Saturday, December 27, 2003

by Skald

Just finished reading Guns, Germs, and Steel, a fascinating book about cultural evolution and how geography and biogeography were the key determinates that led certain regions of the world to be dominant (Europe-Asia) and others to be dominated (Americas, Africa, Australia, Polynesia). The book documents how food production inevitably led to population booms, which inevitably led to more complex societies, which inevitably led to "kleptocracies"... the rule of the many by the few.....

Turns out that once a population exceeds about 80, egalatarian human relations usually evolve into a tribal system. Such systems are still largely egalatarian. However, beyond 4-500 people, chiefdoms typically develop.... a small ruling class assumes more and more power over the growing "commoner" class.

This information is particularly interesting to neo-nomad hobopoets. We, after all, wish to be ruled by no one. We also have no desire to rule.... what we seek are free and egalitarian human relationships. The above situation suggests that such relationships are only possible within a small framework. This gibes with the instinctual feeling that our societies have become far too large and distant... that we in fact have little say over the politics of states and nations.

The good news is that our societies have now expanded to such an extent that it is possible to carve out near-autonomous mini-societies (tribes, clans, lodges,...) within them. It is possible for such clans to move anonymously through the macro-society..... engaging it when useful, using it's slightly old technology and its infrastructure,... yet free of its work-consume-die entrapments. Such mini-societies already exist. They include the neo-hippy "Rainbow Tribe", the Society for Creative Anachronism, certain fraternal/maternal groups, certain secret societies, art communes, gangs, syndicates, anarchist groups, anti-globalisation bands, eco-warrior clans, the Animal Liberation Front, and the like. Many of these groups have their own alternate economies... even allowing some members to live partially or almost fully off such economies.

The biggest danger to a mini-society is for it to grow beyond the limits of egalitarianism.... beyond that magical 3-500 mark. One solution for such growth is to break up the organization-- into largely (or fully) autonomous branches or local groups. To preserve egalitarianism, local groups must retain all key decision making powers.... and their relation to other groups is that of a web of affiliation or a confederacy.... not a centralized bureaucracy. Many nation-wide (or world-wide) mini-societies do just that (fraternal lodges, SCA "households", gang families, EarthFirst chapters, ALF cells, etc...). Thus the core organizing group remains small.

Reducing scale is thus a key task for all who value freedom. We must break our essential social institutions into manageable chunks of fewer than ~400 people... ideally fewer than 80. This is the core idea behind hobopoet clan building efforts.

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