Archive for February, 2006

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Tui Ecovillage

February 24, 2006

In my last post I referred to an article about Tui Ecovillage based here in New Zealand. It’s been a while since I last read the article and I’m reminded of how good it is. It’s written by Robina McCurdy who was the instigator of the village back in 1984 – the article was written in 1996. I’ve met and interviewed Robina and she is a living testament to the personal growth that occurs in successful villages. Here’s some choice quotes:

I believe that the greatest test of a community’s spiritual alignment is how they deal with the financial realm. … It is my opinion that for a community to function wholistically on all levels, an essential ingredient is to have a form of income earning that ties people together. Of necessity this keeps people having to move forward as a group, as their “food source” is bound in with evolving sustainable relationships.

and

Conflict does and will happen in any group, so learning ways to deal with it is vital to the life of a group. It arises because of lack of honesty, differences in habits, lifestyle and values, projections and reflections, and inappropriate structures to meet the needs of a particular group. Providing ways to deal with these areas, significantly minimises conflict. If the group does not have agreed mechanisms to deal with conflict, the tension that builds up, spoken or unspoken, inevitably brings about distancing. The imploded energy created by denial is likely to destroy the group eventually. In my observations and experience, groups which have not upheld personal growth as a prerequisite for group growth and prosperity, have ultimately destroyed themselves

All prospective members and members of Tui make a commitment not to walk away from conflict. If requested, a member, small group, or, if necessary, the whole community, can be supportive in conflict resolution.

and especially this

A “Tuki” is an oratory “heart-sharing-circle” process, which we have adopted and adapted from the Maori whaikorero and American Indian tribal council. Its purpose is to go deeper into the family / cultural / historical conditioning & values which underlie emotional/attitudinal blocks, to us as a group, making aligned decisions and defining collective direction. It also serves to renew inspiration and therefore commitment. Tuki are usually held when we get “stuck” in a way which hinders our positive progress as a group – when mistrust/ misunderstandings build, when differences create separation, when we lose sight of loving over divisive community issues.

A Tuki generally happens for two days, including the evening in between.

It is important that everyone is present, as it is almost unavoidable that the group will have a “paradigm shift”, and it is difficult for a person being left behind to be later integrated.

and lastly

Well known author Scott Peck has defined that to get in touch with true community we go through the stages of pseudo-community, and then chaos. We at Tui have surely done that – and we are richly awarded.

Through life at Tui, I am rediscovering what I believe to be a natural social pattern encoded within our genes as basic as an animal’s instinct – this pattern is overlaid by conditioning generated from fear of intimacy, and lack of bonding with our Earth Mother.

There are essential patterns in leaves and water-flow, so it is feasible that there are God-given blueprints for human settlement, regardless of how sophisticated we think we have become. It is simply a matter of removing the clutter.

The only thing that I would want to add to this is more specifics about raising children. That said though, a group of people focused on dealing with their own problems the way Tui has have done most of the work toward getting that right anyway.

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Nomadic Villages

February 23, 2006

In a comment a few posts back Jason from the Tribe of Anthropik promised to write an analysis of where the early primitivist trailblazers went wrong and what his tribe was going to do differently. A couple of days ago he posted the article and whilst it is more theoretical than I had imagined (that being the problem with imagination) I have gleaned a couple of things from it that partially satisfy my curiosity on the subject. He writes:

 

The key is to end our reliance on civilization–not necessarily our interaction with it. Civilization will not allow that; rangers, CYS, and a whole array of government impediments have been erected to ensure that.

 

Which means they are:

 

…looking at buying several small pieces of land, adjacent to a national forest. The forest will be our range, but to avoid the attention of authorities, we’ll own the land we actually live on. Land taxes, hunting and fishing licenses, and other such requirements mean that we will still need a small flow of monetary income. There are a number of ways to procure that, since the flow is quite small.

 

I must admit to still being frustrated about why previous attempts at primitivism have ended with the people going back to civilisation. To me there is not enough analysis available to learn from especially if I compare it to the information about the ecovillage movement where we see a generation’s worth (of a wide variety) of experiences. 90% of ecovillages failed but we are now in a position to figure out why and start to improve that percentage. I’m definitely no expert on this but I’d say we are lacking this experience base for forming hunter/gatherer communities at the moment.

 

It may be the case that with tribes requiring less civilisation and less complexity they will have less difficulties but even so I have no idea how far down the track primitivists are. I do know that the Tribe of Anthropik will make mistakes along the way, not because they are mistake-prone but because that is the lot of pioneers. I would say that they are well equipped to reflect upon their mistakes and make adjustments but ultimately only time will tell if they make it.

 

I’m going to keep going with the comparison between ecovillages and tribes, and for deeper reasons than that both are being looked at as responses to the crash. Ultimately both movements are an attempt to avoid the alienating void that civilisation has left us – as Brent Ladd discusses in his account of primitive life. Near to, or maybe right at the core of these two movements is a need for real community. I think that civilisation is by definition anti-community which is why so many people are trying to escape it. And I don’t just mean from within these two movements either. The overwhelming experience of most civilised people seems to be one of attempted escape. How many times do people leave their jobs, the towns or their relationships to escape some kind of problem – only, of course, to find the problem rear it’s head once again.

 

Relocating to a tribe or village can help us get around the problems jobs and towns bring us but with relationships it’s going to be different. For this issue it will be a case of: ‘We can take the people out of civilisation but we can’t take civilisation out of the people’.

 

Civilisation is clearly an abusive and destructive force at it’s edges where it’s gobbling up new territory but in order to staff the work of civilisation the stewards and foot soldiers at the centre of civilisation also need to be abusive and destructive. The best way of making people like this is to treat them in an abusive way – preferably from as early an age as possible.

 

That’s all a very complicated way of saying that civilisation screws us up big time. There is no doubt that we will bring civilisation (in the form of those screw-ups) with us to these other ways of living. It’s taken at least a generation and a myriad of different experiences to start to figure out how to form strong communities in the village situation and even now there is no guarantee of success for those starting a new community.

 

According to Jason Godesky:

 

The Tribe of Anthropik is a community. If you see us focusing more on the nitty-gritty, understand that’s only because we’ve already forged our community and can now turn our attention to the practical reality of primitive life.

 

I must preface this by stating that I don’t know too much about the tribe and that I don’t doubt that they are a community but I would expect that their community hasn’t been tested yet – at least not fully. I would say that they all have a pretty clear handle on their tribe’s vision so that’s one essential base covered but as far as I can tell they haven’t yet had the experience of living together and sharing all their resources, (financial or otherwise).

 

Speaking more generally now it is my belief that a group of people endeavouring to form a tight knit community are going to have to show the sort of commitment that successful married couples do – except that they are going to have to show it toward everyone in the entire community. Tui Village in the South Island of New Zealand, is one of the successful 10% of ecovillages and they have developed a conflict resolution tool called the ‘Tuki’ – which they have co-opted from the local Maori culture (a lesson in that too).

 

Judging by my own inadequacies, and their semi-resolution through marriage, I have come to the conclusion that if I am to go into a village I would want the significant majority of fellow villagers to be people already well experienced in relationships (and I’m looking for quality here, not quantity:-).

 

I also think a large number of people – over 30 at least – and a diversity of ages is essential. Unfortunately most old people in a our society would cause serious problems in a new venture like this but the few who have chosen to confront their own inadequacies during their lives will be invaluable to a group trying to exorcise the many curses of civilisation. They will fulfil the role of elders – something most of us are pretty unfamiliar with.

 

Ultimately I’m undecided about whether we are going to be better served during and after the crash by living in ecovillages or going primitive but I am sure that an ecovillage with it’s gentler step out of civilisation is an ideal place for a group of people to become committed to each other – for them to become a tribe. If they find they have to head for the hills after living in a permanent village for a while I think they would be well equipped to survive. To be clear, I’m not saying other ways won’t work, just that I’m sure villages will help form close-knit communities and that the tightness of the group will have great bearing on how they cope with the more technical problems the post-peak world will bring us.

 

That was going to be the last paragraph but after reading through this piece it has become apparent that, like the permaculture v hunter gatherer debate the ecovillage v nomad debate (which is really the same debate) has shown up a continuum between the two. I’m talking about a permanent village that could end up becoming a nomadic tribe and Jason is talking about a hunter/gatherer tribe that owns land and will have a kind of permanent residence. The Tribe of Anthropik is certainly going to have to deal with the same group ownership issues that ecovillagers deal with. Once again the line between the two concepts has started to blur.

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Run for the hills

February 21, 2006

I’ve just deleted one of the ‘Related Sites’ links. I won’t make it personal by saying which blog it was but I hadn’t been there for a while and when I visited recently I was hit by this great big advertisement for Bird Flu preparation. Please.

I feel like Bird Flu is the biggest (and most obvious) con I’ve ever seen – maybe I’m missing something. Anyway most everything you need to know about it can be read at Ran’s Crashwatch page. Like he says, I’ll believe it when I see it.

 Except…

An article I’ve read (which I can’t find online) points out that if they decide to make a specific vaccine against bird flu, the first thing scientists will have to do it make a human strain! They have to make a human strain of the flu because without it they can’t make a human-specific vaccine. One of the many, many problems with vaccines is that they actually spread the disease they are meant to prevent, especially if it’s a live vaccine, so this would amount to an act of extreme stupidity the likes of which, well, the likes of which we have seen often before unfortunately.

 As is usually the case there will be no need for a conspiracy to spread bird flu – just stupid humans, devoted to their hierarchy and going about their normal business.

 Run for the hills!!!!!!!!!!

 I was already going off this site anyway as is it was treating ecovillages mostly as a peak oil solution. Maybe for some people it will work out but I’m predicting that a village that has too many people in it who are primarily there to escape the crash is going to have terminal problems.

 Being in a village to escape civilisation is fine, that’s the main reason to go into one but being in it to escape the crash of civilisation is another thing entirely. With the first option it’s possible for the community to have a common vision but with survivalist villagers there will be a very diverse range of visions including those who don’t actually want to escape civilisation and will want to recreate it wherever they are.

 90% of Ecovillage have failed in the past and the main reason has been disagreement over vision. Often the disagreement lurks in the background and no one is even aware of them – they just find they’re having lot’s of disagreements. Just imagine a survivalist ecovillage. Scary. Actually they already exist – run for the city!!!

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Better Late Than Never

February 18, 2006

I’ve only just read Ran’s latest essay – Dont Fear the Singularity, written last year – and I love it. Because it was a rewite of a previous essay I hadn’t bothered to even glance at it. What a mistake. It reminded me of why I got so hooked on his site in the first place. If you haven’t read it you can probably guess what I think you should do next.Here’s my favourite bit:

What if they build a world-simulation program to tell them how best to administer progress, and it tells them the optimal global society is tribes of forager-hunters? Now that would be a new evolutionary level — in irony

This next bit is out of context but it sums up how I feel about civilisation:

we’re in a game that’s crappy but so addictive we can’t quit

Readers familiar with this site are probably already aware that I think how we raise our children is as important or more important than our politics or faith in things like technolopgy. I also think it’s a key component in our escape from civilsation:

If a computer were 100 times more complex than us, by what factor would it be more emotionally sensitive? More depressed? More confused? More cruel? A brain even half as complex as ours can’t simply be programmed — it has to be raised, and raised well. How many computer scientists have raised their own kids to be both emotionally healthy, and to carry on the work of their parents?

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modern tribe

February 17, 2006

One of the things I’m interested in discussing on this blog is how to go about setting up tribes in our modern environment – as usual though, while the men talk the women just get on with it so here’s a posting made by Kerryn to the Continuum Concept email list which describes her tribe:

Four families got together at a home, only the mums (except for the work from home dad), combined there was 26 children aged from 4 mo twins to a 14 yo daughter.  The mums cooked, did some jobs to help the mum of the house, picked up others’ babies, directed children in their efforts to help, and talked a lot.  The children came and went from the house into the yard.  The bigger ones often had the babies in their arms, comforting and encouraging, helping to feed, and bringing them back to their mum for feeding.  There was not one fight or even minor altercation the whole 8 hours we were together.  The older two women encouraged the younger women, and I remember writing in my journal that night how satisfying the day was.

We get to do this very often, in homes or local parks, at the beach or even going shopping.  It is possible to form these kinds of groups/tribes in our mainstream environment.

Also see this previous posting about another mother’s experiences with grouping families together.  Not entirely coincidentally my wife is also in the process of setting up similar supportive arrangments with her friends. . The nuclear family approach must have such a stranglehold on our society because most parents have experienced how parenting is much easier even itheir child just has a single friend over to play, yet we almost never move to change how we live.

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Blam!

February 16, 2006

I’ve been reading about this whole Dick Cheney hunting accident thing and it got me to wondering about just how corrupt he is.  It’s pretty impossible to conceive of but here’s how I can at least put it in proportion:
I’ve mentioned before my inability to handle the power I have over my children. I don’t want you to think I am abusive in anyway. Merely ‘mis-usive’ – which is to say that by comparison to other father’s I am generally kinder and gentler. This comparison to other civilised people is what makes it possible for me to admit out loud that I have an issue here but it doesn’t change the reality that I still mis-use my power from time to time and that it’s not good for my kids. Total power appears to be something that I can’t handle and by the way, it’s something that no parent can handle irrespective of what they might tell you.

What makes my hypocrisy obvious is that I treat adults differently to how I treat my kids. The reason for this is simple, an adult will fight back if I don’t achieve a certain standard of behaviour, a child will not. I’ve experienced the role reversal too. In my last proper job I turned up lacking confidence in my abilities, I presume my body language portrayed this and my boss just walked all over me, again noticeably different to the way he treated other workmates. Like my boss (but much more so) the people around Cheney are doubtless very wary of upsetting him (invitations to go hunting with the VP will now be a sign that you’ve messed up in a big way!). It’s probably been like this for years and his perspective on his own behaviour must be highly distorted. How could it be otherwise when those around him don’t or won’t hold him to account like the adults around you and I do.
Dick Cheney has had enormous and absolute power for so long that even though I think I understand the psychological mechanism my mind boggles at just how far beyond us normal people he must have gone.

The real problem though is we all use the behaviour of very corrupt people to distract ourselves from our own less corrupt behaviour. It’s denial but I still think we’ve got a cheek to try to fix up the mess we see ‘out there’ when we can’t even face the mess we see ‘in here’

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Cancer Resources

February 15, 2006

I noticed that the blog Taognostic had referred to this site as one of several sources of information on cancer. Amongst the others was the Newstarget.com cancer section which looks to be really good and covers a lot of the same ground that ‘Cancer Concpiracy’ covers. Taognostic also specifically recommended the Newstarget article How to Give yourself Cancer in 5 easy steps.