Creating Community in the Modern World


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    Circa 1900-1910. “Yard of tenement, New York City.” Hung out to dry somewhere in Manhattan. Detroit Publishing Company glass negative. This is a guest
    [See the full post at: Creating Community in the Modern World]


    I see tribal societies as prone to failure and essentially locked into stasis. The Amish are a tribe and locked into the past. They are only successful in making a living not in any other form of progress. The American indians were tribal and still in the stone age when the Europeans came. They didn’t even use the wheel. Tribes in the middle east and Africa prove the same thing.

    In the US, the Republican party has become tribal while the Democrats are far less so. This explains why the conservatives are locked into the past and eventually will either split the US or create another civil war.

    Perhaps the future will offer no other choice than tribes, but it will be a disaster.


    With the collapse of the housing bubble, the mobility of the American population has collapsed along with it. 11 million home owners are under water on their mortgage. I would estimate another 15 to 20 million don’t have enough equity to sell their homes and buy another. And no one can reasonably expect to sell their home quickly.

    Theoretically, a key element should be in place for your tribe formation to begin. Quite frankly, I’m skeptical, as I think that folks are retrenching within their ‘man caves’, rather than reaching out to like minded people. I have seen a few community gardens, however.

    You mentioned the word ‘gasoline’ I think. That is a good point. Most of the country doesn’t have good enough public transportation to support much tribal action. Most cities don’t have the population density, but far flung suburbs instead.


    When you mentioned Mennonite it caught my eye – because I am Mennonite and grew up in this culture.

    When you saying spending our time obsessing about the latest consumer craze we would more simply call this being worldly. Many Mennonites don’t live simply anymore but they understand the language still. Money is power and worship. You can figure out what you really have faith in by looking at your purchases. Do you believe in working on Sunday? If you make purchases on a Sunday you are using your power to make them work.

    Further if one buys new what happens to the old. Are you going to fully use the item or are you keeping it away from someone who could? I don’t really live a simple lifestyle yet but I agree with much of it. It is so much more work. It is a slow work in progress for me.

    The point of view is pull out of consumerism to gain a freedom. A freedom to feel good of yourself despite not purchasing items. A freedom not to have to value others based on image and purchases. A clear uncluttered view and not running to the noise of this world but in silence accepting and living and even thriving. Clearly every time I have seen this simplicity portrayed I have seen someone in the act of worship.


    Very interesting, food for thought. I have been thinking a lot lately about the development of a new paradigm that could be used to organize resource allocation and community solidarity around shared interests and long-term resource and institutional needs. It seems to me that much of the “solutions” to the unfolding challenges/crises we face fail to gain traction or fall short of actually solving anything because the general paradigms we collectively operate with inherently limit how we think about relationships (with other humans and with ecosystems) and resources (both in regards to the manner of use/exploitation and in terms of timeframe relative to gains and costs). I am thinking of undertaking a book on the subject because I think I have struck upon a concept for a new paradigm that could serve as a transitional model to begin the process of moving away from the current dominant paradigm based on transactional systems toward one that is relational. By appropriating a conceptual framework that I think will be largely recognizable if not completely familiar to the Western mind, I think there may be real potential to provide a vehicle that would enable people to begin to think about these issues within the framework of a radically different set of priorities, incentives, rationales, and perspective.


    Great article. I don’t have a real comment, but I want to thank as well as gripe.

    PS. el G, we had about 8 gallinatzos here yesterday. Even the ravens were less than appreciative. I think it involved a suspicion that they were looking for ‘baby’ rather than carrion.


    Very nice thought piece. Like other posters I have no solution to put on the table, but I do live in one of those possible survival communities, so I have some thoughts based on observation.

    First, find older communities that had turn of the century infrastructure – such as old farms, orchards, fishing areas, woodlots. Second, utilize the existing knowledge base of seniors who are still alive and remember those times. Three, plan upgrades to old technologies, example, splitting wood by hand is a bitch while with a log splitter it is fast and efficient. Four, find energy resources locally. Water power, wood lots, old coal seams and recognize that a world at its worst might have no grid, no petroleum. Five, make sure there is enough protein production in the area to feed the local population on a sustainable basis. Look to high productivity animals for protein such as chickens, rabbits and pigs, goats and sheep. Cattle are important but often require the most time to be productive. Six, store some stuff that you can’t live without, salt and sugar, soap and detergent, thread and needles etc. But the most important would be 100 or so gallons of gas and some oil that would only be used on small engines such as chain saws, horsepower motors for pumps or garden tillers. You will never be able to put away enough fuel for transportation. Transportation is going to be a bitch. Have a bicycle, a four wheel small wagon like a childs toy, if you can find a horse but remember a horse requires a lot of things for only one horsepower of work. Think windmills for pumps, use jacks and leverage to solve muscle problems. Have essential items, hand tools, garden tools, wheelbarrow, matches, rope, twine, bailing wire, pulleys and hand saws.

    That of course is only a short list to indicate how to think, but more important is to notice how it used to be done and read old books about it. Now the next and most important is a key group of committed, similar thinking, hard working, balanced personalities to set an example. Everyone is going to have to change if collapse comes. That key group can provide the structure and model of how to do many things and they will be glad to share, thereby setting an example of lateral government rather than hierarchal government. At whatever cost, resist the formation of violent gangs, thieves and manipulators. For those are the terminal illnesses in a thousand guises that will kill community. Talk about it and organize for it. Create outcastes and shunning as non violent ways to prevent and isolate violence. If you must have an armed group, be very a vigilant that they stay committed to health of the community rather than to themselves.

    Recognize that you create a community in which all survive no matter how desperate the times or you create a community in which only the strong and violent survive and the rest perish. It’s gonna be tough but you have to look it in the eye and pre-think a lot of these type of things so have some directions and principles to work and then you have to make sure they are lived.


    I am the author of the article.

    A few responses here briefly.


    I think the relationship between the past, present, and future is far more interesting and complex than we give it credit for. As Victor Turner has shown regarding his field work among the Ndembo in Africa, there is tremendous dynamism in actual tribal life and custom. We tend to think of it as static in part because of seeing it through a structuralist lens. And of course, as Henry Spencer said of computer science, “Those who do not learn from UNIX are doomed to reinvent it poorly.”

    Often by being aware of what has worked or not in the past we can better free ourselves.


    It’s not only that the current paradigm blinds us (we can at least partly step outside that by doing comparative and anthropological studies), but also that we have built up obstacles to thinking of things in any other ways. Consider for example the idea of deliberate stratification of society. This is the basis for the caste system in India, and for similar systems in ancient Greece and Rome. People here in the West are generally hostile towards it because of enlightenment views that everyone has inherent equal worth. But whether people have inherent equal worth in the abstract, they don’t have inherent equal value to the community, and stratification allows better allocation of effort and rewards for effort than plane, simple, homogeneous society. Again, here’s where a combination of trans-historical and cross-cultural studies can come in very helpful. If you are trying to find a new paradigm, that’s certainly where I would suggest starting.

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