By Edgar Villanueva
The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Decolonizing Wealth (release date October 16, 2018 with Berrett-Koehler Publishers). The book offers not just a provocative analysis of the dysfunctional colonial dynamics at play in philanthropy and finance, but also a potential road to transformation guided by Indigenous wisdom: Seven Steps to Healing. I hope this little appetizer makes you hungry for the book.
My central metaphor for the subject of colonization is the body, because we each instinctively understand our body’s sense of sovereignty and the sense of violation. Unfortunately, almost every one of us alive on earth has experienced some kind of trauma. So chances are you know what I am talking about.
The initial phase of colonization—the conquest— is like a rape, causing the first wave of trauma. Later—when the colonizers set down roots and become settlers—colonization becomes more like a virus that every human institution and system as well as every human being carries inside. The collective body—the nation and culture of settlers and surviving colonized people—adapts, passing down these adaptations in their genes over generations. Yet the adaptations don’t constitute healing. The virus remains: the original seeds of separation—fear of the Other—that lead to ongoing acts of control and exploitation.
The colonizer virus inside culture and institutions is especially dangerous. Our education system reflects the colonizer virus. So does our agriculture and food system. So does our foreign policy. So does our environmental policy. So does the field of design. And, the subject of this book, the realms of wealth: investment, finance, and philanthropy.
There is no quick fix for the complexity of colonization: decolonization is a process with roles for everyone involved, whether you’re rich or poor, funder or recipient, victim or perpetrator.
All my relations—Mitakuye oyasin, as the Lakota say, meaning: we are all related, connected, not only to each other humans, but to all the other living things and inanimate things and the planet, and also the Creator. The principle of All My Relations means that everyone is at home here. Everyone has a responsibility in making things right. Everyone has a role in the process of healing, regardless of whether they caused or received more harm. All our suffering is mutual. All our healing is mutual. All our thriving is mutual.
An enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, Edgar Villanueva has directed the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars for over a decade as a philanthropy professional. In his new book, he diagnoses the dysfunction in the institutions, systems and people that deal with money: it’s 21st century colonialism. Integrating traditional indigenous wisdom with savvy financial experience, Villanueva explains how money can be used to facilitate relationships, to help us thrive, and to bring things back into balance.