Jack D. Forbes (Powhatan-Renapé and Lenape) was the author of Columbus and Other Cannibals, one of the most important books ever written. In this excerpt, edited slightly for publication, Forbes warns how the “cannibal sickness,” or wetiko disease, the spiritual illness that he describes as driving the exploitation, domination, and “consumption” of others, can sometimes “infect” those who are part of resistance movements.
By Jack D. Forbes
This earth of ours is not ugly. Nor this sky, nor this sun, nor this moon. Nor are the animals and the plants ugly. We live in a mysterious, marvelous universe and it offers us a chance to be cured by its loving embrace.
The cannibal psychosis, and the problems it creates, have inspired many resistance movements and efforts at reform or revolution. Unfortunately, most of these efforts have failed because they have never diagnosed the cannibal as an insane person whose disease is extremely contagious. Nor have they, generally, understood that the non-cannibals, whether flunkies, pimps, or the most oppressed, are often ‘secret carriers’ of the disease. Such people become active cannibals only when conditions are favorable (such as when power is seized during a revolution).
If the cannibal psychosis is to be overcome, and if we are to be cured of the disease, the answer lies in religion, which is following the ‘good, red road’ or the ‘pollen path’ for all the days of our lives.
The basis of the efforts to achieve justice in the socio-political arena of life must rest on the spiritual regeneration of each of us who are engaged in such struggles.
Most of the great teachers of the earth have taught things, or set examples, which can help us overcome the cannibal psychosis. ‘Psychosis’ means ‘sickness of the soul or spirit.’ And so it is that we must turn to those things that have to do with the spirit or soul when we seek to find a cure. Pragmatism and opportunism offer no answers, nor do the psychiatry or psychotherapy of the usual kind. Cannibals can be very pragmatic at times and people treated by psychologists or psychiatrists can learn to adjust or ‘accept themselves.’ Adjustment and self-acceptance are not what is needed. To adjust to a cannibal society is to become insane. To accept one’s self is bad if it means accepting personal behavior which is ugly, exploitative, or which represents a surrender of the need for freedom, change, or growth.
‘Education’ of the kind we know in the modern world usually has little to do with ethics or with bringing forth the individual potential of the learner. On the contrary, it is largely technical in nature and seldom (in and of itself) serves to alter the class or ethnic ‘interests’ of the graduates.
We do not have time to live as pimps for cannibals. We do not have time to engage in petty jealousies or ugly acts. We must live a life that is worthwhile, one that is filled with precise acts, beautiful acts, meaningful acts, that help to take one along the pollen path, the path that only a wisdom-seeker can travel. A wisdom-seeker is a man or woman who fearlessly seeks to be truly authentic as he or she travels onward in beauty and humility seeking knowledge.
A ‘warrior’ is different from the average person because of the consistent choice of a ‘path with heart.’ The warrior knows that the path has heart when he or she finds a great peace and pleasure traveling on it. The path with heart leads one on a joyful journey while paths without heart will lead to curses and weakening.
Genuine liberation struggles should have an overwhelming love for all life as the very heart and soul of their movement.
We must ban terrorism from this mother earth, whether it be state terrorism or non-state terrorism. We must uproot the cannibal sickness from the earth.
Featured image by Max Wilbert.