What is a worldview? Everyone has one, whether they realize it or not. Much of it is embedded into the culture we grew up in. Some of it is also embedded into the religion or spiritual path we choose – or reject. Your worldview is the framework of ideas and accepted wisdom through which you as an individual and the society you live in interpret the world and interact with it. Your worldview frames how you see yourself and your place in the world.
The illustration shows two worldviews. The illustrations are incomplete, because they don’t represent every component of the worldviews, but they do represent the most basic beliefs inherent in the two respective worldviews.
The illustration on the left shows human beings at the top of a pyramid, with other animals below the human, signifying a belief that human beings are more important than other animal life on this planet. Notice that there are two humans in the pyramid, the male at the top and the female below him. Next are the mammals, then fish and birds. At the base of the pyramid are reptiles, marine life, insects, and simpler life forms. If plants had been pictured, my guess is that they would have come underneath the animal life. The picturing of life forms indicates that human beings are the apex of creation, and that all other life forms are inferior to human beings. It also shows that male human beings are considered more important than female human beings. The pyramid arrangement suggests that humans, being dominant, are free to build their homes in any location on earth, without regard to the animal (or plant) life that may have been there first. Wild animals are not welcome in human cities or even in small towns and on individual farms. Only domesticated animals are welcome in human homes. All animal life exists to serve humans, who are at the top of the “food chain.”
The “world” is pictured as a conglomerate of nations, signifying a belief that the world is divided into distinct political and cultural groupings. It implies that the most important thing about this planet is what human beings have made of it. It indicates that pieces of earth can be owned by groups of humans or individual human beings, and that the earth is subservient to humans. In this worldview, earth and all life forms on earth exist to support human beings, and that human beings are the dominant force on earth. This worldview says that it is OK for human beings to control the earth and to use her resources at will to support human needs and desires, and that political and economic concerns are more important than taking care of or living in harmony with the land.
The illustration on the right shows various animal forms in a circular area, arranged in no discernible order. No one life form is in the exact center, and no life form seems intrinsically more important than any other. If plant life had been included in the picture, I’m guessing that they would be interspersed with the animal life, in no particular order of complexity or importance. The arrangement of life forms in the circle indicates that all life is interconnected, and that no form of life is inferior to any other form, even though some life forms are more physically complex than others. This arrangement also shows that human beings must share the land with animal life.
The world pictured in this worldview illustration is the natural form of earth, regardless of political borders or the cultural distinctions among the various groups of human beings. Ownership of land is not a part of this worldview, although land may be “occupied” by various cultural groups. All animal life forms (including humans) share the land in common. The natural world, often referred to as “Mother Earth” by people who share this worldview, is the dominant force in life, not human beings. In this worldview, human beings do not attempt to control the natural world, but rather, they attempt to live in harmony with Mother Nature, knowing that it will support human life as long as human beings support the natural world. This includes responsible and sustainable use of natural resources.
By now it is no doubt obvious to you that the illustration on the left is the Western worldview, held by Europeans and by their descendants who colonized North and South America. It is considered by those who subscribe to it as a more modern view, supported by both science and religion (particularly Christianity.)
The illustration on the right is the general worldview of aboriginal peoples around the globe, including Africans, Asians, aboriginal groups in Australia and New Zealand, and the native Pacific Islanders, as well as the various native peoples of both South America and North America. This worldview is supported in all cases by spiritual beliefs and practices. For these people, spirituality is an integral part of daily life, and cannot be separated from it.
In the United States, these days, it cannot be said that all white people, for example, are proponents of the “modern” worldview, nor can it be said that all Native Americans are proponents of the “aboriginal” worldview. What is clear, however, is that the “modern” worldview is dominant in this country, and that this worldview has allowed humans to use earth’s resources to excess, and in ways that are poisoning the natural world. Human beings all over the world have fought and are still fighting bloody and senseless wars over control of land and resources, as well as for cultural supremacy. Business and industry are raping the earth in the name of economic progress, and governments are not doing enough to protect the environment.
There have been advances in the quality of human life that have been made possible by the “modern” worldview. Life moves forward, and it shouldn’t be necessary for human beings to abandon every modern convenience and live the way we did centuries ago in order to find ourselves in harmonious balance with the natural world. It is clear, however, that those who subscribe to the dominant “modern” worldview could learn much from the aboriginal worldview. It is important for all members of the human family to acknowledge that the earth has been harmed, and in many cases the damage is getting to the point of being irreparable. It will take eons for some of the damage to repair itself naturally, and only if human beings stop those practices that are doing the greatest harm.
Many people who have heard of the Idle No More movement seem to have identified it as a type of civil rights movement for Native Americans in the United States or First Nations people in Canada, but that’s only part of the story. Aboriginal people all over the world are in the process of restoring their various cultures, in many cases severely eroded by European colonization, not just because they wish their cultures and spiritual beliefs to be respected, but because they recognize that the worldview of their ancestors is the key to saving the Mother Earth, and with her, human civilization. 🙂