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Two Powerful Long Political Commercials

This is a lovely piece of corporate sponsored good citizenship modeling.

It is somewhat culturally inappropriate for US in a number of ways.  You don’t poke a woman you don’t know on the bus (tho you could offer your seat if you felt moved).  It is a guy always giving to somehow disempowered women.

And if we can see past these problems and get to the deeper message: generosity – particularly regular small generosity, is a highly desirable cultural attribute.

Curiously with almost 5 million Youtube views of this video, it points to a Thai language dominated and apparently uninteresting website.

On the most disturbing side there is this piece from Syria.

This Save the Children fundraisers has already exceeded it’s $100K goal.

What are the implications of this improving philanthropic art video form?  Are our hearts going to more regularly be tugged at or stomped on?

And it begs the question, with the accessible media of video, what are the viral short films we should be making to draw folks our way?

 

 

 

No bosses, No sunroofs

Outside of Eugene, Oregon and the intentional communities movement, pretty much everyone has a boss.  There are some acceptable bosses, but overwhelmingly people are, i observe, dissatisfied with their bosses.  The miracle of the income sharing communities, is that we are largely able to run our cottage industries without the oppressive or disagreeable part of the boss role.  At Twin Oaks we have managers, who have labor and money budgeting responsibilities, but they very rarely tell someone that they need to do something.  They often request people do things, but this is not what bosses do, they tell people.  At Acorn we have even ditched the title of manager all together, and things run just fine thank you.

bosses be like

When Occupy sparked, there was much conversation at Twin Oaks as to what Occupy Twin Oaks would look like.  What would be our demand for a more fair and just society in the already fairly idyllic world of the commune?  As we got further into this investigation, we realized again who wonderfully fortunate we were.  “Seconds at 6:15″ was one rallying cry that dinner seconds should be available earlier rather than the current 6:30 PM time.   If this is what we are demanding, then things must be pretty peachie.

There are of course trade offs.  To not have crime, we have to give up living in the city,   To share cars together we have to give up access to the sunroofs in our cars.

sunroof

Don’t even think about it

This might sound odd at first, or perhaps even unfair.  But when we get a new vehicle which has a sunroof in it, one of the first things we do is disable the sunroof.  We do this because if we don’t some member will leave the sunroof open and the interior of the vehicle will get soaked.  So the least responsible of us dictate the self protective behaviors we embrace that strip us of personal freedoms.

This irks me until i remember that i am one of the people most likely to leave a sunroof open.

 

 

 

 

Becoming a Digital Nomad

When i was growing up, one of the most transformative adventures one could take was walking off the land you knew with a small bag and a daring attitude and sticking out you thumb and hitchhiking away.  This is still true, except the clever traveler will add to their small bag an internet connected device.

There is a growing knowledge base of digital nomads and the first and perhaps most important piece is hitchwiki.org.  If you have ever hitched much you know there are places that are hard to get through, good spots where drivers are likely to pick you up and routes to avoid.  The problem is that regular maps and guidebook almost never tell you where these places are.

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state - source hitchwiki

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state – source hitchwiki

Hitchwiki tells you not only what the laws are in different regions but also what the local customs are and how to best catch a ride.  It also has user edited maps of the roadway system, including stories and advice for how to have a successful journey.  Knowing the hitching culture and hot spots dramatically increases your chances of getting where you are going.

But what if you don’t know where you are going?  What if your adventure is not highly scripted and you are looking for like minded people who might put you up, without asking you for money?  Many people have heard about couchsurfing, but there is a better radical hospitality system called BeWelcome.org.  It is better because the people who are involved in it are more interested in connecting with travelers in a meaningful way and less about being party tourists.  While BeWelcome is far sparser than couchsurfing, it is designed to accommodate hitchhikers and it makes sense to populate this democratic and transparent site with new people, rather than continue with the for profit beast.

bewelcome-rev-bw03

It is also worth pointing out that the software developers who created BeWelcome built much of the Couchsurfing site, before leaving the WalMart of peer to peer hospitality for ideological reasons.

But lets say you have no money and want to eat.  Enter TrashWiki.  Another site which has content contributed by many users, it is dedicated to finding food and other valuable things which have been thrown out.  In some cases this is where the good dumpster are.  In other cases it is where pre-dumpster things can be found or where you can find dumpster diving partners.  Better than OK Cupid if you this is your area of interest and you are looking for a match.

Digital nomadism is about using the power of the internet to take a step away from conventional lifestyles and instead trust strangers, rescue waste and see new parts of the world.

 

 

 

The Best Present for a Kid

If you have a Dutch parent, you qualify for the rights of a Dutch citizen.  Every 5 years Willow and Hawina and i go to the Dutch Embassy in Death City and get Willow’s passport renewed.  Willow is a US citizen, with a US passport, but the Dutch are completely happy to issue an EU one, if the parents apply.  This is a no brainer.

The Dutch passport is actually a Schengen Treaty enabled EU passport.  You can travel between all the blue areas on the map below by just flashing an EU passport.

The largest federation in the world

The largest national federation in the world

There are multiple reasons for having a couple of passports, beyond the above listed convenience. The one most people are familiar with is traveling between hostile or warring countries.  Donning a Cuba passport stamp in a US passport can result in a visit from the FBI.  Should you wish to travel regularly between the Arab world and Israel, a second passport (even from the same country, which you can get by claiming you lost one) is advised.

Who says where you can go?

Who says where you can go?

But the real reason i want Willow to have a second passport is that if his life is at all like mine, there will be a moment when it is extremely useful.  This moment will be when he is traveling and some agent of the state thinks that they control him, because they have taken his passport.  Annoyingly confidently they will be leading him off to some undesired destination.  Having a second passport gives you the chance to look for an opportunity to depart from the foreign state agent and make a break for it.

Part of our home schooling is learning for when you can successfully make a break for it.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Paul’s Plausible Proposterous Proposal Party

What do you give to the person who wants nothing (for themself)?  Perhaps  you would give them an idea.  Ideally it would be an idea so novel, funny, daring, newsworthy and crazy enough that it just might work.  This is where i need your help.

So perhaps he needs more precise make up

So perhaps he needs more precise make up

This Friday is GPaul’s 30th birthday and we will be in NYC continuing with our community building Point A work.  I am responsible for his under organized birthday event.  Pleasantly, he personally wants little, demonstrated by (among many things) his willingness to stay in a tiny shoe box room in the barn at Acorn for years after he could have moved into a nicer one.

What we want collectively is at the other end of the accessibility spectrum:  High visibility, inspiring,  urban based, income sharing, intentional communities.  And what I am asking from you, even if you can’t join us for this post Pride Friday night party in NYC is exotic memes.

 

Taxi harness at Burning Man

Taxi harness at Burning Man

What  preposterous yet plausible proposals do you have for how to spark new urban communities?  Some examples might help.

Party til Occupation. Both  the mainstream media and progressive activists were surprised by Occupy.  A call was made for a broad protest, as thousands have in the past, and people showed up in Zuccotti Park and ultimately across the country and started building political community.  What had not been expected was that people from different classes and races could work intimately together using consensus to improve the treatment of the poor and the homeless and highlight corruption in banking and politics.

What if (after finding a suitable site) we decided to hold an open ended party.  Different collective groups from the city take responsibility for making sure there are people and party goodies for some specific set of days for perhaps the first month or so.  Then if it turns out that people are enjoying the party, renew the invitations and simply start pretending that permanent occupation of the site is a desirable and possible outcome.

startup community

CommunityCupid.org.  Instead of a one on one dating site, this new social network helps people find others to live in community with.  This does not need to be a single place based residence, it could be buying clubs and other aggregate discount services.  And the structure of the site and the data is such that it is designed to bring people who are looking to spark community into the conversation.  A relatively simple solution for starting up such a project might be as a Facebook plug in.

These are two examples of unlikely, but desirable projects.  I am hoping you can add your own to be part of the birthday fun.

On Friday we will gather all the cards and all the participants we have and each person attending the party will draw 3 or more cards and choose the one which they think they can defend to the group the best. Then they will present the bold proposal of their selection and the rest of the group will evaluate the proposal to see if it is worthy of pursuing.

If you are in NYC this Friday, then email me and I will tell you where this event is in Brooklyn.  If you can’t participate, but would like to submit a preposterous plausible idea you can either email me or leave it in the comment field.

 

 

 

Shuttle Driver to the Perfect Party

When i was in Death City getting Willow a second passport, i got 4 text messages asking if i could drive the shuttle home from Trout’s bachelor party (which was 100 miles away in Louisa VA).  Showing not surprisingly that people have trouble keeping track of where i am. It also shows that i am a first responder shuttle driver.    A reasonable assumption actually.

i need to get one of these cool hats

i need to get one of these cool hats

Earlier in the week i had been a shuttle driver for Fox’s bachelorette party.    Mostly, this is the short but menacing drive from Twin Oaks to Acorn.  Menacing in that getting home after the party can be tricky somethings, trying to guess how long the party will be fun, if this person flirting with you is going to stick around, if you will like the next band of DJ as much as you do the current one, if you can stay later and still get up early for that shift you probably never should have scheduled yourself for.

Which shuttle is best?

Which shuttle is best?

And i am the first responder principally because i am generally willing and often available on short notice.  It does not take long, it is highly appreciated and i hardly drink at all, making me a great designated driver.  I am also on the insurance of both communities as a dual member and have access to both fleets of vehicles.  I am a like a universal donor.

Building Better Parties: Fox and Trout got married.  They did up the celebrations quite right, if you ask me.  They had two ceremonies and 2 pre-parties.  One of the ceremonies was a mainstream legal wedding, with family and close friends and a minister.  The second was held at Acorn with all the significant number of commune friends this popular couple have (pictures in a pending blog post), but it was hardly legal.

Luna at the party after the wedding

Luna at the party after the wedding

Before the commune wedding there was a bachelor party and a bachelorette party.  The communes often struggle with exclusion and especially around gender binaries.  The question of came up “Can i go to the bachelors party as a gal?”  The stock answer is “You should be at the party if you think you should be at the party.”  Gender is a personal choice.  You can be girl enough to go to the bachelorette party, even if your chromosomes think differently.

Sometimes there is no right answer

Sometimes there is no right answer

Many attendees were impressed by these events.  I was happy to get people there and home.

 

 

 

 

The Case Against Personal Shelters

[Update:  Please read the comments at the end of this post for the proper history of what has happened at East Wind Community in Missouri regarding Personal Shelters. They are the ones who have pioneered it, and the story i have in this post is slightly wrong.  I will fix it in the coming days. Paxus]

Egalitarianism is tricky.  It starts out tricky because we don’t even have a common definition of it in the income sharing communities where I spend most of my time.  The relevant parts of the principals from the Federation of Egalitarian Communities which describe it are:

  • Hold land, labor, income and other resources in common.
  • Assumes responsibility for the needs of its members, receiving the products of their labor and distributing these and all other goods equally, or according to need.
  • Uses decision making which gives members an equal opportunity to participate, either through consensus, direct vote, or right of appeal or overrule.
  • Works to establish the equality of all people and does not permit discrimination on the basis of race, class, creed, ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

[There are other FEC principals, like non-violence and sustainability, but these are not the core of egalitarianism.]

Should we try to be equal?

Should we try to be equal?

So what is missing from this important list?  For starters the idea that all work is evaluated as equally worthy.  An hour of my time spent writing a blog about communities is worth the same as an hour spent making a hammock or cooking a meal for many members.

One aspect of egalitarianism (that is touched upon in the second point above, but some FEC communities take much further than others) is that we are trying to avoid envy.  We do this in part by avoiding the uneven distribution of our collective resources, except in agreed cases of need (for example golf carts for people with mobility problems at Twin Oaks is a needs based intentional unequal distribution).

Which brings me to the controversial idea of personal shelters.  The FEC communities provide housing for our members. In several cases these communities are located on pieces of land large enough for members to build their own housing separate from typical dorm-based housing.  We call these usually small buildings “personal shelters”.

The Love Shack "tree house" at Acorn - not quite a personal shelter

The Love Shack “tree house” at Acorn – not quite a personal shelter

Quite some years ago East Wind community (on over 1,000 acres in the Ozarks) decided to permit their members to build personal shelters.  This resulted in some handy/artistic folks building some really beautiful places.  The problem is that these structures created envy.  The bigger problem was when the original builder/owners left, they created a fairness problem.  Members who had not been involved in the work of creating these shelters could potentially end up in housing that felt much nicer than what most people living in the community had access to.

The problem this created ultimately lead to East Wind banning the creation of more new personal shelters.  Twin Oaks has never permitted them, largely because of East Winds’ experience.  Acorn wrestles with permitting them and so far has not allowed them. Some Acorners who were really excited about the idea left to form new communities where such things are possible.

The arguments against personal shelters which GPaul outlined to me, late one night while we were driving back from a Point A gathering in NYC are:

  1. Energy Use/Carbon Footprint
  2. Fairness
  3. Psychic Space

One of the things income sharing communities do especially well is minimize their ecological impact.  The dormitory style buildings we have share kitchens, bathrooms, living space and meals.  This low impact living is very hard to achieve without a lot of people under the same roof.  Personal shelters are usually just one or two persons under a roof.

Where can we cut back?

Where can we cut back?

The fairness issue is covered.

The issue I had never heard before was one of psychic space.  In a regular community residence dorm, you know you can stand in the hall in front of someone’s room and not worry that you are infringing on their space.  The same is not true of personal shelters.  The space they take up is much larger than the physical footprint of their construction.  Peoples don’t know how to behave around them and this can cause discomfort and confusion.

Do you think the benefits outweigh the costs?

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Unmeasurable antidotes

I have a complaint about science as the current principal truth model.  For science to function you have to have repeatable experiments and you have to be able to measure things.  For many things which i think are important (revolutions and romances jump to mind) both repeatability and measurability are impossible.  There are no good metrics and they are often chronologically unique.  This does not make science in itself bad, but it certainly causes distortions, where we focus on less important things because we can “get more truth” over there.

Lack of love we can measure

Lack of love we can measure

Similarly, the mainstream promoted values of self reliance and independence have negative side effects.  The commercial interpretation of self reliance and independence is that you need to uniquely own everything you need to survive and thrive.  This leads to tremendous idle capacity.  Which leads to the accelerated degradation of the planet.

Trust me, there are lots of alternatives

Trust me, there are lots of alternatives

Some years back the globalization fans were fond of calling it a TINA proposition. There is No Alternative.  This is a catchy name for a profound failure of imagination. Globalization is the current flavor of industrial capitalism which feeds our insatiable need for stuff.  When i talk with mainstream audiences, the idea of affluent people consuming less to save the planet for future generations it goes over pretty poorly. Even the most radical of audiences think that voluntary austerity is an anti-gravity proposition.  But then i pull out my trick question.

“What if i told you that you could work less and have access to more wealth and resources (and save the world as a secondary side benefit)?  This often gets people’s attention.  Especially busy people, who are already pressed for time, think this might be a lovely solution and they want to know more.

Where can i find more time?

Where can i find more time?

 

The principal thing which stops people from living this more luxurious lifestyle is trust.  Because we are generally unwilling to trust other people with your stuff, everyone has to have their own everything.  And almost all of it sits idle almost all the time.  If alternatively we can trust each other, then we can share.  This is not a trivial proposition.  There is logistical leg work, like avoiding brittle sharing agreements, including scheduling and routine or catastrophic repairs.

And this is where community comes in.  More important than any of the products of our cottage industries make, communities are trust building engines.  We are not perfect, certainly and some are much better than others.  But at their core communities share things, both socio-cultural and material.  These cultures help us share and build trust.

We don’t have units to measure trust.  There is little critique of “self reliance” and it’s associated idle resources.  But there is an alternative.  If you are interested in this low hanging fruit of a better world, i would encourage you to strongly consider coming to this years communities conference. August 29th thru Sept 1, 2014 at Twin Oaks in Virginia.

Tripper Error

Doing the “Louisa Bus” which is also called the “town trip” is one of my favorite jobs for the communities.  This is the centralized shopping job in which a single person drives into town with a collection of requests from members as to the things they want purchased for them.  As one person recently described it i am the “personal shopper” for the entire community.

I love the job because i get to learn about things which i never knew about before.  I get to sort of do a favor for everyone who submits a request.  People are generally quite pleased when their request slightly magically turns up where they wanted it.  I get to go to the food bank and rescue pre-dumpstered food.  Most weeks i can do both communities town trips at the same time.  And i am pretty good at getting all of the requests (sometime terrifically under specified) correct.

Pretty good until yesterday.

Today is anniversary.  Twin Oaks is 47 years old and one of our customs is the traveling brunch, where multiple cooks in different kitchens prepare somewhat different meals all over campus.  The day before these festivities is a big day for the town trip, because all the cooks put in requests.

Ezra put in a request for “Brisket in a Tube”.  i had no idea what this was, but was, as usual, confident that people in the stores would know.  I asked the deli gal at Food Depot, no clue.  I asked the deli guy at Food Lion, he did not know but he gave me a large piece of brisket and i assumed the tube part was unnecessary.

When i gave it to Ezra he pointed out that it was not brisket that he was asking for but rather biscuits.  In my defense, Ezra does have quite exotic spelling and he had left out the “u” in biscuit, so my mistake was somewhat understandable.

Ezra's Brisket in a Tube for me

Ezra’s Brisket in a Tube for me

Later in the day i went back into town and correct my mistake.  Biscuits are out this morning.  And Ezra also just presented me we the above dish, with the cooked brisket in a toilet paper roll.  And while the deli staff may have never heard of it, but today we are pioneering new culinary delights here on anniversary.

 

 

Trade Offs

“Were your parents disappointed that you joined the commune?” Aurora (new member Angelica’s mom) asked me on our long bus ride from Richmond to NYC. “They were not thrilled, but it was a big step up from me spending time in Ukrainian jails in their eyes.”

Which got us into the discussion of trade offs. Part of what is so rich about the “Should I join a commune?” discussion is the tremendous set of trade offs. Are you willing to give up fast internet to not have a boss? Could you give up the accessible culture and vibrancy of the city, so you no longer had to worry about money (no bills, virtually no living costs)? Would you be willing to live in a smaller space so that you had access to all of the resources which are collectively shared?

trade offs see saws

People come to the commune for lots of different reasons. Many are seeking a place to feel like they belong, a sense of clan or tribe. Others come because they want to dramatically reduce their ecological impact. Yet others want to reduce their stress or have more flexibility. But the reasons to come, often turn out not to be the reasons to stay.

To “make it” in the commune most people need to feel like they have friends to hang with and/or feel supported by. In the dozens to types of work we have, are there some which make you feel good about what you are doing? If you come from an advantaged class background, you are likely living with far less access to resources than if you stayed in the mainstream. If you grew up poor, you are likely living with at least some people who don’t realize how much easier they had it not coming from that background. Is your love life working with this small number of prospective partners?

 

Sometimes the missing piece is love

Sometimes the missing piece is love

I try to talk with people who are leaving the community about their thought process, about why they are choosing to move on. Most leave with good feelings about the commune overall. They need to try something new. Or they have an opportunity which is calling or won’t wait. Some feel like they are stuck or not growing as they would like to. Others never intended to stay and they have decided now is their moment.

And some leave less harmoniously. They have a difficult break up, or did not find the friend network that wanted. Some people don’t feel they have enough privacy or personal space in our hyper village. Others can’t make the diet work or miss watching live TV. Some feel disconnected from the events of the world or their need to influence them.

Then perhaps commune life is not for you

Then perhaps commune life is not for you

Every community has it’s own flavor, and for many it is an acquired taste.

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