Friday, June 6, 2014

Communities that Abide Kindle Version

I received my author copies of Communities that Abide yesterday. A few people on this side of the pond have asked how they can get hold of a copy but unfortunately the physical book was only available in the US and has indeed sold out.

However, fear not, the Kindle version is now available for download and is very reasonably priced.

Communities that Abide is a collection of articles put together by Dmitry Orlov and deals with concrete examples of peoples and communities that have demonstrated resilience. It's an eclectic mix of subject matter, with various articles including one about the emergent phenomenon of 'Sea Gypsies', courtesy of Ray Jason, a memoir of a lifeboat community courtesy of Albert Bates and some very useful information on how to deal with medical emergencies and health in the absence of a 'real' doctor courtesy of practising professional James Truong. There's even a section on (small scale) communism and the Kindle edition has a bonus chapter by allopathic practitioner Peter Gray.

My chapter, entitled Resilience in the face of Genocide, illustrates the time I spent in the southeast Asian nation of Laos—the most bombed country in history—and looks at the way tribal and village communities are evading the Chinese investment juggernaut. It's written in a half-travelogue, half-polemic format, and I detail narrowly avoiding being blown up by a bomb and undergoing an exorcism.

If you are in the UK/Europe you can order your copy here.

US readers can get hold of their copy here.

If you buy it and read it, please feel free to leave a review so that it receives more prominence.


  1. I bought the e-book and read it.
    First off, I enjoyed your contribution and the hope it holds out for societies that resist the race to the bottom, that is, to the extraction of resources until they are gone. Still, from your story it sounds like Laos will remain a target for extractors of wealth. I hope they can hold their own. I have a suspicion that the best places to survive in a stable relationship with the environment are those with the fewest natural resources. But even that is no guarantee. If you find yourself on the way between the resources and resource extractors, your lifestyle is likewise is jeopardy.
    As for the lead essay of the book, Communities that Abide, I keep having the feeling that I am missing something. The examples of communities that abide that Orlov gives are communities that have decided to live lifestyles that appear to have been common before the onset of the industrial age. Their main challenge seems to be to hang on to preindustrial lifestyle choices in a world where industrial lifestyles are the norm.
    If the industrial energy guzzling societies are doomed by the end of easy energy then it seems that the lifestyles of the communities that abide will once again become the norm more or less spontaneously. I don't think that they will have to be socially engineered into place.
    I will have to read the intro to Orlov's essay again. Perhaps he is merely suggesting that communities that abide are a good model for how to survive the transition from an industrial to post-industrial world which will by necessity become more local and tribal.

  2. Yikes, I just read that first sentence and it is confusing. What I meant was that I hope that Laos can hold out against the forces of resource extraction and that other societies fighting the same fight can likewise prevail. Hope that's more clear.

  3. I get the impression that Orlov thinks that the best communities to be in in troubled times are very clannish communities, suspicious of outsiders and of the world in general. They are already monetarily poor, so won't feel the loss of wealth much, and dislike using technology, so won't feel the effects much of a technological crash. Plus many of these communities have been surviving for centuries.

    The argument is OK, but there are problems. One obvious one is that with a big enough crash, there is nowhere that is really safe. The other obvious problem is that you can't just join a hyper-clannish community that is suspicious of outsiders, for obvious reasons. Plus these are not great places to be in a pre-crash world.

    The collapses of the various Chinese dynasties and the Roman empire don't really offer good lessons, one reason is they took alot longer than a crash of industrial civilization probably would. Also, people in areas still controlled by the shrinking central government seemed better off than elsewhere. But this is a government with access to iron age technology. With the current level and forms of tech, the government itself could be one of the dangers to avoid.

  4. Hi,

    I had ordered the Kindle-book, and have read your article aloud in the car, while driving to Nova Scotia for the summer. Both my husband and I liked it. It was well written. You have a poignancy and directness that remind me of Paul Theroux. Like him, you also write about a forgotten corner of the world, yet have something very worthwhile to say about it. For instance, the recycling of bomb shells really struck me. I will never think of bombs the way I used to. Another example is the attack on the immigration office and how those who were present, including yourself, responded very differently.
    My husband especially liked the part where the astrology came in. In the meantime, have you heard anything from Jon and Paula, how they have fared in life?
    The risk, it seems to me, is to paint an image of "le bon sauvage" in the footsteps of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The hardships of life in northern Laos can easily be viewed as romantic, an ideal to strive for, whereas the reality is often a lot harsher. I remember how someone I knew in Holland got the opportunity to live with a Yanomami tribe for a while. As a physician, he had special access to them and was treated with great respect, but soon, he grew horrified by the way the men treated their women.
    Anyway, thank you very much for writing it, and I also would like to use this opportunity to thank you for "Bog and the Saga People", the story in one of your April posts. Usually, I don't read such stories, but because it was you, I made an exception, and then could not stop reading it. Very well done.


I'll try to reply to comments as time permits.