One of the most important languages for expressing the values of the commons, I have come to realize, is art. It can often express visceral knowledge more effectively than words and give those insights a more powerful cultural reality.
Those were my thoughts when I saw "Seeing Wetiko," an “online gallery” of artworks, music and videos just released by the global arts collective The Rules. “Artists and activists from around the world have come together in a burst of creative energy to popularize the Algonquin concept of wetiko, a cannibalistic mind virus they claim is causing the destruction of the planet,” the group announced.
Wetiko is an indigenous term used to describe “a psycho-spiritual disease of the soul which deludes its host into believing that cannibalizing the life-force of others is logical and moral.” The dozens of artworks on the website convey this idea in vivid, compelling ways. The term wetiko was chosen for the project as a framework for understanding our global crisis, from ecological destruction and homelessness, to poverty and inequality. To illustrate the scope of wetiko today, the website features a wonderful four-minute video, graffiti murals from Nairobi, carved marks from the US, a film about plastic bottle waste in Trinidad and Tobago, and a theater performance about patriarchy in India.
The Rules is a global network of “activists, artists, writers, farmers, peasants, students, workers, designers, hackers and dreamers” who focus on five key areas needing radical change – money, power, secrecy, ideas and the commons.
In an essay in Kosmos Journal describing the wetiko project, Martin Kirk and Alnoor Ladha, co-founders of The Rules, write: "What if we told you that humanity is being driven to the brink of extinction by an illness? That all the poverty, the climate devastation, the perpetual war, and consumption fetishism we see all around us have roots in a mass psychological infection? What if we went on to say that this infection is not just highly communicable but also self-replicating, according to the laws of cultural evolution, and that it remains so clandestine in our psyches that most hosts will, as a condition of their infected state, vehemently deny that they are infected?"