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Commune Exports – Fatherhood

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.

commune-dads

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:

This is a rich topic.  Your comments are welcome.

willow-star-and-paxus-in-pussy-hat

Willow behind me, before Women’s March (Pussy hat by Hawina)

Stop Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee

Trump, as expected, has nominated an extreme right wing judge for the Supreme Court  (to replace the conservative judge who died about a year ago, and republicans refused to even have a hearing for Obama’s replacement nominee, and even said if Clinton won they would stall for another 4 years).    

We have all seen Trump’s many horrifying and illegal executive orders in just these first weeks.  

Trump Travel Ban Seattle

The ACLU and many others are fighting these outrages in court, and 2 federal judges have issued restraints.   

But if Trump gets a Supreme Court willing to CHANGE the LAWS  (like they did with the “Citizens United” case),  there would be no way to stop Trump’s horrifying and currently illegal assaults.

With 4 extreme conservatives already on the court, Judge Neil Gorsuch’s hyper-ideological and partisan leaning would complete a Supreme Court rubber stamp for Trump’s assaults on the Constitution.  

That is why I consider this Supreme Court nomination to be the most important issue of the next 4 years.

supreme-court-spectrum

Gorsuch has shown a consistent bias in favor of the interests of corporations over those of the workers, consumers, and the public.

And he has ruled in favor of the Right’s growing national efforts to bastardize the core First Amendment freedom of religious liberty and reinterpret it as a right to discriminate.    

He is basically against all that liberals have worked for decades to create.                                                     

Whether Democrats are willing and able to block this nominee will determine the future of what is legal in our country for decades.

The Supreme Court is the only legal check on Trump and the Republicans.   

Everything from immigration law, to environmental law, to human rights, to reproductive rights, and anything else that gets in the way of Trump and the Republicans’ horrifying agenda, is at stake!  

Senator Merkley (D-OR) has committed to fight this in every way possible, which mostly means filibustering.  

Please call your senators to demand that they support Merkley’s filibuster!

Of course the Republicans will threaten to outlaw filibusters.  But if the Dems back down, then that would make filibusters useless to them anyway since the Republicans will keep using that threat.  So Dems should not just give up!  There are Republican Senators who do not want to destroy the filibuster rule.   Better to filibuster to try to stop Trump’s nominee, and hope a few Republican Senators will refuse to destroy the filibuster rule.  It would only take 3, and all the Democrats.  

oppose_gorsuch

Google Senate contact and check your state for phone or website.

Call Democrats, and include to not back down in the face of Republican threats to change the filibuster rule.   Democrats tend to back down when Republicans push hard, so we need to swamp them with messages.             

Call moderate Republicans too, we need a few of them to not change the filibuster rule.  

If you cannot get through to Washington offices, use websites, or call offices in state cities, ask if they relay messages to the washington office (they probably do)

If in Virginia, Especially call Warner, who is more likely to give in to republican pressure.  

Phone numbers for VA  US Senators are:

Warner: DC (202) 224 2023 or Richmond (804) 775 2314                             

Kaine: DC (202) 224 4024 or Richmond (804 771 2221

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 95,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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

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.

The Trouble with Spaceships and Astronauts

The image of the community asSpaceship comes up occasionally in this blog. But I think that there’s a problem with the Spaceship metaphor for communities–especially if it embraces the idea that we are looking for a few special people (‘astronauts’, ‘superstars’) to venture out into the unknown with us. In order to understand my difficulty with the this, I want to go over what’s involved in sending out a spaceship–and, by analogy, creating community. It begins with hundreds of people involved with mining various ores deep within the earth. These are taken to refineries where thousands of others work to extract metals, purify them, and mold them into parts. From there, the parts go to factories where many, many workers assemble them into spaceship components which are then shipped (by more people) to the launching site where lots and lots of NASA employees work to fit them together into the final ship.

Not assembling spaceships, but could be...

Not assembling spaceships, but could be…

Meanwhile, there are scientists busy figuring out the best compounds to power these ships. Many more workers pipe the fuels to the launch site where others pump them into fuel tanks. At the site engineers test and evaluate every component and if their advice and warnings are ignored, it can lead to disaster. As the astronauts enter the spaceship and wait for the countdown, everything is coordinated and monitored by dozens of flight controllers in mission control. Yet spotlight is always on the few folks in the crew compartment.

Keeping an eye on it all

Keeping an eye on it all

The trouble with looking at communities as spaceships and astronauts is that it’s focused on a few ‘brave heroic souls’ who dare take on this mission, and not the vast diverse team of people who work together to make all this possible. Community is not a small group of superstars, it’s a team of flawed imperfect people (because we all are) who are struggling together to build a new world. Community isn’t a spaceship or a lifeboat, it’s a living, breathing organism that needs to be nurtured and supported, and it survives and thrives when there’s a diverse group of people living and working cooperatively and collectively.

A new image of community?

A new image of community?

The Sharp Edge of the Tool

While on the recent Point A trip, a hybrid group of Catalonyians and Acorn-affiliates met in the cozy basement room of a bodywork studio in Brooklyn. Paxus introduced this group of charismatic New Yorkers and communards to the transparency tools.

But rather a key to a new way of seeing each other

But rather a key to a new way of seeing each other

The Catalysts are an incredibly clever bunch. These folks know that if they do a good job crafting their agreements and cultural fabric, they can create an amazing eco-village.  And while they are a fundamentally fun loving and playful crowd, community building is difficult work and they have been hard at it.  Especially drafting written agreements- for everything.  For land ownership, for the membership process, for the types of cottage industries that might happen, the mission statement- the tasks go on and on. Important, complex and often slogging work.

This is not actually what this group of people wants to be doing. What they want to be doing is falling in love. This is where the transparency tools come in.

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We all know that a great eco village is built on the foundation of love… and spreadsheets

I have experience with some of the transparency tools used, as I used to be part of a meditation community in DC in which we met 2x a month to have a sit followed by a discussion.

Often in this format and during retreats (which happen twice a year) we used the “If you really knew me…” and Hot Seat tools. I’ve already witnessed how effective they can be in bringing a group together, and it was no different with the Catalysts.

penetrating questions designed to reveal you - not necessarily heal you

penetrating questions designed to reveal you – not necessarily heal you

Frequently when starting, it takes a round or two of “If you really knew me” statements for everyone to start to open up. What was so beautiful about this night in particular was each person became transparent almost immediately. People were sharing their stories with each other so willingly and with so much faith that the group wanted to hear them.

We transitioned from “If you really knew me” statements to Hot Seats, the Catalysts asking questions and Paxus explaining the benefits of the many tools.

Due to the wacky Point A trip agenda and time constraints, we were only able to fit in three 5-minute Hot Seats. The group did an excellent job being clear with their questions and answers, and everyone involved continued to be engaged.

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Dream eco-village material

To wrap up the evening, Paxus began to explain the tools that go beyond being personally transparent and begin to create transparency in relationships. Specifically, these tools are Unsaids and Withholds. These tools can create space for resolution of conflict as well as giving members an opportunity to appreciate one another. They are also notoriously tricky.

This point in the evening is when things really got interesting. Despite Pax expecting to solely explain Unsaids/Withholds and not try to do any that evening, members of the group began to use the tools without any hesitation. Several conflicts were put on the path to resolution within ten minutes, with the tools used practically flawlessly.

Let me see inside of you

Let me see inside of you

What then evolved seemingly naturally- after what could be seen as complaining or criticism of the Withholds- was the graceful move into appreciations, which were equally rich and revealing.  As we left it was clear the group wanted more. The Point A crowd- which are in some sense carpetbaggers from Virginia trying to build community in NYC- felt like we had really done our job.


Triple Threat Tony is a small giant and regular editor of Your Passport To Complaining. She’s involved with the Point A project as an organizer/secretarial wench and hates celery almost as much as comma misuse. Trip, as she is known to her close circle of small giant friends, smells faintly of chocolate chip cookies and rocket fuel. When she isn’t dismantling the patriarchy or destroying capitalism, she pretends to be an Acorn intern.