Archive | April 17, 2011

Bolivia: The Moral Light Shines on Land and People

Bolivia: The Moral Light Shines on Land and People

By Hwaa Irfan

While the rest of the world struggles to maintain power, self interest and dominion of a way of life that has caused more loss than gain for most Bolivia is going against the grain by committing itself to the higher Laws of Nature. Unprecedented in these times, from the point of view of the modern State, after much debate and deliberation with politicians and grassroots social groups, Bolivia which has suffered much including vilification by the U.K., and the U.S., for its courageous president Evo Morales stance on climate change, will be the first modern State or even the first State to pioneer and install the first Law of Mother Earth, equalling the rights of nature to human rights. This Law, the Law of God, will completely restructure the entire legal framework of Bolivia.

A country that is seen as the poorest and least developed in the eyes of materialists, Bolivia or the Plurinational State of Bolivia as it is officially known has been a country that has suffered serious environmental problems due to the richness of its natural resources, from mining of gold, silver, tin, hydrocarbons, and natural gas. And has also been suffering from rising temperatures, extreme weather conditions, and water security issues.

Learning from experience, instead of ignoring the lessons that life presents as if on a suicide mission instead of continuing along the current downward curve of viewing the world, whereby Bolivia within the next 100 years could become a desert according to glaciologist Edson Ramirez of San Andres University as the ice cap melts, in recognition that current laws are not strong enough to make industry transparent.

The Greater Significance

To those who do not recognize the greater significance of this step other than as an environmental issue, let’s look at it in an everyday context.

Having worked with those designated as ‘schizophrenic’ thus relegated as mentally ill I have grown too see that their world is a higher metaphysical order of reality, one that a secular society expects them to deny as ordinary, unqualified citizens a reality that demands the kind of attention for a while in order to resolve the conflict of duality that is endemic in secular societies. It is this reaction that has set into motion a split as society demands of them to think and behave in a prescribed way, and it is this stressor that pushes them further into a conflict as society looks at them as if there is something seriously wrong. The result, is that many of the “symptoms designated to schizophrenics are actually reactions to the way in which society treats them socially and clinically. This is the reality of many phases of life relegated to the category of mental illness, and one that in these times there is more and more people who are being prevented from processing their experiences in a natural way and thus relegated as ‘mentally ill’.

Secular society has great problems allowing those relegated to being ‘mentally ill’ because secular society does not recognize that the problem is not the ‘mentally ill’ but secular society itself, which is nurtured on the notion of separation. It is the first and last thing we learn when we are schooled in secular societies that each subject is world unto itself. This not only divides and separates the way we look at the world, but also divides and separates the way in which we look at ourselves and thus all relations in the home, in work, and in public. It is this exclusive notion that has the incapacity to include the ‘other’. If it did include the ‘other’ there would be no ‘other’ and instead of fighting for human rights, civil rights, the rights of the child, women’s rights, and activism in all forms, especially environmental there would be no fight and no international elite to exploit position over the rights of others including the earth.

To Recognize the Land One Has to Recognize the People

This process began in 2006 under the Morales Administration. It took the form of a new constitution that recognized the rights of the indigenous peoples of Bolivia. This was a promise that indigenous Aymaran Juan Evo Morales Ayma was standing by, and to see it through there were some hoops to jump. One major hoop was the necessity for a two-thirds majority vote. This was not forthcoming as one can imagine. Protests ensued, with difficulty in assembling the government due to the opposition. It was not until November 2007 a constitutional draft was approved recognizing it is multiethnic population of Amerindians, Africans, Asians, Europeans and Mestizos as follows in the preamble to the Constitution:


“The Bolivian people, with its plural composition, expressed in the entirety of Bolivians, pertaining to urban communities made up of different social classes and the indigenous peoples, originario nations, campesino, and intercultural and Afro-Bolivian peoples, have manifested their will to reconstruct the identities of the indigenous nations and peoples whose historic and cultural pre-existence has suffered from a permanent exclusion during colonial and republican life, having had ignored their rights to ancestral territories, institutions, judicial systems, politics, languages and culture.

On the other side, the economic and social inequalities have deepened the differences and social injustices, institutionalising a political and judicial system which has excluded the great majority.

Because of this, the valiant Bolivian people have conformed a Constituent Assembly to which it has given the mandate to “refound Bolivia” and construct a state based on the principals of sovereignty, dignity, complementarity, solidarity, harmony and equality in distribution and redistribution of the social product, where the common good predominates in the search to “live well; of respect for economic, social, judicial, political and cultural diversity of all its inhabitants; generating collective well being, with healthcare, work, education and housing for all.

A plurinational, communitarian state which integrates and articulates itself within the objective of constructing a Great Latin American Community and which is a spokesperson and inspirer for peace and integral, harmonic development and the self-determination of our peoples..”.

The Law of Mother Earth

The draft of the new law states:

“She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organisation.”

John Vidal adds:

–        The right to life and to exist;

–        The right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration;

–        The right to pure water and clean air;

–        The right to balance;

–        The right not to be polluted; and

–        The right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

–        The right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.

Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said:

“Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals. We believe that everything in the planet forms part of a big family. We indigenous people can contribute to solving the energy, climate, food and financial crises with our values.”

This notion might sound like a romantic ideal, but if one compares the short period since the Industrials Revolution until now with the time period prior to the Industrial Revolution and include the number of global crises that we as humanity face today.

The Law of Mother Earth is about sustainability on a mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and environmental level for all levels are interdependent. How we treat the earth is how we treat ourselves and each other. We are meant to be stewards of the earth, just as Islam tells us that we are meant to be guardians. The growing global mental health crises facing humanity today is a result of fragmentation of our lives: schizophrenia, and all the personality disorders are about the way in which we force ourselves to fragment our lives into separate compartments, and depression is about the loss of control of one’s life – there is nothing genetic about it! This modus operandus is the legacy of secularism which separates man and woman from their souls, and the earth from the cosmos. The door to transcending the self to a greater reality was closed as the State increasingly demands control over all aspects of our lives from what we where, eat, think, and work as. In the words of  Arnoldo Carlos Vento:

“In Aztec metaphysics, Tloke-Nauake is a primordial force that “has all the cosmic power within” and with reference to humankind on this planet, it is the force that bonds all humanity. Since the pre-Columbian man/woman understood his tie with his fellowman/woman and understood that all living things within nature are sacred, they developed a society that communally shared the fruits of Mother Earth and man’s artistic and creative expressions in society. While there was immediate ownership of clothes, house, lot, tools, ownership of Mother Earth was unthinkable. Thus, it was not right to own land, people or animals. All beings on earth are linked to one another and they must share and live harmoniously. Consequently, any Western or European reference to private property, economic exploitation, tribute, slavery, usurpation of lands, economic and social classes based on economy and power are the characteristics of the Western paradigm and are totally inappropriate in the pre-Columbian world. The inherited knowledge and wisdom in astronomy, mathematics, botany, engineering, etc. gave the pre-Columbian cultures a scientific understanding of the universe.”

{There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you} (Al Anam 6:38).


Achtenberg, E. “Bolivia: Reclaiming Natural Resources and Popular Sovereignty.”

Vidal, J. “Bolivia Enshrines Natural World’s Rights with Equal Status for Mother Earth.”

Vento, A. C. “Rediscovering the Sacred: From the Secular to a Post-Modern Sense of the Sacred.” University of Texas-Austin

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