The highest aspiration possible for humans would be to design governing, distribution, and monetary systems in ways that mimic the natural systems of a healthy jungle. Gilded Age ideas like Social Darwinism or “survival of the fittest” that attempted to justify racism, eugenics, oppression of immigrants, exploitation of workers, and massive economic disparity are woven into the very fabric of our current societal operating system.
These deep-rooted, oppressive ideologies still rule us today though they emerged over 500 years ago from feudalism and were brought to the New World merged together as colonialism and imperialism. This misguided ethos is embedded today in centralized, top-down structures including governance, monetary policy, healthcare, and more. In order to redesign these societal systems in a contemporary way that mimics the symbiotic networks in nature we must first recognize that we have bought into an unnatural delusion and change the way we see the world by addressing our core beliefs.
Outdated Ideas Rule Our World Today. According to Wikipedia, “Imperialism is a policy or ideology of extending a country’s rule over foreign nations, often by military force or by gaining political and economic control of other areas.” Meanwhile, “In the process of colonisation, colonisers may impose their religion, economics, and other cultural practices on indigenous peoples.” These ideologies of domination, extraction, and exploitation are central to our relationship with the land, while also ruling global markets, scientific institutions, corporate culture, academia, religion, healthcare, and governments. Worst of all most individuals have adopted and accepted this worldview of humanity being separate, in competition with each other, and pitted against nature without even questioning it!
Beliefs Shaped by History: When Columbus first looked out and saw the Caribbean Islands of the “New World”, he brought with him the belief systems of colonialism and imperialism. His ethos had been cultivated over centuries of royal hierarchies, feudalism, oppression, privatization, and subjugation from the Old World. Looking from the islands outward to see Columbus’s ships on the horizon were the Native Taino People whose indigenous worldview, like all indigenous peoples, still sees the web of life as interconnected, sacred, commonly shared, and holistic. These two world-views clashed while the one with guns and superior weapons almost completely extinguished the perennial wisdom of the original people.
Some say that the plagues and Dark Ages that Europeans went through prior to the Renaissance played a role in shaping their cultural relationship with nature. Since so many people were dying from the Black Death, a belief system that humans were being punished by God or being punished by nature began to take hold. This entrenched two divergent worldviews: the sinner/redemption story of Christianity (religion) and the Newtonian Cartesian Paradigm (reductionist, mechanistic science). -Ending the Conquest of Nature
Beliefs Shaped by Observing Nature: Yet the Taino People of the Caribbean descended from those who had lived for centuries in the Amazon Jungle. They had witnessed the reciprocal, symbiotic networks of life that seamlessly flows between plants, animals, mycelium, pollen, bacteria, air, water, and earth. Though there is much to know and observe within the web of nature, there is also a reverence for the unknown, and the great mystery of life.The indigenous worldview is based on nature rather than the political hierarchies of Europe’s ruling families, their monetary systems, and religions.
Which is Delusion, Which is Reality? Just as the lineages of Europe’s ruling families (along with the material wealth and political clout they have passed down through the generations) are still with us today, so too are the descendents of the original people of the Americas. Natural, land-based worldviews may fade from dominating society for a time but they will never vanish altogether because they are perennial. The human species comes from the land, it is dependent on it for survival, it is completely intertwined with it, and it will return to the land upon death. However we are also seeing the great natural places, forests, oceans, and even the Amazon Jungle being decimated by humans under the spell of domination, extraction, and exploitation.
The Limits of Science: Newtonian Science has become the golden calf of the day but few recognize that it was shaped by the same old-world beliefs that influenced Columbus’s colonial world view. Science has helped humans dominate the planet. In its’ infancy Western Science was a threat to the dominant power structure maintained by religion. We see this battle play out today as many religious people oppose climate science and theories of evolution. In order for early science to not tread on the territory of science it was forced into reductionism. Science was given the freedom to research “the parts” but not allowed to look at systems as a “whole” because the church deemed this as being the realm of the spirit, of God and thus their domain.
Science has brought such great innovations yet it has been trained for centuries to have blinders and only see the world as separate parts. This is evolving slowly with integrative science, and holistic medicine but today it faces hurdles much bigger than the church. Today science and medicine are relatively beholden to research funding which usually comes from business investors looking to turn a profit, corporate financial endowments, or government grants. It doesn’t matter which era we live in because the wisdom of, “not biting the hand that feeds you” still applies.
Money and politics now shape science. All of the above shape our belief systems yet we still find the common ethos of domination, imperialism, and colonialism at the root. It is amazing to consider that many of our world systems are still literally built on the foundations of Dark Ages thinking born from feudalism, religious fanaticism, as well as the rule of kings and queens. Who will liberate us if we are not willing to liberate ourselves from these underlying beliefs?
Welcome to Global Pandemic: Many historians believe that viruses, germs, and disease brought by Europeans to the New World killed more people than guns and swords. Europeans, having lived in close quarters with each other and with domesticated animals, have endured many plagues and developed antibodies. It could be argued that COVID-19 is nature’s response to the failings of human systems which are a reflection of cultural world-views. Monocropped agriculture, abuse of pesticides, meat/dairy factory farms, deforestation, overuse of antibiotics, polluted water along with poverty due to greed and economic disparity are just a few factors that contribute to a world prone to pandemics.
Empire Responds to a Virus: Centralized, top-down structures are systems modeled after kingdoms of the Middle Ages that require a central command that everyone must fall in line behind. With that must come a narrative to rally the troops to protect the kingdom from invaders. Who do we turn to in a moment of global crisis like this? Apparently the top of chain of command is the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, an organization created by the World bank and the World Health Organization. This consortium of political leaders, lobbyists, bankers, billionaires, and pharmaceutical corporations utilizes “public and private partnerships” which funnel public funds from governments and foundations into private corporations for research. In the case of COVD-19, billions of dollars have gone into research for a vaccine.
We have all witnessed the battle to control the narrative about this process, the divide is exploding across social media. Are there conflicts of interest in this model? Are some banking on this crisis? Are governments using this to take civil liberties and increase surveillance? To wear a mask or not, to close down the economy or re-open it, to have mandatory vaccines or not, to have contact tracing or not? Doctors with dissenting opinions are being censored from social media and politicians are trying to squeeze this crisis into the conventional partisan boxes. It has become overwhelming to keep up with.
With so much at stake there is a fatal flaw in the centralized, top-down model. If there is an error, or corruption then the whole system becomes poisonous. This is why keeping all eggs in one basket is never a good idea. In contrast, a diversity of viewpoints and approaches, available in a decentralized model, allows for best practices to emerge rather than forcing one course of action. Sadly there is no silver bullet.
Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina has implied that we are potentially witnessing medical imperialism, as his nation’s herbal cure is discounted by wealthy nations. Why is vaccine research being funded by the billions whereas natural approaches are not considered or funded? Is it only worth investing in medicines that are profitable to large corporations? These and many more questions are being passionately debated across the planet right now.
One Thing is Certain: Uncertainty is becoming more certain. The models of control that have been used for centuries in the traditional top-down, centralized systems are imploding. There are more questions than answers yet there is another way to look at this situation. The indigenous perspective has been buried by centuries of conquest. It is nature-centric, and recognizes that humans don’t have all the answers, it embraces the mystery while seeing all things as an interconnected whole.
Nature Conspires: The Latin roots of the word “Conspire” are “con”, meaning together, and “spire” meaning breath. Literally it means to breathe together. When we look at and study how ecosystems work it is fair to say that nature is conspiring to sustain life. Even our very planet is the perfect distance from the sun, not too hot or too cold, allowing life to flourish. There is a natural cycle of life inherent in our planet that sustains every aspect of who we are and how we came to be. This is a conspiracy that I can get behind!
“These plants are not really individuals in the sense that Darwin thought they were individuals competing for survival of the fittest,” says Simard in the 2011 documentary Do Trees Communicate? “In fact they are interacting with each other, trying to help each other survive.” -Plants Talk to Each Other Using an Internet of Fungus
Recently I had the opportunity to watch the popular film by Louie Schwartzberg, Fantastic Fungi. During the film I was particularly struck by the research showing that fungus mycelium acts as a sort of internet carrying information and nutrients to various plants, trees, and shrubs. This miraculous symbiosis between diverse species in the forests is not happening as the result of a top-down, centralized system. In the fall-time there is no “president tree” who decrees that it is time for all the trees to make their leaves change colors. These organisms are each sovereign yet they are all responding to the impulses of the seasons in unison. Bruce Lipton calls this phenomena, “conscious evolution”.
We know that we are made of bones, blood, cells, muscle, etc. and we tend to think that these are what makes us human. However, we often overlook the Human Microbiome. This is a naturally occurring community of microorganisms (microbes) in our body — including diverse viruses, fungi, and protozoa — that outnumber human cells almost two to one! While this might sound scary, this thriving community of microbes in our body is working in harmony with our human cells to create life as we know it. -The Self You Never Knew, The Human Microbiome
Shift the Narrative: Nature is dynamic and alive. She communicates if we listen and observe. The belief that humans are somehow above nature, like a king is above his subjects, is pure delusion. We are not in an either/or situation, things are not black and white. We have gained much understanding through reductionist, mechanistic science but we must recognize that it is most potent when science observes, mimics, and respects natural systems. Humans have a disease of the mind in the colonial, imperialistic ways we see each other, the animals, the plants, and the very elements that sustain our lives.
“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” — Albert Einstein
We are approaching our response to COVID-19 from the same materialistic, colonial, imperial, centralized, mono-cropped, chemical-driven, profit-centered, privatized model that has birthed this crisis in the first place. Let’s take a good look at the outdated operating system and human beliefs that are embedded in our current centralized systems. This is the model, born from feudalism and the Dark Ages, that now rules our global markets, scientific institutions, corporate culture, academia, religion, healthcare, and governments. There IS another way.
If the word conspire truly means to breathe together then collectively maybe we should all do just that. We are woven together in this majestic web of life throughout all of time. We can create systems that mimic the way that mycelium nourishes a healthy jungle allowing it to thrive. It will not be a centralized top-down system, it will be a distributed network to empower all the disjointed parts to flourish. It’s time to upgrade our society’s operating system.
Let’s listen to the science so we can integrate the broken and disjointed pieces of the reductionist mindset to embrace a holistic approach. Nature has untold secrets but we have forgotten how to listen. Indigenous people are keepers of nature and hold a very profound understanding for us in this time. They have been warning that this day would eventually come. Their voices and cultures have been squashed by a worldview based on conquest that is as invasive to humanity’s perennial wisdom as any virus. Perhaps it is time we take a moment and listen.