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Do Scarecrows work?

During my many years living on the commune, i have never seen a scarecrow, until last week.

Perhaps the shiny CDs make the difference

Perhaps the shiny CDs dangling from the arms make the difference

So I asked recently while I was hanging out at Acorn about the efficacy of scarecrows.  What I did not know was that crows are some of the smartest birds out there, and while scarecrows quite likely will not be fooled by it, other problematic birds quite likely will be.

According to Cracked Magazine (is this a reliable source) crows have been found to make crude knives from leaves and grass and then use those knives to fashion other tools.  National Geographic goes on to discuss crows using vehicles and traffic lights to break nuts and retrieve them safely.

crows scary

, but are still potentially useful for the much larger number of birds, who are not as smart as crows

 

 

 

 

The Propaganda is too Simple

poverty and military spending

This showed up on the internet the other day and deserves a solid D for it’s propaganda value.  Let’s deconstruct for a moment.

Starting at the top.  A bit of internet investigation finds that this $178 billion number comes from the US Census Bureau calculates domestic poverty, calculated based on the total number of people who are below the poverty line and by how much.  [This is from 9.5 million families and 12.6 million individuals being below the government defined poverty level.]

What is interesting is the federal and state programs designed to elevate poverty actually far exceed this “poverty gap”, coming in at $830 billion (in 2012).

The problem of poverty and the money spent on solving it.

The problem of poverty and the money spent on solving it.

So as an anarchist I am not going to spend a lot of time on the reasons why the government is not a good solution for programs which alleviate poverty and not good value for money.

poverty and the rich cartoon

Under the current system we will never buy our way out of poverty.  Not because it is beyond our capacity, but rather it is not really our leaders (both business and political) desire.  Poverty has a function.

The Marxist make three arguments for the utility of poverty to capitalism:

  1. Temporary, dead-end, dirty, dangerous and menial jobs are undertaken by the poor
  2. It creates jobs for the middle class including policy makers, probation officers, social workers, psychiatrists, doctors and civil servants.
  3. Poverty helps to guarantee the status of those who are not poor – “The defenders of the desirability of hard work, thrift, honesty and monogamy need people who can be accused of being lazy, spendthrift, dishonest and promiscuous to justify these norms.”

My analysis is a bit different.

Poverty is hole in the safety net.  It is capitalisms long lever in negotiations with unions.  It is the economic gravity which pulls down the minimum wage.  If there were not poverty in this country, boards should be firing their CEOs because they are not doing their job of maximizing shareholders profits.

This might be a problem

This is a fairness problem

Similarly, on the military side – this spending is not designed to solve any domestic problem, so elected (and often bought off) politicians will not move money which is designed to maintain US control of foreign places away from military spending to do anything domestic. A significant reason for the large US military budget is to insure that cheap foreign labor is available for US based multinational corporations.

To summarize:  Government anti-poverty programs don’t work.  Poverty is a necessary and structural component of the current flavor of industrial capitalism we have.  The US maintains a tremendous military to insure it’s imperial foreign policy objectives and thus will not cut it for domestic income redistribution.

The math is not simple and this propaganda is too simplistic.

 

No bosses, No sunroofs

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

bosses be like

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

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

sunroof

Don’t even think about it

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

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

 

 

 

 

Becoming a Digital Nomad

When i was growing up, one of the most transformative adventures one could take was walking off the land you knew with a small bag and a daring attitude and sticking out you thumb and hitchhiking away.  This is still true, except the clever traveler will add to their small bag an internet connected device.

There is a growing knowledge base of digital nomads and the first and perhaps most important piece is hitchwiki.org.  If you have ever hitched much you know there are places that are hard to get through, good spots where drivers are likely to pick you up and routes to avoid.  The problem is that regular maps and guidebook almost never tell you where these places are.

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state - source hitchwiki

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state – source hitchwiki

Hitchwiki tells you not only what the laws are in different regions but also what the local customs are and how to best catch a ride.  It also has user edited maps of the roadway system, including stories and advice for how to have a successful journey.  Knowing the hitching culture and hot spots dramatically increases your chances of getting where you are going.

But what if you don’t know where you are going?  What if your adventure is not highly scripted and you are looking for like minded people who might put you up, without asking you for money?  Many people have heard about couchsurfing, but there is a better radical hospitality system called BeWelcome.org.  It is better because the people who are involved in it are more interested in connecting with travelers in a meaningful way and less about being party tourists.  While BeWelcome is far sparser than couchsurfing, it is designed to accommodate hitchhikers and it makes sense to populate this democratic and transparent site with new people, rather than continue with the for profit beast.

bewelcome-rev-bw03

It is also worth pointing out that the software developers who created BeWelcome built much of the Couchsurfing site, before leaving the WalMart of peer to peer hospitality for ideological reasons.

But lets say you have no money and want to eat.  Enter TrashWiki.  Another site which has content contributed by many users, it is dedicated to finding food and other valuable things which have been thrown out.  In some cases this is where the good dumpster are.  In other cases it is where pre-dumpster things can be found or where you can find dumpster diving partners.  Better than OK Cupid if you this is your area of interest and you are looking for a match.

Digital nomadism is about using the power of the internet to take a step away from conventional lifestyles and instead trust strangers, rescue waste and see new parts of the world.

 

 

 

The Best Present for a Kid

If you have a Dutch parent, you qualify for the rights of a Dutch citizen.  Every 5 years Willow and Hawina and i go to the Dutch Embassy in Death City and get Willow’s passport renewed.  Willow is a US citizen, with a US passport, but the Dutch are completely happy to issue an EU one, if the parents apply.  This is a no brainer.

The Dutch passport is actually a Schengen Treaty enabled EU passport.  You can travel between all the blue areas on the map below by just flashing an EU passport.

The largest federation in the world

The largest national federation in the world

There are multiple reasons for having a couple of passports, beyond the above listed convenience. The one most people are familiar with is traveling between hostile or warring countries.  Donning a Cuba passport stamp in a US passport can result in a visit from the FBI.  Should you wish to travel regularly between the Arab world and Israel, a second passport (even from the same country, which you can get by claiming you lost one) is advised.

Who says where you can go?

Who says where you can go?

But the real reason i want Willow to have a second passport is that if his life is at all like mine, there will be a moment when it is extremely useful.  This moment will be when he is traveling and some agent of the state thinks that they control him, because they have taken his passport.  Annoyingly confidently they will be leading him off to some undesired destination.  Having a second passport gives you the chance to look for an opportunity to depart from the foreign state agent and make a break for it.

Part of our home schooling is learning for when you can successfully make a break for it.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Paul’s Plausible Proposterous Proposal Party

What do you give to the person who wants nothing (for themself)?  Perhaps  you would give them an idea.  Ideally it would be an idea so novel, funny, daring, newsworthy and crazy enough that it just might work.  This is where i need your help.

So perhaps he needs more precise make up

So perhaps he needs more precise make up

This Friday is GPaul’s 30th birthday and we will be in NYC continuing with our community building Point A work.  I am responsible for his under organized birthday event.  Pleasantly, he personally wants little, demonstrated by (among many things) his willingness to stay in a tiny shoe box room in the barn at Acorn for years after he could have moved into a nicer one.

What we want collectively is at the other end of the accessibility spectrum:  High visibility, inspiring,  urban based, income sharing, intentional communities.  And what I am asking from you, even if you can’t join us for this post Pride Friday night party in NYC is exotic memes.

 

Taxi harness at Burning Man

Taxi harness at Burning Man

What  preposterous yet plausible proposals do you have for how to spark new urban communities?  Some examples might help.

Party til Occupation. Both  the mainstream media and progressive activists were surprised by Occupy.  A call was made for a broad protest, as thousands have in the past, and people showed up in Zuccotti Park and ultimately across the country and started building political community.  What had not been expected was that people from different classes and races could work intimately together using consensus to improve the treatment of the poor and the homeless and highlight corruption in banking and politics.

What if (after finding a suitable site) we decided to hold an open ended party.  Different collective groups from the city take responsibility for making sure there are people and party goodies for some specific set of days for perhaps the first month or so.  Then if it turns out that people are enjoying the party, renew the invitations and simply start pretending that permanent occupation of the site is a desirable and possible outcome.

startup community

CommunityCupid.org.  Instead of a one on one dating site, this new social network helps people find others to live in community with.  This does not need to be a single place based residence, it could be buying clubs and other aggregate discount services.  And the structure of the site and the data is such that it is designed to bring people who are looking to spark community into the conversation.  A relatively simple solution for starting up such a project might be as a Facebook plug in.

These are two examples of unlikely, but desirable projects.  I am hoping you can add your own to be part of the birthday fun.

On Friday we will gather all the cards and all the participants we have and each person attending the party will draw 3 or more cards and choose the one which they think they can defend to the group the best. Then they will present the bold proposal of their selection and the rest of the group will evaluate the proposal to see if it is worthy of pursuing.

If you are in NYC this Friday, then email me and I will tell you where this event is in Brooklyn.  If you can’t participate, but would like to submit a preposterous plausible idea you can either email me or leave it in the comment field.

 

 

 

Shuttle Driver to the Perfect Party

When i was in Death City getting Willow a second passport, i got 4 text messages asking if i could drive the shuttle home from Trout’s bachelor party (which was 100 miles away in Louisa VA).  Showing not surprisingly that people have trouble keeping track of where i am. It also shows that i am a first responder shuttle driver.    A reasonable assumption actually.

i need to get one of these cool hats

i need to get one of these cool hats

Earlier in the week i had been a shuttle driver for Fox’s bachelorette party.    Mostly, this is the short but menacing drive from Twin Oaks to Acorn.  Menacing in that getting home after the party can be tricky somethings, trying to guess how long the party will be fun, if this person flirting with you is going to stick around, if you will like the next band of DJ as much as you do the current one, if you can stay later and still get up early for that shift you probably never should have scheduled yourself for.

Which shuttle is best?

Which shuttle is best?

And i am the first responder principally because i am generally willing and often available on short notice.  It does not take long, it is highly appreciated and i hardly drink at all, making me a great designated driver.  I am also on the insurance of both communities as a dual member and have access to both fleets of vehicles.  I am a like a universal donor.

Building Better Parties: Fox and Trout got married.  They did up the celebrations quite right, if you ask me.  They had two ceremonies and 2 pre-parties.  One of the ceremonies was a mainstream legal wedding, with family and close friends and a minister.  The second was held at Acorn with all the significant number of commune friends this popular couple have (pictures in a pending blog post), but it was hardly legal.

Luna at the party after the wedding

Luna at the party after the wedding

Before the commune wedding there was a bachelor party and a bachelorette party.  The communes often struggle with exclusion and especially around gender binaries.  The question of came up “Can i go to the bachelors party as a gal?”  The stock answer is “You should be at the party if you think you should be at the party.”  Gender is a personal choice.  You can be girl enough to go to the bachelorette party, even if your chromosomes think differently.

Sometimes there is no right answer

Sometimes there is no right answer

Many attendees were impressed by these events.  I was happy to get people there and home.

 

 

 

 

Can Polyamory Help Destroy Rape Culture? [re-post]

Comrade Tikva has penned a great piece for Elephant Journal [Which posted my review of the Movie Wanderlust]  If you want to see this article on EJ , with it’s links (and odd image) it’s here.  She also does a brilliant comic on polyamory.

Objectification is at the center of rape culture

Objectification is at the center of rape culture

 

Many romances begin with wordless flirtation, stolen kisses and vague communication.
In a culture where disinterest is often interpreted as shyness or “playing hard to get,” men are encouraged to think women need to be skillfully interpreted and convinced, instead of taken at their word. Even the clearest “no” is still up for debate.

I’ve had men tell me I was “asking for it” by making eye contact with them on the street instead of averting my gaze. And when they discovered that my polite smile was not a request for sex, they reacted in outrage as if I was purposefully leading them on.

A stranger misinterpreting our smile as an open invitation to our body sounds ludicrous, but watching any romantic comedy will show us how our culture views consent.

no more rape culture

How many times does the woman turn the main character down before he grabs and kisses her—and doesn’t she secretly want it all along, perhaps without even knowing it herself, until he figures out how to prove that they are meant to be?

It may be entertaining to watch awkward fumbling and forceful passion on the screen, but this kind of indirect communication seeps out into our actual romantic encounters far too often and can be very dangerous.

When men identify with that main character who wins the girl in the end, they feel cheated when their own efforts aren’t achieving the same results. They can sometimes decide to take it forcefully if the woman isn’t catching on quick enough, because “no” just means she hasn’t been convinced yet that this is what she really wants.

Most women have encountered men who feel entitled to have access to their bodies. Just look at the recent gruesome events involving Elliot Rodger and the resulting stories on Twitter with the hashtag “#YesAllWomen.”

Clearly there are a lot of men out there who think they deserve the girl, regardless of what she has to say about it.

In polyamorous relationships, unclear communication will have us drowning in a sea of interpersonal drama much more quickly than it would in a conventional, monogamous relationship.

One reason for this is that monogamy is the expected norm, so if we’re monogamous, it’s pretty easy to coast through the beginning of our relationship without putting any effort into communicating our intentions or expectations.

If we say nothing at all about what we want, it is assumed that our eventual goal is a monogamous until-death-do-us-part with someone. Polyamorous relationships are more complex and less understood, so therefore require explanation right from the beginning and skillful communication throughout.

Poly folks will often discuss their specific intentions with people they are attracted to and even sit down with everyone’s other partners and discuss it with them as well, way before the first date is even considered. It is very likely that a first kiss won’t come with a silent assumption of consent, but after it has been discussed with everyone involved instead.

Clear communication is a must for long-term poly relationships, so this is a skill that gets exercised often.

But what does this have to do with rape culture? Rape culture is fed on silence and assumptions. By insisting on communicating clearly every step of the way about any intention of sex or romance, we kill those old ideas of romance being about silent flirtation and stolen kisses.

We make consent sexy.

yes means yes

We might think that clear communication is overkill, boring and that it will stifle the romance—but the opposite is true. When people are open and vulnerable in relationship to each other, expressing the full extent of their desires and (most importantly) wanting to hear and understand the desires of their partners, there is absolutely nothing sexier than that.

I used to think that stolen kisses were sexy, but now I see them as a sign of emotional immaturity and dissociation. I would much rather my partners be obviously interested in what I want than trying to see what they can get out of me.

When can kisses be "stolen"?

When can kisses be “stolen”?

I would much rather be telling them what I want than waiting for them to guess.

Margaret Atwood’s quote, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” illustrates why it is more important that men take on the task of communicating clearly and receiving consent, but it is incredibly empowering to take on the task as a woman as well.

girls kissing

We don’t need to be in a polyamorous relationship to get our clear communication groove on, obviously. But if we’re in a polyamorous relationship we need to communicate impeccably, just to keep up with what’s going on.

Making clear communication and consent sexy is a huge part of what’s needed to feed the revolution of consent culture. So whether we are monogamous, polyamorous, monogam-ish, or poly-curious, we need to push ourselves to communicate more openly with everyone and see how it affects our romantic life.

Author and Muse (R to L)

Author and Muse (R to L)

 

The Dark Side of the World Cup

Most days i am blissfully outside of the influence of nationalism*.  But my Dutch wife gets very excited about the World Cup and i recently watched the Dutch surprise victory over top ranked Spain.

They are fantastically talented athletes

They are fantastically talented athletes

And there are important problematic aspects to this event which should not be ignored.  This post is a quick summary of my findings.

Evictions:   US$11 billion is being spent on the stadiums and other support for the Brazilian World Cup.  Construction project in cities across the country have resulted in 250K evictions and thousands of destroyed homes.  In many cases there was little or no warning of the planned evictions.  But even in the best cases, displaced persons are living in state subsidized housing with a fraction the value of their previous space.   Promised public assistance projects have all but vanished.

simple economics

simple economics

US$2 billion has been spent on security alone for the event.  Much of this is going to the 100K troops and 57K police deployed over the event.   In demonstrations across the country, millions of Brazilians have protested.

Stand your ground

Stand your ground

Corruption/Bribery:  The behemoth construction firm Andrade Gutierrez gobbled up nearly a quarter of the $11.5 billion in building contracts connected to the World Cup  thanks to a whopping US$37.1 million election contribution spending spree in 2012.

Resource Mal-distribution:  Brazil has made gains over the last 3 decades in raising citizens out of the most desperate poverty.  But many see this expensive soccer event as a distraction from more pressing infra structure solutions the country really needs.

Sex trade: Prostitution is legal in Brazil and the age of consent is 14.  The World Cup with it’s influx of tourists is sparking a sex trade explosion.

brazilian prostitutes

Pimps in Brazil are purchasing children from their parents for between $5K and $10K.   This combined with drug addiction of sex workers continues to oppress locals and breeds misogyny.

 

What you focus on affects your journey.

What you focus on affects your journey.

As i close this post, i am not sure what the “ask” is.  I will look into who is recommending people concerned about the conditions do what.

indigenous people fight back

indigenous people fight back

* It would be completely reasonable to argue that no one alive today is outside the pervasive influence of nationalism.  And this is not what i am talking about.

The Case Against Personal Shelters

[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.]

Should we try to be equal?

Should we try to be equal?

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”.

The Love Shack "tree house" at Acorn - not quite a personal shelter

The Love Shack “tree house” at Acorn – not quite a personal shelter

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:

  1. Energy Use/Carbon Footprint
  2. Fairness
  3. 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.

Where can we cut back?

Where can we cut back?

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]

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