Binghamton – Hello and Goodbye

This post originally appeared on CommuneLife Blog.

We got to Binghamton via MIT.    It was one of the first presentations of the Communities in Crisis materials.  It was a  small crowd, perhaps half a dozen people not affiliated with the Point A project in the room.

“But they are the right people,” Raven said, and not knowing much about the Boston coop scene, I was happy to defer to him.  Turned out he was right.

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Emily and Eddy in the Genome Kitchen

Rachael from the audience said we had to talk with Maximus and put Genome Collective on our agenda.  And with Genome came our growing connection to Binghamton University and David Sloan Wilson and the birth of the Chloroplast Research Institute.

It is from these connections that we have started seriously exploring the thesis that living in community is more sane than not and that people who join heal with time.  A radical, if not obvious, notion.  There is quite some chance that Maximus’s PhD thesis will be working with the income sharing communities in an effort to prove this.  Which would be wonderful for us.

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Maximus and Rachel – right people, right place.

We have been working with Genome Collective in Binghamton for over a year, with several Point A visits.  We did some strong group process work in our early visits to Genome and, at one point, even hoped they would morph from being a group house into being an income sharing community.

The house itself has a number of positive attributes.  A large separate meeting space over the garage called “the temple” is ideal for workshops, meditation or yoga classes.  The house has the beginnings of a thriving culinary mushroom business.  Genome has both numerous bedrooms and a top floor which can host several sleepover guests.

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Lion’s mane mushroom growing in Genome Mushroom farm

Maximus gave us a full schedule of classes and workshops while we were there.  We presented on a number of topics including climate change, polyamory, income sharing communities and sustainability.  Our classes spanned the range from large freshman lectures to small grad student seminars.  What was universal was that we got thoughtful and insightful questions from every group of students and several students interested in visiting and/or studying our cultures.

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It is also clear that, while we are welcome in Binghamton to do more speaking gigs at the university and to stay at Genome, the house has decided that they will be a group house instead of an income sharing community, and will not be needing the services of Point A to help them go in that direction.  Our future visits will be more connected to the Twin Oaks Academic Speaking Tour (TOAST) instead of Point A work.

Crafts House and Tufts

[This story originally appeared on the CommuneLife.org blog]

It’s been too long since we have organized a Point A trip, and it’s fun to be on the road again. Tufts University, outside of Boston is proving a worthy first stop on our adventure.  I am lucky to have a capable fun group of people to be presenting with:

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Nina on site

Long experienced communard and construction wizard, Nina is not the chatty type, but what she says is more than worth listening to. She was the principal presenter of the Community as the Solution to Climate Change workshop on Saturday.

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Kristen with this unlikely couple

Skylar is Nina’s strongly bonded partner. Twin Oaks brought  them together and they are enjoying a long honeymoon.  Most people who meet Skylar don’t believe she can actually be as happy as she appears, but I know better.  Optimistic, fanciful, quick to comment and engage, Skylar is, in a positive way, Nina’s mirror image.  Skylar navigated the workshop on Transcending Jealousy and Building Compersion that we did at the Tufts LGBTQ center.

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Skylar at some unidentified beautiful location

Raven is my steady ally on the prolonged roller coaster ride of the Point A.  He tries, with some success, to catch all the flying pieces of wreckage hurling from my poorly organized multi-city trips.  He is making sure our crew gets fed (me: people need food?) and that local organizers know what to expect from our small invasion of commune activists.  When I neglected to secure housing in Somerville, Raven tapped his deep Boston co-op roots and found us all places to sleep.  He is the wrangler in chief for the commune life blog.

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Rare picture of Raven at William St Coop, Somerville

Maximus from the Genome Collective in Binghamton, NY has been the godfather of this trip.  Getting dates months in advance so they fit into the several classes we are doing at Binghamton; finding us honorariums for presenting; finding us amazing venues and local support at Tufts (where he went to school). Specifically, he hooked us up with the fine folks from Crafts House, who have an adorable college collective living situation, combined with stewardship of the well stocked student art space at Tufts, the Craft Center.

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GQ revolutionary poster person – Maximus

Telos did not think he was going on this trip.  He made the mistake of calling me for advice on rides to Virginia, after he was disqualified at the last minute from a medical study that his community, Cambia, was doing in Baltimore.  He ended up going North instead, where he joined this intrepid crew with his organizing and writing skills, and experience from previous Point A trips with the Genome collective, who we are advising later in the trip. Moral: I am happy to help find you a ride, it just might not be to where you think you were going.

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Telos at the TO greenhouse – Photo by Wren

The way these trips work, ideally, is we work with a group house (Craft House in the case of Tufts, or the Genome Collective in the case of Binghamton) and give them a collection of workshops to choose from.

Elise from Craft House consulted with her coop and choose three:

Craft House itself has been supportive and hospitable.  When our team grew in size with Telos arrival and needed another place for someone to sleep, Craft House gave us a luxurious closet to sleep in.  It is currently their small costume commie clothes.  I jumped at the chance to sleep in their fine closet, even before i found out it’s august history.   It also turns out to be the closet the be off the room where Tracy Chapman lived while she went to Tufts in 1987.

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Finally out of the closet – Skylar and Paxus

The audiences to our workshops have been growing steadily since we started presenting at Tufts.  A number of people are interested in coming to the Virginia communes to visit and dozens of fingerbooks have been distributed on various topics.  We have several solid offer to host us when we return next semester and well as Tufts students and area residents who want to explore the path from dorm to student coop and then from coop to egalitarian community.  It feels like important beginnings.

On to Binghamton.

Update March 2017:  Crafts House is coming to visit the communes over spring break!  12 members of Crafts House will be coming down and staying at Simple House (a property near Twin Oaks controlled by Cambia) for 4 days and visiting the communities and working at income sharing farms in Louisa.

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.