Thursday, January 17, 2013

urban tribalism

I believe that humans were created and have evolved to live in a tribal society, not a modern or postmodern society. Modern society is a mutation that is unsustainable and headed for collapse. We have to look at where we are evolving beyond modern society. But over and over again, the people I meet and communicate with feel they cannot be happy until they find, recreate, or embrace a tribal lifestyle, and I will attempt to define for you what that means for us as modern wild humans.

Almost all human societies go through four distinct phases in their evolution. The first is the tribal form. It was the first to emerge and mature, beginning thousands of years ago. It's main characteristic is kinship, which gives people a sense of identity and belonging. Kinship, identity and belonging are the basic benefits of culture, and people still need these things today, even in the modern world.

The second phase is the institutional form, which emphasizes hierarchy, as seen in the Roman empire (and now the American empire) and the Catholic Church. This phase bores me and I don't like it.

The third phase is the market form, which allows people to prosper and excel in competitive and fair exchanges, supposedly. It was there all along, but rose strongly in the 19th century in England. This phase tends to benefit the status quo at the expense of everyone else.

The fourth and final phase for our evolution is the network form, which serves to connect isolated individuals and groups so they can organize and act together. With the rise of the Internet, we entered this phase. This form strengthens civil society and greatly intensifies cultural evolution. So we evolve and we revolve back to the beginning, back to the tribal form, with the other forms blended in- tribal*institutional*market*network* WOW!!!

To succeed as wild humans, we will probably make the best progress by combining all four forms in our own subversive way, or at least allow them to function together. They are not substitutes for each other--the tribal form does not replace the institutional form, for example. They complement each other, and we might function best at this time by honoring some aspect of them all.

We are at our core tribal creatures. Those of us who feel it more strongly sense the constant opposition to our inherent natures on a daily basis. Think about how you are channeled like a metal ball through a maze by traffic, beaurocracy, and "the way things are done" in every aspect of life. We are strongly "encouraged" to cooperate and go along with how things were set up by people we have absolutely no connection with. Even if we can clearly see or invent a better way, we are thwarted and opposed and must go against the grain and fight to innovate society and life in general. If you look at how tribal cultures handle the business of life, it's organic, it's communal.

Anthropologists have noticed for decades that when a species is removed from the environment in which it evolved, it will eventually become neurotic or pathological. Look at dolphins in aquariums who eventually commit suicide by banging their heads into the tank wall over and over again. You never hear about it in the media but it does happen. Other animals commit suicide too. And so do humans!!!

Humans are not in an environment that resembles the one in which we evolved. There are numerous kinds of natural environments, but they are all characterized by small locality, with an ecosystem from which to directly draw sustenance, homes made of local materials, a kinship and communal system to which to belong, and so forth.

Two bad things about modern living that are not found in tribal cultures are having to live in a society of strangers, and having to prove your membership or citizenship all the time in order to function or to receive any benefits. It's completely alienating! It's not wild or natural. And it's not healthy. I don't know this for a fact, but I feel like an optimal size for a tribal group is 150-300 people. And I actually prefer much smaller groups, like 30-75 people. You need enough people for cohesion and variety, but not so many that there is competition and conflict over limited resources or ideological differences.

I see the general breakdown of our social structure in America, as so many people move around every few years for economic reasons, they have to commute long distances to work--then work all day--come home and collapse in front of the tv or computer--go to bed--get up and do it all over again, and they don't have time for strong friendships and community activities. This is generalizing, but I've seen it's true when I look around me. A few people manage to juggle it all, but for the most part, it's hard to define what it means to be an American today. A century ago, you were defined by your roots and sense of place, your religious affiliations, your apprenticeship and career, your family and it's reputation, your roles like mother or teacher. Now, who knows. We have to figure it out again, in this postmodern context, and define it for ourselves.

I think it's only natural that as we realize the dissatisfaction of modern and postmodern life, that we look back to our ancient roots for guidance and for templates for our existence. That's actually the meaning of revolution--revolving back to the beginning, like a circle coming back around again. We revolve around and around. That is different than thinking of revolution as a form of revolt with violent resistance, which I am opposed to unless it's completely unavoidable and we are fighting for our lives. We evolve and we revolve, and that is revolution. So our attention comes back to the past again, and we look to see what got our ancestors through the past million years of life on Earth.

So what does urban tribalism look like for us as wild humans? What does it mean, as far as describing how we can live and grow and thrive? As you know, I believe that wild humans can create a co-existence between tribal lifeways and modern technological lifeways. I believe we can blend them into something new that addresses our need for authentic human experience.

So, we can live in communal situations, like houses of wild humans who have intimate friendships, cultural rituals like initiations and heartsong circles and full moon potlucks, with common human decency laid out as general rules to guide us. At the same time, we can go into town to work at productive jobs or run our own businesses, we can drive cars, we can shop in stores or visit chiropractors or whatever we need. We can grow our food in a garden, then cook it with a food processor and other machines. We can learn about wild human ways online, and then turn off the computer and camp in the woods and do it. I like going into town and hanging out in coffee shops and going to the movies and browsing through head shops and stuff. Whatever turns on that part of your mind. The key is balance between natural tribal ways and modern technological ways.

I want to make it clear that I believe in a peaceful and nonviolent transition to this blending of tribal and modern lifeways. I don't want to see society or civilization collapse. However, many people, such as the Anthropik tribe, believe that it is inevitable, and maybe it is. I believe that we can thrive as urban tribalists, wild humans, even before modern society has been reduced or destroyed. I don't believe in walking away from modern society and abandoning all the people we'd leave behind. I don't believe in taking any violent actions to accelerate it's collapse--absolutely not. Wild humans will sometimes practice nonviolent resistance to modern lifeways, like graffiti or squatting, but never violent actions. Violence only creates problems and makes the beasts stronger and angrier. And we don't need that.

That's not what tribalism and wild humanism are about. We are about personal empowerment and cultural transformation, and we are inclusive and loving. We serve as a bridge between traditional and modern lifeways. We focus on learning survival strategies and practicing them, as well as forming little tribes and communities everywhere, so we have a solid foundation in place as modern society goes through it's turmoil. I wish I could make the transition easier for everyone, but I can't, so I do what I can, one person at a time.

Unlike traditional tribes into which people are born and raised, your membership in this tribe is voluntary. It may even be shallow and fairly meaningless. We don't have strong cultural traditions and kinship ties of our own, like traditional tribes. That's why we fall into the description of neotribalism or urban tribalism. It's something new, a new meme in the garden of human life. And that's ok. It is what it is, and it does what it does. We don't try to steal indigenous culture from it's true members, and we don't have a problem embracing what we still are--capitalists, products of public education, whatever. We are what we are, and we do what we do, and that's absolutely ok. We are on this journey together.

Modern tribalism is just as valid as traditional tribalism. It's very different, but people can be just as tribal now as they were then. Tribalism is the first paradigm for social organization, and it won't lose its significance or attractiveness. It will not go away, because it's a part of who we are as humans.

Here are some characteristics of modern tribalism. The Rainbow Family and homeless people and wild humans all fall into this description, as do other groups with similar traits. They have their own values and conventions and traditions. They form bonds with one another that mainstream people either can't or won't consider. Unlike traditional tribalists, they are ready and willing to adopt any new technology that will help them, like the Internet. They almost automatically share any benefits they gain from the technology, and they include each other in every aspect of their lives. Wild humans just keep on truckin. They focus on the intimacy of their social ties. Phamily is the most important thing. Modern tribes evolve in every way imaginable, drawing on ancient wisdom, experimenting with new social forms, networking with people all over the world, unlimited by time or space. We are kindred spirits, wild humans, urban tribalists. And we love you, you are beautiful.