This post originally introduced the Intentional Paleo Community Facebook Group August 22, 2012. The gist was to initiate work toward a theoretical framework, build a real-world community, and develop a template replicable by others wishing to do something similar.
During my recent [failed] fatbiking trek from the U.S. to the Yukon/NWT border area of B.C. (don’t ask… yet), I had a lot of time to think. I also had a lot of opportunity to engage the environment and interact with land and animals in a way not available to enclosed vehicle travelers. The combination of situational inputs repeatedly pulled my mind toward the nexus of hunter-gatherer lifestyles, fauna, food, farms, forests, and fences. As my mind wandered, a truism became more and more real — hunter-gatherers are not nomads.
At times I was seriously short of food, and shared that through the expedition twitter account. A frequent response was that I should simply hunt and gather along the way. While this advice was sometimes well-meaning, and sometimes in jest, it started to frustrate me over time. Despite having a measure of technology that would have allowed me to hunt and fish, I was traveling based on efficient routes, and not according to an abundance of edible wildlife. In the modern world, wildlife tends to be displaced by roads. Collecting data for a roadkill research project drove that point home — at times in a very visceral way.
It wasn’t just the roads. Farms and fences stretched for hundreds of miles. Some held cows or alpacas or horses in, but they also held the other animals out. Ecosystems had been chopped and burned and plowed into oblivion. What was once an area I could have hunted and gathered had been transformed into a garden for growing, as one sign cheerfully displayed, “snack foods”. The energy transmitted by the sun, converted by the earth, and solidified by the plants and animals was off limits to me and the furry creatures of the world.
I was traveling by road. Because of the ability to transport building materials before there were roads, many roads are built near railroads. Because of the ability to transport building materials before there were railroads, many railroads are build near rivers. River valleys are some of the most ecologically diverse regions on our home planet — that is, before they are obliterated by roads and railroads and dams and farms. Nearly every plant you buy in a grocery store has displaced a diverse ecosystem throughout its entire life. This tends to be true of the animals you eat as well.
My brain was in overdrive, and I kept coming back to the idea of an “intentional community” that wipes the slate clean of agricultural constructs such as feudalism, monotheism, patriarchy, sedentism, overspecialization, technophilia, and farming.
But Andrew, we don’t have feudalism anymore? That’s true in terms of the particular “legal and military customs”, but the goals of feudalism remain firmly entrenched:
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs… which, broadly defined, was a system for structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour. – Wikipedia
Yes, it is true that the relationship derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour is now mediated by capital. However, the functional mechanism is largely intact.
What follows is an early sketch of what I have in mind. Normally, I’d develop and present support for something like this. However, I want to open it up to your input before diving too deep. Nothing here is set in stone, and should only be viewed as a point at which to start discussion.
To rethink the communities we voluntarily participate in starting with what we’ve only recently learned about our hunter-gatherer ancestors. This is not a shunning of neolithic ideas per se, but a step back from the assumptions of agricultural civilization and rebuild on a clean slate.
To build a community deeply integrated with our current understanding of hunter-gatherer anthropology and evolved human psychology (with a small group of adventurous individuals).
To develop an evolving template for others who wish to do something similar.
- Civilization is a fairytale. The narrative of the
civilizeddomesticated relies on the lie that humanity’s history began the same day as agriculture.
- Agriculture is overrated. Given the choice, hunter-gatherers have historically resisted assimilation by agricultural civilization.
- Agriculture breeds evil: Patriarchy, slavery, authoritarian gods, rape, and murder for hire.
- Agriculture hates life. The fertile crescent is a desert. Monocrops are a green veneer temporarily separating former ecosystems from future scorpion habitat.
- Ownership is for the lazy. Property (land) rights arose from agriculture as a response to sedentism and delayed return on investment, and are enforced through contractual evil (see previous).
- Security is an illusion. Agriculture’s exports are disease and famine.
- Comfort is a facade. Average dwelling size has increased from 100 sq. ft. to 2,300 sq. ft (U.S.) while happiness has decreased and depression has increased.
- Wealth is fake. Consumerism is an evolutionary mismatch that hijacks the human bias to collect resources for immediate consumption.
- Money is the root of all boredom. Now get back to work.
Comments on Common Missteps
- It is not necessary to invoke a manipulative cabal tricking humans into living lives of abstraction. Human psychology is simply mismatched to the emergent hyperreal ecology.
- Homo economicus is a myth. Humans are not rational economic-optimizers, but emotionally driven animals with evolved mental shortcuts that are more probabilistic than logical.
- Libertarianism is an inelegant attempt to force the square peg of evolved human egalitarianism into the festering round chasm of the agricultural state.
- Buddhism, Zen, “new age”, and loosely related impulses are reactions to the psychological mismatch between paleolithic brains in the spectrum of agriculture-spectacular industrial capitalism.
- Work is not a virtue, but the game of life stripped of play and all other human qualities.
- Community is not communism.
- Being social is not socialism.
- Hobbes was a dick.
- Near zero difference in political power
- Think more opportunistic migration than perpetual motion or living in a van down by the river.
- De-emphasize notion of permanent residence with perpetual ownership
- Achieved via multiple locations in varied ecological contexts
- Apply timeshare concept as analogy to HG semi-nomadism.
- Sedentism is the path to land ownership with is the path to the state.
- Play serves survival benefit in terms of simulating, and providing practice for, potentially dangerous situations
- Play serves reproductive benefit in terms of sexual selection
- The stifling of play in children and adults is a neolithic construct in service of the increased workload required to meet caloric needs under farming.
- Quasi-gathering via minimal horticulture
5. Property rights distinguished from land rights
- No individual has a right to control natural resources
- No individual has the right to control objects fashioned from natural resources by another
- Our country is the world
- The state is a function of agriculture
- The state incites, perpetuates, and hijacks human group bias to its own benefit.
- Emphasize generalists over specialists
- Do not impose generalization in all domains
- Intentional division of labor foments sub-optimal well-being through fear of resource scarcity
- Humans are individuals, and individuality should be allowed/encouraged to flourish
- Strict communalism tends to limit individual expression
- Sexual selection (in the technical, Darwinian sense) should not be impinged upon
- Tiny house movement
- Human-nature interaction
- Ultralight cycling/backpacking
- Human ethology
- Zen/Minimalism (though these are inspired by our evolved psychology)
- Play as a Foundation for Hunter-Gatherer Social Existence, Peter Gray
- The Hadza, Frank Marlowe
- The Art of Not Being Governed, James C. Scott
- Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization, Richard Manning
- Progress and Poverty, Henry George
- Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior, Christopher Boehm
- Coming Home to the Pleistocene, Paul Shepard
- The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability, Lierre Keith
UPDATE Spring 2015
We have laid the theoretical foundation for this concept, and purchased our first property! The ideas have change a bit since this was originally written, and in a good way.