8. Welcome Home - a new global regionalisation
The United States is in some respects a model nation defining many patterns of the future. Different states of the union have gained an emphasised variegation owing to inter-state migration and the concentration of interest-groupings wherever they choose to live. In most parts of the world, people live where they live because they were born there. In USA most people live in different parts of the Union because they or their parents have chosen to do so – the attributes of each state being the deciding factor in their locational options. This tendency toward locational choice is likely to grow for the whole of humanity – a consequence of globalisation and travel – and people will move where they feel best and can optimise their potentials.
This leads towards standardisation yet it also leads towards emphasised variegation – especially as aversion to standardised modern culture grows. Such a process has already started: in Britain, city folk who have made qualitative life-choices have re-concentrated in rural areas such as Devon, Wales, Cumbria, Arran and the Hebrides. After settling down, they often become initiative-takers in these areas, sometimes actively reinforcing local traditions, choosing sailing rather than motorised boats, or organic rather than industrial farming – while locals, meanwhile, often choose modernisation, satellite TV and emigration.
These tendencies lead toward a re-regionalisation of the world within a new global context. Variegated cultures could become strengthened, finding new confidence to assert their core strengths, drawing energy from inward migrants who have made firm lifestyle choices. Movements for reafforestation, organics, conservation, local land-ownership, cottage industries or traditional ways are not infrequently spearheaded by educated ex-urbanites who bring capital, ideas, knowhow and contacts. Some areas have become economically viable simply through the inward migration of folk drawing pensions or living from accumulated wealth – a form of income independent of traditional geographical resource- or trade-based factors. However, the specific characters and needs of regions can also be weakened if current official and commercial disrespect for provincial and minority cultures continues into the future.
In our day and age, human collective consciousness is being realigned in a manner which, earlier in history, has affected only pockets of humanity. Modern education and technology is pervasive and reaches deeper than was the case in many earlier multi-cultural empires. The Mongols, ruthless as they were, provide an interesting example of a softer cultural touch. They conquered much of Eurasia during the first half of the 1200s. Being steppic herders, they adopted a herding policy: invaded peoples were given a right to live as they wished and believe what they wished as long as they offered no resistance, played the game and paid their taxes. Obey or die: it was a straight though ruthless deal, without complexity. The Mongols made use of what already existed, without seeking to impose their stamp too heavily on the cultures they took over. They made their mistakes, yet they ruled with a comparatively light hand.
The Il-Khan Mongols in Persia eventually became Muslims. Kublai Khan, Great Khan 1260-94, adopted Chinese ways and administrators in China – which annoyed nationalist elements amongst both Mongols and Chinese, yet it worked quite well. Mongols favoured Arabic traders, Turkish metalworkers, Nestorian Christian priests and Tibetan lamas, Chinese Confucian advisers and builders from Russia. Their hegemony was short-lived, however: in the 1300s the khanates disintegrated, though parts survived up to a few centuries longer in the Tatar khanates of Uzbekistan and Ukraine. Their hegemony was established by straight force without cultural subversion – a force which seemed invincible.
The Mongol and other empires have proven that it is possible, under tolerant rulership, to enhance the variety of local cultures. They sought standardisation only in certain arenas, such as in weights and measures or in issues which directly affected Mongol suzerainty. The 'mission to civilise' or convert suffered in other empires was not there. What is needed in our current day is the cultivating of a worldwide consensus based on the notion that all peoples have a right and need to choose their own life-ways – within the context of being an integral part of the world. It is unjust, for example, for conservation-minded international authorities to prevent indigenous peoples from whaling by time-worn means, when it is the industrial countries which have largely depleted whale stocks.
However, such indigenous peoples themselves become ecologically dangerous if they use motorised, radar-steered boats and harpoon-guns in the pursuance of their whaling traditions. This imported technology disturbs the balances in their living areas. In the North Atlantic Faeroe islands, whaling continues not so much for nutritional reasons as for the perpetuation of a male-assertive hunter tradition, now fuelled by speedboats. It is necessary for local ethnic minorities undergoing population-expansion or importing new technologies to learn new means of forest conservation or river-management too, to rebalance and adjust to the world circumstances in which they are choosing to partake.
It is imperative also that multinational corporations stop exploiting resources from ethnic minorities' lands without proper regulation and accounting of the full social and ecological costs involved. Tragically, many indigenous peoples have already lost their original ecologically-balanced ways without entirely dropping their traditions, becoming proxy destroyers for modern globo-civilisation. Overall world circumstances have changed around them even if they had nothing to do with the causes of such change. Slash-and-burn agriculture works fine if few people do it in a vastness of space, but it is obsolete in a crowded world where empty wildernesses must be guarded and where resultant smoke critically affects world climate.
In a future world, it can be feasible for areas and regions to settle into or be zoned into a variety of cultural levels and specific purposes – along the lines of the proposed Antarctica World Park, where a vast tract of ice, land and ocean has been set aside and protected from large-scale exploitation. This concerns a potentially-controversial world planning project in which the world is zoned according to cultural, demographic, ecological and economic factors, to set different priorities for different areas.
Parts of the world are suited to industrial development, urbanisation and intensive agriculture – and modern technologies allow the concentration of industrial and agricultural intensity-zones in areas most suited or already used. Meanwhile, other parts of the world are best suited to simpler cultures, low-intensity agriculture or resource-development. These areas need active support, not in the creation of reservations and national parks, but in full-scale eco-development of regions along lines dictated not by commercial development influences but by other non-metropolitan priorities and standards.
This represents, to some extent, a return to the situation preceding the industrial revolution, when dual economies co-existed – one an existential, low-tech self-sufficient economy and the other a commercially-oriented, specialised urban-centred economy. Some peoples are inclined to achieve momentous and complex things, and others are not – and there is no inherent difference of status implied. For some, their main asset is their poetry or faith, while for others it is their technologies and mercantilism.
Each grouping needs to find its own level, in a manner which approximates its cultural identity, its indigenous choices and its place in the world. It needs to be able to name its terms and negotiate them through global political structures which recognise and accommodate their needs. For their needs are our needs. If we are to have city-dwellers we need also to have wilderness-dwellers, to balance the wholeness of human life and consciousness. A person in quiet retreat in a cave counterbalances the psychic effects of a big-city executive. Everyone is relevant.
Such a scenario requires an immense re-evaluation, a shift of awareness, intent and understanding on the part of every individual in the world. This concerns respect for and appreciation of the existence of other, different people from ourselves. Master-victim and them-and-us tendencies need to be overcome – otherwise there is a risk that the whole world falls under one hammer, bought out on the amoral financial markets for the lowest sum by the highest payers.
Cosmopolitan businessmen of today hold an unfair advantage, demonstrated in the 1990s race to patent natural products. This tendency was started in litigious USA, where it became possible to patent not only specific usages and refining processes of natural products – seeds, pharmaceuticals and other natural raw materials – but also to patent these products themselves, by simply researching their constituents and patenting laboratory techniques and lab-isolated biochemicals. The result of this is that, technically, the seeds of a species can be patented, rendering it illegal for others to propagate such seeds without permission, control and payment of royalties.
This leads to the profitable establishment of centralised seed-banks monopolised by multinationals or scientific institutions. This itself leads to increasingly dangerous monocultural practices and a loss of biodiversity. Not only that, but it could become possible for large corporations to prevent local cultures from propagating their own seeds or even from practising techniques centuries or millennia old. The multinationals got to the courts first, had the lawyers and laboratories, paid the highest sum and swung the largest legal clout – meanwhile, farmers and world peoples can become beholden to corporations, dragged into the world economy and ruined if they do not practice modern agricultural techniques. This is dangerous.
A new voluntary and consensual international ethnic order must arise if humanity is to heal itself and move forward. This means that the prevailing order of the big-capital industrial world must, by rights, retract its tentacular hold on the rest of the world, to allow space for other systems to develop. Yet this runs against the large-scale, standardised logic of the global corporate business sphere, which must expand into every corner and take control of every potential consumer in order to thrive.
It was intolerable for the capitalist world to allow the socialist world to exist: longterm sanctions by USA and other countries against Cuba demonstrate how the presence of an alternative system is anathema to capitalism, even when countries such as Cuba are no longer prosperous and greatly influential. Yet re-localisation, the development of alternative and variegated cultural-economic systems, is a necessary reality if we are not to become drones in an all-embracing, genius-throttling world system ruled from megalopolitan skyscrapers and bureaucratic committees. If the world becomes shrink-wrapped in modernity, it will lose its way even more seriously than it has lost its way today. George Orwell was prophetic, not just a fiction writer.
However, something is happening in the advanced world which might help. Pursuing high-technology toward its logical limits we are moving away from centralised mega-systems toward dispersed computer-linked honeycomb-networks. This is having a penetrating structural effect on the whole of society – corporations are downsizing, organisations being decentralised, industry is becoming cleaner, power-requirements are declining and energy-saving and less-polluting technologies and applications are being applied. High technology is moving over a threshold of complexity and resource-hungry consumptiveness, toward increased simplicity and effectiveness. There's an organic quality to it. This is a valuable tendency.
A concerted effort to increase this trend can lead toward a diminished conflict between industrial and rural priorities. 'Tele-commuting' is an early development in this direction, which will lead to growing de-emphasis of cities and a potential shift in country cultures – both for the better and for the worse. These very words were initially written on a notebook computer perched on a Spanish fruit-box in a woodstove-warmed yurt-like structure in the ancient oakwoods of Wales. The owls hoot, the breeze wafts whisps of woodsmoke through the trees and the computer whirs quietly in the candlelight. This whole book can be conveyed worldwide from anywhere to anywhere by light and electromagnetic impulse without the need of a city or big clanking printing-presses. What restrains a rapid systems-change is inertia and resistance to transition, arising partially from late 20th century change-indigestion – and a potential crisis of assimilation is hovering.
However, even modern technologies are but a century old and will soon become obsolete. The internal-combustion automobile has seen one hundred years of service, yet its continued existence is in question – its fuel, exhaust emissions and over-use have led to overall costs which have become too high. The technologies of the next civilisation will probably involve free-energy machines, anti-gravitational devices, nature-emulating technologies and biodynamic agricultural systems – even direct thought-to-action technologies. What will the world look like when we integrate our inborn psychic abilities with technology?
There is an Australian story featuring a white telegraph operator and an Aboriginal. The telegraph operator was proud of his communications hut, aside a motor track in the outback. From here he sent messages by morse along wires which strode stolidly across the bush toward a distant city. The telegraph operator showed his telegraph hut to an Aboriginal acquaintance, boasting about his ability to talk with people a long way away. The Aboriginal, whose own people had done distance-talking psychically since the beginning of time, simply replied: "Yes, but why do you need all those wires and poles?"