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Compersia lands on the Atlantic

A collection of intrepid adventurers have launched the newest income sharing commune in Washington DC and it is called Compersia. After failing twice to name this new community using naming parties, they discovered that one of the limitations of naming parties is that they are good at coming up with funny or lighthearted names. But when you are naming your home you might want something a bit more serious.

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Compersia retreat January 2016

Compersia is derived from Compersion, which is roughly defined as the opposite of jealousy.  More precisely compersion is when you feel good about your intimate experiencing intimacy with another person.    Part of the reason why compersion is only roughly defined as the opposite of jealousy is that you can feel both compersion and jealousy at the same time.

The name is barely a month old and the major liberal magazine, the Atlantic, has completed a 6 minute video on them.  Here is the link to the Compersians discussing their community.  The reportage is all in the words of the members and thus it is a pretty upbeat piece of coverage.  Compersia is looking for new members and this might well help.

Curiously, just the day before the Atlantic posting, Realtor.com ran an article called “With Housing Costs Sky-High, the Commune Makes a Comeback” Which quotes a number of our friends at Ganas and Twin Oaks.

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A collection of Old Twin Oaks photos use by Realtor.com

Nice to be seen a bit by the more mainstream press.

 

Better Labor Day Plans

Perhaps you are thinking about what you should be doing over labor day weekend. You have decided it is too expensive and too much hassle to go to Burning Man. You could visit your relatives, but Thanksgiving is looming and that is really a much better holiday for that activity. You could stay home and watch some sporting spectacular on TV, with teams you don’t especially care about with perhaps too many advertisements between plays.

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Ads can make you crazy

Or you could come to the Twin Oaks Communities Conference. It is reasonably priced, it has no commercials, you won’t get fine dust in everything you own, and unless they are pretty cool already you probably won’t see any of your relatives.

But rather than talk about what won’t be there, let’s explore some of what will be happening at this year’s conference.

The event is a mix of different types of content and social/cultural aspects. The content comes in three big forms.

There are scheduled workshops, the schedule for which is at the bottom of this post and the detailed descriptions can be read here. [You need to click the arrow by the workshop titles to open up the full descriptions.]

There is Open Space, which allows the participants to design their own workshops and present them. While the scheduled workshops are all on themes directly related to communities, the open space portion of the event can be on any topic about which participants are excited. In the past this has included permaculture, polyamory, anti-oppression work, a critique of Occupy, and how to dumpster dive.

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Open Space’s slightly tautological rules

The other formal piece of content the conference provides is the “meet the communities” gathering Saturday morning.  Everyone who is in a community (including ones which are just forming) gets 60 seconds to introduce what they are doing. Then all the representatives distribute themselves in the main gathering area and put up little signs or other information on their place and answer questions presented by milling participants. There might be 30 or 40 communities represented. And you might just find the one which is a great choice for you.

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A bunch of tables like this talking about different communities during “meet the communities”

There is lots of informal content. Experts and adventurers at meals talking about their experiences. Late night chats around the fire, about how happy we will be not to hear so much about Trump and concerns about Hillary. There will be new friends and romances. Smokers will chat comically or conspiratorially in their little area. New allies will bond over coffee and early morning rituals.

While the information provided would be sufficient reason to come to this event, it is the culture, fun, and personal connections which seal the deal.  For many people the conference is about brushing up against the very different way of living at an income sharing, secular community which has deep sharing agreements. The communities conference dance on Saturday night is one of the best dances Twin Oaks has all year. The mud pit and the river beckon. The FIC auction is entertaining and often a bargain hunter’s dream.

comm conf table

The scheduled workshop program is as follows:

Saturday: 1:30 – 3:15 PM

Panel discussion with the Federation of Egalitarian Communities
Consensus 201: Different levels of agreement for a consensus proposal
Organizing Community? Remember PC2
The Community Land Trust: Networking Wealth

Saturday: 3:45 – 5:30 PM

The Parable of the Sower Intentional Community
Culture Hacking 101: How to Create a Participatory, Intentional Culture For Your Community
Legal Clinic
Mutual Credit and Sociocracy

Sunday: 9:00 – 10:45 AM

Creating Fertile Ground for Community
Boundaries: Speaking Truth, Meeting Needs, and Releasing Attachments
The Role of ICs in Manifesting a New Paradigm/Next System
Overview of the new Urban Kibbutz Movement

I get arrested for a living

I did support work for a recent arrest action in which folks from the communes (and other activists) blocked traffic on an Interstate highway to bring attention to police violence in the US towards people of color.  The action was organized by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURG) which organizes principally white allies doing civil disobedience in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

i-95 blockade action

Traffic was blocked for an hour

When one communard was being processed an angry cop accused them of being paid to protest.  “How much are they giving you to get arrested?” the police officer angrily demanded.  “You don’t care about this issue, you are just in it for the money.” the cop went on.

You need to know that these arrests happened just the day after 3 police officers were killed in Baton Rouge and just over a week after a dozen police were shot in Dallas.  To this cop in Richmond, it could easily have appeared we were in the beginning of a full fledged race war in which white police were uncharacteristically targets.  I can understand his fear and anger.

None of the communards got money for going to this protest.  And while crowd funding will likely cover fines and bail and the National Lawyers Guild is providing free legal counsel, everyone of these commune based protesters will end up having to pay financially for this choice to get arrested and none of them has very much money.   They will also likely end up doing community service in lieu of jail time, which will cost them again. And the cop was dead wrong about the protesters not caring about the issue.  I know everyone of them, they are all true believes.  Many were choosing to get arrests for the first time in their lives, and highway blockade actions are especially scary.  This choice took guts, they are heroes all.

black lives matter meme

But in a way, the officer was right.  In a way that they would not understand unless they were willing to listen to a long description of how these communes work.  These protesters did get labor credits from other members of their communities to do this “work”.  In that sense they were “paid”.

The title of this post is intentionally misleading.  No one who lives at any of the FEC communities can be a full time activist.  No one exclusively makes their living get arrested.  Before i lived at Twin Oaks I did full time anti-nuclear organizing, i was arrested far more frequently.  But the title of this post is still in essence true.  PART of what these activists do is get arrested for a living.  It is part of their work.

I am proud of these mostly white protesters who got arrested because the other avenues for change have been exhausted.  With an unarmed person of color getting gunned down by the police in the US regularly, we can’t just write upset letters to our congress creatures or the local paper.  It is worth noting that no other democracy in the world has even 1/10 this rate of police homicides.  Our system is broken and these actions bring attention which just might fix it.

The rest of this post is a repost of an article by one of the arrested communards which recently appear in the CommuneLife.org blog.

By (redacted) Something very interesting happened the other day: Several of us got arrested, and it was very, very okay. The short version of this story is that several Twin Oakers decided to participate in a protest, which ended in arrest. When we refused to leave the scene, a number of us and some non-oaker comrades […]

via How being a communard takes the risk out of risking arrest — commune life

$27

Against all odds, Bernie Sanders still has a chance to become president.  Why do i say “against all odds”?  Well, it starts with the media.

Way back in December, the Sanders staff did an analysis of the mainstream media (MSM) and found that ABC’s World News Tonight had spent 81 minutes on Trump and 20 seconds on Sanders.  Other MSM outlets were similarly uninterested in the popular Jewish socialist running for the country’s top office.  Even the NY Times can’t bring itself to report on this anti-establishment candidate, while it rails endlessly on the establishment ills.

Conventional wisdom would claim that Trump is saying more outrageous and newsworthy things.  I would be hard pressed to disagree on the outrageous part.  But someone advocating for free college tuition and expansion of the ever controversial Obamacare program to cover all US Americans with free health care is saying some pretty newsworthy stuff.  Despite Sanders being remarkable, the MSM is still owned and controlled by a class which finds his radical views unacceptable.

 

As a political candidate for president in the US you need to have exposure.  What i found canvassing for Sanders in Virginia was lots of people had not heard of him.  So if you can’t get the MSM to cover you, then you need to pay for ads, but these are crazy expensive.  Here is where Sanders is again running against all odds.

Sanders raised $140 million from individual contributions through the end of February.  Clinton raised $160 from people over the same period.  But add to this $60 million in Super PAC money for Clintoand you can see how things are harder for Sanders.

Sanders does not take money from Super PACs. [For a reality check Republicans have raised almost twice as much money as Democrats and over half for the GOP money is from Super PACs, contrasted to 15% for Democrats.]

The thing about long shots is you need to know when to double down and when to walk away.  I don’t generally give money to politicians.  Despite voting, i am still an anarchist and find most of the personality politics repugnant.  I am giving Sanders $27, which is the average amount he has received and feels like a good number to me.

sanders landslides

The reason you double down on the right long shot is not because you are going to win, but it is to be part of the springboard of hope.  Sanders has amazing momentum.  Consider helping the campaign in non-monetary ways if you can, especially if you have friends in NY or California.

After the recent set of landslide victories in Washington, Hawaii and Alaska (which were largely ignored by the MSM), it is time to double down.  The odds are still against us, but the odds are always going to be against us.  I am sending my $27. I hope you will too.

 

 

Shouting down the Guru

Once upon a time, i taught a class on revolution.  It was not a history class, it was a design class.  What we discovered was that you could only be a revolutionary in a field that you were passionate about, thus part of the class was about focusing on what the students cared most deeply about.

Another part of the class was about looking at power relations and disassembling them where possible, including the power relationship between teachers and students.  Part of what we did to rebalance the power relationship was practice having the students in the first class yell “bullshit!” at the teachers.

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This was not just a one-off cutesy exercise, it was an invitation for the entirety of the class.  Whenever what the teachers were doing was boring or irrelevant to a student, we asked them to yell this at us.  In response we would change the trajectory of the class.  Sometimes the yelling student would take over leading the class (my favorite).  Sometimes the teachers would listen to their critique, offer something different and if was acceptable we would do that instead.  A few times we went out and played capture the flag in downtown Charlottesville where the class was held.  A couple times we ended class early.

Perhaps every fourth or fifth class someone would yell bullshit at us.  We never ignored it.

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Photoshop rendition of Ruth, circa 2015

Students grow up. Ruth was one of my favorites. She was upbeat and clever despite having an impossible home situation. After she graduated she became a teacher of the class for a while.

She joined a spiritual community and found herself critical of the teachings of the spiritual leader of the group.  One day during the daily teachings of the master, when the students were supposed to be quietly listening, she realized that what he was saying was nonsense.  She yelled “Bullshit” at the guru and left the group.

There is no greater reward to being a teacher than feeling your “lessons” were applied.

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Some Gurus are better than others

 

Seamless Party: They don’t want to go home

Validation Day at Twin Oaks is a mostly internal affair. Unlike some of our larger events (like Anniversary or New Years Eve) we don’t invite that many folks from outside to this event, because we prefer to know people better for this more intimate party. I think there were fewer than half a dozen non-Oakers at this event (if you also exclude the Acorners, ex-members, and the handful of East Winders who are currently helping out at Acorn.)

dance sillottes

There were black lights, but we did not look like this.

The important piece of this party for me was that there was such a seamless range between kids and adults. This was helped significantly by the former member kids who joined our current group of teens and early 20s, many of whom are members. An ex-member pointed out that this was the first party she had seen where the kids really felt like it was their party too, like they were not just running through Tupelo, but were on the dance floor, with adults and other youth.

There are very few really integrated inter-generational parties. Think of the last time when 7- and 70-year olds were both on the dance floor enjoying themselves. I think many people have no experience of this. We are building the better party.

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Validation Day is about new connections

Having lots of kids at the event did not dampen the energy of the adults, though I think it does make the adults somewhat more discreet about their amorous attractions. Members got their results from the 6 creatures game and many were excited to find out their (perhaps formerly secret) attractions were shared.

Another indicator that it was a positive event for the participants was that I could not get shuttles to Acorn filled. As is my way at these events, I ran around checking in with people about when they wanted to catch a ride home to Acorn. I checked at 11 PM, no one wanted to leave, I checked at midnight, another failure. At 1 AM a small car went home but it was not even full. Finally at 3 AM I was able to fill the 15 seat passenger van.

The party was not perfect. Unusually, it was held in Tupelo, which is a very large and somewhat rambling space, and the party had several focuses, which made the dance floor seem sparse for much of the night. The kissing booth was a bit too dark and too close to the dance floor, so this funological long lever was barely used.

kiss me

But even with these minor design flaws, we were clearly doing something right. Participants were praising the event the next day, many having slept in from the late night of celebration.

dance surreal

Ride home? No thanks

Appreciations and Fist Bumps

I am constantly on the lookout for new transparency tools.  I have been ending the most recent transparency groups i facilitate with a simple popcorn of appreciations. Whoever felt moved would acknowledge someone else in the group for something they did or a way they are in the world that was appreciated.  This was fine, and occasionally compelling, elegant and simple.  And as a tool, it was a bit weak.

Kelly from the Point A DC group shared someone else’s appreciation tool at the recent retreat which i immediately snapped up because it is much more powerful.  In go round style, people said what it was that they wanted to be appreciated for.  This is a bit like a pointed “if you really knew me” where we get to learn a very specific and important thing about you: what it is that you feel under-recognized for that is none-the-less important to you.

It is a bit unclear where to go after this under-expressed appreciation is voiced.  Currently, i have someone in the group who feels like they can validate this appreciation in their own words.  When i said i wanted to be appreciated for my sloppy and unreliable organizing style, Hawina said “Minimal effort, maximum effect.  Yeah Paxus!” and pumped her fist.  It was perfect.

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Hawina – Circa 2013

But the commune affords other unprompted appreciations.  I do a weekly tofu trays shift. You get dressed up for this work – boots, apron, gloves with liners, ear protection, hair nets.  In the winter months this is cold, wet, heavy, loud, rushed, non-stop physical work for 3 plus hours (i get that compared with many jobs in the mainstream a single 3 hour weekly shift would seem like a breeze, but we are spoiled).   I do this work year round, regardless of my membership status.

tofu-paxus

I was coming into my trays shift recently and new member David was finishing up in his similar protective garb.  He explained to me that the curds were wet and needed to sit longer and drain to make the proper weights.  And then he started to walk away towards the clothes changing space.  Then he turned around and came back and said,

“Hey, i appreciate that you do this unpleasant trays work even when you don’t live here.”

fist-bump

And then he put out his glove in a fist and i bumped it.  I don’t think i have ever done a fist bump like that before.  As in “we are all part of the same team, making it happen together.”  And it really hit me.

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David and his new favorite cow