Guesting – how many is enough?

Some things here are nearly impossible.  It is, in my opinion, unworkable to significantly limit the number of people who visit here.  Part of this is because all of the hundred plus people who live in this community from time to time have friends, relatives or interested associates who want to come see what this place is like.  Control on when these guests can come is placed on their hosts.  Also there are, at any given time, some number of media representatives or student groups or even professional consultants who want to visit and understand us better.

“oh, look at that one!”

So here our contradictory mandates run afoul of each other.  On one hand we are supposed to be a model of how things might be better.  Our bylaws say that our purpose is:

Together our aim is to perpetuate and expand a society based on cooperation, sharing, and equality:  Which serves as one example of a cooperative social organization, relevant to the world at large, and promotes the formation and growth of similar communities:

At the same time, we want this place to be a home for the people who live here.  We would prefer they not feel like they live in a zoo, in which they are constantly being observed by outsiders.

There is a debate raging on our O&I board (our public discussion board) about if we should try to limit guests and how this might be done.  In a somewhat uncharacteristic manner, i am claiming we have not needed to do this for 45 years, so why change policies now.

And i understand i am more comfortable with people pointing fingers at me and whispering to their friends “that one looks like a real hippie.”



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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.

23 responses to “Guesting – how many is enough?”

  1. Ian Mayes says :

    Personally, I think that you should open the doors (and your hearts) to new people. Let more guests in, let more visitors in, let more members in. Build new buildings, buy more property, start new communities if need be. Just open it up and let it grow.

    If you want to have more influence on the world you need to have more and more people interacting with it in some way – be it as guests, visitors, members, members of affiliated communities, customers, business partners, what-have-you.

    The impulse to close things off and to try to make things static and “safe” isn’t really helping anyone in the long run.

    • angietupelo says :

      I disagree actually, I’d rather see Twin Oaks bud off new communities (a la Acorn) than grow it’s own membership. My own experience is that while I cared for and respected almost everyone I lived with at TO, I only felt like I had a real relationship with between 1/4 and 1/3 of the people who live there. If TO was to expand, I’d probably prefer to see the community shift to a closely affiliated village model, with the SLGs becoming semi-autonomous collectives.

      I also grew to dislike the Saturday Tours when I lived at TO. I liked giving tours myself, but I didn’t really enjoy being gawked at like a zoo animal every week- especially if I was sick or just trying to make a cup of coffee while 20 people wander around my living room. I often wanted to make animal noises at them, but never quite got around to it.

      • MoonRaven says :

        I agree. We need more communities like Twin Oaks and Acorn, rather than an even bigger TO.

      • Ian Mayes says :

        I would be down for their being more egalitarian income-sharing communities created. I think that it kind of sucks that there are so few of them out there. I would love for there to be a whole wide variety of different egalitarian communities to choose from.

      • Jason Sharma says :

        If you want a smaller, more intimate community, than there should be nothing wrong with the standard apartment with roommates arrangement. Some people prefer a larger and more campus-like feel that a place like TO can provide.

      • angietupelo says :

        There’s a pretty big difference between Acorn and sharing an apartment. I love the space, shared businesses, land, garden, and decision making process at Acorn- I think it’s as good a model as Twin Oaks (and better in some ways).

  2. Gordon says :

    Who thinks it is equally easy to have 20 or 40 more people in TwinOaks vs 20-40 new communitarians in a new TwinOaks-like cmty? (I like both options but I think starting a new cmty is MUCH riskier/more difficult.)

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Gordon:

      i think the step up for TO would not be 20 or 40, but rather 10 and it will take 2 years, if we do it at all. We would need to build or retrofit a building and if it was new build (like our last two) then we would de-ghettoize some courtyard rooms and make them bigger, thus diminishing the total number of available rooms.

      I am in agreement that starting a new community is much harder. And i think it is what i personally need to do.

      Paxus at Twin Oaks
      28 Nuclear Free Japan 2012

      • Tony says :

        I support the creation of a new community and would seriously consider charter membership, especially if I had significant impact on new member selection (long live Katharina V.).

      • Gordon says :

        I am excited about your new community ideas, enthusiasm, and personal commitment. I was disagreeing w Angie tho I can understand how she feels. I have been frustrated with Twin Oaks’ lack of growth, which I attribute to:
        1. Not enough money — which may change in the next few years. More money at T.O. would likely also benefit new community hopes such as yours — Go Tofu! Soy is Joy… etc
        2. Twin Oaks institutionally enforcing a relatively high standard of living on every one (not allowing “substandard” housing to be be built, even tho there are folks who would love to live at T.O. that way). I’m thinking of some sort of very sustainable “primitive” residence.

      • Jason Sharma says :

        Paxus: I have schematics available for some highly efficient and comfortable underground that can be built very quickly and at minimal cost. Also worth checking out is the container home. Look at this! –
        Combine the two principals together, and homes can be built for far less the cost of a standard home. I would love to work with the commune building these eco-homes, Both for commune use and for outside sale. Let me know what you think.

    • Jason Sharma says :

      I would imagine it would be much harder for a new community. The biggest reason for this being that there would need to be some kind of business supporting it, as to not risk financial insolvency, and someone needs to spring for a house and land, and not many people who are interested in starting an intentional community can spring for that much to start a new place considering that it could very well fail.

  3. Jason Sharma says :

    Ah! Now this is a problem that might call for an engineering approach; Within the conundrums of industrial engineering, it tends to said that the economies of scale favor larger operations. That is to say for example, it is more time and energy efficient to cook one meal for a thousand people than it is to cook a thousand meals for one person, likewise it is more efficient to ride a train than to drive a thousand cars. This applies also to housing, education, utilities, nearly any aspect of life really! Increased efficiency leads to surplus manpower, which can then be used for quality of life improvements. I believe that efficiency is primary reason that communal living has the potential to be superior to traditional living.

    Personally, in college, I am accustomed to sharing a bedroom with four people, a common space with 16, a building with 500, and a campus of nearly 50000. I like having the opportunity to get to know so many different people. As long as everyone has reasonably good interpersonal skills. life tends to go smoothly. If a college of random strangers can do it, why can’t a commune? The world is in crisis now, and more people will look to places like Twin Oaks for leadership and inspiration.I feel that TO should view this as a challenge, and should strive to reach out to people, and grow to handle any increase in demand. Thousands, or even millions of people unified to work together for the common good. Is that not the fundamental dream of all collectivists?

  4. paxus says :

    Dearest Jason:

    What i think about new build (eco or otherwise) is that is it is far more expensive than renting something which already exists and doing some level of retro-fitting. Acorn is building a beautiful new eco business building, but this is the prerogative of a successful stable community. Part of why we want low cost start up (ie no new construction) is so others can mimic the model when they start up.

    People have greater connection in commune life than college, in college you can ignore people who you dont like or agree with. In the commune, you will have to work with them at least some and likely socialize with them at least occasionally.

    But despite TO regularly reaching out, the world crisis is no where need deep enough for people to consider sharing and trust as lifestyles they want to embrace. Almost everyone would rather work longer, have more independent control over their finances and not share anything.

    Paxus at Twin Oaks
    30 Nuclear Free Japan 2012

    • Jason Sharma says :

      I must beg to disagree with you in that regards, Paxus. With a little resourcefulness and some creative design, shipping container homes can be fabricated for next to nothing (relative to the cost of traditional architecture). So much so that it would likely be more efficient to sell freestanding homes for scrap and rebuild with these style homes, Thanks to our current trade deficit, and economic depression, used shipping containers can often be acquired for little more than price of the scrap steel.

      In regards to commune life relative to college life, sure… people need to work together and socialize more, but what is wrong with that? If anything, it is a beneficial trait that humanity has long overlooked. I find mainstream society to be wasteful and utterly uninspiring, don’t you? Why else would you desire to live in a commune than to develop a deeper connection with people and to work together and create a more efficient society?

      I don’t believe that the mass of people live independently, not because they want to, but because they believe that there is no alternative. It is how people have been trained to think by commercialist propaganda. Most people want to have something that everyone else does not, but I do not think that we are “most people”. The challenges to starting a commune are huge, particularly if most people who are interested have little or no cash on hand, as I’m sure that you know. Personally, I would work harder,to have less control of my finances, simply because I believe that humanity can create a better model for living than the current one. What can I say about that? Perhaps we are not “almost everyone”?

      Plus, college students today are looking at leaving school with +$70,000 of undischarable student loan debt and a pretty much non-existent job market, so I can tell you that many of our personal finances are FUBAR. Increasingly for us, it is starting to look like there is no alternative than to develop new social models. It is a daunting task for us, but it is one that I believe must be done.

      • paxus says :

        Dearest Jason:

        Acorn did buy a used container as a termporary seed storage facility. We have looked at them as possible community building blocks. $2K to $4K is not cheap for a large box with no fittings (and this is the low end of range that they are almost always quoted in), even the insulated ones dont pan out economically for collective housing – which is why you dont see them anywhere, except in places where people have some way of getting them for free. Trust me, there are lots of places (communes, squats, intentional communities, action camp groups) looking at super low cost housing solutions – empty containers are not making the cut.

        I dont find the mainstream as much dull as i do find it disheartening and dangerous. It kills peoples spirits, expecially with ideas like “everyone hates their job and their boss”, “i have to make these unfortunate trade offs to make my life work.” and especailly “there is nothing better out there in the world, and i can build anything better.” Yes, this is why i live here, but still often visit Babylon.

        i am absolutely not trying to create a more efficient society. i am trying to create a more fair and just one. Capitalism is great at efficiency, unfortunately what it is efficient at is destroying the planet and concentrating wealth. We can retire from effeciency in many things at a new benefit to the world (energy use being the big exception).

        I think people know that there are alternatives and they dont take them. We have over 250 visitors and guests over the course of a year, less than 15% will go on to live with us or any other community. Most will return to their “straight jobs” or school. We are educating all the time, sepaking in colleges, writing articles, being filmed by CNN and RT, but the message is way too radical, to is too uncomfortable to consider stepping out the mainstream for most people. I hear it is exciting to you, and you should come visit – but dont confuse your desires with those of most americans.

  5. Jason Sharma says :

    How is capitalism efficient? I don’t understand. Is slave labor efficient? It is efficient to pay workers the least amount possible? Is producing for the sake of production efficient? Do you define efficiency purely in terms of dollars? It is a subjective concept. Our system produces great masses of consumer goods which people do not need at a great waste of resources and labor. This is not how I characterize efficiency. Higher efficiency to me, means a better life at a smaller cost in terms of space, labor, and energy, or in essence, minimal waste. If you think a capitalist system produces minimal waste, I would ask you to take a good look at the world, and think again. Capitalism has no greater goals. There is no plan, and no common good. All that capitalist enterprise does is seek to perpetuate it’s own existence. It has gotten so out of control in recent times, that I would seek to keep my involvement with such a system to an absolute minimum.

    A fairer society leads to happier and healthier people, who in turn have more time for creative and innovative endeavors, and make better workers in forming a more harmonious (and efficient) society, if that makes any sense? I believe social engineering to be a science in and of itself. I believe that fairness, efficiency, and environmentalism are all inter-related concepts that effect one another in terms of “the big picture”.

    I would say that 15% of all visitors deciding to move to an alternative living arrangement is a pretty good success rate actually. If 15% of all people who looked at a car bought it, or 15% of people who visited a house moved in, I would say that there would be a lot of people jumping for joy at that. I don’t understand why people would view a “radical” message as uncomfortable. If anything, it should be keeping life interesting should it not? If anything is radical, it is the level of reluctance to adopt new ideas in modern society. Radical ignorance and closed-mindedness is the dominant school of thought in society today! I don’t find your message radical at all, if anything, it makes a lot more sense than the current direction (or lack thereof) of the world today. I would love to come visit. If you would allow me to arrange a date, I’ll inform the rest of the group and we will start preparing the caravan.

    • Jason Sharma says :

      Also, regarding container homes, I think it is an idea that needs to be played around with more. I would say that the primary reason that you aren’t seeing more shipping container homes is that people have a strong reservation against living in a shipping container. I suspect people would look at them like living in a garbage can, or dumpster. The American consumer wants something showy, and something that the neighbors will not think unusual, which is why we don’t see many alternative designs *at all* in the consumer market. If you think it is not possible to create low cost eco-housing solution using shipping containers as a feasible low cost housing solution for collective living, I would like to accept your challenge, and work on proving you wrong! 🙂

  6. paxus says :

    Dearest Jason:

    You seem to have the humpty dumpty problem, where words mean what you want them to mean, rather than what they are in gernal usage to mean. Capitailism is efficient. That does not mean it has socially desirable characteristics, it certainly does not mean it minimizes waste, but it does a great job of producing widgets (and par tof it does a great job of creating demand for widgets). It is good at crushing other forms of economic systems, especailly ones which take into account workers rights and environmental protection.

    In fact the efficiency of capitalism is well illustrated by the investment capital firm that Mitt Romney ran. They took successful companies and bleed them of money by cutting worker benefits and often defering maintenance. And while this is often not a wise long term strategy, what it did was efficiently maximize production (minimizing cost per unit produced) and returns to investors.

    And to answer some of your other questions. From a capitalist perspective slave labor can be efficient. It certainly was more so in the past. The thing which gets in the way now is public relations problems (as we have seen with the Foxconn suicides). What makes it efficient is that if you have access to slave labor you can reduce your costs, which enables you to compete with other productive entities favorably – potentially you can drive your competitors who dont have slave labor out of business. This practice has been central to Wal-Marts success.

    We agree capitalism has no waste minimization aspect. If fact central to the idea of successful capitalism (as it is currently formulated) is to externalize as many externalities as possible and waste certainly qualifies. We have a nuclear power industry in his country, because they have successfully externalized the problem of waste – if they had to deal with the full costs of waste, or the full costs of insurance, they would build windmills instead. But nuclear is just the worst offender, green house gases from cars are another externalize effect.

    Is this fair? No. Is it just? No. Is it efficient – why yes, in the definition which is being used in the business press and the halls of government. We both dont like it, but it does not serve you to pretend that economic efficiency as it is commonly used has some ethical check on it.

    Certainly trains are more energy efficient than cars for transport. But we collectively in the US dont care about energy efficiency, we want to sit in traffic jams, one person per each car, and watch the train whiz by us (this happens everyday on I 66 going into and out of Washington – and many other places).

    Is this crazy? Absolutely. is it likely to change? Not until gas is $10/gallon – and what we will most likely find then is a tremendous demand for highly fuel efficient vehicles.

    It is a bit funny to me that you are lecturing me on the importance of social engineer. i am doing it here, you are not – at least i cant tell that you have from any of the many things that you have written. You seem to have many great ideas and my first business adviser said “Million dollar ideas are a dime a dozen, everyone has one. it is the people who can manifest them that are worth something.”

    We do a bunch of manifesting here, you can come visit. perhaps you can start your own community in inexpensive shipping container homes, and then perhaps i will come visit you (if you are not too far away).

    Until then perhaps we should spend less time on theoretical discussion of what we would like other people to do and focus more on what we are actually going to do to make the situation different.

    I will send you a good date for you and your group to visit, via email.

    Paxus at Twin Oaks
    31 Nuclear Free Japan 2012

    • Jason Sharma says :

      Ha, I suppose it is rather silly for me to talk about social engineering here as a keyboard warrior, but there is nothing wrong with making friendly conversation. 🙂 I’ve actually tried to start a business making container homes in the past, but I ran into difficulty in acquiring a business loan. The main critiques were that we couldn’t copyright houses (so they would rather an established construction corporation do it), we wouldn’t be able to make them fashionable to an American consumer, and that developers have lobbied to have them made illegal in urban residential zones, so they would have to be built in areas that do not have strict zoning restrictions, and not least of all, start up loans for businesses are so difficult to get these days, that hardly anyone can get them unless they have so much money and credit as to not actually need one.

      I would very much like to get a community started in home building. The Twin Oaks model of an industry centered community is a source of inspiration for me here that I would like to emulate in the future. It is quite a daunting task, but one I feel is worth embarking upon.

  7. paxus says :

    Dearest Jason:

    If you want to start home building community, you should consider Missouri, which has no zoning laws outside of urban areas. There are many communities in Missouri – both in the Ozarks and the NE corner.

    Paxus at Twin Oaks
    31 Nuclear Free Japan 2012

    • Jason Sharma says :

      Paxus: If I could organize a community around home building, my reasoning is that the best strategic location would be near a major port. Perhaps the Port of Tampa. or New York Harbor. It is the closest point to where containers are located, and it would make for a shorter route to export. I reckon that Detroit would be the cheapest possible location. Workshop space in Detroit should be available for next to nothing (relatively speaking), though Detroit has other issues to take into consideration that could potentially make it a less desirable place to live. There would be tighter regulation and higher overhead, but the lower cost of transport would make it worthwhile. I have no doubts that Missouri would be a great place for an agricultural community, but for one based upon heavy industry and manufacturing, I would have some concerns that the cost of transport would prove to be a major obstacle.

      It might be necessary to use a more conventional living and work area for ourselves, and sell eco-homes elsewhere, There is also the possibility that since we wouldn’t be considered a private residence – it might be possible to circumvent those restrictions through some creative bookkeeping.

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