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Wrong from word 2: the Media discovers the commune.

It all started with Yahoo Parenting.  A reporter came out with a photographer and talked with a handful of Twin Oaks parents.

Finley takes a fine photo. Photo Credit Yahoo News

Finley takes a fine photo. Photo Credit Yahoo News

Then ABC Nightline called up and asked if they could come and film. ABC and Yahoo News have a partnership agreement. Perhaps we should have said “no.”

There were a number of problems with the final ABC piece, including mistakes which started from the second word of the article. “Inside Off-the-Grid Virginia Commune Where Everything From Housing to Child Care Is Shared.” In fact, we are not off the grid. We have some solar panels, and we are getting some more, but we have a long way to go before we are off the grid.

This powers about 3% of the community. We are not off the grid.

This powers about 3% of the community. We are not off the grid.

The video which I reported on earlier depicted us as negligent for letting kids wander around the property unescorted and not doing background checks on members offering child care. There are lots of reasonable things to criticize the communes about, but there are not on the list. Background checks don’t actually catch much AND we live with these people for three weeks and interview them for hours. Much more rigorous than anyone hiring a babysitter from Craigslist. They bungled the description of our complex pension system (saying adults over 50 drop to a single hour of work per year.)

A number of members were angry at me for not restricting the motion of the press more and not being more sensitive to people the media should stay away from.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to internet. Lots of other media entities mimicked the story in some ways.  Specifically:

So what we see is news driven by trends. If a topic appears to be trending, one cheap way your news entity can get a piece of the action is by finding a hot story, searching the internet for other free content on the topic, piece them together with a thin narrative and bang! you have intern-generated popular “news” stories.

There are some beautiful commune pictures out there. From 40th Anniversary

There are some beautiful commune pictures out there. From 40th Anniversary

Now we have had a handful of additional offers from news entities who want to come film. For a while, i think we will say no.

For more insightful and important analysis of the community, please read:

[Proofread by Gryphon]

Giant Whale Puppets – Ballenarca

ballenarca jellyfish (1)

Many people don’t know that there is a secret document used to instruct organizers who work with the Point A project.  I can’t say much about it, but a small piece has leaked to the internet, so i can reveal it here.

Remembering that frivolous fun and preposterous propositions may be the most crucial tools for Point A organizers, we will strive to attend all nearby giant whale puppet events, gravity altering cooperative games, and jello slam dances.

From the “Secret Cabal Handbook of More Clever Revolutions,” Article 23, Section c.

IMG_20150813_190053251_HDR

With this mandate in mind, GPaul, Alanna (the new Point A media intern), a handful of Baltimore Free Farm activists and myself hiked up to the park near the skate park to see Ballenarca.  This is surreal, salvaged art, cross cultural puppetry at its best.

IMG_20150813_194922280_HDR

Did i understand every moment of the performance?  No way.  And it is still totally worth going out of your way to see.  Their next performance is on Monday Aug 17th at Pyramid Atlantic in Washington DC.

ballenarca all dancers

These still pics don’t really do the performance justice.  There are videos on their website.

Ballenarca whale guts

This is the beating heart of a giant whale.

Ballenarca jellyfish at night

The jellyfish own the night.

And if you find a jello slam dance event, let me know.

Trump for America

Donald Trump has been in the news a lot these days.  Part of this, of course, is because he is topping the polls for Republican presidential candidates (both nationally and in New Hampshire).  I believe an even bigger part is that he is a perfect reflection of many Americans’ desires.

When is a gaffe not a gaffe?  The media loves a good sound bite and Donald does not disappoint.  Recently he generalized about Mexicans being rapists and murderers.  He has explained how Senator John McCain should not be considered a war hero because he was captured.    This caused his poll numbers to increase and lead Rachel Maddow and Dan Rather to evaluate him as gaffe proof.  [It is worth noting that his disapproval numbers also went up, which far exceed his approval ratings.]

mistake, or playing to the base?

Mistake, or playing to the base?

He can’t win.  There are all manner of stories about how Trump can’t win or how his campaign is about to implode.  Many of these i find comically naive.  The Business Insider seems to think his thin answers to questions will doom his bid.  Did these folks sleep through the 2012 campaign?  Do they not remember when Mitt Romney shot back at the CNN reporter who was trying to get any kind of answer from him on the abortion question (which Romney kept dodging), “You ask the questions you like, I will give you the answers I like”.  The only thing i am surprised at is that Trump is bothering to answer questions at all, rather than simply repeating stump speech platitudes when he’s asked a question, like almost all the other candidates do.

A flip flopper with no solid positions.  Turns out there is no “issues” tab on Trump’s website and his positions on everything from gun control to taxing the rich to health care to immigration have changed and or contradicted themselves over the past few years.  He has no campaign director.  And while the Republicans have historically used flip flopping to beat up opposition candidates, no one seems to care much with Trump.

The clever company he keeps.  If you are running for public office, you need to have brilliant advisers, especially your lawyers.  Michael Cohen is Trump’s lawyer who recently threatened the Daily Beast after an article citing Ivana Trump’s 1990 claim that she was raped by Donald, which she made during their 1990 divorce procedure.  In this regard Cohen said:

“You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.”

Actually, you can.  Every state in the country has overturned this archaic statute.   The marital rape exemption in New York was struck down in 1984, years before this incident.

Trump is a Troll.  Nate Silver (who correctly predicted every state in the country in the 2012 Presidential election) cleverly frames Trump as the world’s largest troll in his blog fivethirtyeight.com.

Some of the compelling points Silver makes include:

  • Trolls feed off the negative attention, claiming it makes them a victim and proves that everyone is out to get them
  • Trump isn’t doing especially well with tea party voters or with any other identifiable group of Republicans
  • It could be that public attention is triggered by media coverage rather than the other way around
  • In the crowded GOP field, low information voters are identifying with Trump as the only name they know

trump electability chartOne reading of the above chart is that, were the news media responding only to public interest, there would be even more stories about Trump.

Silver also talks about the so-called “discovery, scrutiny and decline” cycle which has been found in the past two primary campaigns for candidates like Trump, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain — bursts of attention that coincide with spikes in the polls but then fade or even burst after several weeks.

Trump represents many Americans.    For me, it is the highly cynical analysis of David Badesh of the New Civil Rights Movement, in his article “Trump holding first place is a reflection of GOP Voters’ Ugly Beliefs“, that describes Trump’s success best:

There is a significant number of Republican voters who like immigrant-bashing. They like lies about entire groups of people. They don’t actually care about the treatment of vets, nor about our service members whom they keep wanting to send off to war, and refuse to pay for their needs upon returning home.

This part of the GOP electorate who supports a man with no actual policies or solutions likes having a scapegoat to explain their own failures, their own bad choices, on whom to pin their own hate, their own xenophobia, their own selfishness, bigotry, and hate.

Donald Trump doesn’t have any actual beliefs – other than money, fame, and ego. He has merely held up a mirror to the Republican electorate. It is not he who is the ugly American – for he is merely the reflection of a large part of the GOP electorate’s beliefs.

The media and the GOP establishment will tear Trump down.  We need not fear his presidency.  But we would be wise to fear the popularity of his hate, which represents a significant part of what America believes and will last far past election day.

Utopia Child Rearing – By Keenan

[This is an article originally blogged by Keenan.  I have not simply re-blogged it for two reasons.  First is that i have added links to it, to places where Keenan’s philosophy and mine run parallel.  And the second is that i have added some pictures to it, a tragic omission (which also reduces readership) in Keenan’s original post.  I would still encourage you to check out his blog, especially if parenting and Twin Oaks community politics and culture are of interest to you.  It is an excellent source.]

Twin Oaks is a great place to raise children. At Twin Oaks almost every parent likes their kid(s) and likes being a parent.  Almost every parent is raising their children deliberately and consciously.  Although not all of us parents agree with each other, we all concur that there are many bad mainstream child-rearing theories and practices that we want to avoid/overcome.

Some of the Dakota's - Keenan, Kristen and Rowan (at an age that is not yet 18)

Some of the Dakota’s – Keenan, Kristen and Rowan (at an age that is not yet 18)

Kristen and I just celebrated the milestone of our youngest having his 18th birthday.  We have been reflecting recently on our journey as parents, and we are very pleased with how the kids have turned out—pleased and relieved.  Why relieved? Our parenting practices were at odds with almost every mainstream child-rearing theory we read.  We weren’t so confident that we could know for sure that the kids would turn out great. According to those other theories, our bizarre parenting practices should have resulted in kids who are emotionally crippled sociopaths. But they aren’t—in fact, the kids are, by all accounts, altogether fine human beings.  I don’t want to gloat or embarrass the kids by describing how great they are—but take my word for it.

Kristen and I both had lots of experience with kids prior to having our own, so we were already quite skilled, or, at least, opinionated by the time we were holding a newborn. As the kids grew, we talked fairly constantly about how the kids were doing. We wanted to do things right; we would immediately work on any behavior problem that started to crop up, or, even better, recognize an interest early so we could kindle it. Through our experience as parents, our belief in the fundamental wrongness of how children are treated in the mainstream culture solidified.  If you want to try to give your child a utopian childhood the hardest part is letting go of lots of misguided mainstream beliefs about children. Honestly, doing things right is a lot of work, but if you want to know what we did and why, without further ado, here is the “Dakota theory” of how to give children a utopian childhood:

Rowan on his 18th birthday having lit the fire behind him with a bowdrill.

Rowan on his 18th birthday having lit the fire behind him with a bowdrill.

[Kristen and I have the last name “Dakota.”  This has nothing to do with any Native American people]

Current belief: Children are lesser beings who should not expect or receive the same polite and considerate treatment that adults give each other.

Dakota theory: Children have the same intrinsic value that all humans have and should be listened to and treated with respect. Specifically, parents should like their children.

Conclusion: Children behave well when they are treated as though they are deserving of respect.

Current belief: Children should obey authority figures.

Dakota theory: Children should be taught that they are responsible human beings and they should learn to negotiate for what they want.

Conclusion: Children who are taught to obey, learn to distrust their own judgment.  They also demonstrate less personal motivation. Children who are taught to negotiate show more task persistence and have a strong sense of self-esteem.  Unfortunately, raising a child who negotiates requires more time and effort from parents.

Current belief: Children need peers to develop normal social skills.

Dakota theory: Children develop better social skills without same-age peers.

Conclusion: Children learn social skills from the people they are around. Children in groups and in institutional settings are sometimes inconsiderate or cruel to each other.  Children who are around other children for much of the time, often develop dysfunctional behaviors  from being with other, partially socialized, children.   Children who are around adults for most of their formative years develop better social skills than children who are in group child care for most of their formative years.

Current belief: Children need to go to school to 1) develop social skills and 2) to absorb a body of knowledge.

Dakota theory: School exposes children to bad social behaviors. The body of knowledge in school is often outdated, inadequate, and inaccurate. Additionally, it doesn’t take much time to learn that body of knowledge at home.

Conclusion: Many children are exposed to unhealthy social behaviors from the bad behavior that inevitably results from large-scale institutionalization.  The body of knowledge that schools pass along is easily gained at home.  Typically, parents have other interests and values that schools don’t teach.

Current belief:  Children need to be punished, they need to be disciplined and they need consequences for their bad behavior.

Dakota theory:  Never punish or discipline children. Normal life provides enough consequences, no additional consequences are needed.

Conclusion:   Punishment has been proven to be ineffective at teaching children a new behavior.  Children feel punished merely from a parent’s disapproval—nothing more is necessary.  An effective “punishment” is making a child stop playing in order to explain why it’s not OK to hit, or take another kid’s toy.  Frequently, merely calmly pointing out what the problem is to the child can make a child feel bad enough to stop the bad behavior and/or make restitution. Encouraging a distraught child to take a time-out is good advice for anyone having emotional trouble and isn’t really a punishment.

Current belief:  Misbehavior is due to a poorly disciplined child.

Dakota theory: Misbehavior is due to a poorly designed environment.

Conclusion: A toddler, set down in front of a coffee table with a lot of breakable glassware on the table will, inevitably, drop and break something.  This is not bad behavior.   Don’t punish the child; move the glassware. It is more likely that children will hang up their clothes on pegs than on hangers.  A yard with two swings and three kids creates ongoing strife. Often a child’s “bad” behavior is due to normal child-like behavior in an environment that is designed for normal adult behavior.  The easiest way to have a well-behaved child, is to change the environment to suit the child’s behavior. For instance, if there is only healthy food in the house, then “food wars” become much less likely.

Current belief: Children demand an adult’s attention—and that’s bad

Dakota theory: Children demand an adult’s attention—and that’s OK.

or perhaps not

or perhaps not

Conclusion: “He’s just doing that to get attention!” is a statement some adults make to indict a child’s motives and to grant the adult permission to punish the child for bothering the adult. But, attention from an adult is essential sustenance for a child’s emotional well-being. Once a child receives an adequate amount of attention, they are full, and will go off and play, only to return later for another helping of attention. If we say with scorn of a child who’s crying, “he’s just crying because he’s hungry, I’m going to spank him” it sounds cruel .  “He’s just doing it to get attention,” should sound equally heartless.

Current belief:  A child’s chronic behavior problems can best be dealt with through psychoactive medication.

Dakota theory:  A child’s chronic behavior problems can best be dealt with through counseling and behaviorist reinforcement/extinguishing techniques.

Conclusion:  Psychoactive drugs have immediate side-effects and long-term physiological consequences. Changing a child’s chronic behavior problem without drugs is vastly more time consuming, but results in a more emotionally healthy child.

Current belief: A child might become emotionally crippled from spending too much time with a parent (or parents).

Dakota theory:  strong family connections help create an emotionally healthy child.

Conclusion: Studies of poverty, mental illness and crime consistently show that parents who physically or emotionally abandon their children create the pathology that leads to dysfunctional adults.  On the other hand, outstanding and high-performing athletes typically have at least one engaged and supportive parent. There is not a bell curve here; it’s linear; the stronger the family connections, the more emotionally stable the children are as adults.

Current belief:  Children should be kept protected and secluded from real-world experiences. They should live in a separate world called “childhood” until they are completed with their schooling and are able to enter the adult world.

Dakota theory: Children are part of the world. It is healthier for children and the world for children to be included in almost all aspects of the adult world.

Conclusion:  Children in their early teens want to distinguish themselves from younger children; they want to act like grown-ups.  Mainstream culture allows few opportunities to show their maturity, so these young teens turn to bed behavior, smoking, drinking, doing drugs, swearing and having sex as ways to show their “maturity.” However, teens who have the ability to take on real responsibility, like, for instance having a part-time paying job demonstrate their adult-ness through taking on these healthier parts of being a grown up. Throughout their teen years, teenagers should have the opportunity to do part-time, intern, and volunteer work to explore their interests. This serves several useful functions; it keeps teens busy, it allows teens to develop maturity and responsibility, and it gives teens a wide range of real-life experiences which should help prevent the all-too-frequent situation where a young adult goes into debt to pursue a degree only to discover after graduation that they hate the work that they have spent years training for.

 Give your child a utopian childhood in just 10 easy steps:

1)     Enjoy the company of your children. (That’s really the main one, since so many parents don’t really enjoy the company of their children, and the children know that, so they misbehave. No child-rearing theory can overcome parents who don’t like their kids.)

2)     Accept every request as legitimate. (default to yes, rather than default to no).

me negotiating with Willow - Circa 2011

me negotiating with Willow – Circa 2011

3)     Don’t punish.  Don’t discipline. But, rather, explain.

4)     No sarcasm. Don’t laugh at kids.

5)     Learn what your kids like.

6)     Laugh at kids’ jokes, listen to their stories.

7)     Try to understand their emotions.  Have empathy.

8)     No school; homeschool.

9)     Talk to the kids about the adult world.  Encourage discussion.  Explain values through story telling using real examples. Let them know fairly often what you think is right and wrong.

10) Share whatever you are passionate about with your children. Expect them to be interested in your life.

Posted 28th April 2014 by keenan

We wouldn’t need any law enforcement if

In 2004, Twin Oaks was briefly harassed by an unmarked black helicopter.

They say it was never below 500', we had it at tree tops.

They say it was never below 500′, we had it at tree tops.

A much nimbler Coyote rushed to his room to get a camera.  Remembering that without photographic proof there would be no story or media coverage of this event.  His picture is above.

One of Charlottesvilles local free newspapers at the time (the Hook) picked up the story and ran with it, ultimately discovering who was in the unmarked chopper.

Over the course of finding the culprit, the author of the article talked with lots of different military and law enforcement personal.  They asked them all about Twin Oaks and if they had any trouble with us.

From the article:

So are Twin Oakers big troublemakers? “I haven’t had any trouble with them,” says [Louisa County Sheriff] Fortune. “We wouldn’t need any law enforcement if everybody lived like they do at Twin Oaks.”

Just about the best advertising a community could ask for.

We ar ehappy to get ignored - Police in Ferguson 2014

We are happy to get ignored – Police in Ferguson 2014

Sexually Transmitted Responsibility

Transmission of Responsibility

Transmission of Responsibility

It was a great meeting.  Port was facilitating, and he was afraid of the meta-discussion on the topic of what Acorn thinks its labor is about/for.    He had been afraid that this digression would lead us to a world of complaining and depressed talk.  But it is hard to restrain the hippies, especially when it comes to meta-discussions.

And a funny thing happened on the way to reviewing our labor situation.   People did not think huge changes were needed and many of the suggestions (like doing our clearnesses on time and using existing structures to solve problems) felt genuinely helpful.    The group identified the individuals who felt overworked and overwhelmed.  [This did not include Ira and me, who only know how to function if we are overworked – by things we are excited about doing.]

Then Jayne spoke:

 I agree that the measure of the labor system should be how happy are we?  It sounds like people feel they live interesting, enriching, and productive lives.  Going around, I do catch a common frustration that it is too difficult to pass on a job you’d like to be done with.  I think about this thing Nightshade said three months into my membership: “If you want to get involved in a labor area at Acorn, just sleep with the person who’s already doing it.”  It’s sort of horrifying how often this is kind of true.  Aside from sleeping with them, how can you learn to pass responsibility to new people?

In community responsibility is communicable

In community responsibility is sexually communicable

This brought on a whole raft of jokes about Sexually Transmitted Responsibility and it quickly became clear that Jayne was right.  All manner of lovers had dragged their partners into work areas which needed help.  Many intimates had decided one of the better ways to spend time together was to share the tasks that the community needs to function.

Acorn functions as an Adhocracy (a flexible, adaptable and informal form of organization that is defined by a lack of formal structure. It operates in an opposite fashion to a bureaucracy).  When we need something done, we form a group of volunteers to do it and give them significant power at least of analysis and often of decision making and purse strings.  When your intimate joins one of these temporary groups, you are often enticed to be part as well.

Can we value creativity and flexibility over structure and efficiency?

Can we value creativity and flexibility over structure and efficiency?

Shrink to fit

by Emilia Plater

Before discovering the communes I thought a lot about getting a tiny house, one of those adorable little things that you can pull on a trailer, like a modern gypsy wagon. I wanted the small environmental footprint, a way to minimize my impact. But I had all this stuff, a three bedroom house full, and I couldn’t fathom getting rid of it all. My books, 9 large bookcases full? No way. Spinning wheels and sewing machines? Bins of yarn? Historical gowns that I’ve been collecting since I was a teen? I couldn’t fathom life without these things. So I stayed in my big house.

When the idea of moving to a commune came up last summer, I knew I had to do it. It’s perfect for me in every way. The stuff problem was still there, I’m going to have to shave my life down to a single dormitory sized room – with no closets! But now it’s not optional, this has to happen, which puts a whole new perspective on the task.

Which way to go?

Photo

I started the process about 6 months out and have approached it with repeated combings through the place. The first time was hard. Maybe I can let go of the Victorian Savonarola chair I wanted all my life and finally splurged on a few years ago. But my mother’s hand-blown Israeli wine glasses? Impossible.

But by the second pass it was easier, and the third and fourth easier still. Why do I really need those glasses? So I can take them out once a year, say ‘aww’, and put them away again? So I won’t forget my mother? I don’t need wine glasses to keep me from forgetting her. I found a lovely young woman just setting up her home to whom to give them and the pleasure I had in giving them to her was far greater than any I ever got from owning them.

And so it goes, letting go one thing after another, and with each release I feel a little lighter, a little freer. The temptation to acquire new things has vanished entirely.

Through this process I find myself wondering about the human urge to acquire and hoard. The explanations we give – I need two couches and seven bookcases and three televisions because I have guests, they remind me of grandpa, whatever – seem to be quite false, though we believe them ourselves. Somehow we feel safer surrounded by objects, as if they make us more real, give us more legitimacy in the world, perhaps help to stay the hand of the Great Separator. But in fact what they do is use up the already scant resources left on this planet, take from those who truly have need, and give us who are wealthy enough to hoard a shield from seeing those who have nothing. We cling tightly to our precious things and do not ask at what cost they are accumulated.

Persephone_Hades_BM_Vase_E821 (1)

Letting go...

Letting go…

The more I let go, the more clearly I see these things, and see my own criminal complicity. I have a closet full of coats while passing freezing people on the streets, I heat my three bedroom house with fossil fuels, I drive my car and let its poisons fill the air. And I didn’t think there was any other way.

Finding the communes finally opened my eyes. I can live with great comfort with one room’s worth of personal possessions. And for the rest, I can share. Share cars, share a kitchen, share computers, share bicycles, almost everything. And by doing so I can live better than I do now, work less, play more, have access to more, have more community, more help, eat better, and feel far, far better about it than I do now. It’s a prospect of so much wealth that I almost feel guilty.

——————-

Emilia starts her visitor period today.

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