Sharing > Recycling – McDonogh Assembly talk

Janel and i spoke in front of all 600 McDonogh Prep upper class students today.  This is what i said:

There are a number of ways one might think about Twin Oaks Community but perhaps the easiest is that we are a Deviant Culture

We have intentionally made a number of dramatically different choices about how to live than our mainstream counterparts.

The first is that we largely live without contact to money.  Most members on most days dont touch money or credit cards or any of the other representations of money.

The wealth of the community is distributed evenly. Managers are “paid” no more than the workers in their area and all managers are also do production work.The is basically no crime in the community.  We are a trust based culture and this holds us together and accountable in a way unlike the mainstream.  There is a joke in the community that if you leave the farm for a week and you leave your door open with a chocolate bar and a $20 bill on your desk.  When you return the $20 will still eb there, but there is some chance the chocolate bar will be one.  This is in part because generally there is no place to spend the $20 and because we have affinity and trust for the absent member..

In the mainstream most workers do the same job everyday and it is hard to switch jobs.   In our community each of us typically does several different jobs each day.   And when you tire of a job, generally it is easy to switch [There are some important exceptions, like it takes a year to train an Indexer, so that want typically a multi year commitment once you are trained.  Similarly, the membership team requests that people joining plan to be on it for at least a year.]

All these jobs are done by volunteers, members who have said “i m willing to do this for us” and the community values an hour of all work [except child care] the same.

You dont come to the commune to make a lot of money – you come because you want a better quality of life.   A life without bosses, without unemployment, without crime, without bills, without fear – and it is a life with respect and fairness.

Now i have a question for you.  [Lights go up] How many of you self identify as environmentalists? Raise your hands please.  [Perhaps half of the students raise their hands.]

I believe that recycling (which requires a lot of time and hardware) is actually far less important than building and implementing sharing systems.  Almost everything we own sits idle almost all the time.

If you are serious about wanting to ave the world, you you should be working to make agreements with people you like and trust as to how you are going to share things you own and thus consume less by having fewer things which are sitting idle.

And your best friend is going to break your camera and you are going to drop their ipod into a swimming pool and you need relationships and agreements which are flexible and robust enough to handle these situations.

Recycling alone can’t save the world, but wide spread radical sharing just might.

So the next time someone mentions deviant cultures to you, instead of thinking about motorcycle gangs or survivalist groups, consider the possibility that doing something outside of the norm might actually be better than it.

So you want to be normal?

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

13 responses to “Sharing > Recycling – McDonogh Assembly talk”

  1. Sid says :

    A lot of radical sharing goes on in the wider world. Freecycling generates a huge amount of traffic of items being relocated, materials from old windows to toys to cuttings from plants. At my company we are piloting a program to share cars when we are not using them. Since I do all my commuting by bicycling, my car can be made available to people during the week with the benefit for me that I can borrow a car on those rare occasions we need two. You grow your own food but we bike to the farmer’s market and buy our food from local farmers. Your assumptions of how work and life is conducted outside of your world seem tired at times.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Sid:

      You are to be applauded for your and your companies efforts to embrace sharing. And thus sadly Keena is right, this is not what is happening normally (and thus is definitionally deviant). When we drove back from this speaking gig, we took a wrong turn and ended up in Washington during rush hour. And there we were stuck in downtown traffic with virtually every car with only one person in it, traffic moving incredibly slowly, people honking at each other for not entering intersections (which induces grid lock) so that they can move 50 feet forward. And i would be willing to be bet that the vast majority of these people do this every single day, rather than wait an hour (as we did) for the traffic to clear, rather than take the metro, rather than bike like you do.

      Sorry my critique feels tired to you, my observation is that overall we are not making a lot of progress in terms of addressing these problems in the US. And i am happy to have you point out all the useful counter examples you have.

      Paxus in Cville

  2. Kenna J says :

    Sid, I wish the actions you describe were the norm, but they aren’t. They are deviant.

    I think sharing is a lot more natural than we think it is. I think there are many structures in place that make it hard for us to share, such as insurance and taxes. I’m not a fan of the movement for gay marriage because I don’t think the government has any business recognizing religious institutions for anyone, but maybe its widespread acceptance will be a step toward more people being allowed to share and contracts to share personal finances becoming normative.

    • Sid says :

      Kenna, I’m curious as to why you have appointed yourself the arbiter of what is normal versus what is deviant? Can you support your position that bicycling to the farmer’s market is deviant? Would you consider the zipcar model to be normal or deviant? How about bicycle-sharing programs in DC, France, Holland, and SF?

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