The Fifth World

Encyclopedia

Family

Families form the basic sovereign unit of the Fifth World. Some families bond together to form larger confederations, alliances, leagues, or nations, but these derive their power from the families that consent to join them, and those families can choose to leave them at any time.

Customs

Each family has its own unique customs, which grew out of and reflect their unique history. These customs grow out of the lives of individual people. Dreams, jokes, and stories begin to form a common language, as stories told and retold begin to form an oral tradition. Though some customs may become outdated or onerous, they all arose from a time and a place when they once helped the family survive and flourish.

Forms

Depending on their territory and their dependence on hunting and gathering or gardening, a family might live as a band or a village. In terms of mapped genealogies, a village may include two or three extended families, and may even permit marriage between members of the village, but they still think of themselves primarily as a large, extended family. Bands see some members leave and new members join regularly, but nonetheless devote time to figure out how they relate to one another.

Egalitarianism & Consensus

Nearly all families in the Fifth World operate as tiny egalitarian societies. They use consensus to reach decisions. Generally, this means that each member can take a stand for or against something, or not take any stand at all. Few families require everyone to take a stand for a thing to do it, but they do require that at least no one stand against it. The cajoling and discussion that this process requires can take a very long time, but it generally results in better decisions than an individual leader could make.

Not everyone has the same influence on these decisions, of course, and this does create some informal power dynamics. However, these dynamics also shift frequently as discussion moves from one topic to the next. The people most respected on the question of where to find boar may differ markedly from the people most respected on the question of where to find water. No one can climb to the top of every possible ladder. Most of the time, everyone will have a moment as the most respected person in the family, and plenty of time yielding to the advice of others. Usually elders have earned more respect than others, but even the youngest child can sway a family's decision with a good argument.

Individual & Society

Civilization often saw the individual and society at odds. This notion would strike most people in the Fifth World as quite odd. They show far greater respect for personal autonomy as an absolute value, and far more concern for the community they belong to, simultaneously. They see this as causal, rather than paradoxical. The family exists for the purpose of supporting its individual members, and no individual can achieve her fullest self on her own without the support of her family.

Most families in the Fifth World will not tolerate the abridgments of personal autonomy that their ancestors would have considered common sense, like giving commands to anyone, even a child. At the same time, nothing matters more to them individually than their relationships, to the point of thinking of themselves as dividuals rather than individuals β€” defined by their relationships to others, especially their families.

Territory

Nothing matters more to people in the Fifth World than family and land β€” though the word β€œand” may well suggest a more distinct division than that person in the Fifth World would see. They often recognize the personhood of places, and a family has many bonds of kinship tying it to its territory. They bury their ancestors in the ground, and they become plants, and the plants become animals, so that each passing generation ties the family more deeply to the land in which they dwell. The territory and the family share a bond such that they cannot draw a clear distinction between them. The family exists because of the territory, inseparable from it.

Mission

Families in the Fifth World do not conceive of themselves as merely making a living together. Each family possesses some special purpose to heal or protect their territory. Each member of the family has special rights and responsibilities that enable them to fulfill that mission.