Thursday, 24 May 2007

Return of the Tribe

I'm seriously looking forward to seeing Macintyre's Edge of Existence after watching the Return of the Tribe. It highlighted so many perceptions about our society that I have always held and share with the Papua New Guineans who came to visit. No wonder living in the West fits me like an ill-fitting suit. So the Chief says after his return from the UK 'There will be no development here', his village Sagap will remain as it is, (except for a new doctor and some medicine supplies); that was the bit that made me smile - hearing him talk about how everything costs money and in his village they have everything they need without it.

I am at the moment living in a part of France that has a good balance between the built environment and the natural one. There are small holdings scattered apart, surrounded by woodlands, heath and lakes (a lot of these are manmade to collect water). In the back garden there are many birds (Herons, Hoopoes, Swallows, Magpies, warblers, Coal Tits, Wrens, Hummingbirds, Long Eared Owls and Nightingales, as well as the occasional pair of Mallards) and five minutes walk away I can find deer and many water birds like the heron, the comon tern and visitors like the odd looking Hoopoe. Everything costs money here too, thought there is a strong tradition of hunting (actually for food rather than just sport) and many people have horses/sheep/goats/chickens etc. It isn't an affluent area, its hard to get work and property prices are rising due to the influx of new redsidents from other countries. In this village there are Dutch, Suisse, Canadian, English, Scottish and German residents and its a very small village. We have been made welcome and the mayor welcomed us personally on arrival and everyone pretty much knows everyone else.

It is so peaceful here, it's only a few times a day that a car will pass the house. Dogs take themselves for walks along the verge and you only hear the traffic of crickets and frogs. Slowly I've forgotten what it's like to live in all the noise of the city. I am discovering a lesson in bushcraft that is often left unsaid, that of the Tribe. It is one thing to learn to make fire, using bow drill or hand drill or spark;or to learn tracking,navigating by the sun and setting traps and hunting and fishing techniques. We might harvest a bit of food by ourselves or craft a knife or some moccasins. But what we do by ourselves often seems insignificant and the idea of actually living like this for any period of time seems exhausting and impossible. This is where the 'Tribe' comes in. In a group collecting food becomes easy - you can have a balanced meal; because one group went fishing and another went foraging and put their wares together and shared them. I am beginning to think that mastering your purpose within the concept and reality of a tribe, may be more important than learning everything to do with bushcraft. There is proof that having a strong social network can make you live longer and reduce you're chances of heart disease. (See Nature's Cures by michael Castleman).

There have been masters of everything and I'm sure we aspire to such heights but in a tribe there are specialists - the bootmaker, the weaver, hunters and healers and so on. I am searching for a bridge; you could say it's a bridge to the past in that once we were all hunter gatherers, and you could say its a bridge to the future because somewhere there is a balance between both worlds. Society now is breaking at the seams. I don't have my own house because I don't want a mortgage, don't want to pay rent to a landlord and at present I don't have a spare quarter of a million pounds, sitting around collecting interest. A millionaire might have the capability to solve these problems but they might not have the knowlege or the will and those are two very prescious things that all of us can have if we choose.

So here am I sitting on someone else's hummock of earth with a scruple for a roof. I know there's a way through and I'm very determined to find it. Finding my place in our 'Tribe': this melting pot of nationalities and religions, this cyber world, this planet defined by intellectual borders; has been a struggle. I want to come out I want to say 'Mum, Dad - I think I'm human'.

The following filmclip brings ancient history right into the modern world, thanks to Ray Mears

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tags - return of the tribe, Sagap, Macintyre, Edge of Existence, hunter gatherers, tracking, sustainable living, heart disease, longjevity, social network

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