Words and stories, we know, have great power. And by amplifying and focusing that power, the media can change the course of history.
Not only do the mainstream media manufacture consent for wars of aggression, colonialism, racism and other forms of oppression, according to Chomsky’s propaganda model, they also enable us to proceed with the casual, brutal, ultimately suicidal destruction of our habitat — the living biosphere — in the name of progress and other justifications.
In looking for an explanation of why these acts of ecocide appear to be of such little emotional concern to so many, I came across the concept of wetiko, as described by Jack D Forbes, referenced in the writings of Derrick Jensen. Wetiko — a term borrowed from First Nations Americans — refers to a disease of the soul, a psychic infection, a collective psychosis, that hides our own humanity from us and therefore that of others; and that allows us to commit, be complicit in or witness violence casually and without remorse or compassion.
We all — in this culture anyway — carry the wetiko virus to some degree or other.
I found myself wondering what a wetiko-free media would look like; what it would take to produce journalism that focused on the restoration of people and planet rather than their destruction. What stories would it prioritise? How would it provide context? How would it use framing to promote values that counteract those of dominion, control and violence? I contemplated how wetiko manifests not just in phrasing but in the structure of language, especially English, the mother of all colonial languages. I wondered how or if can we undo that, or to what extent.
ReStory came out of that thought experiment. It was a long time coming and took many theoretical forms as it gestated. Just at the point where I committed to investing in a web site, I came across the campaign from /TheRules inviting creative endeavours that would encourage us to see wetiko. They were offering a little bit of grant funding to prospective creators. I applied and was delighted to be accepted. This, therefore, the first public airing of my ReStory experiment, owes much to the support, impetus and faith I have gratefully received from /TheRules team. Thank you to them all.
Be sure to look round the Seeing Wetiko site at the other creative endeavours they sponsored, and ask yourself whether or not you can yet see wetiko — in yourself as well as in others.
Of course, ReStory has a mission beyond the Seeing Wetiko campaign, and will continue to evolve. It is, and always will be, a work in progress, an experiment, a journey of learning, not just about how to do journalism differently, but also of learning how to spot and reorient the hidden messages in how we communicate generally. I can already tell that it will not be an easy journey. The first few stories here were hard to write, and are not yet right. It will take time to find a voice that preserves the directness of traditional news reporting while also inverting some of its familiar frames, in order to expose, either implicitly or explicitly, the influence of wetiko on our culture and our decisions, and the potential for us all if we can transcend it.