Who decides? The dice
i think the more complex and important ethical questions are the ones where there are conflicts of rights. Abortion, gun control, immigration – and so it is here on the commune.
One of the situations which has come up several times recently is “Who gets to decide who moves into an empty slot in a building, when a member leaves?” For a long time, the way most residences in the community dealt this was a simple waiting list. Waiting lists use a first come first serve sequence. This maximizes the power of the individual, who, if they are responsible or good at forecasting their needs, simply puts their name on the list. When a slot becomes available it is offered to them and if they dont want it, they either drop off the list or to the bottom of it, depending on whether they want to be asked again in the future.
What has been happening more recently is that the residences have been deciding they want to have more control over who lands in their building. Just signing onto a waiting list is insufficient process. What Tupelo (where i nominally live) just decided to do was to ditch the waiting list. Instead we are asking who ever is interested in living in the building to sign up and then select amongst those candidates. Central to the thinking is that the house has a culture and a spirit and we hope to select someone who will foster those values.
This shifts power away from individual and to the household. Which might seem like a small or reasonable thing, except that in an egalitarian community we try to give everyone as equal access to resources as possible and this includes rooms. So if you are going to lose a popularity contest every time you want to move into a residence, this can be hurtful. Even worse, if there is someone in that residence who does not like you, you can find yourself passed over and over adding to your sadness and disappointment.
When Tupelo decided to get ride of our waiting list, Ethan decided to right some thought provoking questions for us to help us select new members. These included things like their relationship with kids (since Tupelo is one the “kid friendly” buildings in the community). Ethan suggested we consider that the building is mostly “low drama/low process” and that we might want to keep it that way. He asked us to consider community wide variables not just compressing down to “which candidate do we like best personally”.
Then something curious happened. Immediately after Tupelo ditched its waiting list and gave itself the power to select from all the interested candidates, we did not do it. Instead what we did was discuss all the candidates, went thru Ethan’s thoughtful questions about each one and then decided that all of them were acceptable. So we chose one at random. Which happened to be Joanna.
So much for popularity contests.