Saturday, February 11, 2012

Families? Or Tribes?

I hate to burst anyone's bubble in nuclear family-worshipping America, but the family is not the primary social organization of Homo Sapiens. It is, rather, the band, and the tribe. In other words, Aristotle was right : man is the political animal, the animal that lives in the polis, the level of social organization that transcends the family and which requires complex interaction of people from different lineages.

This is really important to emphasize, because first of all, it represents actual social organization amongst our ancestors and everyone else on the planet, with the extended family clan-band, organized into local, clan-interacting tribes ; and secondly, and far more relevantly, because it was the fascists in the last century who were the big "family values" folks, with the Christian Right following closely in their footsteps.

No, I'm not telling you to hate your mother and father. Au contraire. Your mother and father are links in much wider chains. Pick up a textbook, for example, on Australian Aboriginal kin terminology, and realize that complexity in social organization is the particular genius of humanity, as humanity. Looked at in this anthropological way, Aristotle was correct, at one level, even though the "polis" as a literal burg or town is not the only way of creating this trans-family organization. The polis was, in many ways, an advance over agrarian ways of life, which for all their idylls, had many disadvantages. Anyone who has studied the agricultural revolution and the dislocations and cripplings this created for humanity, in addition to its advances, understands this, as important human elements lifted up into expression by the hunting-gathering way of life were left behind for more settled ways. Anyone who is not familiar with these studies had better come up to speed : let's get with it, folks! Mannaz is a critical rune, so catch yourself up with what scientific anthropology has discovered and compiled about our species. Moreover, the contradiction of agrarianism, with its settled mentality, stifles one of the most important energies relative to our spirituality : wod. In fact, many anthropologists believe that the pastoralist way of life was subsequent to agriculture, as a reaction to its oversettled ways, as people packed up with a few goats or sheep and allowed themselves to wander again. (Pastoralism also has its own contradictions. There is Fire and Ice in everything, and the key is to find the right balance.)

The disadvantages of the agricultural revolution are important to understand, because it is that revolution that ultimately generated the dynamic between the cities and the countryside, because cities are, in part, places that people flock to to escape from the boredom and dulling of their human potential to be found out on the farm and in plantations. (It's far more complex than this, and, I want to make this clear, farm life has a great deal to offer, particularly when a native nobility provides a microequivalent of some of the cultural advantages of the polis in their courts and halls.) Slavery is primarily a feature of agricultural peoples.

Any time the vast complexity of human potential is blunted by a social system, that social system is ultimately headed for revolution of some kind, even if that takes thousands of years, because there is an evolutionary imperative to developing all the gifts the Gods gave us. While it may be true that the Australian Aboriginals refined and developed our particular human talent for social complexity to a savant pitch, there is no doubt that the genius is common to us all. There is a yearning inside humans to reach out to their potential. This is why isolated family farms, cut off ages ago from larger tribal connections, will not satisfy everything in everyone, and why they will produce movement towards cultural centers where the possibilities for interaction are much greater. Tribal forms can provide many of these satisfactions without the need for literal cities, but the interactions and the satisfactions they provide must be present.

It may seem obvious to common sense that families are the basic unit from which the species reproduce and from which we have emerged, but reality is often counterintuitive to our common sense. In fact, a study of our closest biological relatives, the primates, indicates that reproduction happens within the context of the band, with male-female bonding a relatively transitory phenomenon, perhaps becoming perennial in some instances. The family as a coherent male-female pair with children exclusive to them is an emergence out of this matrix. The family is, therefore, not primary, but subtractive from the primary social matrix. We can see, therefore, that there is nothing wrong with families, as they provide certain kinds of satisfaction we enjoy, so long as they are not cut off from the larger band and tribal organizations.

This is evident in "home schooling", which has many perks to recommend it, but one of its drawbacks has often been an impoverishment of social contact amongst people so raised. (Not to mention that, let's face it, so much of this movement has simply become a way for regressive Christian Rights to resist coming into the 20th century : yes, I said the "20th" century, because they are a far distance from the 21st. Public schools, for all their imperialist indoctrination, and yes, that needs to be resisted, at least teach people the basic facts of modern life, and, more importantly, they provide (however messed up these may be at times) significant social contacts.) Don't think so? Talk to people who were raised in home schooling and then went to a real school, and what it's like to actually have friendship circles now, and how goddamned stifling a confining family life can be. (Readers familiar with my style will understand how dialectical I am, and that I push provocation to overcome rigid thinking at the same time the core legitimacy is affirmed ; I support home schooling, conditionally, and find it has many interesting possibilities to offer. Many succeed, although many don't, in overcoming these contradictions.)

If Aristotle is right --- and he is, albeit modified from an ethnological level, which shifts the terrain to kinship complexity, and corrected of its citystate-imperialism --- then emphasizing the family is just not going to do it, because, a) the human spirit reaches beyond this level of organization to something more complex, interesting, and satisfying, and b) it is not the evolutionary unit of human survival, and thus does not satisfy the requirements for social cohesion necessary to sustain us over eons of time.

Thus, it is the extended family (ie., the clan or kindred) and the theod which should be emphasized. No, and with all due respects to the lofty formality of the theodists, the theod doesn't need to be organized as an Anglo-Saxon tribal kingship, but a social contract of some kind between extended families is the idea. And, let's get more real : a theod is simply an organization corresponding to people who share the same language, and thus, it expands out to embrace the nation itself. (No, for Gods' sakes, I am not encouraging nationalism, but inter-national indigenism that takes up the human potential developed in the primal matrix and attempts to raise it to higher levels, without distorting its proportionality. So far, "civilization" has produced lopsided images ; which doesn't mean it won't, with some intelligence and democratic input, eventually succeed in raising things to a much higher level, in a way that corresponds to our innermost potential, and which doesn't distort the innate proportionalities of that potential.)

Put concretely : question your neolocal-supremacism. Look at Mexican families, for example, where children and grandchildren often live under the same roof as their parents, along with aunts and uncles. Those households are extended family households. In a certain sense, they are a collection of families as we understand them in the nuclear sense. And they offer many advantages. So : do you make fun of people who live with their parents, who live with their grandparents? Do you support and understand those who choose to affirm the extended family system, or do you automatically assume there is something wrong with those who do not choose neolocalism (the anthropological word for the situation -- a minority-choice in the history of humanity, by the way -- when people leave their parents' homes to go live on their own)?

Mannaz : the ways of humanity. They are complex, but ultimately satisfying to learn and to fulfill.


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