Archive for September, 2007

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Climax culture

September 25, 2007

I was interested to see Ran’s comments about how our species will never learn from it’s experiences and is destined to make the same mistakes over and over again. I’ve always been intrigued by his prior thinking that we might learn as a group how to handle things like civilisation and I must admit that the idea appealed greatly to me but that I could never see how it might work.

I certainly think we can learn as individuals and may even be able to pass some of that wisdom on to the next generation but it is very fragile and easily destroyed. For a while I’ve felt that this was the only type of learning available to us and that each person starts off as a blank slate.

A lot of adverse things may happen to us (or they may not) but it’s how we handle them that matters. It’s kind of about being the best that we can, except that I don’t mean the best athlete or worker or the richest person for that matter – just the most decent person basically. I think I developed this idea from hanging around with Christians, although they themselves don’t seem to have developed it very much, quite often they seem focused on just hanging in there until they get to go to heaven, whereas I suspect that it’s what we do in this life that is most important. It’s our chance to prove ourselves.

Within that there are certain kinds of guidelines that I see, I’ve picked up from other people that to be fulfilled in our life we need the opportunity to be creative and we need to serve something bigger or more important than ourselves. I’d add to that that we also need to be able to be truly ourselves and to have genuine community – and that they kind of come as a package deal.

William Kotke talked in the Final Empire about Climax Ecosystems, which was his term to describe an ecosystem that is functioning to it’s fullest ability, it would be wrong to say it is operating ‘efficiently’ but the species that make it up are mature and healthy and exist in proper balance with each other. All ecosystems are working at every given moment to get back to this state if they are not already in it.

I think cultures have a kind of climax state too, although it’d debatable whether we tend in any one direction. Some people insist we are getting worse and others say we are getting better. I think each generation can improve on the last except but that the process can be cutoff at the knees by disruptive forces (take your pick, but war is always popular). It’s possible that human culture would tend towards a climax state too (essentially Eden) but that something is interfering with it. Ran has suggested that there are spiritual forces that do just this and I think that Jesus would agree with him :-).

By a cultural climax state I’m not saying that the people within the culture have achieved perfection but that their culture is as good as it can be in terms of providing support for it’s individual member’s mental and spiritual growth. In The Continuum Concept Jean Liedloff describes a culture that sounds like it is in a climax state and she talks about some people in the Sanema tribe (neighbouring tribe to the Yequanna who were the main subject of her bok) who had achieved a state of incredible peace (pg 135);

As the Sanema, like the Yequanna, are not deprived of their expected experiences in infancy, they have a huge headstart over us on the road to serenity. With a fulfilled personality based solidly in a sense of his own rightness, the Sanema who reproduces the mindless bliss of the infant in himself with frequency and at length can build a freedom from the fringe liabilities of the intellect with far greater speed and effect.

The proportion of Sanema who have attained truly impressive states of joy and harmony with their surroundings is remarkable and would I am quite certain, be impossible to match anywhere in the West or East. In every clan there are several who live as lightly as and happily as the most advanced gurus. I know families where every adult member enjoys those qualities so very rare in civilisation.

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Stories and stuff

September 22, 2007

I’m always interested in people’s personal stories. I often think they’re of more use than all the collected wisdom that us bloggers see fit to dispense. I’d love to see some kind of collection of these things but in the meantime here’s a few:

Dan’s story, John Brady’s story, Rix’s (not yet finished) story and how Urban Scout came into existence.

In other links: from Just Folks this article about Socialisation in Schools

I can’t believe I am writing an article about socialization, The word makes my skin crawl. As homeschoolers, we are often accosted by people who assume that since we’re homeschooling, our kids won’t be “socialized.” The word has become such a catch phrase that it has entirely lost any meaning. The first time I heard the word, I was attending a Catholic day school as a first grader. Having been a “reader” for almost 2 years, I found the phonics and reading lessons to be incredibly boring. Luckily the girl behind me felt the same way, and when we were done with our silly little worksheets, we would chat back and forth. I’ve never known two 6 yr olds who could maintain a quiet conversation, so naturally a ruler-carrying nun interrupted us with a few strong raps on our desk. We were both asked to stay in at recess, and sit quietly in our desks for the entire 25 minutes, because “We are not here to socialize, young ladies.” Those words were repeated over and over throughout my education, by just about every teacher I’ve ever had.

And for the few people who saw a posting here called J2 and are wondering what happened to it, I’m feeling very harrassed at the moment and it quickly became apparent that that posting wasn’t helping. Hopefully this small note will not cause me any problems.

Lastly, The Plan from Comrade Simba outlining his survival strategies for varying degrees of crashness – notable for it’s succinctness plus the introduction to the english language of the word ‘bazzooness’.

Even more lastly from Ted some Suburban Surivival advice on how to be homeless without looking like you are. Part1, Part2

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Lactation Economics

September 13, 2007

Via Rural Dad via Baby Roadies . It’s too late for us but there must be someone we can get a set of these for.

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Welcome

September 11, 2007

Welcome to the new Villageblog site. The old one had too many problems for me to ever get around to fixing; the search engine text was impossible to read, reading the main text for long periods of time did crazy stuff to your eyes, the html kept showing up on Microsoft Explorer and the site stats were shot to hell from all the unwanted referrals I seemed to be getting from dogsex.com and similar sites.

There’s a few things different here, I’ve got a Read It Again section for the articles I like and an expanded links list. It also has a groovy new picture at the top. The old site always had that picture of me and a friend leaping in the air which suited the colour-scheme but wasn’t very villagey I thought.

The new one isn’t quite what I wanted either but it’s a part of an atoll called Nukunonu, which is part of Tokelau, a former protectorate of New Zealand. We lived on a permanent circuit between Samoa and Tokelau for two years around the time I was thirteen. I went to Google Earth to get an aerial shot of one of the villages we lived in but they managed to ‘miss’ getting a detailed shot of the area where the village was. Here’s a picture of the entire atoll.

nukunonu4.jpg

The village is to the bottom-left of the faint line running down the page (the edge of google’s close-up area) It had about 300 people living in it I think. The highest point on the atoll is about 5 metres above sea level and there are about 5.5 sq km of land strung around the lagoon. It is situated 500km or about 1.5 days away by ship from Samoa – which is the only way to in or out, other than by parachute .

We were the only white family living there at the time, although we still seemed to be the dominant culture. I had very blond hair at that age and the small children used to come up to me and touch my head to see if it was real. Electricity was delivered by a noisy diesel powered generator which was on for about half the day and the only way we could leave was to wait for the ship which came from Samoa about every 6 weeks but was often several weeks late.

Anyway, this is the closest I’ve come to village living so I thought it was appropriate to put the picture up, plus atolls look quite groovy.

Hope you all enjoy the new high-performance villageblog.

UPDATE: Welcome back to the people who haven’t been able to access the blog. I had no idea this was happening until Ran told me – it’s just pure luck that I chose this moment to shift sites.

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Truth & Paradox

September 9, 2007

In A Different Drum Scott Peck made the point that the truth always has a paradoxical quality to it. He used the example of the bible stating that being Christian is simultaneously about doing good works and having God’s grace save you from the need to do good works. This is observably a big issue for Christians and I’m not sure I’ve met any who have a good handle on it. They’re hardly an exception though.

This idea that real truths are inevitably paradoxical has stuck with me and it’s been particularly interesting watching the recent debate about cities with Jason and Ran. It also occurred to me that we’ve been this way before, with Jason behaving in a relatively rude manner and the other party extending him some grace so the debate can continue.

The first time I saw it was early last year when we were trying to decide whether being a hunter-gatherer or a permaculturist was a better way to get through the impending crash. I think it was all prompted by an essay by Toby Hemmenway. As I recall Jason told Toby his thinking was ‘dodgy’ on the subject – a tad unnecessary but Toby let it slide.

While it was true that Toby’s initial argument lacked hard academic rigour what he was trying to do was find his way forward to a new understanding about the crash. I’m thinking the same thing about Ran’s idea now as I said about Toby’s essay: Let’s not attempt to close him down because the argument is a bit loose, at the core of it is a really important idea that needs exploring, and that’s much more important.

Like it or not people are going to try living in cities for a long time. Things will be hard enough psychologically during the crash and the last thing city dwellers will want to do is shift out to country living. They will feel psychologically more secure in a city and will be drawn back to that environment – so we’d better figure out how to make it work, for a few generations at least.

Ran quoted an email of mine the other day:

“You could always decide to call these sustainable cities villages, or maybe large villages, and still keep the definition of cities nice and clean.”

“Never!” said Ran in his reply back to me and then used it to make a point about disliking nice and clean thinking. What I was really trying to say in the email was; fine give Jason his clean definition of city and lets get back to the debate and see what we can learn.

In actual fact I totally agree with Ran about that and what he said gets to the core of what this posting is about, if we try to keep things nice and clean we close off the other side of the paradox and lose sight of the real, complicated, messy truth. Ran seems to have a good instinct for this, and I loved that out of the debate he, the archetypal anti-civ blogger, produced an essay entitled How to Save Civilisation.

Getting back to that earlier debate, after insisting that I needed an answer to whether permaculture or hunter/gathering was the answer to post-crash life I ended up posting this article full of wonder at how we ever came to be in an arguement:

….Not surprisingly it soon became apparent that a combination of the two might prove to be the best solution of all but what I wasn’t expecting was that it would turn out that both approaches already combine elements of the other to such an extent as to make the debate almost pointless. In fact, the opposing concepts of either being totally in charge of our food production or totally leaving food production to mother nature existed only in my head. In the real world it turns out that:

(a) Many of the cultures that we thought were hunter/gatherers were actively managing their environment to increase levels of natural food production and…

(b) The aim of permaculture is to create an environment where food can be ‘grazed’ at leisure.

Put like that I can barely tell the difference between the two …

The same thing happened recently with the issue of whether people should expect chaos or community post crash and of course the answer turned out to be that we should expect both.

Then there was; are eco-villages a better option than forming a tribe and disappearing into the forest? In the end I concluded the best way to form a tribe was to form an ecovillage first and lo; Jason (coming from the opposite direction) said that Anthropik’s path would be to buy some land next to a forest park and use that as the tribes base to get themselves started.

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THE COMMUNITY APPROACH V THE ACADEMIC APPROACH

Yes, I’m frustrated by the futility of the way these debates proceed, they’re too destructive and too exhausting and they seem to produce false dichotomies.

Scott Peck (from A Different Drum again):

“…because it integrates diversity, in community partial ideas tend to become whole ideas, and the initially simplistic thinking of community members tends to become complex, paradoxical, flexible and sane.

In all honesty I don’t think that Jason values the relationship as much as the need to win a debate, I’ve seen him leave mile-long responses to people on blog comment sections which can be a very overwhelming experience and not especially helpful.

The need to close down EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of an opponents argument is a profoundly different approach to trying to zero in on the core of the debate. It’s about obliterating your opponent and it’s very forceful – essentially the literary equivalent of a good thumping.

This destructive approach is both a cause and a result of a person’s desire to keep their argument unchanged but the destruction of the relationship (community) ensures that debaters remain isolated and have less of a chance of nuancing their views with an understanding of the paradox.

Of course combat seems to be the very nature of academic debate. It doesn’t surprise me that academic methods are destructive since academia’s first priority is to reinforce the hierarchy and it’s values (including separation from self, community and land), and this means avoiding communal style collaboration. I remember a lecturer at architecture school who taught design in a genuine collaborative environment – he was universally reviled by the other lecturers.

Ironically it was at university that I learnt the concept of synergy and it’s that ‘greater than the sum of it’s parts’ thing that I love about this circle of blogs. However as I learned at the time you need at least an element of community for synergy to work.

I have to admit to a feeling of trepidation every time I visit the Anthropik site – in fear of what new calamity I will encounter there. Not so at Ran’s site, even when he uses my comment to bounce a debate in a particular direction it’s not done in an insulting manner.

Where I’m going with this is that I believe that the academic method is a very flawed way of chasing the truth, not just because it zeroes in on the details and loses the big picture but also because it uses combat as a debating method.

Whilst it’s true that an argument that can withstand immense criticism must be a good one, the war-like nature of the debate puts the proponent of any new idea immediately on the back foot and they have to ‘dig themselves in’ to withstand the assault.

It’s a real waste of time and energy in it’s own right but also because the proponent of an idea is the person in the best place to be critiquing it – after all, who else knows it so well. I know this is a strange idea for our culture, I’m expecting most people will be pretty sceptical of it and I would be too if I hadn’t observed Ran doing this very thing in some of his writing.

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I’m aware that this posting includes quite a bit of implied and direct criticism of Jason Godesky. Initially I was (and still am really) quite hesitant about doing this and I realised that I was feeling some kind of pressure about it. I don’t know how stuff like this can work across the internet but it happened a lot in the Derrick Jensen discussion list so I’m kind of familiar with it. In any case we should always respond to pressure like this and work to free ourselves of it, regardless of whether it is a small or a big deal.

I don’t have or want a problem with Jason, I gain immensely from his writing and there is far more to be gained from keeping the peace – but not at any cost. His behaviour errs on the destructive side at times and I’m hoping he will get the opportunity to see that sometime. It’s true that I wasn’t a lot different ten years ago so there’s hope for everyone.

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In the permaculture v hunter-gatherer debate I referred to above I remember Ran linking to one of my postings on the subject with the comment that he was burned out by the whole thing. How would it be if we could debate in a way that energised people instead of wearing them down? How would it be if the debate could be effective without having to be so damned ‘robust’.

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Zeitgeist – two out of three ain’t bad

September 9, 2007

After seeing the film Zeitgeist mentioned in quite glowing terms on a few other blogs I decided to check it out myself and I have to say that it is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever watched.

Calling your film Zeitgeist is a pretty daring move – you need to make sure you do a damn good job if the film is to deserve the title. The reason I’m feeling frustrated is that parts two and three live up to the title but part one falls flat on it’s face.

I think they really dropped the ball with the first part by giving in to their own prejudices in an attempt to deconstruct and discredit Christianity. I used to share the world view of the film-maker(s) regarding Christianity and there was a time I would have loved part one of the film. There came another time though when I began to see that my position was basically one of reverse bigotry.

Because there are a lot of people associated with Christianity who are clearly hypocrites I thought it was OK to openly disparage that whole sector of society. I remember the little rush I used to get every time I discovered something that discredited the religion but eventually it dawned on me that my dislike of them was no different to their dislike of people they didn’t approve of. I was as much a bigot as them, I just faced a different direction.

These days I have a much more nuanced view, I can see the difference between the people and the book they say they are following and also the difference between the people and the institutions. Organised Christianity is no different to any other institution, be it government or corporate or whatever.

The truth is I actually found part one to be absolutely riveting, it was full of fascinating information that I’d never heard before, (which I haven’t tried to verify incidentally) but if this is to be the film of the spirit of our times then part one needs to go in the trash and the film maker(s) need to return to the drawing board.

The exceptional bias of the film maker was readily apparent due to the gleefully patronising narration of part one and if that wasn’t bad enough the whole thing began with a grand five minute montage that included a telling of the evolution fable. I’m not trying to be provocative using the word fable to describe evolution I just think that’s the way it’s used by a lot of people. I don’t know if the film makers were aware that they were putting their own religious views up front and I don’t know which is worse: That they knowingly attempted to bludgeon us with ‘their’ story or that they were completely unaware that they had put their religious viewpoint in first before attempting to debunk another religion.

Another mistake they made was that of mistaking connection for causality. I was fascinated by the astrological relationship with the story of Jesus’ birth but to present it as if the astrological patterns automatically begat the story from the bible is quite misleading.

Obviously I can’t prove that their claim is wrong but then a Christian could argue that the patterns of the stars are put there by God to confirm the story and I wouldn’t actually be able to disprove that claim either. Which is my precisely my point.

They makers of the film also do not have a handle on the spirit of Christianity (although neither do a lot of Christians for that matter). They say nothing about the central theme of love running through the New Testament nor the idea of grace. It’s a pity really because a brief understanding of these ideas would tend to suggest that the acts of the church in the middle ages were not consistent with the bible and that maybe something else was going on. As it stands at the moment we have both the institutional church and it’s attackers insisting that the institutional church represents Christianity in the face of a great deal of evidence, via the church’s behaviour, to the contrary.

Something else I have a problem with is the lack of understanding of the effect that Emperor Constantine had on Christianity. Briefly; he took what was a kind of underground movement and turned it into the official religion of the empire. All of a sudden Christianity went from being an enemy of the state to an excuse for the state to go on library destroying crusades etc etc etc, you know the rest. To tie early Christianity in with the oppressive church of the middle ages and not mention this change would tend to indicate a pretty superficial understanding of the subject.  The middle ages was the result of the usual lust for power on the part of the elites, the difference this time round was just that they had found a particularly powerful voodoo to control the population with.

These are only some of problems with part one that have occurred to me, I’m aware that there are other areas that people will say that I need to deal with before I can really claim that the film makers dropped the ball but I don’t want to waste any more time going down that particular track because there’s a much bigger problem with part one of the film.

It’s irrelevant.

The power of the church began to wain, ever so slowly, with the creation of the King James version of the bible several centuries ago. Though unintelligible today it was written in the language of it’s time and took power away from royalty and the clergy who controlled what the population knew of the book my only printing it in Latin. Here I agree with the makers of Zeitgeist, by controlling the truth of their religion the church was able to control the people, the only thing was, it was the truth of the monstrously hypocritical difference between the institution’s behaviour and it’s book that they were hiding.

The institutional church was still powerful for a long time afterwards and many of the break away groups of the last few centuries themselves became institutionalised but the Christian scene today is characterised by a comparatively high degree of diversity with a lot of growth in independent and egalitarian churches, as well as more and more people meeting in their homes. There are still people out there trying to recreate hierarchical church models in an attempt to grab power but frankly the Christian landscape reminds me of the model of a post crash world that crash bloggers regularly describe. Which is to say a world in which it is no longer possible for any one group to dominate the globe and in which each country has devolved into a bunch of little fiefdoms with lot’s of uncontrolled territory in between. This is certainly not the nature of an institution that has us by the balls, nor is it an institution we should be overly worried about.

As annoying as many visible Christians are in the US they are no more than a sideshow – much like the bible-thumping US President himself. We would do well not to be sidetracked by them.

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So if they don’t use spiritual voodoo to control us, what do they do now? Ironically enough in part three there’s an excerpt from an interview with the late Aaron Russo who knows the answer to that question. In this interview he recounts how Nick Rockefeller told him that one of the elite’s goals was to separate children from their parent’s at a very young age, enabling indoctrination to begin as early as possible.

We should be on the lookout for other ways they cement their power by pitting us against each other. For instance: black versus white, Christian versus Muslim and Christian versus Evolutionist.

Zeitgeist talks about how religion is used to separate us from nature but I would say that the separation starts from a much earlier age in modern times the child is separated from the mother at the very moment it is born, I don’t know if hospitals still smack a child to make it cry out but they do still often whisk it off to be weighed and prodded as soon as the cord is cut, only returning it to the mother after it has been cleaned and swaddled in blankets. Even when the mother gets full control over her child her cultural conditioning is such that she will likely attempt to feed it with a bottle and almost certainly leave it alone in the dark to sleep by itself while attempting to ignore it’s terrible plea’s for help.

As bad as all that it for a child it is only the beginning. Separation from the parents is further enhanced by our coercive parenting styles and the coup de tat is delivered via 13 years of hard-labour at our penal-like educational institutions.

This should be the real story of part one of Zeitgeist – the story of our times. How the treatment of our babies and children sets the groundwork so that people always gravitate toward strong authority figures no matter how irrational they may actually be. It sets the groundwork so that they feel powerless even though en masse they could topple any government. It sets the groundwork so that people are ineffectual zombies struck dumb by the myriad of entertainment distractions passing by their eyes. Little wonder that almost all any of us can do is sit slack jawed on our couches mesmerised as we watch planes fly into buildings over and over and over again.

As for the small percentage of us who actually get off our couches, well it appears that it’s relatively easy to distract us with a myriad of false activism issues like, oh I don’t know, the Evils of Christianity?

There is also the small matter of the mainstream media… however I imagine that anyone who is reading this blog is on to that particular game so I’ll leave that untouched for the moment.

So if we were to remake part one of this film how would it look? Very briefly, In order to examine how we are shaped as subjects of the Rockefeller empire I imagine we’d be looking to interview people like Jean Liefdloff, John Taylor Gatto, and Derrick Jensen…. Hmmm, who else?

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