Ironically, the modern world is plagued by a lack of serious information. Today’s news item is usually forgotten by tomorrow. The television viewer has the vague impression that something happened somewhere, but one could change channels all day without finding anything below the surface. The communications media are owned by an ever-shrinking number of interrelated giant corporations, and the product sold to the public is a uniform blandness, designed to keep the masses in their place. But the unreality of television is only the start of the enigma. The larger problem is that there is no leadership, no sense of organization, for dealing with the important issues.
One might consider as an analogy the Great Depression. During those 10 years, everyone lived on a separate island, lost, alone, and afraid. It was a “shame” to be poor, so one could not even discuss it with the neighbours. The press and the politicians largely denied that the Depression existed, so there was little help from them. In general, it was just each nuclear family on its own – for those who were lucky enough to have a family.
In the future there will be various forms of aberrant behaviour: denial, anger, mental paralysis. There will be an increase in crime; there will be extremist political movements. Strange religious cults will arise. The reason for such behavior is that the problem is really neither about economics nor about politics. It’s about psychology: most people cannot grasp Catton’s concept of “overshoot.”
We cannot come to terms with the fact that as a species we have gone beyond the ability of the planet to accommodate us. We have bred ourselves beyond the limits. We have consumed, polluted, and expanded beyond our means, and after centuries of superficial technological solutions we are now running short of answers. Biologists explain such expansion in terms of “carrying capacity.” Lemmings and snowshoe hares – and a great many other species – have the same problem; overpopulation and overconsumption lead to die-off. But humans cannot come to terms with the concept. It goes against the grain of all our religious and philosophical beliefs.
When we were children, nobody told us that any of this would be happening. Nobody told us that the human spirit would have to face limitations. We were taught that there are no necessary boundaries to human achievement. We were taught that optimism, realism, and exuberance are just three names for the same thing. In a philosophical sense, therefore, most humans never become adults: they cannot understand limits.
Perhaps there is really nothing irredeemable in all this. We live in a “consumer” society, and we are all under the wheels of the juggernaut of capitalism. But if we look beyond civilization, both spatially and temporally, we can find many cultures with an outlook based more on the seasons of the year, rather than on an ever-expanding, ever-devouring “progress.”
It’s easy to say, “Let’s form a community and solve all our problems.” An ad-hoc social group of any sort often sounds like a great thing to be starting, but often they don’t work. What happens is roughly as follows. Each member has a vague dislike of most other members: after all, they may have nothing in common except the one thing the group came together for. Most people don’t want to do any work to help the organization: administration (typing, filing, phoning) is boring. At meetings, most people don’t speak, since they’re afraid of starting a big argument, but they’ll gather privately and complain for weeks afterwards. Everyone assumes that when officers have been elected, the other members can all forget about the organization; for the rest of the year, if there are any problems, then “They” should fix them. When everything starts to fall apart, some rather manipulative person jumps into the vacuum and establishes a dictatorship; soon afterward, the membership is down to zero.
Why do these problems occur, and how will people form viable groups in the future? To answer these questions properly, we must realize that the ideal political system is not a “political” matter at all, but a psychological one. What I mean is that it is not a conscious, cerebral decision; it’s a matter of the hard-wiring of our nervous system. And I say that as one who does not believe in evolutionary psychology or sociobiology, or any other of those ant-like portrayals of human mentality. Humans and their ancestors spent about 2 million years living in small groups, hunting and gathering. Judging from primitive societies that still exist, it seems that those groups had neither perfect dictatorship nor pure democracy, but something in the middle, a sort of semi-anarchic but functional process of majority rule; chiefs who didn’t perform well got the cold shoulder.
The group was small enough that each person knew every other person, and the rather clumsy democracy could work because both the “voters” and the “politicians” were visible. It has only been in a tiny fraction of the lifespan of humanity – the period called civilization – that political units have been created that are far too large for people to know one another except as abstractions. Small groups have their problems, but in terms of providing happiness for the average person, the band or village has generally been more efficient than the empire.
The maximum practical size for human association may be Robin Dunbar’s number of 150, but we might need to be rather flexible about that – perhaps somewhere between about 20 and 200. Roman soldiers,for example, were organized into “centuries.” The same was true long before the Romans: a Paleolithic pack included about 20 or 30 people, whereas in Neolithic times a village might have a population of 150 or more.
But a close look at half a dozen types of human groups is all that is necessary to get a good intuitive grasp of the sorts of numbers that are workable. Groups larger than that of the band or the small tribe do not do as well in providing for the happiness of their individual members. A social group of a million or a billion may have military advantages but is more likely to operate as a tyranny than as a democracy – China is the obvious case. Larger groups are not necessarily unworkable, but they involve a greater risk of the loss of social cohesion.
It is the problem of “individualism” versus “collectivism” that will hit Whites rather hard in the future. Whites are loners. After years of living and working with people from various eastern cultures, I am convinced that if you put a group of Asians on a desert island, they would get together and build a boat. If you put a group of Whites on a desert island, they would start arguing about property rights. Whites need to get over this.
Closely related to the problem of individualism is that of the lack of ideological unity. The basic premises of any major discussion seem to be absent. In a typical crowd of Whites, half will deny that any of the aspects of systemic collapse even exist, and most of the other half will say, “Well, I believe . . .” and proceed to spout whatever nonsense their brains have been filled with. If politicians never say a word about overpopulation, resource consumption, or any other real issue, how can the average person be blamed for mental laziness? But perhaps there’s something to be said for intellectual responsibility. Certainly no one can say that informative books aren’t available.
The individualist attitude has always been typical of Whites. There is a sort of frontier mentality that still pervades much of Western life. In certain ways, this has been beneficial: freedom from the obligations of the “old country” has provided much of the motivation for those who came to what was called the New World.The beneficial side of individualism is self-sufficiency, which made it possible for pioneers to survive in the isolation of the wilderness. But individualism will not be as useful a response in the future as it was in pioneer times. In fact individualism might just be more beneficial in good times than in bad, in times of prosperity rather than in times of hardship. There are, admittedly, a few people who have both the skills and the fortitude for independent living, but for the great majority the future will require a sense of community.
The most obvious negative effect of individualism can be seen in today’s false democracy: political leaders can tell the most remarkable lies, and the response is silent obedience. It is hard to understand such a thing happening until we realize that most Whites have little means of behaving otherwise. They are probably lacking in family or friends with whom they can share information or compare ideas, and they therefore depend on the mainstream news-media for their comprehension of human society. A solitary evening in front of a television set is not likely to promote healthy social relationships.
However, we cannot throw a “tribe” together simply by sitting down and having a community chat in the course of one afternoon in a suburban living room. (The fact that we don’t instantly recognize something so obvious is in itself evidence of our inability to form a “tribe.”) Primitive cultures may be organized into any of a number of social groupings, and those groupings in turn are often parts of a larger group – there is a pyramidal structure. But there are two characteristics that are found in these primitive cultures. In the first place, the group is always quite ancient; any group of that sort has been forming and reforming for countless generations, and one might say that the group is as old as humanity. Secondly, any genuine social group in a primitive society consists of members who are all tied by the bonds of either blood or marriage. Everybody is everybody else’s cousin, so to speak. We may laugh at rural communities for what we regard as their “incestuous” behaviour, but sometimes having close ties is precisely what keeps people alive.
In any large-scale disaster, in which help is needed quickly, group members get chosen from whoever is useful: the most knowledgeable, those with the best social skills, or perhaps just the nearest. In the long run, however, what will prevail will be the family, as it always has done. In a primitive society, most social divisions begin with the family, although more important is not the nuclear family but the extended one. Nuclear families are somewhat temporary, whereas the extended family is timeless. From the family comes the idea of descent from those in the past, and it reaches outward in the present to all the aunts and uncles and so on. The family may be traced through the fathers, or through the mothers, or both.
The terms describing systems of kinship have enormous variation in meaning from one society to another, but in all cases these labels signify the ties from one individual to another, beginning with the husband and wife and extending out in all directions. The ties are always either those of blood or marriage, but marriage makes one an honorary member of that society. Each tie is emotional, not just some sort of business relationship.
The traditional social group, then, is characterized both by its antiquity and by its kinship patterns. Such patterns would certainly not be characteristic of a group of suburbanite refugees lost in the wilderness and suffering from shock and fatigue. It would be an understatement to say that such an ad-hoc clustering of humans would face psychological challenges unlike those of people who had been living deep in the jungle since time immemorial.
Those who live in the country will be better prepared than those who live in cities. A city is a place that consumes a great deal but produces little in terms of life’s essentials. A city without incoming food or water collapses rapidly, whereas a small community closely tied to the natural environment can more easily adjust to technological and economic troubles. Even out in the country, however, the present housing patterns often resemble the gasoline-induced sprawl of the suburbs. Paradoxically, many “rural” areas have become “urbanized,” in the sense that they are doing their best to imitate the worst aspects of large cities. More useful would be something resembling a traditional village, with the houses at the focus and the fields radiating from that point.
“Something resembling a traditional village,” however, is different from the real thing. In a genuine “traditional village,” people have known one another for generations, and a crowd of urban visitors is not likely to be received with open arms. If these refugees show up flashing their useless credit cards all over the place, and demanding assistance, but they have no practical skills and do not even have the muscles for basic manual labour, it is unlikely that they will be welcomed in any long-settled community.These refugees will have to develop their own communities, and they will have to overcome the problem of their inadequate social skills. But some will learn – in spite of themselves.
If a community actually got underway, one thing to be avoided, for the most part, would be the issue of “division of labour” – dividing up jobs or professions: farmers, carpenters, etc. In most primitive societies, most people were good at most things. There was a vague division along the lines of gender and age, but that was about it, and even that was by no means absolute. Any future community would have to behave in the same manner as most primitive societies. And it would certainly be a “primitive society”: if no one in the community had ever produced a crop of beans successfully, there would be little point in worrying about an elaborate division of labor.
The 200-odd nations of the present day will become only a dim memory. Grass will be growing everywhere, and the long kilometers of cracked highways will be merely a curiosity. Starlight will once again appear over the cities at night. Humans were not designed to live in groups of such immense size as we see today, nor were they given the physiological equipment to deal with the over-stimulation of crowded living spaces. It is also true, for various reasons, that the sight of green trees is more pleasing than that of gray machines. It is not just a platitude to say that we are out of touch with Nature.