The one true way

August 27, 2006

This is another hurried posting so please excuse the rough writing. 

I think at one point I wrote that the reason for this blog was to track the progress of a new ecovillage . There’s been a lot of talk since then (and no action) and the blog has evolved to be other things, including a place for me to figure out some of the vision for the village. Behind the scenes we’re getting closer to starting but what I really want to note here is how my feelings about ecovillages have evolved.

Initially I was probably pretty entranced by the whole idea, but also I’ve moved from thinking a village was a good response to peak oil to thinking it was actually a pretty bad response and then on to not caring either way about how it might respond to peak oil and now I’m at a point where I want it simply because I want to have a tribe around me.

Raising kids in a nuclear family is hard enough, trying to raise them using Continuum Concept inspired attachment principles is even harder and I always find myself thinking ‘this problem would be instantly solved if I lived in a village’ or ‘this problem wouldn’t even exist if I lived in a village’. So now after feeling kind of ambivalent about being in a village I’m back to being keen on the idea and I’m very clear about why I want it.

I felt the need to give the ‘back story’ before returning to the recent debate about primitivists not being able to walk their talk.  I keep suggesting that people will need to start from an ecovillage before moving on to doing things like rewilding and I don’t want to come over like someone who’s bedazzled by the whole ecovillage concept.

I don’t believe that it’s possible for anyone to fulfill their promise and to fulfil their ambitions (unless they’re are civilised ambitions of course) until they have the support and healing that a tribe provides. Getting a tribe to function properly and doing the healing we all need may well involve forcing ourselves into crisis – it’s a tough, slow process. I refer constantly to an article by Tui ecovillage founder Robina McCurdy in which there is the implication that it might take 12 years to become a properly functional community. It could take longer – the article was written after 12 years of being a community so maybe there was more for Tui to go through.

What’s crucial though is that I can’t think of another way to form a fully functional tribe. A group of people could get together and declare themselves a tribe but there needs to be something serious to bind the members together. Our culture revolves around money and in an ecovillage the members are bound together at least in part by their common financial interest – once you’re in it’s not that easy to walk away. I know Daniel Quinn has recommended work-based tribes but I don’t know if anyone has made it work yet (see Jason Godesky’s experience of this).  Just heading into the forest with a bunch of people is out of the question, as has been noted it’s impossible to escape civlisations gaze – or it’s lure.

I always feel like I’m committing a taboo by suggesting an ecovillage to primitivists but I can’t think of anything else that has the right balance of detachment and connection with civilisation. We need to be disconnected in spirit so that we can grow mentally and spiritually but we still need to be attached to some of the material comforts so that we have the space to make these internal changes.

The argument that we need to attend to ourselves first before we look outward is not a popular one, people would rather read about someone else’s problems but I’m beginning to think it’s a very necessary step on the road away from civilisation. Unfortunately as my own life will testify, it’s much easier to go out and try to change the world than it is to turn unward and change ourselves.

BTW the title of this posting is an exercise in irony.


One comment

  1. Oddly enough, our own escape plan relies heavily on permaculture for the hardest part: when we have to coexist with civilization.

    Posted by: Jason Godesky | 08/28/2006

    There are a lot of informal communities in rural areas already living by supplementing their meager welfare benefits or other income with wild-sourced resources. Why don’t you forget all this naive, middle-class white liberal BS about tribes and such and simply go and live in a place where such a lifestyle is common and join one of these communities over time by osmosis. Then you can progressively increase your wild-sourced stuff as civilization collapses, thereby eventually becoming free.

    Posted by: Cornfed | 08/28/2006

    “I’ve moved from thinking a village was a good response to peak oil to thinking it was actually a pretty bad response and then on to not caring either way about how it might respond to peak oil and now I’m at a point where I want it simply because I want to have a tribe around me.”

    Right on! I’ve (almost entirely) stopped being concerned about Peak Oil and of late have been recognizing that my real wish is to have a family. A large family would be great — a tribe, the ideal — but really, any family will do. And of course here I’m using the word family to mean more than blood-related, because I have plenty of people I’m related to by blood that I don’t consider family. My parents and brother — my nuclear family, I suppose — are the only ones that even come close to qualifying, and even they don’t quite. My dad is always busy with/exhausted after work and my brother lives on his own, so I don’t really see that much of them. My mom and I have a really strong connection but she can’t come with me to the Teaching Drum because that’s not her thing at all. So the only family I have I’m leaving behind in pursuit of another family.

    I have thought a lot about the opportunities for finding family, have thought about all of my experiences and the ones where I’ve experienced most closely what community could be like, in the context of thinking about something I could create that might be able to transition into a tribe. The hardest part in all of this is finding the people to be in your tribe in a world where everyone is so distanced from everyone else. People need an excuse to live together, and that excuse needs to be able to provide a way to make a living. Here’s what I’ve come up with that have some potential: Ecovillage, camp, live-in school, cohousing community, tribal business, church. I think all of these have opportunities for bridging the gap between civilization and the primitive, some more than others. (For example, a church would be hard to pull off, you’d have to totally redefine what church means. I suppose I’m thinking a little bit about cults and how successful those are; I think there is potential for something like that but without the negative connotations of a cult.)

    But first and foremost I’m attending to myself first before I look outward. I know that me trying to create a tribe right now is totally missing the point, because I have so much emotional baggage left over from my childhood that I need to take care of first. I couldn’t be a very good parent right now because I’m still embarrassed and ashamed of the little kid inside of me… even though I’d like to think that I’d be a better parent than most people, “better” doesn’t mean “good”.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share my thoughts on all of this, and give you my support. I greatly respect you for what you’re trying to do. Best wishes.

    – Devin

    Posted by: Devin | 08/28/2006

    Because, Cornfed, white liberal middle class BS though it may be, I’m not looking for an informal community that supplements their meager income with wild-sourced resources. I want a family. I want a tribe. You speak of freedom, but freedom to me means being free with other people, and having strong relationships. You can scorn this dream, write it off as a naive white liberal middle class bullshit dream, but I don’t give a shit what category you put my dreams in. Why don’t you live your own life and stop shitting on other people for doing what you think is misguided?

    Really sick and tired of people trying to live my life for me,

    Posted by: Devin | 08/28/2006

    Oh, and another thing. You’re naive if you think that wanting a tribe is a white middle class liberal thing. Tell that to the humans who for thousands, hundreds of thousands of years have lived in tribes. The worst punishment for someone in the tribe was not death but banishment. No, I grew up a white middle class liberal, and I know what white middle class liberal values are. If liberals mention tribes at all, it’s in the context of pitying them for being victims, feeling guilty that they have so much while those poor primitives have so little. And if ever someone who is part of the liberal middle class wants to be in a tribe, it would be for the purpose of saving the world, self-sacrifice, or living in perfect “Harmony” with some bullshit concept of “Nature”, not for any other reason. THAT is bullshit. Wanting a family, wanting to have a deep sense of place and belonging, THAT is human.

    – Devin

    Posted by: Devin | 08/28/2006

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