Ayahuasca, Colonialism, and the Death of a Healer
Kevin Tucker ~ ATTMind 96
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***See below for a complete topic breakdown.***
About This Episode
Our history in the Western world is one of institutional accomplishments, technological ingenuity, and intellectual grandeur. It is also a history of theft, enslavement, and the biblical-level devastation of peoples, places, and livelihoods.
We, born and raised here in the Western world, are the bastard children of cultures warped beyond recognition by the influence of Western colonialism and all its great feats, for good and for ill, as it spread across the world. This is our history, whether we like it or not, whether we want to hear or not.
This is not a call to guilt. It is a call to clarity and, in many ways, a call to grief. For when we allow the grief contained in the death and destruction of so much before us, we can gather the capacity for understanding how we might conduct ourselves as if all that was taken and twisted is a lesson in responsibility, maturity, and humanity. Something that, in our current era, we not only need but may very well have socially evolved to be capable of… maybe.
Either way, this responsibility starts with knowing our history. It is said that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. As accurate as that may be, a truer statement might be that those who think history is behind us are doomed to perpetuate its worst, ongoingly and ignorantly.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus brought European colonialism to what we know of today as South America. In 1839, Charles Goodyear accidentally discovered the vulcanization of rubber. On April 19, 2018, Canadian Sebastian Woodroffe murdered 81-year-old, highly respected Shipbo healer and ingenious activist, Olivia Arévalo Lomas over a dispute regarding, ultimately, ayahuasca. It doesn’t seem at first that there might be any direct thread between these three events; however, what appears at first is rarely the actuality of what is.
According to the guest of this episode, Kevin Tucker, these three events are directly related and not only is there a direct line of causal events from Columbus to the murder of Arévalo, but that her murder is the ongoing, living history of colonialist extraction of Amazonian, indigenous resources, now acting itself out through the Ayahuasca cultural boom. Spiritual Extractivism.
Kevin Tucker is a writer and advocate of primal anarchy and rewilding. His work focuses on blending anthropology, history, and ecology to expand the critiques of civilization and colonization, exposing how domestication channels the nomadic hunter-gatherer within us into individualized consumers. He is the author of The Cull of Personality, Gathered Remains, and For Wildness and Anarchy. He founded Black and Green Press in 2000 and was the editor of Species Traitor (2000-2005), a frequent contributor to Green Anarchy (2000-2008), and is the founding editor of Wild Resistance (2015-, formerly Black and Green Review). He hosts the Primal Anarchy Podcast.
Tucker is on the show to talk to us about the history of resource extraction from the Amazon, the devastation it wrecked on the indigenous people of the Amazon, and how he sees that history of extraction alive in the present in the form of the spiritual extractivism around ayahuasca, with the murder of Arévalo as an example.
This is a difficult episode to listen to as it contains a lot of hard to hear information such as explicit descriptions of horrendous violence, the unimaginable costs of our modern comforts, and some very divisive perspective on the global spread of ayahuasca.
**featured image is a mirrored version of a “reproduction of Theodori de Bry’s illustration for Las Casas 1598 book. It illustrates Las Casas’ extravagant depiction of the Spanish abuses to the American Indians”. It is Public Domain.
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- The thesis of the conversation – Ayahuasca as a part of colonialism
- The impact and history of colonialism in South America
- 70-90% reduction of the indigenous population — the incredible violence of the first wave of occupation, Pizzaro
- The difference between colonial settlement and colonial extraction
- The impact of European arrival on existing tribal warfare
- The role of missionaries in the slave trade and ethnocide, past and present
- New tribes mission, “brown gold,” and yerba mate
- The Hubris of Modernity
- The discovery of vulcanizing rubber and the horror of the rubber boom
- Mental health break, cause this is difficult
- The dissatisfaction of modern life; enter ayahuasca
- Sebastian Woodroffe’s intention
- The ill consequences of domestication and the primacy of the individual
- The murder of Arevalo and its connection to spiritual extractivism
- What about the positive benefits of ayahuasca industry offers to ingenious people and culture?
This is Tucker’s main page where you can find his other books, his podcast, and general access to a catalog of his work.
“Cull of Personality is the story of civilization, showing how a conquering society, so depraved of meaning, will seek to destroy the world to find its purpose. And when it is fought and resisted, even the coping mechanism of those who have fought it is still up for sale. “