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Acorn Kids Double in One Day

On Wednesday of this week the number of kid members at Acorn doubled from two to four.  Stephanie and Sean’s two kids, Elan and Adira, were joined by newborn, Tullulah, and Sappho.

Fox, Talula and Oden on the floor.

Fox, Tullulah and Odin on the floor.

Sappho in a dress she sewed for herself just before arriving

Sappho in a dress she sewed for herself just before arriving

It is a big deal to go from one family with two kids a couple years apart to three families with kids ranging from newborn to eight years old.  It shows an interesting stability in Acorn, which has long been a culture dominated by more transient young people.

To my optimistic eye it harks the beginning of a golden age, in which Acorn uses its considerable resources to make all manner of enviable things happen here.  I’m game.

The First Policy – Expulsion

One of the most exciting about working on the Point A project is that we get to work with lots of different communities.  Several of these communities are young, so unlike the places i live (Twin Oaks and Acorn), they don’t have a long history and well established culture of how to handle tricky situations.  Also, a number of these places are anarchist identified, so they often think that they don’t need policies or pre-existing agreements.  They think they will just figure out what they need to do when it comes up. This is naive. Trick_or_Treaty There are a handful of completely predictable community crises in which a relatively small amount of work in advance can save you tremendous heartache and damage.  And, in the case of how to manage the expulsion of a member, if you don’t design the policy/agreements before you need it, your entire community can fail the first time you have to decide if you are going to throw someone out.

Why?  Communities are not like jobs where you can relatively easily fire someone or lay them off (and even this is often not easy). Communities generally start with friends who have come together because they want to live together.  It is hard enough to create community so that these friends have to be fairly heavily invested in each other to be able to get the community off the ground in the first place.  Strong friendships and trust are the thing good communities are made of.  And when these break they don’t break evenly.

It never said

It never said, “Don’t eat the apples.”

Almost always, if something goes terribly wrong in a community and there is a need for some type of expulsion process, there are some people in the community who don’t want to lose their friend by throwing them out.  If the person that could be expelled has no friends or has done something so bad that no one wants them to stay, then that person generally recognizes that they have poisoned their relationship with the collective and no process is needed because often they just up and leave, before a process could start.

Even Acorn, which tries to avoid fixed policies as much as possible, takes on this problem with the ironically named “Peace and Love Accords“.  If you look at this anarchist policy (yes, this is not an oxymoron), you will find a lot of it has to do with protecting the rights of the focus person and making transitions smooth, even if there have been serious problems.  And as with all good anarchist policy, it gives the group the right to bail on the policy and do something different, if everyone agrees. The advantage of having this type of policy is that in the trickiest expulsion cases often not everyone agrees and then, rather than fight about what you should do, the policy creates an agreed upon fall back position which can keep the group from descending into chaos. When you are designing an expulsion process often you will want to figure out what appropriate grounds are for expulsion.

Can't we all just get along? Sometimes no.

Can’t we all just get along? Sometimes no.

Here is what Twin Oaks has decided are valid ground to consider expulsion: [Twin Oaks uses “co” as a gender neutral pronoun to replace “she or he”.]

Expulsion of a full member may, but need not, take place for any of the following reasons:

1. Co openly repudiates the principles of the Community and works against their implementation.

2. Co is found guilty by local, state, or federal authorities of some crime or misdemeanor and the Community therefore feels it is no longer appropriate for co to remain a member.

3. Co consistently does less than cos share of the Community work.

4. Co absents coself from the Community for more than three weeks beyond the point of legitimate vacation according to current Community policy or without having made satisfactory arrangements with the Community with regard to cos absence.

5. Co physically, sexually and/or mentally abuses another member or guest of the Community, or any child, by any aggressive action and/or words which the Community interprets as sufficiently serious and/or likely to be repeated to warrant expulsion. The application of the foregoing provision to abusive words is not intended to inhibit the free expression of information, opinion, belief or emotion. It is intended to apply when oral or written language is presented in a threatening, harassing, or violent manner such that it would be reasonably expected to cause physical, sexual or mental harm. Guidelines for Applying the Mental Abuse Provision of the Bylaws

6. Co repeatedly and/or flagrantly violates the equality principle by appropriating to cos use items (including but not limited to cash) intended for the use of the Community as a whole or property designated for other use; or co repeatedly or flagrantly steals property belonging to someone else;

7. Co is discovered to have made bad faith declarations of the extent or disposition of cos property when entering the Community or subsequently, or co grossly violates the Community Property Code (Article IV below) with regard to the disposition of said property or the disposition of any income co received while a member.

8. Co deliberately and overtly attempts to destroy or disband the Community by any legal, extralegal, or financial means or in any other manner, provided that this shall not be broadly interpreted to refer to the holding of disapproved opinions or to behavior which from time to time might be considered dangerous. It is intended to refer specifically to deliberately making trouble between the Community and civil authorities, involving the Community in a lawsuit, involving the Community in unauthorized financial obligations, and such similar hostile acts or attempted hostile acts. The above provisions shall not be taken as requiring the Community to expel a member, even for these reasons. The Community may, but need not, expel a member for any of the above reasons. The Community also has the option of substituting other remedies or sanctions.

Expulsion Mechanism. The procedure for expulsion shall be as follows: Expulsion may be proposed by any voting member. The Planners and/or such other body of members as the Planner may authorize either ad hoc or as a matter of policy, shall hold a public meeting or meetings on the proposed expulsion — provided, however, that at one meeting or another the member in question shall be given full opportunity to answer any accusations or to explain cos conduct or view and express cos desires concerning cos membership, if possible. If, after the member in question has been heard, the Community desires cos expulsion, if possible co shall be so informed, at which time co will normally be allowed at least three days before co is required to leave the Community premises. Extensions of this period may be made at the discretion of the Community.

So, if you have a new community, and you don’t have time to design your own expulsion policy, you could look at these, hack them up to make them fit your circumstances, and then make them yours until you have time to do it right.

The ass you save may be your own.

Parenting in Community – It takes a Village

Presidential candidate and corporate crony Hillary Clinton wrote a book some years ago called “It Takes A Village“.  The central thesis of the book is that the lives of individuals outside the immediate family are tremendously influential on kids.  And while i disagree with Hillary on everything from drones to the Iraq war, this is one place we agree.  [Though i would point out Chelsea does not have a village, she has a security detail.  My son Willow has a village.]

Anya and Summer - photo credit Yahoo News

Anya and Summer – photo credit Yahoo News

willow-on-head-w-phone

Willow at Climate Change Action – Photo Credit Caroline Morningstar

Yahoo News came through here and wrote a fine piece about parenting in the community which has just been published.  The community has a quite mixed relationship with the press, and this mostly positive article strikes a good balance of the problems with the parenting program and the advantages.  The article outed the community as being mostly polyamorous and the liberal author apparently got that this is not a detriment to the kids.  In fact, it is a boon.  What is really true is that Twin Oaks is an “embrace diversity” community, which means we don’t tell our members what to do in terms of diet, spirituality, relationship models, smoking, really anything. The article also inspired a number of inquiries to the community through our Facebook page, which of course is the wrong way to get in touch with us (write twinoaks@ic.org or better yet, read the webpage about the community before you ask any questions). We don’t have all the answers about parenting at the communes.  But what is clear to me is our kids are happier, better adjusted, more curious and more self aware than the kids i bump into in the mainstream, on average.  Turns out villages are important.

Envy not Jealousy

Often, i find language police annoying.  Some definitions of words shift with time.  The word ambivalent has drifted from its original meaning to be torn by opposing feelings about something to being indifferent.  When people use the word, i listen to determine which of these meanings they are using.  Mostly, i don’t tell people they are using it wrong.

everyones a critic comic

Strangely, 400 years ago the word “nice” meant “silly”.  So now, even though nobody uses it that way, when ever i hear the word “nice” i check to see if i think they might really mean that the thing is silly.

There is an important exception to this “no language police” self-rule.  It is distinguishing between envy and jealousy.  Wikipedia puts it well.

In its original meaning, jealousy is distinct from envy, though the two terms have popularly become synonymous in the English language, with jealousy now also taking on the definition originally used for envy alone.

Jealousy is quite complex.  Jealousy typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something of great personal value, particularly in reference to a human connection.
Envy is simple.  You want something someone else has.
or in more words

or in more words

I half think this confusion is culturally intentional.  Envy is understandable people want things other people have.  Jealousy is emotionally less justifiable.  There are all manner of presumptions tied up in jealousy.  This lover is mine.  They should not be flirting with someone other than me.  Am i not enough?  Is my relationship in danger?  If you confuse the generally justifiable desire with the often inappropriately possessive emotion, you can perhaps hide your insecurities behind the cover of understandable wanting.
jealousy versus envy
i am not ambivalent about the distinction between jealousy and envy.

Polyamory Geometry – Metamours

At least in theory, monogamy is simple.  You have one partner, you are sexually, and perhaps intimately, exclusive with them.  You come up with agreements as to what that means, you defer to this relationship if any other interests should come along.  And you are good to go.

poly_heart

How many have the key to your heart?

Polyamory in contrast is complex.  There are multiple partners with different desires, dreams and ideas.  There need to be agreements about how new partners get added.  You will need to have safe sex discussions.  There are often crowded schedules to be coordinated.   There is also embracing the inherent inequities in poly.  There are hierarchies or configurations or interrelations which need to be negotiated.

piggy back kissing

Fundamentally more complicated

Some of the most poorly charted territories (because they are all quite different from each other) are relationships between metamours (partners of partners).  These are often people who have not chosen directly to be involved, perhaps a strange old friend of your new friend.  But these people can potentially have a significant impact on your life.  If a metamour goes into crisis, you can expect your lover to support them, potentially trashing the carefully laid plans you have.  If a metamour moves to Italy, your lover might want to visit them there, taking them far from you.  If a metamour wins the Nobel prize, your personal life could become much more public than you were thinking it was going to be.

husbands-girlfriend There are of course positive metamour effects as well.  If your partner has selected well (and they did choose you after all) it is possible a metamour can support you when your partner is being hard to understand or acting like a jerk.  If you are lucky, a clever metamour can call your partner out when they are being ill behaved towards you.  And if you are really lucky, metamours can become important intimates in your life.  I first met Shal as my lover’s lover and he has become one of my closest friends, long after the romance that brought us together has faded away.

kitchen table polyThis post was inspired by the above comic, which nicely defines two terms.  Especially for people who are new to polyamory or have partners at significant distance there is often the practice of “parallel poly”, where metamours have very little interaction with each other and may not even have met.

But what most experienced poly people are looking for is what Tikva calls “kitchen table poly.”  The idea that even if you don’t have a direct romantic relationship with your partner’s partner, they are still important to them and thus like family to you.

And these generalizations are exactly that.  You could easily have an experienced pair of metamours who don’t spend time together and operate “in parallel”.  Or you could have a couple or more folks who share lovers who are quick to find each other and become friends or even romantic partners.  One long time lover of mines partner practices HONCing – the Happiness Of Not Connecting.  We have nothing to do with each other and when we are in the same town we avoid each other.

i heart my metamour

bumper sticker available at http://Www.cafepress.com/polyandmore

Rita Mae Brown said “An army of lovers can not fail.” And while i don’t like military metaphors generally, i get the sentiment here.  If you want to get past your jealousy, one powerful way to do it is to hang out with ruffled hair and a fuzzy bathrobe at the breakfast table with someone who deeply agrees with you about how wonderful your lover is.

For more poly comics go to Kimchicuddles.com

Other posts on polyamory and honest seduction:

Willow is a Teenager

It was about midnight at the fabulous Validation Day party.  Willow and the gaggle of friends who had come up for his 13th birthday were no doubt safe killing zombies or the digital equilvalent somewhere on our 450 acre campus.  Sky and i caught each other between songs on the dance floor.

“Do you have Willow tonight?” i asked

“He does not need us, he is a teenager now.” Sky quipped

And while it was mostly a joke, there was some recgnition that even in the insular world of the income sharing intentional community, our son was becoming more independent, more self reliant and less in need of direct supervision or support from his flock of parents.

10953382_342319939306299_3929075729010944641_o

Sadly, we retreated from the lovely complex rules of Capture the Flag 2.0.  It was deemed too hard to teach and we were in a hurry to get out into the cold and get playing.

Willow in hot persuit

Willow in hot persuit

Willow’s team won twice before the cold overwhelmed the group.  [Pro tip – attrition.  Wait for the other team to have too many members in jail and then overwhelm their strained defenses.]  This game had lots of running through the woods which makes it easy to wipe out and out maneuver your pursuer.  The kids seemless intergrated in the small handful of Acorners i brought over for the fun.

Willow plus closest friends - almost all commune kids.

Willow plus closest friends – almost all commune kids.

Willows friends almost all either live in the commune now or did at one point.  One of his best friends is Adrian, who left the commune when Willow was 2.  Adrian is now 17 (Willow is 13 if that was not clear).  But like many kids who grow up at the commune, there is some special home like aspect that brings them back to visit and maintain friendships.  A dozen years ago Adrian did child care for Willow.  Now they team up to take on zombies or their digital equivalents via online chat.

The  bunny ears were a gift from Gwen.  Orion and Jonah flank Willow.

The bunny ears were a gift from Gwen. Orion and Jonah flank Willow.

The parents will stick around for a bit longer, in case he needs us for something.

Me guarding Jonah who is inches from the flag.

Me guarding Jonah who is inches from the flag.

Vulture House at Freedonia

The new kids on the block are actually the old kids from the block, they are just back with a very politically potent offer which will hopefully be a new direction for the squatting movement – but i am getting ahead of myself, let’s begin at the beginning.

Freedonia is awesome.  They have pioneered a new approach to squatting which makes it more resilient.  They have tricked the police into giving them abandoned buildings.   They host clever workshops, feed local and poor people for free and throw bad ass parties.  All in an undisclosed location, in the shadow of serious urban decay, somewhere on the east coast of the US, far from anywhere Dick Cheney would think of hanging out.

better-to-squat

An adventurous group of Freedonians (which is quite redundant phrase actually) set off on a bike tour to New Orleans.  They called themselves the Vultures.  There were puppet shows, there were narrow escapes from the police, there were complex polyamorous topographies – all the good things you would expect from our intrepid travelers.  And there were lots of talks around open fires about how to step things up back in Freedonia.

Vultures, Puppet Shows, No Relation

Vultures, Puppet Shows, No Relation

Normal people would have looked at the impressive accomplishments of this full featured set of squats and said “well, we have done quite enough and we are already impressive and sustainable just the way we are”.  But the Vultures would not know normal if it came at them with a knife (i’d bet on the Vultures in this fight though, normal don’t got a chance).

A west coast squat that has nothing to do with Freedonia

A west coast squat that has nothing to do with Freedonia

They decided they would kick it up a level and start income sharing.  They returned from their bike tour, promptly broke into a house not far from their original places (which they had let others move into while they were on the bike tour and they did not want them to leave when they returned) and squatted it.  And thus Vulture House was born.

They then offered to all of the other Freedonians to join them in this income sharing adventure.  Readers of this blog will not be surprised that i think sharing and especially income sharing are instrumental in saving the world.  We don’t know how many other local squatters will bite, but the Vultures are pretty compelling.

Stay tuned for more tales of intrepid revolutionaries from undisclosed locations.

We are watching these vultures

We are watching these vultures

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