What’s Missing.

August 25, 2006

There’s a discussion that Ran has picked up on via Free Range Organic Human and a few reader comments about how no one really seems to be making it as a hunter-gatherer despite a lot of good intentions. There’s also a comment about how Permaculture Homesteaders usually end up being disappointed with the results of their labour and Ran even says he doesn’t really enjoy going up to his land that much. 

Meanwhile I’m talking about getting an eco-village or permaculture-village going, but in some ways I feel the same. I really don’t care much for ‘Eco’ this-and-that and I don’t care that much about ‘Permaculture’ either (even though I just took a weekend introductory course on the subject). I think going primitive and re-wilding makes a lot of sense too, but as usual, could I care less? 

Yeah, some days I couldn’t give a stuff about all that. Some days the thought of having an environmentally pure eco-village leaves me dry but what this discussion has made me realise is that what I do care about, in fact what I obsess about, is the VILLAGE aspect of the phrase Eco-village.  I want one. 

One of things that civilisation is really good at is separating us from each other (and here’s where all this stuff gets interesting again). I may not be excited about primitivism itself but I do know that primitive solutions can build community where high tech ones destroy it. I think that although caring for the earth may not get me out of bed some days caring for the part of the earth that my village occupies could be a real head turner and I’m sure that even though creating a food forest may sound like groovy idea, creating one with my tribe so that we have the time (once it’s fully established) to enjoy being a tribe could be an especially meaningful activity. 

So here’s what I want.  What I really want. 

What I really want is to be able to work with friends, and to be able to do it at a pace of our choosing. I even want to be capable of choosing a pace other than civilised-fast. 

I want to immerse my kids in an environment that is totally supportive of their needs. I want to immerse myself in an environment that is totally supportive of my needs – then I might be able to support my kids better than I do now. 

I want to have my friends nearby, not several hours drive away. I want to spend my time with people who know where I’m at instead of having to endure years of superficial relationships in my daily life. I want to build a house with friends instead of doing it alone, slowly. 

I want to have access to which ever level of social interaction I need at any given moment. I want crowds some times and I want solitude other times, I usually can’t get either of those in a nuclear family. 

I want to be surrounded by people I trust. I want that badly. 

I want to be surrounded by people who support the way I choose to live, it’s got to be better than having to be ready to defend myself to my friends and family at any given moment. 


This suspected lack of progress may also be something to do with our culture’s tendency to get caught up in the superficial groovy aspects of any particular topic. Going primitive requires all sort of skills that may or may not be of interest to you but the main thing it probably needs to make it work is a sizeable group of people – and so far I don’t know of anyone, no matter how skilled and knowledgeable, who’s gone into the forest with anything more than 5-6 people. 

In all honesty I don’t think I can see Primitivism working until a full-on functioning tribe tries it. Worse still I suspect any kind of tribe won’t work properly unless it’s spent 15-20 years knitting itself together in an eco-village with that small umbilical cord back to civilisation firmly in place. And even beyond that, I’m beginning to think that being primitive is a bit of a side issue – maybe no more than the icing on the cake of being a successful tribe.

Maybe what all these primitivists, re-wilders and permaculture homesteaders are missing is simply their tribe, or maybe it’s just what I’m missing.



  1. ilvilization for all its problems still provides easy food for most in the 1st world, it may not be nutritious but it is the cultural stuff most of us have been raised in.

    Being primitive, or better less civlilized may be an instinctual feeling, but primitive foraging will not appeal to many in at this point. True primitivism for those of us raised in modernity, would be a skill base only used for TSHTF type stuff, not something many will pursue willfully, nor maintain for long.

    The connection with others is one of the driving forces for the changes that will occur, the others will be forced upon us. This connection with others is another manifestation of how disconnected we are from our true selves, our true needs, not those established by our culuture and invariably from our fear/control system.

    The truth is no one really knows how things will turn out, thats OK–thats the way it always has been. We merely read the symptoms of ecological degradation, and cilvilizations empowerment of the worst parts of us. We are conditioned and to a large degree dependend on the system we don’t care for, we are striving to be free–internally you can work on this, and allow yourself to pursue actions that move you away from the unhealthy “safety net/prison” that generations of humans have created. It need not be all or nothing, nor do we need to idolize primitivism, nor judge those who don’t seem to be moving fast enough.

    Things will work out in the end, the world certainly will look much different in twenty years, but as always you can only reflect personally the changes you would like to see in other/world.

    The time frame for change is always now, intellectualizing and predicting how long a “tribe” will take to form, is just an exercise in prediction, the direction you are moving and your awareness is key, to go against the current is fatiguing, and this is way many people do not exist outside the sytem for long, but these are lessons for the rest of us.

    Food & Water scarcity will certainly become issues once again for those of us who have been born to the 1st world nations, with our relative abundance of calories. But this is just a physical relfection of the scarcity of energy that humans have continued to have for a very long time, power-mongering doesn’t create energy it unnaturally steals it, nature will find its balance again, it remains to be seen how many humans will exist to see it.

    Posted by: Bubba | 08/25/2006

    The time span I mention, although deliberately provocative in some ways is based on this comment from Robina McCurdy of Tui Ecovillage:

    “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.”

    I couldn’t access the original article but I’ve quoted heaps of it at this posting. http://villageblog.blogspirit.com/archive/2006/02/24/tui-ecovillage.html

    I also note that Robina wrote this after 12 years of being in the village which a bit faster than I said but it would also be interesting to see what she has to say now after another 10 years

    Posted by: Aaron | 08/25/2006

    Right on! I could care less about eco-this or eco-that, primitive this or rewild that. I see these things solely as a means to an end, in that living more primitively can help build community. I visited Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage a couple months back, and was sorely disappointed. It seems the focus was on the eco- and that they were only looking for a (large! 500-1000 person) village so they would have more of an impact on the society around them. The values around family and community were conspicuously absent from what people talked about and worked on. It was still far better than my place of residence in the city, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.

    What you’re sharing about what you really want sounds very similar to a talk I gave at my UU church a couple weeks back. I’d like to share that with you.

    “I’ve been to two family reunions recently, and this has gotten me to thinking about family and community. Both of my family reunions were very similar, as I imagine all family reunions are. Everyone – aunts, uncles, and cousins – some familiar, some I’ve never seen before – came from all over the place. We stayed together for a while, eating together, playing cards, and catching up – and then it was time for people to go. Everyone said their goodbyes, and “see you next year”s.

    I’m about to move out of the house, and have been wondering just how much I’m going to see my parents again. I rarely ever see my brother now that he has his own place – and he still lives in Charlotte. Northern Wisconsin, where I’m going, is very, very far away from Charlotte. How often am I going to be back here? Will the story of my family end like the story of my family reunions? – “Bye mom, see you next year.” I hope not.

    Every Sunday I can, I come to this church. I’ve been coming here for almost 14 years now. Lately, church has often ended up being my only social outing each week, the reason being that I don’t have anywhere else to go. Everyone is always so busy and distracted, and lives so far apart, making any real connections here is an uphill battle. I spend my time mostly alone, trying to fill in the holes where friends and family are supposed to be.

    But it’s nice to come here, and be around people for a while. Sometimes I even have genuine conversations, although that’s rare. Mostly I just play with the kids, because I connect with kids very easily. I’m sure most of you have seen me play with the kids here, so you know how much fun we have together. When I’m playing with the kids and it’s time to go, the kids don’t want to leave, and I don’t either. Sometimes they’ll ask me to come home with them. One time not too long ago, Whitney and Tessa said they wished I could be their brother. But that wasn’t possible, of course – and besides, it was time to go. Community is something that only happens on Sunday mornings, and it was afternoon already.

    All of this has made me wonder. Why does it take something as big as marriage, or a death, or an annual reunion, to shake us from our daily lives enough to bring family together? Why are families spread so far apart? Why are family and community relegated to “events” instead of always being there?

    And can we really call it a family or a community if it’s only a part-time commitment, happening only once a week? I don’t think so.

    To be fair, what we have here is better than nothing. But is better than nothing really the best we can do? Again, I don’t think so.

    So I’m leaving town, and pursuing deeper connections and my dream of having a community. A community where I have friends and family I’m living, working, and playing with all the time, not just on Sundays. A community where family reunions are unnecessary (absurd even) because families are never in disunion. A community where if there is a marriage or a death, people won’t have to come from all over the country, because everyone will already be there. A community where when I’m playing with the kids, they won’t have to go home, because they’re already home. And a community where if the kids want me to be their brother, I can say “OK!” because I already am their brother.

    That’s the kind of community I’m looking for.”

    – Devin

    Posted by: Devin | 08/28/2006

    The thing that keeps me from digging in to primitive living skill development is that I don’t want to do it alone. It doesn’t even make sense to do it alone, since I couldn’t survive alone. Without that tribe, I don’t have the motivation.

    I do care about permaculture and the like, but the social aspect of a tribe is the biggest draw for me as well. Close, meaningful relationships. I can only imagine. I think about the stories of white settler captives of American Natives not wanting to leave the tribe when they were released.

    Posted by: sara | 09/02/2006

  2. […] a fantastic quote by Tamarack Song from the Teaching Drum Outdoor School. I don’t think my posting on the subject was written very coherantly, I’m try to feel my way forward to a new […]

  3. Aaron, you write: “I want to be surrounded by people I trust. I want that badly… I want to be surrounded by people who support the way I choose to live, it’s got to be better than having to be ready to defend myself to my friends and family at any given moment.”

    Such group of people is properly called a band or Natural Family to distinguish it from a monogamous reproductive unit licenced by the state. It’s a group of 15-30 people including children and elders, bonded by privately created common culture (held togeter by spiritual kinship) and by the personal bonds. It is a group marriage were the group sex bonds all adults at a very intimate level, not merely of sympathy but of deep attachment. In other words there is no enclosure in sex, i.e. privitization of sex partners. There is no fencing of anything for that matter or private property in anything. Like in any true family there is sharing, sharing, sharing… of anything and everything. Such group is a neccessary and sufficient psychological environment which takes us from the civilizoid mental condition to the mental state of natural man, who is not necessarily primitive, and hopfull very intelligen and certainly very humane. A union of several such natural families then forms a tribe if the families experience a practical need for such a union.

    It would be foolish to go “primitive” or “permaculture” in civilizoid state of mind. Becoming natural and humane being is a precondition of going back to the natural way of life. And this psyche rejuvenation cannot be accomplished by solo performance, simply because man is not a solitary creature. Our psyche, our mind, our sex and emotional life always were and will remain forever to be collective affairs.

    It’s only natural then for natural families and/or tribes of such families to practice primitive skills, permaculture, or any other forms of survival in the expectaion of the dooms-day. What’s more important, while expecting the Big Bang in the future, they can still live as a happy family on land or in the large metropolitan city, in the midst of civilizoid maddness without becoming mentally or emotionally disturbd.
    Sincerely, vladrub at yahoo dot com

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