On 'Primitive' Societies

Domhnall donaloc at peterquinn.com
Wed Feb 27 07:24:31 MST 2002

Joan wrote:

I would like to thank you for this post. It illustrates well the
dangers of attachment to the parochialism of village life. You
have shown us how community ties (coming together for births,
etc.) can obscure the existence of deeper divisions. You have
also alluded to the hidden decision making process within closed
societies (nepotism, in most cases by the Old Families of the
village.) The ant-democratic nature of politics in village life
is too often ignored by those who like to romanticise the strong
sense of community identity in rustic society. Decision-making
along lines of personal relationships is not democratic,
especially when those relationships are formed by accident of

Domhnall responds:

I think that the truth of your position is self-evident; clearly, primitive
societies were no utopias; having said that, the so-called civilised
colonisers were usually even more cold-hearted. People talk of primitive
communistic forms as being egalitarian; yet, even advanced communist forms
seem very susceptible to corruption and the formation of cliques.

It's a comprehension of these fault-lines which is a necessary pre-requisite
for successfully advancing struggle in my area. I don't really understand
what struggling in a 'pure' environment would be like - it seems everything
would be so much simpler, but surely, cliques and relationships come to the
fore in struggles in more advanced countries too?

Surely, no-one would assert that primitive societies were perfect. That
Celtic societies could watch whilst people died of starvation doesn't
particularly surprise me. A stone exists less than a mile from my own
village (called Crom Cruaiche - interestingly this is where the English
saying 'By Crumb' comes from - it's the name of a pre-Christian God), the
stone was used as a surface to kill 'first born of man and beast'. The oral
tradition supposedly indicates that St Patrick banished the stone and its
adherents (and it's 13 sub-god stones - all of which were coated in gold).
However, in reality the locals hid it in a dip just outside the village. The
Catholic church subsequently built 5 churches within a mile of each other -
an indication of the strength of the 'pagan' cult. The point, well,
primitive Irish society had warts - the Druids were keen on sacrifice!

I for one believe that a new Irish/Celtic identity will be established - not
consciously, but as a consequence of liberation. Necessarily, this will
involve a modernisation of the culture but a retention of its better
aspects. There is much to be learnt from the old ways, an example would be
the Brehon laws which are much closer to the new concept of Community
Restorative Justice than English law and tort - barring the 'repayment in
cows' bit. The Irish language is a cultural spring of life for the nation
and must be prioritised as something worth conserving.

Is mise,

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