COLONIZATION - DECOLONIZATION: ENVIRONMENTAL, CIVILIZATIONAL, GEOPOLITICAL ASPECTS
Several experts in expressive arts, therapy and ecopsychology share their views on various aspects of colonization and decolonization. These concepts are considered by them not only as characterizing the mass settlement by immigrants from countries that are more developed economically and militarily into the territories of states with a lower level of such development with the appropriation of their land and resources, but also as denoting an invasion of land with inevitable changes in ecosystems and approaches to economic activity, the destruction of the established forms of relations between the indigenous population and nature. The participants in the discussion refer to the current situation in the world, characterized by the transition from a globalized monopolar world order to a multipolar/multilateral one. The issues of colonization and decolonization are considered in this discussion from an ecopoetic point of view, taking into account the ecological and cultural-historical perspective.
The discussion is built in the form of a polylogue, where different authors use different scientific and biographical discourse, academic and poetic language in order to convey the drama of the current situation and their response to the existential challenge associated with the decisive historical moment of ecological, cultural and geopolitical decolonization. We invite contributions on the theme.
FIRST THOUGHTS ON 21st CENTURY COLONISATION: THE INTERNET OF ALL THINGS
BSc.Soc.Sci. (Joint hons. Phil. & Psych.), Dip. A.T., registered art therapist (UK), a long-term member of the Findhorn Foundation Community, currently in private practice
The pattern now as it always was; a jewelled web of Interbeing;
not of things, of beings, radiant, shimmering, reflecting,
until the burning, lost and broken ones arrived,
with their insatiable hungers, their rage-driven dreams of The Great Fall,
their sad sadisms fomented in exile from grace,
not understanding their own origins in light,
their nightmares calling them over and over to apocalypse,
to Fall off the edge of Earth and out, beyond the web of life,
as if even the dead could be anywhere other than here, with us.
From narcissism’s gloom digital gangsters
with probing, sticky fingers spew arachnid engineering;
an electric-metalled web across all beings, forests, skies and oceans,
a mercurial fire-net to catch all creatures, thoughts,
all would-be escapees, scorching
a fire tattoo across our faces, mountains, rivers,
burning up our dreams.
Machine-men threaten excommunication, exile
from their Holy Citadel, outcast beyond connection if we resist,
as they revive the old dark arts;
starvation and the taking out of eyes to end all visions, all illumination, all bliss,
the masking, gagging, cutting out of tongues
to end all speaking-in-tongues, to silence all flow of Earthsong, skysong,
birdsong, all transmission through pure waters,
the severing of hands, to sever hearts and end all kinship.
Already, wild birds cannot weave their winged paths home,
pour haloes of protective blessing-song above us,
and whales wander, losing kin, their ancient ocean pathways drowned in noise,
electrified, all subtle, starry navigations
turning flammable and salt itself phosphoric, while the Voices tell the children
“Earth is warming so you must stay home, and cold, and hungry,
and be dimmed, for you are the scourge of Earth & time we warned you of.
Switch on, connect your screen, to see yourself through us and only us”
Here, on land, our people’s blood is thickening, grows fungal, plasticised,
opaque with cataracts to inspiration.
Fingers that wove crystal leaves and visionary magic
fatten, stiffen, droop dead across a trillion ticking keyboards.
This is a colonisation to end all, is
The Fall they prophesied and hungered for, to prove
themselves man-gods-above-all-others, a Fall, a poison dart,
to the heart of every tiny living cell,
unless, we rise, our oceanic breath a cosmic hurricane,
our tears a new Great Flood of Good.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF COLONIZATION AND THE HUMAN RELATIONSHIP TO THE EARTH
Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor, Department of Psychology, St. Petersburg Academy of Postgraduate Pedagogical Studies (St.-Petersburg, Russian Federation)
This paper considers the history of colonization and its impact on the cultural and natural environment. One of the objectives of this paper is to consider the historical background of colonialism, the dynamics and forms of its manifestation at different stages of its historical development in close connection with the change in human relations to the world of nature. The impact of colonial thinking on the global web of life and the prospects for political, economic and environmental decolonization are analyzed. Since Western humanism has played a significant role in the history of colonization, the paper considers whether the emergence of posthumanism as a new theory of human beings marks the end of the history of colonization.
Keywords: colonization, decolonization, humanism, posthumanism, anthropocentrism, new humanism
The relationship of humans with nature and the adaptation strategies they have employed are different in different historical periods. In general, as a species, homo sapiens is characterized by such adaptation strategies that are associated with expansion into the cultural and natural environments in order to use their resources and transform them. Carrying out such expansion, humans can act ecologically, in accordance with the interests of the environment and its inhabitants, human and more-than-human life forms, or follow utilitarian and consumeristic attitudes, perceiving the surrounding world and the creatures inhabiting it as objects of management and exploitation. A vivid expression of this strategy is colonization - the mass penetration (settlement) of people from countries that are more economically and militarily developed into territories with a lower level of such development, appropriating their territories and resources and settling in their lands.
Historically, different waves of colonization proceeded in close connection with the development of forms of economic activity, science and culture. More progressive forms of economic activity supported the development of society and a change in the system of social relations. Those states and peoples that had success on this path often showed a tendency to expand their influence on other territories and ethnic groups, either by “absorbing” them and using their resources, or by building relationships of mutually beneficial cooperation with them, forming more complex forms of economic and cultural cooperation, political and social organization. And although colonization could have ambiguous consequences for the autochthonous population, the technological, military, and social advantages that the colonizers had often led them to distribute the material resources of the colonized territories not in a fair way, but mainly in the interests of their mother countries.
There were many motives for creating colonies: from establishing control over natural resources to commercial and expansionist ones. The invasion of the colonialists into the territories they appropriate is usually accompanied by more or less serious changes in their ecosystems and approaches to economic activity, including the destruction of the established forms of relations between the indigenous population of these territories and nature, which, as a rule, were characterized by what we would consider a higher ecological ethics.
For instance, the experience of the land by Australian Aboriginals has come to be appreciated as a counterpoint to the enslavement of the land by colonists who treated it as mere property. Gare  indicates that “aboriginals, who had never practiced slavery and only engaged in minimal trade, regarded themselves as belonging to the land, not as possessors of it. Studying such cultures enables us to understand what it meant for people to experience themselves as part of a biotic community, and to better understand the brutal side of civilizations associated with the creation of indebtedness, the enslavement of others and the development of money, which followed the development of slavery, the treatment of people and then land as property. These were the foundations for the subsequent expansion of markets, the creation of a proletariat, global imperialism, and then the progressive commodification of almost everything deemed to be of value.” (p.407)
Colonization, involving not only penetration into the physical space of the colonized territories, but also into the mental “environment” of the colonized, is associated with intellectual expansion and the spread of ideologies and worldviews. The history of colonization is closely connected not only with the use of weapons as a tool of physical expansion into the environment, but also with various means of transmitting information and ideologies, including oral speech, books and, currently, the Internet and other electronic media.
Since antiquity, colonization and the founding of city-settlements (colonies) have been a widespread practice and were characteristic of the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans. In the Middle Ages, examples of colonization can be seen in the Crusades to the Middle East and the territories of Eastern Europe, which took place in the VIII-XIII centuries under the slogan "Drang nach Osten" (push toward the East).
During the Age of Discovery, European colonization swept across various countries and continents. Over time, the possession of colonies became so politically and economically significant for the leading states that it is customary in historiography to speak of the era of colonialism. At present, colonization as a strategy for survival and global dominance proceeds mainly in the form of control over different countries and dependent territories and the exploitation of their natural, human and economic resources, with the inevitable limitation of their sovereignty by the hegemonic countries.
The development of capitalism during the period of industrial revolutions in the West was linked with the emergence of colonial states and their appropriation of a significant part of the natural and human resources of the planet. These imperialist states in the period of increasing globalization in the 20th century, became world hegemons. The possession of significant human and natural resources by these states has been one of the conditions for their economic growth and material well-being.
The development of capitalism led to the formalization of the ideas of liberal democracy, initially in the 19th century in the form of classical liberalism, and later, already in the 20th century, neoliberalism, with their characteristic confrontational attitude towards the ideas of social and environmental justice. Both classical liberalism and neoliberalism advocate non-intervention of the state in economic processes and personal freedoms of citizens, and emphasize the value of the free market. Neoliberalism is characterized by a belief in economic growth, a commitment to free trade and the movement of capital and negatively perceives the need to restrict the uncontrolled development of business and finance in the interests of the majority or in order to preserve the natural environment.
At present, colonization as a strategy of dominance in interstate relations proceeds mainly in the form of exploitation of natural, human and economic resources of controlled territories with the inevitable limitation of their sovereignty by the world hegemons. This form of building interstate relations is associated with the concept of neo-colonialism involving economic and cultural imperialism as a form of control over developing countries. Neo-colonialism differs from non-colonial forms of cooperation between states and assistance from more economically and socially more developed states to developing countries and usually leads to their dependence and increased financial obligations towards the neo-colonial states.
The impact of colonization on the cultural, natural and political landscape of the developed territories is ambiguous: it was not only a factor in accelerating the technological development of these territories, their integration into the economic and political system of the metropolises, but also the genocide of indigenous peoples, the destruction of their cultures and local ecosystems. For millennia, the forms of synergetic interaction between autochthonous populations and their natural environments, which had been formed before the invasion of the colonialists, were usually supplanted by the utilitarian attitude towards them on the part of the colonialists, which led to the degradation and exploitation of the natural and human resources of the colonized territories, a decrease in their sustainability, their natural and cultural diversity, and the spread of cultural and species homogeneity.
The spreading monoculture of colonialists “degrades both cultural and biotic diversity, forcing the depletion of soils and the wreckage of innumerable ecosystems. As the civilization of total commerce muscles its way into every corner of the planet, countless species tumble helter-skelter over the brink of extinction, while the biosphere itself shivers into a bone-rattling fever” [6, p.92]. As a result of colonization and the domineering corporatocracy, “… the planetary metabolism is thrown into disarray when each region is compelled to behave like every other region—when diverse places and cultures are forced to operate according to a single, mechanical logic, as interchangeable parts of an undifferentiated, homogenous sphere.” [6, p.92]
“The End of History" proclaimed in 1989 by Francis Fukuyama in his article published in The National Interest , actually marked a new historical milestone of colonization, when the coalition of winners in the Cold War - the so-called "collective West" - found itself in the role of the only global metropolis with the prospect of total domination over the world opening before it.
In 2012, F. Fukuyama published another article in The Foreign Affairs, entitled "The Future of History," , acknowledging that at present it seems premature to talk about “the end of history," because "democratic" governments around the world are increasingly unable to fulfill the obligations they have assumed. The economies of these states, instead of growth and prosperity, stagnate or fall into a long recession. Political extremism is gaining momentum, especially right-wing and religious movements. The middle class, the traditional stronghold of liberal democracy in the 20th century, is constantly shrinking, with a small number of people controlling the resources of the country. In addition to all this, a new serious contender for geopolitical hegemony has emerged, the Chinese market system with state regulation. Environmental and humanitarian challenges have become unprecedented. Obviously, under these conditions, the final "colonization" of the planet by global hegemons can hardly take place.
Nevertheless, the colonial scenarios are still tenacious and are congruent with the commitment of global hegemons to neo-liberal values, their blind faith in unrestricted economic growth, and the power of the global corporatocracy: “Their agenda has been the total domination of the world, transforming state institutions from institutions through which national communities were able to govern themselves into institutions imposing markets and serving the functioning of the global market. They have skillfully cultivated and deployed an army of idiots, associated particularly with the marketing industry, public relations and ‘human resource’ management, although these are only the beginning. Without any allegiance to any national community, predators are effectively a transnational class transforming governments into governments of occupation, utilizing local idiots to do their dirty work. Through indifference or design, they are pursuing policies which will lead to the deaths of most of the people they now effectively govern”. [12, р.14]
The colonial scenarios have their ideological roots in the philosophy of life of the colonizers. One of the objectives of this discussion is to consider the historical background of colonialism, the dynamics and forms of its manifestation at different stages of its historical development in close connection with the change in human relations to the world of nature. The impact of colonial thinking on the global web of life and the prospects for political, economic and environmental decolonization will also be analyzed.
The emergence and transformation of colonization in world history would be difficult to understand apart from the genesis of ecological consciousness. Therefore, it could be pertinent to at least briefly consider its evolution and connection with different waves of colonization. In this case, the problem of periodization of the development of the relationship of the humans to nature acquires great importance. Such periodization makes it possible to identify qualitative transitions that can play a significant role in comprehending the links between colonization and changes in the relationship of humans to nature, because the culture upholding the human dominance oven nature “provided the conditions for the industrial revolution, a new kind of imperialism and the domination of the world by European civilization, endless technological development and economic growth, enormous concentrations of power, all of which have been driving massive environmental destruction. The outcome is the exhaustion of resources, collapse of ecosystems and mass extinctions, threatening the environmental conditions for civilization, and the enslavement of most of humanity to the destructive trajectory of a globalized market based on free trade.” [13, p.399] This would indeed be “the end of history”, proclaimed by Francis Fukuyama, but not only and not so much in the sense of the victory of liberal democracy, but also the end of life on earth, since the victory of global corporatocracy, would be a "pyrrhic victory" over earth itself.
Periodization of the development of the relationship of the human community to nature and its connection with colonization
(In the following account of this periodization, the author will rely primarily on those Russian sources with which he is most familiar.)
Currently there are different approaches to the periodization of the development of the relationship of the human community to nature and the associated changes in environmental consciousness. In the most general form, the change in the relationship between human beings and nature is considered, for example, by Markovich , who distinguishes three main periods in the history of the development of relations between humans and nature.
The first period, coinciding with the archaic communal way of life, was associated with the fact that humans made the first attempts to change the natural environment and create an anthropogenic environment, but the scale of their activity aimed at the environment was very limited. Ancient people still strongly felt their dependence on the natural world.
The main types of human economic activity in that period were hunting and gathering. Expansion into the environment had a limited and sustainable character, since, using natural resources, humans coordinated their activity with the web of life.
The second period is associated with the development of new forms of economic activity, the spread of agriculture and animal husbandry, and the emergence of the first states of antiquity. Humans gained confidence that they are the “masters" of nature. The third period, according to Markovich, is the modern one, associated with the onset of the Anthropocene epoch. Humans continue to change the natural environment, but often these changes raise the question of their very existence. The gap between human beings and nature is getting wider. The physical, psychological and spiritual isolation of humans from nature is the result of the traditional concept of progress.
A more detailed analysis of the evolution of attitudes towards nature was carried out by Sergey Deryabo . He approaches this subject from the standpoint of cultural periodization, considers the features of the perception of nature in the following types of culture: mythological (archaic), folkloric, antique, medieval, Renaissance, baroque, classicism, romanticism, realism and modern.
This author notes that “if we are talking about the very trends in the development of human relationship to nature, then the most relevant is a model that distinguishes three stages, since it is built on the most basic characteristic of human inclusion or isolation from nature [1, p. 10-11].
He believes that the development of individual subjectivity determines the movement from the "inclusive" to the "oppositional" attitude to nature. The stronger humans feel themselves as individualized subjects, the more they perceive nature as an object and separate from it. From this point of view, one can explain why, following the path of development of the social organization of society and the formation of civil liberties according to the Western model, the development of individual, as opposed to communal, subjectivity and the increasing opposition of humans to the natural world turn out to be closely connected.
Further exploration concerning the periodization of the development of the relationship of the human community to nature was carried out by V.I. Panov (see interview with this author in this issue of the journal). Taking into account the periodization of the forms of ecological consciousness developed by V.A. Yasvin  as a basis for considering the evolution of human relations to nature, Victor Panov uses the qualities of the subject and the object.
For example, the archaic stage in the development of relations between humans and nature was distinguished by an object-subject type of relationship. It is characterized by the subordination of humans to the influences of the natural environment, with limited opportunities to influence it.
The anthropocentric type, which replaced the archaic type of relationship between humans and nature, was characterized, according to Panov, by subject-object relations, in which humans act as subjects of exploitation, or, conversely, the protection of the natural environment and nature becomes the object of their influence. This type of relationship between humans and nature is characteristic of a long historical period, starting with the great civilizations of antiquity and ending with modernity.
Throughout this historical period, due to the development of science and technology, the degree of human influence on the natural world has increased. A significant factor in the development of the anthropocentric worldview was also the development of the social organization of society.
The genesis of the anthropocentric position in the relations of humans with nature is difficult to understand without taking into account the influence of Christianity and other world religions, according to which human beings are considered as the “crown of creation.” The anthropocentric worldview was also supported by the development of the Cartesian model of scientific knowledge. Thanks to the technological and social achievements of Western civilization, the colonial conquests and appropriation of the resources of significant territories of the planet, which has lasted until the second half of the 20th century, this developmental model with its characteristic anthropocentric position in the relationship between humans to nature was permeated with the spirit of social optimism, faith in economic progress, and the growth of material well-being.
Anthropocentrism is anchored in philosophical, religious, social, scientific and technological concepts, and is associated with the values of humanism, as they were originally shaped in Western communities. It can be linked to a paradigm, called the "paradigm of human exclusivity" or the "paradigm of human liberation" (human exemption paradigm).
The ideal that forms the basis of humanism and anthropocentrism has always been the liberation of the creative powers of humans, the cultivation of subjectivity, the well-being of the individual and the human community. Humanism is also closely related to the recognition that, since humans are endowed with intelligence and free will, they are different from all other creatures they dominate. They are masters of their own destiny, can choose goals and find ways to achieve them.
The great colonial conquests, the civilizational, cultural, and linguistic expansion and the dominance of European states (mother countries) over most of the world in the 16th-20th centuries were carried out in strong connection to this worldview. The first waves of ancient colonization were associated with the flourishing of the culture of Ancient Greece, the development of cities and the democratic form of the social organization of antiquity, the formation of the foundations of European humanism.
Although the creation of the foundations of the anthropocentric worldview, which began in ancient times, was closely connected with the Hellenistic expansion to the East and North Africa, and, in the Middle Ages, with the expansion of Western European communities in Eastern Europe, the anthropocentric position became dominant during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, industrial revolutions and modernity. It was during this historical period that several powerful waves of colonization took place, carried out by those states that had a more developed science, technology, weapons and the social-political organization of society.
At the same time, colonization, as a form of organized expansion of economically developed and politically consolidated communities into the natural world and the territories inhabited by other peoples, has reached its extreme form and has become a tool for the exploitation and destruction of the environment and human beings alike.
This periodization of the forms of human relations with nature refers mainly to the sociogenesis of "Western" societies. In the cultures of the East and other regions of the planet, the periodization of human relations to nature has significant differences. After the archaic stage of human relations with the earth in these cultures, an ecocentric form of ecological consciousness was often formed, which is characterized by more sustainable lifestyles and the ability of humans to be engaged in the intersubjective relation with the natural world. So, for example, the Taoist or Buddhist worldviews are characterized by the fact that people build their development taking into account the evolution of the planet as a natural habitat for various living beings, observing an ethical imperative, i.e. without disturbing the ecological balance. However, this mode of ecological consciousness remained a minority movement and did not prevent the development of mega-state formation, such as occurred in India and China.
The approaches we have presented to the periodization of the development of the relationship of the human community to nature and the related historical stages of colonization in world history can also be supplemented by an approach that takes into account the development of information transmission media, since colonization involves not only penetration into the physical space, but also into the mental “environment” of the colonized, and is connected with intellectual expansion and the spread of ideologies and worldviews. Moreover, there is a certain relationship between the scale of colonizational expansion in world history and the means by which intellectual and ideological influence was exercised on the population of the colonized territories. In the archaic period, the primary means of transmitting information and ideas were oral speech and objects of material culture, a visual representation system associated with the creation of symbolic objects like rock paintings, megalithic constructions, etc.
The emergence of ancient civilizations was marked by the invention of writing, the spread of book culture and book printing. At the current historical moment, the decisive role in the expansion of ideas and the implementation of neo-colonial policy belongs to digital culture and electronic media. Along with the development of information transmission media, there is an increasing separation from local ecosystems and local cultural traditions. As noted by David Abram , “if digital culture is inherently globalizing, and if the culture of the book is inherently cosmopolitan, oral culture is inherently local in its orientation. Since the stories that comprise a deeply oral culture are not written down, they do not easily travel far from the land where they originate, or from the particular landforms and creatures that figure as prominent powers in the tales. There exists a palpable intimacy between language and the land in any deeply oral culture.” (p.95).
Throughout different periods of history and waves of colonization, the source of which was mainly Western Europe, Russia and the United States, along with their characteristic worldviews, political and economic achievements, the “export” of the human exemption paradigm and anthropocentric worldview was also carried out. In addition, colonization itself was supported by this worldview. Therefore, today in those territories of the planet that were previously colonized or continue to be dependent territories, the archaic or ecocentric ecological worldviews are presented mainly as an anachronism or as complementary to the dominant anthropocentric type of relationship to nature.
Despite the fact that colonization creates opportunities for the spread of scientific knowledge, technologies and progressive forms of social organization to the colonized territories, the interests of control over the natural resources and material values on the part of the mother countries often turned out to be dominant.
The decolonization trends that emerged in the second half of the 20th century and the transformation of the traditional colonial model into neocolonialism were caused by a number of factors, including geopolitical confrontation and the conquest of social rights and freedoms by those groups of the population whose rights were previously limited by the colonialists, the crisis of the human exemption paradigm, growing environmental problems, as well as by a crisis in the traditional model of humanism.
Modern neo-colonialism, although it still clings to the old anthropocentric model of the human exemption paradigm and strives in every possible way to build relations with the world on the basis of its superiority and "chosenness," using the strategies of political, economic and military pressure, is unlikely to capable of maintaining its hegemony. It is in crisis and cannot effectively solve any of our key existential tasks, including the task of preserving the global ecosystem and creating fair inter-state relations, taking into account the interests of other states and human beings as a whole.
Posthumanism, new humanism, eco-humanism
Currently, there is a new form of colonialism associated with the digital/information “colonization” of the planet and posthumanism, which claims to be the successor to Western humanism and anthropocentrism, on the one hand, and acts as their radical opponent, on the other hand.
While humanism is credited with attributing the conscious, autonomous and intentional human subject as the dominant source of agency, and exceptionally in acts of change, a posthumanist perspective assumes agency is distributed through dynamic forces of which the human participates, but doesn’t completely intend or control. Posthumanist philosophy constitutes the human as: (a) physically, chemically, and biologically enmeshed and dependent on the environment; (b) moved to action through interactions that generate affects, habits, and reason; and (c) possessing no attribute that is uniquely human, but is instead made up of a larger evolving ecosystem. Exceptional in acts of change, a posthumanist perspective assumes agency is distributed through dynamic forces in which the human participates, but does not completely intend or control. 
Posthumanism is often positioned as a modern form of politically correct ideas about human beings. As Arran Gare argues , “posthumanism appeared at a time when more humanity is needed than ever before to challenge the power of the global corporatocracy who have massively concentrated wealth and subverted democracy, and to avoid the catastrophe of a war of all against all as global ecological destruction destroys the conditions for civilization.” (p.1).
Since Western humanism and the human exemption paradigm have played a significant role in the history of colonization, it is natural to ask whether the emergence of posthumanism as the politically correct theory of human beings marks the end of the history of colonization, or whether posthumanism serves as a new philosophy that supports the total colonization of the planet in the new historical situation?
The crisis of human knowledge proceeds in close connection with the ecological crisis. The humanities are losing their historical raison d'être of cultivating the humanity in human beings and are increasingly turning into an instrument of global corporatocracy. Postmodernism, with its characteristic position of relativism and a skeptical attitude towards the human foundations of culture, has previously made a significant contribution to the crisis of humanism.
The question of the crisis of humanism and its value constants has been raised more than once, and, despite the vicissitudes of its historical development, there is apparently no positive replacement for it. The problems, opportunities, limitations and consequences of the introduction of NBICS technologies (nano-, bio-, info-, cogno-, socio-technologies) are now being actively discussed in a complex of human sciences, and the two leading positions can be distinguished: the first of them [3,7,21] emphasizes the advantages of the development of modern technologies. The second  is wary of them and critical of their wide distribution.
The formation of posthumanism can be divided into several stages. The early or "preparatory" stage is associated with the emergence of new critical positions of human knowledge in the context of postmodernism, which sought to become a continuation of the criticism of Western concepts of human being, which is typical, for example, for Derrida.
The very concepts of "posthuman" and "posthumanism" were one of the first to use the work of the literary theorist and writer Ihab Hassan. In his 1977 work Prometheus the Performer: In Search of a Posthumanist Culture , he draws attention to posthumanism as a new phenomenon emerging as a response to the crisis of humanism.
Donna Haraway  introduced the term "posthumanism" in her famous article titled A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s. Hayles , one of the founders of so-called critical posthumanism, discusses the posthuman in How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Computer Science. According to her, a posthuman is not only a cyborg, but also a biological being [15, p. 4], which marks not so much the end of humanity as a rejection of the existing liberal-humanistic concept of human beings and suggests a more balanced attitude to the consequences of the co-evolution of humans and intelligent machines [15, p. 284–286], limiting the subject of her criticism to the European man of the Enlightenment as having autonomous consciousness, reason and superiority over all other creatures.
At the next stage in the development of posthumanism, which falls at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, the reflection of its ideas can be traced in the visual arts, literature, and cultural studies. During this period, an important place on the agenda of posthumanism began to be given to environmental issues, animal rights, the idea of environmental humanity, etc. Such new concepts act either as a form of rejection of human uniqueness, or as an attempt to restore the broken connection between nature and culture. New concepts began to be introduced, using political discourse, such as “decolonization”, “environmental justice”, “environmental racism”, “natural cultures,” etc.
The trend towards the integration of posthumanism with the ecological agenda was vividly manifested in Haraway's new work Staying with the trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene published in 2016 . It contains a call to unite humans and non-human life forms in the interests of survival. Human exclusivity, neo-colonialism and Darwinian theory, according to Haraway, justify the right to destroy people and other living beings and ensure the survival of global hegemons at the expense of others. This is the leading cause of environmental degradation, which now affects the entire planet and causes various manifestations of inequality in social life. By deconstructing human exceptionalism, Haraway opens up new possibilities to act in accordance with an ethical position.
Modern posthumanism is a consequence of the development of the Western model of humanism. Understanding its nature and genesis is impossible without considering the general dynamics of its appearance and development in history. It grows out of the democratic and republican forms of social organization in the period of Antiquity and makes its way through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and further to the culture of modernity. At the same time, however, its constant confrontation with reductionist and dehumanizing positions can be revealed. The ideal that forms the basis of humanism has always been and continues to be the liberation of the creative potential of humans, the cultivation of subjectivity, non-violence, the well-being of the individual and the human and non-human community in their alliance and co-creation with each other.
The most striking examples of the embodiment of humanistic ideals can be those cultures that developed under the conditions of democratic republican forms of social organization in the period of Ancient Greece and the Roman Republic, and during the Florentine Renaissance. If we turn to philosophical thought as a means of expressing the ideals of humanism, then its rise can be observed in the Enlightenment, in particular, in German classical and postclassical philosophy. These ideals ended with a view of humans that considers them as creatures with free will, creative imagination, and the ability to make moral choices and actions.
The ideas of Western philosophical humanism find their expression in the ideas of Marxism with its ideal of a society based on social justice, in the French phenomenology of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, in the philosophy of the New Left (H. Marcuse, T. Adorno, T. Roszak, etc.), versions of the radical Marxism of the ‘60’s and 70’s in the 20th century, which served as the ideological basis for countering racial discrimination, war, and neo-colonialism. The New Left reinterpreted Marx's work to counter the instrumental thinking and power of the military-industrial complex that dominated both Soviet Marxism and Western bureaucratic capitalism.
In 2010, UNESCO put forward the idea of new humanism, which is a turning point in understanding the planetary humanistic mission. As Valery Kuvakin notes , “In our time, the values of humanism are being globalized through a global dialogue. New humanism is a worldview and a way of life that affirms the value of a person in relation to himself, on the one hand, equality and value in relation to other people, society and nature, on the other hand. “This frees the humanistic worldview from the ideas of individual superiority over other peoples and the claim to dominance over nature, raises the question of revising human relations with the environment, affirming the principles of equal communication and partnership.”
From the point of view of the new humanism, the presumption of human equality in relation to other people and more-than-human world, even life forms not yet known to us, including artificial life forms created by humans, is fundamental. “Such a point of view leads to an extended or inclusive humanism, affirming the ethical position in human relationship to the living matter of the planet. 
In dialogue, in the competition and exchange of political ideas, a new function is served: the function of reconciliation, the search for compromise and agreement. The basic assumptions of the new humanism have something in common with posthumanism, the critical and constructive potential of which can be reclaimed and given rise to new sprouts. New humanism and posthumanism are united in their rejection of human exclusivity and the superiority of some cultures over others, the claims to world domination by certain groups of people, whoever they are - races, gender categories, carriers of particular ideologies or religious worldviews, or the human species as a whole. In the new humanism, the foundations of a new ecological and eco-human paradigm are visible. Although the awareness of the historical hopelessness of the anthropocentric ideology determined the emergence of new ideas about humans in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, this awareness became more demanding starting from the last quarter of the 20th century and stimulated the search for new environmental strategies and the formation of new concepts of human being according to ecopsychology and ecophilosophy.
Claiming for hegemony in the field of human knowledge, posthumanism actually represents, although very influential, not the only line of understanding the nature of human beings. In opposition to posthumanism and in dialectical unity and struggle with it, today there are other positions in the human sciences including, new humanism, environmental humanism and eco-humanism. They advocate a view of humans, a view which recognizes their ability to implement a constructive plan for the development of civilization.
Decolonization, ecological revolution, ecological civilization and a new dialogic grand narrative
At present, the processes of decolonization and the ecological revolution are closely connected with each other. Decolonization affects not only the relations of the population of territories, many of which were previously colonies (India and other Asian states, countries of Africa and Latin America and other territories), with global hegemons that control a significant part of the material and information resources of the planet, but also the relationship of humanity to the earth. Along with globalization, regionalization is taking place, associated with the conquest by regional centers of power, peoples and local communities of the right to responsibly build their relations with other countries and the global network of life based on a new ethical and nature-centered principles.
At the ecological, geopolitical and economic levels, the processes of regional self-determination of the planet’s territories with their characteristic ecosystems are intensifying, and a new reality of a multipolar world order is being formed. This is facilitated by the environmental movement and geopolitical transformations, which, in turn, are supported by the restructuring of the entire system of human knowledge on the basis of the integration of ecology and human sciences.
The previously established system of the globalized market economy, in its connection to the ideas of liberal democracy (in the form of modern neoliberalism), has demonstrated its inability to cope with the key problems of our time - preserving the global ecosystem, building fair interstate relations, taking into account the interests of different states and global centers of power, human preservation.
“The profound tragedy of globalization is the obsession with economic gain in the absence of a weakened regulatory power, which amounts to a kind of global abdication of concern for egalitarian and democratic priorities such as employment, food, shelter, education, and health care for all. The unleashing of the forces of the capitalist market economy on an international scale comes with a social and ecological destruction of all forms that contradict the accumulative logic. It results in increased despair for millions around the world.” [8, p.4]
The globalization of economic relations has revealed the insufficient capacity of social and environmental movements to mobilize and organize in such a way as to withstand global economic power. The way out of this impasse is to strengthen the international identity of eco-humanity and coordination that supports the internal resistance to the global corporatocracy.
The ecology of human and natural life, more than political economy, shows why it is necessary to counteract the globalization of the economy, increasing the processes of regionalization and the formation of a multipolar world order, “to reject free trade and to develop local economies with local currencies insulated from broader markets, while still giving a place to some broader markets. It enables us to revision progress as movement towards a ‘patchwork quilt’ of co-evolving cultures, communities and economies... It also provides the perspective needed not only to uphold the value of communities, but to reinforce the feeling of belonging to these communities and to foster the virtues required for their defense and survival, while at the same time, revealing why it has been so difficult with the civilization of modernity to internalize the quest for justice for animals and ecosystems in the quest for social sustainability in social policy.” [14, p. 412]
Human ecology, as a system for regulating fair social and political relations, can be seen as an alternative to traditional forms of the free market and liberal democracy, since it affirms the value not only of human communities, but also of the wider biotic communities of which we are a part.
The history of earthly life, described in terms of the hegemonic worldviews of the past and continuing to be at the forefront of modern imperialism, has become a monologic great narrative, reducing everyone and everything to tools for achieving ultimate technological control over the planet and humanity. “However, it is possible and necessary with the help of human ecology to construct a dialogic grand narrative of ecological civilization, able to grant a place to all these communities and relations between them and inspire people to embrace all these different levels, promoting concern for justice at all levels of community, promoting life as the ultimate value of civilization.” [14, p.415-416].
The task of creating an ecological civilization and a global dialogic narrative, in which different human and non-human communities could participate, is a difficult task. However, “the creation of a new social metabolic order that will eradicate the systemic dynamics of accumulation leading to ecologically destructive growth requires that the inertia of this dynamic be stopped” . This is closely related to the debunking of the idol of liberal democracy, since “our atomistic, hedonistic democracy is powerless to make the changes we require to deal with climate change. These changes begin within each one of us but can only become effective when they become part of a collective endeavour. The problem is that in the atomistic conception of democracy, individuals do not form a citizen body working in concert but are instead self-interested choosers. As individual voters and consumers, human beings are reluctant to step much further than the immediate. This problem of comprehension and control becomes ever more intractable as the world grows in scale and complexity, encouraging citizens to withdraw even further into private life. As a result, an awareness of environmental dangers does not necessarily translate into the public action and policy required to stop them. Instead, small actions continue to build incrementally toward an inevitable catastrophe.” [9, p.319].
A new ecological civilization riding on the wave of decolonization can not only save humanity and earthly life from destruction, but can also create the conditions for people to learn how to live in a new way. This ecological modus vivendi does not reject science and technology. On the contrary, it makes science and technology work for the benefit, and not against the interests of the planet and humanity, uniting ecology, new humanism and economics.
In the face of an expanding digital globalized monoculture, more and more people are coming to realize the importance of revitalizing local communities and centers of power. They recognize the need for their participation in the natural and cultural life of the planet and feel that the unity and richness of life are possible only on the basis of a flourishing diversity. Mutual respect and dialogue between different cultures, their ecopoetic exchange and co-creation with each other and with the earth is an expression of the law of dynamic interaction of many unique earth landscapes or bioregions, a condition for sustainability, resisting the pernicious homogeneity of the colonized humanity and the world of nature.
This scenario of “counterforce” “should now be seen not only as a narrative of the development of culture and institutions recognizing the significance and potential of people to govern themselves, but a story of the evolution of the global ecosystem producing the conditions for the emergence of humanity, and the recognition of the significance of all life, with the development of humanity being characterized as developing the conditions for people to take effective responsibility for the future of life on earth.” [12, pр. 21-22]
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Reference for citations
Kopytin, A. (2023). The history of colonization and human relationship to Earth. Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice, 4(1). [open access internet journal]. – URL: http://en.ecopoiesis.ru (d/m/y)
DECOONIZING ECOPOIESIS: A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE
Stephen K. Levine
Ph.D., D.S.Sc, REAT, Professor Emeritus, York University (Toronto, Canada), Founding Dean of the Doctoral Program in Expressive Arts at The European Graduate School (Switzerland)
In this essay, the author brings a personal perspective based on his own experience in North America to a consideration of how colonization and decolonization might affect the notion of ecopoiesis. Decolonizing implies bringing a pre- or post-colonial point of view to what might otherwise be an abstract and ahistorical concept. The implication of this point of view is that we need to take into account a framework that is not derived from the perspective of a complex civilization but sees the virtue of a different relationship to the environment in which human beings are understood as belonging to the land among other animals. Some suggestions are given for a change in our understanding of ourselves and our relationship to the environment based on this perspective.
Keywords: colonization, decolonization, ecopoiesis, native peoples
Introduction: A brief history of the colonization of the Americas
America is “the land of the free and the home of the brave” (the words that end the Star-Spangled Banner, the USA’s national anthem). At least that’s what I was taught when I was a child. “America” was named after the Florentine explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, who “discovered” the “New World,” on two voyages at the beginning of the 16th century. Of course, this world was only “discovered” by Europeans, having been inhabited for thousands of years by native peoples. It was only “new” for the European powers who voyaged there and began a long period of exploitation and colonization. It was first called “America” in honour of Vespucci by Matthias Ringmann and Martin Waldseemüller, in their Introduction to Cosmography, published in 1507. When I tell people in “South” America that I come from “America,” they always correct me, reminding me that I come from the “United States of America” and not from America per se.
So, the United States is the “home of the brave.” The Boston Braves (now the Atlanta Braves) baseball team, were called by that name in 1907. “Braves” was a name given to male “Indian” warriors on horseback in the movies. The term “Indian” goes back to Columbus, who thought the land he “discovered” was part of the East Indies and gave the inhabitants that name.
As far as “land of the free” goes, perhaps many of the people who originally inhabited these lands were free (although perhaps not those subject to the Inca or Aztec empires). After colonization, indigenous people were taken from their land and either slaughtered or placed on “reservations,” usually land of no use to the settler-colonists. Nor were women free, in as much as they were denied the vote and legally bound to their husbands, or blacks, enslaved and transported from Africa to the “colonies.” Incidentally, the word “colony” did not have a pejorative connotation as I was growing up. I was taught that the noble colonists revolted against their tyrannical masters, the British, in acts worthy of celebration every year.
The only “Indians” I saw were in the movies, often depicted as treacherous rebels defeated by the brave cavalry. Today the native Canadian hip-hop group, “A Tribe Called Red,” often performs live with visual background of clips from these movies, depicting the “brave” officer entering the tent of a native “squaw,” who usually welcomes him with open arms (and legs). (In 2021, the Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, herself the first native member of the cabinet in the USA, banned the term “squaw” as derogatory and ordered its replacement on federal lands.) On television, I watched “The Lone Ranger” when I was a child, in which a masked law-man would ride into town with his faithful native companion, Tonto, and perform good deeds, leaving without waiting for a “thank you.” (Lenny Bruce, the comedian and satirist, performed a skit in 1968 called, “Thank You Mask Man,” in which the Lone Ranger says that if he waited for a thank you, he might get addicted to it and end up creating a problem he could solve in order to hear someone say “Thank You Mask Man” to him.)
I didn’t think much about real Native Americans as I was growing up until the 1960s, during the Vietnam war, when they were thought of as providing an alternative to American militaristic culture. At the same time, Native Americans were organizing themselves and fighting for their rights. Many non-native young people would wear headdresses or other clothing designed to show their awareness and admiration for the Indigenous people. Although I understood the motivation, I also wondered how I would feel if the descendants of the Nazis were to start wearing yellow stars and the yarmulkes (head coverings) of religious Jews? I sympathized with the sentiment, though, doing post-doctoral work at the New School for Social Research in New York in anthropology and editing Critical Anthropology, a journal based on the idea that pre-conquest peoples could teach us how to live together and how to live on the land.
As far as the impact of colonialism on the animals and the land in America, suffice it to tell the tale of the bison, of which there were 30-60,000,000 in the mid-1800s. There were important to indigenous people, who consumed their flesh for meat and used their hides for clothing. This was one of the reasons why non-natives began to exterminate them (the other being westward expansion and the railroad). By 1884, there were only 325 in what had become the continental United States. Over time they have been re-introduced so that there are approximately 500,000 now.
And consider the passenger pigeon. At one time they were so numerous they filled the air, estimates ranging from three to five billion of them. As a result of deforestation and being hunted for their meat, they are now extinct. The last known one, “Martha” named for George Washingon’s wife, died at the Cincinnati zoo in 1914. She was then frozen in ice and sent to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington to be stuffed and put on display for visitors. So much for biodiversity.
Initiatives for the decolonization of the earth and human beings
As for the land itself, most of it is taken up by highways and mega-cities, as well as single crop industrial agriculture. Of course, there are also counter-movements, such as reforestation and regenerative farming. I spend much of the year in Martha’s Vineyard, a small island off the coast of Massachusetts, and I see that there are many attempts to conserve the land and the species that remain on it, as well as those in the surrounding coastal waters. The towns have created an institution called the Land Bank, which devotes a portion of the sale of real estate, often amounting to a considerable sum, to the conservation and renewal of the land. Large parcels of land are purchased by the Land Bank for this purpose.
In 1985, I was involved in a community effort in the town of Chilmark, one of the five towns which make up the island. We attempted to stop the sale by realtors of some 300 acres of continuous land which had previously been undeveloped. The buyer intended to put 60 houses and 60 guest houses on the property. Community members organized and put into effect a number of measures to stop this from happening. Those of us who abutted the dirt road to the property were able to put the first hundred feet of our own land into conservation, so that the road could not be paved over for the heavy machinery it would be necessary for the building of houses. We also introduced a measure to protect the land on the grounds that there were rare butterflies on it. We then persuaded the town to put a one-year moratorium on building while we continued our efforts. We also claimed that the land was part of a sanctuary for native peoples (something which the native population of the Vineyard, the Wampanoag, a federally-recognized tribe, themselves say is a myth). Some of those who had initially sold their property to the realtors instituted a lawsuit claiming that the realtors had violated their pledge not to develop the property in this way. We were also fortunate in that the price of land declined during this period, making it difficult for the developer to recoup his investment by selling the property. At this point the Land Bank offered to buy the property and take it off the developers’ hands. Once they purchased it, they announced plans to turn it into a conservation property available to the general public for walking. Moreover, abutting neighbours donated more than 200 acres as well. As a result, we now have more than 500 acres of undeveloped conservation land, a short walk from our house in Chilmark, which the Land Bank has managed and put in trails to walk on. I often go there with a friend and think about what we can do as well as bemoan our fate. This, I think, is the true meaning of ecopoiesis, not only to enjoy the aesthetic beauty of nature but to act in such a way that transforms it when it is threatened and prevent its despoilation.
I live in Toronto for much of the year. The city has grown exponentially into what is called the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and now encompasses some 5 million people. To contain part of Ontario from destruction, the province declared land around Toronto to be a Greenbelt not to be developed. The Premier, Doug Ford, was elected to office on the pledge not to develop the Greenbelt. Unsurprisingly, though, he has now decided that it would be a very good idea to put a highway, called 413, through the Greenbelt. Of course, it would destroy the character of the Greenbelt itself.
I recently joined SCAN (Seniors for Climate Action Now). The purpose of the group is to involve senior citizens, often with influence and expertise, to support the efforts of younger people to prevent the destruction of the planet. (I have written about this elsewhere in this journal in the section called “In Resonance with the Earth”). We can say that the destruction in and around Toronto is ultimately a result of the colonization of this part of the world, which, before the settler-colonialists arrived, had been primarily forest inhabited by indigenous peoples.
In Canada and elsewhere, there is a growing realization that we have taken the land of native peoples who lived here for many thousands of years. In response to this, whenever there is a public gathering, many groups like to make a Land Acknowledgement, naming the original inhabitants and acknowledging that we are on their land. The website of the City of Toronto states the following:
“Land acknowledgement for Toronto
We acknowledge the land we are meeting on is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit”.
To my mind, this is a worthy attempt to remember our history of colonization. However, it can also become a formality that people feel compelled to make and which does not lead to any action. A block from my house in Toronto, someone put a sign on a lamp post saying, “You stole our land and all I got was this lousy land acknowledgement.” To my knowledge, land acknowledgements usually do not lead to any action. There is a skit by “Baroness von Sketch” on the Internet which depicts a woman introducing a theatre performance. She makes her land acknowledgement and then turns to leave, enjoining people to enjoy the show. At this point, the “Baroness,” another woman in the audience, stands up and says, “Excuse me, shouldn’t we leave?” The woman introducing the show replies, “No, no, that’s all right, just enjoy the show,” but the Baroness then continues, “I mean, if it's their land, shouldn’t we leave?” She goes on to ask whether a portion of the ticket price will be given to native peoples and then whether the water bottles that are sold would be treated the same way, causing the woman introducing the show to become more and more flustered. I think the point of the skit is to raise questions about the way in which we make routine land acknowledgements without any consequences that would benefit those who lived on the land before us. Some native peoples have indicated the same thing. Personally, I sometimes think of it as a form of “virtue-signalling,” in which I can feel good about my behaviour without it costing me anything.
In Canada, as well as in the United States, children were put into residential schools, routinely taken from their families, treated brutally and prohibited from speaking their own language. The extent of this treatment has recently been documented and caused quite a stir, as well as some attempts at restitution. The genocide and brutalization of native peoples, based on their supposed inferiority, have lead to certain counter-myths about them. The word, “Indigenous,” has been reified so that it can provide an alternative to the ills of “civilization.” This has caused the myth that all Indigenous peoples are the same and all of them are “pure,” of a higher stature than non-Indigenous ones. Of course, people are people all over, some good, some terrible, and all different from each other. But the grain of truth in all this mythologization is that as civilization has brought enormous population growth and the despoiling of the land, we need some sense of an alternative. Ecopoiesis is one such alternative, the attempt to transform our environment with a view to beauty. Perhaps decolonization is necessary to lay the groundwork for this alternative. Sometimes a myth can provide a framework and motivation for action. After all, “mythos” originally meant story, not necessarily a false one. We all need a story or narrative to make sense of our place in the world.
Conclusion: Towards a decolonization of ecopoiesis
What would it mean to decolonize ecopoiesis? First of all, we would need a different relationship to the land. Instead of thinking of land as property which belongs to us and which we can dispose of at our will, we would think of ourselves as belonging to the land and having certain obligations towards it, for example, to care for it and to treat it in a way that does not exhaust its capacities. That would mean not only treating land as “sustainable,” meaning something which should be preserved the way it is, but as something which could thrive and flourish. An example might be regenerative agriculture, as opposed to agro-industrialization and the creation of monocultures for maximum profit. There are many small-scale farmers in places like Martha’s Vineyard who are engaged in this process.
In addition to a transformed relationship to the land, we might also have a different relationship to animals. This will require understanding ourselves as animals, not as rational beings for whom animals are there solely for our benefit. We do not need to become vegetarians in order to treat animals with respect, not put them in zoos to be gazed at as “other,” and, if we keep eating their meat, to kill them “humanely” (a misnomer if ever there was one), rather than en masse and callously, without concern for their suffering.
Growing up, I had very little relationship to animals. We didn’t have pets, nor did the friends that I hung out with. When I was 17, however, I went to various colleges to test them out before applying. One was the University of Pennsylvania, where my brother had gone. A friend of mine and I went into a building that looked interesting and found ourselves in a room with dogs in cages. I think the custodian assumed we were medical students, because he took a dog out of its cage, laid it on the table and injected something into its chest. Then he took a scalpel and slit the dog open from chin to genitals. Its heart was still beating. Perhaps this is what we mean by “humane” treatment. I was horrified but I ended up going to that school anyway.
In addition to animals, we would have a different relationship to the elements. We would stop polluting the oceans we swim in, the air we breathe and the earth we stand on. We are ourselves earthlings made of the same substance, not spiritual beings to whom the earth is foreign.
We do not have to become Indigenous in order to change our story. We only need to recognize our existence as beings similar to others and composed of the same elements. Fundamentally, I believe, we have to recognize our finitude. From the Buddhist point of view, it is our fear of ultimately letting go, of dying, which is the basis for all our grasping. We live as if we will never die, and yet this is the attitude that prevents us from being fully alive.
In the 1970s, my wife, Ellen Levine, and I became practitioners of the anti-nuclear Despair and Empowerment workshops developed by Joanna Macy. The principle of the workshops was that we had to fully experience the despair and helplessness brought on by the development of weapons of mass destruction in order to have the sense of empowerment that we needed to take action to stop their spread. More recently, Joanna Macy has developed a similar way of meeting the ecological challenges of our epoch, called The Work That Reconnects. Her work is now explicitly conducted from a Buddhist perspective, in which allowing a full consciousness of our destruction of the Earth can also leave room for coming to terms with it in creative ways.
In contrast to the fantasy of a purely technological solution, which is a typical response of a colonized mentality, I believe Joanna Macy’s work is an example of a creative response to the ecological destruction of the Earth, a way of decolonizing ecopoiesis. Perhaps we need this more than ever in the “post-colonial” time in which we imagine ourselves to be living. What we have destroyed may never come back, but new forms of life can emerge that could be even more joyful and life-affirming. Ecopoiesis, I maintain, is always possible.
Reference for citations
Levine, S.K. (2023). Decolonizing ecopoiesis: A personal perspective. Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice, 4(1). [open access internet journal]. – URL: http://en.ecopoiesis.ru (d/m/y)