As the old man’s cayuco nudged up alongside AVENTURA, I sensed that there was something different about him this morning, but I couldn’t quite place what it was. He greeted me with a cheerful, “Hola, Capitan Ramon” which made me chuckle as I recalled our first encounter from a few months ago. At that time his severe hearing problems had led to a funny exchange as I struggled to convince him that I was not “Capitan Rainbow” or Capitan Rambo.”
His visits were always a treat because I never knew what he would try to sell or trade me. It could be a fish or a lobster or an octopus or some fresh eggs or the mother of the eggs. Today it was some “jonny cakes” - a sort of dense Indio bread vaguely shaped like a hamburger bun. I bought a few and as he passed them up to me I suddenly recognized what was different about him today. He was wearing a watch! When I playfully teased him about this, he explained that he had just gotten a job as a caretaker or “watchee man” at an expat property. They had bought him the Timex and insisted that he wear it. We both laughed when I asked him what time it was. That’s because instead of looking at the watch, he looked up at the position of the sun in the sky - like a hundred generations of his ancestors had done before him.
This quaint little episode, and the crazy pageantry that greets the arrival of each New Year, got me wondering whether my “Sea Gypsy Tribe Theory” would became a reality in 2014. I certainly hope not, because it involves a global societal meltdown in which the world that we currently take for granted, vaporizes before our eyes – either swiftly or fairly swiftly.
Because there are many new readers here at my blog who are not familiar with my Sea Gypsy Tribe concept, I will give a brief outline of it in the next few paragraphs. After introducing you to it, I will then move on to the heart of this particular essay, which discusses what principles might be the foundation for an emergent Humanity 3.0. This H 3.0 term that I use, perceives our hunter-gatherer ancestors as Humanity 1.0 and our modern civilization as Humanity 2.0. My vision is to combine the best of both approaches, so that a Humanity 3.0 can arise that bequeaths us Mozart without the mushroom cloud. Or to state it another way, so that our path forward can be guided by Walden and not by war lords.
There are thousands of people out wandering the world’s waters in extremely self-sufficient, ocean-capable sailboats. These vessels are the ideal survival pod should a societal meltdown occur. They elegantly combine simplicity and appropriate technology. Their electricity is supplied through solar panels and wind generators. Propulsion derives mostly from the wind, but the diesel engine can be used in an emergency. Water comes from catching rain or from reverse-osmosis water-makers. Many months of non-perishable foods can be easily stored onboard. And “security devices” can be hidden for use, if necessary.
Most sailboat cruisers are unaware of the threat of societal disintegration. But on the other hand, a small percentage of them have actually adopted the sea gypsy life in order to escape from such a possibility. My mission is to encourage these people to find each other, wherever they might be on the Wide Waters, and band together into small tribes so that they have a better chance of both surviving a collapse and of flourishing afterwards.
Now that you know the fundamentals of my Sea Gypsy Tribe concept, let me demonstrate how adaptable this strategy is to almost every catastrophic situation. Conjure up almost any worst case scenario and I contend that being at sea in a sailing vessel is the best way to deal with it. Here are a few examples:
· Pandemic The danger of contagion comes from large groups of people gathered closely together.
· Thermo-nuclear The ICBMs are aimed towards cities or military installations and not towards the open sea. Studying the wind currents allows the prepared sailor to avoid the likely fallout tracks. Plus ¾ of a sailboat’s surface area is underwater and less susceptible to fallout. I carry Potassium Iodide aboard AVENTURA in my medical kit.
· Grid Down Whether it originates from an EMP weapon or a cyber attack on the power company computers or just a breakdown of the old, rundown equipment, a gigantic and long-lasting power outage is a genuine risk. Cruising boats can handle this effortlessly since they are self-contained survival pods with wind and solar power systems, water-makers, and long distance SSB and HAM radios.
· Famine It is easy to have many months of food stored aboard a sailboat. And the sea provides bounty in the form of fish, shellfish and seaweed. In addition, heirloom vegetable seeds can be carried along for growing food once the worst clashes have ceased.
· Marauders Although I listed this last, I rate this as a top priority. A small flotilla of 6 boats positioned near each other 50 miles offshore is so much safer than any well-intentioned but vulnerable Transition Town.
If you find merit in my concept, I have thoroughly fleshed out my ideas in three essays here at my site. The first one, which is entitled “The Sea Gypsy Tribe,” explains in detail the “why to” aspects of this strategy. The second article is called “The Sea Gypsy Tribe Start-Up Manual” and it clearly lays out the “how to” guidelines. The third relevant piece is “The Sea Gypsy Tribe – Further Thoughts.” This one responds to some of the discussions that these essays generated in the blogosphere. It specifically addresses people’s exaggerated fears about piracy and the “you can’t stay at sea forever” comments.
Now, let me return to the “Principles” mentioned in the title of this essay. First of all, who got us into this dire situation? Is it the 80 or so remaining indigenous tribes struggling to survive in the wilds? Are they the ones who are wreaking havoc on the planet? No! It is the civilized people who have us peering into the energy, economy and ecology abyss.
Primitive people lead self-sufficient lives that do not destroy the biosphere that supports them. Their societies are non-hierarchal and they are free from Rulers, Priests, Lawyers and Hedge Fund Managers. They work only about half as much as civilized people, and there is tremendous equality between the sexes.
Our problems stem from the values and actions of the civilized world. It would be lunacy to survive a massive catastrophe, and then immediately revert to the suicidal lifestyle that caused it. So if I was a Sea Gypsy Tribal Elder speaking at a Council of Deciding these would be the Foundational Principles that I would recommend. As always, I emphasize that my goal is not to impose but to inspire – not to coerce but to convince - these are Principles – not Commandments.
SEA GYPSY TRIBAL PRINCIPLES
· LIFE IS A WEB – NOT A PYRAMID We deceive ourselves by thinking that the geometry of Life is a pyramid and that humans are at the apex. This delusion justifies our belief that we can rule over all else on the planet - including the other creatures, the land, the water and the air. Certainly, with our amazing self-awareness and our use of language and tools, we are different from the other creatures. But even though our big brains bequeath us tremendous brilliance, they also allow us to act in horribly destructive ways. We are the only animal capable of destroying not just its own habitat but the entire planet. We must recognize that all of Life is a web and that damaging one strand jeopardizes the entire web of survival.
· SIMPLICITY IS BETTER THAN COMPLEXITY One of the most significant factors in the fall of almost all previous civilizations was too much complexity. And now that we are so globally interconnected, the downside of complexity is far more dangerous. A single computer glitch can shut down an air traffic control system that instantly affects a thousand flights in a hundred airports. Civilized people have to call a technician. But tribal people make and repair their own tools. They have done so for over 100,000 years. By contrast, the Industrial Era is only a few hundred years old and it is littered with breakdowns and decay.
· EMBRACE CO-OPERATION AND NOT COMPETITION Planetary flourishing absolutely depends on eliminating the whole “We’re #1” mindset that is so widespread in the modern world. This philosophy needs to be replaced with the “We are all in this together” worldview. We need alliances and not antagonisms. We need brothers and sisters and not winners and losers.
· LOW TECH EQUALS LOW DAMAGE None of the possible Armageddon scenarios that confront our Planet are caused by indigenous peoples. Their low tech modes of living barely impact the planet. But Fukushima and the Doomsday Clock and oceans drained of fish, are but a few of the terrible consequences of high tech living. Humanity 3.0 will need to embrace low or appropriate technology. There is a strong likelihood that there will be no other choice.
· REPLACE RELIGION WITH PANTHEISM AND BHD The two main arguments that church people use to defend their belief systems are that humans crave spirituality and that humans need the moral code that religions provide. Pantheism, which is reverence towards Nature and the Universe, provides abundant fulfillment for those seeking transcendence beyond the material realm. And it does this without any of the horrific side effects of sky gods and their edicts to go forth and kill the infidels. BHD stands for Basic Human Decency. It makes an ideal moral foundation. For thousands of years true believers have massacred innocent people who just happened, through nothing more than an accident of birth, to have worshipped the wrong god. You can kill someone in the name of Jesus or Allah, but you cannot commit such atrocities in the name of Basic Human Decency.
· INFINITE GROWTH ON A FINITE PANET IS ABSURD AND DEADLY Only a buffoon believes that you can have infinite growth on a finite planet. There ARE limits. Just ask the folks from Easter Island who thought that there would always be enough trees. How can we big brained humans not realize that unrelenting population growth and unrelenting resource decline will lead to horrific disaster and an enormous die-off?
· HIERARCHAL SOCIETIES BECOME HORRIBLE SOCIETIES Before Agriculture - or what I prefer to call Conquest Agriculture - tribal people lived in small bands where everyone knew each other and worked together for the good of the clan. There were no rulers and ruled, no rich and poor, no inequality between the sexes and no chiefs living in splendor, while the rest lived in squalor. But hierarchal societies suffer from all of those injustices. And despite the false propaganda, those who rise to power in hierarchies are not “the best and the brightest.” In fact, they are the most ambitious, ruthless and despicable - which leads to dominator cultures that spew death and destruction around the planet.
· STOP TRYING TO PLAY GOD Tribal people study Nature in order to feed themselves more successfully. But they do not create Frankenfoods in laboratories by tinkering with Mother Nature. Aboriginal clans are always trying to better understand the weather that cocoons them. But civilized people are attempting to alter and control the weather. Call me old fashioned, but it stretches credibility for me when people deem themselves “civilized” while at the same time they create napalm, Agent Orange and biological weapons.
Most of you reading this are probably thinking that those Principles are naively idealistic. But that is because you are looking at those concepts through the filter of Civilization. Indeed, it is nearly impossible to envision modern humanity suddenly adopting such altruistic values. But think about those 80 tribal cultures still out there battling for their survival. Do they view those codes of conduct as Utopian fantasies? No they do not - because that is the way they lead their normal day to day lives!
The next morning, while I was finishing this essay, the old man came rowing up again. He flashed me his big crooked smile and told me that he had something “muy especial” for my jonny cakes. It was a jar of homemade pineapple/mango jam. I went below and brought up two of the cakes and a knife. We spread some of the sunrise-colored jam on them and silently savored this little treat.
I bought the rest of the jam, and then asked him what time it was. He showed me his new watch, which was already about three hours out of whack. Then he asked me if it was “bueno?” I responded with a smile, and assured him that it was “perfecto.” As he gently rowed away, I felt a little less heartbroken by this sad world of ours. It comforted me deeply to know that this simple man, who couldn’t even read a watch, could live in complete harmony with the core principles of my sea gypsy tribe.