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It is lazy, easy and fashionable to mock the middle class hippies whose rural idyll turned sour or, say, the ashram dwellers whose personal journey of enlightenment led to the neglect and abuse of their children. The automatic assumption is that these people had their heads in the clouds and could not come to terms with "reality", just as  those of us who built and ran "Little Schools" like the ones advocated by Satish Kumar were warned that sooner or later the children would have to go "out" into the "real world"; the implication being that it is better to do so sooner than later.  Yes, well, by the same logic we have to die sooner or later - does this mean we should advocate euthanasia rather than improving palliative care?  Why don't we just blow up the planet now and have done with it! 

The point is not that these attempts at self-defined, self-sufficient communities were too perfectionist, or set their sights too high.  The truth is that most of them set their sights too low. It was not because they refused to accommodate themselves to the inexorable logic of  modernity that their projects became emotionally and materially unsustainable. Rather it was the simple fact that they never understood that their own brave new frontiers were being pushed further into land that was already occupied. The "rights" they assumed for themselves and their offspring were being asserted at the expense of people who were as invisible to them as were the North American Indians to the new settlers.

No man ( or woman,  or child, or group of people) is an island: "Send not for whom the bell tolls" for, unless we grasp the nettle of our common humanity, it will toll for us all. 

We live in a tiny world overflown by a rapidly expanding airtravel industry in which some of us offset the boring bits with "cheap holidays in other people's misery" while dreaming of the day when they can "get away from it all" and start anew. Meanwhile the rest of us want nothing more than to return "home" from an exile we or our forbears were forced into by violence, poverty or politics.

We don't have to reinvent the wheel. We can learn from others' experience.  

In order to see what happens when  groups elevate their own beliefs and needs above those of the rest of the dwellers on this planet we can look at two examples,  two very different groups who struggled and fought against overwhelming odds to achieve their "return" - and really did succeed in setting up communities dedicated to their high ideals. 

Consider first  the pioneers of the Israeli kibbutzim whose down-to-earth agricultural communities bravely advocated the communal raising of children, a model of child freedom  and adult responsibility ( based on "primitive" communities)  which inspired some of the most radical of  the twentieth century European and American communards. Compare these with today's "settlers" degraded into family groupings based on genetic ties, exploiting local indigenous labour, armed, self-righteous and an embarrassment even to the most reactionary Zionists. They justify exempting  themselves from normal human responsibility because they believe they hold a particular patch of land by divine right. The consequences of this terrible mistake reverberate throughout the geopolitics of the entire planet and can even be made to appear predetermined, as in WB Yeats well-known poem in which "things fall apart" and an unnamed horror "slouches toward Bethlehem to be born".

Another group whose dream of Zion sustained them through the most terrible times were the Rastas of Jamaica. Emperor Haile Selassie's grant of 500 acres of land for any of the descendants of African slaves who wished to return to Africa coincided with the rape of Jamaica  by the bauxite companies. Between 1950 and 1970  560,000 rural Jamaicans were uprooted from their villages, some to suffer poverty in Kingston, many to face racism in Britain; but a few conscious members of the working poor saved up to get to Ethiopia.  One Rasta, working in London, set out on foot and arrived in Shashamane in 1964 after a year-long trek during which he learned French, Spanish and Arabic, got lost in the desert, and was arrested in Sudan for having no visa.

  At its peak the Shashamane settlement had about fifty Rastas and Afro-Americans, a clinic with a pharmacy, a school, a store and houses. But  the settlers from urban backgrounds who started to dominate the humbler rural folk did not have the necessary skills to sustain self-sufficiency. Rather than reading a chapter of the Bible every night they could have studied the local circumstances, soil, topography, rainfall etc.  There were no efforts at cooperative farming, so the afflictions of individualism, competition and envy which the younger settlers brought with them made it more and more necessary to rely on the financial dispensation from the Royal family which became the basis of their survival.  But, like the Israeli settlers the worst mistake of the dominant members of the Shashamane Rastas (called The Twelve Tribes of Israel) was their lack of consideration  for the indigenous people in whose midst they had imposed themselves.  Things came to a head when, in 1975, the Ethiopian people expropriated the land from the Rastas as an expression of opposition to the monarchy.  Though part of the land was eventually returned, and  the new regime was itself deposed, the settlement  at Shashamane only survives through the financial backing of  outside forces - and its daily life is far from the principles it was set up to uphold.


Of course the problem was, and is, that NIMBYism is not enough.  It's no good keeping our own back yards spick and span by dumping our waste over the neighbours' fences, or loading it into 4x4s and fly-tipping it somewhere out of nostril range.  Accepting that terrible things are happening somewhere other than our own back yards can only lead to self-righteousness, to casting strangers as less deserving than ourselves, and therefore to superiority, prejudice and  xenophobia - maybe eventually even to hostility and violence.  We all like to  think of ourselves as likeable right-minded folk.  So, naturally when people disagree with us we think they are wrong. They might  just be mistaken or ignorant, in which case we may be able to persuade, cajole or bully them into our way of thinking, or they might be so wedded to their viewpoint that they seem incapable of changing -  in which case we tend to conclude that they are evil or, at best, less evolved towards perfection than ourselves.


As long as we conceive of ourselves as individuals competing for respect, power, resources and rewards, we are condemning ourselves to a lifelong struggle: each against the others. An obvious way to contain such a struggle, and stop it becoming too destructive, is to impose a hierarchy of power and authority.   Thus small idealistic communities have tended to produce charismatic leaders who are every bit as dictatorial and closed to  genuine exchange of ideas as the ruling classes of the failed states from which they have attempted to escape. Without clear universal principles such groups are in danger of degenerating into elitist cults, many of them devoted to raising wealth to keep a favoured few in what would otherwise be a totally unsustainable lifestyle.  

          "A universal principle is a unifying field that heals and gives meaning"

Imagine a world in which each newborn human baby is recognised as a precious bundle of  infinite creative potential, eager to grow, to learn, to share in whatever is going on here, and to strive for the good of all.  That would be a world basking in the radiance of Love. This Love would  not be a soppy, sentimental, self-regarding, self-reproducing kind of love, like the kind that dwells behind a white picket fence. Nor would it be a preferential particularistic kind of love, like the kind that elevates bloodline, friends, classes,  ethnic groups or co-believers above the multitude of the rest of us, above the rest of us who all live here together on this beloved planet, sharing its bounty (so unfairly!) and taking (such scant!) joint responsibility for its fate.

                                                                                      "ONE LOVE"

Love is the first universal principle of all the major religions, esoteric traditions and humanistic philosophies that have ever tried to make sense of life on this beautiful earth. Universal Love overcomes partiality, it overcomes all special pleading, jealousy, resentment, vengefulness, greed and self-importance. This Love overcomes everything else with its supreme disinterestedness,  its disregard of our excuses for ourselves.  This Love is "universal , impartial compassion, free of worldly bias towards friends and enemies".  This Love is the tough everyday love we are going to need to meet the challenges in front of us.  It encourages us to recognise our own hypocrisy, laziness and addictions, to see the genius and divinity in each other person, and to strive towards a different allocation of our talents, energies and resources.  It  inspires us to honour this last chance we humans have to "begin the world over again".


One Love is made real in one rule, the rule of universal responsibility, often called the "Golden Rule". There are various versions of this basic principle in all the different faith communities, but within secular philosophy it is known as the principle of Universalism, the Universal Principle, or the Categorical Imperative.  It is the criterion by which all other principles can be measured. It works by requiring each of us to consider the effects of  what we are doing on beings other than ourselves and our chosen significant others. It requires each of us to consider the consequences of turning our actions into a rule that everyone else would have to follow.  Would the world be a better place if we all bought more and more stuff that other people had laboured to make; or if we went on  flying around the world seeking excitement or distraction: or if we just sat on the patio in the hot-tub admiring the exotic pot plants and eating big Macs? And what if we tipped all our waste materials somewhere out of sight and out of mind, drove around in motor cars, and had to go to "the gym" to get our "exercise"?  Will the world be better when China India and Brazil "catch up" with the lifestyle of the West?   It  is not enough to love our immediate neighbours and to do unto them as  we would wish them to do to us. Globalization is no more reversible than was slavery and empire.  It  can be challenged and redirected, but not reversed. There is no going back.  We are all neighbours and cohabiters of one planet.  We are all responsible for ourselves, for each other, and for our planet.  There can be no excuses, no special pleading, no denying that, here and now, the Golden Rule directs us to 

                                                           "Think Global. Act Local!"

 
Again today many people are seriously considering  dropping out of globalised corporatism , finding a quiet corner and starting again.  Many will be doomed to fail because their desperate impatience for a more meaningful and fulfilling way of life has blinded them to the necessity for careful planning, preparation and education. Dashing around after Lonely Planet enticements to find an unspoilt corner to spoil would be a tragic mistake for one man and his dog, and a disaster for Uncle Tom Cobley and all.  But when the consequences are multiplied out over the whole planet  (by writing in the Golden Rule as a superscript) they could be utterly catastrophic. So before grabbing your nearest and dearest and rushing off to find a smallholding in Patagonia, an olive grove in Sardinia, an ashram in mid-Wales,  a small island in the Caribbean, or that little piece of land "back home", consider this: why not give yourself the chance to learn from the experience of those who have gone before, and from others who are working on nurturing humanity and healing the planet, right now?


On this website you will find information  that The Lonely Planet doesn't tell you, read up-to-date reports and blogs from  DUBSCOUTS on the places you might be considering for relocation. You can save a lot of hassle as well as seriously reducing your air miles.  And you can help share experiences of the practicalities and problems of life in different places -  be a dubscout yourself and involve your friends around the world. Also you can take part in the planning and hard work of building materially and ethically sustainable local communities. Apprentice yourself to your own future: come to DUBGROUNDINGS online and contribute to the ongoing projects around appropriate technology, health, economic organisation, education and decision-making structures.  Share your knowledge and skills, and learn from others. Tools, such as THE FIRST WHOLE EARTH CATALOGUE,  the DUBSOLUTION MANUAL FOR RESEARCHERS, many useful web links, and other resources will soon be joining books, articles and reviews, and notices of upcoming events on this website. Remember
                                                                           WE ARE ALL DUBSOLUTION               

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