2110: A Dispatch From the Future

BLOG 2110: A Dispatch From the Future

mary mattingly
conception of post-civilization all-weather wear by mary mattingly

My regular readers know that I don’t expect we will be able to resolve the combination of cascading crises — led by climate change, the end of oil, and the collapse of the unsustainable and debt-laden industrial growth economy — that will face us in the coming decades. While I don’t advocate doing nothing to mitigate the damage we are doing now, just because it won’t be enough, I also think it would be useful, for our descendents who survive the end of our civilization, to imagine how they might live, with much smaller numbers and at a subsistence level, sustainably, responsibly, comfortably and joyfully. I think the crash of our culture will be ghastly, but I see no reason why life for those after the crash should not be delightful.

So here is a dispatch from the future, a report from a member of one of many diverse post-civilization communities, telling us how they measure ‘success’:

conception of art after the collapse of civilization culture by afterculture

June 28, 2110: A letter to my great-great-grandfather, who died 100 years ago today:

It’s funny: By the measures of humans from civilization culture, our community would be described as migratory, but we think of it as just the opposite. Yes we migrate around a territory that provides us with all the food and resources we need, in a twenty-year cycle, but the whole territory is our community. We share it with many other creatures, some of which also migrate, but we do not go beyond it — our community is defined by this territory, this land that we belong to and are a part of. By contrast, civilization culture humans could never sit still, they had to travel all over the world, to places not even suited to human habitation, and then create artificial environments to allow them to live in those hostile places. To us, they were the migrants and we are the settled ones.

Our community’s culture is very different from those of our neighbouring communities, even though the natural environment is not dissimilar. That’s a mark, I think, of the fact that after civilization’s fall we self-selected into new communities, and as we formed the differences between these communities were immediately pronounced, because of our different interests, beliefs and strengths, and as time has passed the isolation of our communities, which we have negotiated deliberately to limit our vulnerability to the plagues that wracked our species in the final years of civilization culture, has entrenched and enhanced the differences between communities. While all six of the communities in our tribal federation use sign language for oral and visual communication, we are the only one of the six to use English as our written language. The clothing, body decoration, festivals, entertainments and art of these six communities are also very different, and while we study the others, the divergence and uniqueness of how we communicate, live and interact becomes ever larger with the passage of time. We understand that this was also true among pre-civilization and non-civilization indigenous cultures in the millennia before the crash.

What is also interesting, in terms of cultural diversity, is how each community here chooses to measure its ‘success’, or what might better be called its ‘fitness’, its ability to adapt to changes in the environment of which we are a part, and to co-evolve that environment in ways that work for us and delight us. We began with a ‘scorecard’ that was developed by an Internet philosopher (of all the things we lost in the crash, the Internet is what I mourn most) almost a century ago. We found this scorecard well-suited to us and we have not changed it very much since.

The purpose of our community self-assessment is to set the agenda for our community meetings. While we have learned to adapt and co-evolve well as a community, and we take pride in the fact that we assess ourselves generally as very ‘fit’, there are always some areas where our self-assessment is low enough for us to discuss and achieve consensus on some options and possibilities for action. In accordance with the wisdom of our aboriginal ancestors, those who were wiser than the civilization culture leaders, we do not make decisions on what individuals should or must do. Our meetings are focused on the areas where we have assessed ourselves as not very fit, and at those meetings we tell stories that suggest why that is the case. There is no group decision coming out of the stories. The decision on what to do is left to the individual members to make; it is their responsibility. We do not tell people what to do or criticize them for what they choose to do, or not do.

Our self-assessment has three sections: Individual Self-Sufficiency and Well-Being, Community Self-Sufficiency and Well-Being, and Community Sustainability. Here are the elements of each of the self-assessments, as they have evolved to date:

Individuals’ Self-Sufficiency and Well-Being:

  • Attainment and learning of valued personal capacities — is each individual in the community acquiring the capacities s/he thinks are important?
  • Self-knowledge — does each individual understand what drives him/her?
  • Personal health and comfort — is each individual physically and emotionally healthy and content?
  • Freedom from need, stress, and anxiety — is each individual free from unmet needs, stresses (including those caused by conflict, coercion and restriction), and physical and emotional anxieties?
  • Freedom of choice — is each individual free and unconstrained in being able to think, believe, do, and not do, whatever s/he chooses, provided that does not cause unreasonable harm to others?
  • Realization of, and time and space for, personal gifts, passions, and purpose — does each individual appreciate what s/he is uniquely good at doing, enjoys doing, and what is needed in the community that s/he cares about and the exercise of which gives his/her life meaning?
  • Connection with others — does each individual have deep and meaningful relationships with others in the community?
Community’s Self-Sufficiency and Well-Being:
  • Freedom from reliance on other communities for essential products and services — is the community self-sufficient such that if other communities failed, its well-being would not suffer?
  • Quality and sufficiency of our food, clothing, recreation, security and collective capacities — does the community live well and get what it needs, without extravagance or waste?
  • Innovation and diversity — does the community collectively surface, evolve and institute new ideas, and encourage and embrace diverse ideas and ways of being and doing?
  • Egalitarianism and generosity — is the community free from bias, discrimination, inequitable distribution of resources and wealth, and are all members of the community naturally generous and accorded equal consideration, respect and authority?
  • Peace — is the community at peace with and respectful of all life within its territory, and its neighbours’?
  • Self-management — collectively is the community competent at running its affairs and dealing with conflicts and challenges that may arise?
  • Leisure — does the work of the community allow generous time for pursuit of artistic, philosophical, non-essential learning and other leisure activities?
Community’s Sustainability:
  • Freedom from debt — does the community live within its means, never borrowing or taking from the land or others what cannot be immediately repaid or, within one migration cycle, replenished naturally?
  • Permaculture — do all gardens planted by the community consist solely of native or otherwise non-invasive species, and do they reflect permaculture principles of natural succession, variety and viability without the need for artificial fertilization, poisons or irrigation?
  • Freedom from illness — do the community’s practices help to prevent, quickly diagnose and effectively treat physical and emotional illnesses?
  • Simplicity — does the community live lightly on the land, such that no other life forms or future generations are adversely affected by its presence and activities?
  • Zero growth — is the community’s aggregate human population and use of resources substantially unchanged from year to year?
  • Adaptability and balance — does the community collectively know how to cope, and practice coping, with environmental changes and events, and work to stay in balance with all other life that shares the land to which it belongs?
At each of our meetings there is something to discuss, something that does not fit well. Usually it is some unhappiness of an individual member, which we address by listening, empathizing, acknowledging, and telling stories that might be helpful. We generally do not proffer advice unless it is specifically requested. Sometimes the issue is a dispute or conflict between members of the community. We use the same approach, encouraging each member to hear, acknowledge and appreciate the position of the others. Usually that understanding is sufficient that the conflicted members resolve the issue themselves. In rare situations where there is no resolution, one or more members will elect to leave the community. This is a time of sadness for us, but we respect and honour the decision. Likewise, we will occasionally welcome to our community someone who has elected to leave another community in our tribal treaty area.

Perhaps because of our strong focus on learning and practicing capacities, we have been much more successful at this than many other communities. These less competent communities seem to have more conflict, more anger, more dysfunction than ours, and this causes us great concern. Our study of civilization culture suggests it was this lack of individual capacity, and the related lack of community cohesion and competency, that led to the massive centralization of authority, the dysfunctional hierarchies of large, rigid and unsustainable systems, and the atomization of community.

Without the strength of community, it is hard for us to even imagine how civilization culture lasted as long as it did.

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2 Responses to 2110: A Dispatch From the Future

  1. Sebastian says:

    This is of my interest, since I was a kid I was conscious of how we as race, harm and cause damage to our own home. Reading other comments put me to think… are you serious? Of course it will be difficult! we will return to nothing just trying from “afar”, we need to risk our own lifes, make sacrifices if necessary! we don’t need just optimistic people, we can’t just sit down and wait “the morale and laws” defends us forever. You guys need people with conscience, people with strengh, people without fear, people with a realistic reason, you need people like me. I would give my own life to save this planet. We have to stop thinking of us as many individual beings, we need to think of us as an entire entity. The mass we call “Earth” keeps turning, spinning and moving, ignoring individual desires. that’s why we, as human race have to put in harmony to make a difference. We have to give everything we have, for the future of the race, for the future of the world. One last thing, don’t wait a “thank you” for response, these kind of things aren’t made to receive a grateful smile, a future for us would be enough, don’t you think?I already posted the same, but I was very excited about discovering this blog that I didn’t notice it was an old update.

  2. Howie Richey says:

    Your thoughts and ideas closely resemble those of Daniel Quinn in his book “Beyond Civilization.” How much of his work have you read?Gratefully,- HR

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