Posted by: terrapraeta | February 12, 2010

Neo-Tribalism ReVamped

Show me a smile then
don’t be unhappy, can’t remember
when I last saw you laughing
if this world makes you crazy
and you’ve taken all you can bear
you call me up
because you know I’ll be there

And I’ll see your true colors
shining through
I see your true colors
and that’s why I love you
so don’t be afraid to let them show
your true colors
true colors are beautiful
like a rainbow

Cyndi Lauper, True Colors

Last week, Leavergirl posted another article on community. She and I mostly agree on the generalities of community and this post was no different. She says:

Myself… I accept wholeheartedly my inner need for kindred spirits. But I am not looking for people who are zealous and single minded in the pursuit of shared objectives or ideals. The people I want to be with are folks who are willing and able to do the following:

    be kind to me when I am down
    comfort me when I am ill
    teach me when I am ignorant
    form a circle of loyalty around me when I’ve screwed up big
    share my joys, my puzzles, my grief
    help me thrive
    open up to my efforts to connect deeply
    let me be in solitude
    respect me for who I am, not just for the work I do for the group
    show me how to be part of something wonderful in the world
    and expect the same of me

In response, I fell back on my decade long understanding of neo-tribalism a la Dan Quinn. I told her that there was something to having a shared goal – that “making a living” together was the glue that made it all work, at least in its initial stages. It was one of those comments that I did not even really think about, its become so much a part of how I see the world.

But then JimFive pipped up and questioned that assumption and now I am thinking about it. He wrote:

I disagree with your commune comment, because I think you have it backwards. Creating an artist colony or a permaculture farm community seems exactly the type of things that the failed communes attempted. They brought a bunch of people together to build a thing and, when that thing failed (either to be built, or to achieve the fundamental goal), the group of people scattered. They scattered, as vera is pointing out, because they were committed to the thing instead of to each other. They were building a monument, not a community. (I think that Intentional Communities are exhibiting the same tendencies as well)

I think a group of people whose goal is to help each other thrive regardless of method is a much stronger group than one created to build a thing. I am going to point to street gangs as my example here. Their only goal is to help each other survive another day. They will do whatever it takes to help each other out. And they command tremendous loyalty from their members.

To make the hypothetical question more personal, if your permaculture farm isn’t working out for the group (for whatever reason) are you willing to give up your ideal for the group, or will you try to find another group and keep the farm?

Interesting question. Perhaps this is part of what I have been reaching for with my “Unintentional Community” idea. I have been thinking in terms of people with shared interests and complimentary skills getting together to do something. But that, really, is exactly what the IC’s are already doing. Perhaps a bit more formally, but nonetheless. The truth is, every person has an assortment of skills, and learning new ones is not terribly challenging. Hell, I’ve been learning a lot about foraging and wild plants this last year. For no particular reason save that I was interested. But friendship, caring, relationship — that really is key.

In fact, now that I think about it, the potential community situation I was looking at for this summer – the tipi, permaculture gardens, soda business and so forth (not gonna happen – but that’s another story) – that was totally unintentional. I had ideas of things I wanted to do. The boys had their own things they were working on. But combining the different paths was totally compatible and had the potential to begin to create a social and economic “complex” that could have developed into something much larger and more…. complete if things worked out well. Too bad it is not gonna happen, but frankly, the reason it fell apart is because one of the boys involved was, perhaps, not as trustworthy as we hoped. Ah ha!

So where does all this leave me? I guess, ultimately, I have finally come to the realization that building the community I want is less about the tools, the ideas, the visions, and more about place and person. Subconsciously I have always known that, but now I have finally gotten completely comfortable with it on a conscious intentional level. This will be about people I care for, first and foremost. Everything else is negotiable.



  1. You made my day with this post! 😀
    Yeah, people who do not put relationships first tend to wreak havoc with others’ lives…

    I am thinking… for a real community, I am willing to go just about anywhere. A community of people willing and able to care for each other, to help each other thrive…. aaaaah…

    The thing with Quinn’s idea… he missed the mark with the tribal business thing. His own tribal business shows the folly of that sort of thinking… the business was eventually sold, and that was that. Whereas a real band can try its hand at a variety of ventures, and even if some don’t work out, they still have the band…

    But… I think that he was right about the “making a living” in another sense. I am not sure I have the right words for it yet… it’s the livingness of it. Not making a living in the sense of civ, jobs and businesses and such. But livingness as the integration of one’s life into the community. Vague? Yeah… best I can do now, will keep on chipping away.

  2. I wanted to clarify that I am not disputing Quinn’s idea of ‘making a living together’ being the defining characteristic. What I am getting at is that HOW that living is made is much less important than THAT the living is made.

    I agree with vera that Quinn’s own experiences with tribal business highlight the problem. If the Rocky Mountain News staff had sold the paper and then moved on together to continue making a living with each other then I think they would have succeeded as a tribe/community.


  3. Hey —

    vera…. it was great to meet you the other day! Good stuff 🙂

    I think, maybe, what you were feeling for at the end there… getting to a place where “making a living” (in whatever sense), making a family, making a community, all are integrated into the same whole. Right now we are fragmented… these are the people I work with, these are the people I hang out with, these are the people I consider family, and so forth… all of these are different. And that is not a good thing. (Yet, was still the case with Quinn’s Tribal Business)

    Jim — I got that… hopefully others did too 😉


  4. Yeah, wuz cool, tp! Gotta do it again…

    Planning to do a thing on “making a living together” in a few days… neat stuff. Right now, I am coming down from 5 days of arguing population with people on science blogs and I am effing worn out. Got nowhere. The usual BS that Quinn pegs so well. It’s depressing. I am coming out of it with “ok so f*ck this. You don’t want to do anything and want to keep praying to the god of progress to take care of it, blood will be on your hands.” There is no hope. Between the religious who refuse to consider it, and the progressives who think demanding breeding responsibility is just appalling, there is no chance. The rest of us are just plumb outshouted. I am done. 😦

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