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Common points and differences between IC and traditional ways around the world?  RSS feed

 
Xisca Nicolas
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How can we fail in doing what has been done for centuries?
What are the differences...
Can we overcome these ones?

What is mostly happening in the traditional system (villages, tribes, what ever group):
- People know each others since birth (or most of them)
- They are forced to be together, they mostly cannot go away
- their way of life and faith are mostly the same
- Some rules are just implicit as they exist for long
- People work together and see each other often, but do not share everything with everybody
- some rituals and celebrations are scattered all along their life

Then just compare with the modern tries...
- People get to know each other, and they have friends outside the circle
- People can go away and try to find another community
- They do not have the same background, way of life and faith
- They have to create all from the start: the common rules
- They want to share a lot, and mostly share in an equal way with everyone (except maybe their partner!)
- They do not have plenty of memories to share (ok, they create them!)

I live in a place where I did not grow up and this has been the case all my life.
One remains a stranger... Only in the city this did not seem to count.
I will never keep up with the deep feeling bonding people when they speak about someone or something, and there is much more than what is said.

In what you explain about creating a life together, has something been inspired by ethnology and what we know about the social regulations happening in traditional groups of people around the world?
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Up!
I am quite surprised not to have any answer to this post, as "living together" is as old as the world!
It seems that people have been doing it more successfully in not industrial societies,
and especially in smaller groups than what we are used to in the modern world.

I think that ethnology is thus a very good way of searching some keys.
 
Tyler Ludens
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From my own point of view, it is because most of us in the modern world have not been raised up that way, so we don't know how to do it. Many of us haven't even been raised up in an extended family, and living with extended family or in groups is seen as failure in the mainstream society, at least in the US. So we have to relearn, pretty much from scratch, how to live in groups. It doesn't come automatically, but is learned behavior.

 
Diana Leafe Christian
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Location: Earthaven Ecovillage, North Carolina; Ecovillages newsletter http://wwwEcovillageNews.org
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Hola, Xicsa and Tyler, I think Xicsa's list of differences is accurate, and I would add that people in traditional villages and indigenous tribal cultures also have a shared worldview and creation story, and traditional gender roles (men do these things, women do those things). These additional two aspects of shared cultural things, plus all the others you mentioned, means, I believe, they create community together rather effortlessly, without having to think about it.

This is in sharp contract with people in industrialized nations nowadays trying to create successful new ecovillages and intentional communities.

And I'm not implying you're saying that, Xisca, but because many people do believe this, I'd like to talk about it.

Present-day community founders are from all over, didn't grow up together, don't necessarily all value or intend the same things in community (they have to talk about this first and find out and agree upon some shared values, a shared purpose, and some agreed-upon strategies). They come from different geographical areas/social classes/cultures/religions/races/you-name-it. They haven't been trained all their lives in cooperative, collaborative culture, but trained in materialistic consumerist, dog-eat-dog, win/lose culture, yet want to create something beautiful, balanced, and harmonious (or so it's believed) that their great-great-grandparents in the old country experienced every day.

In my experience, trying to fit the specific characteristics of a tribe or traditional village onto a modern-day hoped-for intentional community or ecovillage -- which many people assume they can do -- doesn't work at all. I can't tell you how crazy I feel when a well-meaning good-hearted community hopeful reminds, admonishes, or even reprimands their fellow group members with advice about how the Sami do this or the Lakota do that or the Samoans do thus or the Kikuyu do such-and-such, and why aren't WE doing and feeling the same!!?!. We should! What's wrong with us (fill in the blank) Americans, Western Europeans, white people, WASPs, city dwellers, First World people, etc. -- why can't we live with the (fill in the blank) values, harmony, connection to the Earth, vision quests, initiation rites, fire circles of traditional people (fill in the blank) who are wiser/smarter/older/more spiritual/more authentic than us!?

And while we can adopt -- and adapt -- these fine practices (and many communities do, to their benefit), to expect an intentional community to not be "a real community" unless it's just like one of these cultures is just plain crazy. And it drives its members crazy too if they expect this of themselves.

I advocate honoring and respecting great-great-grandad and grandma and the village and tribal cultures we're descended from, visited while trekking the Himalayas, or read about in anthropology books. But I sure don't advocate guilt-tripping ourselves or others that we can't just step into their boots or sandals or moccasins and voila! — instant indigenous culture traditional harmonious perfect community.

I advocate instead that we study what worked well for those 10% of current-day communities that moved through their founding stages to become successful settlements that are up and running and doing fine. What did they do? What did they avoid? What mistakes did they make and how did they resolve them? What did they do about harmonious, empathetic communication, or effective conflict-resolution? What did they do about making decisions effectively and harmoniously, and keeping records of their decisions and policies? What did they do about which legal entity(s) they chose and how they financed their property purchase and development. How have their arranged their internal community finances and members' labor requirements? THIS is what will inform us how to create successful communities, not what those wonderful shamans in the Korean mountains, the coral atolls, or the plains of the Transvaal are doing.

OK, off my soapbox now. Thanks for introducing this juicy topic, Xicsa.

Diana
 
Tyler Ludens
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Really excellent advice, Diana. I think a lot of people skip over the importance of the practical how-to aspects and instead strive for (or merely hope for or even expect) a kind of instant spiritual transcendence to a harmonious state....I'm presently working on a shared land situation with extended family members and often find myself falling into the same kind of wishfulness trap.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Thanks for this answer Diana and I mostly agree.

I would just like to go a little further...
I advocate instead that we study what worked well for those 10%...


For this, I agree except for the "instead".
What's about those dreams concerning relationships, that should work like magic when you have the key (called love for example)?
What's about the common concern about sharing with people who are as much alike as yourself?

Ethnology is NOT for mimicking customs.
It is for seeing that they are a great deal different from a place to another.
And many other things you can see.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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AND in tribes, not everything is going on well all the time! NOT AT ALL!

Because of this wrong belief:
There is the myth of finding the "right" persons.
If not, you go away and try to find better ones.
Same for the land...

So......... What's about trying to create something that all of us can do:
a better relationship with our neighbors, and all the persons we see more often than our own family.

I have been living for 2 years in a place I did not know before, I even speak a language that is not my mother tongue.
I have not gone backward in time, and I am in Europe, not with samies not bantous

...AND I have to adapt and learn different laws and ways of relating to each other.
Nor the land nor the people are perfect here,
Nevertheless, I have decided to stay here and do not look for anything else.
This is my community now.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I remember watching a documentary about the Pygmies from the Ituri forest in Central Africa. An interviewer asked some young men about their future ambitions. They expressed the desire to own chainsaws, firearms and dirt bikes. One guy wanted to build his family a big house like the one owned by a Bantu chief. So, it seems that there are no pure and innocent tribal peoples who are immune to the lures of materialism. An elderly lady who I met In the Yukon said that when her dad bought an outboard motor, her family became the envy of her village. She first visited the metropolis of Whitehorse at 17. A few years later, her family operated a bus tour business on the newly paved Alaska Highway.

People are people no matter where you go. Given the choice, few choose to remain pure in some sort of anthropological museum. Many choose a happy medium. The native woman from the Yukon who was in her 80s had two big salmon in her truck ready for smoking. She insisted on giving us a taste a week later when we returned from a trip further north. We met her again at her brother's store which sells hand crafted items and foods to tourists. We had lunch and learned a little more about her remarkable life that has included hide covered canoes, dog sleds, motorboats, snowmobiles and tour buses.
 
Alder Burns
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I've seen a bit of both in my life and this subject has been of interest to me for many years. Traditional culture I experienced while living in Bangladesh (with travels into India and Nepal) for 3 years in the '80's. Despite the inroads of modernity (much more now than then, no doubt), I could get on my motorbike and in an hour be somewhere where I was the first white man that anybody could ever remember having seen, where everything around me came from that place itself....no plastic, hardly any metal, etc. What Xisca and Diana Leafe say about such cultures is certainly true. Since coming back to USA I've spent most of the time since living in intentional communities of various sorts. Two of them blew up in my face!!
The two points I would add to the discussion about the difference revolves around the one being basically involuntary, and therefore you make it work because you have to....there isn't the mobility (both physical and psychological) that there is in the modern world. People make the best of it, tolerating dysfunctions, feuds, and such like for generations. The result, over millennia, is a culture which by it's mores and standards minimizes those things that make community impossible in the modern culture.
The other point is the "too many chiefs and too few braves" syndrome. Just to make the decision to leave mainstream society and choose to live in community selects for those willing to swim upstream...the radical, the courageous, and the stubborn. In a word, leaders. This means that while it's going well and people are getting along, it's awesome! But if disagreement arises....watch out! There simply aren't enough people in there to whom a lot of things don't really matter....people who come home at the end of the workday, crack a beer in front of the tube and chill out. Instead everyone cares passionately about every little thing and you end up with meetings for hours and hours until something or someone snaps! At least that's what happened where I was living.
We must remember too that the kind of "unintentional community" of extended families, longstanding and often ethnic urban neighborhoods, etc. may have been more or less deliberately dismantled in the interests of profit. Think about all the productive activities that used to go on by default and for free that are now outsourced into the money economy. Childcare and eldercare, for starters, and then the whole array of home economics, food preparation and preservation, and cottage industry. How many young people nowadays don't even cook? There is a set of people skills, summarized perhaps by the words "getting along", "give and take", "making it work", etc. that is lost or being lost in the rush of modern ego, affluence, mobility, and self-expression....
 
Xisca Nicolas
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I very much agree with putting too much importance on details.
Where I am they forget about details, but when it has accumulated, after not saying anything and "forgetting", it burst out.
So, they don't care, but don't forget either.

Now I also believe we all live not only in a material realistic world but also and mainly in imagination, in a sort of logic we build inside us, not to be lost.
And we do live better with people that share the same imaginary world.
It is just as easy as speaking the same language.
 
Alder Burns
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I agree.....that people in a "traditional culture" share the same worldview, myths, stories, concepts of self and place......and in many cases this is fine-tuned to adapt that people to their place, and to life together. The modern culture has these things too, but they are mostly inimical to life together. It goes right down to language too. In Bengali, for instance, there are words for "I", "me", and "mine" but they are uncommonly used, to the point of being rare. "We", "us" and "our" are much more common. People think in plural. So much so that they do not like to be alone hardly at all....not nearly so much as the average Westerner. A family of four or six living in a one-room cabin is not just an economic necessity...many people actually like it. People will often ask a relative or friend along on a trip for errands, or even a business trip to the big city, just so as not to be alone among strangers.
And, people do what they have to. My grandfather had about ten assorted relatives and friends staying with him in his house during the Depression (1930's), because he was the only one who managed to keep a regular job. I never heard stories of argument and conflict from that time, either. Was their culture that different than mine?
 
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