Archive for November, 2006

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Lesson from the Bushmen

November 26, 2006

I’ve often seen Ran write about how we need to develop a culture that in many ways is like a hunter/gatherer community but has the wisdom to cope with encounters with civilised culture. I was always a bit sceptical about how this might work in practice but I’ve just discovered a piece of anthropology in a link that Jason left at Free Range Organic Human which gave me an inkling of what this culture might be like.
Eating Christmas in the Kalahari is an account by Borshay Lee of how the Bushmen taught him a lesson in managing the arrogance and coercion that lies at the heart of our culture.

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searcherer

November 21, 2006

This posting was kind of prompted by Ted’s current state of searching. I sort of knew I was on a search but until I hadn’t realised that my outward search was a response to very specific inward needs.
I always feel slightly confused when people start talking about categories of thinking, like anarcho-primitivism or Marxism or Progressive-ism or whatever. I always feel like an outsider who doesn’t quite get it, but then I’m never that interested in sticking to a particular category so maybe that’s why.

I’m trying to get to the bottom of stuff and mostly it seems to be quite a subjective, personal thing, which is why there’s not a lot of academic rigour about this site. It seems to be important to figure out who I am in order that I don’t identify with someone else’s dogma and end up wrapping my identity around.

Anyway, if I resist the urge to fit into a particular crowd – or more accurately please the members of that crowd and then zero in on what I feel like I most need that might be a way of finding out what really matters to me. It might be better than trying to fit myself into a particular subset of anarchism for instance, and it definitely will be easier than trying to read a really wide cross section of writers to see where my place might be. In other words, I need to look inward and find out what’s there before looking outward at what other’s are doing.

I think this can work even if we’re full of walls and defences like I am because our greatest needs are usually screaming at us in a really loud voice.

For me than, this need is for people. I need people around me, maybe like, I don’t know – a tribe. Except these days I might be better off aiming for a mere community. Regardless this is what has been driving everything I’ve been looking at on this blog even if I didn’t realise it.

However the weird thing is, I feel like I’m fairly alone in this need. I see a lot of interest in outdoors kind of skills or solitary spiritual quest sort of stuff but who of us is building community? – the thing we’re going to need most of all in a crash situation. Maybe it just isn’t apparent because we’re online or maybe the online stuff is our substitute community – in which case we may all be in severe danger. I seem to have gotten onto a topic Ran was discussing recently, it’s not where I was intending to go but the fact that it’s written itself in may be significant.

Civilisation is incredibly isolating and incredibly good at separating us from each other. Having this strong community on line kind of increases the problem because I have been developing a lot of ideas but no one around me (except Karen) can even begin to understand what I am talking about. Half the time I don’t know what to discuss with people in my social life these days.

I’m aware that this is not very coherent and I’m not entirely sure I’m going with it, but mostly I just want to put a stake in the ground. I always feel the pressure to fit in with what’s going on around me, to live up to some kind of image to be honest, I’m not very interested in rewilding, going primitive, bringing down civilisation (in fact a part of me is dead against that) or studying anarcho-primitivism. I just want some people you know.

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Getting to the heart of it

November 15, 2006

There’s a discussion going on over at Anthropik that I’m going to respond to here because it gets to the core of what this blog is about. Or at least what it has come to be about.For the uninitiated, I started this blog to track my long term plans to set up an eco village. Over the time of my writing however I have come to understand that the village will merely be a setting for what I’m about to discuss here:

In the discussion I just mentioned, Casemeau commented.

A mistake that we tend to make when speaking of abuse is to only think about it in its very obvious and dramatic forms. Then, if none of these has happened to us; if, say, we haven’t been punched by a parent, or even yelled at, we think the discussion doesn’t apply directly to us. A widespread form of abuse that I’ll bet everyone has suffered from is the denial of our true selves by (usually) our parents. This takes place invisibly, every day. An example is like this: “Oh don’t cry, sweetie, it’s just a broken toy.” Or like this: “It’s a sad occasion, but you must be brave.” In physical abuse, the bruises and broken bones can heal quickly. What imprisons the child for decades after the bones have healed (until death, even) is the emotional need to bury the true self which cries when it is appropriate to cry. This allows the child, literally, to survive. This same damaging imprisonment is effected with seemingly good parenting (“Oh don’t cry, sweetie.”–This response to a crying child seems so right!)

I couldn’t have put it better myself. Jason responded with:

I disagree with the use of the term “abuse” to cover something like that. The fact of the matter is, even in a tribal society, you have to know when it’s OK to express yourself, and when you need some self-control. If you accept that, then the rest of this is a sliding scale.

For all his excellent research I think Jason misses the point here. The real problem with coming to grips with this is what it implies about out parents – which is that not only have they hurt us but that they are the principle means by which civilisation and it’s abusive rules are passed from generation to generation. In the context of an (online) anti-civ community like this circle of blogs this is a hell of a thing to say and a good reason to keep in denial about it. It should surprise no one that I have yet to tell my own parents about this blog. Clearly I can face this truth but equally clearly I can’t yet deal with it adequately.

Unless we can face and deal with this aspect of civilisation no amount of violent insurections or well meaning alternatives are going to make a blind bit of difference. We could be living in the forest making fire with a bow and using permaculture to supply food and still carry civilisation within us.As it is I can’t see how we can do more than water down the civilisation within us a little bit each generation.

The real reason I know this is not because of how my parents treated me but because of how I treat my kids. I have as much information available to me on how to break this cycle as anyone else but I am still not free of the temptation of mis-using my power over my kids. It could be as simple a thing as inventing a reason they can’t do something simply because it would involve me getting off the couch.

The fact that most people reading this will probably say that what I’ve described is not really a big deal and hardly worthy of the title power abuse or even mis-use is an indication of just how far we have to go. Know this though, Behaviour like this is something that normally WOULD NOT happen in a well-functioning tribe.

Of course to improve our behaviour as parents we need to work on ourselves first and I can’t speak too highly of what I see in Casemeau, Ted, Dan and Ran’s blogs. Often when I sit down to write about an issue I end up concluding that to solve it will involve doing some internal work (as opposed to the much more popular option of fixing the external world).

I don’t think my message is a particularly popular message. I fear that I may have inherited the dictatorial, communication style of my father but I also know that the solutions I advocate to our problems are damn hard to enact and maybe even impossible without a tribe or village to support us. Certainly most people are not in a position to focus in this area – especially if they are in the middle of trying to raise children.

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Where have all the elders gone?

November 1, 2006

How many people read Jason Godesky’s recent piece about the behaviour of young elephants who lack elders, and thought to themselves ‘that sounds familiar’. Traumatised young males lacking the leadership of elders go off the rails and commit violent acts against pretty much anything that moves. Very civilised indeed.We know where the elephant elders have gone, people have killed them, but where have our elders gone? Goodness knows there are plenty of people in the right age group – I can hear them griping now about how young people don’t show them enough respect these days, but really, how many of them are worthy of the title elder? How many do you know that you could count on to give good advice?I know the usual argument, ‘our society changes so fast that each generation can no longer relate to the one follows it’. Sure the world around us has changed but surely we haven’t changed that much down deep, I mean, doesn’t that important human stuff still exist? As a for instance, single people still want to find a partner don’t they? Older generations might not be able to advise young people where to go on a date but don’t we all go through the same nerve racking experiences and suffer the same hurts trying to initiate and maintain relationships as every other generation? Surely that hasn’t changed.

So what’s up then? To be sure, we live in a culture that prefers to focus on the superficial rather than the deep but I have to be honest, brutally honest, the baby boomer generation, which should be supplying us with elders is an appalling bunch. My disdain for them and the mess they’ve left us is only held in check by the thought that my generation is aiming to outdo them – although they may not get the chance.

The babyboomers are a generation that prides itself on staying youthful, looking young, acting young and feeling young. Never in recorded history has a generation crapped in it’s own nest the way this one has, never has a generation sold out like them, never has a generation used up resources in such a hurry and never has a generation been so damned selfish.

And to cap it off they look down upon the generations that follow – criticising us for behaviour that is merely a reflection of their own excesses.

My most focused antipathy is for the white middle class men of the generation that precedes me, the men who want to groom me to be amongst their successors. I do not like their fat, smug, self satisfied behaviour. I do not want to be like them. They can’t listen anymore, they can’t change and they blame everyone else for the ills of the world despite the fact that it is their childish hands on the tiller.

OK rant over. Here’s an example of someone who does deserve the title of elder. Despite recently discovering this individual in cyber space I can still count the number of men I know who deserve the title of elder on one hand. And if you think I’m being a bit harsh or sticking the knife in a bit far, think, for a moment about global warming. Think about the state of the oceans. Think about the death sentence that hangs over my children.

OK, the rant’s really over this time. When I was younger I didn’t think I needed elders but now I have young kids it’s a real struggle and we could really use some sage advice around here. Unfortunately most older people feel threatened by how we’re trying to raise our kids because it’s different to how they did it and we’re on our own. My greatest wish right now is that there would be someone around who could model non-coercive parenting to us.
That said though, I’m already doing some of the things they do. My entire life there has been the constant refrain about the state of ‘young people today’ and now at 35 I find myself looking at teenagers and joining the chorus. There certainly seems to be issue with boys in particular locking themselves away in their rooms with a computer or playstation and failing to develop any social skills – apart from virtual ones. Plus it’s only just dawned on me that texting has now made it possible for people to turn even their real relationships into virtual ones.

Think a bit deeper though and we shouldn’t be surprised at this. After all we’re talking about a generation that has been shunned by it’s parents from day one (if not earlier in a mental sense). They’ve been taught to avoid the difficulties’ of interpersonal relationships by being forced to sleep away from their parents from early on and being made to go to school and relate only to those in their exact age group (to name but two factors).

Remember also that this is a generation with fathers who have great difficulty in being with their children and who use jobs and other ‘important’ tasks to save them from having to confront difficult relationship issues. The only difference between the adult and the child is that the adult’s escape is graced with an aura of respectability while the child’s is not.

This tendency of teens to be uncommunicative is nothing new – just ask my parents, what is new though is the far more comprehensive array of distractions at this generation’s disposal. It is now much, much easier to disappear into a world of virtual relationships.

Truth be told I’m not that different from these fathers either. I’ve made sure that I’m around a lot in the physical sense for my children but it’s a real struggle to be fully there in the mental sense. I too feel the urge to be doing far more ‘important things’. To be fair on all of us though, in a village situation other children would be around to play imaginary games with our child and we would only ever join in with their games when we wanted to spend time with them.

My only question now is; how do I get to that village and where are the elders who will guide us in setting up a functioning community? Get in touch with me, please, if you know.