Brittany ran to me as i was walking through the Ash Street gardens of the Baltimore Free Farm. She was clearly excited to see me.
“I am so glad there is an old person here now!” was the first thing she said to me
I cracked up laughing. She explained that the party was full of 20 somethings and she thought my experience would be a grounding effect. Most people don’t find me grounding, but i was still totally flattered.
Many folks say they are busy, but you make time for what is important to you. I really wanted to go to StrangeFolx, the Baltimore Free Farms anniversary celebration. I wanted to go because i had missed the protests that BFF had played an amazing supportive role in. I wanted to go because i am regularly impressed with daring, tenacity and street smarts of these punks. I wanted to go, because i wanted a big, political party that someone else had organized.
On the way to the event i stopped at a roadside stand and got a flat of strawberries. I was handing them out to the perhaps 100 people who were already at this event by 1 PM. I walked by Billy who was pumping out pizzas.
As i approached the oven, there was a metal stake sticking up in the middle of the steps which dozens of people would soon be walking. “Fix that!” i barked at Billy pointing to the offending stake, in the way busy organizers sometimes dispense with pleasantries. A nearby anarchist reminded me, “You could fix it.” Billy soon put a purple cup over the stake and pronounced it fixed. Safety isn’t first with this crowd, otherwise they would not be rioting with the police.
Billy suggested that i change my thinking about pizza. Moving away from the idea that it would be a point in time in which one might have pizza, to more of a continuum or infinite span of pizza. And he made quite good on his promise to deliver unending pizza. Recently toughened up by the tremendous cooking effort done to support protesters of police violence in Baltimore, the Free Farm kids prepped for this 8 hour long anniversary party of a few hundred people. GPaul asked for a vegan pizza, and in moments it was there. The advantage of these real pizza ovens is they can cook a full pizza in just a couple of minutes.
When Billy finally took a break he greeted me warmly and gave me an illegal piece of riot swag. I was touched and i looked at him curiously. “We could not have done it without your cooks. It was amazing to have all this help and we desperately needed it.” When Baltimore exploded, Billy called me. He asked me to put out the call to Action: Baltimore needs cooks. So i blogged about it, copied it to few facebook pages and crossed my fingers. I got great reaction, with cooks responding to the blog post wanting to help. Many had minor logistical problems (like little money and no car). I cobbled together ride shares and other minor logistics, but folk were resourceful and wanted to get to Baltimore. In the end about a dozen cooks ended up volunteering at BFF. And i felt some pride around networking effectively.
But as though my ego were on some type of zen roller coaster, shortly after this i got schooled by Brittany on how unworkable my clever plans were to try to build coalitions with people of color (POC) activists. She was clear and firm in telling me that the internship scheme i was proposing would not fly culturally.
Instead Brittany and Billy agreed that the best thing for white allies to do these days is be consistent in providing the type of food services for protesters that BFF and Food Not Bombs have been providing. And be patient.
I live in a world that is slightly inconceivable to most people. I do a lot of work, almost all of it stuff I am super pleased to do. And I don’t get paid for it. Instead the communities I live in (Twin Oaks and Acorn) cover most of the costs of my living: Food, shelter, clothes, education, entertainment, medical insurance, dental insurance, and most of my travel.
Instead of getting paid in money, besides the services listed above, I accrue labor credits. For each hour I work, I get one labor credit. My labor obligation is 42 hours a week. It makes little sense, however, to compare this work quota to most people’s straight jobs. On the rare cases when I commute (like to a college speaking gig or a craft show) I get “paid” for my time traveling. I get labor credits for voting and going to the doctor, and some small fraction of the time I spend taking care of my son Willow is labor creditable. All the time I spend with Willow on home schooling, including the prep is labor creditable. When I clean our collective dishes, I get labor credits. If I were to cook for more than 7 people (which I never do) it would be also be creditable.
Some of the stuff I do is hard. I do mediation between people who are furious with each other. I work to stop nuclear power plants. I am trying to start income sharing communities in NYC, where couples committed to each other for life find it easier to not share income. I help find consensus when there is sharp disagreement. With some regularity people thank me and appreciate the difficulty of this work. When I am feeling clever or exhausted by my efforts I say, “That is why I make the big labor credits”, a silly knock off on the phrase “That is why I make the big bucks.”
Silly, because all labor credits are exactly the same size. One hour is one credit. It does not matter how hard I work in an hour to the accounting system (though other members certainly appreciate and celebrate anyone’s hard work). The labor credit I get for an hour of preparing space for a party is the exact same size as the one I get for hour I spend getting a drunk and belligerent guest out of the party. The labor credit I get for folding mail in the sun while talking with charming visitors is the same size as the one I get for counseling and talking down a manic or suicidal member.
I don’t need to get a bigger labor credit for the harder work. Turns out when my basic needs are met, I am pretty well off. The communities are poor. The people who live there have legitimately calculated taxable income below the poverty line (or at least in the case of Twin Oaks–Acorn is higher but still below the national average income). What this radical sharing we deploy does is to permit us to live like kings (or at least like the upper middle class), while we live in technical poverty.
If you are thinking to yourself “Wait why doesn’t everyone do this? We could eliminate the awful effects of living in poverty without having to make any more money,” you would be on to something. Besides stopping climate change, we would be saving millions of lives from the sharp edge of poverty.
What stops us is we don’t trust each other enough to share what we have, almost all of which is sitting idle almost all the time.
Post Script: I should clarify this thing about traveling, since it has sparked a bunch of questions. Perhaps half of these trips are paid for by the communities i live in. These include craft fairs trips with Hawina, college speaking gigs, hammocks sales trips and almost monthly trips to DC/Baltimore and NYC for the Point A Project, With the possible exception of Ira from Acorn, no one at either Twin Oaks or Acorn travels even close to this much. And i travel more than this.
I visit my mother at least two or three times a year, often in Florida, and she pays for this travel completely. I also travel with the Star family (my family of choice) and i pay for this out of money i earn outside of the community. I am also fortunate to have romantic intimates who pay for me to come and see them in all manner of curious or exotic locations.
As regular readers of this blog know, we are trying to start urban based income sharing communities in cities in the Northeastern US, specifically NYC, Washington DC, Baltimore and Richmond VA. We have different strategies in all these towns and friendly competition between the organizers as to what the best approach is to get these new communities off the ground.
In NYC, where we knew fewer people who were interested in this lifestyle, we have been doing public events for the last year. We have one coming up the weekend after this one called Community Matchmaking. Please consider coming if you are excited about intentional community in the NYC area.
In Washington we have a group of people who are willing to seriously investigate this style of living. Cities make things more complex and for the last year this DC group has been working on its agreements, strengthening its social fabric and doing the first round of recruiting to people inside our networks. DC is now ready to step up its outreach efforts and is having its first public outreach effort on March 24th. If you are in the Washington DC area and have a strong interest in intentional communities, this is certainly the place to be. Dinner and introductions start at 6PM.
What you should know about this ambitious DC group:
- The plan is to launch this new community within a year.
- There are 6 to 8 people planning on being income sharing members and another dozen and a half who are considering it.
- Most of these folks are currently living in group houses in the DC area.
The event on Tuesday is reaching out to people with collective living experience. Later events will focus differently and reach out to different audiences. Do you find collective living enriching and strengthening? Want to talk about ways to make collective living a lifelong option for more people rather than the transitional living situation that it so often is? Want to talk about ways to accentuate the positive and ameliorate the negative of living with a bunch of people in close community? Come out on Tuesday and join the discussion!
Names have power. I spent years going to a summer environmental youth festival in Europe called “Ecotopia”. Regular participants consider themselves Ecotopians. We talked about “Ecotopian Principals”. When things went well, we marveled at the “Ecotopia spirit”. It was originally the title of a book by Ernest Callenbach, who coined it in his 1975 popular classic, which was a prophetic tale of the Northwest region of the US succeeding and reversing industrial capitalism. But the name quickly went on to mean much more to many people. If we had, for example, called it Summer Green Fest, we would have identified with it less deeply and it might well have died a decade sooner. Some of the best names are ones which occur organically. I remember when we were designing an all womens anti-nuclear office in Prague which was staffed by internationals. Emily said “Why don’t we just call it the Prague International Anti-Nuclear Office?” I said “don’t you think that is a little long?” She said “We would call it PIANO for short, the acronym.” Instantly there was no other choice, we just started calling it Piano from that day on. The Point A project wrestled a bit initially with what to call ourselves, we wanted a good name. But the more we talked about it, we realized that the communities that the project created would have their own names, identities and origin stories – so a good name would be nice, and i like Point A, personally. But it is not a brilliant name. Busy people compress things. Your goodbyes are shorter, repetitive tasks get shaved by seconds where you can and multi-word names you have to type repeatedly become acronyms. Point A has a growing number of specific urban sub-projects (including currently DC, NYC, Baltimore and Richmond). So i started writing Point A – NYC and then PA – NYC and finally PANYC. omg what a great name. We are often told “don’t panic”, not just in the context of the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, but to maintain order. From where i sit, if we follow this strategy the chances for the planet to survive are vanishingly small. The people who want us to stay calm are often the same ones who think Climate Disruption is not a thing. They think business as usual is the way to go and they most certainly think that we should respect the powers that be and the current authority structure.
I could not disagree more. We need to be panicking. We need to be doing things dramatically differently. Business as usual is suicide, convenient and lucrative for a tiny fraction of the population, certainly. But no less suicide for the planet and everyone we care about. Well see if the other folks in the project are as excited as i am by this name and the implications. But i have a spring in my step just thinking about it.
I have always wanted to hang a jury. I have been fortunate that all my court appearances (except the Acorn Arson) have been elective – I chose to get arrested. But I have never had a real chance to hang a jury, until today. I have been guilty of dozens of trespass charges against me and I have never argued that point. To hang a jury I need to get at least one positive answer to the question “Has the injustice I am fighting directly impacted at least one member of the jury intimately?” For nuclear power or a pending war the jury is usually quite removed from these issues.
Today I was on trial for our highly publicized arrests at the UVA fraternities last November protesting their support and participation in rape culture. Someone on this jury has been touched by this crime. Some sister or daughter or dear friend has been sexually assaulted and this juror has watched helplessly as their loved ones’ life unraveled.
I desperately wanted to remind this juror of their pain and their frustration with the broken legal system which oppressed their intimate and generally ignores this crime. I wanted to beg them, in the name of their friend, to see past the trivial trespass and instead see how this court, police and culture helps perpetuate this problem. I wanted to call for the system to be put on trial, not me.
Tragically, the odds would be heavily in my favor. Statistically, with twelve jurors, my chances that at least one of them would have gone through this ordeal are nearly 100%. Sexual assault is endemic in the US and the powers that be are mostly uninterested in addressing it in any meaningful way.
Sadly, I did not do it today. Fighting in the courts is a long and time consuming process. Judges are quite resistant to cases looking outside the specifics of the charges before them. And the court fees associated with a failed not guilty plea would exceed $1000 because the defendant must pay the jury stipend. This is a chunk of change on the commune stipend. Instead, like my co-defendants I plead guilty and was given 44 hours of community service. At the trial I read the following statement:
For our non-violent protest against rapes at UVA we were swiftly arrested. Yet repeated reports of sexual assaults on campus are ignored by the university and Charlottesville police department. I plan to do my community service for an organization which is working to address this injustice.
The first time i got arrested I made friends with an impressive man named Louis Corn. He was in his 70s and had been arrested many times for protest. When I asked him why, he said “Well, this body is not much good for hard work no more. But I can still throw it onto an unjust state.” I don’t do that much hard physical work, but I am looking forward to the day when I can take the chance my inspiring old friend did regularly and try to hang a jury and embolden others to fight for justice.
by Simeon Becker
I am a syncretic anarchist. What this means is that, if you identify
as an anarchist, and are reasonably intelligent and nonviolent, I will
do my absolute best to not try to tell you that you are not one. This
goes from anarcho-communists/libertarian socialists/anarcho-syndicalists (I like to call them “Chomskyites”) to anarcho-capitalists/voluntaryists/free market anarchists (whose thinkology to which I personally am admittedly more partial*). I even believe there may be a place in Anarchotopia for anarcho-primitivists, as long as they don’t force me at obsidian spear-point to live naked with them in a cave wherein we will communicate by grunting and flailing our arms and shun the individual oppressive enough to dare reinvent the wheel. But we’ll have to wait and see how that goes.
*Whilst touring the egalitarian community Twin Oaks yesterday, I made
myself out to be a bit of a “that guy” by repeatedly asking questions
with dirty words, such as “Can you BUY clothes from the community
closet?” and “Now, when you claim a community bike, how much does it
COST?” And then everyone pointed at me and made a raspy shrieking
noise before devouring my soul like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Okay, no, they chuckled and politely encouraged me to think outside
the mercantilist box for a few hours. I obliged.
I do not imagine that the circumstances under which I first began to
consider that I might be an anarchist are typical to most anarchists
(though, is anything, really?). At the age of 13, I read Alan Moore’s
incredible graphic novel V for Vendetta (and yes, the book is better
than the movie), whereupon I immediately hopped on Wikipedia to learn
more about this “anarchy” of which the flamboyant protagonist extols
the virtues. This naturally led me to explore the plethora of books,
people, and inevitable awkward schisms which make up the history of
anarchism, and at some point in this, the making of a teenage
anarchist, the name Paxus Calta leapt out at me. Hence why it is kind
of an astronomically big deal for me to be guest-contributing to this
esteemed blog. (Let that hopefully serve as my first, last, and only
moment of unabashed fanboyism to be documented for posterity within
the archives of funologist.org.)
I was extraordinarily fortunate enough to have a philosophical
tradition spanning roughly 200 years laid out before me in digital
form, to be perused at my own discretion. And, since I am for whatever
reason fascinated by all forms of conflict and what drives people to
them, I naturally was compelled in particular by the various conflicts
among self-proclaimed anarchists concerning what, exactly, an
anarchist society would necessarily be and not be. It is
etymologically self-evident that “anarchy,” Latin for “no rulers,”
does not mean “no RULES,” but when one attempts to delineate what
rules are legitimate, how they ought to be enforced in the absence of
rulers, and by what means we as individuals can coax society at large
toward such ends, one will likely incur the ire of no small number of
diametrically opposed thinkers all shouting at each other, “NOT REAL
ANARCHISM!” Especially if one makes the horrendous blunder of starting this conversation on Facebook.
(Tangential to that last sentence, if you are an anarcho-anything,
please do your mental state the huge favor of avoiding the Facebook
group Anarcho-Capitalist/Anarcho-Communist Debate like the plague. I
say this as a reluctant administrator of this group who has concluded
many a coffee-fueled morning holding my head in my hands over
something astoundingly rude and/or insanely idiotic posted by someone
on either side of the issue, usually myself.)
A conversation with Paxus yesterday highlighted a perfect example of
such a fundamental split among anarchists, one in which I
uncomfortably find myself slightly to the right of the middle. Allow
me to allegorize:
Mr. X runs A Very Big Smelly Corporate Factory. AVBSCF, Inc., on a
daily basis, dumps roughly 666 gallons of oobleck into the Idyllic
River, which runs past Happytown. The prolonged exposure to oobleck
begins to make the residents of Happytown, well, not so happy. Maybe
even sick, or dead. How shall an anarchist society penalize Mr. X for
his callous irresponsibility? The most common Chomskyite answer in my
experience, which I personally do not find satisfactory, is that there
simply would be no AVBSCF, Inc., to begin with; in its place, there
would be A Harmonious Eco-conscious Worker-Owned Collective (Inc.?),
as society will presumably have somehow evolved past such ridiculous
constructs like “money” and “economics.” Failing that, some kind of
Harmonious Consensus-Democratic EPA will step in to decide what to do
with Mr. X and his henchpeople. The anarcho-capitalist answer, on the
other hand, is not particularly satisfying, either: If people don’t
like the oobleck problem created by AVBSCF, Inc., they should not be
perpetuating it by buying AVBSCF, Inc.’s widgets. Failing that, the
relatives of the deceased Happytownites should sue Mr. X, and in a
just market of laws, would win. And yes, I just used the phrase
“market of laws.” Unless you are an anarcho-capitalist, your mind is
probably irreversibly blown.
It seems to me that, if the general public is too willfully ignorant
to give the logical and ethical superiority of a stateless society
over a statist one a second, or maybe even a first, thought, they
probably shouldn’t be relied upon to collectively resolve, “Let’s put
the Idyllic River before our lovely widgets!” But doesn’t the
Chomskyite solution presuppose, well, a government? Even a supposedly
kinder, gentler government? Mao Tse-tung was unfortunately right on
the money when he pointed out that “political power comes out of the
barrel of a gun.” Whatever their aims, governments necessarily claim
epistemologically unjustifiable monopoly over an essentially arbitrary
section of the planet. That doesn’t sound kind, or gentle. Or
anarchist. Is the question we should be asking ourselves how to
prevent the problem, or how to resolve it after the fact? Is the
problem even preventable? Can any model of society suppress the human
nature to oppress?
Anarchy is a priori. To paraphrase Alan Moore, the most common statist
objection to anarchism, that the biggest gang would take over and
negate the entire concept of anarchism, is literally the exact state
of current affairs. We live in a badly developed anarchist society in
which the biggest gangs have taken over and declared that this or that
area within these or those imaginary lines is not really an anarchist
society, but a capitalist society, or a communist society, or a
democratic socialist society, or a fascist society. As far as I am
concerned, anyone attempting to deny anarchism outright is probably
not worth discussing politics with, or sociology, or economics, or
much of anything except maybe the weather. Maybe not even that,
either. This is the attitude that has restricted my circle of friends
almost entirely to anarcho-capitalists and a very small handful of
very patient anarcho-communists. And even these friends I have a
tendency to horrify/annoy/confuse/weird out, the former by saying
things like “I’m spending a month in a commune! Isn’t that awesome?”,
the latter by saying things like “Don’t you just love the free
market/money/private property laws/the Ludwig von Mises Institute/the
Supreme Court ruling on corporate personhood?”
It is clear to me that SOME kind of anarchist society MUST be the cure
for the majority of society’s ills, but what exactly I mean by
“anarchist society,” I guess I can’t say. I don’t think anyone can.
But if you’re not an anarchist…sure is cold at Acorn Community today.
Twin Oaks is an established income sharing community in central Virginia of 93 adults and 15 children. Now located on a 450 acre farm, the commune operates 6 businesses, grows most of its own food–organically–builds it’s own buildings, teaches it’s own kids, and repairs it’s own appliances and vehicles.
Here is some of the mainstream and alternative media coverage of us:
Russia Today circa 2012
CNN circa 2010
Frequency555 circa 2010
Mojo Productions circa 2009
Voice of America circa 2009
Central to the community’s operation is the idea of sharing resources. Twin Oaks has developed robust systems for sharing cars, bikes, clothes and businesses. These systems are in sharp contrast to the casual sharing practiced in the mainstream where brittle agreements generally lead to failure.
One of the many advantages of sharing resources is dramatically reducing our negative ecological effect and carbon footprint. The numbers below demonstrate we are already near the 80% reduction in carbon emissions that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is recommending by the year 2050.
[Note: It is unclear if the below numbers include our income generating businesses or not. My guess is they do, and thus we are even more sustainable. But i will check and indicate here what is true.]
Gasoline: The average Virginia resident uses about 530 gallons per year. Twin Oaks consumed about 15,267 gallons of gas in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of population of 96, that would put our consumption at 159 gallons per person. That is 70% less gasoline consumed.
Electricity: The average Virginia resident uses 13,860 kWh of Electricity per year. Twin Oaks consumed 268,065 kWh in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of 96, that would put our consumption at 2,792 kWh per person. That is 80% less electricity consumed.
Natural Gas: The average household in Virginia uses 767 therms of natural gas. Twin Oaks consumed 16,221 therms of natural gas in 2007. With an adult population on average of 87 adults, that would put our consumption at 186 therms per person. That is 76% less natural gas consumed.
Solid Waste: The average American produces 1,460 pounds of trash a year. Twin Oaks produced 18,780.00 pounds of solid waste in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of 96, that would put our production at 196 pounds per person. That is 87% less solid waste produced.
The cultural aspects of community life are as important as the economic ones. We develop our own holidays. Almost all our operations are run by volunteers. We don’t use money internally and there is effectively no crime.
In many ways , the community is an island, culturally and economically separate from it’s immediate surroundings. This cooperative model, however, is one of the very few solutions that can actually avoid the climate catastrophe the US is hurtling toward at breakneck speeds.
The original data for comparing Twin Oaks with US average consumption of electricity, natural gas, gasoline and solid waste were researched by Alexis Ziegler of Living Energy Farm.