h1

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.

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. Very insightful post, thank you. I find myself agreeing enthusiastically with much of what you write.

    I’d just like to nod along with these statements:

    “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’.”

    “The best way of making people [support civilization] is to treat them in an abusive way – preferably from as early an age as possible.”

    “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.”

    Big yes on that one. That is definitely the biggest hurdle.

    “They will fulfil the role of elders – something most of us are pretty unfamiliar with.”

    You’re right on, there. Elders? Where? I have had serious problems interacting with people much older than me. Most people in this culture necessarily look down on and abuse people younger than them. Having healthy intergenerational relationships is a big goal of mine.

    And lastly, you’re right on in that really there is no conflict between ecovillages and nomadic tribes… in fact they serve each other well. As you pointed out in the permaculture v. hunter-gatherer debate, each group uses the other strategy to its benefit. It’s definitely a continuum, not a dichotomy.

    It’s interesting that you would write something like this. I’m thinking about moving to Dancing Rabbit, and starting a tribal subcommunity there. The goal is to form a tribe within the larger structure of the ecovillage, and in so doing have support and a safety net should the tribe thing not work out. If all would-be tribes maintained a symbiotic relationship like this, maybe in the 10% of successful ecovillages, 10% of those would produce successful tribes.

    That is my vision at least.
    – Devin

    Posted by: Devin | 02/23/2006


  2. […] In my last post I referred to an article about Tui Ecovillage based here in New Zealand. It’s been a while […]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: