Living decoloniality, practical examples of  decolonial
re-existence through the  aid sector, a podcast by Carla Vitantonio with the support of the Center for humanitarian leadership.

Any culture who does not respect the rights of all other beings to live out their lives is necessarily creating the conditions for a monoculture.
And once you have a monoculture, you have, biologically, anyway, you have certain death because the laws of nature can’t accept the continuation of a monoculture.

Monoculture meaning a culture that doesn’t accept natural change to occur for evolutionary change and adaptation to occur.

Or in other words, it doesn’t accept, how do you say? It doesn’t accept weirdness. It doesn’t accept abnormality or anything strange around the ordinary.

But these things are the things that should be celebrated in a diverse landscape. If we’re wanting to have any chance as a society, let alone as a species, you know, biodiversity is required.

You could point to coloniality and its various forms as a kind of like hyperactive form of this, right?

Where separation from our shared humanity becomes justified.

The voice you just listened to belongs to Patrick Lydon, one of the co-creators together with Suhee Kand of City as nature.

Patrick beautifully summarized what for me is coloniality of being expressed in the relation between nature and human being.
I am Carla Vitantonio, this is living decoloniality and the sounds and noises you hear in the background are from the city where I live and work, Havana, Cuba.

I met Patrick and Suhee about 10 years ago. We were all in South Korea and it was exactly during that time that we made a decision that brought us here.

I became a humanitarian and went to work to North Korea. Patrick and Suhee took a different path that Patrick will describe in a few minutes.

Patrick and Suhee are deeply engaged in the research of a different relation with nature, a respectful relation, a relation based on interconnectedness and reciprocity.

In the last episode we already approached this theme and I said that the relation between the human being and nature has been deeply affected by the physical and intellectual occupation that took place during the colonial era.

The outcome of this is very visible to those of us who work in agriculture and food security.

One of our greatest problems is the damage produced by monoculture.

A monoculture s nothing else but the exploitation of soil decided by those who had no relation with such soil, for the sake of production and accumulation.

The history of the Americas can offer a long list of how the arrival of the Europeans cancelled local agricultural practices that were based on mutual exchange and respect, in favor of monoculture and extractivism, which soon led to soil depletion and to the collapse of the balance that indigenous culture had created with the environment they belonged to.

Another example, urbanization, which we think of as driving human progresses in innovation, has, however, had an impact on nature and on the environment.
The extensive development of human areas has led to the destruction of habitats, changes in land use and significant infrastructure development.

This transformation has contributed and contributes to the loss of biodiversity, alters ecosystems and leads to various forms of pollution including air, water and noise pollution.

These contributes to the exacerbation of many of the humanitarian crisis we are living nowadays.

We would spend the entire episode just listing all the problems related to the topic, but we are here to hear stories that lead us to hope that these issues can change.

Patrick Lydon and Suhee Kang are two artists and activists that started their journey by observing exactly things like the ones I just described.

Patrick, could you please introduce yourself to our listeners?

Hi, yeah, sure. My name is Patrick Lydon. I’m a California boy who, gosh, has not lived in America for over a decade now.

I live and work together with my partner Suhee Kang. For a time, we were in Japan and now we’re living in Daejeon, South Korea.

We run a studio here called “city as nature” and we’re really flexible with the mediums that we use.

We use all sorts of ways, creative ways, artistic ways, culinary, agricultural, if you will. Suhee works a lot with herbs.

We use all sorts of different ways to help bring humans back into some kind of beneficial or meaningful relationship with the rest of nature.

Our work focuses on positive things. The question is, how do we get that relationship back? How do we make it a good relationship?

How do we write that relationship between ourselves and the rest of nature so that we can rightfully call ourselves citizens of this earth again?

And we try not to make distinction in our work, whether an urban, or rural, or some other environment is good or bad.

It’s just here is where we find ourselves. This is the situation we find ourselves in.

How do we start cultivating good relationships because that’s the real foundation of how we’re going to move forward?

I would like to know what triggered your research and action, what happened, how did you decide to change your lives?

When we were making the film we interviewed a farmer in Fukuoka area called Kenji, named Kenji Murakami.

Kenji Murakami told us a story about this feeling that Suhee and I had it really resonated with us.

Murakami was working some years ago in the tallest building in Japan in the time, in Yokohama.

He was working some, I don’t know, 40 or 50 floors up above the street level.

And every day he lamented sitting in his office that there was no way to open the window and he feels suffocated.

And he’s doing a job that he doesn’t quite believe in.

And yet he’s going to this office and taking an elevator up to the top of this tower every day.

This tower, you know, of course, it’s supposed to be the crown jewel of Japanese industrialism or Japanese capitalism.

And in almost every tactile sense he’s totally cut off from the world below him every day, all day.

And yet all of these kind of buildings, not just in Japan but everywhere, right?

These are the buildings where people are supposed to be making decisions about the future of business, about the future of humanity.

So Murakami said that one day he was reflecting on how precious this one life is. And he asked himself, “If I get to live this life, I want to be convinced from the bottom of my heart that I’m doing it the right way.”

Murakami wasn’t convinced and he quit his job and started natural farming at the time.

At the time that Suhee and I were working in our office jobs, you know, both of us would have answered an emphatic note to this question too.

In fact, we did. We weren’t convinced that we were living this one precious life as it should be lived until we quit.

And from them, we decided to dedicate our lives firstly to asking questions in the world around us that we weren’t allowed to ask.

We excitedly asked questions and we tried to figure out what does it need to live as respectable ecological beings rather than, you know, the less we lived before we were respectful citizens of capitalist industrialist colonial nations.

So we traded that kind of, I guess you call it social respectability for the hope of ecological respectability.

I can’t say, still I can’t say either of those two categories are mutually exclusive, nor can I say that we, even if they were, that we made it completely and clearly from one of those categories to the other.

But I can say for sure that it feels right that we’re trying all of these years and still does and that we’re helping others to try.

So, you know, there’s not much of a map for how to do this.

So as we go, we kind of figure it out along the way and we meet others who are trying to figure it out along the way and we help each other.

And if I could encourage anyone to do anything, I don’t think I can give a lot of direct advice to anyone, but I would certainly encourage that to go through this process that anyone who has a similar question in their mind of, is this the right way, you know, when thinking about our lives and what we’re doing in our daily lives.

So, I would like to ask you a question, and to ask that question, and to start that personal inquiry.

And it is a personal inquiry because every corner of the world and every individual really has, has or should have their own answers to this question.

Could you share with us some details of your methodology and practice?

Our practice is really that it’s to ask the question of ourselves and to ask questions of our environment and to trust that nature does indeed have the answer.

So, but of course, you know, saying that, saying nature as the answer is kind of meaningless to anyone, right?

To anyone who does not have the prerequisite experience asking questions to nature.

Certainly, the, you know, the Patrick Lydon sitting at his desk in 2005 or something in Silicon Valley would have told this Patrick today, that old Patrick would have told me I’m totally nuts.

Or at least that, what are you thinking? Answers come from a book, answers come from a classroom, they don’t come directly from nature.

But this Patrick today knows that that’s not true. He knows that it is possible because, you know, I’ve continually practiced for over a decade this process of being in nature, of cultivating relationship, of asking questions and of finding answers in wisdom.

And, you know, just like any skill, I suppose, that this, this continual practice over the days and weeks and months and years,

it’s the only way for us to find answers that are relevant to ourselves and to our communities, right? That’s the only way.

And so, there is a practical methodology for cultivating this relationship with nature.

And from our experience, you know, we’ve seen, I’ve conducted, I don’t know how many workshops, but for many, many thousands of people in different countries.
And we’ve worked with everyone of every kind of age, from young kids, you know, to middle-aged office workers to the elderly.

And in all of those experience, I would say that it only requires two things.

The cultivating our relationship with nature only requires two things.

And you don’t need any tools, you don’t need to buy anything, and you don’t even need guidance from me or from a guru or from whatever.

You just need two things.

The first thing is a place, and the second thing is permission.

And I should explain those little bit by place.

By place, I mean anywhere that you can find in this world to stand and to be a human in this nature, in this universe.

You have to be in a place and to recognize yourself as existing in this place.

You have to accept that without any preconceived judgment on that place or on yourself.

Just see it. Just see it. Just see you. Just be aware of it. Just be aware of you.

So by place, that’s what I mean.

And this dovetails neatly into the second thing that you need, which again is permission.

Now what do I mean by permission? Well usually we humans again, usually we humans means humans in context of a colonial or industrialized nation, but also really it means in general any human who’s living within a social system that doesn’t recognize our innate interconnectedness with the rest of nature.

So any human living in that social situation, which is a lot of us, but not all of us.

So usually in these social contexts, humans are not allowed to have meaningful relationships with nature to say, talk to a tree, to pray, to a mountain, to take a break from work to stare and wonder in the clouds or whatever the situation is that you can think of that relates to you.

Cultivating some relationship or understanding of nature beyond the logical one.

So another way of saying this is that we are not given social permission to do these things. So we need that permission.

And as an artist, it’s easy for me to give permission to people through the course of my work. Of course it’s art.

When I run a workshop or I make an exhibition, it’s art. So there’s a kind of suspending of the normal social rules.

And that’s one of the great things about art. You’re allowed to say, okay, in this gallery or in this field or wherever the artwork is happening.

These are the new rules. You have to follow them and people will say, “Wow, cool. Okay, good. It’s art. Oh, I can do weird things. Okay. Yeah.”

Because the artist said, “So I can do it good.” But of course, you know, in these situations, I feel people are really wanting to engage in the odd and in the new and in the weird for various reasons.

And they’re waiting for someone to give them permission to do that. But really, it’s not me giving them permission, right?

The power of giving permission isn’t from me. It’s within each of those people, that’s within you.

So each of us has that power. And of course, we have to recognize there may be repercussions in our social situations wherever we are.

And we might be afraid of those repercussions. And sometimes that’s real and serious.

And that’s part of why the first rule is a place to find, a place either by yourself or with another group of humans, where you can feel comfortable or where you can temporarily suspend the normal rules.

However, in the ultimate sense, you know, everyone must give themselves permission to engage in a relationship with nature and with the world around you in a deeper, in a non-judging way and a curious way.

And I think that’s that is the methodology, if you will. It’s simple. At the root, this is what we do in all of our work.

We find ways to suspend that judgment. We create a place and the permission to suspend that judgment, to create curiosity and really, you know, to throw out all the rules and to help us see how we are a part of nature.

A place and permission. With these two elements, Patrick and Suhee facilitate workshops where people can explore the relation with nature far from the boundaries that we are used to live.

In their own way, Patrick and Suhee are practicing three things mentioned by Giulia and Ria from the feminist hiking collective.

Listening, co-creation and healing. But they start from a very different point and use different tools.

I ask myself if any of these practices could be of inspiration for action in the eight sector.

You listen to living decoloniality. Practical examples of decolonial re-existence through the aid sector.

I am Carla Vitantonio and you can reach me through my Spotify and Spreaker channels or through my Instagram, Carla Vitantonio.

This podcast was deliberately recorded with minimum technical equipment trying to preserve as much as possible the feelings and intentions of those who participated.

If you liked it, please subscribe and share it through your network.

Living decoloniality was produced in partnership with the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership. The logo is a present from your Eugenio Nittolo