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Re: Difference, Community, and Sustainability
Christopher Page wrote:
>Thank you "Unleesh" for bringing this subject up and Lee Flier for
>eloquently adding his experiences to it.
Well, I'm actually a "she" (not very obvious from my name, no offense
taken!), but thank you.
>I am glad to join the
>discussion on this subject....
>I tend to agree with Mr. Flier and have an additional question to posit:
>How does a diversity-friendly community respond to other tribal
>communties who by nature, cannot let other community-tribes be
I would hope that, eventually, such minority communities will come to occupy
their own physical spaces. The problem is not so much that the majority
doesn't like it if others are different; the problem is that their hand is
in everything. Right now, because the majority has made the laws for the
entire nation, there's not much room for alternatives to move. As we find
each other and begin to live together I hope that will change.
>For example, I live in a fiercely conservative county in California
>(somehow I overlooked this when I was moving to the area) where anything
>non-Christian and non-Republican is viewed as not only undesirable but
>sinful and absolutely not tolerated. I belong to a minority Jewish
>community here which largely pretends that we belong even though we are
>viewed by the dominant majority culture here as outsiders and aliens.
I hear ya. Growing up, we were the only Jewish family in a small New
England town... there was also one black family. The little black girl and
I got pretty close. <G>
>(We have a history of developing that attitude in order to cope with
>such things I realize.) I don't mind Christians being difference but I
>do mind when they want me to be like them. I don't try to make them
>Jewish but they work very hard to make me Christian
Yeah, that is the problem in a nutshell. Paradoxically, this problem might
be solved if Christians were allowed to have their own communities and
advertise themselves as such. There might be certain resources, businesses
etc. shared by multiple cultures but obviously the hard core conservative
Christians are very insecure about their position and feel threatened by
others. This as I mentioned isn't an uncommon or unnatural human response;
the problem is that since we are all thrown together physically it can
become a conflict. If, for example, your area was a "registered Christian
community" and you belonged to a "registered Jewish community" then anybody
would know not to move there unless they either belonged to the respective
culture or didn't mind being an outcast (which some people don't).
Problem is, Christian communities generally DON'T advertise themselves as
such, either because they will be labeled as "racist segregationist white
supremacists" or whatever, or because their real goal is to make everyone
else be just like them. I will grant you there are those, and those are a
problem, but I don't think they represent the majority of Christians. I
really think the majority of Christians would be happy if they could live
and raise their families among those of their own kind without the threat of
interference from others. If we lived in separate autonomous communities
and the Christians still tried to take over non-Christian communities and
insist that they follow Christian laws and customs, then we have blatantly
exposed the problem.
>...Further, permaculture as an
>agricultural practice is viewed in this county as neo-satanism....
>pesticides are venerated and worshipped as necessary and so vital that
>any decision against them is viewed by the dominant tribe as a
>"communist-liberal plot." A permacutlure farmer cannot obtain credit or
>agricultural commission permits to grow in this county because the
>dominant tribe's power figures presume that organic or permaculture
>methods are illegitimate and spell financial disaster and communal
>instability. Is this a good tribal boundary to allow?
When it comes to tribal customs, there is no such thing as "good" or "bad"
except to the degree that a practice helps the tribe to survive. Almost any
tribe can find something abhorrent about any other tribe, because their
cultural background runs contrary to yours. That's exactly the problem.
So, if your conservative neighbors are left to their own devices to practice
unsustainable farming, they ultimately won't survive because they'll kill
the soil, and their practices will be exposed as a problem.
>Tribalism is normal, but what happens when tribes put up hard barriers
>to keep others out?
That's part of the nature of tribalism. Again I don't see it as a problem,
EXCEPT for the little fact that currently, the white Christian culture is so
overwhelmingly dominant on this big piece of land that it's impossible for
anyone else to thrive. When this country was founded there was a lot of
energy invested in freedom of religion, and a lot of people left communities
where they weren't wanted and went off to form their own, based on their own
religious beliefs. I think the equivalent needs to happen now, except that
instead of inhabiting "new" land (and I use that term sarcastically since we
all know it wasn't anyhow), we need simply to reorganize populations. It
would be nice if that happened organically, just by people moving around
till they found somewhere they fit in, or else staking out a neighborhood
with several friends and trying to attract like minded people, a la the
various cohousing projects that are springing up.
>What happens when outsiders want to live in a
>geographical place but have to adopt soft borders to live within the
>dominant tribe that lives there already? What happens to reinhabitation
>within a tribal community; when a member of the dominant tribe wakes up
>and wants to change things accordingly?
>Just a few more questions to consider......
And they are all very troubling questions. I'm not at all sure it can
happen without violence, and possibly the breakup of the country into
smaller regions, as the Soviet Union did. Conquering armies rarely bother
to draw lines in the sand along tribal/bioregional boundaries, but only
along boundaries convenient to their own purposes. This is what we are
dealing with, and I really don't feel that the same physical space can be
occupied by different tribes ultimately, without BOTH being compromised. In
order to quit trashing the land we have to develop a relationship to it
again, which only seems possible through living in a space whose boundaries
can clearly be understood by each member of the tribe, where responsibility
can't be deflected to some far-off place and its people decimated. As long
as we have "dominant" cultures and are merely minorities occupying their
homogenous space, nobody wins.
I think our task as permaculturists is to make the dominant culture
understand that they don't win either.
Lee A. Flier
Atlanta and Ellijay, Georgia