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Land (Re)Occupation and the Second Precept: from Honduras to NorCal

Police confront farm workers over land takeover in Honduras.  via LaPrensa.hn

Fair warning: I may become a broken record on the question of the second precept.

As part of the traditional ethical prescriptions for lay Buddhist practitioners, the second precept is usually presented as something like: “I undertake a training to refrain from taking that which is not given.”  Different teachers and sanghas have more succinct or expansive versions (the version from Thich Nhat Hanh’s community includes the elaboration, “I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.”), but the most basic idea remains the same.

Don’t steal.  It harms you; it harms others.

Someday I’d love to help anthologize a collection of art, essays, music, and other dope media to create conversation between the second precept and traditions of reclamation.   In a fundamentally exploitative and unjust economic system, based on ongoing genocide, colonization, slavery, and displacement of poor people, we must at least grapple with the idea that “property is theft.”  And this can’t help but influence and complicate our relationship to the second precept, right?

If we refrain from taking that which is not given, how can we reclaim that which is stolen from us?

As food for thought along these lines, I just wanted to highlight two examples of recent land takeovers: one big, one small.

Last week in Honduras, beginning on the International Peasant Day of Struggle, thousands of farm workers and their families launched a coordinated land takeover, seizing 12,000 hectares throughout the country.

farm workers in honduras occupy land

Honduran farm workers occupy land in Valle de Sula. via LaPrensa.hn

And here in the East Bay, hundreds of people planted a renegade farm on arable land slated for “further housing and commercial development” by UC Berkeley.

People tilling the soil using pick axes and pitchforks

[One activist] said Occupy the Farm was not linked to the Occupy Oakland protests, but “was philosophically inspired by it.” The movement, she added, was done in solidarity with the Brazilian Movimiento Sin Tierra (Landless Workers Movement) and La Via Campesina (the International Day of Peasant’s Struggles).

“We think it is the height of irony that a upscale national chain grocery store would be building on arable land where food can be grown here for the community,” she said.

Albany community activist Jackie Hermes-Fletcher said […] “We’ve spent 15 years trying to present solutions for this land, like an educational interpretive center, an urban farm, a neighborhood co-op, community garden or farmers’ market. [The renegade farm is] very dramatic and extremely fantastic.”

Happy Tuesday, y’all.

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[Top Photo: Police confront farm workers over land takeover in Honduras last week. via LaPrensa.hn]

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