Wetiko

Wetiko

When considering the Earth Changes we are presented with a myriad of facts and interpretations of those facts. The whole issue is complicated and that is just when looking at the science. The science is, of course, complicated by political, social, spiritual and economic discussions. The imaginalCollective have attempted to clarify the situation with the book Change but the issues are still enormously complex and ever changing as new information comes to light. The human mind struggles with very complex ideas and our minds can circle the arguments without discovering any viable solution.

We live in a culture that is dominated by sound-bites where more information is available than ever before. This makes deep research much more difficult and time consuming in a social environment where all ideas, however complex, are packaged in a few very cleverly constructed words in the form of a sound-bite. To do this for Earth Changes is a very difficult challenge and, in many ways, it is best for people to do their own research, especially if the research could lead to significant changes in their own life.

When we look at the Earth Changes there is an obvious question that must be asked: what caused this catastrophe? It is an important question as any successful resolution to the Earth Changes should also address the root causes to ensure that this situation never reoccurs. Understanding the root causes often gives greater clarity in understanding the problem and helps guide us to the correct solution. After all, treating the blisters on the foot is important but an examination of the shoe is also warranted so that the problem is not repeated. This blog attempts to identify the root causes to the Earth Changes.

When we look at the causes of Earth Changes we see many problems. With climate change, we point to the increase in greenhouse gasses, particularly CO2. When examining the 6th mass extinction event, that is now underway, we are drawn to habitat loss being the key factor. The main cause of soil erosion is our system of mono-culture. The cause of biodiversity loss is the habitat loss for monoculture and also livestock farming. This is the current framework for our discussions: less fossil fuel production, alternative farming methodologies, moving away from livestock farming to a more vegetarian lifestyle. There is a great deal of wonderful work being done in these areas. However, if we look deeper, we note that our economic system, a system that requires perpetual growth, is a key driving factor that is requiring us to keep re-purposing land for our farms, our cities and our mining operations. Even deeper still is our personal desire for more: more food, bigger houses, another car, holidays and possessions.

The root cause of the Earth Changes is the very human desire for more – this desire can be called greed! We do not think of ourselves as greedy, our desire for more is an attitude that is supported by our current narrative and culture. Indeed, when we started this huge expansion of our culture and population there was plenty that Mother Earth could share with us, the important fact to remember here is that we never checked, we just took whatever we wanted. Many commentators on humanity have likened our current state of evolution akin to adolescence. The taking and using of things without any consideration of the possible consequences is indeed behaviour we can all accept (and remember!) from our own adolescence. One of the properties of adolescence is that it marks the end of the period of physical growth, Charles Eisenstein wrote a wonderful commentary in his book Sacred Economics about humanity’s end of adolescence.

The time of adolescence as a species is now over and adulthood beckons, but becoming an adult requires an ordeal. Humanity is facing a physical ordeal in the form of the Earth Changes but the external ordeal has to be matched by the internal changes within each and every one of us. The change from adolescence to adulthood is marked by an acceptance of responsibility. We are each being asked to accept responsibility and bring our gifts to the community to build something better than our ancestors imagined. We are also being directed to ensure that we do not take from Mother Earth more than She can freely provide. The question is: what is it within yourself that makes it acceptable for you to take far more from Mother Earth than your share?

The answer is complex. Perhaps you, dear reader, are one of those who does not believe that you are taking more than your fair share? Of course, in our complex society, rife as it is with inequality, some few are not taking more than their fair share. The homeless, for example, are hardly a burden to Mother Earth, they live off the charity of others and do not use the excessive energy that is required of a modern house. They own no car and go for no holidays. Indeed, the homeless tread lightly on this Earth. Others, of course, make huge demands on the planet, their consumption of natural resources is vast: large homes; spare homes; multiple cars; many holidays and much, much more. The planet cannot support this amount of consumption and the result is the Earth Changes we are seeing. The slow collapse of our biosphere, if we do not correct our behaviour, could leave the planet unable to support life. In western countries, we use up our national annual allowance from Mother Earth by May, or before. The rest of the year these countries add to the destruction of our environment by taking more from Mother Earth than can be replaced.

It turns out that our “civilised” culture is far from civilised in that it is slowly and inexorably destroying the biosphere, the soil, the water, the atmosphere and as a result it will lead to our own self-destruction. This over-arching greed for more, the greed that is the root cause of this destruction, can be referred to as Wetiko. Paul Levy in his book “Dispelling Wetiko” explains that “Our species is clearly in the middle of a mass psychic epidemic which I call ‘malignant egophrenia’ and the Native Americans call Wetiko.” Wetiko is a psycho-spiritual disease that inflames greed and gluttony and drives people to behave in a way that is against their own best interests. Clearly, consuming so much that it threatens to make ourselves extinct is acting against our own interests.

Wetiko was possibly first referred to in the book “Columbus and other Cannibals”, by Jack D Forbes; wetiko is also a Native North American word meaning “cannibal”. It is interesting to note that Jack D. Forbes’ book is a commentary on inequality and colonialism as opposed to the Earth Changes we are experiencing. The inequality within our Western cultures is a blight on all our lives especially when you consider that it spawns sexism, racism and the marginalisation of race and religion that we have been struggling for decades to eradicate. Jack argues that the colonial hierarchy that has become the dominant paradigm puts the white man at the top of the hierarchy as a result of being “infected” by wetiko. The white man then perpetuates the system by infecting others with wetiko, promising them a position of wealth and power in the hierarchy and all they need do is to perpetuate the rampant greed and gluttony; the taking of far more than they can use and continuing the thoughtless pillaging of the natural world.

Columbus and other Cannibals was first published in 1978 and it describes the ravaging colonial culture of Europe and its impacts on the world. The book painfully describes the impact that European expansion had amongst the much more culturally peaceful indigenous peoples around the world. It charts how new lands were taken, re-organised (often violently) and how the natural resources were extracted, with the enforced use of the indigenous population, and then taken by the invaders for their own personal wealth. The lands were then colonised with a strict hierarchy: the Europeans at the top backed up by military resources and the indigenous population at the bottom. The wealth of the land would then be systematically extracted. The over-riding motivation for the invasion of these foreign lands was for power and wealth. Jack D. Forbes further describes how this European culture was then instilled in these lands. The new settlers would then spread their wetiko tendencies to the local population by tempting them with wealth, promoting the greedier indigenous locals to positions of minor power and rewarding them with a taste of European status and wealth. The results are clearly seen within the cultures of the world today where inequality runs rampant and the focus of all is to increase their personal wealth as much as they possibly can. Our focus, structure and institutions are designed for this environment. It is amazing that whilst everything seems to be monetised and has a cash value the most important things to us, as human beings, are not included: love, compassion, sharing and respecting the planet.

Paul Levy examines the concept of wetiko in a much more clinical way. Identifying it as a psycho-spiritual disease that is predominantly spread from one wetiko sufferer to another. He continues that wetiko is a Jungian Archetype; as such it exists within us and it is also external to us. It manifests in our behaviour, our relationship to others, in our culture and it is also separate from us. Wetiko can only thrive so long as it remains invisible to us. It is in understanding the nature of wetiko that we can learn not to follow its ideas. Wetiko, at its essence, instills an insatiable hunger for more within us. It is that urge to continue eating once we are full; it is the drive for more and bigger things: houses, cars, holidays, technology etc; once we have as much as we possibly need then it is the drive for more power and influence. Wetiko is all about taking without giving. Humanity and the European civilisations in particular, have been suffering from wetiko for a great many generations.

Humanity’s losing struggle with wetiko means that the wetiko-consciousness has been built into our culture. Announcing a desire to own more than one home is greeted with enthusiasm from our friends, this is a statement of your willingness to work hard and acquire as much as you can for your own security and comfort. In our culture it is a statement of merit and it is greeted with universal approval. No one would question your sanity in this desire. No one would suggest that you are taking more than your fair share. No one would state that having more homes than you can use at any one time is greedy. Yet, with homeless people around, if you could have an extra one would it not be far better to give your extra house to someone who does not have one? You are likely to feel that this idea should be dismissed; indeed, you have probably, already, thought of several answers as to why this is a foolish idea. But why is that? I know that you are a wonderful soul who is kind, generous and loving and yet you dismiss the idea of buying a homeless person a new house if you were in a position to get yourself a spare one. Perhaps this is an example of where your culture stops your generosity. Suggesting such ideas as buying a homeless person a house (and variations thereof) may set off a “jangle” in your mind. This “jangle” is caused by several opposing ideas being entertained at the same time, it is called cognitive dissonance. At a time where humanity is a struggle for Mother Earth to provide for, we still celebrate our friend’s “success” at the purchase of their second home. Of course, our celebration is “expected” in our society where personal success is measured and rewarded by wealth.

All spiritual texts spend time discussing the concepts that avoid wetiko behaviour. St. Francis of Assisi said “For it is in giving that we receive.” This simply means that before we receive anything we first have to give. We are now learning that if we expect to receive freely from Mother Earth herself, we must first give freely to Mother Earth. We do not do this. We do not even spend the time to give our thanks to Mother Earth before we eat anymore. In fact, most of the time, when the call to give thanks for our food is made it makes us feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. Have you asked yourself why this is the case, if this applies to you? Is it because you feel that Mother Earth is not deserving your gratitude? Would it be a surprise to you, therefore, that Mother Earth is currently in the process of making you feel unwelcome with the Earth Changes that are being made? Gratitude is a simple act of formally expressing appreciation for that which is given to you. Being grateful and appreciative changes your attitude towards the giver and eventually it changes your behaviour towards the giver. It is certainly true that we need to change our attitude and behaviour towards Mother Earth, perhaps gratitude is a very powerful starting point? Again, in all spiritual texts, gratitude is encouraged because it helps to encourage positive, life affirming behaviour. Being grateful for every meal, every drink and even every breath you take may indeed be the start of some magic that will quite literally change the world.

Our culture, our society, has a Narrative of its own. We all live under its structure (often we are completely unaware that it is there) and it informs us about the decisions we make. It is very powerful and we rarely question it. Yet our Narrative whispers to us constantly about our lack; indeed, there is a huge industry dedicated to this: we call it marketing and advertising. Yet below the obvious posturing of the marketing and advertising industry our Narrative tells us what we should be expecting from our lives: the house, the family, the cars and holidays. These were the joys of our parents and grandparents and they have been handed to us as our birth rights. There is no recognition that the same circumstances are no longer available to the young of today, burdened as they are with student debt and the ever-increasing price of houses. The Narrative still natters its outdated expectations that can do nothing other than to alienate and marginalise our young; especially when our youth recognise that the story we have given them is also the same story that has been busily destroying the world with its demand for ever more. The Narrative itself has caught a wetiko nature.

The common theme of all the work we, as a species, are doing to address the Earth Changes is to keep the current status quo. We genuinely would like to resolve climate change, biosphere collapse, extinctions and soil degradation and yet we also would like to keep all our stuff and live our lives with all the same luxuries. In short, we are very willing to change the world to become a better place and yet we are not willing to change ourselves. However, the message from the scholars, the mystics, the theologians has forever whispered the same trope: to change the world you must first change yourself. All our good ideas and grand plans that we have to address the Earth changes do not include any plans to address our insatiable greed or the rampant inequality of our societies. In fact, the consistent part of all the innovations suggested have one consistent and central theme: do not disturb our wetiko. In fairness we do need to recognise that our greed is built into our culture, our willingness to overlook inequality is built into our society and our over-arching desire for more has been passed to us by our ancestors. It is no surprise that all our plans are made with the idea of keeping our stuff… and adding to it!

Wetiko is not only the natural greed we all have. It is a consciousness that hides in our stories, our culture and our society. It has taken root in all our institutions, particularly the financial sector, and its voice is a pervading narrative that whispers: “just take a little bit more”. Wetiko is practically impossible to remove because you do not realise it is there. The secret ability of wetiko is to stay in the shadows, invisible. Who can see the wetiko in our society and culture? It is slightly easier to spot in our politics, our corporations or in our banks but how can we address it there? We can easily see wetiko in other people but the place it remains invisible is within ourselves, perhaps it is simply too painful to acknowledge within ourselves? Most people suffer from the infection of wetiko, especially if they live in the Western countries. Can you see the shadow of your wetiko infection within yourself?

Wetiko’s biggest power, its invisibility, is also the key to its own downfall. Once I saw the wetiko within myself it became much easier to control and, after a time, to eradicate. Acting with gratitude for all I have and for all I was given, in the widest possible sense, was a great start. When I focussed on my blessings it was harder to see and gripe over what I lacked. Acting in love and with generosity brings such rich and joyful returns that it becomes difficult to live any other way. I have learned to understand that my desire to fill my life with stuff is merely a replacement to filling my life with people. Investing my time in caring and loving others is the most fulfilling way to live and it requires very little stuff to do that.

Can you imagine a world without wetiko? A world where everyone is focused on enhancing each other’s lives (and Mother Nature!). Those who can have already started the process of identifying wetiko within themselves and they are on the way to making a full recovery! Is now the time for you to look for signs of wetiko in your life?

Article artwork by Georgia Perry
https://www.artstation.com/cyberkitty117

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