Some thoughts I had
..how long would the life in me stay alive if it did not find new roots?
May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep
Today I’m thinking about the children in factory schools. I think of how they’re at the start of a journey away from life lived close to the earth, into one dominated by hierarchical institutions. I imagine them standing in their rows and I wonder when in my own history my distant ancestors were first “civilised” in a similar fashion. I’m of mostly European lineage so it was likely by way of the catholic church. I imagine a spiritual plough digging through the middle ages, growing a new culture while uprooting countless others in its rise to dominance. Most believers thought they were doing the right thing, bringing the heathens to heel. The old wild gods and their stories were banned and eventually faded into the background among the new characters and new stories. Gradually, after many years, the church began to splinter and secularization moved in. As our populace was industrialized, our reigns were handed over to the institution of government. We attended schools, sat in rows and learned the rules of citizenship. We were told to aim to please, to pass the test and we’d earn the next prize, move another rung up the prosperity ladder.
Generation by generation, we grew more and more distant from the living earth, its mysteries and wonders. We kept farming for awhile, but eventually most of us moved into cities and towns, scrambling after moneymoneymoney. The intimate relationship our ancestors once had with the earth malfunctioned, but we haven’t even realized it’s happened. Most of us have conformed to our comfortable modern lives and to the menagerie of societal rules that have been set for us. We live in our boxes. We look at our screens. We go where the GPS voice instructs us. We travel to work, we buy our groceries. We feed. We binge watch netflix, we splurge on credit, we host unboxings on youtube. The wild is something we generally avoid. Most of those with the means and space to grow their own food don’t do so. The poor buy processed food-like-products and the well off pad their need to feel virtuous by occasionally shopping at farmers markets. We fly in workers from poorer countries to bring in the harvest on our mega farms because so many of us can no longer be bothered to touch the soil that sustains us.
I think of the 26,000 factory school children in India in their matching uniforms, attempting to break the world tooth brushing record. As if it was something they’d thought of and not something that was assigned to them. Sponsored by Colgate. I’m guessing the students’ families didn’t receive any royalties. Each child got a free baseball cap and a goody bag with toothpaste and toothbrush. India is a rising market. Consumers must be manufactured. I think of how western women “learned” to start shaving their legs in the 1920s. By the 1940s it was newnormal for women to shave, even though in all the years leading up to that point, men had always fallen in love with us just fine. I think of the $4.8 billion dollar skin bleaching racket. What kind of “beauty consciousness” does this industry create?
I wonder what newnormal stories the two million tribal students in factory schools around the world are taught everyday. I don’t think they’re taught that their elders’ way of life close to earth is noble and good. I don’t think they’re taught that the place where their ancestors once lived is sacred. (For when something is sacred, it is a sin to destroy it). I don’t think they’re taught the old wise tales of the forest and the ocean, with insights to help guide them through the currents of life. Old stories are flushed out, new stories go in. Multiple minds go into the factory school, one single herd mind comes out. The linear time of progress and purchasing power will replace the seasonal, cyclical time their ancestors knew. As they move together en masse they will shape a new culture with the newnormal ideologies the institution has taught them. They will leave the old stories and songs behind. Three generations from now, their descendants won’t even know where to look for them.
I think of the indigenous people of North America and Australia, still raw with grief, spirits torn asunder between ancestral ties to the earth and the siren calls of the modern world. I think of the last Amazonian tribes and of the Botswana bushmen who are being punished as poachers in the name of conservation. I think of the Uighur men being “re-educated” or going missing in China. I think of the Uighur women forced to sleep with Han men and bear their children. I think of those in Indonesia, facing starvation and leaving traditional tribal cultures to join Islam. I think of the last of the European pagans taking their first crusts of bread from the Catholics. I think of the world’s dying languages. Every two weeks, another ancient tongue going silent. A great, lumbering cultural amalgamation until...what? What are we becoming?
A social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.
A planned residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political, religious, or spiritual vision and often follow an alternative lifestyle. They typically share responsibilities and resources. New members of an intentional community are generally selected by the community's existing membership, rather than by real-estate agents or land owners (if the land is not owned collectively by the community).
Commonwealth or Common Ownership
“a natural development from profit sharing, co-partnership or co-ownership, or any scheme where individuals hold sectional interests in a common enterprise. They are on the way to owning things in common, and as we shall see, common-ownership has unique advantages.” - Ernest Bader, founder of the Scott Bader Commonwealth
A society or organization founded for a religious, educational, social, or similar purpose. From the Latin institutus, “to set up, put in place; arrange; found, establish; appoint; designate; govern, administer; teach, instruct.”
From the Latin gubernare “to direct, rule, guide, govern,” originally “to steer, to pilot.”
exclusive ownership through legal privilege, command of supply, or concerted action
exclusive possession or control
a commodity controlled by one party
one that has a monopoly
The monolithic organisation might be symbolised by a Christmas tree, with a star at the top and a lot of nuts and other useful things underneath. Everything derives from the top and depends on it. Real freedom and entrepreneurship can exist only at the top.
-EF Schumacher, Small is Beautiful, a Study of Economics as if People Mattered
Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” -George Orwell, 1984
I think about spiritual health. I think about people locked up in their houses and apartments. About people wearing masks and being banned from parks and green spaces. I think about the number of people who can’t remember the last time they felt deep closeness with the natural world, or even with another person.
I think of the orgy of information the average modern person absorbs everyday. I wonder what percentage of people still approach the non-human living world with any feeling of reverence. (Is there anyone left who bows to the first frost? Who thanks the stream for flowing, the rain for falling?) I think about intimacy. I think about the plague of loneliness and isolation that has swept through the modern world. We are so separate from each other. Layer after layer, we are separate from each other. There are millions of people who haven’t experienced a warm embrace for months, and many for years. How did we get to this point?
I think about all the old gods, the old stories. How they’re planted everywhere around the world, in all our human ancestries, in the earth itself. Back before the banks. Back before we worked in factories, when we still built whole things with our hands, not just components. Back when the whoosh of a raven’s wings through the windless sky was a language we understood. I wonder if the old myths and folk tales could help us heal a few hurts, or better, blast us out of our screen-dazzled state, back into earth-wedded understanding.
Wildness can’t be institutionalized. The cycle of life and death will not be hammered into a straight line, no matter how hard we try. We can’t carry on this way. We could try making up. We could try falling in love again. Gary Snyder says “Be famous for five miles.” This is your courtship circle for rewilding yourself.
If it’s safe for you to step out of line, do it. Get to know your five miles. Apprentice yourself to a local garden. Befriend a tree, a rocky bank, a great river, a patch of wild grass. Ask their counsel. Learn to listen for answers. Seek out old stories. Tell them in small groups. No phones. No screens. Voices around a fire. No masks. Fight for intimacy.