[permaculture] It's free on the web/ was question aboutPCDcourseprices

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Wed Sep 15 13:36:00 EDT 2004

On 9/15/04 4:05 AM, "ontignano" <ontignano at tiscali.fr> wrote:

> I rarely join in these discussions now (I've left the Fukuoka_Farming group
> at Yahoo) because it seems to me that this form of communication lends
> itself to division, even amongst those working for a common cause

Agreed. The sudden rise to shrillness and insult in this thread reminds me
of the quote attributed to Che Guevara: "In the Left, we make our firing
squads in a circle." I think we can assume that anyone on this list is at
least conscious of the sorry state of the Earth and our culture, and is
trying to do something to help. Even just talking the talk is better than
unconsciously filling the tank of your SUV. So can we respect our own
"commons" here instead of trashing it? If you disagree with someone,
challenge the ideas--don't just descend to name-calling. Get the facts first
before you assume someone is a trust-funded slacker or a hypocrite. (And I
assume the gibe about "some of them write books" was directed at me; check
out the water catchment/graywater/food forest/solar heating place I just
moved from and eat your words. And after just 6 weeks in my new place, I'm
eating from our new garden and so are my neighbors. Most people here are
doing as much. So drop the prejudice, please.)

Just as "gringo centrism" is a prejudice (and even though I travel a lot,
being a gringo, it's one I can't help but have), so is the idea that gringos
are all "greedy, irresponsible, self-care people," (to quote one blanket
dissing of some hard-working people that the person quoted had never met).
Equally unfounded is the prejudice that all indigenous people live in total
harmony with the earth and care for the commons sustainably. Some do, some
don't, just like gringos. The pre-Columbian civilizations in the American
southwest collapsed after having overexploited resources such as trees and
water. The same story has occurred in Africa, Asia, and Latin America
countless times; deforestation for firewood is as old a story as humanity.
The pre-contact Hawaiians engaged in enormous wars, stopping only when their
food ran out, at which point they would return to their homes and grow
enough food to go to war again. The regional chief's title was "the chief
who eats the island," which gives you some idea of his role. Native
Americans set fire to vast areas of this continent, transforming its ecology
completely. Who exterminated all the megafauna of the Pleistocene? Not

I could go on for days--I'm just throwing in a reality check here against
romanticism. Every culture has its own sociopathic and destructive
tendencies, once you get inside them clearly enough. The only reason
non-gringos haven't trashed the planet as effectively as gringos have is
that their death rate kept population low and they didn't have fossil fuel;
anywhere that one or both of those constraints are removed, in almost every
culture, the environment suffers horribly. Human beings do have common
features. That's why only a very few cultures remain in balance given
medicine and gasoline. And many cultures embrace those as soon as they
appear. Are those people stupid and greedy, or is it that what western
culture offers has some basic appeal to everyone, even if the price is
cultural loss? (Assume here that I have taken "Evils of Our Culture 101" and
understand its defects.) I'm well aware that western culture gets rammed
down some throats, but there are also plenty of examples of it being happily
embraced. My experience is that certain traits--pride of engaging in a
creative act, a desire for less work--are pretty universal in humans, for
better or for worse.


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