The Fifth World

Neotribal

Neotribal means:

  • taking inspiration from humanity’s deep history, not just our latest technology.
  • prioritizing relationships, among human beings as well as between human beings and our other-than-human kin.
  • imagining a new future, not just appropriating the traditions of others or trying to copy an atavistic image of the past.

The Fifth World embraces the notion that we live at the end of a brief experiment in human history. A few thousand years barely registers as a blip against the millions of years of our evolution, after all. We sometimes use the Twi word sankofa here, meaning “go back and get it,” as in the proverb, “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” We call our aesthetic neotribal, and not simply tribal, because we don’t mean an atavistic throwback to the Paleolithic. You can’t go home again, as another proverb puts it. And to quote a third one, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

The trope of native people dying off and settlers not only taking their place but becoming better natives than native people themselves has a long, ugly, racist, colonialist history. The Fifth World does risk falling into that morass. We have policies like our policy against cultural appropriation intended to help us avoid that, but the risk remains, and we must remain vigilant against it as a community. We believe we must face it all the same.

The utopia of the Fifth World doesn’t come from settlers becoming native to replace the native people who all died out. It envisions the utopia where rewilding and decolonization meet, where settlers abandon their adolescent dreams of empire and native people reclaim their lands and sovereignty, where we all find a new way forward together — where, if we cannot find justice, we can at least find grace.

The tribal life and no other is the gift of natural selection to humanity. It is to humanity what pack life is to wolves, pod life is to whales, and hive life is to bees. After three or four million years of human evolution, it alone emerged as the social organization that works for people.

Daniel Quinn, Ishmael