I think that in a city, there is the possibility to have strong links, even across lines of diverse opinions. This possibility wouldn't arise in a small village or a tribe becuase you wouldn't be able to maintain more than acquaintance type relationships with any different sort of group - you simply wouldn't encounter them enough.
Well, firstly, you can only have so much diversity in your strong links, much less than you can have in your weak links. After all, strong links means you have a lot of contact with them and you have a lot of mutual influence over one another, so you need to have a lot in common, and as time goes on, you’ll have more in common. Diversity, to some extent, contradicts strong links.
Among my weak links, I have born-again and Evangelical Christians, with whom I could hardly disagree more. If I tried to become the best of friends with these people, I would need to rely on heavy shared interests throughout the rest of their life, and ignore their religion; in which case, how much diversity really separates our opinions? Or, over time, they would convert me or I would convert them. Strong links erode diverse opinions, because they exist only in intimate social contact, and intimate social contact works to break down differences between people.
But you seem to imply that living in a city, you might have more strong links. Living in a crowded area, though, will not put more hours in the day or increase your cognitive capacity. It takes time and energy to maintain strong links. In fact, the pressures of city life generally reduce the number of strong links we have time to take care of. So distance doesn’t separate you, but time and energy separate you from your neighbor far more effectively than the distance between villages ever could. Thus, historically, city-dwellers have had fewer, not more, strong links than village- or band-dwellers.
N another way, cities allow people who don't fit in to easily find anothe rgroup to live with and maintain links with. In a tribe, you are stuck to a certain extent, cultural boundaries often see to that.
Which has led to the rigidification of social boundaries. Because they can expel you, social groups have become far more strict about what they expect. We don’t compromise, and we never learn to work things out, because we can so easily walk away or expel. Gay? Black? Jewish? “We don’t want yer kind here, son.” Traditional cultures have flexibility in their traditions. Yes, they have gender roles, but they also have so many genders that everyone can find one that fits them. Yes, they have common beliefs, but in a religion that grows and automatically accepts anyone’s new observation. Yes, they often have some ethnic homogeneity, but they define themselves by their language and other signs of their dwelling with the land, not by ethnic traits.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that the ease with which we can abandon one social group and join another lays the foundation for one of our biggest problems. It withers the value of our societies, and as any traditional culture will tell you, the struggle of individual against society does not exist, anymore than an oak tree opposes the soil it grows in. Rootlessness, socially and bioregionally, lies at the root of so many of our civilized afflictions. We think to blame parochial intolerance, not realizing that parochial intolerance grew as we walked away from our traditions, like the bitterness of a spurned lover. Our social mobility erodes the social soil of our ability to express our individuality just as our tilling erodes the physical soil we grow our crops in.
Yeah, the whole homogenity thing doesn't work, which is really why I support this so strongly, I think a world that is populated by a bunch of different types of scoial organization, no just ways of living, is a better, stronger world. Furthermore, the possibility of cities expanding is severly limited, as you pointed out in "It will be impossible to Rebuild Civilization".
Adding something new doesn’t always increase diversity. Maximal diversity has come from villages and bands, while cities have gobbled up everything around them. Putting a bunch of people in one place doesn’t mean you’ve made a bigger community. It cuts both ways: festivals give you “city life” with no city, but look at the villages of the Ik in Uganda, or some of the cities of the Rust Belt. There you have a city with no city life.
Not just expanding, but even starting a city simply won’t work in the world we’ll leave our descendants. You simply can’t support a city on permaculture; it doesn’t produce enough food to support thousands of people. It produces enough to support hundreds of people, a village. By no one’s imagination would a few hundred people make a city.
My library doesn't have Savages and Civilization, and though I might look into getting it (is it worth it?) is there anything else you could suggest?
Well, every history book will tell you the story of how cities have gobbled up all societies around them, but as far as why they need to, that one gives you the best information I’ve ever found tucked between two covers.
This sounds like strong-weak links, in that you want strong links, that you can easily break and reform with other people, and go about breaking and reforming... I've done this all throughout school, though never a strong link, because you just.. don't break those easily.. so it just became all weak links, every year I would change my group of friends, or acquaintances, this going through and having no lasting relationships really hits me hard. Ending school with about 2 friends total, enough to allow someone to migrate 2500 miles from home..
Good point, and it plugs into what I said a little bit ago about rootlessness. A link that you can break too easily can never become very strong. If nothing else, the fear of when you might break it will always loom overhead, warning you both not to put too much into it. Strong links require commitment, freely offered. Why do you think every society has offered some kind of marriage?
Fenris, you sound like most of us trapped in civilization. They’ve actually done studies of social isolation in the U.S., and it keeps growing. Where tribal people will have dozens of strong links and hundreds of weak ones, most of us can barely keep all of our weak links together. You can count yourself ahead of the American par if you’ve managed to hold onto even one or two strong links. Cities don’t encourage a broad diversity of strong links (which contradicts itself, anyway); it encourages a huge array of weak links, and no strong links at all.