by Ray Jason
My suspicion is that the questions that were percolating in my head were quite different from those of the typical visitor to this archaeological marvel. They probably wondered how many servants the ruler had; and how they devised such an accurate calendar; and where the regular people had lived. Whereas I was focused on more existential questions: What had actually caused the collapse of their once mighty civilization? Did the end come swiftly or gradually? Had there been visionaries who foresaw the calamity and tried to warn the others?
Below Tulum there is a lovely anchorage - but it is extremely difficult to navigate safely into its protected lagoon. The narrow pass through the reef is easy to see from the 40 foot high cliff where I was standing, but from AVENTURA’s deck, it would be a treacherous gamble. Even just a small mistake and my lovely sloop would be destroyed on the jagged and merciless coral.
This realization was an enormous disappointment to me. For quite a long while I had been formulating what I call my SEA GYPSY TRIBE concept, and I felt that anchoring for a few days beneath the ruins of Tulum might provide me some further inspiration on this important topic that I could never find elsewhere. To be alone with AVENTURA, the great companion of my life, after the tourists had vanished inside their buses and the fortress gates had been locked, was a long-cherished dream. To savor the moonlit enchantment of this hallowed but haunted lagoon would surely bequeath me enlightenment and encouragement.
But the risk seemed too extreme. AVENTURA is my sole possession in my life – no house, no car, not even a TV – but she is so much more than just a thing. She is a magic carpet, a cocoon, a symbol, an enabler and an inspiration. Occasionally, she is also a pretty stern taskmaster, but this is only fair since she rewards me so superbly. I could not risk losing her.
Why does Tulum resonate so deeply with me? For one thing, it speaks to me as a sailor, because there are so few major ruins directly beside the Sea. But more importantly, it symbolizes the main thrust of my thinking and writing. I believe that a catastrophic global collapse is coming and that the best escape is through small bands of enlightened sea gypsies surviving and then sculpting a style of living that is authentic, just, sustainable and joyous. I hope that I am completely wrong and that the human project keeps wobbling along far into the future.
But I see no harm in assuming that I am correct - and in continuing to discuss my unusual perspective on a re-emergent world. Anyone who wanders the Wide Waters as I do understands the value of “hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.” It seems to me that the same caution should be applied not just to an individual voyage but to the Human Voyage.
To find my previous essays on this topic, simply scroll down my homepage until you reach July 2013. Click on “The Sea Gypsy Tribe” link. If my concept intrigues you, there are more recent ones that further elaborate on my ideas. These meditations deal with why I think collapse is likely and why I believe that the sea gypsy tribe approach is the best survival choice. Furthermore, I also provide considerable detail on how to adopt this wondrous style of living lightly on the Earth – or upon what might more accurately be called The EarthSea. (My heart-felt thanks to Ursula Le Guin, who first introduced me to this marvelous concept long ago in her glorious trilogy!)
What separates this essay from my earlier ones that deal with this survival pod concept is that it will focus on the sea gypsy tribe mission AFTER the unraveling. Whereas the others emphasize the probability of societal meltdown and how to prepare for it, this one will assume that such a catastrophe has occurred.
What distinguishes my approach from other survival thinkers is that in the aftermath of any apocalyptic catastrophe, I do NOT wish to see Civilization rebuilt. My fervent and carefully studied belief is that it is “Capital C Civilization” that enslaves us in this violent, soul-less, unjust and vapid modern world. It deserves and needs to sleep with the dinosaurs.
I realize that this is a startling and radical statement, so allow me to defend my position with this bullet point list of some of the atrocities that Civilization has foisted upon us. None of these existed in the previous hunter/forager societies that were the dominant living arrangement for most of human history. In fact, post-Agriculture/Civilized man is only about a 10,000 year old phenomenon. And not only is it a new arrival, it is an ABERRATION. Daniel Quinn describes it accurately in his books when he says, “This is not who we are.”
So here are some of the things that Civilization has spawned. None of these pathologies existed amongst the long-gone hunter/gatherer tribes that anthropologists and archaeologists have studied. Likewise, they do not exist amongst the 85 or so tribes that have still managed to survive in the far places of EarthSea. It is a sobering litany of perversity and evil - so brace yourself!
· Human Sacrifice
· Industrial War
· Homicidal Dictators
· Profits Over People
· Heart Attacks
· Atomic Bombs
· Diseases of Civilization
· Suicide Bombers
· Drug Addiction
· Robot Soldiers
· Alzheimer’s Disease
· Food Kept Under Lock and Key
· Junk Food
· Sweat Shops
· Disparity of Wealth
· Sexual Deviancy
· Compulsive Consumption
· Serial Killers
· Child Molesters
Now THAT is one profoundly troubling list. Even for someone like me who has been studying the downside of Civilization for many years, it is very disturbing. And therefore, for many of you reading this, it is probably an alarming revelation. The reason that it is so unknown to you is because the cultural gatekeepers do not allow people to question the merits of our societal operating system. It is taboo to ponder whether Civilization is the solution to most of the world’s problems or whether it is the CAUSE of them. You will never hear this discussed on the nightly news or from the pulpit or in a political campaign debate.
But I am assuming in this essay that Civilization is now gone. Perhaps it has been vaporized in a thousand mushroom clouds or a dozen EMP detonations. Or maybe the end came through ecological collapse that lumbered along for a while and then suddenly hit some tipping points that caused a rapid die-off. Or perhaps it was a devastating pandemic or a biological weapons attack – or one and the same. Regardless of how it occurred, this essay will now focus on the world after Armageddon.
There is an extremely relevant 30 word phrase that I keep repeating in my essays, that I will now share with you again:
“I believe that if there is a near extinction catastrophe, a Sea Gypsy Tribe has the best chance of surviving and replenishing the human population in the wisest manner.”
Those last four words – “IN THE WISEST MANNER” – are critical to this discussion. If 50 Sea Gypsy Tribes of between 8 to 15 boats scattered about EarthSea, survive the horrors of the unraveling, then that would mean approximately 1,000 visionaries had made it through to the other side. Since they would have all had the foresight to plan for global devastation - in spite of their friends ridiculing them as doomers and fools - these would obviously be extraordinary humans. 1,000 certainly seems like a tiny number when it comes to continuing the human race, but that is about the same amount that survived the last great human die-off after the Toba volcanic eruption of about 70,000 years ago. So it is achievable.
But what is more challenging is to sculpt what I call Humanity 3.0. Our hunter/forager ancestors were Humanity 1.0 and our civilized forebears comprised Humanity 2.0. The Sea Gypsy tribe mission would be to conserve the best of Humanity 2.0, but more importantly to sound the alarm about its horrors. I have a catch-phrase to describe this: “Mozart without the Mushroom Cloud.”
Here are the guidelines that I believe are absolutely vital to the success of such an ambitious but noble quest. I have spent years thinking about them and discussing them with friends in an effort to distill them into their simplest form. They are what I now consider THE TRUE ESSENCE OF THE SEA GYPSY TRIBE.
· THE GEOMETRY OF LIFE - We have foolishly elevated ourselves above all of the other creatures on our planet by claiming that we are human “beings” rather than human animals. And we have deceived ourselves by claiming that the geometry of life is a pyramid with humanity at the apex. This leads to the false and destructive assumption that we are entitled to dominate and control everything else – including the creatures, the land the water and the air. Our Humanity 1.0 hunter/gatherer ancestors clearly understood that life is not a pyramid but a WEB – and that the integrity of each strand is essential. We must regain that wisdom.
· HIERARCHAL SOCIETIES BECOME HORRIFIC SOCIETIES – The tribal system consists of small bands where everyone knows each other and they all work together for the good of the clan. There are no rulers and ruled, no rich and poor, no inequality between the sexes and no chiefs living in splendor while the rest live in squalor. But hierarchal arrangements suffer from all of these injustices. And despite the false propaganda, those who rise to power in hierarchies are not the “best and the brightest.” Instead they are the most ambitious, ruthless and psychotic. This leads to “dominator” cultures that spew death and ruin across the planet. Hierarchies should be as un-welcome as Ebola.
· CHURCHES AND STATES MUST STAY BURIED IN THEIR OWN ASHES – The most obscene atrocities in human history have usually been committed in the name of the love of god or the love of country. There is nothing wrong with striving for spiritual transcendence, but organized religions that demonize other groups and demand their annihilation should never re-emerge from the Collapse. As for States, humanity existed contentedly for around 2 million years without them. And in only 10,000 years since their arrival, we have massacred hundreds of millions of people. And if that was not horrible enough, we are now on the verge of decimating our planetary support system. Churches and States should stay buried forever in the ashes of their cathedrals and capitols.
· CO-OPERATION MUST REPLACE COMPETITION – Tribal societies are communal and not cut-throat. Much of the discord in the modern world stems from the needless desire to have more “stuff” than the other person. Such materialistic and selfish impulses do not exist in the tribal world and they should be vigorously discouraged in the sea gypsy tribe as well.
The most haunting message that my time alone on the cliffs of Tulum imparted to me is the warning that almost everyone from that society believed that the fall of their mighty empire could never happen. Yet it did.
And I wonder if someday the boats of my tribe will be slowly and cautiously sailing up to the ruins of a once great 21st century seaport where the inhabitants had also believed “that it could never happen!”