The Fifth World


Nothing matters more than family and land, and really, who can tease them apart? My family belongs to this land. We flow through it. The food it gives us comes from its soil and passes through us, and when we die, like our ancestors before us, we will go into this soil and flow through our descendants. Our memories and stories live in the hills and valleys here. I’ve traveled much in my time, but I always feel uprooted until I come home.

The people of this world have little in common. Wherever I go, they astound me with their variety and diversity. The one thing I can say that seems to hold true everywhere I’ve gone, though — family always forms the basis of everything. We all feel that web of kinship that binds us. When I meet a stranger, we’ll spend quite a while listing our relations, trying to find the thread that binds us. It goes beyond just human families, too. We have other-than-human kin of all kinds, again blurring that line between the two things that matter most. You could call it the one thing that matters most, couldn’t you? Would you call it “family” or “land,” then? Personally, I’d go with “family,” and trust you understood how far that goes.

Everywhere I’ve seen, the wandering free families form the most basic unit of sovereignty and society. All of the other systems I’ve ever seen, the clans, the sodalities, the moieties, the secret societies, they all have to define themselves, first and foremost, in relation to families.

Family forms the fundamental sovereign unit of Fifth World society.

Family Bond

Mothers carry their babies with them always, so the children become used to the rhythm of daily life. Before they learn to speak, babies master “affect-talk,” a deep resonance with body language and the subtle, nuanced signs of emotion and disposition. To an untrained eye, such people might seem to communicate telepathically. Of course, they don’t. They have a lifetime of close, tactile contact, keen awareness, and a synaesthetic experience of the sensuous world that combines around this basic core of their upbringing to allow them to communicate eloquently and wordlessly. They generally can’t describe how they know what they know (making it seem even more like telepathy), but they cue in on facial microexpressions, muscles tensing, and other subtle clues that reliably communicate emotion, but happen so quickly that few could notice them without that kind of close upbringing.

Because those around her prove so eager to provide what she needs, a child learns very quickly that the best and fastest way to get what she wants lies in communicating as openly and truthfully as she can. This pattern continues when she learns to speak. Even when a child in the Fifth World learns to speak, “affect-talk” remains the foundation on which it expands.

Often, everyone in a family sleeps together, coordinating and synchronizing the patterns and rhythms of their bodies through the night. They touch one another constantly as their primary means of communicating and relating. Verbal language becomes a layer of communication placed on top of body language and physical contact.

Later, they apply this empathy to tracking small game and exploring the world around them. Most hunter-gatherer societies honor a good trick. They pull practical jokes on one another all the time, often competing for the cleverest trick. The Trickster archetype often receives great reverence as a culture hero and founder. Without superior speed or strength, sharp teeth or claws, the idea of taking down a superior opponent by wit appeals to most humans. For hunters, the skill becomes a necessity. To say that such people do not know how to lie grossly exaggerates a kernel of truth. Trickery and deception constitute honored skills, but within the family deception remains nearly impossible. In that context their thoughts and feelings lay open.

This deep connection makes strong negative emotions like anger very difficult to deal with. People in the Fifth World have a much greater sensitivity to the troubled emotions of their fellow family members, and so those emotions can cause much more consternation and difficulty for the entire family. An angry member poses an immediate crisis for the entire family.