By choice i am still living without a room, bouncing between the two communes. This means, quite some nights i end up looking for a place to sleep. Last night Dragon was kind enough to offer me his space, which quite exotic.
One of the first things you see when you enter this room is that you are sharing it with Tarzan, who is lounging on the wall. Today, he is lounging beside a large collection of drying potatoes.
For once I was happy to be forced to drive slowly.
We had just finished a pretty rich Point A meeting with the Washington DC group and an even more successful mini-communities conference in NYC. I was exhausted, but excited to have some hours in the snow storm to chat with ex-Twin Oaker Dream. In many ways the trip is like the 1981 movie “My Dinner with Andre“, where Dream was playing the slightly other worldly stage director Andre Gregory.
Dream reminded me of transformative moments in his life, about feeling a Kundalini energy awakening in his body, while in bed aboard the USS Missouri just before it was struck by missiles during the first Gulf War. About falling in love with East Wind while at UMass Darmouth and struggling to decide if he should return to school. About hearing a word in a dream “Constatic” whispered to him. Constatic contrasts the unique experience of ecstatic, with a collective euphoric state, which he would only learn was a real (though very rarely used) word many years later.
Dream and I have quite similar tastes in a number of things. We both loved Being John Malcovich and the new movie Her, where the hero falls in love with his AI operating system. We were excited about the ideas in Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and the works of Huxley. We shared a number of attractions to people in communities.
Without even a masters degree, Dream has somehow managed to secure teaching positions at both MIT and Harvard. Some combination of daring, charm and a highly accessible presentation style is what makes this story believable. But it is Dream’s imagination which makes him such good company for a long drive. He has all manner of wild ideas, some of which just might be huge, if they got the right attention. In this I also see the parts of myself I like best.
Dream is all about empowering kids using long-lever computer tools. Well after midnight when I finally left him behind at Morningstar, he had assembled a group of kids, including Willow to work with his new educational tech tool, called scratch. And within minutes of them working together my son was saying “I want to put up my own website.” And with inspiring teachers like Dream, it can’t be long before this is happening.
[Edited by Vermin F. Cockwolf]
“You almost never want to call the police.” Lark said. He was part of the ragtag breakfast group in one of the buildings in Freedonia that they have managed to get legal control of. Breakfast was a lovely mix of rescued vegetables and Twin Oaks vegetarian sausage.
“But this time it seemed like the right thing” he continued. “The building beside ours had been broken into. The boards were torn off the door and the door kicked in. It looked bad and if we did not call the police, they were quite likely to think we did it. So we called them.”
The police arrived, looked around, established in an unsurprised way, that the building was indeed abandoned and who ever broke in probably got nothing of value. But he seemed unsure what to do with this uncared for property.
“We should probably lock the door.” Lark said to the officer.
“That sounds like a good idea.” Said the cop.
“Our lock.” Pushed Lark.
“i guess so, sure.” said the peace officer hesitatingly.
There was a pause as the squatter looked at the state representative for a moment.
“Can i get your name and phone number?” Lark asked.
That was two years ago.
We slept in that building last night, it is done up in squat chic these days. Lovely political posters on the wall. Windows repaired. Furniture rescued from the street. A surprisingly complete kitchen has been installed. Turns out if you pay them, the power utility will give anyone electric.
On the back of the door there is the name and phone number of the police officer, with some graffiti tags and a nicely hand painted sign which says simply “thanks”
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
Talk on Anarchism
University of Hawaii, April 26, 1990
George Bush, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi are all stranded on a desert island – who would survive? [Pause] We would, a bit of Anarchist humor.
When people here the word anarchy, the vision which jumps to mind is chaos. When someone says they are an anarchist, you picture a scruffy person, dressed in black, with a maniacal grin on their face, holding a bomb [Mess up hair, grin and pull mock bomb out of bag].
I’m going to try to shatter some of these illusions.
The word anarchy comes from the Greek “without rule“
Anarchists generally believe that governments are fundamentally coercive organizations, drawing there power from violence and that man made laws are a restriction of freedom and therefore both governments and laws should be abolished. Or if you want to look at it in a more affirmative sense, Anarchists seek to:
1) Maximize freedom 2) Minimize coercion
You are probably thinking “Laudable goals, but impossible to obtain without some type of hierarchy to maintain order.”
Let me share with you the experience which first convinced me that there were non-hierarchical solutions to problems.
We were choosing teams for an ultimate Frisbee game, someone said “Find someone of approximately your ability and pair up with them.” after about half a minute we were in pairs “now everyone on the left is on one team and everyone on the right is on the other”. Now normally, captains are selected choices are alternated, w/ ego invested first picks and embarrassing last pick and the whole operation takes much longer. Why do we stick with this hierarchical system, which takes responsibility away from the individual, when it is inferior in so many ways – because it is what we know, what we are taught.
Now you are thinking “Nice trick, but life is not a frisbee game, what about more complex social organizations”
If the structure or “topology”, if you will, of the hierarchy is a pyramid. Then what is the large scale model for anarchist organizations? Why it is the buzz word of the 80′s – networks.
I’ve been involved in three different types of network each sheds a bit of light on how anarchists structure things.
First is collective businesses. Workers make the decisions. Frequently, they will choose to give authority to a manager or project leader. But these are fundamentally different from normal corporate managers, they serve a specific project or until the group replaces them, the workers give them the power to lead and volunteer to follow their instructions. Most collectives use a consensus decision model, borrowed from the feminists, in which problems are worked on until everyone agrees on the solution – this is a very different than a voting model. Typically business collectives don’t grow to be huge, but in my experience they are much nicer places to work.
Secondly are collective houses. I want to focus on a single aspect of a collective house i lived in called Paradox to illustrate a point. Big houses w/ a lot of people (10 in this case) perpetually have problems keeping the place clean. At Paradox we developed a system where post-it notes with cleaning tasks were placed on a big calendar on the date they were last done. When you felt like doing housework, you went to the calendar, found what had not been done in a while, did that task and moved the post-it. Nowhere in this process is your name listed next to your fine work, it is a self policing system. The group having taken responsibility, when things slipped, as they always do occasionally, someone would bring it up in a house meeting and people would generally admit to not having done enuf – this worked better than rigid job wheels in my experience.
The third and last type of network is the political collective. These are important because they deal with the problems of bringing large groups of people together, frequently in short periods to solve specific problems. An affinity group structure is used, usually friends who make decisions using consensus. Often specific tasks are handled by an affinity group, media outreach, writing a handbook, transportation coordination, first aid, food preparation, etc. But the “spokesperson council” will make a decision for the entire group using consensus. Your thinking “It can’t work for a group over a hundred”, I’ve seen it work for several thousand. Not easy but doable.
And you end up with a better quality of decisions.
Now you are thinking “Okay, maybe this stuff works in special cases, but no government, means no police, no military – civilization will collapse!”
My contention is that these institutions do more to foster collapse than prevent it. Consider the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima after the Japanese petitioned for conditional surrender. Consider that 90% of the 2 million killed in Vietnam were civilians. Consider the Reagan-Bush escapades in Libya, Granada, Nicaragua and Panama. Or if you find these uncompelling, consider the Orwellian double think of nuclear weapons “Build more of these world destroying devices and the world will be safer” Sounds like civilization is quite sick to me.
“But we need the police!” you call. I want to do a survey, how many people in this room have been robbed in the last 20 years [about 80% raise hands] and how many of these crimes were solved with the criminal caught and punished [about 5% raise hands]. So what is the solution here, more police? No, the solution is to change the way society looks at property.
The point is that government is a responsibility dodge, we put it there to deal with the things we don’t want to deal with, and once in place it does things we don’t want it to do. Now you are thinking “This guy is dreaming of places which can’t exist”.
I want tell you about a place called Twin Oaks, it is an intentional community of 70 adults and about a dozen kids in rural Virginia – they don’t bill themselves as anarchists, but rather they use words like egalitarian, feminist and “embracing diversity” it amounts to the same thing. It is directly democratic (rather than a representative one), workers control everything (similar to the collective business i mentioned before), they don’t use money internally (tho they generate over a million dollars in exports a year), they contract with each other to work the same number of hours a week (writing software is worth the same as doing the dishes or childcare), they have some personal property but almost anything large is owned collectively. From the large list of possible jobs they are free to choose the which ones they like and when they will do them. And guess what, no crime. Probably $10 million in physical plant, equipment, and tools and no locks inthe whole place. Fourteen cars and trucks with the keys in them and only one has been stolen in the last 20 years – doing a lot better than this audience. “Well, they must be very restrictive about who they let in.” you are thinking. Nope, a significant majority of people who apply are accepted.
Now maybe you are thinking “I’m not quite sure what to make of all this stuff, but i don’t think these anarchist ideas will ever affect my life.”
I contend that everyone in this room has been effected by a relatively recent anarchist revolution, the sexual revolution. Not long ago, the church, state and nuclear family had incredible power over our sexual relationships. “Living in sin” was not a joke, adultery was a serious punishable crime. People said “this is fundamentally my choice” and whole scale rejected the external authority. The laws stayed on the books, people just ignored them and they became unenforced and unenforceable. They decided to form a network of lovers, if you will, mostly quite small, but the hierarchy lost it’s control over this issue.
So next time someone tells you they are an anarchist, don’t think about bombs, think about freedom [throw mock bomb to Rez in the audience]
I hope i have shattered some illusions.
[Total time 5 minutes 30 seconds]
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]
“The most interesting list is not the very long list of diseases where cannabis is an effective treatment. The most interesting list is the impressive list where cannabis is the only effective treatment.” And with this intro you are thrown into the colorful world of Lex Pelger.
A writer, scientist and world traveler, Lex believes that the way you change the world is by finding and telling the right stories. His search for these stories has taken him to the slums of India, where he covered the struggle of Tibetans until his second arrest got him deported.
He hitched to Mexico and across the US which he calls the kingdom of fear. He is a man of many loves.
One of his major loves is the story of cannabis and its healing properties. He says:
If Western medicine tells us anything about cannabis it’s that it cures, prevents & treats cancer. There’s abundant evidence in human trials across a wide range of cancer types that THC and CBD induce apoptosis in cancer cells. The cancer cells shut down their mitochondrial engines as the tumor shrinks and perhaps dies.
He is a most gracious host in Brooklyn, where several of us stayed after the last Point A meeting, along with half a dozen couchsurfers in his crowded 2 bedroom flat.
What has inspired this post is his most recent article in Ladybud magazine: The War on Weed is a War on the Elderly. If you have aging friends or parents or are concerned with issues of public health, i would strongly encourage you to read it. But if you don’t have time, let me share the part i found most compelling:
Cannabis helps with so many basic problems of aging: it lowers inflammation across the body, lessening aches, migraines and arthritis. By itself, it’s helpful against pain and it enhances the other painkillers so a patient needs less addictive opiates with just a few puffs of pot. It eases nausea from chemotherapy, treats sleep apnea, raises bone density for osteoporosis and protects the GI tract. It prevents heart attacks and lessens the neurotoxicity of strokes if applied immediately (the federal Health & Human Services even has a patent for this cannabinoid neuroprotection. This makes it even more ironic when the DEA claims ‘no medical benefit’). For as yet unknown reasons, cannabis works especially well for movement disorders like Parkinson’s and the self-attacking autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease. Cannabis slows the viruses of herpes and HIV, the prions of Mad Cow disease and even destroys the MRSA bacteria in a test tube (this drug resistant staph infection now kills more people than HIV every year and we have no new antibiotics left to kill it – except for the cannabinoids from that wicked weed). Our brain overflows with cannabinoid receptors that protect against MS, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. Cannabis attacks and prevents cancer by several different pathways and it often eases depression.
My father died of Parkinson’s and the last part of his life was especially difficult. With persistence and luck the stories Lex is telling will change the world to ease the pain and suffering of folks like my dad.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
“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]