The good news is that Keenan has started blogging. If the reason that you come to this blog is that you are interested in the inside story about what is happening at Twin Oaks, then you are quite likely to be more satisfied with Keenan’s blog which is mostly about those types of issues. If you are looking for news about nuclear power, thoughts on polyamory, Funological analysis of trasnformative festivals or grading of our events, practical critiques of contemporary anarchism or what the front line is of growing the communities movement in eastern US cities, then you probably want to keep coming back to this blog.
If you are looking for proper spelling and good grammar, well thought out and argued positions on community policy, a rational long look at what make the community tick. Then Keenan’s blog might be a great choice for you. And of course you don’t need to choose, you can check out or subscribe to both.
Below are the first few paragraphs of a recent post he wrote which is nominally about not granting a leave to a member who left the community under a cloud of upset. But really what it is is an explanation of how planners make exceptions to policy (or not) and how we are not a democracy, but something more interesting and hopefully more fair.
To see the rest of this article click the link below.
i like writing about the contrast between communities, because it is illustrative of the choices we make and the different cultures we craft. It has taken me over a year to write about this particular topic, because it was a secret for most of that time.
For a number of good reasons and some poor ones many communities place restrictions on the numbers of some types of pets which can be in residence. Twin Oaks for example, limits the number of dogs to 4 and the number of cats to 10. Dogs pack and thus howl at night, the number 4 was believed to be below the packing threshold (which it seems to be). Cats have a high impact on local wildlife, birds, mice, moles etc. In the egalitarian communities approved pets are budgeted for. And while every pet must have a sponsor who is responsible for their welfare, the vet, food and other costs are paid for collectively.
One down side is that many people have allergies and try as we might, pets get into public spaces and make the lives of people who can’t share spaces for them difficult. i am lucky and don’t have pet allergies, but i am highly aware of how we collectively basically discriminate against people with pet allergies in favor of the pets of some members.
One day when i was in the smoke shack at Acorn a grey cat strolled in who clearly felt like this space was theirs. The cat was aptly named Fight Club, because it was a stray which had been adopted by some of the members and it was above the current cat limit. So we just did not talk about it.
The idea that a public cat could be a secret intrigued me. i watched with interest as the Fight Club story unfolded. The advocates for the cat were quick to grab the first cat spot which opened up for Fight Club when another cat departed when it’s owner moved on from community. And despite the fact that the cat was then (and now) legitimate we kept the name. Good names are precious and this one had a lovely story to it as well.
Late last year, Acorn spawned Sapling. At first it was a residence of Acorn which was not on the main campus. But we knew it was quite likely to become it’s own community, since that is what most of the Spalingers wanted. We agreed on a number of rules in the beginning to make it easier to sell the property in the event that the experiment did not work out. One of these rules was “no pets”. Sapling is now it’s own independent community (and there is a guest post in the offing describing it). But a few months back when i came to visit Sapling a dog ran out and started barking at me. When i asked what the dogs name was i was told simply “That is Fight Club”.
Errico Malatesta was something of an anarchist super star, if such a thing is not self contradictory. Toward the end of his life, he was so popular he could draw crowds in the tens of thousands to hear him speak.
His political career started early, as a boy he was arrested for writing an “insolent and threatening” letter to Italian King Victor Emmanuel II. Many nations would look unfavorably at Malatesta, he was forced to leave Italy, he was blocked from entering Syria and Turkey, he was expelled from Switzerland. He also opposed syndicalism because he believed it created an elite class of trades people. He would spend ten years of his life in prison.
But it is his ideas and not his personal history which i find especially compelling. One of the many compelling points in his short book “Anarchy” was:
Anarchy literally means “without government”. It has taken on the common secondary meaning of “disorder and confusion” only because people have been conditioned to believe that the abolition of government is impossible. In the days when people believed that the abolition of monarchy was impossible, the word “republic” carried a similar meaning to “anarchy” today.
I find it fascinating that the people who control language choose a second meaning for the name of the style of government/self rule that they were afraid of with chaos and disorder, both for Republic a hundred years ago and for Anarchy today.
30 years ago i went to the Arcosanti community in the dessert of Arizona. When i was younger i was fascinated by the dense building ideas of Paolo Solari who was the original designer of this extraordinary community. When i was on the tour, someone kept explaining to our guide how this type of venture was impossible and would not work, they described all the businesses that they personally needed and how they could not see them there. A blindness i would consider a failure of imagination.
Most people can not imagine work environments without bosses and hierarchy. This failure of imagination leads them to think that these things are not possible. And everyday i am at Acorn i am amazed, pleased and impressed by the business which we run that has no managers or bosses, dynamically determines much of the work which needs to be done and still comfortably succeeds in supporting the community.
There are dozens of answers to the question “Who will build the roads?” The fact that some people can’t visualize how this would be done, does not mean it can not be done, it often just means that people have poor imaginations or are wedded to the status quo.
i breezed into commie clothes and got a funny t-shirt which i barely read. After walking around in it for half an hour and a couple of people saying, “are you wearing that to the wedding?” i decided i should go back to commie and upgrade my attire. On my return trip i found a nice embroidered light weight shirt, which was praised by several people after i emerged with it on.
The next day i walked into the Acorn smoke shack and guest Johnny said, “Oh i like that shirt,” to which i replied, “Would you wear it?” to which he unhesitatingly shot back, “yes!”. I immediately pulled the shirt over my head and handed it to him. He stripped his shirt off before a slightly shocked new visitor and put the embroidered one right on. The total length of our exchange was less than 2 minutes. i walked off wearing his simple green t-shirt.
The pitch i made to the PBS reporter who was just here is we basically have two choices: we can learn to share things, be generous and cooperate, OR we can continue to be selfish, possessive, and untrusting. In the latter case, the world dies. Let’s practice giving stuff away in a big way.
When i was in my early teens i thought (for some reason which escapes me now) that i should be more virtuous. i did a bit of research and found a long list of virtues in some book (this is before Wikipedia would direct me here). Having studied the list and being an efficient sort of teen (not wanting to have to work the new virtue problem too hard), i settled on patience. My thinking was this, all you have to do is wait.
Turns out in my particular style of parenting, patience is the key to success. Twin Oaks requires an increasing amount of work from it’s kids as they get older. Willow needs to work a handful of hours now and it will bump up to 8 hours a week when he turns 13. Mostly he is responsible for his homework and education.
For a while time i was worried that Willow would play video games and watch Star Trek and resist both school work and work around the community. Over the last few months he has been doing more of both. Hawina has been instrumental in helping him find work that he actually wants to do. Like helping Sky with preparing lunch or doing a Tupelo Serf (cleaning shift) or boxing tofu or stocking his residence’s kitchen.
And good things come to those who wait. And the big benefit to the more patient approach is that he feels he is making the choices (which he is), rather than being commanded by his parents to do something. And some times the easiest thing to do is the right thing to do.
My favorite moment from this Tupelo Serf shift with Willow was after i asked him to help me spell something he said “i love it when adults ask me how to spell things.”
[Willow has Read and Approved the Post]
About 20 year ago i got a call from Teddy Goldsmith. The British publisher, author and philosopher who was actually calling for his billionaire brother Jimmy Goldsmith. Jimmy wanted to assemble the worlds top anti-nuclear experts and campaigners and fund their best projects. I was happy to help organize the event, and despite not being experienced or important enough, Teddy asked me to come to the event which was hosted in Jimmy’s castle in France.
Sir Jimmy was hardly a progressive. We disagreed on immigration and a host of other issues. This was a classic case of political rap around, where the anti-government conservatives agree with the anarchists.
It was an eclectic, high powered gathering. There was a Russian nuclear scientist who had jumped to the anti-nuclear resistance after the wall came down. The head of Greenpeace International’s nuclear campaign was there. A US energy efficiency expert who would later be selected by Clinton as an under secretary of DOE. An expert in nuclear weapons non-proliferation attended. We tried to get Amory Lovins to the event, who was friendly with both Teddy and Jimmy, but his schedule did not permit it.
Jimmy asked the grilled the group with smart questions. In the end he said he wanted proposals from each of us for what we thought would be the most effective anti-nuclear projects. i was doing a fair amount of grant writing at the time and asked how long the proposals should be. He replied, “Just one page. If you can’t convince me in a page, you won’t convince me in more.” Various Goldsmith grants would fund anti-nuclear activities i was involved with for the following 7 years i was in Europe, mostly projects in eastern Europe.
One of the biggest projects Jimmy would support (not just in the field of anti-nuclear efforts) was his brothers environmental magazine, The Ecologist. Which recently put out a brilliant analysis as to why the so called Nuclear Renaissance was dead. The rest of this post is inspired and stolen from this article.
Globally, nuclear power is in decline. In 1993 it produced 17% of the global electricity supply, in 2013 it was 10%. Nuclear power suffered its biggest ever one-year fall in 2012 – nuclear generation fell 7% from the 2011 figure. And while most of this was from closed reactors in Japan, nuclear generation fell in no less than 17 countries, including all of the top five nuclear-generating countries. Almost half of the worlds operating reactors have been doing so for 30 years, yet the average life of reactors which started operations is 23 years.
In the US in 2009 there were 31 applications for the construction of new reactors. Only four of these applications turned into actual construction. All for of these reactors are in states which permit utilities to bill customers for construction costs far before the reactor is finished, and even if the reactor is never finished. At the same time, for the first time in 15 years, this year US utilities announced the closing of 5 rectors which will put the US below 100 reactors for the first time in decades.
In western Europe there are only two reactors currently under construction. The estimated construction cost in Finland has ballooned from $4.5 billion to $12 billion. The estimated cost for the new reactor in France has ballooned from $5 billion to $12.8 billion. Neither of these reactors are finished, there are expensive lawsuits which will add to the costs and further delays and cost overruns are nearly certain. The proposed new reactors in the UK at Hinkley Point are estimated at a staggering $29 billion, making them the most expensive reactor construction project ever proposed and at a cost over twice what the UK is paying for power, even if it comes in on time and budget.
Nuclear power has always been a con game. With efforts from billionaires and anarchists and the wake up call of a terrible accident, we might actually get to the other side of this terrible game.