Zadek and i are the two cross overs. The younger home schooling program at Twin Oaks is called Unicorns. Kid as young as Elan from Acorn (age 1) come and as old as Zadek (7?). There is a lot of sandbox, drawing and playing-with-toys time as well as read-aloud books, words for the day and simple reading & writing exercises. Christie (an accepted Acorn visitor who has not arrived yet) put it most flatteringly.
I’ve been to dozens of pre-schools and day care situations, Unicorns is the only one which is doing it right.
Heroes is the fantasy role playing home education system that i am the games master of. I play this game with Zadek, Kaya, Evan, Willow and Rowan (ages 7 thru 17). They adventure similarly to a Dungeons and Dragons game, but when they role poorly for the outcome of an event, they can get another role by answering a question right. In the last game, Rowan’s character (Pesca the fallen god) actually died because Willow did not know what the Prohibition was (Evan did, but that was not enough to save him). Kaya’s character (named Sapphyre) was about to be married to Pesca, so she followed him to heaven so they could hang there. It is that kind of game.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest] (Past homeschool mom of 2 daughters from birth until they entered college.)
Nicole posted this classic Libertarian graphic
When i saw this i smiled briefly, thought about the places where libertarians and anarchists agree (getting rid of as much government as possible) and places where we miss each other (like personal nuclear weapons).
But then i thought, if i were going to write this list – without an endless stream of caveats, what would be on it. This is what i came up with:
1) National Park System – This is an extensive network of lands which are mostly not being developed and are mostly available for us by the people of the nation.
2) Food Stamps – 44 million US americans use this program to supplement their diets. 92% of the funds go directly to program. This program has largely succeeded in reducing malnutrition and hunger.
3) The interstate highway system – which handles 1/4 of all the nations traffic despite being less than 1% if it’s roadway. The safety upgrades over the old two lane system has saved hundreds of thousands of lives and countless hours of travel time.
4) Public Health Programs. A variety of programs run by national, state and local Public Health departments have greatly improved the health of most Americans. For example, the scourges of polio, cholera, and smallpox have been effectively eradicated from this country – a huge achievement.
5) Clean Water and Clean Air Programs. America’s water and air are significantly cleaner than they were in the 1960s. The levels nitrogen dioxide, smog, sulfur dioxide, and lead – have been reduced by an average of 53%. The quality of the air has significantly increased in virtually every metropolitan area in the U.S. The Clean Water act has been similarly successful. In 1972, when it passed only one-third of the nation’s waterways were safe enough for fishing or swimming. Today that has doubled to two-thirds.
6) Student Financial Aid Programs. These programs have worked to remove financial barriers for students and thus create more equal opportunity in higher education. They have been a major factor in producing the rapid increases in college enrollment seen in the last 50 years, and they have also contributed to the increasing class and racial diversity of the college population.
7) Social Security and Medicare. Without these two government programs, growing old would be hell for many Americans. Before Social Security and Medicare, millions of the elderly were doomed to spend their retirement years in poverty and illness. Social Security has cut the rate of poverty for the elderly by over half – from 29% in 1966 to 10% today.
8) Funding Basic Science Research. The feds pay for 75% of the grants in this program. In just biomedical science, basic research has provided new treatments for cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.
9) Anti-Discrimination Policies. Since the 1960s, policies like the Civil Rights Act and Title IX have decreasing discrimination against minorities and women. Racial segregation in hotels, restaurants and other public facilities has been eliminated. Housing discrimination and workplace discrimination, while not completely eradicated, have been substantially reduced. In terms of gender, workplace discrimination and sexual harassment have decreased and record numbers of women are now attending colleges and graduate schools.
10) Consumer Protection. In reaction to increasing public pressure in the early 1970s, government began to pass legislation to protect consumers from shoddy and dangerous products. Products kill over 20,000 consumers a year and injure over 25 million more. It would be far worse if the CPSC did not recall hundreds of products every year. It is estimated $10 billion in savings on the health care bills, property damage, and other costs associated with these defective products each year.
As a card-not-carrying anarchist i can talk about every one of these programs and the myriad of failings which have been made and how it could be done better [please don't waste my comment space repeating your freak out "But the interstate program promotes terrible cars!" - completely boring]. Like most anarchists, i would like to live with out oppressive institutions like governments.
But i am a realist also. Any of these programs is preferable to more weapons systems or tax breaks for the rich. If there is going to be government, there are lots of things i would rather them do, like the services listed above and more. Much of this list was lifted from this article on these and other positive things government has done.
Commune politics around coffee is complex. For starters, coffee is addictive. Coffee is also not especially healthy for you. It is (in the commune economy) expensive. It is not universally desired (perhaps 1/3 of the members of Twin Oaks drink it – wild estimate). Yet, coffee improves worker productivity. Coffee also makes many workers happy.
My very first political controversy in the community was about coffee (i was blissfully on the sidelines of this one). At the time the community was spending $8K a year on coffee and it is it’s own budget item. It was my first year (1998) and the community ran its democratic budgeting exercise called the trade-off game. Members got to prioritize the items they wanted with the forecasted labor and money budgets. The last item popularly chosen by the group was coffee, only it was selected when we only had $4K left in the budget.
So the planners at the time decided that they would solve this problem by simply having coffee for the first half of the year and then stop. Someone forgot to inform them that coffee is a highly addictive substance. It is not the case that only half of the community drinks the stuff. But it is certainly the case that well over half the community either drinks coffee OR is intimately affected by the mood of a community coffee drinker.
An override was circulated (this is like a binding petition) and the planners coffee ban was overturned in 3 days – the fastest override i have seen in my 15 years at Twin Oaks.
For some years coffee has not been universally available at Twin Oaks. Unlike almost everything else which is distributed on the commune and given freely to all members, coffee is taxed. Coffee is dispensed at the hammock shop and at the wood shop which works on hammock spreaders and hanging chair frames. The coffee is provided by the hammocks business as an incentive for workers in these areas to come in and be productive. Technically, you should be working in the hammock or wood shop to be drinking this coffee.
But this accounting trick is not lost on some members. What does it mean that the hammock business buys the coffee in the context of an income sharing egalitarian community? Not much actually. It is all of our monies, why should hammocks managers (of which i have been one) get to decide how much is spent on coffee and who gets to drink it?
So some people, who don’t work in these areas breeze into the hammock shop and take a cup of coffee. And thus the confusion around this dark dreamy drug lingers.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
There is only one person ever who has won the Nobel Peace Prize, Order of Lenin (the highest honor of the Soviet Union) and the US Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the US). And for over 20 years it was illegal to say his name or publish his picture in his home country.
Margret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan called him a terrorist. Dick Cheney voted against the resolution to release Mandela from jail. But this is unsurprising; Mandela was a Marxist. Besides fighting for the end of the racist Apartheid regime in South Africa, he also supported labor unions, redistribution of wealth and Fidel Castro. Conservative leaders were right to be afraid of him.
Nor did Mandela forget his roots when he came to power. In 2003, when Bush was promising to liberate Iraq’s people, Mandela said, “All that he wants is Iraqi oil.” When Bush declared Iraq’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons a threat to the planet, Mandela had the bad manners to remind Bush that the only country to have actually used nukes was the United States. Mandela’s message to America’s leaders, born from firsthand experience, was clear: Don’t pretend you are pure.
I was at Twin Oaks on Feb 11, 1990 when i saw a little note on the 3 X 5 board which read:
Today, Nelson Mandela is Free
I was amazed! Partly because i did not think the South Africa government would actually release him. I was convinced that letting Mandela out was admitting they had overstepped and that that meant Apartheid was coming down. And as it turned out, this came to pass, just about this way.
The Marxist became a democrat (though Mandela had always advocated multiracial and multiparty elections). The political prisoner became head of state. And those of us who believe in the power of hope had a new inspiration.
Rest in peace, Nelson. And thanks for all your work.
Other excellent coverage on the complex man who was Nelson Mandela:
Think Progress: The Right Wing’s Campaign Against Mandela
Think Progress: Six Things Mandela Believed That Don’t Get Talked About
Al Jazeera: Mandela the Radical
Mycle Schneider is a clever guy. He has been fighting reactors longer than i have and at one meeting we had a couple of decades back, someone was bemoaning an announcement that some country was planning on building many more reactors. To which Mycle retorted
We don’t believe anything the nuclear industry says, except when they say they are going to build more reactors.
This comment stuck in my head and as the years went by i watched to observe that it is true. But it is not just anti-nuclear activists who fall for these lines. The media (mainstream and alternative) loves to jump on these pronouncements as well. Like the recent announcement that Russia plans to build 21 new reactors by 2030. If you knew about Russia, you might know that new nuclear construction is highly dependent on oil prices. When oil prices are high, the Russian state has more money and takes on these expensive projects. Oil prices in Europe are currently running around US$90/barrel, which is pretty high. And thus this announcement makes sense.
But when you dig deeper, you see that it is almost certainly not going to happen this way. There is a strange piece of Russia which is not contiguous with the rest of the country (like Alaska does not connect to the lower 48). It is called Kaliningrad.
Russia has dropped over US$1 billion on the Kaliningrad based, Baltic reactor project which it is now walking away from. The Kaliningrad reactors have a nearly guaranteed market. The old Soviet reactor in neighboring Lithuania was closed in 2009 as a condition for Lithuania’s entry into the EU. This left a tremendous supply hole through out this Baltic region. Power hungry Poland is considering reactors, but like much of central Europe is currently buying Russian natural gas. If the Russians are not finishing the Kaliningrad reactor, they are certainly not building a bunch more in places like the Arctic Circle.
Similarly, without much fanfare the Ontario government has just decided to delay indefinitely plans to build two new reactors to replace aging plants there. This story nearly disappeared into the media void. But the story that Canada might sell a couple of reactors to Romania with Chinese financial backing keeps coming up repeatedly. Despite the fact that all that has happened is a letter of intent has been signed. i wonder how many nuclear letter of intents have actually turned into reactors.
The other big media induced nuclear myth is the explosive growth of nuclear power in China and how it should be a model for other countries. What is usually missed in this story is China’s commitment to real renewables is larger than it’s commitment to reactors. China is number 1 in installed capacity in wind and hydro power. While i don’t especially want any reactors build, i would be quite pleased if the US were to prioritize real renewables in the same aggressive way China has.
Don’t believe the promises from highly paid salesmen.
Mycle Schneider and Anthony Froggatt’s master work is the annual World Nuclear Industry Report
i currently live in an interesting place. It is a place where people live together cooperatively, we share things and we basically trust each other. It is a kind of place which the media likes to claim is impossible. i promise it is not.
My first day
i woke up to the sun shining fairly high in the window
i have not gotten a clock for my room
i have mixed feelings about acquiring one
but i have nothing schedule for this morning
Tycho mailed me a color xerox picture
of my head D-locked to the bottom of a bus at a Berlin action
i stuck it up on my wall along with a poem
she wrote about the real Heisenburg principals
and i wonder a bit when i will be a full-time activist again
i threw my wallet into a sticky drawer in my dresser
we don’t use money here
my left pocket felt empty
going thru bags and boxes for other pictures to decorate my new room
(last night, i removed the puppy pictures on my wall -
the previous resident was 6)
i found a key ring with a few keys
i threw that in the sticky drawer
another antique – no locks here
i thought i would weave hammocks for my first work
since we do a lot of that here
the shop was empty
most people had taken the jigs outside to work in the sun
but i wanted to listen to an old Bruce Cockburn CD
from the large hammock shop library
so i slipped one of the many headphones
and did almost an hours work
shuffling my feet to “lovers in a dangerous time”
i e-mailed for the rest of my first official morning as a member
not creditable, of course
E. Europe & New England nuke stuff, fundraising, love letters, the usual
i grabbed one of the many “free bikes” and pedal to lunch
(basically the Am*dam white bike idea, only here it continues)
there is fresh lettuce and strawberries from our garden
(i had forgotten that strawberries actually do taste like something)
i choose the cuscus with broccoli and black beans
grab a glass of milk from our happy cows
i leave the bread and tofu (both of which we make) behind
Hawina and i sit in the sun at one of the half dozen picnic tables and eat
we are surrounded by perhaps two dozen dinners – ages 1 to 70
Sassafras, one of our youngest members,
crawls up onto the table and seems vaguely interested in my strawberries
she is so young, i think it is the color more than the taste which beckons
i play hackisack for a couple of minutes before i split
i have gotten much better since being here
still in the low tier compared to most folx who play here
but respectable enuf for me to feel okay
jumping into the games which spark up
perhaps every other sunny day
i walk down to the courtyard,
because my bike with a basket has disappeared
and while there are others, i have bunch of papers to carry
and there are none with baskets
Deborah is teaching me labor assigning
a complex, elegant and archaic art
which manages to take the requests of almost 100 people
the needs of all of the various business and households
and fuse them together in a nearly all volunteer system
we schedule community meetings and milk moves,
the popular garden shifts and dreaded dish washing
there are requisitions for hot tub dates and pagan sing alongs,
the team constructing the new warehouse,
pillow shop, rope production, sawmill, elderly care
sewage treatment plant monitoring, school bus drivers,
road cleans, health team mtgs, building maintenance, cooking,
recycling, visitor orientations and dozens of other activities
after 4 hours and a dozen notes we are finished
(tho Deborah worked it for a dozen before i showed up)
of the perhaps 300 assignments
only one “serf” shift is unfilled
(this is a kitchen or house cleaning)
almost all volunteer – i am amazed
then i spend an hour teaching Deborah
how to use a spreadsheet
it does not matter that the motivating reason she wants to learn
is so that she can sort songs and performers
for the small library of songbooks
which live in the compost café
our smokers lounge and live music hot spot
we are in the café when Kana shows up with pizza
our cheese, our tomato sauce, crust from scratch
and our former happy cows are ground up on top of it
my vegetarianism is waning here
Kana is a wild old man with a gray streaked father christmas beard
he spent some time in a monastery
i would not be surprised if they threw him out for laughing too much
now he is one of our regular cooks
makes beautiful walking sticks, which Deborah and i sold at a fair
and plays a mean guitar and sings with a gravelly voice
never thought i would appreciate country music
He has come down in one of the 3 or 4 golf carts we have
for people who have trouble walking the long distances around here
while he is delivering the pizza and chatting
Calypso (one of our few dogs)
eats most of his rice pudding which was in the golf cart
there is some chiding and laughing
At dinner small wooden signs mark the pizzas
“No dairy”, “No Onions”, “Meat” and more
i sit at the regular Thursday polyamory discussion
(what i used to call “open relationships”)
the group has been over a dozen people
but dinner did not get promoted this time
so just four of us chat
about the forming regional poly network
and whether it will work on the issues and support
or if it will be more for sparking new romances
Melissa brings up group intimate agreements
as she was part of at another community in NYC
just as the conversation gets interesting
we have to break up
i have a 7 PM movement support meeting
and i don’t want to be late
a video about the School of the Americas (SOA) is shown
(the newest residence has a nice video hall,
where there are movies and some taped tv shows
show three nights a week -
there remains no “live” tv anywhere on the community
one of the handful of prohibitions
which has lasted 30 years)
the short video is compelling
and several communards were arrested at SOA last year
there are plans to go again in November
and to continue lobby work for the upcoming house vote
we spend most of the meeting talking about
which projects we will support with our few thousand dollar budget
which is divided between supporting members activism
and giving money to existing groups
(tho the tax resistance protest we are involved with
gives about $10,000 mostly from Twin Oaks resistors to non-profit groups
but it is separate from movement support).
we cut several requests slightly
but fund most of what was requested,
likely creating a cash pinch later in the year
Marione will do prison trainings for women,
Stevik does tax resistance and gay support stuff,
Ione will meet a conservative rep and bark about SOA
Hawina is interested in the hunger group RESULTS
Nexus wants to go to a conference on communities and space travel
i will drag nuclear issues onto the agenda
we talk about restarting the letter lobby
i mention the success with stopping the FDA’s
proposed “organic food” standard
200,000 letters of protest – some from here
we finish with a quick evaluation
because i am a new member
i can get 2 hours credit for movement support
in the future this will be volunteer time
the movement support creditable hours
are generally dedicated to activities more direct than meetings
i walk thru the darkness back down to the courtyard
for my date with Alex
she is organizing one of the communities conferences
which is just about to start
we talk about using one of the expert outside facilitators
from the communities meeting
to run a Twin Oaks meeting we are having on business planning
she fires off an e-mail and packs up her work
we walk up to her room and decide to lay on her roof
looking at the stars we talk about idealism in the community
i want to take over her job as recruitment manager
and she has some concern about targeting young people
to bring our population back up
(we are down about 15 people from last year)
but most of our chat is more personal
we discuss the rumors
which have started
because we are skipping around together holding hands
but she is tired
so we crawl back into her window
and i realize i have forgotten my Tupelo “serf” shift
so i head back to my residence and clean the house till midnight
with the stereo blasting Ani
i try to decide if these crumpled crayon drawings
are trash or precious child masterpieces
[mostly my art patron side won this tussle]
(one of the reasons i choose live at Tupelo is because it has no “quiet hours”)
it has been a long day
but i am very satisfied
it ain’t paradise
but there are some similarities
Paxus at Twin Oaks Community
14 Bisons in Burma 1998
Karin wrote: ”I am starting to feel like a person who works too much and has become no fun whatsoever… I need an adventure! A really inexpensive one… One where I won’t be too cold for too long… Anyone?”
Lots of people wrote her back, because she is exceptionally lovely company, but my offer swayed her.
I wrote: “We would scoop you up in Boston on Friday, take you to North Hampton, Saturday NYC (and sleep no more if we can get you in), Sunday in Death City and Monday at the commune.”
And it almost went like that, except traffic and other distractions kept us out of North Hampton and we did not arrive at Acorn until after midnight on Monday.
Just outside NYC, we stayed with Teagan and Arrow, , who were fantastic hosts because along with the comfortable place to stay they were engaging company. Arrow is deep into expanding and developing the TriState biodiesel company he founded and runs. Expansion means the network has grown to 5000 clients from whom they pick up used cooking oil and convert it into vehicle fuel. Developing means they are heading towards fuels grown from algae.
We inspected open source 3 D printers which use almond paste as their media shown off by their not-quite mad scientist friend. We fell in love with Teagan and Arrow’s charming kids Teah and Tria, who made it hard to leave.
Theater is rarely done as robustly as the site specific immersive interactive event called Sleep No More. We wandered this set, pondering the Macbeth inspired performance. The performance also sparked several communications about the next generation of theater. Can we attain a high level interactivity between audience/participants and ensemble staff? Can interactive theater be a creative engine for new urban communities?
There was so much more, but stuff beacons. More later, perhaps.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
The middle history of Thanksgiving is curious. I am not talking about the poorly documented 1621 encounter between natives and colonists.
Thanksgiving as the holiday we know can be credited to the Christian feminist Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale has largely been vanished by the history books, but was an editor, activist, author, autodidact and lyricist. She helped discover and was an early promoter of several great writers including Oliver Wendall Holmes and Edgar Allen Poe. She wrote the lyrics to Mary had a Little Lamb. She edited a highly influenced magazine at the time for 40 years (an unusual occupation for a woman at the time). She also lobbied 5 presidents to create Thanksgiving, ultimately succeeding with Lincoln. Her intention was to create a Christian holiday that was recognized nationally, in this she failed despite Lincoln’s highly pious speech announcing the holiday.
In light of this and a couple of days late, i wanted to laundry list a few things that i am highly thankful for.
High functioning body – somehow with very little sleep and a poor feeding regiment i have energy to do all the engaging things i do.
Exotic and complicated family of choice – I don’t know anyone who has a successful poly family by design from before conception. Perhaps they are out there and i have not run across them. But having more than two parents plus a community is the way to raise a child. And i am thankful that this is what my life looks like.
Flexible and model life in community - My community work scene (like everyone who would like at Twin Oaks and Acorn) is extremely flexible. i can run away occasionally for adventures, i can work mostly on things which i am really inspired by, i can do several different types of work each day and generally do. And i can change my work scene if i tire of what i am doing. This is lovely.
Political freedom to dissent – I have friends who are activists in Russia and Egypt and honestly i dont think i could do it. I could not function with the constant low or medium level fear that i was going to get dragged away and possibly disappear. I have lots of critiques about the US, but it does permit me the broad political freedom i need to be a critic of the state.
Affluent class background and white privileged - at the risk of getting lectured by someone who feels like i don’t understand it well enough or am not doing enough to correct the oppression it represents, i am thankful that i don’t have to worry about being questioned and harassed by every other cop who passes me by or the dozens of other insults afforded non-whites in this often subtly racist culture. I don’t pause before i charge through a ritzy hotel lobby or ballroom, despite my preposterous appearance. I get that this privilege is unearned, i get that it comes with significant responsibility to push back on this oppression, including deep self reflection. And i am still thankful for my station.
Every gift is an obligation. I have a lot of work to do, give my good cards. Work i am happy and thankful to do.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]