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Life Arts    H4'ed 7/14/09


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Originally posted:

Let's consider the nuclear family. For one thing, it's not economically efficient. By having more people live together and share resources, you could save money. This could also provide a sense of community, which I think is desperately lacking in our world. As we become more and more industrialized, it seems that people are becoming more separated, more alienated, lonelier, and more fragmented. People feel lonely, and I think some neuroses are the result of not having intimate, stable, long-lasting relationships. We are not as close to one another as we once were. Instead of focusing on each other, we watch TV or wall ourselves off in our rooms. We don't know how to relate to people as much anymore-not openly, genuinely, deeply. People don't get as much human contact-they aren't being touched and talked to and cared about. People lack support networks-teams of people that will always be there to help them and support them. I hear that many families are a few missed paychecks away from being homeless. A tribal community provides something that a nuclear family cannot-cradle to grave security. You will be taken care of. You will be part of an extended family. While communism has never worked on the state level, it has proven itself to be a highly effective model on the tribal level. It's been the way people have organized themselves for a hundred thousand years, and it's an extremely stable form of existence. The modern city/state structure, on the other hand, has only existed for 7,000 years, and the modern nuclear family is the product of the industrial revolution. People may come to find a great deal of benefit through embracing family values that are far more traditional than the ones that are currently touted as the ideal.

Will living in a tribal community restrict one's individuality? I don't think that it has to. If we hold individuality as an ideal, we can create a community that exists for the individual as opposed to individuals that exist for the community. We can create an alliance of strong and independent individuals who come together solely for the benefit of living in community. The benefit of each benefits the whole, and the benefit of the whole benefits each. We can allow for diversity, guide our community by reason, respectfully disagree about things, not make anyone wrong, constantly strive to understand and dialogue together, and help each individual develop and become all that they can be. Working on oneself is wonderful. Helping others develop is also wonderful. Being helped by others is also wonderful. If individuals want to leave your community, you should make them as strong and independent as possible to help them do so-but let them know that they will always have a home with you. Although as a community there is benefit in living and sharing together, you should also set up trusts in every individual's name so that if and when any given individuals choose to leave they can take the benefits of their labor with them (This will certainly be an improvement over the circumstances many housewives, for example, currently endure-in which they do labor without economic compensation and thus become dependent on their, usually, male "breadwinners").

In her book The Lost Universe: Pawnee Life and Culture, anthropologist Gene Weltfish presents what she had discovered from studying the Pawnee in the 1920s and 30s:

"Even more startling to me than the contrast in home life was the question of political control among the Pawnees. They were a well-disciplined people, maintaining public order under many trying circumstances. And yet they had none of the power mechanisms that we consider essential to a well-ordered life. No orders were ever issued. No assignments for work were ever made nor were overall-plans discussed. There was no code of rules of conduct nor punishment for infraction. There were no commandments nor moralizing proverbs. The only instigator of action was the consenting person. ... In all his work, both public and private, the Pawnee moved on a totally voluntary basis. Whatever social forms existed were carried within the consciousness of the people, not by others who were in a position to make demands.


"Time after time I tried to find a case of orders given, and there was none. Gradually I began to realize that democracy is a very personal thing which, like charity, begins at home. Basically it means not being coerced and having no need to coerce anyone else. The Pawnee learned this way of living in the earliest beginnings of life. In the detailed events of everyday living as a child, he began his development as a disciplined and free man or as a woman who felt her dignity and her independence to be inviolate. I was often confronted with the feeling that they expected of me a kind of independence and decisiveness that was not considered becoming to a woman in our society. Men and women expected the same clear and well-defined reaction from me, and among themselves it was evident that it was their accustomed mode of interacting.

"The Pawnee had chiefs, but these were the focus of consensus, not the wielders of power. ... [T]he individuals selected to fill the post were chosen for their humility and sagacity. An aggressive temperament was considered a barrier to the office. There were definite implicit mechanisms for village coordination and interband cooperation, often by means of emissaries sent between the households of chiefs to express their combined opinions and to learn the wishes of other parties. Public opinion and consensus were always well estimated. No official conceived that an arbitrary decision was feasible or desirable"

(Weltfish, 5-7)

"The way in which the morning and evening meal was allocated to one or the other 'side' was a clear example of the characteristic Pawnee mode of personal interaction. There was no prearranged schedule at all as to which side would take the morning, which the evening meal. This was determined on each individual occasion by the inclinations of the principals most directly involved. From our point of view a plan would be made and the people fitted into it-from the Pawnee view, the plan emerged from the feelings of the people. This difference of approach is so basic that I feel impelled to stress it particularly. The Pawnee individual embraced responsibility; he had no inclination to shirk it. In a sense, the rhythm of Pawnee work life was like a ballet, whereas ours is like a prison lockstep: You must, you must, you must get to work!"

(Weltfish, 14-15)

It's ideal to create a community that's as sustainable and self-sufficient as possible (the ideal of autonomy)-interaction with the outside world being for its own sake, for the desire to interact with the outside world (the ideal of homonomy), not a requirement born out of necessity. I'm not entirely sure what the right size would be for such a community-this is a question for experimentation. By observing primates at the zoo it has been determined that when the size of the group is small, the primates get along well. If the group gets too large, however, it becomes overwhelming for the members-they put up walls, they become more nervous, they become more violent, and they break off into smaller sub-groups. These sub-groups give them a sense of identity and community, though their overall level of alienation probably increases, and they become dead to, ignore, put up blinders against those members that exist outside their sub-group, treating them with distance and hostility. Why does this happen? Too large a group requires one to divide one's consciousness and one's efforts into too many directions-it is unbearable and it causes one to shut down. One does not, usually, retreat totally into oneself, because the desire for community is still strong, so sub-groups are formed. What we want to do is to determine where these limits are and set up a group large enough to allow for a diverse community but not so large that it looses intimacy. All the individuals should be able to form relationships with all the other members and feel at ease like when one is at home with ones family.

Again, from The Lost Universe:

"The Pawnee child was born into a community from the beginning, and he never acquired the notion that he was closed in 'within four walls.' He was literally trained to feel that the world around him was his home-kahuraru, the universe, meaning literally the inside land, and that his house was a small model of it. The infinite cosmos was his constant source of strength and his ultimate progenitor, and there was no reason why he should hesitate to set out alone and explore the wide world, even though years should pass before he returned. Not only was he not confined within four walls, but he was not closed in with a permanent group of people. The special concern of his mother did not mean that he was so closely embedded with her emotionally that he was not able to move about."

(Weltfish, 57-58)

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Ben Dench graduated valedictorian of his class from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in the Spring Semester of 2007 with a B.A. in philosophy (his graduation speech, which received high praise, is available on YouTube). He is currently (more...)
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