A Return to Tribalism ?

I’ve been “retired” now for almost 2 years.  Wow!  I can’t believe that much time has gone by, and it appears a window in time for me is getting ready to close.

Because my “retirement” didn’t go as planned, I found myself trying to figure out the next step.  No new jobs were coming my way because of age discrimination and other factors I won’t get into for the moment.  So, I set my sights on finding a new home and a new location, and I gave myself 2 years to do it.  Fresh start.  New life.

But there are only so many ways to stretch a state pension, especially when the state plans on imploding it.  Time bomb’s a ticking.

Shock wave number 2, the price tag on housing has skyrocketed since the time I built the dream home with my second wife.  And the crash of 2008 didn’t really help much because housing costs were so inflated by that time that they haven’t returned to any level close to being reasonable.

I searched all over the country.  Systematically zeroing in on specific localities where I thought I’d like to live while comparing the available services, the climate, if the areas were reasonably progressive, and what the tax burden would be.  Yes, believe it or not, you can really get screwed by double taxation if you’re receiving a state pension and you move out of the state providing that pension.  Both states will tax you on the same income unless you find a tax-friendly state, and from what I could see there are only about 5 of those, three of which I don’t intend to set foot in.

And with the politicians looking at slashing and burning Social Security and Medicare, those of us with employee-earned pensions can’t count on much of a boost in income when the time comes to collect from the funds we’ve paid into for some 45+ years.  The politicians have stolen most of our investment in the SS Trust Fund for other pork-barrel endeavors, and they keep shrinking Medicare payments leaving us to pick up the lion’s share of ballooning medical costs.  Oh well . . .

Yes, the most affordable housing is in places where people generally don’t want to live and where services don’t exist.  And if you find that undiscovered oasis, look out!  It won’t be long before rich people discover it, take over, drive the home prices up along with property taxes, and the original home owners will become refugees, forced to vacate their home towns.  Better move quickly.

So, what happened in the twenty-plus years that had snuck by since I built the dream home that ex number 2 took along with all the cash?  One major thing was that wages have totally stagnated while the cost of living has been relentlessly climbing.  (See my post Balance)  And since pensions only provide a fraction of what wages are, the numbers don’t crunch so well.

But this trend is not just affecting people in my age group or who are living with similar circumstances.  Nationwide, people are losing the ability to afford housing.  The solution, being forced by sheer economics, is a return to tribal living.

There has to be multiple wage earners under one roof now, or there has be a form of piggy-backed housing on a single property where the multiple workers can reside.  I see this happening more and more, and it’s taking on a variety of forms.

For starters, we are starting to see a return to multiple generations living under one roof.  Grown kids are taking in aging parents who can no longer maintain a home on their own or who are ill.  Additionally, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, 33% of young adults between the ages of 25 through 29 are living with their parents or grandparents.  This is a three-fold increase since 1970 and is the highest in 75 years.  These numbers span all education levels, race, gender and religion.  It’s all about the all-mighty dollar.  Who has it and who doesn’t.  And these youngsters can’t afford to move out.

Another form of tribal living I’ve seen is simply renting out the spare bedroom, and not just the Airbnb way for short vacation stays.  A dear friend of mine referred to this as taking in “strays.”  If you know someone you can trust who can’t afford to rent an apartment, or much more buy a house, rent them a room.  It all equals more incomes under the same roof.  A variety of communal living.  Sharing meal and entertainment space and time.

Increasing in popularity is the “ancillary dwelling unit.”  These come with a variety of names including “tiny houses” and “granny flats,” and they can be framed units or a trailer, or an RV, or a modified shipping container.  ADUs can be subject to various zoning regulations, and they may “stand alone” in the sense that the occupier could have separate utility hookups and waste removal.  The common denominator here is the ADU dweller couldn’t afford a larger home on her or his own property, and the property owner sharing space receives some benefit in return.  Expenses have to be spread out somehow.

ADUs can also be rented out as guest houses for temporary stays, and this can be an appealing situation for a home owner that’s not quite making the bill payments on time.  I’m renting a place now where the retired landowners maintain 2 guest houses to supplement their income.

I can also foresee the restructuring of the traditional concepts of marriage and child rearing.  Will we see a return of polygamy?  I don’t know, but I can easily see 2 or 3 wage-earners living under one roof while an auxiliary spouse, partner, or whomever, stays home to take care of the children.  Child care expenses won’t be outsourced anymore.  Who can afford those?  And, we may see more homeschooling accompanying this sort of lifestyle.

Regardless of the form it takes, I envision more forms of communal living as time and economic pressures continue.  This may not be a bad thing in terms of increased socialization, but that’s hard to gauge too.  Will it result in a bringing together of more people or the formations of small clicks walling themselves off from the rest of the community – compounds instead of homes?  Who knows, but until the economy improves for the average wage-earner, I think we’ll see more forms of alternative housing and the growth of interesting social arrangements.

As for me, I’m now trying to decide between setting down roots or becoming a nomad.  Or just maybe I’ll find a tribe to join.  Time will tell.


Photo:  This photo was shot by my one of my Great Uncles in 1928 when he was in the Army Air Corps.  He was stationed in the Philippines at the time and he flew out into the jungle in a pontoon-style airplane, and landed to visit the native homes of the Tagalog.  Over time, he rose to the rank of Major General and he played major roles in WWII and the Korean War.

Links:  For further reading see:

The Great Urban Housing Solution That Has No Good Name
A Record 64 Million Americans Live in Multigenerational Households

Update November 30, 2018: I came across an interesting post today on LinkedIn about how AirBnB is going to start designing homes.  It seems the business world has coined a new buzzword – “Coliving” – to describe the growing trend of multiple income earners having to share the cost of housing.  I really don’t see anything new in the concept except that single home ownership is becoming more out of reach for the average wage-earner and this is, perhaps, driving the trend, as I pondered about above, even faster.  If you would like to read further, check out these articles:

U.S. Homes Prices Least Affordable in Almost a Decade

Co-living 2030: Are you ready for the sharing economy?

Link Rot: As with all links to the Net, I can’t guarantee how long they will be active, so apologies if the articles have disappeared into the void of cyberspace 🙂


30 thoughts on “A Return to Tribalism ?”

  1. Interesting view…I don’t know what to say. You have to love the tribe (being surrounded by ppl all time) if U want to join one.
    Btw the oldest ppl in Japan lives in such communities and it helps them to stay healthy:) so I heard …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You would have to love the tribe. In the US, we are taught to strive for independence but after a century of shifting out of being a an agrarian social structure that had 3 generations living under one roof, it will be interesting to see if the economy forces a return to that lifestyle.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh ok…it’s happening sometimes. Anyway great article:) I think any person want to have home, even nomad & those who living inside of “so called tribes” dreaming about it too. Personally I can’t myself moving all the time or living in the place where more than 2 ppl lol what about you? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Right now, I’m not sure. In my early 20s, I spent almost 2 years living out of my car and bumming around the country. It was great, but that also got old and I wanted a stable home. I had the stable home for many, many years. My second marriage lasted 23+yrs and I lived in the dream house with my wife for 20 of those. Suddenly, I find myself alone, without a permanent home, and my career is over too. I’ve been traveling around and loving it, but it would be great to have a partner, maybe a base home, and then travel from there together part of the year 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ok…yes I think so: a base home is necessary when we r older. I could def live in a tribe when I was younger 😂 but not anymore.
        Wish you luck 🍀 to find your dream-place or home 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great article! It is really interesting how economic realities can influence social arrangements.
    The Asian culture imbues in its peoples the value of so-called filial piety in which young people are taught to care for their parents and grandparents. So, two or three generations living under the one roof was the norm in the past — but increasingly less so. Everybody likes their breathing space, so-to-speak. In Australia, because of the ageing population, the government is trying to instil the Asian value in its populace so as to improve their fiscal budget. Well, they have been successful to a certain extent i.e., more and more young people are living with their parents. This, however, has nothing to do with filial piety but more because of dollar concerns.
    Renting out of spare rooms is commonplace in Singapore, but as yet less so in Melbourne, although I suspect this could very quickly change as living costs continue to mount and wages remain stagnant. ADUs are a less common concept here.
    And wow, a return to polygamy — that’s a frightening thought. That economic issues could lead to people having to change their entire value system and temperament.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! And thanks for your insight. I like the way Asian culture teaches filial piety. I think having multiple generations under one roof serves many purposes. So much knowledge and wisdom can be exchanged. Respect and mutual care. My father was big about instilling the value of family and I was fortunate to be with him when he passed. Now we see economics really shifting family structure in the US, It’s hard to envision what things may look like 50 years from now, but marriage as an institution is no longer as important. Couples are living together, both working, and there is less desire to have children. Money is the driver, and that driver is gaining more importance and urgency as the majority of the wealth is held by the 1%ers

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True, marriage as an institution has diminished in its relevance. But people are still in monogamous relationships. If economics drive the society back to polygamy that will be a sad day. But I cannot see that happening, because women are educated and independent. It’s not like in the old days when they condoned their husbands having concubines because they were materially dependent upon them

        Liked by 1 person

      2. An excellent point. I don’t think many women would opt for that lifestyle, although I could see alternative child rearing strategies where multiple couples switched off on child care and worked together more communally. I have encountered a couple of women over the years, however, that expressed only the desire to have children and stay home and be dependent. I also know of women who are trapped in their situations having devoted their lives to raising children and they have no career or accumulated assets except through a marriage. Society has moved a long way from when it was legal to kill your children (property) and from when women (also property) weren’t even allowed to have jobs or own property. Yet we have vestiges like unequal pay that still work against women having full independence. We also have a lot of programing, some religious, that still teaches women they are subservient, and socializes them to seek out “successful” men, measured only by material wealth – that doesn’t necessary lead to fulfilling relationships or foster independence. So there is still a lot of progress to be made. Also given the quick rise of the Alt-Right (white) hate groups, spurred on by the current politicians in control, it is easy to see how this society could backside very quickly to historic roles. We’re still not that far out of the cave . . .

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Not that far out, or perhaps, returning to it. For some reason, I always believe that things happen in cycles. Subservience has triggered the current revolt we have all come to know as the #metoo movement. But who knows, a century or so from now, if the planet survives climate change, the world could be back to what it was however many years ago. Or, it could progress further still to a period when men are the ones to be marginalised before it all starts over again…

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Who knows is right. I think the US is seeing more than increasing racism. For one, conservatives continue to pass laws to restrict or eliminate abortion trying to force women to have children and keep them in that role, and they have been very slow to combat domestic violence. It would be interesting to see a matriarchal society, heck a guy like me might get treated better – LOL. I’m very concerned about climate change and environmental toxins. I wonder if the planet is past the point of no return already

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing the photograph. Truly amazing.
    I hope you figure out your future soon enough. I know it’s not easy.
    You brought up an intriguing concept – one female, who raises kids and multiple males providing an income. Some societies do it, so I guess it’s possible.
    It really is insane how people cannot afford the basics (housing) anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

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