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The Dark Side of Communes

I have 10 minutes today to present on how communes can help us move away from money centric economies. I love this topic and have quite a bit to say about it. So much to say, that it does not all fit into the time i have.

I think recruiters have an obligation to talk about the shadow sides of the things they are promoting. Here is the slide i did not have time for on the disadvantages of commune life in general.

  • Press your buttons
  • Sharing work, home, and money with a large group can be intense
  • Less autonomy (health care, kid care, snap long distance trips)
  • Less Privacy
  • Romantic breakups can be harder
  • Insular – reduced access to urban culture
  • Small social circle
  • Dramatically reduced chance of getting rich
  • Maybe shunned by family and old friends
  • No 401k (although there is phased community retirement)

Most of these points are self expanitory but i want to elaborare on the first one. Joining a commune is going to push your buttons. If you know what your buttons are, then you are signing up for a personal growth class by joining.  You will be confronted with this and have to grow, or suffer.  But the second possibility is that you do not actually know what your buttons are, and then coming to the commune can be a difficult and disorienting wake up call.  You could find out that you are crazy jealous and the partner of your dreams is polyamorous.  You could find out that you need much more alone time than you thought (because it had not been much of an issue before, because it happened “naturally”) and you need to adjust your schedule accordingly.  Maybe you like to make your own choices about which brand of shampoo or kind of desert you want, this could require some adjusting.

There are lots of advantages to living in a commune, but contrary to other peoples reporting, we have no illusions that this is utopia.

It maybe better than how you are currently living, but it ain’t no utopia.

My complete slideshow on Decentering Money

Poor Comparisons

I often find people comparing Hitler to Trump and i find it quite problematic.  It displays an ignorance of history that US Americans are famous for and it elevates Trump’s impact in a way which feels problematically inaccurate.  So let’s just dive in:

Genocide:  Hitler is responsible for killing millions of Jews, Romani, disabled folks, and other ethnic and religious minorities.  Beyond those murders, millions were tortured, enslaved, and raped.  Trump banned people from Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, tried (with varying levels of success) to build a souther border wall, and called Mexicans rapists.  Trump sent unmarked Federal Troops after BLM and antifa activists there were a handful of fatalities.  

Press: Hitler’s Ministry of Propaganda closed 3/4s of the nations newspapers and all we under strict editorial control, Nazi controlled press dominated almost all media.  Trump referred to the mainstream media as “fake news” but was unable to bar reporters he did not like from the White House press corps.  He can take credit for the birth of terrible news sources like Newsmax and One America Network, it is unclear if these will survive the lawsuits which have been brought against them by voting machine companies. 

Military expansion: Hitler drove the growth military to over 30% of the total population (over 22 million people), as well as indoctrinating children through the paramilitary organization known as Hitler youth.  Trump’s military growth was flat compared to GDP and never reached Obama’s highest spending levels.  Trump created the Space Force division of the military, which will likely just get folded back into the Air Force where it mostly came from.  The US active military is less than 1% of the population (about 2 million people).

Homophobia:  Hitler’s Nazis put 100,000 LGBT folks into concentration camps, destroyed scholarly work on sexuality and banned gay organizations and burned progressive sexual institutions.  Trump banned new transgender soldiers joining the military, and appointed anti marriage equality supreme court justices.  Biden reversed the transgender ban on his first day as president.  Trump’s supreme court is his most lasting legacy.  

Dictatorship:  Hilter’s party took complete control of the government, all other political parties were disbanded and outlawed.  The Nazi’s ruthlessly killed hundreds of political opposition within Germany.  Trump lost the House, the Senate and the White House and was unable to get a single one of his appointed judges to rule in his favor.  Trump’s supporters’ assault on the Capitol was uncoordinated, fanciful, ill conceived, and destined to failure.  Hitler burned their Capitol and pinned it on the communists and used that to seize power.   Trump got crowds to chant “lock her up”, Hitler did it.

Fascism:  Hitler seized control of the entire industrial infrastructure of Germany, this is what fascism used to mean.  Trump claimed to be a businessman and capitalist.  He moved resources away from the government and towards corporations and established wealth.  Hitler built a ruthless, dedicated and effective secret police network.  Trump diminished the power of his intelligence services by regularly replacing their heads and firing generals he did not like.

Military Action:  Hitler invaded 20 countries.  Trump bombed Syria and assassinated an Iranian General.  Trump withdrew the US from support of the Kurds in Syria and started the withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Trump supported proxy wars in Yemen and Palestine.  

Death:  Google sez: “Some 75 million people died in World War II, including about 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians, many of whom died because of deliberate genocide, massacres, mass-bombings, disease, and starvation.” Without Hitler as the charismatic leader of the Nazi party, that probably would not have happened.  Trump can take significant responsibility for spikes in mass shootings and racist police killings and assaults, the murders and suicides associated with Jan 6th failed insurrection, unnecessary starvation and abuse on the southern border..

As terrible as Trump was, Hitler was a whole different class of monster. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is world-war-2-deaths-to-a-country-population-percentage.png

Minimizing the impact of Hitler by comparing it to Trump’s antics is something someone from the US is more likely to do than someone from Europe or Asia.

What is important and similar in these men is that they both succeeded in driving a significant fraction of their population into doing destructive, damaging things, which are not in their best interests.  He held rallies which, visually and content-wise, bear some similarities to rallies in Nazi Germany.  QAnon has not gone away, the Proud Boys are seeing a spike in recruitment.  Nor is the 2020 election defeat of Trump anything like the 1945 demise of Hitler, this threat is active and must be addressed.

Like Hitler til the end, Trump has not significantly been held responsible for his failures and crimes.  Recent raids on Giuliani will put tremendous pressure on him to flip on the former president. Trump may yet face the music.

Edit help from Angie Tupelo

A Convenient Catastrophe

I remember as a young child when the first remote controls for televisions came out.  I found it a curious device, we had managed to change channels on the television quite happily without this device, which seemed to be destine to get lost or crushed or run out of batteries.  I imagined it would not be popular and fade away, like 8 track tapes.  And to be clear on the the period in time, there were only a few TV stations and cable was decades away.

remote control.jpg

I was tremendously wrong.  And one of the things which typifies especially US american behavior is we have a slaving devotion to convenience.  Many will, for example, stream the same song repeatedly, rather than download it – because streaming is easier.  And we assume we will always have the internet when we need it.

Everyday many people watch the light rail fly past as they sit alone in their cars in rush hour traffic, because it is more convenient to take your own car, more convenient to not bother car pooling, more convenient to leave work at the same time 90% of the workforce is leaving work (it would be inconvenient to change my schedule to avoid rush hour).  We pay in time and money for this type of convenience.

train zips past rush hour.jpg

Cars are just more convenient

Turns out, pandemics are crazy inconvenient.  What if you should want a haircut?  Or to defund the police in a mass non-violent movement?  What if you want to have an indoor rally crammed with supporters who are discouraged from wearing face masks?

we demand haircuts

Kill for fashion

And this inconvenience is most of why the coronavirus is going to hit the US harder than any other country.  Yes, we have terrible leadership, especially at the Federal level.  But the information is now out there, you can try to blame the president who suggests you inject bleach.  But you don’t trust him for anything else, so this seems a weak excuse.  Are we really washing our hands enough?  I fear not.

Covid-Herd-Immunity-Fest.jpg

The event which made me realize our chances of survival were seriously diminished was the “Covid Herd Immunity Fest” in Ringle Wisconsin.  This event coming in a few short weeks will host 2500 people in an outdoor space designed to hold 10K.

When I first heard of this event i thought to myself “I don’t think that is going to work”.  I did not know exactly how, but it was clearly too bold.  And indeed, this event has had a rough ride.  Two of the originally scheduled bands have dropped out of the event, one explicitly because of the festivals name.

The festival has changed it’s name, but what appears clear is the event – with it’s version of social distancing will take place.  Sadly, it is not enough for us to say “well, I don’t like it so I will simply not attend.”  The hospital that may fill because of this type of event, may be your own.

Covid Herd Immunity Fest Banner

It is not called this anymore, but the message still lingers

I use remotes to control televisions these days, and I use face masks whenever I am near strangers (a technology I am forecasting will be increasingly popular).  But I fear that this joke about herd immunity will become a tragic reality.

 

Tulsa is calling Hackers

[Readings for white readers:  It is Juneteenth, the 155th anniversary of the announcement that slaves were legally freed in Texas.  Here is what some black leaders think of this event this year.  Tulsa also just remembered the 99th anniversary of the Burning of Black Wall Street which killed hundreds of blacks, interned over 6000 in camps and rendered homeless 10,000 blacks in one of the most violent acts of white supremacy in this countries history.  A history which until recently was hidden.  

The best primer for white people on race I have found is complied by Michael Caloz.]

In a surprisingly reckless act, the President is inviting 19,000 people to Tulsa for his first campaign rally.  This event is to be done without social distancing and without masks, dramatically increasing the chance of spreading the coronavirus to participants.  Hundreds of Tulsa health professionals have petitioned the mayor to cancel it.

trump virus cartoon

The Trump campaign is requiring people who go to the event to click on a liability waiver which absolves the campaign of responsibility if they get infected.   But there are questions about whether this type of liability waiver will actually protect the campaign.  This is from the LA Times:

According to Timothy D. Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University College of Law, the courts have imposed three basic limits on liability waivers. First, you can’t assume risks you don’t know about; second, you have to assume the risk voluntarily; and third, the waiver has to be consistent with public policy.

It is the last limit which seems the most important to me.  There are still bans on gatherings of over 50 people in many places (though likely not Oklahoma) and the CDC identifies the highest risk for gatherings as:

Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area. 

choir spreading covid

How is a campaign rally like a choir practice?

This is where the hackers come in.  What if someone could get a hold of the names and contact information of the 19,000 people who attended this event?  What if a month after the event you were to contact those people and ask if they had been infected by the virus?  What if some lawyers filed a class action suit on behalf of these survivors or victims’ families?

There is quite some chance that this would not work, despite liability waivers often not being respected by the courts.  But even if the court challenge failed, perhaps it would influence the attendance at the up coming planned rallies in Florida, North Carolina and Arizona which are the spots for the next Trump rallies.

 

 

Finding your Origin Myth

I am facilitating an online workshop on how to tell your own origin story. It is on zoom on Monday June 15 7 PM Eastern time and here is the event link on Facebook. [If you would prefer email me at paxus@twinoaks.org] There is a donation requested, which is going to front line activists in Minneapolis.

I want to disspell a myth about origin myths. An origin myth need not be part of your early life.  In fact regardless of your age, the pandemic or the Floyd Uprising might be the center of your personal Origin Myth.

Your origin myth is it is a story that helps other people understand both an important life  transformation as well as something about the trajectory you want to be going in.  An origin myth is the truth based story you might offer when someone you were excited about connecting with asked you to tell them about yourself.  And you could have more than one.

My origin myth is about a train ride and a curious character.  And about how i became a story teller.

When considering your origin myth review events which have most shaped you into being the who you are and especially the parts of yourself that are helping you to be who you want to be. But a good origin myth is not completely true, it gives you room to be a bit better than you really are or were, it is supposed to be an inspirational tale. This gives you license to polish the characters, including yourself.

Don’t let accuracy get in the way of a good story

In this two hour workshop we will share rough origin stories and likely break into small groups for everyone to tell their story and get some constructive feedback from other participants.  I’ve never done this workshop before, so it might be a bit rough, nor have i ever done breakout groups on zoom, hopefully i will figure that part out by Monday.  

There is a requested donation for this workshop, with 100% of the money going to front line POC activists in Minneapolis working on the uprising that city has sparked.  

To get the link to the zoom event, you have to RSVP on the Facebook page or email me.

 

June is the Floyd Uprising

Perhaps my first critical lesson in the politics of language was the difference between a riot and an uprising. Riots happen all the time, crowds get violent when their team wins or loses, groups destroy property for a bevy of reasons, righteous, impulsive or perhaps simply drunk.

Uprisings are potentially going somewhere. Uprisings are the building blocks for revolutions and other kinds of political change, small or large. Uprisings are when injustice hits a flash point and people say “no more” in a way that might put a police car or a city into flames.

Early map of the George Floyd Uprising – Source Healthyfrog.com

The best piece on the complexity of this situation was summarized by Will Stenberg and includes this thinking on judgement of the protests:

I am uncomfortable saying, as some of my fellow leftists do, that a situation this complicated is GOOD, and I refuse to say, with centrists, that it is bad or wrong. The only thing I know is that it is INEVITABLE. And it’s not new. American cities burn every couple of generations because America has not learned to respect its black citizens.

It is no longer true that only winners write history, now anyone can. Part of writing it is to give it names and i am calling the month of June 2020 the George Floyd Uprising, because that is what it looks like today and that is what i want. Of course, i want it to go on longer than this month, but a month of sustained political protest could transform the national political process.

Minneapolis May 29, 2020

Tonight there are more peaceful protests than altercations nationally, but the president is threatening to deploy the army within the country.

Facebook anarchist collective simulator

The corona virus lock down has exploded a number of social media destinations. One of these which i have been enjoying in small doses is the private Facebook group with the long winded name:

a group where we all pretend to live in an anarchist collective together

Here is an example of the content.

What is especially fun about this group (which you can join freely) is that many of the posts are right on quotes from actual community life and a whole bunch more are easy to imagine in places where things have comically gone wrong.

There are over 4K people on this group, having more than doubled in the last couple months. There is lots of traffic on it everyday, so i would recommend getting notifications only when your friends post.

There are other lovely parodies of commune life. My personal favorite is the Hollywood B-grade comedy is

Wandlust.

If you have a favorite, put it in the comment section of this blog for others to enjoy.

MiniQuink – March 21 Cville Ecovillage

hoop festival

Stolen from festivalfire.com

QuinkFest 2020 will be between July 30 and Aug 2 in Louisa, Virginia.  But well before then there will be single day free events called “MiniQuinks”.  The next one is at the Center for Healthy Living in Cville on the upcoming solstice – March 21st.

The MiniQuink is the afternoon part of this all day event  [Here is the full event schedule].  The first event MiniQuink is a Temple of Oracles.

eye in hand minimal

A beautifully decorated space hosts a collection of talented volunteer readers and several different tools including runes, tarot cards and I Ching coins.  Before you get dismissive of oracles, i would encourage you to read this insightful paragraph from the preface to the Book of Runes.

Remember that you are consulting an Oracle rather than having your fortune told. An Oracle does not give you instructions as to what to do next, nor does it predict future events. An Oracle points your attention towards those hidden fears and motivations that will shape your future by their unfelt presence within each present moment. Once seen and recognized. These elements become absorbed into the realm of choice. Oracles do not absolve you of responsibility for selecting your future. But rather direct your attention towards those inner choices that may be the most important elements in determining that future.

runes

6 PM Inflammable Art Workshop

Many gatherings and festivals are burning effigies as part of their rituals and celebrations.  But these burns require careful design and an understanding of fire to be both beautiful and well paced.  This hands on workshop will cover a range of fire related topics from building campfires, pyrotechnic sculptures and even fires that float on water.  Participants will learn about and build fire art creations.

The workshop lasts about 2 hours, bring non-toxic things you are excited about burning as part of your sculpture or camp fire.

Burning efigy

Last inflammable Art Workshop

 

Presenter Bio:  Jason Taylor is a local maker, fire artist and teacher.  He and his talented son Anthony live in the greater orbit of Cambia Community.

8 PM Story Telling Workshop

What are key principles of compelling storytelling?  This workshop explores these axioms including “Tell the story your audience wants to hear”

horses in hair

Where does your imagination take you?

Perhaps half of this workshop is listening to example stories as well as stories of the other participants.  You will get to practice telling a short personal story as well as examine what makes an engaging tale.

No experience necessary, both workshops and the Temple of Oracles are open to kids and adults and are free of charge.

 

 

 

Vacancies in Paradise (big asterisk)

[Update July 2021:  Twin Oaks is again accepting visitors for membership m now.  Please go to the Twin Oaks Official Website   for the latest updates. Twin Oaks no longer has a waiting list.]

For most of the last 9 years there has been a waiting list at Twin Oaks. It is now gone.

raspberrys-offered.jpg
Welcome, have some of these!

People seek explanations for why we dropped down into the mid 80s of adults, when we had been at our population cap of 92 for so long. There is no single reason.

But because there are now spaces available to people who come to do the visitor period, it is worth reviewing why it might be a good time to ditch your mainstream life and consider living in a full service commune.

No Bosses: Our managers are nothing like your manager. They don’t generally fire people, they don’t determine raises or promotions. Instead they organize trainings and make sure the needed materials are available and the machines are functioning properly. Every one of our ‘managers’ also works on the production line. Because all jobs are volunteer, managers who exploit their co-workers find themselves lonely. This drives the MBAs a bit crazy.

collectivism worth fighting for

No Money: Can you imagine going through your day and not touching cash or credit cards? The commune strives to and largely succeeds in providing all the things people need outside the conventional money system. Food, housing, clothing, medical services, education, and entertainment are distributed freely and fairly. You work your quota (currently 42 hours a week) and all your needs are met.

without-money1

No advertising: Transformative festivals like Burning Man make a big deal out of being non-commercial and largely advertisement free. For many attendees the break from the constant onslaught of commercial images and invitations to buy things, most of which you don’t want, is a big relief. But you can’t live at these festivals. You can live at Twin Oaks, where if you stay off the internet and don’t read one of the many magazines we collectively subscribe to, you can avoid advertisements indefinitely.

BM costumes
Commie Clothes is less colorful, but more practical

No punch clocks: One of the other things the boss you don’t have is not doing is keeping track of your hours. In this trust-based system you record the different work you do. Our flexible work system means you can always find work in the hammock shop or in the kitchen and if you want to be scheduled you can be, but if you prefer to figure it out yourself each day, that is available also.

clocks surreal
Are you a slave to clocks?

No fear: What do you feel if you hear someone behind you in the dark whom you don’t know? While it is not true to say we completely escape all crime, we avoid so much of it that some visitors realize the difference between where I live and where they live is that there has been a constant mostly low level threat for most of their waking hours, which vanishes in this prosaic collective rural living.

no_fear_walk on the railing

It is not just what we don’t have that defines us, the things we do choose and possess are crucial.

We strive to be self-sufficient: We build our own buildings, organically grow most of our own food, run our own businesses, teach our kids,  and create our own holidays and culture. The community has spawned and nurtured painters and poets, quilters and woodcarvers. We’ve had folk singers, rock bands, chanters and primal screamers. You can find someone to teach you how to juggle, or program a computer, or deliver a newborn calf. We stage our own theater productions and provide an unusually appreciative audience for visiting performers. We have our own coffeehouses, writing groups, and social clubs.

Twinoaks aerial view
Aerial view of a small part of Twin Oaks

Economic self-sufficiency means we have seven businesses:

  • We make about 8,000 hammocks a year and sell them online and in stores and at the craft fairs we attend.
  • We make 400,000 lbs of tofu.  We are just starting a new line which will enable us to double production.
  • We indexed 60 books last year, mostly with academic presses.
  • We have a contract services business which does demolition, elder care, house cleaning and removes the basketball floor at midnight on Thanksgiving at UVa John Paul Jones Arena.
  • We do seed growing and wholesale distribution of Acorn’s Southern Exposure organic and heritage seed business.
  • We run conferences and gatherings, like the upcoming Womens Gathering (Aug 19 thru 21) and Communities Conference over labor day (Sept 2 thru 5) as well as the Herb Workshop.
  • We sell beautiful organic ornamental flowers.
IMG_4122 (1)
Acorn’s seeds become flowers – photo credit Gryphon

We live lightly on the land: We heat our buildings with sustainably harvested wood from our land. Most buildings have a solar hot water preheating system and half of the newest residential building is off the grid completely, using only electricity provided by the sun, with residents agreeing to keep consumption low and use efficient appliances. We sort our waste into over a dozen different categories and reuse and recycle fiercely. The food we don’t grow we buy in bulk, which cuts down on packaging. We have our own sewage treatment plant, which runs at well-above state required standards and are planning a constructed wetlands. We have 20% the carbon foot print of our mainstream counterparts, mostly because we share things so robustly: clothes and cars and buildings and bicycles and musical instruments.

solar-panels
Installing solar panels at Twin Oaks

We are self-selecting: You cannot simply move to Twin Oaks tomorrow, and strangers who just drop in are politely asked to leave. You need to write us first and link up with one of the regularly scheduled three-week visits, or just take our Saturday tour. During the three-week visit, we orient you to our culture and more importantly, it gives both you and us a chance to live and work together. Then we ask visitors to go away for a month and think about whether they really want to live in our slightly odd and extraordinary village.

honeymoon-surreal
Are you really one of us?

[This is the big asterisk part] *But it is not paradise: There are all kind of good reasons why people leave my commune (or never come in the first place.) Some people want more independence, they don’t want to have to ask the health team for some expensive exotic medical procedure. Some people want more of their own space than their own room. Some members leave because they don’t find the romantic partner they want, or the one they had ended the relationship and it is too hard to see their former partner every day.  It is hard to make enough money to take long trips or far away vacations (our members get a tiny allowance of $100 a month.)

And then there is this resume problem. If you want to be a millionaire or CEO, you should probably skip the commune step. This is not to say that some members have not used the community as an applied university. And we have had many general managers of million dollar businesses who were in their early twenties. But when they ask you how much you were paid at your last job, your next employer is likely to be unimpressed by in-kind wages.

career-path

The real question to ponder is, “Are you ready for a radical departure from what you are used to?” Community could be the answer. And now that there is not a waiting list at Twin Oaks, perhaps this is the right one for you. Here is a recent video by BBC 4 on Twin Oaks

If you are interested in applying for membership click here.

The post originally appeared in the CommuneLife blog.

The Words You Don’t Know Might Help You

Many years ago in the bright Nevada sun of Burning Man, I was talking with Rob Brezney, the author of Free Will Astrology.   He made the case that part of what hampers efforts to build a more just and positive future is a lack of the right words.  He complained that the English language was asymmetric in a fashion that favored negative terms: jealousy, paranoia, contagion, trauma. He helped popularize the term “pronoia” (paranoia’s opposite), the belief that the universe and the people around you are conspiring to do good things and/or make you happy. 

Quick Fair disorganizers hard at work

Activists and organizers, politicians and propagandists will oft tell you that we are in the business of storytelling. These new words allow us to tell new, richer stories.  You want to coin something that is simple and elegant, yet compelling and desirable. A word that once someone hears it, they will start to use it and think about how to bring it into the story of their lives.  One of the long lever words we have been crafting is “quink”.

Quink is the opposite of trauma.  It is an experience which lastingly transforms your life for the better. A quink is a spark, a moment that shifts your life path, or helps you move out of an unhealthy situation.  A stroke of enlightenment, falling in love, finally kicking your addiction to a drug or a toxic relationship- these are all quinks. Quinks can be a coincidence like bumping into an old friend at the farmers market, going to a mind blowing festival, or reading just the right book at the right moment.

Perhaps your Quink is near your Ikigai

We thought we should design an event around sparking quinks.  Thus, Quink Fair began with the question “What if we took the best aspects of our favorite festivals and fused them together in one event?”  Quink Fair! is a celebration which invites change by exploring the participants’ desires and obstacles.   Quink Fair! draws deeply from Burning Man, an interactive art event based around the principles of  participation, and self-expression with no paid performers and no passive audience. From the Rainbow Gathering we draw decentralized organizing and generous sharing. From the intentional communities movement, we bring the importance of cooperation, sustainability, and consent.   We also draw from the communities movement the idea that we are better off sharing our lives and our possessions than taking on this world alone.  

Event Poster

Through a colorful and chaotic mix of exhibits, theme camps, music, guides, oracles, workshops, dance, and your own curiosity, we will seek experience and insights as a catalyst for personal growth and cultural change. And at the very least, it will help you find a good story.   Join us at Quink Fair in Louisa, VA, July 12-15, 2019. This is a 4 day, 3 night camping event, food included.  Tickets are $90 for adults, $45 for children 11 to 15, kids 10 and under free.  See www.quink.org for more information and to purchase tickets.

Bring your spark.  

This article originally appeared in July 2019 issue of Echo World Magazine.