“Community” vs Rewilding
Gabe, a commenter on my blog, asked me this:
Scout, and others who are identifying “community” as a key missing component in our collective journey toward rewilding, I ask you: how can we (rewild-minded folks) live INSIDE the system now, and in satisfying numbers, and create the community we need to, if not live outside the system for legit fear of getting murdered en masse, offer support to one another on a day-to-day level? I’m talking about intentional community. I’m not talking about a final cultural solution – I’m talking about a solid step in the right direction; toward community. Anyone? Why are we not living in community now? Are we addicted to isolation?
The easy answer? We don’t live in communities because everyone in civilization acts batshit crazy. Domesticated people have more baggage than a polyethylene plant. From a young age we learn to manipulate people for our own individualistic pursuits. Especially in America, where individualism has a special regard. Put a bunch of starving people together in a room and watch the insanity unfold; a la Reality TV. This shows why I stress social skills above all else when it comes to rewilding.
The harder question to ask: What do we even mean by community? If we keep talking about building a community, we need to define what we mean by that, to make sure we sit on the same page. But how does one define “community”? Where does your “community” begin and end? Do the members of your “community” all think of themselves as members of the same “community?” How many “communities” do you consider yourself a member of? Can you call two people a community? four? five? ten? At what point does a population of people reach the size of a community?” Would you call two friends who play chess every Tuesday night a community? Even if they don’t interact with any other chess players, do you consider them part of a global “community” of chess players?
These questions press even more difficult answers. The term community blows. It pretty much means nothing. Its ambiguity ends up confusing more than articulating. Confusion caused by people using the term “community” to refer to both a couple of friends doing a similar activity together all the way to the nation-state; the American “community.” Basically, it washes down the definition into a meaningless term. When someone says they belong to a “rewilding” community, it means nothing to me. Do they mean an “online” community like rewild.info? Do they mean a club that meets at a park once a week to work on primitive skills? What do they mean?
Say I run a rewild camp. Say, on average, 50 people attend. I could call those 50 people my community of rewilding. But do I really see them more than once or twice a month? Do we talk about anything other than rewilding? Do we make a living together? What about the 10 or so of those people that I do see more regularly? Where do I draw the line between the “larger” community and the “core” community? If I just say “community” what does that mean? Do I have to use a qualifier ever time I say it, i.e. core, larger, etc. Why not just do away with this confusing term?
Why do we use the word community? What do we really mean when we say it? For me it stands as a “goal conversation” for the fluent relationships we wish to build and maintain in our lives. When I think of a goal conversation for a more immediate form of “community” I look not to indigenous tribal peoples, but to the gypsies, who have adapted to live near and within civilization. The gypsies don’t have membership applications. They don’t tell you that you can’t leave. They definitely have cultural boundaries; you can tell who lives as a gypsy and who does not. So on and so forth.
But even more immediately, I think it helps to throw out the idea of “community” as some sort of well-defined band of people and instead see those around you as an undefined social-economical network. An unspecified number of people supporting each other through a process of rewilding. If we think of community in this way, at least initially and in a broad sense of the word, we can see what we lack and what we need. We lack a support network for rewilding. That doesn’t mean we lack a large group of people who draw a line around themselves as a support network for rewilding, but rather that each individual who needs support in rewilding has a social-economic network of friends and family and acquaintances who support them and they support in return. This does exist in small doses here and there, in real life and cyberspace.
Portland has several “primitive skills” schools, nature awareness schools, etc. that have divided up mostly into cliques. I’ve often heard people lament that “why can’t we all hang out together?” Firstly, I’ve participated in almost all of these groups and I don’t like a lot of the people who make up part of these organizations. We just don’t click. Why would I want to spend my life with a bunch of people who I don’t click with? So, I don’t consider them part of my community. However. Many of the people that I feel make up my “community” participate heavily with these organizations. Some of them might even come to rewild camp. In the most loosest sense of the word community, you could say we share one. In a more rigid, boundary drawing kind of way, I would not include those people. So when we say community,we need to differentiate what level of community we mean. A family differs from a band that differs from a tribe that differs from linguistic tribe that differs from regional neighbors, that differ from bioregional neighbors that differ from continental neighbors and so on and so forth.
The goal conversation starts simple, with a Rewild Skill Share. Running a Rewild Skill Share creates a larger culture of rewilding, in which you can find people you click with and then form a more close-knit group within the context of rewilding. In terms of “living in community” (my least favorite expression of the term) of rewilding… I live in a house of people who rewild. We have house meetings, support each other in grieving rituals, teach each other crafts and talk late into the night about the origins of civilization, mythology, spirituality and rewilding. Mostly it feels like one big sleep-over, all the time. I love it. Not always, but mostly. I would never say that I “live in community” with other people who rewild. I live with my friends. When I lived with my family, I supported them and they supported me. They don’t practice rewilding, but they supported me in doing so. I wouldn’t have said I “lived in community” there either. I lived with my family. I’ve learned that for me to have a successful “community” I need to surround myself with friends and like minds, not simply with any old body who wanders off the street when they see the sign for rewild camp.
Rewilding community means understanding organic processes of community building rather than trying to rigidly build one with rigid membership applications and interview or with guidelines framed and hung on the wall of the central compound. The better “setup”, the less control, the less work. I also shy away from creating an educational business and focus more on trade businesses linked together through rewild camp: basketry, bow-making, arrow-making, pottery, for a monetary trade for rent and bills and then hunting/gathering with friends from rewild camp for more of the subsistence needs. But that reflects my personal taste.
Seriously people. You want to grow the number of rewilders so that you have a community? You’ve got to market rewilding and attract people to it. Get off your ass and run a rewild skill share. It takes time and guts, but it works, it works, it works. Stop wasting time on the interwebs or dreaming of greener pastures in a foreign land. Dig in your roots and pull it together in your place.
For instructions, assistance and ideas for running a rewilding skill share in your area go to www.rewild.com.