Does no one agree with me, or was no one able to read through the entire post?
Ok, so many people have talked about wanting to get off the grid, live off the land, and possibly even start a commune with other people from this same message board. Others call life in America "A Pretty Miserable Existence". These thoughts come from the soul just searching for a better wellbeing. Wellbeing is a physical and psychological thing that includes nutrition, sunlight, exercise, sleep, lack of serious stress, functioning power process, social support, security of lifestyle, and just general happiness/spirituality (however your mindset is). This wellbeing is what we have learned from our paleo ancestors and other still-functioning tribes.
Notice that I added a few things to wellbeing that Mark doesn't talk much about. Social support, security of lifestyle, and power process are a few key ones that are products of a tribal lifestyle. Tribes are groups of people that make a living together. Unlike most businesses of today, there are no hierarchies. There may be bosses, but they are not above anyone else. There is an extreme form of bonding that simply does not occur for most people living in modern society. This is support. Security of lifestyle means that there is no point in the future where you can see your lifestyle having to change. Modern life has stock markets crashing, people losing jobs, having to save money for retirement, etc etc. In a tribe, life is sustainable (see next paragraph down for more on sustainability). Lastly, you have a functioning power process. This is simply having your efforts directly tied to your means of living. You can set goals that require effort, and it is possible (through your own effort and desire) to achieve them. Another word for this might be freedom, but I feel that has a political connotation. This is a psychological need that people have to attain power in their own lives. Surrogate goals (such as sports achievement, scientific research, and Wall Street domination) can temporarily satisfy you, but they always leave a wanting of more, more, more. This is one reason we have workaholics. When you have total power over the biological needs of your life and it requires effort, creativity, etc to achieve, you have a very satisfied power process. Some in our society have this, but not many.
Ok, so what about sustainability? For any reasonable public leader, this should be the biggest problem to solve. All modern societies combined are currently doing many things that simply cannot be continued indefinitely into the future. A few of these things include:
-population size & attemping to meet food demands
-losing top soil
-using petroleum to make power
-pollution of water, air, and land with harmful materials and chemicals
-destruction of habitat, causing loads of species to go extinct every year
Argue all that you want about these particular bullet points, but here are some stone cold facts. Humans are already consuming about 40% of all biomass produced on this planet every single year. Every time we clear a field containing thousands of different types of organisms and plant some form of crop, we are literally converting these flora and fauna masses into human mass. If we continue to do this, the biological systems that support us will fail. Also, our technology doesn't do us any favors when we do things like leak radioactive materials.
All together, we have food production and technology that are making us unsustainable. That is to say, our actions with them must change if our species is to live on this earth for a very long time after our death. After a little thinking, I realized that tribal life had an answer for both of these problems as well. Being attached to just your immediate vicinity for food prevents anyone from being able to carelessly increase food production (I would be happy to show you how increased food supply will 100% of the time lead to increased population). Being attached to your immediate group of people leads you to not need (or be capable of producing) any form of technology that could be considered seriously harmful.
Unsustainability will be corrected in one of two ways. 1) catastrophically where systems fail. 2) slowly through effort of people. The first option is out of our control and would basically imply learning bush skills if we knew it was inevitable. The second option would involve a changing of minds within people. It will not be a governmental idea because government programs have never solved anything. They are naturally reactive and can only stop bleeding. If people change their minds, it will be because they want to and there is something better out there. (People are ultimately self interested)
Interestingly enough, the solution to this problem of unsustainablility is something that will lead the chooser to a greater wellbeing. This tribal lifestyle has all the benefits that people crave and lack in modern society. It is not self denial of technology and ripe bananas that we must achieve. It is a reconnection of tribes that must occur for the dominoes to fall.
(Learn from paleo ancestors and surviving tribes)-----(They had the best wellbeing)----benefits included-----(nutrition, sunlight, exercise, sleep, lack of serious stress, functioning power process, social support, security of lifestyle, and spirituality/happiness)
(Modern society unsustainable)---will be corrected one of two ways:
(catastrophically)--what do I do?---(start learning how to live off the land without any assistance)
(actively by people)---what do I do?--(achieved through a shift to tribal lifestyle)
(Modern society unsustainable)---due to----(Food, Technology)----solve problem through----(Tribes, localities)-----receive greater------(Wellbeing)
Here is where I will expand as I go, and anyone else may join me in this creative thinking. If we are to achieve what we desire (greater wellbeing) through tribalism, we do not have to move off the grid. A commune is where people live together, kept together with some form of ideal or moral. A tribe is where people make a living together and are kept together with a goal. A tribe can be a commune, but it doesn't have to. The very first step to take is to start a tribe. It does not have to be a commune. This tribe is going to be a way for you and your mates to be making a living. Instead of moving away from society where you have no impact at all, stay where you are and persevere. Making a living inside of our society must include at least a little bit of money. This is a business. A tribal business is the very first step to increasing wellbeing in your own lives and others. A 100 to 200 years down the line, this idea could have caught on to the point that people are capable of living tribally all over the world where modern society previously was, and modern society is no longer the dominant force that it is now.
I do not have an exact definition of tribal businesses, but they can be thought out to achieve the benefits of wellbeing that you are after. Some things that make them feasible are accepting a lower monetary standard of living (ie is that 50" widescreen really necessary?), loving what you do and being proud of it, supporting members with any problem that they have, starting with a small capital, and eventually greater control of your own resources used to produce whatever it is that you produce.
What do you think? I realize that was a long post, but there is simply no way to say it properly without going into that detail.
Last edited by wiltondeportes; 02-14-2012 at 01:44 AM.
Does no one agree with me, or was no one able to read through the entire post?
I just saw this now. I agree with most of your points--along similar lines as Man Is Truth's thread the other day. For me, there's a big question mark surrounding information technology and what kind of role it plays in a healthy human animal's life. How much can you live your life connected to a computer and still be a full human person? I don't know. When does it cross the line from being a useful tool to a harmful addiction? When you start using it as an end in itself? When it takes away from your meatspace goals and experiences? I don't know.
That's kind of a side tangent anyway. I definitely think you're on to something with your idea about tribal business. But can the inherent inequalities and problems of authority and coercion that spring up in most agricultural systems be overcome, without actually "reverting" (some might call it "re-evolving") to a HG lifestyle? Maybe.
I do think it's totally possible for a pseudotribal collective to live within the boundaries of a modern state, though. I'm going to call it pseudotribalism because I think of tribes as having genetic family ties to each other, which would take a few generations to develop, minimum. But I can see people forming what amounts to a "corporation" of mutual personal interest, agreeing to look out for one another, organizing their activities with other members of the group so that nobody is forced into wage slavery and everybody benefits, etc.
A HUGE advantage of collective living would be the strong community you'd develop. You'd never be without a group of people to talk to, without something to do, friends to turn to if you're in need (as long as you're not a total asshole, but if you were you'd probably get kicked out anyway). Decisions could be made by consensus, through discussion and debate and disagreement. The problem is, even though we all came from groups that lived this way, way back when, we've lost a lot of the social conventions and cultural technologies that enable this sort of peaceful, organic decision-making. It would all have to be re-invented. Which isn't to say that you couldn't look for examples of tribal communities that work well, and borrow their conventions to adapt to a modern situation, but there would be a lot of work involved. It wouldn't be a guaranteed success by any means.
It's a fascinating process to think about. So many little details would have to get worked out as you go, but I always feel like the answer to the malaise and destruction of modernity is there, if we could find it and choose it. I hope this thread generates some good ideas.
What I want out of life, by the way, is pretty similar to what you wrote above. A lifestyle that is sustainable and local. I shouldn't have to worry that an earthquake in China is going to seriously affect my future, because my lifestyle shouldn't DEPEND on factories in China. It should depend on relationships with people I know and trust, and the resources we can access and responsibly steward together. A lifestyle that doesn't require pissing away 40 hours of every week (50 if you count commuting and meals, which are NOT personal time) in a box doing (meaningless to me, which is why I'm writing this instead of doing it right now) work for people I don't even know. A life that allows me time to write, or learn to build things, or invent, or just walk in the woods. People that I care about, and who care about me because we have grown together through mutual dependency. The leisure to spend time with those people. And so on. This kind of life shouldn't be impossible for anybody to achieve, but there are too many damn people and too much land and resources under the domination of too few of them.
I timed myself, it took me five minutes to read your post. I'm probably a slow reader.
Read The Declaration - End the (grain) Fed - My Primal Journeys
International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers
Er, where are you getting your definition of tribe? How can you say there's no hierarchy? My college anthro professor would be pretty surprised to hear that. Tribal life also tends to be incredibly rigid socially; what happens when someone's kid just doesn't fit in? What if someone's a homosexual living in a tribe where it's seen as an abomination? What if someone's an artist, and doesn't find farming and herding fulfilling? What if someone likes city living? Or wants to be an astrophysicist? What if someone is born with a birth defect and needs treatment - modern medicine and technology sound pretty awesome in that situation.
As for constancy, even if you're living off the land, there's still tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, fire and flood, and the natural boom and bust population cycles. The natural world is incredibly chaotic. Frankly, I think you've got an idealized, sanitized view of what "tribal living" actually is. Modern life has some serious drawbacks, but back-to-the-land, Disney-tribal movements are only going to be worse.
We still have tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes (not sure how this would affect a tribe, but w/e), fires, and floods in modern society. I don't get your point there.
Natural boom and bust population cycles??? I think I know what you mean, but please explain further.
I haven't idealized tribal life one bit. Evolution has produced a tribal way of life that works. Our populations sustain themselves, people mostly have a good wellbeing, and the world goes round. Humans without any fancy technology made it through everything nature has thrown at us: volcanoes, ice ages, etc. The only reason modern society still stands is that it has always been able to expand. Gather up more resources, kill more people and take their land, clear off more land for farming, find more pristine water, etc. Expansion is quite clearly something that cannot go on forever. If you think our society can continue like it is right now, you are like person jumping off of a cliff thinking that you can fly....until you hit the ground. On the contrary, I think you have idealized modern life.
Furthermore, I am not advocating an immediate, back-to-the-land movement. That would be chaos since we have way, way, way too many people to do such a thing. Baby steps.
Tribal life is the only thing we HAVE.
I didn't know he had written anything else! Thanks for that, I'll have to look him up.
Ah, I see he is quite prolific. Now I know what books I will be reading for a while...
EDIT: Do you have any recommendations on where I should start? Beyond Civilization sounds good. I think after that I'll reread Ishmael and go through some of his other fiction.
Last edited by Uncephalized; 02-01-2012 at 09:52 AM.