In the time of Trump, it is critical to seek high functioning alternatives to the mainstream culture. Twin Oaks and the surrounding cluster of egalitarian communities could be a model for new behaviors of sharing technologies and cooperative culture. But perhaps our most daring export, because many default culture citizens think they are expert in this, is how to be a father.
Keegan and adder (sic) are two young fathers living in a rural income sharing egalitarian commune. But if you are willing to listen, i think their advice might be applicable for your world as well.
Other articles about communes and families:
- Parenting in Community – It takes a Village
- Negligent Parenting Magazine
- Wrong from word 2 – Yahoo Parenting discovers the Commune
- Utopia Child Rearing – by Keenan (not Keegan)
- Momentarily Viral – Don’t Read the Comments (on Yahoo Parenting article)
- Being a “Yes”
This is a rich topic. Your comments are welcome.
This is a repost of the CommuneLife blog. Lot of great pictures of communards getting out and being part of what many are describing as the largest protest in the history of the country. There is still lots to do, and we can celebrate that this event was a big gathering and an inspiring success.
Photos by Steve and GPaul of Compersia Folks from the DC and Virginia communes were very involved with the protests: Christian and Paxus of Twin Oaks appreciate PETA’s big fuzzy suits. Vegans GPaul of Compersia and Christian of Twin Oaks pose with PETA people. Paxus of Twin Oaks and GPaul of Compersia rest after the […]
Multi-colored “pussy hat” on Paxus was knit by Hawina, who was unable to attend, but wanted to be there in spirit.
It was not even 6:30 AM and I got handed a sign.
I was especially happy to see one of my core issues (nuclear power) on the stylishly designed placard.
We assembled in McPherson Square in downtown Washington DC. The plan was simple. There are six entrances to the Inauguration Celebration. Our goal was to block as many of them as possible to disrupt the flow of MAGAs (Make America Great Again hat people) and therefore the program.
Organizers told the group we were in that we had a number of undocumented immigrants in it. This meant we were going to do so-called “soft block” actions to reduce the risk of arrest. This included our “soft blockade.” Which really meant we were constricting traffic and slowing the progress of people trying to make it to the inauguration.
We were surprisingly effective. In part because the DC police were unwilling to suppress the protests. One of the gates was actually closed by locked down protesters, aided because the police were unwilling to hurt people to remove them. This stems from past protests where DC police roughed-up and arrested protesters prematurely and the city had to pay huge civil settlements.
It seemed as though the strategy was to arrest as few people as possible. Other gate blockers were dragged away by the police, and sometimes needed to be cut free.
We were with the peaceful non-violent protesters who were not breaking the law. These Movement for Black Lives activists who blocked the gate were using a known civil disobedience strategy; one in which they knowingly break the law (usually trespassing or obstructing traffic) with the intent of being arrested and standing trial for what they have done.
But there is another way.
There are those who would break the law, mostly destroying property, without any intention of cooperating with the police in their arrest and incarceration. While often identified as a group, the Black Bloc is really a tactic. It was originally developed in Germany for use in anti-nuclear and squatting actions in the late 1970s. Besides all the black clothed fashion, this tactic includes protecting yourself from police violence including scarves, sunglasses, ski masks, motorcycle helmets with padding, or other face-concealing and face-protecting items. This guise allows it difficult to distinguish between different participants and harder to prosecute.
Frankly, groups using Black Bloc tactics have been hugely head-achy for me. They often come to events that they do not organize and intentionally incite violence from with the police, demonstrating their predominantly white, male privilege. If you are trying to organize a non-violent civil disobedience action, a group using Black Bloc tactics can be one of your worst nightmares. It can destroy your action. It can ruin your relationship with the locals. It can incite police violence towards your peaceful protesters. And they can result in dangerous escalations of tensions.
The Black Bloc was different this time. First off, no single group could claim ownership over Trump’s coronation. More importantly, the group using these tactics was so big, that it did not really attach itself to any other action and acted autonomously (which is how they are supposed to work). People using these tactics broke some windows, burned an empty limousine outside the offices of the Washington Post, and were involved in the bulk of the 217 arrests from today’s actions.
Predictably, CNN would divide the protest world evenly between those destroying property and those who were not. In fact, there were so many actions and so few of them were destructive of property or violent, that almost all our large crew did not see any altercations with the police. Though there were some of us who sought out people a part of the Black Bloc to shadow the protests.
We were involved in several actions. Perhaps the most fun was the Festival of Resistance which started at the Union Square train station and marched back to McPherson Square. What you can’t see well enough from the above picture is that the parade stretches for blocks and blocks back to the station.
Shepard Fairey who created the famous Obama “Hope” image is back with “We the People” which had three lovely female images. As far as resistance art work goes, this was a great event.
If there is not enough time to have fun at these actions then you are definitely doing it wrong. At the end of the action we all relaxed a bit and found some folks with similar strange ideas as us. Cel has always identified with Wolves.
Protesters have all manner of advise. Much of it was directed angrily at Trump. Another big chunk of protest banners are oriented towards generalized critiques for general consumption. And finally, the smallest fraction of poster art is directed towards other protesters, like this image above. We are going to need a lot of bravery in the coming time.
You political experience is tremendously influenced by who surrounds you and how much you know them. I was lucky at this action. Most of the fine folks from Compersia in DC were at this action. Add to this various Point A activist from up the eastern seaboard and I had my very own basket of deplorables.
There were lots of good signs
More marching tomorrow.
Fortunately for me, my anger and confusion about the election results were quickly redirected. Within a day of president elect Dumpster Fire’s electoral college coup the requests started coming in. “Where can we stay in DC for the inauguration protests?” “Are you coordinating transportation to these events?” “Which action can I get arrested at?” “Which actions are permitted and family-friendly?”
Then began the frustrating and confusing task of figuring out what actions were in fact happening around the inauguration. Unsurprisingly, part of why this is confusing is Trump’s partisan Inauguration Committee is working hard to ban protests from happening anywhere near the event. They will fail.
Fortunately, my friend and world-class organizer Mike Ewall of the Energy Justice Network did much of the information gathering for me. Mike compiled a list of most of the known actions around the inauguration, which I turned into a Google document and started adding information to about how many people are attending and whether these are likely arrest actions.
DC area intentional communities are planning on hosting known out-of-town protesters (or perhaps we should take a page from the Dakota pipeline activists book and call them “Democracy Protectors”). If you are planning on coming to these events and need housing, let me know.
In order to build the kind of power that creates change you need a direct action campaign that harnesses a series of actions into an escalating sequence. Millions of Americans have participated in the past half-century in such campaigns: bus boycotts and lunch counter sit-ins, the Fight for $15, farmworkers, campus divestment campaigns on South African apartheid and fossil fuels, strikes against corporations, impeding mountaintop removal coal mining, blocking the U.S. plan to invade Nicaragua, preventing the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite this, most Americans don’t understand the difference between a protest and a campaign.
I think it is a good idea to go to these protests to help prevent them from being just one-off events and turn them into an on-going campaign and movement. This means that countering “he who shall not be named” and his plunder monkeys is going to take a lot more than freezing our butts for one weekend in late January in DC.
By Gil Cambia
Ask anyone what is the first association they have with the term “hippie commune” and you’ll get “free love.” This term technically makes no sense, unless you assume that all love in Babylon is expensive and that Milton Friedman, bless his heart (or lack thereof), didn’t mean to say “no free lunch” but “no free love”. Either way, it begs the question of what is meant by that term and whether there is any truth in it. This article is somewhat of a personal account through the thorny rose garden of compersion. [Compersion is the feeling of joy associated with seeing a loved one love another; contrasted with jealousy.]
Ever done a trust fall? You know–when you step up on a platform and fall back, against every bit of intuition which yells at you “We’re gonna die!” and “Don’t do it,” only to be caught by all of your friends. I’ve done it many times and guided many people through the process, as I’ve worked in the ropes course industry for many years. I still remember the look on this 11-year-old boy’s face after getting caught. His eyes sparkled with a combination of elation, disbelief, sheer love, and a little bit of residual tears of fear from the 5 minutes it took him to finally drop. What I saw in him was actually a new emotion, one that he didn’t expect to experience. It was more powerful than he had words for.
This is all nice and good, but there is something different that happens to parents when they watch their children try the trust fall. They don’t get to have the endorphins, adrenaline, and peer pressure. It just feels so scary to watch a loved one go through it, especially if you don’t get to be a catcher. I’ve had some parents tell me that they went through a more challenging ropes-course experience in watching their children participate than in participating themselves. Nonetheless, it can be a powerful growing experience even when it isn’t very enjoyable.
So my little family and I moved here to the Louisa communes and started a new one called Cambia, and we’re doing quite well, all things considered. Something you need to know about the Louisa communes, however, is that people are very polite. They don’t just assume that because you are a family you must be monogamous. In fact it might be rude to utter such Babylonian terms, so they ask you right away if you are polyamorous. And asking one spouse is also too presumptive, and one should really ask both in case one of them is poly and the other is still stuck in their ways.
This is all well and good. We, of course, do not believe in sexual possessiveness and felt mildly appreciated for that. So no, we didn’t get subsumed into orgies right away. People just wanted to know in the same way that they want to know one’s preferred pronoun. But the compersious challenge came right away when my son said he didn’t want me to be his primary and that other people are more fun to play with.
Hmm… he’s right. I’m often preoccupied and am trying to do multiple things while watching him. What do I do? I try to be better and more fun but a part of me wants to tell other people in my community to not be so much fun. I don’t want him to start crying every time I tell him it’s my turn to watch him. It is so insulting. Does he not remember all of the reusable diapers I washed by hand with hand-pumped ice cold water in the rain? The answer is no, he doesn’t and he doesn’t need to remember. I wouldn’t want him to be polite and suffer through his time with me, pretending it’s the best thing since homemade flatbread. And just to add insult to injury, he sometimes calls other people “Daddy” and seems to not bother changing that mistake. Sometimes calls me by other people’s names too, but he never confuses me with the really fun people in his life.
Good Gaia, he’s only 4, not 14. I’m not ready to be snubbed. Why is this happening??? I know why, and I know that it’s good. He is growing up with endless adult attention, people to play with and teach him things. On my end, however, not only do I feel inadequate as a parent, but I also feel like I must not want what’s best for my child but what’s best for my ego.
So guess what, I realize that there is no way to win his heart without offering mine completely. I try my best to play with him with full attention, with creativity, but without being contrived or fake. I just started taking more interest in him and in wanting him to enjoy the game I create for him. This effort turned out better for everyone involved. And if Milton Friedman was reading this paper he would attribute it to the breaking of monopoly that I had over him, and that the competition sparked improvement in quality. Ugh, maybe you’re right just this one time. In the big picture, though, Milton, you’re wrong. Competition also leads to reduction in quality and increase in the Kitsch factor. The pressure on me was to be a better dad and not a more attractive dad, because my motivation was not sales but connection.
Sorry about this economic digression. Let’s digress into anthropology instead:
It takes a village, right? There is one culture remaining that does not have a word for “father” and does not have a word to distinguish “mother” from “aunt”. This is one of the last matriarchal societies on this planet.
The Mosuo people of the southern Yunan province of China have been living in a matriarchal and matrilineal way for longer than recorded history (not fair; they had no written language so most of their existence is before recorded history). Every household has a matriarch whose mother, sisters, and brothers help with raising all of their children regardless of who birthed whom.
The Mosuo traditionally have no marriage. They practice something they call “walking marriage,” which is a secret connection between a man and a woman as the man is invited by the woman to her private room, which she gets when she turns 13 after her “flower ceremony,” where she has the liberty of inviting whomever she wishes to her space and they must leave by dawn.
This ritual functions to create a complete uncertainty of paternity. Every man knows who his nieces and nephews are, but not his children. This is far from perfect now. There are many Han (dominant culture) influences and their traditional ways of life are disappearing.
The important thing to realize about the Mosuo is that they have very low rates of violence, rape, murder, warfare, child abuse or abandonment in comparison to patriarchal tribal societies. Though difficult to document or verify, it appears that more sex and more sexual diversity is experienced by both genders. This last point should surprise us, shouldn’t it? When women are in charge, there is more sex and more diversity than when men are in charge?
As one anthropologist describes it: “In matriarchies, mothers are at the center of culture without ruling over other members of society,” “The aim is not to have power over others and over nature, but to follow maternal values, ie. to nurture the natural, social and cultural life based on mutual respect.” From a reproductive perspective, it makes perfect sense. For the reproductive fitness of the female, it makes sense to have support in raising children. Unlike men, she cannot have hundreds of children through raping and pillaging, and restricting the reproduction of other men will not help her children in any way.
This is the reality of the bonobo and the naked mole-rat. They also have structurally determined paternity diffusion, and what’s the result?
Cuddle puddles! Unlike gorillas and chimps, bonobos do not fight invaders, steal their females, kill their young, play political games, or abandon their orphans. And yes, they have more sex than any other primate, and they are pretty undiscriminating about their sexual partners.
When a male does not know who is his child, and he figures that at least a few in the group are, he has an evolutionary pressure to care about the entire group, not just his own. Also, if he can’t stop a female from mating with others multiple times a day, it’s better for him just to join the fun than to try to control it.
So how did it go for me? How am I handling being in an open relationship? It wouldn’t be very interesting if I said that it was great, would it? It really wasn’t easy, though. Of course I love those who love my spouse, but it’s hard not to feel insecure. I’ll spare you the details that you may have read this far just to get to some juicy stuff.
Let me just say the following: it’s the greatest trust fall of all. Just when you think you are falling to your death, when it’s someone else’s time to spend the night with your partner, you get caught by both your partner, their new partner, and the entire support network of poly love warriors. It’s an incredible feeling. Your intuition yells to you, “She doesn’t want you anymore!” and your partner smiles and reaffirms that she will always love you. You lay there in the hands of those who caught you and you think you must have fallen to your death and woken up in heaven, and the truth is you did.
When love loses restrictions, suddenly the love with a partner becomes a true rather than an obligatory expression. Suddenly your partner not only feels owned by you but actually appreciative for the effort and struggles you are willing to go through for his or her well being. What better way is there to show love?
To be honest, it isn’t instant nirvana. It takes a long time to overcome the internalized patriarchy completely. But luckily, the path is not pure suffering. There is a distinct experience of greater love and greater security.
The cultivation of compersion is that of true love. It’s about vulnerability, it’s about trust without control, it’s both letting yourself fall and getting caught by the soft loving hands of your friends, and about watching those you love get caught by others and not by you. Through this process you get nudged to become a better, more loving, and more lovable person (or so I hope).
In a broader perspective of communal living, our movement is focused on creating wealth out of sharing, not out of possessing or overproducing. We have mastered it in shared land, housing, work, risk, costs, childcare, and many resources, but the most important aspect, the one that is also the least depleted by sharing with others, is love.
This is being published simultaneously with Commune Life Blog.
During tours of Twin Oaks I make sure to point out the things which we do that are unconventional. This makes the tour more memorable and hopefully thought provoking. At three different points there are business practices which drive MBAs a bit crazy:
Embracing Inefficiency: The jig that we make hammocks on is quite unconventional. If you go into any other woven hammock shop in the world, you will see a weaving jig which is operated by a single person. Sometimes these are upright and the person is weaving at eye level. Sometimes these are positioned like our jig and people weave at waist level. From the right angle these look like a capital U.
Our jigs looked at from above look like a capital H instead. This makes it possible for two people to weave hammocks across from each other. What we clearly observe is that when people can talk with other workers their productivity goes … down.
Why would any self respecting business use tools which make worker productivity decrease? Well, the easy answer would be we are not a self-respecting business in the conventional sense. As you might know all work (including income work) done at Twin Oaks is done by volunteers. Hammock shop managers think first of what will get people and keep people in the shop and only secondarily about what makes them go fast. If you oppress or make uncomfortable your hammocks production staff, they will go out into the garden or cook or make tofu or take care of kids or any of over 100 jobs which are available.
This has most MBAs scratching their heads.
Profit Insensitivity: As business professionals walk around and understand our economy they start to ask good questions. “If you make a much higher dollar/hour by having people work in the hammock shop or the tofu hut, why don’t you pull workers from low dollar/hour areas (like Garden) and simply make more money and buy organic food?”
The answer is “we want to grow our own food”. This is a cultural value for us. We want to live in a place where we are involved in all cycles of the farm, growing fruits and vegetables, running our own dairy and chickens programs and in good years even our own bee hives. None of this makes economic sense. We don’t do it for the money.
This causes MBAs to start pulling their hair.
Marketing without Money: Arguably the most unconventional thing we do is pretend that we can do almost all our marketing without spending money on it. We spent less than a thousand dollars a year on advertising. We prefer to use labor to do marketing. The problem is people generally don’t move to communes if what they want to do is marketing. I have been one of the few marketing managers in hammocks for decades, and I have not done very much with it until recently.
Our unwillingness to go to trade shows, run promotional advertising with our many online vendors, even run ads in our local friendly urban press cause MBAs to look for the door.
Uncharacteristically, an MBA from Richmond is interested in Twin Oaks. She has a good job and stable circumstance, but was profoundly influenced by the Women’s Gathering and wanted to check out the place which organized it.
I was excited by someone with business experience possibly living with us, despite the peculiarities listed above, there is much for us to learn. So as I do with people who really want to live here, I went over the biggest obstacles most outsiders have coming to the community.
- We are Filthy. We can claim we are a farm, or that we have a bunch of kids and messy strangers. But truth told at our core we are more than a bit unclean.
- Limited Privacy. Your personal space ends at the door to your room. There are lots of people out there and some of them are quite unusual.
- We will push your buttons. Hard as it might be to believe, what ever they are we will push them. If you know your hang ups, than this will be a personal growth opportunity. If you don’t know what plugs you in, the we are guaranteeing a (probably painful) journey of self discovery. Because we will find these buttons for you and push them.
Alexis did not pause. She had done her research, she was unworried about the filth. She was looking forward to living much more collectively and felt like she had a pretty good handle on her buttons. I just hope she is right.