Hawina and i were at an engaging after dinner conversation at Ganas about what good communication culture looks like within community. There were lots of examples of different community cultures. I pitched the Acorn Clearness process, which is part of the Point A kit of tools for improving trust and transparency in your community. We talked about whether it was important to greet everyone you see each day. We discussed and disagreed on the fundamental nature of people who are in conflict and the availability of mutually agreeable bridges.
At one point a Ganasian confessed that there was confusion around what the appropriate protocol was for sitting at a table with someone who was already sitting there. Do you ask if it is okay? Do you just plop yourself down next to someone? It may seem like a tiny point, but in the occasionally hyper sensitive world of commune culture, you want to get the social cues right.
The way we have resolved this type of problem at Twin Oaks is thru zoning We use spacial and temporal zoning to help with a collection of issues: kid noise, nudity, smoking, sex noises, bike sharing, gardening and much more. In the case of who sits where at meals and what to expect in those places we have evolved three different types of tables.
Tables: Most of the tables at and around the dining hall at Twin Oaks are simply tables. If they are free you can simply sit at them. When the next person comes to the table the etiquette is to simply check in “Can i sit with you?” Or if there is already a group of people you might ask “Is this a meeting?” which you might be invited to sit in on, or it might scare you away from the social lunch you were hoping for with these people. Simple enough, no?
Fun Tables: For reasons i can imagine but don’t know for sure, the community wanted a place you could go reliably and socialize. A place where you never needed to ask if you could sit down and where you were sure there would not be a closed meeting or work discussions happening. And thus the fun table was born. The informal rules are that we will always make room for you at the fun table. And if you start talking about work at a fun table my son and others will call you out about talking about work. There are two fun tables at Twin Oaks, one inside and the other outside. They are popular and oft lively.
Super Fun Table: Turns out there was a greater need for fun tables than just these two. And it turns out that members don’t want there conversations controlled. So there is now a very long set of three picnic tables end to end which are super fun tables. You can talk about anything, you don’t need to ask to sit down and while it seats perhaps 30 people we will always make more space if it is needed.
“Who is this ‘We’ you keep referring to?” One Facebook commenter wrote recently. It is a great question actually.
In this particular case, i was referring to the intentional communities movement. “We” are consuming dramatically fewer resources than our mainstream counter parts, because we are sharing.
But i also use it identify Twin Oaks and Acorn specifically, as large, established, successful, income sharing communities.
i regularly refer to the anti-nuclear movement as “we”.
Sometimes “We” is the infamous Star Family
Often i use the word “We” to denote the entire set of people who want to change the world for the better.
Occasionally, it is the term i use to describe polyamory activists.
But of course the most simple approach is the just do the simple translation in your head. When i say “We”, it is always safe to compress it down to simple mean “i”
The Tarrytown NY spring craft fair is one of our best shows. Hawina and i have been doing it for quite some years now and the commune does handsomely selling to affluent NYC suburban customers. It is an extended family affair. Willow comes with us, as does Corb and some years Angie and other years Feonix. The Stars and Corb split to cost of the extra hotel room and food, so the commune is not paying for this giant entourage.
We decided to take a bit of a chance and try the fall craft show at Tarrytown. This is risky because most people wont buy hammocks this late in the year. On this trip we brought Evan from Twin Oaks with us. We spent a day in NYC doing touristy things before the fair. Time Square, Staten Island Ferry and based on Aurora’s suggestion the Society of Illustrators compelling Spectrum exhibit
Not far from the Society of Illustrators is my favorite part of Central Park.
When we are at the Tarrytown fair we stay at the Marriott hotel which has fancy elevators and is near to the fair site. Like most hotels, the Marriott has room service. In the first couple of hours we used it to get a refrigerator and fix the television. From a young persons perspective, room service is like magic. You pick up the phone, you describe a problem and shortly there after the right person comes to fix it and then politely vanishes.
Willow loves pillows. And the hotel is pretty generous with them. But none-the-less he called room service and asked them to bring 3 more for him. Now he has 6. Life is good.
[This post has been approved by Evan and Willow.]
PS We did acceptably well at the fair, about $5K total, we might come back next year.
The day before the 9/11 anniversary Willow, Evan and i were in the Staten Island Ferry. The threat level was it’s lowest level. A yellow 1. It does not go lower. Yet when we got on the ferry there were perhaps a dozen Coast Guard agents in full combat gear, including machine guns.
It is a 30 minute ride and since there did not seem to be any imminent threats, i approached one of these exotically dressed coast guard sailors and asked if i could ask him questions. He agreed.
“The threat level is the lowest possible. Is it still necessary to have sailors with machine guns on board?” I asked, trying to be courteous.
“This is what we do before and after 9/11. It does not matter what you think.” He replied flatly.
It seemed unnecessary to bother him anymore with questions.
But it got me considering the 9/11 anniversary and how it has affected this country. I have written about my personal experience of the anti-globalization movement which was derailed by post 9/11 mock patriotism.
The following internet “meme” got me thinking about the origins of the second Iraq war. It is well documented that even before 9/11, key Bush administration figures (including Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz) wanted to invade Iraq as a means for the U.S. to “play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security…”
Internal communications indicate Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was happy to use Sept 11 attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq, independent of the evidence. Wikipedia says:
On September 11, Rumsfeld asked for: “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit Saddam Hussein at same time. Not only Osama bin Laden.” The notes also quote him as saying, “Go massive”, and “Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”
Rumsfeld was clear that we were back calculating the rationale for attacking Iraq.
Later, in his February 2003 speech to the U.N. Security Council, Powell alleged that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction from inspectors and refusing to disarm. However, after the U.S. had invaded Iraq and overthrown Saddam Hussein, no weapons of mass destruction were found. Powell would later confess on the Daily Show “I, of course, regret the U.N. speech that I gave,” and “Of course I regret that a lot of it turned out be wrong,”
The mainstream media was also complicate in the run up to the invasion. Again from wikipedia:
A study coauthored by the Center for Public Integrity found that in the two years after September 11, 2001 the president and top administration officials had made 935 false statements, in an orchestrated public relations campaign to galvanize public opinion for the war, and that the press was largely complicit in its uncritical coverage of the reasons adduced for going to war. PBS commentator Bill Moyers had made similar points throughout the run up to the Iraq War, and prior to a national press conference on the Iraq War Moyers correctly predicted “at least a dozen times during this press conference he [the President] will invoke 9/11 and Al Qaeda to justify a preemptive attack on a country that has not attacked America. But the White House press corps will ask no hard questions tonight about those claims.”
These rationale for the war having been proved false, the Bush administration moved on to the reliable “We are installing democracy in Iraq” justification. Which has not worked terribly well.
So why does any of this matter? What bothers me most is that a relatively small number of US Americans died and then we went off and killed literally millions of the wrong people because of it. And we still think that the big problem with 9/11 is the US got hurt. The country generally has no shame or remorse about this tremendous mistake we made.
And because we refuse to learn from history, we appear about to make the same mistake again with ISIS. We are looking to return to Iraq and now Syria to start another war, because a tiny number of US Americans have died. In this war we will kill tens to hundreds of thousands of the innocent people (and some militant extremists). This is what ISIS clearly wants, for the US to attack them so ISIS can capture the regional anger and frustration with the US’s dysfunctional foreign policy, so they can recruit more and grow their movement.
Here is another cute text running around the interwebs:
Are you confused by what is going on in the Middle East?
If so, please let me explain it for you in clear terms:
We support the Iraqi government in the fight against ISIS.
We don’t like ISIS, but ISIS is supported by Saudi Arabia who we do like.
We don’t like Assad in Syria. We support the fight against him, but ISIS is also fighting against him.
We don’t like Iran, but Iran supports the Iraqi government in its fight against ISIS.
So some of our friends support our enemies, some enemies are now our friends,
and some of our enemies are fighting against our other enemies, who we want to lose,
but we don’t want our enemies who are fighting our enemies to win.
If the people we want to defeat are defeated, they could be replaced by people we like even less.
And all this was started by us invading a country to drive out terrorists
who were not actually there until we went in to drive them out.
It’s quite simple, really.
Do you understand now?
One of the most surprising evolutionary tales for me was the one of dolphins. Our best story tellers claim that cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) evolved from the seas into land mammals and then evolved back to aquatic based life. This is either a tremendous re-adaptation to the changing climate of the seas or a fantastic U turn in habitat of preference.
Back in August we hung out with traveler kids in Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan. Point A folks helped a risk reduction outreach volunteer give out clean needles, anti-overdose medicine naloxone and clean socks. And we heard stories.
The most striking stories were of this dolphin effect, how these kids (which is used as a diminutive, rather than some indication of age) came to their traveler lifestyle. Usually some catastrophic event threw them into poverty, homelessness and addiction (typically alcohol, heroin or both). After a while, pressure from outside friends, family and often they themselves got them to “clean up”. They quit substance use and returned to a more conventional life style. Working a straight job (some even doing outreach work with traveler kids) and living in a house or an apartment.
Then something funny happened. They decided that they were happier as travels and living on little to nothing, but being with their friends and animals. Now from a place of choice, rather than catastrophe they returned to this life style.
i have plans and fantasies about the traveling kids. One of the interesting consciousnesses about this community (and it is deeply a community, where they share most of what they have with each other) is that housing is a burden. If you have a house or flat you have to pay for it, and this generally requires a job. So for most of the year the traveler kids are content to sleep outside, in parks when they can. Under scaffolding when it is raining. But in the winter, they continue the noble tradition of squatting.
My hope is we can continue working with them, introduce transparency tools to strengthen connections and hopefully learn about contemporary squatting from them.
The kid of comments i am uninterested in for this post is all the risks and warnings folks have about traveler kids. i’ve heard them, thanks anyway.