“Community” vs Rewilding

Hugs are mandatory.

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.

15 Comments on ““Community” vs Rewilding”

  1. Thanks for writing this, Scout. It’s just what I needed. Especially that last paragraph…that’s exactly what I’ve been guilty of lately. I don’t really know anyone around here (yet) who would be interested in rewilding together, but I haven’t really been asking people I know either. And all the while, it’s like there was a voice in the background saying “what about us? you’re right here already, you know this place already” so thanks for writing what I needed to read, I know what I need to do now.

  2. In cities in the U.S. with a black population I’ve definitely seen “community.”

    Also, amongst women in any area where people live near to each other, especially mothers and grandmothers, I definitely sense community.

  3. this is what i am talking about. dose ostracizing someone from community events make that event no longer open to the public. is it a closed community? a community at all? I understand that if someone is crazy and is threatening or attacking others they may have to be removed from the event. If there are rumors about the person not being safe, but they are willing to communicate be verbally respectful and are being respectful to others personal space i.e. there bodies. what would this be?

  4. Good topic to bring up man. I find myself having many friends, good friends who i have known a long time, we live near eachother, we hang out sometimes, but we certainly don’t live like one (as comme unité would imply). i hate it. i love being around people all the time, depending on each other physically and spiritually. one of my favorite things to do is HANG OUT, whatever the excuse is (even/especially when there isn’t one). so i get confused when people talk about community, because i don’t see it and have never seen it, and feel frustrated working towards it. i feel like in my life though, i strive towards community most by giving, asking for help, and expressing my love and appreciation for others.

  5. This has all been interesting to me. I’ve read primitivist sites for many years, and due to my autism have had my own grievances and frustrations toward our society. Autistic people view the world differently and often feel frustrated about rules in our society they don’t understand. My path has not taken me toward rewilding, but I can definitely see how frustrations towards our culture can lead people down different paths. Due to beliefs in overpopulation I’ve chosen to die with the collapse of civilization, but good luck with what youve set your mind to.

  6. Community is a thing of Nature, not people, unless people are part of that Nature. Community is where individuals come flooding together to spiritually feed that big thing that feeds the village. It is about gratitude and ecstasy. Community is the ecstatic voice that lingers after the villages we insist upon are torn apart. -Martin Prechtel

  7. Brilliant Post!!! I especially like the illustration of starving, stranded people….I hope if I am ever in that situation, only that my social skills and those around me are up to par, or else…scarey end-of-the-world violent anarchy thoughts got through my head.

    Great topic- I agree that the term ‘community’ much like ‘revolution’ have lost much of their real-world meaning. In essence, though, to me “community” just means a network or a group of people. -and i think the confusion comes from the fact that we belong to so many groups/networks all at once and it almost sometimes feels as if you have to choose ONE if you are to belong to a “real” community.

    But the reason we identify and socially commune with so many groups, is simply because there doesn’t exist ONE community that shares ALL our values, philosophies, morals, beliefs or fills our social/physical/spiritual needs. It’s almost feels like concretely defining your “community,” implies that this is the group to whom you swear your allegiance, loyalty, social benevolence for the rest of your life. Well, that’s almost just as scary as choosing a partner to marry, or going to college and committing to a career you may not be entirely sure you want.

    Scout, I think you’ve reminded us to just choose whatever community it is you want!! Just don’t be a community leach – contribute to it, enhance it, bring to it your gifts and passions – “community” may only be as much as we are willing to be a part of it…

  8. I have been researching/teaching myself wilderness survival skills for the last year or so and while doing so I came upon your site and really enjoy reading it. One thing I cannot figure out is this: in the past couple months I have been salvaging roadkill and trying (and failing) to skin them to use the fur. Everytime it is futile and all my efforts are a sad, foul mess. Do you offer any suggestions/tutorials on how to do this properly? It is becoming quite frustrating!

  9. the whole reason i never joined any intentional community is because i didn’t want to be group hugged all the freaking time and deal with the nutty people who seemed like once caged animals who had been free’d into a wrold that yearned for but couldnt function in, because of their upbringing.
    I would love to have re-wilding camps here at my place, but i am not sure i have the skillz enough to share— maybe i shold find some teachers in my area to do it with?

  10. Some very interesting points on community.. I tend to go with Neotribalism and low-numbers when considering matters of “community”, emphasising “true” community over mass society, but I think you have great points that as with so many other words, it has aqcuired way too much meaning-baggage for its own good.. but perhaps it can be rewilded..

    “Due to beliefs in overpopulation I’ve chosen to die with the collapse of civilization, but good luck with what youve set your mind to.”

    Hmm.. sounds familiar..

    “Go now and die in what way seems best fit to you.” ~ Denethor, son of Ecthelion

    I respect your decision to pass on rather than linger as a form of life which is more than a bit overabundant for its environment, but I offer the feeling that you could do more than that if you put your mind to it, with the rest of what life you have been given. Hel maybe you already plan to – just sayin, when Mordor knocks at the door, if you really think your life serves better as ended by it, make it go out with a bang (not necessarily litteral), in the name of what you value, hopefully acheiving some end towards that. I think rewilding involves more than helping ourselves individually.. you don’t have to “stick around” if you don’t want to, to give something to it. Anything done to return lands and persons to wildness helps everyone…

  11. I live in a rural area and the people around me are my community,like it or not.I dont have the civilized option of selecting just like minded people to hang with.I cultivate me relationships with those around me because when the collapse happens thats who will be around me.Most cultures have defined roles,expectations,limitations ect.Some rewilders are reactionary to such things.I dont blame them because you have to swim upstream to escape the dominate cultures form of those things but unfortunatly reactionary behavior doesnt lend itself to community or building a real culture and personally Im a bit tired of working through others ideological hang ups so No ,I dont believe you are correct that rewilders are somehow more suited to community than those you call civilized.

  12. @Leslie – Is that why intentional communities always feel so odd? Laughing hard at your observation cuz I know I act like the dysfunctional caged animal waaay too much of the time hahahahaha….humility is usually the order of the day when it comes to readjusting to reality.

  13. i dont even know what versus means.

    anyway.. love vs rewilding.. word against rewilding.. what about libaries vs. rewilding..or whalecatching vs rewilding, houses vs rewilding, soap vs rewilding, ranting vs rewilding jesus vs, rewilding, comix vs rewilding, movies vs rewilding,

  14. Somehow I’m getting this picture of conscious rewilders (who are familiar with the theory, active in the online community, etc.) becoming living libraries of skills and information about wild human culture, BUT, interacting with local people as mt.goat mentions… and when the shit hits the fan, for anyone local who hasn’t gotten on the bandwagon with you, offer to teach them how to survive. Meanwhile? If you want kids, have them. Teach *them* rewilding skills. Make it fun, like pretend games or like camp, which is probably how we learned things as tribal kids 20,000 years ago anyway. When someone really needs to learn something, they will learn it; if you really want to teach new culture, it’s best to teach it to children. Here’s where people need to think creatively about this because you have to impart information in a way that’s not going to get CPS knocking down your door. But given how many wingnuts teach their kids how to hunt and what-not, I don’t think it will be much of a problem.

    As for the notion that one should voluntarily die with collapse, I must respectfully disagree. It’s a given that a certain number of people will die. And some will die who have no intentions of doing so, who wanted to ride out the collapse and come out the other side. So it seems a foolish waste to me to be WILLING to die. Better to let fate decide as it may, and to plan to survive in case you do. Because if you do, but you meant to die? You’re gonna be in a mess.