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Sunday, 26 September 2010

Resilience: individual and communal

Rather appropriate coming after my post about 'Uncivilisation: The Dark Mountain' project I have just came across the following series.

Eight-part series of The Basics of Resilience by Chris Martenson

I have read some of Martenson's work in the past and while close to some aspects of the DM perspective, there are elements that overlap with the Transition Movement. However there is a distinctly American flavour to his perspective, one that can also I think be seen in the work of Sharon Astyk, the influential blogger and author of the wonderful Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front.
The American flavour I am talking about is the often very individual/family focus of their writings (combined almost always with clear, practice 'how to....' advice on everything from growing and storing food, house maintenance, health and making whatever money and energy you have go further). This very domestic focus - while not neglecting community or politics completely - stands at one end of a continuum of resilience with the community focus of the UK and Irish Transition Movement at the other. It is, as Astyk herself states a 'Little House in the Suburbs' (Chapter 9 of her book), and obviously echoes the pioneering spirit of those who went west in the 19th century in America, set up farms, villages and towns bootstrapping and laying down the infrastructure for themselves as they went. While of course not buying into the American myth of 'rugged individualism' completely, there is a clear individualistic focus to these conceptions of resilience which one does not find in the UK and Irish cases which are much more community and communal in focus. Though not definitive evidence it is telling perhaps that it is only the final of Martenson's series that addresses community. Astyk is more community orientated but even here her take on community seems to be one of neighbours and friends coming together to help one another out rather than a community which may include strangers and people we only dimly know, the connection being that they live in the same geographical space as we do.
So beyond telling us that different cultures and places are thinking about and practicing resilience differently is there more to be said about these differences (given after all that what they share is as important as what differentiates them)?
I'm not sure to be honest....and in these times of inevitable transition we need to try as many different ways of living, experiments in building resilience...and yet that dimension of the 'American' take on resilience canvassed here (and of course focusing on two writers cannot be taken to be representative of all American resilience thinking and action), that dimension which has a 'lifeboats' feel to it does spark a nagging doubt in my mind that when the shit hits the fan, it is communities not families or individuals that will be to be fore in offering responses to those inevitable shocks and transitions associted with peak oil, climate, food and resource crunches.

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