From Point A to…
An audacious proposal to form Urban Income Sharing Egalitarian Democratic Ambitious Engaged Communes in the cities of the American East Coast.
The Short Version
We know that a more humane, satisfying, sustainable world is possible. There are any number of theories and plans for transforming society, many of which would likely be better than what we’re doing now. With 7 billion humans and counting and thousands of years of inherited culture and trillions of acres of intensely varied world any plan we dream up will inevitably encounter vast realms of complexity in its implementation no matter how elegant it is in theory. The wait for a cataclysmic revolution might exceed our window of opportunity for saving ourselves and, given the complexity of the project, is ripe for failure (a lesson history teaches us well).
So why wait? If the revolution isn’t coming fast enough then let’s make it where we can (TAZ)! If the solutions we propose are complicated let’s start testing them and working out the kinks (propositional politics). If the status quo is corrosive then let us form membranes around our communities to protect us from it so that we can have the strength and robustness necessary to challenge it (counter-institutions).
The Point A project proposes a network of urban income-sharing egalitarian democratic ambitious and engaged communes as a starting point on the road to a more humane, satisfying, and sustainable world for all. Our goal is social transformation and our actions and forms are aimed at maximizing our effectiveness at achieving that goal as quickly, robustly, and widely as possible.
Unpacking the Adjectives
Urban: Our project is social transformation and that means changing people and how they relate to each other. Currently and increasingly the people and their relations are mostly in the city. Also, the rural commune is a model that is pretty thoroughly explored and proven.
Income Sharing: Pooling the products of our labor, including money income, is how we form the membrane around our community that insulates us from the corrosive and isolating effects of capitalism. Although scary to get into, once established, income sharing makes everything else we are trying to do easier. From each according to their ability, to each according to their need!
Egalitarian: Let go of the idea of justice and deserving. We’re making it all up anyway. What matters is that we’re being taken care of and that so is everyone else. Liberty, equality, community. By basing our economy on equal access to resources rather than equal distribution of resources we celebrate and support differences and eliminate a lot of paperwork on our way to our post-scarcity utopia.
Democratic: No one is better equipped to make decisions about our lives than we are. If we’re trying to meet our needs then we should be in control of the resources and organizations that meet them. Electing your boss or master is better than not electing them, but we can do a lot more.
Ambitious: We’re taking on a big project not only in training ourselves to cooperate well and in maintaining this protective bubble, but in transforming all of society to more cooperative, democratic, egalitarian forms. We need a crack team to establish the first beachheads and we need to acknowledge the scale and daring of our aim.
Engaged: The problems we are identifying and confronting are social and often global in nature and therefore demand social and often global responses. To retreat into our fortress and build a good life for ourselves in isolation is to admit defeat and to abandon our fellow humans and the whole living world. It is a failure of compassion, and then what sort of Bodhisattva would we be?
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
Tuesday is the Star family day. We all do a K shift (dish washing and post meal clean up) together after lunch. Hawina and i then do hammocks marketing. Then Sky and i do a transparency group. Then Sky and i (and Hawina will perhaps join) do have the new polyamory discussion dinner. And after dinner the Star family all sits down for a game (the expanded version of Settlers of Catan and Cosmic Encounter have been popular recently).
But before we play, we have created something of a tradition of going into town and getting various exotic and snack foods (avocados, salsa and chips, colby jack cheese and olives, ice cream). One of the regular cashiers comments on the silly hats that we were all wearing one day. This resulted in an escalation in the world of silly hats. The above picture is the most recent result.
At the very end of the night we all pill into Hawina’s giant bed and we do at least a couple of late night educational videos, in the form of West Wings.
I love Tuesdays.
Like a great rock concert, one of the things that makes Unicorns School wonderful is the surprise guest stars. At the most recent Unicorns (which i do on alternating Mondays) Bri and Dmitri from Dancing Rabbit came by.
Turns out, Mondays are pretty great also.
Rejoice was excited to show me her new friend. Pandora had just shown up in the middle of the Acorn fields. We called all our neighbors to find out if she was there. No one knew anything about her. For now at least she is living in the seed palace. Rejoice is very pleased about this.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
This is a new event the Point A project is organizing in Brooklyn. If you are in the city and interested in community, please consider coming by. If you have material to present, please email me and we will see if we can get you into the program. If you have a residential community project in the greater NYC area, consider coming and presenting about it during the “Meet the Communities” section of this event. If you do Facebook, please RSVP here.
Community Quest: Finding and Building Collective Living Situations in NYC -
Saturday March 15th noon to 6:30 PM precise location to be announced, but somewhere in Brooklyn NYC.
Communities begin as conversations. Rich chats about dreams and pragmatic discussions on logistics and finances. These are visionary talks about where we want to get to and concrete discussions of what the first steps to take are. Most communities don’t get beyond the start up conversation stage.
It takes all kinds of conversations.
This one day event is designed to help people who are seeking to join or start residential intentional communities find like-minded others and discover new or established communities in the NYC area. Come present your forming or existing community to people who might join you or otherwise be allies. Here is the forming agenda for the event.
Noon to 1 PM Panel discussion on Success (and Failure) of Communities in the NYC area
1 PM to 2:30 PM Meet the Communities – presentation of existing and forming communities in the NYC metro area and the “market place” of communities
2:45 to 4 PM first workshop block
Renovation without Gentrification
4:15 PM to 5:30 PM
Community legal structures: Coops, cohousing and land trusts
5:45 to 6:30 PM next steps and exit networking
A $5 donation is requested, but no one is turned away due to a lack of funds.
Rooftop Garden in Shanghi
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
It was perhaps a dozen years ago at a heated polyamory discussion dinner. There was a flirtatious communard who was known to be in a long-term committed relationship and their partner was quite jealous of their attractions outside their established relationship. One side of our divided conversation were people who believed that the responsibility for caring for that relationship was on the shared flirtatious partner. It was on this person to know, respect and communicate any agreements or boundaries the pre-existing relationship placed on the new connection. The other position was that it was good poly practice to communicate directly with your intimate’s other partners, especially if they are known to be jealous, so no one is surprised, everyone is on the same page and the new affair does not have an acidic effect on the existing romance. The group that was advocating for direct inquiry of the jealous partner was the older demographic at the table. I will call this group the Old Guard.
And there was kind of a “guardian” feeling to this concern. Poly is an ambitious relationship model. You are assuming that you can do better than upbringing. That you can transcend the perhaps 30% of all pop songs which promote exclusive romantic role models, or the 50% of soap operas which play off jealousy as a central theme. Not only do you have to be better, but the people you are playing with are going to have to be above average in their response to potentially highly charged emotional circumstances.
Remember the classical trajectory of new intimacies. They start with honeymoons. During this period we tend to be in significant denial about there being any flaws to our new partners. They are wonderful, their feet don’t stink, they treat you like you really deserve to be treated. And while you are wearing these rose colored glasses the existing (in this case jealous) partner can be completely reasonably worried that you would want to spend all your time with this shiny new relationship, rather than the grumpy old one with demanding attention, needing processing and not very fun.
Everyone in the old guard claimed to be not just taking care of the other partner, they were also taking care of the notion of polyamory being a responsible and sustainable relationship model. While it might be fun to jump on a discovered attraction at a party, the clean up can be a nightmare.
The young Turks thought differently (they were mostly 20-something so the label seemed apt at the time). We are adults, we are responsible for our relationships. If someone says they are romantically available to play it is untrusting and perhaps even insulting to say, “oh i have to go make sure i have permission from your main squeeze.” The young Turks thought they were being mature and respectful, the old guard thought the Turks represented the wild, wild west of intimacy frontiers. And while i have my own opinion, i can fully see why both sides believe theirs is a fair and reasonable position.
I am happy that there is again a polyamory discussion group at Twin Oaks, which Sky started up again. It happens on Tuesdays at dinner.
Shal who was at this polyamory dinner so long ago and thinks deeply about these issues had this to say about guards and Turks.
I understand the perspective of assuming new flame can be responsible for their own situation, but we know that is not always how it turns out. After all, the shared lover is looking at the situation with rose colored glasses too.
I agree with the reasons you speak of to be checking in with established intimates of a new flame. And there are some reasons that you did not mention why I think it is wise to be considerate of other partners of a new lover or potential lover. If the topic comes up at the new poly dinner I will mention these.It is not just about whether one gets the ok to start the relationship or not. There are many situations in life when one is more likely to feel ok with a change if one is asked first rather than the change being made without asking. I think this is also true of new relationships with one’s partner. If the other intimate of a new flame is asked nicely, and especially if co is assured co’s situation will be considered and cared about in the decisions made in the future (if that is true), co is more likely to feel ok with the proposed new relationship. And then the new relationship is more likely to go well. So I see such an approach as a wise mix of altruism and self-interest.
Also when in such a situation I would want my new lover’s life to go well, not just when co is with me but also in broader ways. And if co’s current relationship blows up it would cause much unhappiness to this person I care a lot about. So checking in with partners’ partners is not just caring for and about the other intimate one is checking in with, it is also and more importantly caring for and about the person one is getting emotionally involved with.I call such an approach “cooperative poly”.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
Acorn’s primary income engine is the seed business, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. There are lots of wonderful things about this business. We are advancing organic, heritage and non-GMO seeds. We are fighting Monsanto’s effort to contaminate the food supply and bankrupt small farmers.
Every so often the government asks what we think about what is happening in the world of agriculture. Until March 4th you can comment to the USDA on the “agricultural coexistence between GMOs and non-GMO crops.” Here is the link if you want to comment identifying yourself. Here is the link if you want to comment anonymously. Here are the perfectly reasonable things which Southern Exposure wrote in our formal comments.
But i don’t want to be reasonable, because i am furious. When i describe to people what is really happening with Monsanto the first general reaction is disbelief. As it stands now, Monsanto’s army of lawyers have completely trampled property law. As it stands now, Monsanto can sneak onto your property, steal your crops, have them tested and then if they find trace contamination by their GMO strains (at even trace levels) they begin a legal assault on you which forces you to choose 1) to go bankrupt defending yourself or 2) require you to agree to their terms which include never going public about the abuse they put you through. This is classic corporate criminal behavior.
Monsanto has been extremely effectively silencing farmers on GMO contamination for many years, with threats of lawsuits and legal action. One of the few silver linings of the case we mostly lost against Monsanto is that it does set a 1% contamination threshold so that real trace amounts can’t be used to bankrupt farmers.
But what i really want is for some Monsanto criminal technician to bust onto some farmers land who lives in a Stand Your Ground state or one which has strong trespassing laws. And then for the property owner to shoot him. Okay i don’t want to kill anyone, but the current madness is Orwellian and must stop. Monsanto should know that this predatory legal behavior is not safe.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
McDonogh Prep Assembly Speech Feb 19, 2014
There are nicer words for what I am trying to do here, it can be called spokesperson or representative. Perhaps more precisely you would call me an evangelist or a salesperson. But my preferred term for this job is propagandist. My work is telling stories and making sermons. And propagandists like salespeople are trying to get you to change your mind, to get you to buy what they are selling. I use this reviled label, to put you on your guard, I want you listening with your sharpest critical thinking engaged.
I want to talk about models of success. McDonogh represents a classical model of success. You study hard, you get into a good school, then you work hard to get a good job, you build your resume, you marry, you have kids, you buy a nice house, and you live comfortably ever after.
This is a success model which is focused on you and largely on the future. I come from a different place. There is still hard work. But it is work without bosses. It is work that changes as your desires and interest change. You might work in the dairy or the kitchen in the morning and in the afternoon you might manage one of our businesses or work on the computer or do child care.
We are doing some advanced experiments in sharing things: clothes and cars and buildings and bicycles and musical instruments. By sharing things we don’t have to buy as many things, which means we can work much less for money. The key to this sharing system is trust. To make these systems work and for the place to feel fair we need to trust each other. This success model is focused on us rather to me and unlike the conventional forward looking model, our success is quite often about right now.
If you get nothing else from these minutes of me speaking I would ask you to start thinking about sharing in a new light. Sharing is not the quaint notion that you learned in kindergarten and have mostly forgotten about. Sharing is one of the few long lever tools that can get us out of this jam that we are in.
The average group of 100 US Americans have 77 cars. Twin Oaks is a bit more than 100 people sharing only 17 cars. This means we don’t have to buy and insure and maintain 60 vehicles. That is a chunk of change.
It also means we need to design systems to satisfy the needs that those vehicles provide. In this and in most of our sharing systems, we have largely succeeded. And this is the key – when you look at the energy consumed, the carbon released, the solid waste produced, the per person water use. By any metric you can imagine we have dramatically less impact and are considerably more sustainable than our mainstream counterparts.
Most guidance counselors don’t include intentional communities like Twin Oaks and Acorn on their lists of possible job opportunities for the prep school grads.
But if you are bothered by the ambient level of fear and crime, if you don’t want to get bills or deal with money, if you want to live more sustainably and model a world which is not in decline, if you want to live in the now and want to foster something that is bigger than yourself, but is not a faceless corporation. Then perhaps you can do your senior project or spend part of your summer at these rural Virginia communes.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
There are several metaphors for community design and outreach. If you believe there are serious problems with industrial capitalist civilization and that anyone who decodes this should have a place in community outside of this system, then you see community as a lifeboat. If you believe that a specific community has a specific mission to complete and there only so many seats to be filled selectively (the number of which are often determined by the number of bedrooms in the community) then you see community as a spaceship.
We (GPaul, Amy. Belladonna Took and myself) just came back from a roller coaster tour of NYC in which we were hustling the Point A ideas. When we arrived i felt compressed by the double crush of shark-like real estate developers on one side and the nearly unavoidable problem of gentrification on the other (blog post to come). It felt like the city was too difficult and there was so much struggle for space, in a way that i had not felt in the Washington DC discussions.
And in the case of the Washington Point A group, it felt like we were building a spaceship. Not everyone in the group was going to be on the ship, but many were actively considering it. And that there was some recognized risk associated with being on this exploratory journey and there were people willing to take that risk.
In NYC we seem to be building out this metaphor and now we are building mission control. What this means as organizers is we are not looking for the select few people who will be next to us in the limited spaceship seats (rooms), but rather we are entering into conversation with anyone who is interested in the project and figuring out how they can help. But “the project” is much larger than just Point A chapter/building. The project is making highly resource sharing and potentially income sharing communities come into being in the NYC greater metropolitan area. Mission control can launch many spaceships and we had a bit of success with this in Brooklyn.
We discovered the need to recognize and support the other spaceships when we went to visit Teagan and Arrow just west of Manhattan. Teagan is a networking titan who has been pitching the need for ecovillage expansion for years. Arrow is a socially responsible industrialist who has a vertically integrate bio-diesel company. Together they are starting the Catalyst Community eco-village project outside in NYC. We also met Jon that evening from the Eastern Light Project, who is trying to save some beautiful land from development. We spoke about there projects and we ended up spending so much time on them, that we never made it to discussing Point A.
This made us realize we have more of a mission control mandate. There are lots of highly useful workshops and skill shares at the annual Twin Oaks communities conference and the vast majority of the people from the NYC area are never going to make it to this event. If most NYC folks can’t make it to events on Staten Island, there is no chance they are going to find themselves in central Virginia. So we should be doing at least parts of this multi-community introducing format in NYC. So we did a miniture version of “Meet the Communities” where each of the perhaps a dozen communities present gave a 90 second self descriptions and then went to different tables in the room to invite more direct communication. This seemed to work well and some important alliances seemed to form.
“I have a Shal request for you” my oldest commune friend and full moon buddy said nearly as soon as i walked back on campus.
He did not have to be more explicit, on the heals of Winter Storm Pax, there was only one thing he could want from me: Sledding. And while Shal is polite and frames his request as optional – our agreement is clear. There is no meeting so important that i can’t walk out of it to go sledding – turns out, there are always more meetings, but sledding is increasingly scarce in central Virginia.
And unlike me, Shal is careful, meticulous and prepared. ”We need to go in the early morning,” he explains. “We want the ice from the cold night air to freeze the slopes solid for the best sliding runs.” After checking the weather we decided we would go at 8 AM the morning after the validation day party.
We tried a couple of different positions on the sleds where were made by Trout out of 55 gallon plastic barrels, hammocks rope and spreader bars [photo below]. What went farthest was me on the bottom laying stomach down and Shal on top. This meant Shal could steer and keep us from hitting trees or the barb wire fence at the bottom. We did a couple hours worth of runs, screaming and hugging every time we broke our own record. Our jubilation mimicked the preteens who took to the slopes the night before, we were certainly not acting our age.
Turns out Shal was right, the meeting was missable.
Shal’s addendum: Something Paxus did not mention that made this such fast sledding is that there was a hard crust on top of the snow that the homemade toboggan slid on top of, which only happens once in a few years. So we were sliding down hills that were effectively sheer ice – that was why it was an opportunity too good to miss, whatever else would just have to happen another time.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]