The dominant cultures on this planet are sick. Forbes has attempted to better understand the wanton disregard for our home and fellow earth-dwellers exhibited in the modern world by viewing it through the lens of the Algonquin idea of the wetiko, a cannibalistic creature that was once human but has been consumed by greed and gluttony. In this book, Forbes argues that this disease is not constrained to individuals, but has infected whole societies for millennia, going back to the first “civilizations” in Egypt and the Middle East all the way through the colonial/imperial societies that control the globe today. The key to his thesis is an understanding of the world as one unified whole, a symbiotic environment in which everything is connected and related to the rest, which is why clearcutting a forest or poisoning a river is no different from consuming the flesh of a relative. As a member of a wetiko society it can be difficult to see the connections between your mother, a bee, and the Pacific Ocean, but reading this book is a step in the right direction; at least, it was for me. If you’ve ever had the feeling that you are disconnected from a larger whole and that disconnect disturbs you, pick this book up. You might find some answers.
Celebrated American Indian thinker Jack D. Forbes’s Columbus and Other Cannibals was one of the founding texts of the anticivilization movement when it was first published in 1978. His history of terrorism, genocide, and ecocide told from a Native American point of view has inspired America’s most influential activists for decades. Frighteningly, his radical critique of the modern "civilized" lifestyle is more relevant now than ever before. Identifying the Western compulsion to consume the earth as a sickness, Forbes writes: "Brutality knows no boundaries. Greed knows no limits. Perversion knows no borders. . . . These characteristics all push towards an extreme, always moving forward once the initial infection sets in. . . . This is the disease of the consuming of other creatures’ lives and possessions. I call it cannibalism." This updated edition includes a new chapter by the author.
About the Author
JACK D. FORBES (1934-2011) was professor emeritus and former chair of Native American Studies at the University of California at Davis. Of Powhatan-Renápe, Delaware-Lenápe, and non-Indian background, he founded the organization Native American Movement in 1961, and started Native American studies programs across the country. He has lectured around the world and is the author of twelve books.
"Cannibals is a work of philosophy and ideas … A welcome addition to the library of a new generation of scholars and activists who are seeking a philosophical framework for their work in indigenous studies." —American Indian Quarterly
"An early text that inspired the start of the anti-civilization movement … Writing from a Native American perspective, Forbes maintains a steady and humble tone throughout the text … It is the kind of history one doesn't need to read twice to absorb it … I think it's crucial that people read books like this." —Razorcake