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Why "Industrialised" a definition of us and our Traditions?

Throughout this text, I use the term, "Industrialised" rather than modern, eastern, western, tribal etc.  This is a deliberate and specific choice in terms of reference and description,.. please allow me to explain in detail as this is important:

    Why ‘Industrialised’ as a Definition?

Industrialisation is a process which separates a people from traditionally conceived of survival based imperatives AND observational norms; distancing those individuals from the seasonal and natural cycles of the land on which they live.  Industrialisation is the child of science and mass communication.  I write this text on a computer I could never construct from the raw materials available to me, a grateful beneficiary of my society’s industrialisation and scientific advancement.

Industrialisation irrevocably alters the requirements of adherence to survival and societal imperatives.  Do you think an Amazonian tribesman would last any longer on the streets of Harlem than a street-wise gang member from Harlem would in the deep Amazon jungle? 

That same Amazonian tribesman (or Harlem 'wise-guy' for that matter) would not survive for long in Australia’s harsh interior either as the survival imperatives there are radically different from those of the Amazon Basin and Harlem's streets.  Learning can change this of course.  Team that [teachable] person up with one who knows how to survive in that environment and the needed time is granted for new survival imperatives to be learned.

Before opening up this subject too much, let’s talk of a dangerous prejudice.  In ‘Western’ society, there is a tendency towards elevation of ‘Eastern’ or 'Tribal' ideas and philosophies and people as more, “spiritually worthy”.  This extends to a propensity [prejudice] to elevate the spiritual potential of one over another based upon their ethnicity. 

Example: Many folks might have a problem with the idea that two Tibetan monks might have [human] words or actions in anger over a television; based solely on the knowledge that they are from Tibet and are monks; denying their right to be human first. 

A person might be overheard saying how wonderfully spiritual another person is, based solely upon the fact that they are of Native American descent, disregarding the humanity of the individual. 

This is bigotry and racism, even if the prejudices
are apparently reversed.

Prejudices lending spiritual credibility (even if seemingly positive) based upon skin colour, ethnic ties etc., is a bland and patronising version of the, “noble savage” prejudice at very best.  The concept of the ‘spiritual potential’ of a people or society, eastern or western, civilised or native etc. is worthless.

Example: A common and erroneously racist prejudice is that a person of Asian origin is likely to be a more skilled acupuncturist than a Caucasian person, based on the premise that acupuncture is an ‘Asian’ skill. 

That is a bit like saying that just because my father was a pilot; I should be able to fly a plane better than another person of similar training whose father was a plumber – a completely illogical argument based on essentially unrelated and meaningless data.

Finishing our acupuncture example from above, it is the person with the clearer intent, the better training and more developed skill, who gets consistently better results; they are the better acupuncturist, regardless of ethnicity.

The first step in understanding how close or far a society is from their traditional shamanic roots is recognising the real impact of industrialisation.  The level of industrialised adaptation within a given community or society is an appropriate and anthropologically relevant measure of this.

Industrialisation is the key concept here.  People who live in an industrialised society are [generally] well removed from the seasonal imperatives that would otherwise dictate survival and the successful continuation of that people.  It is the required level of heed and adherence to these survival and seasonal imperatives that defines the level of industrialisation of a people.

Example: A non-industrialised society must bank food for the non-productive months, grow food and harvest game when available and respect seasonal cycles (e.g. flooding, fire, drought etc.) to survive.  It is to these seasonal, survival imperatives that non-industrialised societies must either adhere or perish.

In contrast, those of fully industrialised society can afford to have an empty larder at the start of winter; the super markets will have what they need in the coming 'barren' months.  They do not stockpile feed for transport animals, the service station almost always has fuel for sale 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. 

Allow me to define industrialisation in this context.  If you have direct knowledge of how to source the raw materials and requisite skills to make a finished product from those raw materials yourself, the resulting item is, by definition, a non-industrial item.  Whilst manufacture for trade is the first step towards industrialisation, we will include this example here in the non-industrialised category.

If an item’s production is technologically specialised, removed from the reach of the single individual or basic communal collective, it is by its nature the start of industrialisation.  The required process’ of sourcing iron ore, forging iron, refining it to steel, sourcing chromium and alloying to stainless steel and manufacturing a knife from the refined metal, requires industrialisation. 

A blowpipe and darts or bow and arrow made within and used by a community is not industrialisation, a knife or rifle made of components unavailable to the technology of that community is [industrialisation].

Industrialisation gives its adopting society the freedom of living outside of environmentally dictated survival and seasonal imperatives.  Until recently, the cycle of the earth’s seasons governed almost all aspects of our lives.

All creatures know and/or feel nature’s myriad cycles just as a child in the womb knows its mother’s heart beat.  All creatures, from mankind to the trees, feel and respond to these planetary rhythms at a level far below cognitive recognition in most cases.

This is not to say any people are completely removed from nature’s seasons.  Even industrialised people feel the anxious push of autumn’s depths to make sure the larder is stocked and feel the anxiety of the season.  The first warm days of winter’s leaving still bring malaise and irritation. We still revel in the coming of the sun after days of storms. Modern mental health care would do well to recognise these seasonal influences as significant to their 'patients'.

As an industrialised people, we remain connected at some level to our land and its cycles.  We still rely on farmers to produce our food, even if many city-dwellers forget about anything beyond the supermarket shelf.  Farmers are most definitively working within nature’s seasonal imperatives to a significant degree, even though fertilisers, irrigation and genetic modification of crops etc. have allowed greater release from a few of these imperatives.

I would suggest that those societies and communities who do not have access to, or lack industrialised advances and conveniences, are those who could be best described as essentially non-industrialised; those who remain fully entangled with and aware of their environment’s seasonal and survival imperatives.

Deeply remote tribes and clans that continue to exist in much the same ways as their ancestors have, sourcing all their requirements from their immediate environment; food, medicine, weapons, tools and shelter are, within this definition, ‘non-industrialised’.  There are very few fully non-industrialised peoples still in existence today. 

(Brazil's policy of preserving non-contacted people's status is to be applauded!)

The process of industrialisation is a subtle and seductive action.  Why use sharpened bamboo requiring remanufacture often when a stainless steel knife lasts for years? Metal, modern medicine and education are all far too seductive, convenient and/or worthy within a society to exclude once they are known.

I will not say that using a stainless steel knife begins to industrialise a people in the same way that firearms do, but the process has started.  A stainless steel knife is the end product of a complex technology.  Industrialisation is the use of complex technology to remove the individual – at one level or another – from day to day, survival based imperatives that would otherwise face them.

There are also many peoples in a transitional, semi-industrialised state who are still living within [often harsh] seasonal imperatives but also have industrialised tools at their disposal.  Whilst people like the Inuit of North America’s Arctic north maintain traditional hunting rites and rights, many now hunt with a rifle from a motorised vehicle.

Semi-industrialised communities tend to try to leave a foot in both camps, preserving ‘the old ways’ whilst embracing the new.  Unfortunately, the new, industrialised conveniences seduce, almost coaxingly, a separation from seasonal imperatives, removing a people from their inherent awareness of their land’s heartbeat and breath.  A rifle harvests game more reliably and from further away where using a harpoon or spear is less reliable and requires far more skill and personal exposure to danger.

We heat our homes in winter, cool them in summer and use computers and the internet to communicate to a wide audience.  Industrialised conveniences like gas cooking, electricity etc has changed the degree of attention which must be paid to these survival based imperatives, at least to a great extent.

The fact that you are viewing this text on your personal computer means that you and I both exist in an industrialised society with electricity, shops and all the conveniences our society can make us desire.

Industrialised people may have lost many traditions along their path, but newer, more widespread and far more energetic traditions have taken their place in a way so subtle, many fail to identify them.

Reductionism and constructionism are the two major learning traditions of industrialised people.  We see a car as an assembly of separate parts, like wheels and seats, engine and fuel, yet we identify a car as a singular thing too.  Our tradition of learning is powerful and energetic. 

We reduce our language into sounds, words made up of component sound bytes; represented abstractly by the alphabet. The alphabet allows the identification of sounds, reduced components of language that can then be constructed and reconstructed to convey concepts, ideas and meanings far beyond the component letters and their associated sounds.

We reduce all that exists around us to study the components and understand the complexity of interplay involved.  We also construct not only the original components back as they were, but into new and innovative configurations until new technologies evolve, emerging from learning.

This IS the tradition of industrialised people.  You read myriad combinations of 26 components on this page to explore my reality of the concepts of and surrounding shamanism.  This is the learning tradition by which modern, industrialised Shaman can be trained.




© Craig Berry - 1996 - 2010, All rights reserved - reproduction without written permission prohibited.