Ch. 1 - Dawn of Everything Book Circle (Chapter 1 meeting #1 of 2)


Notes From This Meeting

Ken Homer - Pete Kaminski - Wendy Elford - Marc-Antoine Parent

write here, right now

Totem animals, not just humans?

Furries / Fur Forever

Tyson Yunkaporta, echidnas

Sand Talk + Dawn of Everything

"the Davids" (cf. "the Daniels")

The Ministry for the Future

Braiding Sweetgrass

Wendy (and Pete), involved in "Yarns" - between Asia Pacific or mainly Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea as a region and Wales

Bayo Akomolafe - Nigerian indigenous wisdom:


Sand Talk, p. 114: "Yarning is more than just a story or conversation in Aboriginal culture—it is a structured cultural activity that is recognized even in research circles as a valid and rigorous methodology for knowledge production, inquiry, and transmission. It is a ritual that incorporates elements such as story, humor, gesture, and mimicry for consensus-building, meaning-making, and innovation. It references places and relationships and is highly contextualized in the local worldviews of those yarning."

writing style

"i'd love to understand more about the dialogue that happened between the Davids – it makes me deeply curious"

Utopia of Rules

"David Graeber had a lot of humor"

The Democracy Project - And there's always this theme of possibility and that's the overarching term right throughout this book … The notion that we have choice, we can create things, we can imagine things."

Dawn of Everything is very much taking issue with a particularly reducting/reductive tale of humanity's growth.

Human agency – "a huge, huge theme"

The First 5,000 Years

The Sociological Imagination

Also autonomy as understood by Cornelius Castoriadis.

The commons of land vs. private property

Note the non-utopian aspect: No past society is held as ideal. But the diversity is of value.

Concept that our current reality is only one of many options

This idea that we could have a matriarchal society or an egalitarian society? Maybe this is a point that could have been made more strongly.

“There are plenty alternatives” TAPAs -> Anti-TINA (Pete loves that "anti" and "TINA" are anagrams)

Shanghai Ghetto

Towering Inferno

also from Sand Talk, the first, the primal, the original sin for aboriginal people is putting yourself above the land or other people.

Post Apocalyptic Stress Syndrome (PASS) - Sand Talk via sand_talk [the libarynth]

While I was tracking this pattern, I yarned with Dr Larry Gross, chair of Native American Studies at the University of Redlands in California. An Anishinaabe man of the Minnesota Chippewa, Gross has published and spoken extensively on a theory he coined, called Post Apocalyptic Stress Syndrome (PASS): ‘When a culture experiences such a massive shock that it never fully recovers.’

‘The Europe that came out of the Black Death was not the same as the Europe that went in,’ Gross told me. He drew parallels between this event and the Indigenous experience of colonisation. ‘Both resulted in an intergenerational pandemic of post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide and widespread substance abuse.’

Paper by Dr Gross:

Third Space


"everyone has to eat"

"it's really difficult to be able to reweave things If humans have primacy"

second-order cybernetics

When we centralize agency in humans and we view the world as non-living, we create a world that is dying off - slowly at first and then all at once…

Some quotes from Bayo Afokomlafe:

“There are 99 senses and making sense of the world is only one of those senses. Most of the world translates into nonsense and meaninglessness. It’s only human colonization that insists on the line of meaning and saying there’s a story and meaning for everything.  And that is what allows us to colonize everything. It’s saying “it’s our story that counts. It’s our point of view that counts. The tree has no say.”

We are not the agents of change. The agents of change are not us. We try to centralize agency in us, and that’s, well, let me call it a mistake of humanity. We ask what can I do? When you centralize agency in human beings you are basically saying everything else is dead, just a resource to be used and we have to get our act together to make things happen.

My elders teach that the world is alive and active and if you know it is alive you sit down and shut up once in a while

The Enlightenment ideas of reason and enlightenment and rationality are being composted. We are seeing that we are part of nature and nature is part of us. We’re not superior after all.

Notice that our lives are subsidized by the invisible. Until we learn to live and meet the invisible, we will continue to reproduce the same paradigm that we are trying to escape..”

Reflections on Gender and Science, book by Evelyn Fox Keller

Joanna Macy Harvesting the Gifts of the Ancestors

"a songline is like a book"

Massive hyper-emergent social structures building on each other but not in ordered way.

It is a biological thing that the survivors of the wars are ?unable to reimagine other options.

It is hopeful that DoE shows there were many other options - we can recover these and regenerate these - see how this turns out in the end?

The issue of the disappearance of a space between states. (eg of Zomia)

BIG QUESTION: What drew you to read this book?

  • Ken - longing to increase my knowledge of human history - TDOE covers 30,000 years which is considerably longer than the 5,000 years that some of us are familiar with. To learn about how people in other times have organized themselves to co-exist and live in relative harmony.

BIG QUESTION: How much of competition is ingrained in the human brain, and how much is something we learned?

What social orders are possible with the humanity we have? What is possible? How to make it possible?

BIG QUESTION: What is the future of artificial intelligence across the planet?

Jeff Conklin, conversational analysis

Practical Components of Reading

  • whether we read it via audiobook or paper book or Kindle (with its copyable highlights)
  • how/what we recall
  • how we can share
  • the quality of the voice (humour)
  • "pamphlets" vs. scholarly essay / study

there's a wealth in the footnotes

Basic thesis of social agency: we can choose our social organization, and people always have. (And: deconstruct the dominant reducting thesis of historical development.)T

Running of experiments of social organization: is it still happening? (Probably outside state structures…)

The Art Of Thinking Together, book by William Isaacs

Rediscover the Transforming Power of Conversation book by Linda Ellinor and Glenna Gerrard

Questions articulated by the authors at the end of chapter one

  • We will start by asking how did inequality become such an issue to begin with?
  • If we didn’t spend 95% of our evolutionary past in tiny bands of hunter-gatherers what were they doing all that time?
  • If agriculture and cities didn’t mean a plunge into hierarchy and domination, then what did they imply?
  • What was really happening in those periods we usually see as marking the emergence of the state?
  • The answers are often unexpected and suggest that the course of human history may be less set in stone and more full of playful possibilities than we tend to assume.
  • This book is a quest to discover the right questions. If, “What is the origin of inequality?" is not the biggest question we should be asking about history, then what should it be?
  • Rousseau was correct that something was lost, he just had an idiosyncratic and false notion of what it was. How do we characterize it then? And how lost is it really? What does it imply about possibilities for social change today?

Intentions (or Intentions to Intend)

  • ask David Wengrow to visit our group (Ken loves this idea!)

  • discuss this early, and then invite him in later in our meetings

  • come up with (and write up!) questions we would like

  • start a book circle around Sand Talk, and do similar invite with Tyson Yunkaporta


What went well?

  • everything, content, process, people, emergent, the unfolding, slight chaos
  • talking about DoE in context of other books and materials
  • it felt like how humans talk
  • the thoughtfulness and intelligence of people
  • mutual appreciation
  • taking notes - we did a good job of taking notes

  • 125% zoom on GDocs

  • we shared the GDocs screen

  • we talked at least a little about the book, lol – even Chapter 1!

  • the scope of the context from the infinite to minutia
  • broad perspective with high levels of detail at specific points
  • the internalization and externalization of observations and actions

  • I'd like to explore why we think it's just humans who do that, because I think part of our evolution as humans is to realize that there might be other of identities that are not human from whom we could learn

What would we do differently next time?

  • pitch in more to help capture the spoken thoughts of the notetaker when they're speaking instead of taking notes
  • we went a little over time, which was nice and human, but it would be nice to keep in time
  • would be nice to notice and look at the pattern of this conversation, reflect on that, and make sure it wasn't too squishy
  • Pete would like to try HackMD instead of Google Docs, it would be easier to process onto the website, and the participants we had would have been okay with it
  • Need to work on how to include a big, important story that doesn't fit into the Meeting Format; the idea is that this would fit into the wiki website

  • "almost unlimited multi-dimensionality of every aspect of life, and life's sense of those dimensionalities"

  • use a Parking Lot or Salon Seating (this would be a great topic for an additional but separate salon)

  • Would be nice to be able to add Timestamps into the notes, but in a way that doesn't feel disruptive to the text