not the work

Natal’ja is sad.  She is sick and cant help around the commune and she feels uncomfortable not doing any work/quota for the housing and food she is receiving.

Natal’ja is Hawina’s best friend visiting from the Netherlands.  A gifted graphic designer and a soft enchanting personality.  I fell in love with her almost immediately when we met 15 years ago. She is visiting for a month.

Our conversation got a bit animated, i tried to explain that her presence and value to us is far more than just the work she does while she is with us. The support she provides for Hawina, the contribution she makes to the social atmosphere in Ta Chai (the residence she is staying in) and even the work she does which she does not count, like cleaning the bathroom is all important and valued by us.  I point out that when members of the community are sick, we take self determined sick hours until we are ready to work again. 

She is not buying any of this. The Calvinist inspired Dutch work ethic runs deep in her and she was reluctant to embrace these mushy contributions.  If she is not making hammocks or doing some other type of highly valued work, she will be worried that she is not carrying herweight .

When i sent her this post to read, a week had passed by and she admits she is understanding on a deeper level what i’ve shared with her. That despite being raised in a culture that emphasizes productivity, there are many ways we support and nurture our communities, that making a friend smile is as beneficial to the community as making a hammock.

About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

7 responses to “not the work”

  1. Rachelle says :

    But don’t you think that her initial attitude is shared by some? I think that this is the inherent problem with living where you work and living with your co-workers: the system, the whole, becomes more important than the individual and then the only socially acceptable means of taking personal/rest time is to be sick. This in turn makes it harder for the truly infirmed to take the time they need to recover, especially for those that are new to the system and eager to contribute. I feel as though I noticed a culture of hypochondria during my time in Utopia, and also during my time in organic farming. Its also interesting that the work culture is supposed to be one of the things that sets places like TO apart from mainstream society, but there is still workaholism and resentment directed towards those who are seen as not working enough/taking advantage of sick hours.

  2. Sara Tansey says :

    i would have to agree with rachelle. and in my limited experience of different communities, twin oaks is the one most strongly defined by work and labor credits. it is hard to relax or allow yourself to be seen not working, at least it is one of the things i struggle with as a guest. and in conversations with long time oakers its been admitted that the community’s social connection happens mostly in the work. it’s a bit discouraging to me that rachelle’s last sentence resounds so strongly. i’m curious how the culture that creates the anxiety gets shifted.

  3. paxus says :

    I certainly see truth in both of these above comments. I have long felt that the pro-work culture at Twin Oaks is a double edged sword. It creates a situation in which free loaders cant last long, it is too socially uncomfortable. And it also creates an anxiety amongst regular contributing members, especially if they have a prolonged illness.

    And it is better (from my never humble perspective) than the mainstream for a number of reasons. The principal one is that taking sick hours are self assigned. The second is the community has teams and resources for helping people with illness, which are not always well distributed, but are often available.

    While i am certainly sure there are some members who feel a pressure to work. There are multiple locations and cultural spots where people hang out and do quite little work, like the Beachside Living Room, Upstairs Ta Chai LR, certainly Compost Cafe. Tupelo’s main LR is complex, because often some people are doing work online, but oft people are using laptops for recreational things in that space.

  4. Angie says :

    I too have a complicated relationship with Twin Oak’s work ethic, but on the other hand it is absolutely the least bad work experience I’ve ever had. While the doesn’t mean it’s perfect, or even that it couldn’t use serious changes, it’s so much better than almost any other option out there.

    And, we shouldn’t rest on our laurels just because it sucks less than other places.

  5. Nexus says :

    I found work to be a little weird at Twin Oaks due to the fact that when you’re a member, you’re always at work, and at any time day or night, you could always potentially be working. Even when away on a vacation, the timeclock is always ticking, depleting your labor balance, so the only way to get actual time off from work is to drop your membership. Since the labor system and the property code are the only things that the otherwise divergent members have in common, labor takes on a higher importance as the vital social glue that binds the community together. At least when I was there, there was the ostensible hours-based labor system, but also an unwritten labor code of honor that I never fully understood. Some jobs were socially honorable (some mixture of skill, sacrifice, and profitability?) while others were a little scorned, and the value of a K-shift was measured not in the level of cleanliness achieved, but by how rapidly the job was completed.

  6. Kelpie says :

    I love these comments — and I’ve never been able to figure out the complex relationship btwn work & self-worth! Here’s a little snippet of Kelpie self-talk: “Am I helping, or not?” is the big question. I’m kind of a compulsive cleaner… where do I stop cleaning? Until you can’t see the dirt? Does “cleaning” mean de-cluttering TOO? Holy spumoni! Am I getting paid enough to clean up other people’s mess? What does “clean” mean, anyway?

  7. Arjen says :

    I have to oppose the generalization that has been made about the Dutch. My experience is that unfortunately the Dutch are very Calvinist inspired, but we also have a history of a socialist system, which makes me think like the Dutch feel much less guilty about taking sick time or taking unemployment benefits than people in the US. Even though I think there are many more “drop outs” from the mainstream in the US than in the Netherlands, I also believe that people in the US tend to be more workaholic. Since I left the Netherlands more than a decade ago, things might have shifted, but I don’t agree with the notion that the work ethic runs deep in the Dutch, at least not deeper than for people in the US. It definitely has been shown that the Dutch are much more willing to give up work for more time off, while that is an absolute no-go in the US (the Netherlands is one of the few countries that passed a work sharing law to deal with the rising unemployment).

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