When I look at the world I see numerous interconnected issues facing these western, rich societies. I also see the impact rich western societies have on other societies and cultures. In particular I see:
- A glaring inequality between rich and poor, which is steadily widening. Often too, the “middle class” is being stretched in between.
- The marginalisation of indigenous cultures and experiences.
- The threat of climate change.
- Rampant consumerism that threatens to divert us from who we are.
- Minorities (people with disability, gays, homeless, unemployed) treated with indifference.
- The concentration of economic and political decision-making into the hands of a small elite.
- The extinction at an alarming rate of plants and animals.
- Our sources of information and news being controlled by fewer and fewer transnational corporations.
- The coming of Peak Oil and all that entails.
That is why I use the pronouns we, us, our: Because we are mostly responsible and the solution to many of these issues lies in our hands and minds. We must stop, we must slow down, we must become generous, we must be mindful of our impact on our fellow human beings and upon the earth. The point is not that any one of us is responsible but we collectively share a responsibility.
David Loy, the Buddhist scholar and writer, has coined the term wego to describe the collective ego that inhabits western, rich societies. It is a useful concept. Loy describes wego as a “deluded sense of the collective self” which sets up an us versus them collective identity. This wego is never satisfied; not rich enough, not powerful enough, not big enough. In order to satisfy this longing for more we put ourselves in conflict with others – human and non-human.
It is, says Loy, this feeling of never being satisfied that is at the core of many of the world’s problems. Thus, to tackle these problems we need to look into our own sense of self – individual and collective. We must discover our ego and our collective wego. That, asserts Loy, is a spiritual* journey.
* Note that Loy uses the term spiritual – not the term religious.