Survival of the fearless.
s c e n a r i o
Imagine you are a Roman citizen around the time the Western Empire fell. And imagine that instead of despairing, you carry a small data storage device containing the best practices of viable communities all over the world: in effect, schematics for living together sustainably and in peace. Would several centuries of Dark Ages ever have happened?
We are not ancient Romans, but we live in a time of turbulence where clashing empires and dangerous technologies imperil humans and nonhumans alike. Given these threats, climate change, and the dwindling world supply of petroleum, no one knows what the community of the future might look like. We know only that civilizations and nation-states unwilling to lessen their impact on the degrading environment stand no chance of surviving the resulting ecological overshoot, let alone the post-oil world to come.
The bright side of so much uncertainty is that it reopens the question of what kinds of communities we really desire to live in. And if the future brings a greater emphasis on local living, low-energy frugality, and face-to-face opportunities for self-governance, a catalog of what works in such situations could help us face that future with less anxiety and greater hope. Conflict negotiation, indigenous practices, town hall democracy, bartered services, restorative justice, and symbolic reparation are only a handful of the near-infinite variety of community-building tools our species has had to invent for itself in the course of its evolution and diversification.
The goal of Opus Pax is to build a collection of these community best practices and make them available in one catalog for free downloading onto portable storage media like flash sticks, card readers, and even cameras and iPods. A wiki where readers can add comments and suggestions is under consideration.
p h i l o s o p h y
Our assumptions about this work are as follows:
- Given enough information, imaginative human beings can construct and maintain the kinds of communities they dream about living in.
- At their best, these communities minimize top-down hierarchy while maximizing democratic opportunities for everyone in the community to have a voice in local decisions.
- Breakdowns in community do not derive from a flawed human nature, but usually from either 1. a failure to keep the ambitious, paranoid, and otherwise antisocial from holding leadership positions; and 2. a failure to adapt to external pressures (e.g., invasion, colonialism, economic imperialism).
- Nuclear families cut off from the world tend to fission. Families function more effectively when supported by the community.
- Humans are not masters of nature, but creative, conscious expressions of it.
- Organized, institutionalized brutality is an artifact of overmanaged societies. We are here not because our ancestors were meaner than their opponents, but because cooperation enhances survival.
- Violence, domination, opportunism, and controlism are inherently divisive and self-isolating. They require more support and energy for their existence than cooperation and negotiation do for theirs.
- Greed, wastefulness, and exploitation are symptoms of social and psychological immaturity. They can be prevented by education of the whole person (not just the intellect), wise elders as role models, and rites of passage for guiding young people into responsible adulthood.
- People resist being ordered around even when their insecurities make authoritarianism attractive to them. Liberty is not an attribute or add-on: it is a foundational quality of being that allows individuals and groups to flourish. Human beings are liberty made flesh. Without it we are less than human.
- Our ingenuity is as limitless as our capacity to actualize dreams of a better future.
c a t a l o g
The catalog is now under construction. If you would like to contribute something to it, check the list of open topics first and then contact us. If we include your contribution, you will be credited at the end of it unless you do not want to be. Because the catalog is in its first stages, feel free to suggest new topics or categories.