On August 28th and 29 we will be preparing the QuinkFair site. We are in essence running a mini-festival to help prepare for the full sized event on Oct 1,2 & 3. This free event is at a location which will be disclosed to volunteers and is just a few miles from Acorn Community in Mineral VA. Below are some of the things we are working on:
- Assemble Domes
- Build a floating dock
- Mapping/Naming and Sign making
- Tiny bridge upgrades
- Assemble wooden benches
- Decorate the Temple of Oracles
- Craft a Riddle Garden
- Clear brush
Assemble Domes: We have 2 thirty foot diameter geodesic domes which we hope to assemble in this work weekend. These domes have seen many events and the components are well marked for easy assembly. And it is still a satifsfying and challenging experience getting these up.
Build a floating dock: The South Anna River flows thru the festival site and there is a well designed ladder down the banks to the river. We have boats and canoes a many, but we need to craft a simple floating dock to launch them and for folks who want to sit beside the water.
Mapping/Naming and Sign making: The property has a spagetti swirl of paths, creeks, rivers and roads thru it. There will be domes and temples scattered across the space and we need to name and maps the diffent aspects of this temporary village. The outhouse at the back far edge of the property is already called “Back Drop” but a myriad of sites need to be named and roads and paths identified.
Tiny bridge upgrades: There are several simple plank bridges over creeks and a ravine. We need to put hand rails in place and stabilize some for heavier traffic.
Assemble wooden benches: Our hosts have asked us to produce as sustainable an event site as possible. We will have workshops and performances which need chairs and benches. Fortunately a significant number of wooden benches already have their legs cut and bench bodies fashioned. It will take a bit of crafty woodworker magic to make these come together, but we have the tools, the pieces and the fasteners needed to make something rustic and functional.
Decorate the Temple of Oracles: The gazebo which houses the Temple of Oracles pops up in minutes, but creating the right ambiance and specifying the missing furniture and cushions is going to take some more time. You can brush up on the Temple of Oracles here
Craft a Riddle Garden : Beside the hammocks garden we are building a garden of riddles. Some of these are historic and logical (like the Riddle of the Sphinx), some are drawn from fiction (like Bilbo’s riddles with Gollum) others are comic or trivial. Bring your riddles and we will decorate this piece of the forest with tiny mysteries and revealing solutions.
Add a comment if you want to come and we will coordinate logistics with you. Or you can RSVP on this Facebook event.
This is an ambitious event. We are striving to create a temporary community celebration where we positively change the lives of participants. This experience strives to strike the delicate balance between joyous celebration and transformative self reflection. We want you to have a crazy good time, and we also want you to walk away from the event a wiser, wilder, and more inspired person.
To this end we are trying some unusual things: this festival has homework you need to complete before arriving. We are asking everyone to bring a very specific type of memory. A rememberance where you made a choice and things in your life improved. It could be a little thing, standing up for yourself or taking a small risk. It could be a large thing, like breaking an addiction, falling in love or reaching a spiritual enlightenment. Reflecting back on the lock downs, how are you different in an improved way and how did that happen? This memory will be the core of a story we want you to tell.
Homework for a festival?
What the talented storytellers explain is that the way you improve your story is to often retell it. And this is also the way you understand your own story. But we are often discouraged from telling these types of stories culturally because they are immodest. Yet especially in these extraordinary times, modesty is dangerous and we need to honor and herald these heroic choices.
What event is this? QuinkFair is an event on October 1,2, 3 and 4. It is located in Mineral Virginia to be close to the communes of Louisa county. A festival inspired by many other events and cultures including the rainbow gathering, burning man, and the intentional communities conferences.
The story we are asking you to develop is about a quink from your life, a quink is roughly defined as the opposite of trauma, where after some identifiable event your life improves or you experience a healing. When people share these positive stories we observe two important things happen. The first is that you think more about these experiences and pay attention to how they might happen in your future life and how you might best ride them. And secondly, these are intimate stories of (in part) how you became who you are and this vulnerability brings intimacy with the group.
Beyond crafting a story, we are asking folks to consider presenting about their quink experiences so others might learn from their paths. Examples bondage class, group building with challenge course material, or try your hand with divination at the Temple of Oracles. We discourage the term audience in favor of participant and co-creator or maker.
We borrow from other festival cultures and are strongly committed to both a high consent culture and a decommodified one. Consent culture means we have a shared respect for bodily autonomy and feel safe. For example, one of our the consent examples on the QuinkFair website suggests to “Ask open ended questions- for example, avoid saying “It’s okay if I hug you, right?” Instead try saying “I’d like to hug you, how would you feel about that?”
Decommodified cultures don’t use vendors internally: no vendors, no service fee, no barter, no corporate sponsors, no money based markets, and nothing for sale.
Can we guarantee you will have a quink at this event? Certainly not, but we do have both clever guides and powerful tools to help you find at least where you might look for your future quinks. We also have intentional communities and especially (income sharing) communes coming to present themselves, so perhaps your Quink will be leaving your straight job and moving to a commune in the country?
See who is going from Facebook
Lots more info about this event at www.quink.org
We have a strict “vax or test” covid policy, please understand it before you buy tickets.
On Wednesday of this week the number of kid members at Acorn doubled from two to four. Stephanie and Sean’s two kids, Elan and Adira, were joined by newborn, Tullulah, and Sappho.
It is a big deal to go from one family with two kids a couple years apart to three families with kids ranging from newborn to eight years old. It shows an interesting stability in Acorn, which has long been a culture dominated by more transient young people.
To my optimistic eye it harks the beginning of a golden age, in which Acorn uses its considerable resources to make all manner of enviable things happen here. I’m game.
Fortunately for our insurance rates, a disproportionate number of adult communards choose not to drive. This does put pressure on those of us who do drive, to ferry our comrades around. My dual member status allows me access to both the Acorn and Twin Oaks vehicle fleets, so i am often asked to drive, and i am generally happy to to oblige.
Sporadically, Twin Oaks throws a “No Party, Just Dance” event. Typically what this means is that the organizers don’t want to have to prepare treats or decorate the space and instead want to focus on just having a DJ who provides music and people can rock out. The other slightly curious aspect of these events is that they have very minimal internal promotion. Usually this is limited to a single card posted at the main dining hall. But this micro-promotion does not prevent these events from being well attended.
Last night i drove the shuttle for one these events. Half a dozen Acorners and LEFers (plus one dog) hopped into the minivan and we arrived moments before the party was really hoping. A couple of hours into this event i decided it was time to ask the going home question:
If there were a shuttle in 20 minute and another in an hour and 20 minutes, which one would you likely be on?
I went around to the folks who i had brought and asked them all this question. After two hours of rigorous dancing, they were all ready to go home in the early shuttle. This is exactly what the shuttle driver wants to hear. Assuming you can’t get the last shuttle cancelled, because everyone wants to stay all night, the second best way to cancel the last shuttle is to get everyone to come home on the second to last shuttle.
Yesterday Nick Secret was sentenced by a jury to 23 years in prison for setting Acorn Community on fire back in October of 2013. This is the minimum recommended sentence by the state of Virginia for 9 counts of attempted murder in the first degree (2 years each) and 5 years for felony arson. It is possible judge Sander (who sentenced me to 5 days in jail for trespassing at the North Anna nuclear plant information center in 2010) to reduce this sentence, but he likely will not.
i don’t believe that jail works to rehabilitate prisoners (most just get better criminal training), it is a minimally effective deterrent, and for most of the people at Acorn this does not look like justice.
Fortunately, the defense attorney did not try to put Acorn on trial. Though we were warned by both the police and the commonwealth attorney that they likely would. The reason this strategy might have worked in Nick Secret’s favor was that if the defense attorney could make Acorn look like a bad place, that we were harboring dangerous people (like Nick), has a bizarre culture and behavior then he might win sympathy from the jury for a lesser penalty.
He did foolishly try to make us look bad by trying to point out the peculiar names used in the community. But he did not do his research thoroughly enough.
Defense Attorney: “What do you call Jacqueline?”
Member under Oath: “Jac”
DA: “and what do you call Virginia?”
M: We call her “Ginger”
DA “and what do you call Jason?”
Had he selected more carefully he would have gotten members who we call after Tolkien characters, ancient celestial gods and rainbows. And just because you have an odd name, does not make it right for someone to burn your house down, while you are sleeping in it.
The most fun part of the trial for me personally was when the jury and i were temporarily removed from the court room and i was in the hall by myself with an elderly police officer. He had retired from police work and moved down to Louisa and then decided to take it up again. When i came into the hall with just him he said “I know you”
i was surprised and said “Really?”
“Yes” he replied. “i was working security at the North Anna nuclear power plant when the head of the reactor was talking with the head of the Vermont Yankee reactor. They were both complaining about you getting arrested at their plants.”
I was hugely flattered, for i did not think they were even paying attention. It is worth pointing out that we have successfully shut down Vermont Yankee.
Several people have asked me how i feel about the verdict. My feelings are mixed. I don’t think this punishment will do much other than trash Nick Secret’s life and if i could reduce or eliminate it i would. And it is still unclear Nick is well connected to the pain and suffering his actions caused. I am glad it is over (there will be an appeal, but it likely wont be approved). I am glad it was not damaging to Acorn.
[Update: Rolling Stone has issues a lame apology for it’s poor reporting. And people seem to think this changes much – it does not. There are lots of reasons why, and the best summary i have found so far is here. Thanks Abigail for the link.]
i tend to miss introverts who visit the community. And so it was with Charlotte. Acorn had a big visitor group and i had only heard her say a few words in the first couple weeks of her visitor period.
i had noticed that she was hovering around the edge of a number of the better conversations which pop up regularly at Acorn in the kitchen, or various living rooms or the smoke shack. And while she did not say anything, it was clear that she was listening.
Nine of us went to the anti-rape action at UVa which resulted in 4 communards getting arrested.
The way it is supposed to happen at an arrest action is the people who are risking arrest are trained. They do a non-violence direct action workshop in which they roll play getting arrested including how to deal with different levels of threatening and physically assertive police. You are given a lawyers number, often written in marker on your arm. You are insured there will be people waiting for you. If you end up stuck in jail, your plants will get watered and someone outside will be monitoring the system to make sure you don’t get forgotten. And the reason we do all this is so activists will be prepared for getting arrested, so they wont have to worry.
Charlotte skipped all that. No training, no prep, no reassurances, it was not actually even supposed to be an arrest action. Instead of these things she just showed up with the conviction that rape is wrong and injustice should not be tolerated. She also did not want her new friends to be arrested alone. She stepped out of her comfort zone and into the arms of the begrudging police who kept telling us the action did not matter.
Except that it did. I’ve never been in such a small remote arrest action which got so much press. The New York Times, the LA Times, The Washington Post, the International Business Times, Rolling Stone Magazine, Slate, NBC, The NY Daily News, Washington DC news, and a host of other media. And the University is feeling the pressure. They are talking zero tolerance, which of course means nothing if the system is broken badly enough. But if the current pressure persists, it will quite likely break the institutionalized rape culture which has flourished inside the fraternity system. And truth told, if there is anyway this broken system is going to get better, it is by people being willing to step way out of their comfort zones to express rage about it.
People are talking and protesting about rape on campus for the same reason they are talking and protesting about cops killing unarmed black kids. It is a huge on-going problem and the system in place was relatively comfortable ignoring it, until now.
Charlotte saw this was wrong and stepped up to do something. Now she has my attention.
Charlotte was recently accepted as a member at Acorn. i am happy she will be around more.
[Update: Please read the comments at the end of this post for the proper history of what has happened at East Wind Community in Missouri regarding Personal Shelters. They are the ones who have pioneered it, and the story i have in this post is slightly wrong. I will fix it in the coming days. Paxus]
Egalitarianism is tricky. It starts out tricky because we don’t even have a common definition of it in the income sharing communities where I spend most of my time. The relevant parts of the principals from the Federation of Egalitarian Communities which describe it are:
- Hold land, labor, income and other resources in common.
- Assumes responsibility for the needs of its members, receiving the products of their labor and distributing these and all other goods equally, or according to need.
- Uses decision making which gives members an equal opportunity to participate, either through consensus, direct vote, or right of appeal or overrule.
- Works to establish the equality of all people and does not permit discrimination on the basis of race, class, creed, ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
[There are other FEC principals, like non-violence and sustainability, but these are not the core of egalitarianism.]
So what is missing from this important list? For starters the idea that all work is evaluated as equally worthy. An hour of my time spent writing a blog about communities is worth the same as an hour spent making a hammock or cooking a meal for many members.
One aspect of egalitarianism (that is touched upon in the second point above, but some FEC communities take much further than others) is that we are trying to avoid envy. We do this in part by avoiding the uneven distribution of our collective resources, except in agreed cases of need (for example golf carts for people with mobility problems at Twin Oaks is a needs based intentional unequal distribution).
Which brings me to the controversial idea of personal shelters. The FEC communities provide housing for our members. In several cases these communities are located on pieces of land large enough for members to build their own housing separate from typical dorm-based housing. We call these usually small buildings “personal shelters”.
Quite some years ago East Wind community (on over 1,000 acres in the Ozarks) decided to permit their members to build personal shelters. This resulted in some handy/artistic folks building some really beautiful places. The problem is that these structures created envy. The bigger problem was when the original builder/owners left, they created a fairness problem. Members who had not been involved in the work of creating these shelters could potentially end up in housing that felt much nicer than what most people living in the community had access to.
The problem this created ultimately lead to East Wind banning the creation of more new personal shelters. Twin Oaks has never permitted them, largely because of East Winds’ experience. Acorn wrestles with permitting them and so far has not allowed them. Some Acorners who were really excited about the idea left to form new communities where such things are possible.
The arguments against personal shelters which GPaul outlined to me, late one night while we were driving back from a Point A gathering in NYC are:
- Energy Use/Carbon Footprint
- Psychic Space
One of the things income sharing communities do especially well is minimize their ecological impact. The dormitory style buildings we have share kitchens, bathrooms, living space and meals. This low impact living is very hard to achieve without a lot of people under the same roof. Personal shelters are usually just one or two persons under a roof.
The fairness issue is covered.
The issue I had never heard before was one of psychic space. In a regular community residence dorm, you know you can stand in the hall in front of someone’s room and not worry that you are infringing on their space. The same is not true of personal shelters. The space they take up is much larger than the physical footprint of their construction. Peoples don’t know how to behave around them and this can cause discomfort and confusion.
Do you think the benefits outweigh the costs?
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
I am quite sensitive about comparing Twin Oaks to Acorn. It is perhaps like trying to compare great books. There is so much done right, does it really make sense to focus on the downsides? And i firmly believe that propagandists (like myself) should be vocal critics, trying to make the ideas and experiments they are advancing be better.
So it is with some trepidation that i compare the different systems my two communities use for dealing with problems between members or between a member and the rest of the community. In theory, both approaches look quite reasonable.
At Twin Oaks, one part of the system we use is a technique called the Feedback system. Someone does something outside our agreements (they don’t make their labor quota for a long time, they spend more money than the community provides – creating a debt to the community, or they have other problematic behaviors) and they get a feedback called on them. If someone is in a conflict with another member, there are a number of things which are supposed to be done before a feedback is called, including mediated face-to-face conversations between the people who are in conflict. If this mediation goes poorly, a member can call a feedback on another member and if 10 members agree it is appropriate (by signing the proposal to call a feedback) then the feedback is launched. If things are really bad, the feedback can be the entry way to an expulsion process. But this is quite rare actually, perhaps happening less than every couple of years.
When a feedback is called, a date for the community to meet with the individual is set. A facilitator is selected, if the focus person wants they can also have an advocate. The facilitator of the feedback is clear that we are trying to create a safe space for people to express their views and concerns. Usually, there is some mix of appreciation and critique of the person who has had the feedback called on them. Their friends and supporters will often come to make sure they know that their are positive voices in the course of the community. Usually the conversation is dominated by different members perceptions about what the problems with the focus person are and in some cases constructive feedback on how to address them.
When we coach people on how to handle feedbacks, it is generally about how to manage their defensiveness. When someone gives you a critical observation, almost all of us jump to what is wrong about the critique. This is exactly the wrong way to respond at a feedback. Instead, you start by validating the part of the expressed concern which feels genuinely true to you. You reflect back, ideally summarizing and using different language, so that the person with concerns feels heard. And it is important to say how you disagree (if you do) but not in a charged and defensive way.
After listening to the concerns, there is a “Next Steps” portion of the feedback, in which the community investigates if there is something which needs to happen next. Are we done with this issue? Do we need a behavior contract with consequences if the problematic behavior repeats? Do we think the problem is so big that we need to start the process of expelling this person?
At first glance this seems complete reasonable, especially in a one-on-one conflict there is lots of mediated conversation before the problem comes to the entire group. And this is another one of those cases where completely reasonable is not quite as it appears.
Alternatively, Acorn uses our clearness process to deal with these types of problems. One important difference is that the clearness process is not an extraordinary process, it is the same process which is used by every member at least twice every year. The other central difference between a clearness and a feedback is that the clearness requires one on one conversations with every member of the community. After these conversations are finished there is a group clearness, which appears at first glance would be of the same form as the Twin Oaks feedback, but it is not really. Typically, in the Acorn approach the inner personal heavy lifting is done during these one on one conversations and the group event is summarizing the set of (generally successful) conversations so everyone can get an overview of concerns and solutions. It is important to note that this format is much more accessible at Acorn (which has a population of 30) than at Twin Oaks with it’s 93 adult members.
This process can also be used in an emergency, as with me recently where i was inviting guests in a way that made people feel run over. Plus i had the misfortune of co-hosting Nero who set Acorn at fire. It was not time for me to do one of my regular clearnesses, so we put together one that was principally focused on this particular problem. I talked with everyone and other issues came up and even before we had the group clearness at the end, i was already feeling quite good about the groups response to my mistakes and feeling like the resolutions we were coming to would work for everyone.
From my perspective there are three critical differences here, all of which make the Acorn system generally preferable. The first is that these clearnesses are part of regular life and membership at Acorn. You don’t need to be messed up to have a clearness, though if you do mess up, it is a familiar tool for helping to decode that. The second is that everyone is involved in a one-on-one conversation before the big group meeting. These can be facilitated, work i have done and enjoyed at Acorn. Finally, the consensus underpinning of the Acorn system means members are seeking solutions which work for everyone.