Amble Toward Continent Congress
Planet Drum Continent Congress Bundle (1976)
The studiously unknown continent of North Amerigo Vespucci.
European explorers only found what they already understood. Columbus found India. Never
quite straightened out, he discovered New Spain.
The continent was millions of years old and alive with unique wrinkles but to the
edge-of-the-Earth sailors from the Old World it was mostly strange and they remained
strangers to it. Somehow past their limit. Unfamiliar coasts jutted out blankly until they
became labeled as extensions of Europe. Maryland (for Queen Mary), New Jersey, New
England, Maine (for a section of northern France).
It wasn't a trackless wilderness to "Indian" inhabitants. Carved conch shells
were traded up from where the Mississippi ends to near the Great Lakes. Abalone shells
from the Pacific were brought over mountain ranges to the Great Basin deserts. Tribes on
both coasts sent canoes up and down the continental edges. Caribbean Islanders knew there
were cities of gold a thousand miles across the gulf. They were neither ignorant of the
continent nor savage towards it.
Europeans came as invaders clearing terrain for an occupation civilization. After
Cortez took the gold from a city admittedly more beautiful, with taller buildings and
cleaner streets than any he had seen in Europe, his followers burned the source texts of
the intricate culture which had built it.
Colonists were coming. Miles Standish would flounder ashore, nearly drowning in full
armor and sword, to steal the first Pilgrim corn from a spirit-offering left in the Cape
Cod woods. The Mayflower would have to abandon its first landfall and sail on another
hundred miles to Plymouth Rock to avoid spears and arrows provoked by that theft.
Colonies took shape on a gameboard of New Europe with boundaries drawn up in London,
Paris, Madrid, and Amsterdam. Pieces changed hands. Neiew Amsterdam for the Dutch became
New York for the English. King Georgia was winning.
Empires before this had established a classic technique of dominion over foreign
places; skim the cream off captive states (slaves, products, taxes), secure their borders
from competing empires and leave them stable enough to keep producing. From early Pharaohs
of Egypt to Genghis Khan's reign over a huge portion of Eurasia, imperial rulers had
usually been content with economic and political control over regional cultures.
In North America, discovery of native peoples was the first step towards their
extinction. The Carib tribe which met Columbus had virtually vanished before the end of
the 18th Century. The new continental immigrants had been hardened by years of ruthless
absolutist national and religious wars. They came armed with a technology of conquest
(ships, horses, steel, cannon) which totally baffled their initial opposition. Inhabitory
populations were displaced & annihilated with a ferocity beyond any previous merely
A tradition of scrubbing out the human components from fresh ranges of biotic life on
the planet had begun.
The colonies were repopulated with trustworthy Europeans. "Settling"
proceeded under a new rule of domination; devastate North America's ecosystems and ship
back whatever seems valuable (from tree-pitch to furs), hold the land against surviving
native resistance, and clear indigenous life off the rich soil to create plantations
tailored for European markets.
It was the last of the Mohicans and the last of the continent's lived-in skin. Full
reach barely measured, potential strength unlimited, the giant was underfoot waiting to be
stripped and paved over.
A laboratory had been found for world-scale technology. It would be fitted with
straight-lined corridors between port towns and the frontier. It would be sterilized to
remove mysterious native customs and spirits.
What's new about the New World is the terrestrial piracy of global monoculture. Massive
and inexorable imposition of a roughly unified alien world-view over regions as diverse as
South America, Australia and the Pacific Islands, parts of the Asian coast, and Africa
a total area of the Earth's living surface vastly larger than Mother Europe
would follow until the "unknown" planet was completely under the carpet...
USA, first new nation born in the New World, confirms a global monocultural legacy with
its birth-cry. The 1776 Declaration of Independence is not a statement about inhabiting
North America as a unique part of the planet. It is a document addressed to Europe
concerning the take-over of British possessions by their colonists.
It does not declare independence from European cultural traditions.
A higher or more enlightened synthesis of precisely those traditions for that time can
hardly be imagined. There is nothing of North America's obvious dissimilarity to Europe
largely uncharted territory, still-predominant natural life-systems, and majority
native population. It is a declaration of the governing spirit for a new nation of
Europeans. No specific land-based considerations are necessary. It is the handle for a pot
which will melt away differences between Europeans and mold de-naturalized universal
Americans are children of the Flying Dutchman, rootless migrants off on a voyage of
lethal global tourism.
The toddling nation quickly outdoes its English parent at concentrating human and
biospheric havoc within the 13-States theater of operations. Natives are randomly
executed, wiped out with untreated diseases (sometimes deliberately inflicted), and
tricked into trading away their life-resources by ambitious citizens. Forcibly
dispossessed African peoples are brought over as slaves in greater numbers. Penniless new
immigrants sign themselves into years of indebtedness and servitude to gain a foothold on
citizenship. Shortages of locally produced goods and high foreign import prices demand
incomes which only a few in the ports of debarkation can strain to afford. Any natural
thing that can be turned into a commodity is plundered. Forests fall to provide fuel and
building material for houses, timbers and planks for trading ships. Even beavers vanish to
be manufactured into hats.
The Myth of the West is a biocidal beacon beyond Cumberland Gap.
A dazzled young central government buys the Midwest from France and doubles its
sovereignty. Lewis and Clark set off on a game-hunting expedition and return with scouting
reports for an invasion even more complete than what has preceded it along the Eastern
The last vestige of Spain's empire in California crumbles on contact and the US
stretches from Atlantic to Pacific. The whole steamroll across the heartland of North
America takes less than a century.
By then global monoculture has spread back across the Atlantic to transform home-based
The conquest of the new world and the colonization of Africa and Asia made clear the
confrontation of multiple human histories with A History that we call western and white.
These multiple histories were absorbed into our history... because it is important for the
uniqueness of the west to give occupation to our consciences and our knowledge, to be
everywhere, absolutely the Sole Survivor... and we made them our "ancestors" or
else the attempts and errors which made possible our own existence even partial and
ridiculous expressions of Human Universality.
- "The absorption... of the other, distant, civilizations into the identity of the
west, was certainly a means of unifying Europe at the level of politics and ideology.
- ... This loss of ourselves does not bring us happiness only, we doubt our happiness, we
are even seriously sickened by it.
- This 'we' with our longing for being, is the other great fact that the west suppresses.
The implication is that it is well and truly dead, dead of itself, almost to our great
regret for are not museums, folklore and ethnology our expressions of
Inhabitants of Europe began losing their own regional identities. Some remnants persist
even today. Miles of Kentish farms from before the American Revolution remain productive
in England. Pyrennes mountain shepherds in high roadless villages still refer to
valley-folk below as "Visigoths." A pig-truffle-white oak economy (pigs sniff
out truffles in the deep soil beneath white oak trees; truffles are exported, pigs are
eaten, and white oaks provide wine-barrel staves) has remained viable and left parts of
southeastern France unchanged for perhaps a thousand years. But these only hint at the
full rich range of diversity among regional cultures which has been obliterated. A
standardized global culture (eventually in airport-supermarket style) was coming to
universalize everyone even if they weren't going anywhere.
A march of more than a dozen wars fills the next hundred years. Any ideas about
regional autonomy or separatism that may grow within the US must face all the terms of
Federal victory in the horrendous Civil War. Infamous military campaigns against natives
west of the Mississippi conclude with decimated skeleton tribes crowded onto bleak
reservations in virtual life imprisonment just one miserly step short of total genocide.
Foreign conflicts culminating in World War II extend the influence of consolidated US
power to fence in nearly two-thirds of the planet.
Just over 200 years old, the United States has become the center of the United West. It
is geopolitical West with almost no relation to directions on the round planet. (Asia is
the Far East of this West even though the US is itself more accurately east of Asia.)
The West is a state of mind that arose through displacement of people from their
regional identities. Europeans transferred to America, indigenous people exterminated or
removed from their land in America, Australia and the Pacific Islands; Africans snatched
from their continent and enslaved in America; home-based Europeans losing their regional
cultures to global monoculture.
The West is no place on the Earth.
Backtracking the Circle of the Possible
All human beings have a common identity. We are a single species on this planet. We
Our species history stretches back millions of years, long enough to have exerted an
active force in the development of the whole biosphere certainly the most active
recent force since the last Ice Age.
Our species heritage includes the pool of genes from which each of us is dipped and the
threads of culture which clothe our reality in the present. The hunter of woolly
rhinoceros and the high brow-ridged Neanderthal woman who carried a smooth-skulled child
are within us. The advantage of chipping flint to razor sharpness and the live-or-die
lessons of forgotten stories are still with us.
All species share the planet interdependently. We ultimately depend on all the others
for our existence. Both for food and for illumination. Spirit and survival
species-to-species are essentially connected. Our species is still learning from the
others: silent conversation of plants, controlled conception among wolves and deer, the
sensitive social order without coercion that turns a flock of birds or school of fish.
This is our circle of the possible.
Globalism, monoculture, and displacement (human beings bereft of their own and other
species) are fatal. They are at the truncated tip of the impossible.
There needs to be Continent Congress so that occupants of North America can finally
become inhabitants and find out where they are.
This time congress is a verb. Congress, come together. Come together with the
Content Congress isn't a simple exercise. It's an enormous effort to overcome the
politics of extinction, the Earth-colonist globalism which exhausts whole continents,
their people, and moves now to devastate deep floors of our planetary oceans.
Continent Congress is a life-long exploration.
Off the Hard-top and there's a Path
If supremacy of some human beings over others, some cultures over other cultures, and
Homo sapiens over all species are dominant assumptions for relationships between ourselves
and to the planet, globalist monoculture seems inevitable. Super-technology can always
progress us out of more of what we already have into less than we ever want. Centralized
government and witless state authority will always move further away from their deathsome
consequences, remotely "back at the capital" in constantly elevating towers of
But the power-full riddle of the New World is being broken and the rug of the West is
rolling back up. The ancient living planet underneath is revealed. There is a delicate
partnership between each of us, a deep continuity among species, and necessary identity
with processes of the Earth itself which we can fail to share only at our peril. Globalism
tears prehistoric life-forms from their niches within a few years, takes down mountains,
and eradicates harmonic local cultures when they block its feedings. It requires a
protected base somewhere and ranges on deadly forays everywhere. It assumes The World. It
doesn't get off the highway.
The Earth expresses itself in such contrast and immeasurable ways as to humble any
human consciousness, but even the ridiculous globalist mecho-mind recognizes and depends
on one undeniable characteristic of the biosphere: It is regionally diverse and unique.
Different places have different forms of life and things.
Globalists may assume that the tourist photos of other places they take to show back
home (including Earth-shots from space) give them The World, but the multiple eyes of the
planet remain within unduplicatable regions.
Reinhabitants of the continent are off the hard-top, and the paths lead to essential
food and water, a sense of life-in-place, an understanding of native peoples' names for
things and local-cosmological spirits.
Everything that pertains to the feeling of belonging to a place has almost nothing to
do with county, state, province, and national boundaries surrounding them in the region
they will defend. Even when those lines had some original mountain range or river valley
or soil composition or "natural resource" (there's a monocultural appraisal!)
reality, the immediate exploitation of regions within them by distant empire-engineers
trampled natural life-zone boundaries contemptuously: Railroads given authority to lay
straight lines across incredibly rich buffalo and antelope migratory routes through the
Great Plains, with rights to clear out trees for ties in hundreds of mile-square sections
across forests as far west as the Pacific Coast Range.
Doubling of James Bay lowlands surface water behind dams over Cree land in Canada for
Manhattan's electricity a thousand miles away
Countless rows of tobacco robbing 30 million years of nutrients from Piedmont soil to
deliver the US nicotine tax base
Eastern Woodland lushly productive farm valleys flooded to provide nuclear power plant
Terminally destructive grain monoculture on the Great Plains' irreplaceable topsoil
Hundreds of miles of Ozark hardwood deliberately poisoned through the US Department of
Agriculture to provide fast-growing pine "cash crops"
Strip-mining of Upper Missouri foothills and plains, the Hopi's Black Mesa, and
spinal-column-sensitive Appalachian Mountains
A thousand-mile pipeline through the Brooks and Alaskan Ranges
...All death-inducing region-wide debacles.
To carry out Continent Congress, it is necessary to transfer loyalty from the state
which violates it to the region which requires it.
City and country people even suburbanites are all on the same planet.
They all live in distinct life-regions, absolutely unique creases of the planet's skin.
Their interdependence in a regional life-circle isn't an esoteric proposition reserved for
globalist bio-engineers and corporate environment planners. It is their life, their
spirit, their species heritage.
Native people already know this. The struggle to regain and hold traditionally
inhabited native lands is an inspiration for North American reinhabitants.
A place pronounces itself in each consciousness as an ultimately personal realization,
an individual vision that is everyone's birthright and realm of human species/planet
Sharing a regional identity with other people reveals
Unique inhabitory culture: indigenous, small self-sufficient early homesteaders,
Extent: biotic province, land-form characteristics, major watershed; geology, climate,
Priorities: natural succession (the steps leading to regional stability of plant and
animal populations with the greatest diversity of species-climax), restoring natural
systems, present exploitation threats
Manufacturing and agriculture justified by non-exhaustive use of labor and renewable
soil, energy and materials within the region
Regional roles for urban centers, interactive events shared by city and country
dwellers (trade of regionally produced goods, planting and harvesting, availability of
stored city information and tools, mutual communications)
Spirit of inter-species relations in the region; totems, ceremonies to ensure biotic
diversity and richness
Partnership with nearest distinctly different bioregions, trade systems
Form of planet-wide regional address, celebration of whole species in the biosphere, a
look through all the eyes.
Simply remaining alive requires food, water and air. Start with those basics. (For
anyone who has one, forget the illusion of a back-up bank account; even if it was
"honestly gained" it can't stand any real pressure.) Some of what we eat and
drink comes from only a few hundred miles away most of it could originate that
close and is vulnerable to immediate local conditions: weather, flood,
contamination. The rest of our meals come from other places but they all have similar sets
of constantly varying and sensitive home-region conditions. The quality of air is
determined entirely on-the-spot.
The roots of moment-to-moment survival are sunk deep in close-surrounding life
processes, and they are everywhere as thin on the planet as our own skins. All of our
Urban laborers whose senses-robbing shops and factories, designed to accommodate the
requirements of machines rather than people, leave them more psychically, spiritually, and
physically deprived than the poorest medieval serfs.
Office Workers and Managers handling abstract and remote information from 9 to 5
without physical activity, victims of bad health and insecurity who are no less spirit-
and senses-deprived for their daily escalation to tedious offices above the city racket.
Country People dominated by the force of city demands on their labor and surroundings,
who sadly watch the agonizing encroachment of suburbs, coerced to live closer to
parasitical highways and eventually made bereft of their authentic regional cultures
except as empty tourist attractions.
Native People still carrying the sting of attempted ethnocide and fighting to retain
their traditional cultures and lands.
New Settlers and their vulnerable fledgling communities which are often extinguished by
intrusions of centralized legal authority or only permitted to continue as long as they
don't assume responsible regional roles.
Suburban Dwellers whose cold communities-of-consumption hold them ruthlessly alienated
and condemned to acts of soft-shoed planet murder.
A region holds the power to sustain and join disparate people: Old ground charged with
common wholeness and forces of long-growing life. All people are within regions as a
condition of existence, and regions condition all people within them. But monotonous
labor, up-tight closeting of the senses, crippled health, amputation of spirit, cold
distance in crowds of perpetual strangers, and gloomy anxiety about the fate of the Earth,
are hold-overs of globalism, they aren't inherent in the beneficent soil of the
continent's naturally life-transforming regions.
All people can emerge from enforced degradation to hold their life-in-common ground.
Regional Reinhabitants are exploring shared identity within life-places. Models of
organization are already there in constantly revealed seasonal cycles and the interplay of
life-forms wholly specific to them. Their vision goes beyond frustrated provincialism,
which feels inferior to "cosmopolitan culture," the endless array of bought and
sold exclusions. Reinhabitants have gained the dimensions of planet-sense. They are
including themselves in the longest tradition available to human beings, the successful
adaptation of our species on the planet.
Reinhabitants are defending their life-zones from geo-political invasion; forming
alliances to share inhabitory culture, study indigenous natural continuities, assign
priorities for restoring life-systems, work within regional energy and materials limits,
develop land-based and city-based forms of interaction, and create bonds of support
They are coming together in Continent Congress.
Prints & Sign
Around us, the actual manifestations of the biosphere, its development and the effects
of our demands on it.
Within our minds, sets of ideas about ourselves; the test of their validity ultimately
lies with the biosphere.
There is a mental space filled with World News, World Affairs, World Events. Although
the places and persons described are remote, and the details are staggering numbers
of dead, barrels of oil, dollars in debt, miles across land, sea or in space we are
exhorted every day to absorb this information, come to decisions or opinions, and (most
importantly) perform correct responses to it. Is this an animal behavior control
Let the light shift. Full moon and a single glaring searchbeam fades out-of-center in
the silver night sky. Walking through shimmering woods without a flashlight. The circle of
the possible fills with soft diffuse luminosity.
The World's electric-relay box empties into a small part of that circle. Our miraculous
genetic heritage, the amazing cultures which have preceded, each human being alive now
all are connected in a species identity which has barely been explored. And it is
only part of the life-identity which carries through all the other species and to the
We are relocating ourselves from world-nation to planet-region, joining the biosphere
by participating in local ecosystems with all the species in them. We are accepting our
human species identity.
Geopolitical opportunities are becoming even more globally extended in their attempts
to retain an exploitative advantage over "the rest of it." Multinational
corporations jump political boundaries in pursuit of raw materials and cheap labor.
Nuclear power plant schemes move through bought government officials over protests from
regional people who must live near lethal radiation hazards. Binational deals deliver
ripped-off water and minerals in return for payoffs to central government treasuries which
people in the regions-of-origin seldom see. National armies recruited from regional
populations are called out to defend globalist interests abroad.
Whoever fights the planet loses: our species loses the rich diversity of multiple
indigenous cultures to thin out-of-place monoculture, the biosphere loses its vulnerable
moment-to-moment capacity to sustain us in regions where we live. If one region is injured
or exhausted, the burden of carrying its human population falls on life-support systems of
Reinhabitants of North America are the bright colors of inhabitory people in
tree-tiered Amazon jungles, ocean-spirited islands of Micronesia, dances of African
forests and rivers, hear Basque, Breton, Provencal tongues revive to pronounce their
places in Europe, share the affirmation of self-determination with delta-farmers in
Southeast Asia, Yaponesian and Hokkaido Islanders, Altai Mountain nomads, feel the
strength and seek the long-time vision of people native to the continent we are learning
to share. There is a one-to-one balance between our own decentralized regional integrity
and the survival of Kurdish mountain autonomy, Xingu jungle homeland, and Lapp reindeer
There is the union of Earth's biosphere holding us in common, and the promise of human
species consciousness to gain.
by Peter Berg, originally written to counter the U.S. Bicentennial of the
Declaration of Independence in 1976.
[Note: this manifesto is available as part of one of the original Planet Drum bundles. Please visit our Publications
page for more information.]