to recognize that every being is a center of their world related to all other beings, and not arrogant pride, not the kind of arrogant hubris that capitalist patriarchy has displayed, but the humble pride that women can and should display that is in every flower, that is in every bee that pollinates, that is in the world around us. That beauty is something we should radiate in every moment of our lives.

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THE TENDENCY TO DISCREDIT COMPLIMENTS YOU ARE GIVEN?

Um, you know, the, the measure of your self, has to be from within. Yes, there will be compliments and you should accept them with gratitude and humility, but very often there will be more stone throwing and more abusers, so if you start taking that external input too seriously you will either hit the skies with compliments or drown yourself deep into depression because of the mis-compliments so you have to have equanimity to carry your balance.

HOW DOES SOCIETY REINFORCE THE IDEA WE, AS WOMEN, ARE NOT ENOUGH AND HOW CAN WE TAKE THAT POWER BACK?

For five hundred years there has been an organized structure of oppression. Of every race that was not white, Africans were captured and made to work as slaves in the cotton plantations in America, and you had racism born since then. You have the clash of civilizations in terms of religious and the conquest of other lands because they were not Christian and this forced superiority is coming back again, and all this was born along with capitalist patriarchy. So it isn’t that there is one element that separate from all the others, these structures of oppression came together. We are now at a moment that we have to shed them, if we are to have a future because today that arrogance, that domination, that destruction has become threatening to our very future. Everyone knows that if we carry on, on that path, we have less than a century for our species.

WHY IS THE TRIBE MOVEMENT IMPORTANT?

We are tribes. Now we can be tribe that are chauvinistic, or we can be tribes that celebrate our uniqueness whilst celebrating every other uniqueness. What’s basically happened is one tribe took over and that tribe was largely male, was largely Christian, was largely white, and was of the 1%. We can not be ruled by the brutality of a one percent. Tribes in their diversity, in their horizontalist organsing, um, are important both because the rise of colonial capitalist patriarchy was based on making us believe that we are fragmented, divided, incomplete individuals. We are complete beings and our completeness comes from our communities, first, that we have communities as social group as tribes, and most importantly we are an earth community, we are an earth tribe, and as an earth community, an earth tribe, a family as all life on earth. It is time to remember that we are interconnected beings. We are self-organised but inter-connected, there is oneness on the one hand and the one percent rule on the other. That one percent rule has trashed the earth, trashed women, trashed people of colour, trashed people of other religions. It is now (time) to celebrate all colours, people, all genders, all beauty, all diversity. That is why tribes are important.

Occupation: Scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate and author

Website: www.vandanashiva.com

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