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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.  

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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

Uninauguration- DC Jan 21st.

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.

 

via Uninauguration — commune life

The O&I Board – too many options

Around 50 years ago the founders of Twin Oaks decided that they were going to radically depart from conventional decision-making techniques.  They disliked voting, consensus had not been secularized by the feminists yet and waiting for everyone to agree seemed time-consuming, so they thought they would develop something new.

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Almost everyone in community makes decisions in meetings, but Twin Oaks was founded by writers.  They thought a dynamic writing-based decision system could get around some of the big problems associated with running a complicated community.  To this end they developed the O&I Board.  O&I stands for “Opinions and Ideas”.  Critics of this system occasionally quip that the name really comes from “Oh am I bored”.

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Gil Cambia at the Twin Oaks O & I board

The way it works is pretty straightforward.  There are 2 dozen clipboards placed on a wall and anyone can put up a paper with a proposal for something new on one of them.  At the end of the proposal you have posted you leave blank pages of paper so that other members can make comments or suggestions.

There are several advantages to this system.  The first is that you don’t need to gather everyone in the same place at the same time to discuss something.  On our busy, large farm this is significant plus.  People can read everything that others have written, or skim it if that is their interest, or skip it completely if the topic doesn’t resonate with them.  Readers can comment in whatever length they feel appropriate, from multiple pages, to simply dittoing something someone else has written and signing your name (this is a pretty common practice).  Members can make alternative proposals or point out unaddressed problems and hopefully the proposal becomes stronger for all this input.  The pressure to agree with someone who is talking to you and who you want to make happy as well as some groupthink problems are decreased.

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Less groupthink on paper.

But there are problems as well.  Written communication is much more likely to result in flame wars than face-to-face communication.  If you can see how what your saying is upsetting someone, your humanity kicks in and you may tone down your words – the O&I looses this important control.   Because you are somewhat more likely to be attacked on the O&I than in a meeting, some members shy away from this format not wishing to be in the center of a controversy.   Written communication is difficult for some people.    If there are many comments on a proposal, the later ones do not get as much attention as the earlier ones and there is no notice that new important comments have been added, so you have to keep checking on papers with which you are concerned.

The real problem with the O&I board is none of these described above, nor is it a problem with the board itself, but rather with it as an entrance ramp to our decision-making process in general.  The real problem is once you have posted on the O&I board, if there are any significant number of comments your next steps are unclear.

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Sure, if everyone says “This is a great idea, lets do it!” then it is clear, but this very rarely happens. If your proposal is contentious or has several sets of recommendations on how you should change it, you as the author of the original proposal are at a crossroads. Should you push on with your proposal? Should you do a community survey? Should you call for a community meeting? Should you go talk with the people who seemed most upset about your proposal and see if you can find a compromise? Should you talk to the people who are most supportive of your proposal and ask them to help you advance it unmodified? Should you talk with the planner or the council about it? Should you just give up and drop it completely? This is, for many members, simply too many options. Especially since if the proposal is at all controversial no matter which one you choose some critic is going to call “bad process” on you for not having done it the way they want it done. Perhaps this is why after 50 years no other community has decided to mimic the O&I board as their central decision-making tool.

 

 

 

 

 

Disrupt J20 – Inauguration Protests

It was not even 6:30 AM and I got handed a sign.

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I like this 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.

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I am in the middle, Xian to my right.  GPaul snapped the pic

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.

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Unidentified protester part of successful blockade – Getty Images

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.

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New more responsible tactics for the Black Block

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.

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Festival of Resistance

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.

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amazing posters

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.

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Cel is an honorary member of the Wolf family

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.

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The key Message

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.

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Resistance families – Nadine Bloch and clan

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.

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Steve, GPaul, MPJ, Xian and Chris part of the Festival of Resistance

There were lots of good signs

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There are many under threat

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No one gets to sit this one out, easy ain’t an option

More marching tomorrow.

Inauguration Protests – a user guide

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?”

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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.

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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.

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Generally speaking, I agree with clever guy George Lakoff who wrote for Resilience in an article called “WHY CAMPAIGNS, NOT PROTESTS, GET THE GOODS“:

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.

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Accessible Anarchists: Can Masdeu

It started with the asparagus and a hole.  

For 50 years the lepers hospital had been abandoned, fenced off and losing the struggle against entropy.  Late in the fall of 2002, a handful of liberators cut a hole in the fence, letting themselves and the locals in. These mostly poorer pensioners from the outskirts of Barcelona had for years watched the fenced off asparagus sprout inside and go to seed.  Not this year.

But the story only begins with this “chance harvest”. While locals reclaimed and seeded this newly available agricultural land, the squatters planted roots of their own in this place they renamed Can Masdeu (house of many springs).  And as expected, before the first plants had sprouted, the police had arrived – not worried about the vegetables, but rather a different  “weed” taking root.  In April 2003, several dozen Barcelona riot police arrived to remove the illegal occupants from this long abandoned 3 story “mansion”.

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The gardens of Can Masdeu

What the police found was 11 people suspended on various platforms and perches designed so that to remove any one person, would cause another (or in some cases two other) people to drop from great height, potentially to their deaths.  To this day, there are chairs mounted on the outside of the building – outside the top floors, where protesters sat for 3 days, through a rainstorm and mostly without food – waiting for justice.  And finally it came.  A local judge ordering the police to retreat, declaring human life is more important than property. It did not hurt that the dozens of local and imported supporters at the squat were aided by very visible protests and lobbying going on inside the city of Barcelona and even the Spanish Embassy in Am*dam was under siege by sympathetic anarchists.

But as romantic and exciting as the origin myth of Can Masdeu is, it is the current projects and dreams which makes it such an important and seductive place. Two dozen young people (from 22 to 39) have built gardens and bread ovens, opened a community bike shop, constructed meditation spaces, planted fruit trees, installed solar cookers and reversed entropy. They have inspired a DIY/”we can do it” culture which manifests both cordial relations with the locals and deep connections to the rural squatting movement (which is more secure than urban squats, because Spain, like most places, is suffering from urban flight).  Meals at Can Masdeu are a cross between a noisy family reunion, a conspirators clandestine gathering and a polyglot’s wet dream, with the colorful players switching languages every few moments.

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The internal economics are pretty simple.   Everyone (visitors and members alike) pays 1 Euro (about $1.20) a day for the dry goods – mainly organic and bio regional foods which are collectively cooked by volunteers each day.  On our last night there no one signed up to cook and cheerful, last minute, self selecting recruits finished cooking at 11 PM. (Which is only an hour or two later than dinner normally is.  This is Spain – or more precisely Catalonia – after all.)  The food is good. It is mostly vegan of necessity since cheese is expensive – but there are no culinary restrictions placed on the group.

Though simple, the meals were wonderful.  Culinary success is fostered by a culture of joy and political action.  Stuff from the gardens, food left behind after the farmers market (in a novel twist, farmers don’t feel it necessary to put broken glass into food which they can not sell, to keep others from eating it as we are so fond of doing in the US), bread from their clay ovens, dry goods purchased with the money chipped in – all create a squat cuisine which kept us out of the wonderfully tempting Barcelona restaurants.

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Every Saturday a free coffeehouse with local and intl talent.

We were lucky to get in.  Jana and Frodo recommended the place, but June is one of their closed months.  They have been so popular that they need to control the visiting of folx so as not to get overrun with outsiders. Our boat into Tarragona arrived just as a closed month began – but we were generously granted an exception (which we had arranged by e-mail in advance).  We gave back to the squat with a presentation on Twin Oaks which was attended with great interest. They were trying to figure out many of the sharing systems that more mature communities have already developed.  At 1 AM I was still answering questions, Hawina having fielded the first hour of them, while I chased after Willow (at this writing was age 2), who seemed to get the infectious spirit and thought that he owned the place.

It is not utopia yet either;  one problem and benefit is the clash between the Spanish “manana culture” and the North European (esp. British and German) punctuality.  The squat is perhaps 2/3rds locals and 1/3rd internationals and Gesine (who was our host and is from Germany) was really struggling with the group’s ability to make decisions effectively.

While we were there a couple of Dutch co-counseling instructors were there teaching a class.  But their meeting techniques did not seem to take hold the way some of the squatters had wanted. I found myself wanting to be able to materialize Tree and plant her in this place for some months.

Squats, especially large ones which are likely targets for eviction are generally a mix of disheveled and broken stuff – and that which has been repaired or renovated.   There is dodgy wiring and the same “second world” plumbing style as East Wind (running water inside, but outside composting toilets).    But these folx were fast on their feet.  At one point Willow charged into one of the living rooms, with cushions missing from chaotic couches, piles of papers on the dirty floor.  An hour later we returned and the couches were complete and positioned for a meeting, the floor cleaned and cleared, a meeting agenda on the easel in front of the space.  And in my favorite anarchist tradition, no one was claiming credit for the magical transformation. It just sort of happens, because it needs to.

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It is not hardware or architecture which makes Can Masdeu important, it is the culture creation, the social relations and the politics which does.  “We don’t just wear black,” says Gesine, explaining that part of the perceived threat of the squat to the establishment is that they are media friendly, accessible to (and in fact supporting of) locals from different ages and classes and constantly doing outreach.  Barcelona is one of the most heavily squatted cities in Europe. The combination of poverty, speculation on rising real estate values and a legal system which does not deify property rights has caused an explosion in squatting and the anti-military service campaigns.  The moneyed class does not want popular, accessible squats like this one – it emboldens folx to take matters into their own hands.  Squatters are supposed to be dangerous fringe criminals, not helpful, friendly, folx fixing people’s bikes and respecting each other and the land and local tradition.

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Bike powered washer – like Quercus had

Even during their closed month there are tours and workshops every Sunday.  There was a series of sessions on healing arts when we were there – taught not by folx from the squat, but by Barcelona practitioners using the space with the squat assisting in promotion for the event.  The local school has several student groups who choose (and are encouraged) to meet there, in the café and ample conference spaces.  There is a growing book library, a free shop (a commie clothes look alike), and a tool library as well as all the squatting propaganda you could possibly want.  One of the rooms is for storage and construction of giant protest puppets and is also the flamenco dancers practice space.  These types of multicultural mixed use spaces are common.

My last day, by good fortune, I ended up in a long conversation with Martin from the UK, who spent a year looking for this place before actually squatting it. His was an amazing and tragic tale, complete with getting cut from the rope which was blocking the G8 from arriving at their Swiss retreat.  He dropped over  60 feet into two feet of water, broke his back and was lucky not to be paralyzed, much less alive (see www.aubonnebridge.net website for the amazing and disturbing video of the action). We talked about the culture of Can Masdeu, the meetings and process, the hopes and relations with other projects.  For me it was the perfect arrival to Europe.  People who had a very high level of commitment to radical political work, but were not stuck in old boxes, which would for example, keep them from the media, or distance them from the local population.  We talked about his desire to protect this ecosystem, which he felt was at the edge of its carrying capacity with the gardens which had already been planted.   And how amazed he was at what they had so far created.

And it might all end in October.  After 5 failed criminal cases have been run against them, Can Masdeu now faces a civil suit, which it may be nearly impossible for them to win – because in fact they don’t own the property and someone else does.  The police might not evict – this happens sometimes.  But the most likely future is that in the winter of 2004/05 there will be a call to defend the squat.  They hope hundreds of people will help defend the house and if they resquat there may be a popular action, hopefully with many hundreds of people especially people from the barrio. They have grown deep roots.  My guess is many more than the original 11 people who risked their lives will be in dramatic and dangerous positions, with more than 3 days food and a very enthusiastic and very large group of people all around them supporting them.

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Follow the graffiti which looks like this

I’ve seen the future and it is off the end of the metro green line in Barcelona

Update Nov 2016:  The police did not come.  To this day Can Masdeu continues to host events, political protests and a dynamic scruffy band of anarchists, who are now joining 20 other Catalan communities to build their movement.