Archive | Love Letters RSS for this section

Commune as Applied University

In a recent blog post comparing the experience of life at Twin Oaks (or Acorn) with that of the mainstream i said a number of things including:

More security, less privacy.  More community, less personal access to money.  More flexibility, less resume building opportunities.

Tree responded to this by writing a comment that said:

You wrote, “less resume building opportunities.” I disagree. For all but the few members who are abandoning some high-profile career path to be there, TO has way *more* resume-building opportunities than outside. Arrive knowing nothing, manage a major program within a year. Many members use that knowledge to get or create great jobs when they leave.

And, as is almost always the case, everything Tree says is true.  It is perhaps because i once came from this high profile career path that i answered this way. career path

The FEC communities don’t require you to arrive with any particular skills or money, instead what you need is reasonable to good communication skills and a willingness to learn things and work. We will train you.  And as Tree points out, the training is vast.  You can learn how to run a business, or a dairy program, or a to program computers, or keep bees, or fix buildings, or teach kids, or how to get arrested at a protest, how to milk a cow, or run a saw mill, or a sewage treatment plant, or make cheese, or build a straw bale, or plumbing, carpentry or auto mechanics (please come and learn auto mechanics!).  And this is just the beginning of the list. A number of young members have come after college and learned many of the things which a trade school would have taught, but in a more relaxed and self paced environment.  They build elaborate tree houses, learned to cook tasty vegan food for scores of people at once, how to fish or skin a deer. work and life balance What the flexibility of community living provides in these cases opens an entire world of assisted self directed learning.  The communities have basically open “Teach” budgets in which you can get trained in anything that you are interested in and the member who trains you gets labor credits for the skills transfer (you as a student do not get labor credits, unless it is something you are learning to support one of our regularly budgeted domestic or income areas).

Nurturing a spirit of inquiry.

Nurturing a spirit of inquiry.

So Tree is right, if you are not trying to be the Chief Technology Officer at GigaCorp or the Senior VP for Operations at DowJones Inc, then a stay at the communes will not set your resume back, and could well advance it if you are motivated enough to learn inside of this myriad of possibilities.

Famous for playing video games

Willow and Jonah in Al Jazeera

Willow and Jonah in Al Jazeera

i would be lying if i said i was surprised that Al Jazeera managed to catch a picture of my son playing video games.  He plays a fair few of them.  This was part of a slide show of pictures they took recently capturing community life, which is part of a larger article they did on the community, featuring Willows other dad, Sky Blue.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Anissa (who is part of the Star family and was part of Willow’s parenting collective at one point) is capturing a little media attention with her son, Jed about kids eating the food they grow.  And treated like the rock star she is the New Zealand Herald is tracking her get aways to the city.

anissa and jed

[This post has been approved by Anissa and Willow]

How to get me to pay attention

[Update:  Rolling Stone has issues a lame apology for it’s poor reporting.  And people seem to think this changes much – it does not.  There are lots of reasons why, and the best summary i have found so far is here.  Thanks Abigail for the link.]

i tend to miss introverts who visit the community.  And so it was with Charlotte.  Acorn had a big visitor group and i had only heard her say a few words in the first couple weeks of her visitor period.

i had noticed that she was hovering around the edge of a number of the better conversations which pop up regularly at Acorn in the kitchen, or various living rooms or the smoke shack. And while she did not say anything, it was clear that she was listening.

Charlotte

Nine of us went to the anti-rape action at UVa which resulted in 4 communards getting arrested.

The way it is supposed to happen at an arrest action is the people who are risking arrest are trained.  They do a non-violence direct action workshop in which they roll play getting arrested including how to deal with different levels of threatening and physically assertive police.  You are given a lawyers number, often written in marker on your arm.  You are insured there will be people waiting for you.  If you end up stuck in jail, your plants will get watered and someone outside will be monitoring the system to make sure you don’t get forgotten.  And the reason we do all this is so activists will be prepared for getting arrested, so they wont have to worry.

Charlotte skipped all that.  No training, no prep, no reassurances, it was not actually even supposed to be an arrest action.  Instead of these things she just showed up with the conviction that rape is wrong and injustice should not be tolerated.  She also did not want her new friends to be arrested alone.  She stepped out of her comfort zone and into the arms of the begrudging police who kept telling us the action did not matter.

Except that it did.  I’ve never been in such a small remote arrest action which got so much press.  The New York Times, the LA Times,  The Washington Post, the International Business Times, Rolling Stone Magazine, Slate, NBC, The NY Daily News, Washington DC news, and a host of other media.  And the University is feeling the pressure.  They are talking zero tolerance, which of course means nothing if the system is broken badly enough.  But if the current pressure persists, it will quite likely break the institutionalized rape culture which has flourished inside the fraternity system.  And truth told, if there is anyway this broken system is going to get better, it is by people being willing to step way out of their comfort zones to express rage about it.

People are talking and protesting about rape on campus for the same reason they are talking and protesting about cops killing unarmed black kids.  It is a huge on-going problem and the system in place was relatively comfortable ignoring it, until now.

Charlotte saw this was wrong and stepped up to do something.  Now she has my attention.

Charlotte was active before she arrived at Acorn

Charlotte was active before she arrived at Acorn

Charlotte was recently accepted as a member at Acorn.  i am happy she will be around more.

Stopping Rape at UVa – a diversity of tactics

It was a last minute choice, but after reading the two Rolling Stones articles about rape at UVa, i knew i had to go to the protest.  Because of the hasty preparations and the large group going, i grabbed a dozen black gloves from commie clothes.

12 black gloves all different

12 black gloves all different

On the way into the protest, much of the conversation was about the choice to protest at the fraternity.  In our minivan  there seemed to be agreement that the university’s complicity in these sexual assaults was what really needed action and change.  The university’s internal policies tend to punish survivors and set free perpetrators and thus fosters ongoing sexual assault.   The first Rolling Stones article points out that 86 schools are being investigated by the Dept. of Education because they are suspected of denying students their equal right to education by inadequately handling sexual-violence complaints.  UVa is one of only 12 under the harsher “compliance review”.  Which are “… targeted efforts to go after very serious concerns,” says Office of Civil Rights assistant secretary Catherine Lhamon. “We don’t open compliance reviews unless we have something that we think merits it.”  This is likely because not a single student has been expelled for sexual assault at UVa for the last 7 years.

Graphic for Fraternity Protest

Graphic for Fraternity Protest

We arrived a bit late for the protest, and it had already broken up into discussion groups.  There was a policy group, an alumni group, a women’s group, a group discussing fraternity reform, and some others.  Some local activists looking for a more confrontational action complained that we were not going to simply talk the university or the fraternities into changing their ways.  There was also a critique of “Facebook activism” in which students thought that by hitting like and posting some protest pictures these well entrenched cultures would shift.

Breaking into discussion circles

Breaking into discussion circles at Phi Kappa Psi protest

i joined the policy discussion group for a while, but because i was late, what ever groundrules there were about who could talk and who was facilitating eluded me.  And there were lots of participants who had quite charged feelings on the topic, including a couple of UVa rape survivors who were speaking powerfully and critically about how the university failed in handling their personal cases.  It did not feel like the right place to share my ideas.

i do have lots of thoughts about policy changes the university could make to reduce sexual assault based on many conversations with Abigail who is doing this work at University of Oregon, but this will be the subject of another post.

Sunya and Bridgette X at the protest

Sunya Oaks and Bridget X at the protest

The fraternity at the center of the controversy, Phi Kappa Psi, has not had an easy time of it since the Rolling Stone article came out.  There have been several attacks on the building itself.  The members have moved out of the building to a hotel.  And the fraternity voluntarily surrendered its “Fraternal Organizing Agreement”, which means for the moment it technically does not exist.  UVa has suspended all Fraternity activities until Jan 2015, in response to the allegations.

Having brought in law enforcement to investigate the Rolling Stone gang-rape allegations (more than a year-and-a-half after the university was first made aware of them) the state fumbled its very first task.  State Attorney General Mark Herring originally announced Mark Filip would be the University’s independent counsel to address its handling of sexual violence.  Turns out Filip was a member of the fraternity at the center of the controversy.  The appointment was reversed after this embarrassing mistake was made public.

On the back porch of Phi Kappa Psi

On the back porch of Phi Kappa Psi

There have been a handful of protests at UVa over the Rolling Stone article.  A couple days before this one, more than 700 people came out to express their concern, frustration, and rage over the long history of sexual assault on campus and the university’s near total failure to reduce it.

UVa does not protest much.  It is quite a quiet campus when it comes to activism, especially around gender issues.  Rolling Stone characterized it this way:

From reading headlines today, one might think colleges have suddenly become hotbeds of protest by celebrated anti-rape activists. But like most colleges across America, genteel University of Virginia has no radical feminist culture seeking to upend the patriarchy. There are no red-tape-wearing protests like at Harvard, no “sex-positive” clubs promoting the female orgasm like at Yale, no mattress-hauling performance artists like at Columbia, and certainly no SlutWalks. UVA isn’t an edgy or progressive campus by any stretch. The pinnacle of its polite activism is its annual Take Back the Night vigil, which on this campus of 21,000 students attracts an audience of less than 500 souls. But the dearth of attention isn’t because rape doesn’t happen in Charlottesville. It’s because at UVA, rapes are kept quiet, both by students – who brush off sexual assaults as regrettable but inevitable casualties of their cherished party culture – and by an administration that critics say is less concerned with protecting students than it is with protecting its own reputation from scandal.

So i was unsurprised by some of the debate that was going on at this protest.  One of the protest organizers with a bullhorn ended the working groups session and made a short speech on what is often called “diversity of tactics“.   She said basically that many people have strong feelings about the issue of sexual assault on campus and there will be lots of different approaches to organizing based on these feelings.  Some will want to engage the university in dialog and will stage peaceful protests and avoid confrontation with the police.  Others will choose to confront the police and risk arrest.  She called on the crowd to respect the different choices that different activist make and keep the focus on the university and frats which need to change most.

2012-11-23-diversity-of-tactics

She did not talk specifically about property destruction and she certainly did not talk about violence against people [Sadly, there were lots of people in the crowd who thought property destruction was a form of violence.]  These are the places where diversity of tactics gets tricky.

During the chanting which took place at the fraternity house after the discussion groups had ended, some protesters were chanting that the building should be burnt down.  Several other protesters were quite upset with this chant and said so clearly.  It stopped quickly.

i did not plan on getting arrested

i did not plan on getting arrested

There was an especially peculiar moment as people were risking arrest in which another protester upset about the gravity towards the arrest yelled at the protesters “Hello Gandhi, Hello Martin Luther King”.  This simultaneously struck me is distressing and funny.  How exactly did this person think Gandhi and MLK succeeded?  It certainly was not by avoiding arrest (and much worse) at the hands of the authorities.

Four of us got arrested at the very end of the protest for trespassing: myself, Sapphyre, Edmund, and Caroline intern from Acorn.  Going to the protest, it had not been any of our intentions to get arrested.  And all through the protests the police and campus security had been basically invisible.

Edmund being arrested beside Sapphyre and Caroline from Acorn

Edmund being arrested beside Sapphyre and Caroline from Acorn

The overwhelming response to our arrests were positive.  It also got a surprising amount of press, including the International Business Times, US network news, a mention in the LA Times, in Washington DC, the feminist presslocal media and of course campus media.

NBC 29 film of arrests

On Dec 4th we have our trial.  Feel encouraged to come and join us at the Cville court on market street.

Akashic Record: Sonnets Division

One of the best parts about the Point A project is the lovely people who are in fairly close orbit to it.    The DC Point A group includes Connor who i barely knew before the project but i have grown a deep affection for.  This last evenings meeting was at his group house in Death City which he shares with his sister and several other charming housemates.

Connor on Base after the Point A DC mtg

Connor on Base after the Point A DC mtg

There was a lovely, chaotically structured pot luck dinner type thing which happened just before the Point A meeting.  Part of which was the creation of homemade donuts.  They were in a word, epic donuts.

1604473_10154826253625263_804765325456669567_n

There were originally many more. Sonnets are remembering them fondly

 

The Akashic Record is a quasi mythical place in which all history of all things is being recorded in real time, using a complex combination of high speed digital technology, ancient hand scribing arts and indecipherable magic.  This is not some giant flat bureaucracy.  The Akashic record has a number of different divisions to help users figure out which the most important events are and how it is they are best represented.

Reserved Stacks at the Akashic Records

Reserved Stacks at the Akashic Records

One of the special forces groups of the Akashic Record is the Sonnets Division.  For powerful historical events, when they need something really compelling and rich to capture the importance of an event, they call in the Sonnets Division.

The latest self-scribing technology/magic.

The latest self-scribing technology/magic.

Tonight, for these donuts, the Sonnets Division is working overtime.

 

 

Acorn brings the Party

The sign of a culturally rich community is that there are more things happening than there is time to do them all.  This often happens around evening events and parties at Acorn and Twin Oaks.  And tonight there was a transparency group at Acorn, while there was also a dance party at Twin Oaks.

KeithHaringDanceParty5I

We tried to get out of the transparency group early – but there were all these interesting new people and early became after 9:30 PM.  But a bunch of people still wanted to go, so we hopped into a minivan and a Dharma Bum‘s car.  And walked in and only the DJ was dancing and the dance floor was nearly empty.

Dharma Bums band comes out of the Omega Institute in NY

Dharma Bums band comes out of the Omega Institute in NY

But we brought 13 people and started a bit of dancing.  Half an hour later, Twin Oaks visitors disappointed by the early ending of the original party came back and started dancing, as well as some members who heard rumor of the party restarting.   We had a crowded dance floor and the party was reborn.  Half an hour later the first shuttle went home. By midnight everyone was heading back to Acorn. Report backs were all positive, glad they went, got what they were looking for.

ilovedance

The funological principal here is if you have a dozen of the right/enthusiastic  people that you are adding to an event (even a near dead one), you can control the health of a party.

 

Dinner with Ralph

“Is that Ralph Nader?” i asked my Dutch friend Peer de Rijk from WISE Amsterdam at the Michael Mariotte award event.

Ralph and i chilling

Ralph and i chilling

Turns out it was.  And it turned out by coincidence we were sitting next to each other at the event.  I have spoken with Nader a couple of times before, he is highly approachable.  In 2013 he was pitching his book “I Told You So” which is a collection of his more prophetic published articles.  He and a couple helpers had broken down their display and were walking away thru Union Station in DC and i stopped him to tell him i had appreciated his concession speech in the 2000 election.

So people write books, others hold various jobs, Nader starts and grows organizations.  Wikipedia has an impressive list of them.  For me the most important ones are the Critical Mass Energy Project, the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) and Public Citizen.  Nader has been fighting for consumer protection and against nuclear power for  longer than i have been alive (Nader is now 80).

Nader create more leaders

In person Nader has a slightly paradoxical personality.  He is modest, soft spoken, crazy smart and opinionated of course, but there appears a dissonance in his unassuming manner.  Then he steps in front of a microphone.  Even at 80, Nader’s energy when on public display was palpable.  There were 2 dozen speakers over the 4 hour event i attended, and he was easily the best one.  He owned the room, not because of his fame, but because of his conviction and sharp analysis.

We are lucky to have Ralph Nader on our side, and even more lucky he has grown so many organizations which are producing so many more organizers and activists to take his place.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,750 other followers