Long long ago, in the misty dawn of humankind the ancient ancestors of you and me woke in the morning and came together to eat and organize the tribal day. The tribes had been developing the process of organizing in different ways for many generations, each generation teaching the next and adding new ways to contribute to their mutual needs. Those needs included safety and protection for everyone, shelter, clothing and food, the making of tools and weapons and the caring for children, the aged, sick and infirm that could not care for themselves.
To facilitate the organization for all their mutual needs they devised councils and chiefs. A chief would probably have a sub-chief to assist, and a council of advisors. There might be a council of warriors, a hunter’ council, a council of elders, and if the tribe were large there might be smaller groups, clans, each with a clan chief, and a clan mother who helped the women organize and also advised the men to help them become a useful and valued member of the tribe. A tribe could be likened to a sports team of today, which coaches guiding players to develop their skills and pull together for the common goals of the team.
In each generation young people learned and stepped into the various leadership roles according to their skills, talents, and interests. An older family or clan member would take on the guidance of the team. Every task in the community could be seen as a leadership role, and the primary requisite to be good in that role was to be a good listener.
In a time of national elections there are debates where the electorate may ponder the records and leadership skills of those who seek election. There are attacks and counter attacks and appeals for support and unity, but much argument, much emotion, acrimony, anger and the stirring of fear and resentment. There is much opposition, even bitterness, and little harmony. Any listening that is done is for negating, not for understanding
Most of that is caused by the inequality of power and wealth in society as a whole. The wealthy and powerful want to maintain their wealth and power and control not only the government but also the information that is dispensed to the public through education and the media.
Our problems are also caused by sheer bigness. The scale of the institutions of government and all human activities in medicine and health, education, welfare, justice and so on is so great that we are not dealing with each other as human beings, and we are not met with understanding and compassion. We have created an inhuman society of isolated and alienated individuals. All of whom nevertheless need the closeness, support, understanding and acceptance of others, and all of whom who strive for, wish for, but only rarely find that.
We are dependent on governments and businesses that are too big to consider and cherish us. We struggle with the oppression and isolation yet are often also able to feel the inherent kindness, compassion and helpfulness of individuals. Those traits we all inherit from our tribal pasts when we actually lived close to and dependent on every one in our community. We reach out to help those who are hurting.
But also we feel that lack of community in the soulless indifference of our growing cities. Our marriages begun in joy and hope begin to erode under contemporary stress. Over half are dissolved in divorce with many of the rest only maintaining a civil distance, adjusting to a loss of deep connection and appreciation for each other. Children, feeling the lack of affection and support, often rebel and leave home without ever knowing the saving grace of unconditional love.
Love, our very center, that we value above all else, is difficult to find and maintain in our individualistic, competitive, materialist, stressful and alienating society. So for a truly satisfying, meaningful life filled with love, creativity and joy, filled with the support and encouragement of the people we live work and play with, we need to exit the strife, the struggle, the competition and dependence on the institutions of society, and go back to our source. Back to helping one another, back to opening our hearts and living our authentic selves with each other, back to thinking and creating together, to listening to each other’s needs and helping them all be met.
That means having communities small enough that we can listen to one another and work together. Those smaller human communities or clans may also band together with other clans into somewhat larger communities or tribes with common interests and needs in the environment, and those tribes can network with other tribes into larger nations with mutual interests in the environment of the whole region.
Living in a close relationship with the natural environment, with our plant relatives, our gardens, our farmlands, our orchards, our forests, our animal relatives, both domestic and wild, with the meadows and plains and deserts, the hills and mountains, the streams, rivers, lakes and oceans, we can agree on sustainable ways of living. Ways that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren instead of the world we now leave them, a world of violence, war, fear, anger, pollution, ugliness, degradation of soil, water and air,, and dire climate changes.
All this is possible when we connect, think and work together. And that becomes more possible the more we organize. Which means the more we encourage leadership. Every community, every movement every positive change of the past was begun by and realized through the energy and inspiration of people exercising leadership in a positive way.
Unfortunately we have had so many bad examples of leadership that the very concept has been affected for us. Hitler called himself ‘der Fuehrer’, Mussolini – ‘il Duce’ – the leader. Looking to history we see the destructiveness of leaders from Genghis Khan to Pol Pat. Many like Napoleon began with idealistic goals of liberating and bettering the lot of people but were corrupted by absolute power, not listening to the people.
These were not leaders as out tribal ancestors or as my elders would have regarded them. A leader is in service, like everyone else in the tribe, in service to the community, listening to advisors who are listening to the clans, listening to the elders and children, women and men, and helping them organize to meet the needs of the tribe and all the people in it, and of the Earth and all the living beings in the community of Earth.
When we consider true leadership we need to look to the leaders we all admire, that stand for the best in us, leaders like Lincoln, F.D. Roosevelt, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. I want to suggest all great leaders were or are just like us. Just like you. They had faults, each one, but their visions were broad and compelling. They followed their visions and humanity has benefited.
You are needed. I need you, the world, humanity needs you. You have a vision, perhaps you have not noticed it or paid attention to it. But you know, as we all know, our hearts know that, as Charles Eisenstein puts it, a more beautiful world is possible. When you think how that world might look, that is your vision.
It helps to think of it together with others. If you have friends you can share this with, ask each other ‘what more beautiful world does your heart desire and what is it like?’
Having the vision is the first step, sharing it with others is the next. Connecting people to think about love and compassion and helping one another. Thinking together about cooperating, creating, building, playing, rejoicing and celebrating together.
Let it build itself through the insights and creativity of all who come to the circle to be in community with each other. I have done this in my life and seen it done by other many times. It really works when we dream, listen, share, plan and work together. All over the world there are many communities, we don’t know them all, how many there are, but thousands. And I tell you they exist because someone had a vision and told others and they shared and created their visions together. Auroville, Damanhur, The Farm, Findhorn, Tamera, ZEGG, Twin Oaks – I could tell you about hundreds of others. They are a new society, a new world aborning right now.
In my case, I had lived in several communities when I met Emmy and we shared our visions of community. After we had a baby, Emmy and I shared with another couple our vision of a community which would accord children respect and understanding, and the four of us organized a conference: “Have You Lost Your Tribe?” (Now the title of my book about community and ecovillages.)
Under a banner: “IN US WE TRUST” that conference in 1978 brought together fifty people who began the process that resulted in the Mettanokit community in which our boys were raised. Our grown sons are now wonderful fathers (far better fathers than I was). The name ‘Mettanokit’ from the Wampanoag translates to ‘Our Mother Earth.’ We became caretakers of this land where I still live. Within ten years our little group working and playing together paid off the mortgage and the large debt of the previous occupants of the land. Eventually, our children gone and our attentions into new projects, the community dissolved when the main house became unlivable due to a fire, and I wish we had a community here to restore the house and the gardens and care for the woods, but at 86 my organizing day is past. I’m hoping others with a vision may show up with the leadership energy to do that.
So now my hope for my old age is to be part of a larger community, capable of becoming an ecovillage, perhaps in the US or in Europe or perhaps in several places, where I can be with people, write and tell stories and make theater with Ellika, and play with the children.
Reproduced from Manitinquats newsletter.