RCM: two approaches to community development

Cossack spears 2

I found out about Andrey Karimov and his community-based approach to Cossack martial arts at around the same time as I learned about Peak Oil. I was in Beijing at the time, where the economy was still buoyant, and observing the Financial Crisis rage throughout the Western world. That was then I realised the importance of building resilient communities, and that Andrey’s approach could be really helpful in developing such communities.

Over the next few years, it became obvious that the need for such models is pressing. Western governments opted to bail out the bankers at the expense of the ordinary citizen. Both government and the public, furthermore, had built up huge amounts of debt – and that debt has to be repaid. Unfortunately, the Western economies aren’t making enough of anything anyone wants, so their economies are flatlining or worse. The only way to even attempt to pay off that debt is to slash spending – a justification which makes the the neo-liberals who remain extremely influential very happy.

So, that’s what’s happening. The consequences, in the UK, are already bad (witness the growth in zero-hours contracts, poorly paid McJobs, and food banks), and are going to get much, much worse in the near future. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that planned spending cuts will pare government back to levels last seen in the Great Depression of the 1930s. This is going to mean, for example, massive cutbacks in social welfare, a collapse in infrastructure maintenance, and the transfer of policing duties to community groups.

I think it’s reasonable to say that most communities are not in the least prepared for what this means. The Great Depression was terrible, but at the least there were strong, well-established communities then, with social and mutual-aid organisations such as the Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid Society, the prototype of the National Health Service. These days, that kind of tight-knit community solidarity is rare. We’re an atomised, individualistic society, often living far from our families, with friends who too often are of the fair-weather kind.

Community is going to have to be re-built, and quickly. I see two primary approaches: to rebuild fractured but still-extant traditional communities, and to create new ones around a shared, engineered, culture. Both approaches are feasible, using tools and methods that are fairly well-known and well-tested.
In the second camp, the intentional, created communities, I’ve found a couple of interesting and successful examples. The first is the Farm, an intentional community in Tennessee. An interesting article about this, written by a member, is this: The Hippies Were Right!

The second example, Green Valley Village, in California, have produced this short documentary about themselves, which is worth watching.

The first approach I mentioned, revitalising and existing community and/or culture, overlaps in many ways and, again, two examples have grabbed my attention.

The first is in China, where anarchist artist Ou Ning is spearheading the revitalisation of a farming community in Anhui Province, via the Bishan Project.

Bishan Project: Restarting the Rural Reconstructio from HKUSSC on Vimeo.

The second, of course, is the Cossack revival in Southern Russia. As I’ve mentioned here many times previously, they are setting up their own schools. They’re also, of course, running their own militias – and this makes me only more convinced that if policing in the UK is going to become the duty of communities rather than the state, then the Cossack model is one to look at carefully.

Image credit: Celebrating the anniversary of the Cossack oath of American hero and founder of the United States Navy John Paul Jones, August 25, 2014 by user U.S. Embassy Kyiv Ukraine on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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