I’ll begin, this week, with stating that I have not been a particular fan of Dmitry Orlov. (I’d say, cautiously, that I’ve become more accepting of Orlov’s viewpoints, having read his recent writings.) He struck me, when first I heard of him and read some of his works, as something of a grand-stander. Sure, he made it through the Soviet Union’s collapse and lived to tell the tale. Yes, he’s gone back and done some analysis of what happened, what people did that worked, what didn’t work, and why. But he has been trying to paint everyone else with the same brush, pointing out the analogies between America’s current situation and the former Soviet Union’s pre-collapse arrangement.
While I’ll agree there are similarities, the differences are also stark. One of the differences is how we got to those situations–generally in a completely different fashion. From what I’ve seen, this indicates that while superficially they’re similar, there is a difference in what I’ll call the “impetus vector”: the historical “motion” of the situation, which changes the direction that things will fall.
All that being said, I’ve just read through his recent blog-posts on “Communities that Abide”. He discusses several factors that would act to preserve a small community post-collapse, looking at a number of small, mostly self-sufficient and/or self-contained communities that exist today. These groups have been persecuted, often severely, and yet they continue, and have done so in some cases for centuries, continuing to survive if not thrive. Such communities include the Hutterites of the Midwest and Canada, and the Roma (“gypsies”), among others.
While I may not completely agree with all of his points, this series, along with other parts of the blog of late, are certainly food for thought. What would make a small community able to survive collapse? Orlov lists a series of basic attributes:
- anarchic (not patriarchic or matriarchic);
- oral code of conduct;
- communistic patterns of production and consumption;
- strong, central ideology/faith;
- many children, brought up within the community;
- not “working jobs,” but doing the minimum necessary;
- rejecting the culture and/or technology of the surrounding society;
- “inside” language or dialect;
- interacting differently with “outsiders” than with their own;
- generally accepting of their “lot in life.”
I should note, at this point, that he’s using some very precise, technical definitions for some of the terms given (“anarchic,” “communistic”), not using the terms as they are commonly understood.
Again, there is quite a bit of food for thought in the series of posts (as I write this, there are four, plus an introduction; he may add more later). I’ll admit to not having thought of taking lessons from some of the “survival communities” already extant; the Amish certainly provide excellent models for some aspects of prepping, but (upon reflection) so do the Roma and Travellers. (I can’t speak to the Hutterites–I’ve not interacted with them at all, but everything I’ve read certainly adds them to the list.)
My wife and I, together with our friends, often joke (“ha-ha-only-serious”) about who would be allowed on “the island”–our notional post-collapse community–and why. We’d need, frankly, a lot more people; while the my group wouldn’t be small, we’re not even approaching the Dunbar limit. I’ll admit to giving thought about how the community would be organized; while I don’t think we’d necessarily build up our own language or dialect, nor become nomads (except in case of emergency), there’s a lot to be said for some of the other points. Orlov seems to be relatively adamant that “modern workers” couldn’t start an intentional community using the guidelines given, but it seems to me that if it’s been done in the past, it can be done in the future. (Perhaps the biggest sticking point would be the “strong ideology”; generally, that takes the form of religion. Most religions, though, tend to be strongly “archical”–most commonly patriarchic–and I can see this leading to the group becoming cultish behind a charismatic leader, and ultimately failing.)
What do you think, readers? Any other thoughts/amplification/agreements/rebuttals with or to Orlov?