From JOHN MICHAEL GREER
Via Energy Bulletin
Last week’s Archdruid Report post on the costs of community called up an interesting simulacrum of community in one corner of the peak oil blogosphere, as Sharon Astyk, Rob Hopkins, and Dmitry Orlov all joined in the conversation with blog posts in response. This didn’t exactly come as an unbearable surprise; the role of community in the deindustrial world of the imminent future has been a hot-button issue in the peak oil scene since before there was a peak oil scene, and a fair percentage of the posts here that have fielded more than the usual flurry of comments have been on that confused and contested subject.
Still, it interests me that so much of the discussion, as so often happens, went on as though history has nothing to teach us. One example out of many, and by no means the worst, is Astyk’s suggestion that the reason community has fallen apart in recent decades is that so many people work so hard, and are too tired to get involved. This echoes a common plaint, but the fact remains that a century ago most Americans worked 50, 60, or more hours a week as a matter of course, and most of those hours were spent at hard physical labor. Somehow that didn’t keep a dizzying array of community groups from flourishing to an extent I think few people remember today.
I want to focus here on one particular set of those community groups, partly because they’re tolerably well documented, partly because they offer some intriguing possibilities for an age of economic contraction and social fragmentation, and partly because I happen to know a fair amount about them, and not just from my usual eccentric historical reading. In fact, most Monday evenings you’ll find me helping to preserve one of the few survivals from an all-but-forgotten world, as I don one of the few neckties I own and head over to the old brick Masonic lodge here in Cumberland.