Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Spoken Pattern Language

I never studied Latin formally, but like any biologist I have a fair command of the language through scientific names and terminology, and their meanings. "Leucocephalus" means white head; "polypodium" means many feet, or bases - roots in a lot of cases. One simply picks the language up as they study.

What I'm about to propose walks a similar line.

Some sharp friends of mine and I have been talking about what to expect from energy descent. Specifically, how societies will reorganize themselves along shorter, lower energy food chains, supply lines, and loyalties. And we mostly agree that the procession from band to tribe, tribe to chiefdom, and chiefdom to state, will probably just reverse. But along with that realization comes the unavoidable prospect of a return to racism and xenophobia, traits that modern people mostly consider ugly, and gladly left behind. That was our ancestral condition though. No one travelled beyond neighboring tribal lands, if even that far, and tribal societies were extremely intolerant of outsiders. As Dr. Jared Diamond puts it, why would they be on our land except to introduce foreign diseases, rape our women, and reconnoiter our territory for future raids? I think it's safe to say that very few people desire a future like this.

But cultural homegeneity, including racial/ethnic/gender/religious amalgamations, and widespread common language, are anomolies of a mobile high-energy society. Anomolies that most often require oppression in one form or another, if not bloodshed, or even outright genocide. Call it "manifest destiny" or "divine providence," whatever you will, but in the end it's nothing more than steamrolling your neighbors because you think you are better. Not that it's unnatural. All of Nature works that way, but following peak global energy things are changing, and they deserve to be considered.

So instead of a wholesale return to racial and linguistic tribal organization, what might be expected is a realignment along ideological lines. As we begin the descent, I could see Southern Baptists forming Southern Baptist communities, motorsports enthusiasts in motorsport enthusiast enclaves, and permaculturalists in their ecovillages, regardless of race or national origin. Doesn't have to be very big either. Just a neighborhood might do. Foreign immigrants, as well as members of some religious sects, in the United States have been doing this for centuries. It's the majority mixture that's the odd part.

While a little hybrid vigor probably does a species good, if it's unsustainable it's unsustainable, so back to more local organization we go. If you look, you can already see this happening, even in the mighty U.S. The Libertarians were an offshoot of the GOP, now the Tea Party, Greens from Democrats, etc. The balkanization of our world is well underway already, and a declining annual energy budget will only accelerate the process. Doesn't really matter how much we oppose it.

As a permaculturalist, I see myself as somewhat ahead of the curve in relation to energy descent. No doubt there will be people reading this post who don't even know what I'm talking about, or think I'm a loon for even bringing up such dark tidings. But permaculture, in its loosest definition, really is the energy descent phase of human history itself. What one calls it is a secondary matter, as David Holmgren might point out. It is a linking science, a toolbox for navigating changing energetic realities. It's basically a set of ethics and principles, based on the Laws of Nature, that inform our decision-making processes for the brand new situation of declining energy. We've never dealt with this before, so the guidelines are still evolving, and permaculture offers the most realistic, and even hopeful, philosophy I've ever seen.

So not to belabor the point, if permaculture is the next phase of human experience it makes sense that we might attempt to adopt a unifying language for discussion of the matter. But which one to adopt? English is one of the most widespread languages on planet Earth today; it's the language of business one might say. But from a linguistics perspective, English is not a language of diplomacy. It's great for agriculture, and expansion, and imperialism, but not for contraction. There are many causes for why history has played out the way it has, and a society's language often reflects its own history. As natural as the progression of English has been through the centuries, it is a bad choice for what lies ahead.

That said, I'm not English-bashing per se, nor am I endorsing any other extant language, but rather, offering another extinct language, like Latin, for permacultural communication. Only this time it's our real mother tongue. Not just like Latin is for the Italic languages today - Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, but THE mother language for half of the world's population. I'm talking about Proto-Indo-European. PIE for short. It's a linguistics extrapolation, inferred from extensive knowledge of all of its daughter languages, from Norway to Bombay.

One might suggest that Latin is too Eurocentric, or too theocentric even, arising in the Roman Catholic stronghold. Or that English is too imperialistic or agitating for many. But, in the same way that permaculture is a tidal shift from large-scale mono-cropping agriculture and associated attitudes, toward local, integrated, horticultural systems and ways of being, the PIE language transports us back to a pre-imperialistic era. An era of, well, horticulture. Perhaps it would be a stretch to call it a language of peace, but if nothing else, most of us should find it accessible on a cellular level, probably far more so than Latin. Honestly, what percentage of the existing permaculture community descends from the Indo-European lineage? Ninety percent? More?

It's the imperialistic Indo-European cultural family that needs permaculture, because we are the people who expanded to a highly unstable position energetically. We are the ones who invented permaculture because we are the ones with the need for it. And if we're consciously moving toward horticulture, it might behoove us to adopt a common horticultural language. At least while we can communicate over long distances. And even after that we would probably incorporate much of it into our locally-developing daughter languages. I have a feeling that, in the same way English is appropriate for expansion, PIE might foster a more respectful attitude toward Nature in its speakers. Because it was the language of a more respectful era.

I'm starting at zero on this one like most of you. I have no loyalty to PIE, nor do I know more than a few words. But this is a pattern language I could embrace, and learn actively, because like everything else about my permacultural experience, it's been highly worth the effort. It's not as pompous as learning Latin, nor is it as queer as adopting Elvish, and who knows, it might have a real impact on what we are doing.

At this point I'm all ears for anyone who might want to refine this idea.

Thanks for your time,

Tripp Tibbetts

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