No bosses, No sunroofs

Outside of Eugene, Oregon and the intentional communities movement, pretty much everyone has a boss.  There are some acceptable bosses, but overwhelmingly people are, i observe, dissatisfied with their bosses.  The miracle of the income sharing communities, is that we are largely able to run our cottage industries without the oppressive or disagreeable part of the boss role.  At Twin Oaks we have managers, who have labor and money budgeting responsibilities, but they very rarely tell someone that they need to do something.  They often request people do things, but this is not what bosses do, they tell people.  At Acorn we have even ditched the title of manager all together, and things run just fine thank you.

bosses be like

When Occupy sparked, there was much conversation at Twin Oaks as to what Occupy Twin Oaks would look like.  What would be our demand for a more fair and just society in the already fairly idyllic world of the commune?  As we got further into this investigation, we realized again who wonderfully fortunate we were.  “Seconds at 6:15” was one rallying cry that dinner seconds should be available earlier rather than the current 6:30 PM time.   If this is what we are demanding, then things must be pretty peachie.

There are of course trade offs.  To not have crime, we have to give up living in the city,   To share cars together we have to give up access to the sunroofs in our cars.


Don’t even think about it

This might sound odd at first, or perhaps even unfair.  But when we get a new vehicle which has a sunroof in it, one of the first things we do is disable the sunroof.  We do this because if we don’t some member will leave the sunroof open and the interior of the vehicle will get soaked.  So the least responsible of us dictate the self protective behaviors we embrace that strip us of personal freedoms.

This irks me until i remember that i am one of the people most likely to leave a sunroof open.

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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.

8 responses to “No bosses, No sunroofs”

  1. Elania says :

    You speak i believe as as a manager at one or both communities (and you’ve written here you were also a planner I think?), and someone who has figured out how to be powerful in those places.

    When I’ve spoken to many young people at both communities, I’ve often heard complaining about those with power (even if the bosses word isn’t used). Many of the old-timers have figured out how to largely write their own labor schedules, while the newest people often do more of the gruntwork, plus the difficulties new people have in changing policy. And so to me it looks pretty similar to the mix I see in the outside world as well. I.e. There are power imbalances both inside and outside of the mentioned communities, and there are people inside and outside who know how to maneuver and people who don’t.

    I’ve seen countless small co-owned places that have more equal distribution of power than e.g. Twin Oaks, usually places where everyone has been a co-owner for a similar length of time, or places small enough that power imbalance isn’t tolerated. TO being not very small and having a mix of people who’ve been there for decades with people who only joined a few months ago (many of whom haven’t even been granted full membership rights yet) is not way over at the edge of the equal power spectrum, as cool a place as it is.

  2. dhornbein says :

    I wonder what deeper significance we could read into “leaving the sun roof open”…

  3. richard w. lisko says :

    at the anarchist cafe in portland called red and black there is a sign on the wall with a picture of bruce springsteen. it reads: there is only one boss we listen to here.

  4. 4p says :

    We have crime, or have you forgotten the recent arson of Heartwood, or the plundering of the music room? Ever heard allegations of sexual assault after any parties?

    • paxus says :

      There is certainly some crime. I have written about it, including all instance you mention. AND the climate of crime possibility is very dramatically different. If you hear someone walking behind you are night, your initial response – if you have been there for a while, is not one of fear. This is quite important for your mental health.

      And the buildings are unlocked, including peoples rooms. Months and even years go by in which we have no significant experience of crime. In contrast to the cities I am currently spending time in, this is again dramatically different.

      Perhaps I over stated, or was not precise enough, there is some crime, but it is an order of magnitude less threatening and problematic than the mainstream experience.

      And as Abe pointed out, there are other locations, like his communities, where they also largely avoid problems of crime.

  5. paxus says :

    Dearest Elania:

    We agree on many points. It is certainly the case that people who have been at Twin Oaks (or Acorn) for a long time figure out ways to make the labor system work for them and it is harder for someone who is brand new. More importantly, as you point out, especially at Twin Oaks, it is possible to take managerial positions and concentrate power there – sometimes to the frustration of other members.

    And what is also true (as I have written) is that these communities are often champion driven, if you decide you want to do something, you are tenacious and a bit politically clever it is often possible to do it – be it installing solar panels or changing the nudity policy.

    The important point I was trying to make, is that unlike all of the corporate work environments I have seen (which is a fair few, including some pretty groovy ones), the idea of bosses, as it is largely experienced is absent. Yes, there are people who have power, and you may well not be able to do what ever you want when ever you want to. It is not an anarchist paradise in that sense. But the most oppressive behavior of bosses – firing, raises, setting people on tasks they hate or do feel like are appropriate for them. These are very largely absent. People can and do change work areas all the time. Less than 1 in a thousand workers (by my wild estimation) has this capacity in the US.

    • GPaul says :

      Eventually, when you go far enough on the equality spectrum you get Harrison Bergeron. The question then becomes: when does the razor become more costly than the just leaving the hairs unsplit. Personally, I would stop right around Acorn and Twin Oaks levels of equality but it is an interesting conversation and worthwhile.

  6. Tree Bressen says :

    I am so delighted to live in Eugene!

    It’s true IMO we have way fewer people with normal jobs here. It’s kind of the upside to a depressed economy (from long before the 2008 “recession”)–people become good at making do, sharing with neighbors, juggling a few different part-time gigs, going off for seasonal labor, and starting up small-scale entrepreneurial enterprises. We do, however, have an unfortunate lack of worker co-ops. So potential newcomers, please take this as an invitation: Come to Eugene and start a worker co-op! You will find a receptive audience.

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