In 2017, when members of the Tamera Peace Research and Education Center in Portugal heard about the resistance at Standing Rock, they accompanied the protest with prayer and reached out to its leaders in solidarity. This exchange led to the initiation of the annual "Defend the Sacred" gatherings, which foster a network of exchange and support among activists, ecologists, technologists and Indigenous leaders who share the vision of creating a regenerative cultural model as a response to the global crisis.
The leaders of the annual "Defend the Sacred" gatherings know that we can’t create a regenerative culture solely by trying to ‘smash capitalism.’ Instead, we need to understand and heal the underlying disease that generates all such systems of oppression. This disease can be described as the Western sickness of separation from life, or "wetiko," as it was named by the North American Algonquin people. Martin Winiecki (the gatherings' co-convenor) describes it like this:
"'Wetiko,' literally 'cannibalism,' was the word used by the Indigenous peoples to describe the disease of white invaders. 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. Since it is coupled with the chronic inability to feel compassion for the lives of other beings, then 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.
In a recent co-written book, Defend the Sacred: If Life Wins, There Will Be No Losers, participants in the gatherings offer a mosaic of short essays that present their shared vision, along with many different ways to put it into practice.