Wetiko

Road to Resilience

84

It is really difficult to get excited about doing what we need to do personally to address the climate crisis.  I think a big part of the problem is that we see these changes as a net loss for us:  loss of convenience, loss of mobility, more expense, less fun.  This is especially true for us here in “fat city” North America where we have been reaping the benefits of industrialization more than anybody else in the world and by factors of ten over most of the third world.  We know that since our prosperity has created more CO2 per capita than anybody else, we should have to shoulder the brunt of the costs of correcting it.  Knowing and accepting are two different things.  But maybe looking at what we truly value will help us envision a future in which what we lose becomes less important compared to what we gain.

I just read an article called “If Life Wins, There Will Be No Losers,” in which the zero sum game we go by now is replaced by abundance achieved by working with nature rather than against it.  The article opens with a quote from a man whose wisdom we have not yet grown to appreciate.

“You never change things by fighting against the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller

There is a predominant world-view today that I think is distinctly European.  An Algonquin tribe had a term which best described for them the disease affecting the European invaders.  The term is “wetiko,” literally meaning “cannibalism.”  According to Martin Winiecke of the Tamera Peace Research and Education Center, “It translates as the alienated human soul, no longer connected to an inner life force and so feeding on the energy of other beings.”

“Wetiko is the psychic mechanism that keeps us trapped in the illusion that we exist separately from everything else. Within the isolated selfish ego, the pursuit of maximum personal gain appears to be the goal and meaning of life. Coupled with the chronic inability to feel compassion for the lives of other beings, violence, exploitation and oppression are not only justified, but appear logical and rational. If we resist only the external effects of wetiko, maybe we can win a victory here or there, but we can’t overcome the system as a whole because this “opponent” also sits within ourselves. It is from within that we constantly feed and support this monstrous system.”

To heal ourselves of wetiko, we need to address our racial, gender, class, and religious wounds and end the pattern of oppression, guilt, and blame.  Balancing patriarchy with an ascendancy of feminism would greatly aid this process.  We also need to abandon the hubris of thinking that in 10,000 years, we have discovered a better model for life than what nature has evolved over 3 billion years.  We have lost our sense of connection with not only the totality of humanity but with all of life.  In thinking that we are isolated and separate, competing with other life for limited resources, we are blowing holes in the boat that floats us.

It is significant to me that the word “sustainable” is being replaced by the word “regenerative.”  Sustainable implies something that will allow the status quo to go on indefinitely.  Regenerative, however, implies a healing process, which implies that our world is sick and we need to heal it.  My first exposure to this concept was in reference to regenerative agriculture, through which attending to the health of the soil reaps wins for all.  Restorative justice, in which perpetrator and victim work together to heal the rift caused by the crime, is another application.  No fighting, no assigning blame—just heal the wound.

So what about those bastards that are stealing from us and all of creation and ruining the planet?  That’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it?  Look again at the Bucky Fuller quote up near the top.  We do need to stand in the way to prevent harm and protect life, but we also need to be thinking in terms of creating the better alternative and moving into it.
The Thousands of people who have begun to practice regenerative agriculture are finding that tending to the needs of and protecting the microbiome that is soil is reaping abundance in the form of better and more abundant crops, minimal pest damage, greater water retention, carbon sequestration, increased wildlife habitat, all at much reduced costs.  This, alone, and barring war or other human interference, could go a long way toward saving our world.  I believe the other shoe, ending fossil fuel use, will also fall as the renewable alternatives are seen as far superior.  How much better could it be if we apply this approach across the board?

A good rule of thumb going forward for judging what we personally do or what we collectively do is to answer the question, does this activity result in a benefit to all or does it involve a non-restorative expense to some part of the system?   When we understand that we are an inherent part of that system, these decisions should be easy to make.

Comments?  terry@vashonloop.com