Saturday, August 18, 2012

Coffee with the Clan

Spent an interesting afternoon with Tapi's extended clan in their compound. I picked coffee from a tree (which was why Tapi brought me there...he couldn't believe I had never seen a coffee tree), then I ate something called "peet-peet" which was a lot like celery, then I chewed some sugar cane - which, as you might suspect, tasted like sugar.

It was an organic, totally communal subsistence farm that supported a clan of about 20 people. They had mounds of kau-kau, banana trees, avocado, cassava (a.k.a. taro root), pumpkins, pigs, chickens, onions and some kind of berries on a vine. 

Men, women, children, babies and elders . . . all living together. Young mothers nursed infants while the older women kept an eye on the bigger kids. Children probably 8 or 9 years old carried babies around with confidence and sure feet. Naked toddlers chased chickens.

Friends, I'm not stripping down and putting a bone through my nose (yet). I like the comforts of modern society and I am not ashamed to admit it, but this is humanity in it's natural state. We are social creatures. We form communities naturally because we derive benefit from our communities. 

Day care facilities are not natural, nursing homes are not natural, workplaces that demand a complete disconnect from our families for 8 hours a day are not natural. These things are the chains of a people that have enslaved themselves. These institutions are the products of a selfish society that claims to be free, but are we?

Do you want to drop your kids off at a day care at 6:30am on your way to work? Do you like how you feel walking out of a nursing home after visits that are never long enough to make grandma happy? Do you like being too tired to cook at the end of your work day?

Of course not. No one does. It's not normal. We never chose these things because we wanted them, they became normal because they became necessary. Our society is engineered in such a way that we must defy all conventions to avoid exchanging cash for sustenance and the nurturing of our loved ones. 

It's wrong friends. We all know it. We all feel it. We cannot call ourselves "free" if we are compelled by binding societal convention, to accept terms that feel wrong in our marrow. That is the opposite of freedom.

Again, I have no bone in my nose. I am not calling for an agrarian revolution. Here's what I am saying:

We must be intentional in the way we construct our society. There are working societal models all over the world, and while none of them may offer a direct, apples-to-apples, turn-key replacement for ours; they do offer wisdom. They offer examples and clues about how to make the connection between what feels right in our marrow and the choices we must make to get to that place.

Good soil, clean water, good crops, everyone valued, needs met, beauty, togetherness, community . . .

These are clues! This is wisdom!

We can learn something from this if we're smart. We can make our own society better if we take what works and adapt it to our circumstances. We have to try.

Anything that stops us is bullshit.

(Incidentally, I did shoot video of all of this and as soon as I have a stronger internet connection I'll post it . . . And yes, I am aware of the irony of that statement.)

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