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Retreating with friends from the various blogs to a spread somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, working collaboratively to produce food, raise families, and sustain knowledge and ideas in the face of coming doom. I expect more and more of this kind of thinking as people contemplate the future and witness the decay of information and the decline of knowledge that many of you have so well described.

At the same time it's worth considering that we've already built many of these kinds of ETopias through sites like this. I'm just a lurker here (I post as "eugene" at Daily Kos but have lurked here off and on since the place opened) but have been part of other dKos-spinoffs that were, I would argue, attempts to create this kind of self-sustaining, knowledge-preserving communities.

Moving that into the real world presents many difficulties, especially here in the neoliberal 21st century. But it's a project worth investigating.

As to Canticle, the book is fascinating on a number of levels, not the least of which was the effort of the very Catholic William Miller to reconcile his faith to the modern world. The insight of Canticle is that modern civilization rests on some rather Medieval foundations, and that when modern civilization faces terminal crisis (nuclear war, Peak Oil, climate change), it will return to those foundations through Medieval practices and ideas but also Medieval institutions.

What I find so interesting about your ETopia concept, or the others I've kicked around with my own circles, is the attempt to preserve modernity not in its use of the land, its dependence on extractive capitalism, but instead in its intellectual resources, its cultural produce. It's an effort to either find ways to make our current civilization sustainable by evolving new technologies to allow us to survive in small communes (and here I think of both the European usage of "commune" as well as the American '60s usage); or to return to a pre-19th century lifestyle that forsakes most of the modern technology but refuses to return to the ideas of a more Medieval era.

My fiancee is a librarian, an archivist by specialty. The question of information preservation in the digital age is one they grapple with regularly. They haven't yet come up with answers, but it may be worth investigating their discussions.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Sep 23rd, 2007 at 02:45:45 PM EST
A friend of mine once blew my preconceptions by telling me that, basically, the renaissance was the introduction into western culture of (up to but not only) egyptian tech. ideas.  (I can't really argue that one, but if anyone wants I can go and find the arguments...)  The knowledge had been kept by the monks.

Monasteries were important contributors to the surrounding community. They were centers of intellectual progression and education. They welcomed aspiring priests to come study and learn, allowing them even to challenge doctrine in dialogue with superiors. The earliest forms of musical notation are attributed to a monk named Notker of St Gall, and was spread to musicians throughout Europe by way of the interconnected monasteries. Since monasteries offered respite for weary pilgrim travelers, monks were obligated also to care for their injuries or emotional needs. Over time, lay people started to make pilgrimages to monasteries instead of just using them as a stop over. By this time, they had sizable libraries which were sort of a tourist attraction.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monastery

As I understand it, there have been highs of intellectual endeavour (e.g. when the greeks mixed with the persians) and lows; and it seems that during the lows the key knowledge of the time was held in isolated centres.  I may have got this all wrong, but the islamic scholars had their translations of the ancient greek texts, and when these were translated into latin @ 1000AD the renaissance started--it took four hundred years to finally blow the old church structure out of the water (check out the dates of the foundation of our oldest universities..)...but...heh...those who understand this better please correct my ignorances!

So I'm suggesting that ideas such as ETopia are part of a long tradition of seeing the darkness coming and setting up intellectual centres (and connected!) outside of (independent of) the main social channels.

Maybe the the surviving universities will have independent energy sources (wind, solar, geo-thermal, etc.), following the old lines of...

Since monasteries offered respite for weary pilgrim travelers, monks were obligated also to care for their injuries or emotional needs. Over time, lay people started to make pilgrimages to monasteries instead of just using them as a stop over.

(Herman Hesse's Glass Bead Game comes to mind.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Sep 23rd, 2007 at 03:37:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, if you talk to a medieval historian, they'll insist there was NO Renaissance at all, that the entire concept is flawed. But then I'm a 20th century historian, so I'm more willing to speak in those terms.

You're right that monasticism was one vector by which ancient knowledge was communicated to Europe in the High Middle Ages, as were the universities. Medieval Europe had lots of places where knowledge was kept and produced, but because of the organization of the society - intensely local and hierarchical - that didn't spread. What I see the ETopia concept as trying is the protection of knowledge in a fixed space without the parochialism or hierarchy that characterized Medieval institutions.

I think you make an excellent point about the recurrence of this phenomenon - taking steps to protect knowledge and intellectual activity from a crisis of civilization. Better than a repeat of the sack of the Alexandria Library.

And of course, Christian monasticism was a response to the collapse of Roman civilization and its trade networks - Benedict of Nursia as an example.

Interesting point about modern universities. I wonder if the nuclear reactor is still there on the UC Berkeley campus, down in the basement of Etcheverry Hall, or if it has been disassembled...

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Sep 23rd, 2007 at 04:56:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, if you talk to a medieval historian, they'll insist there was NO Renaissance at all, that the entire concept is flawed. But then I'm a 20th century historian, so I'm more willing to speak in those terms.

Sometimes I wonder whether a critique that begins by rightfully pointing out a flaw in a concept doesn't have a natural tendency to over-reach and over-simplify as it is propagated, ending up finding more flaw than exists.

So, certainly neither the French nor Scottish Enlightenments lived up to what participants hoped that they were doing, nor did it entirely go where they hoped that it was going, but there were the participants and what they were actually doing, and we may as well call it "the Enlightenment".

So too, perhaps the Renaissance was not the clear break with the past that its enthusiasts may have imagined, either at the time or in later historiography, and it might not have been a distinct "stage" in historical development ... and certainly not even the first wave of translations of preserved texts from the Eastern to the Western Med (e.g., preceded by the Caliphate of Córdoba) ... but the pretension to a Rebirth still lends that period a distinctive character.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Sep 24th, 2007 at 12:25:25 AM EST
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