Are you a cult?
It is common for people in conversations about intentional communities to wonder or even ask out loud “Is this a cult?” It is a good question which warrants investigation. What we know about the people who live in cults is that they chose different lifestyles than the mainstream. They live together. They work together. They build their own culture and have their own internal rules, norms and agreements. Visitors from the mainstream must conform to the cults rules while they are visiting. They often have unusual sex practices. They are often dismissive of the criticism they get from the outside. If you look at it this way, my communities would certainly qualify.
These things, while often true about intentional communities, are not the problematic aspects of cult culture. Where cults start to go bad is when they deny the autonomy of the individual and force behavior which is harmful and/or unfair. If we look at the more problematic qualities which typify a cult, they are something like this:
- it has a living charismatic leader
- you give them all your money
- you are kept away from your old friends and family
- you can’t leave when you might like
This is not what the intentional communities i reside in are doing. There are people who take leadership roles, but this is rarely based on charisma and is never totalizing. At Twin Oaks you can give your cash assets to the community and when you leave you get them back (without interest). Were we are real cult, that money would never come back. Only our low disposable income (our allowance) gets in the way of visiting our friends and family, who are more than welcome to come and visit us.
Let me dig into the last point: In a cult, you can’t leave when you might like to. It is very easy to leave Twin Oaks and Acorn. People might discourage you from leaving because they don’t want to lose a friend, or because they think no good can befall those who leave. But we are not holding anyone against their will (and as a community recruiter, i can tell you the last thing i want around is grumpy communards who don’t want to live with us anymore.)
What is also true is that you can arrive at Twin Oaks and Acorn with no money and we will still seriously consider you for membership. You buy a condo, you may not be able to sell it when you need to. In fact lets tweak this list just a bit and see what we find:
- it has a living egotistical boss
- they pay you as little as they can
- they consume most of your time and energy, leaving little time to socialize with friends and family
- leaving feels difficult or impossible
You have likely guessed i am slipping corporation in for cult and finding many of these disturbing characteristics are present (in slightly different forms) by almost everyone’s employment situation.
[Edited by Vermin F. Cockwolf] April 1, 6:6 PM PDT
About paxusa 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.
- MIT Workshop March 15 of Climate and Communes March 12, 2018
- Gossip is the Fabric of Community February 20, 2018
- Secret for a Day February 14, 2018
- Stepping Stone Commune February 5, 2018
- Every gift is an obligation January 27, 2018
- i make what you make [fiction] January 25, 2018
- Rent a room in NYC commune January 19, 2018
- Dream Alliance January 8, 2018
- NYE – Sorry, you can’t come December 31, 2017