We recently received this from Katarzyna Gajewska who has written for Commune Life before. This is about a book that she is publishing in conjunction with Cambia, one of the Virginia communes.
On crowdfunding with Cambia community to complete a feminine utopia and boycotting Amazon
Katarzyna Gajewska, PhD, has been working on the manuscript of “Imagine a Sane Society” since 2013. She is now at the stage to engage other co-creators to complete this book. Her feminine utopia is a call for creativity and imagination. Her conceptualization has been influenced by interviews in egalitarian communities and other prefigurative forms of organizing work and life. If 60 people contribute $20 each, we will be able to pay for the first stage of production to be done by egalitarian community Cambia.
By contributing to crowdfunding campaign, you also support Cambia, a commune living prefigurative future in the now. Cambia Community is a small egalitarian intentional community in central Virginia, USA. Their mission is to serve as a model for a sustainable, fulfilling, and connected way of living. They have formed an educational non-profit called Rustling Roots, which teaches how to respond to the global ecological crisis locally, stimulating discussion and changing habits in local communities by hosting workshops, events, and tours.
Cambia has known Katarzyna for several years and has appreciated her academic work and dedication to justice and sustainability.
“The opportunity to help with editing Katarzyna’s book would allow us to invest in our business and our community, and collaborate with a project that supports our mission. With funding from this work, we would be able to plant more fruit trees, invest in solar infrastructure, and hire people with specialized knowledge in ecology or engineering for specific projects.” – Gil Benmoshe of Cambia Community
The author writes on the subject of the forthcoming book and crowdfunding campaign to prepare online version in Creative Commons, available for free.
Why Commune Life Blog readers may be interested in your book project?
You may have wondered what a post-capitalist system would look like. We know quite well what we do not like but it is difficult to say what we want. The book discusses various directions of change and proposes a vision for a health-oriented system. It shows examples of alternative ways of organizing production. The main part deals with understanding the cultural change that a new system would require of us. Culture is a set of ideas, automatic assumptions, habits in shaping human relations. It is invisible, yet so powerful. If we cannot imagine something else, we automatically submit to the shiny but destructive offer of the dominant elites. One of the reasons why I call it a feminine utopia is because I focus on inner work and not engineering another design for hollow structures which would be filled with the dysfunctions of the dominant system if not addressed. This is where communes come in. They have decided to live under different regime within a group and then they need to deal with all the psychological and cultural imprint that wants us to not even come up with such an idea. The cultural work they had to engage in is preparing for the time of crisis when cooperation will not be an option anymore. I have conducted many interviews and observations in Acorn, a commune in Virginia and in Niederkaufungen, a commune in Germany and they inspire my reflection on the culture for a new mode of production. One chapter portrays also Tamera, a political ashram in Portugal.
Whom is this book for?
If you are experiencing existential crisis or skillfully numbing it with shopping, substances, and busyness, this book can help you stop for a moment and reflect on your life’s choices that add up to the unbearable reality. Activists or people who think of becoming involved may find an aid to inquire what kind of actions to focus on. We need a broader picture to translate it into small steps leading to it.
Why do you call your book a feminine utopia?
First of all, I do not mean gender and women by this. The “feminine” in my utopia is a logic of action, a way of thinking, values, and the mode of operating. Ursula K. Le Guin used Chinese words yin and yang, probably, to avoid these confusions with gender stereotypes. We still need a lot of work to empower the feminine. My book wants to empower the feminine logic as something defining the shape of the system. I see this proposal as an advancement in comparison to the lean-in feminism. Feminism should be about systemic change. By the way, Kommune Niederkaufungen was considering these issues from the very beginning and may have been a response to the position of women in the 1980s. I believe that also men are tired with the masculine utopias pursued nowadays and the unbalanced ideas they fall prey to. At least, many men have supported me during the writing process and the final stage.
Why people being part of commune movement may be interested in promoting the campaign?
If you are part of communes’ movement, you will meet your friends on the pages of my book. You may want it to be available to your family and friends from previous life to help them understand your choices. Now that more and more people start to perceive the limits of the system, it is time for deeper discussions and questioning it all. I embed communal life in the reflection on a broader vision. I see communities as an inspiration without preaching that everyone should move to one of them. But this can be a side effect. One of my interviewees in Acorn community mentioned the book “The power of Now” as one of the steps on her journey of self-inquiry that led her to move to the commune. Maybe my book will have a similar effect on some readers.
Bringing this book to the masses without a publisher is also a political statement. Many people who live in communities want to escape corporation world. I do not want my ideas to be censored by corporate gate keepers. Instead, I rely on the wisdom of crowds, who have other interests than selling simplistic books. I also do not want to be bound by contracts and my books be sold on Amazon. Of course, this implies a different strategy in the entire process. I cannot expect a publisher to invest in book production and then compromise its sells. Therefore, we need to invest together in making this book happen and have it accessible for free. Instead of benefiting Amazon, you give money directly to a group of people who work on change.
Do you live in a commune? – The question that many people have asked
I do not. Education is my passion. I would not feel fulfilled not pursuing it. I want to combine my professional goals in the field of alternative education and communal living in one project.
What to do if one wants to help completing your book?
You can send the crowdfunding campaign calls to your friends or post on social media. Letting people know is a big help! The book will be available for free (digital text and audio) so if many people give $10-30, it will be like buying the book for yourself and your friends and strangers. This is a good deal!
If you want my book ‘Imagine a Sane Society” to be published and available for free, please, donateHERE!
This is the final in a series that I (Raven) wrote for Facebook on diversity. I talk about my experience meeting the amazing Grace Lee Boggs and how she said that she and her husband helped create a very racially diverse group. I see this as a model for one way that the communities might become more diverse in a way that supports folks of color rather than simply recruiting them so that the communes don’t look so white.
Here’s what I wrote:
I also included a photo of Grace Lee Boggs:
I only got two comments, but I was taken with what Crystal Bird Farmer said. My double reply is because I am still not used to the way Facebook works and I wanted to be sure that it was clear that I was responding as myself and not as an ‘official’ Commune Life voice.
I also heard from Zamin K Danty who was concerned about this approach. I didn’t respond but I want to make it clear that this is only one path to creating diversity.
In my last reprint from Facebook, I mentioned that I was okay with all white communities and that diversity is often more to make white folks feel better. In this Facebook post, I talk about when diversity becomes important. I use myself as an example and, since having some picture makes posts more attractive, I used a picture of myself to illustrate it. Reading the post should explain why.
According to Facebook, we reached 302 people, but there was only one comment, and it was about how my situation resonated with the person who responded. Still, I am always glad when my posts have been helpful for someone–and I never know about people that these posts affect that don’t respond.
On Monday, I will post my final post on diversity, outlining one possible path to diverse community.
In my post on Monday, I mentioned that I saw a need to support BIPOC led groups and that I would talk more about that. This is from the first of three Facebook posts where I talk about diversity, where it’s important and where it’s not, and how we can actually support BIPOC led alternatives, rather than trying to make our communities look more diverse simply to assuage white guilt.
Here is what I wrote in the post:
I thought that I said some controversial things in this post (and others in this series) and was surprised at how positive the comments were. Here’s what people said in response to what I wrote:
On Friday, I will post on when diversity is important.
Police brutality is real, as is the killing of black folks by police and the phenomena of mass incarceration. A recent response was to try to defund the police. Unfortunately, the result has been a crime wave in several cities.
Really, we don’t need the police–but we do need something. It’s easy to attack oppressive institutions. It’s harder, but absolutely necessary, to create alternatives to them.
In the case of replacing the police, we will probably need to fund economic and educational strategies, give people the tools to build (or in many cases, rebuild) their lives, support folks who are having difficult times, and develop some types of sanctions (other than incarceration) that make crime a less appealing alternative. In the meantime, we will probably need to focus on reforming police departments, until we have time to develop alternatives to replace them.
There always seems to be a lot of emphasis on the things that are wrong, all that we need to stop and get rid of, but I believe that this is the wrong focus. We need to work on figuring out how we can develop alternatives, to talk about what we want rather than what we don’t want, and to develop working systems that can replace all the toxic, oppressive, hurtful systems that we have now.
One example is communes and communities. I have said that I see intentional communities as part of a larger social change strategy. They can be laboratories to attempt to build alternative systems on a small scale and see what works. Income sharing communities are a particularly important experiment to develop ways of living without economic (and other) hierarchies.
I have taken the title of this post from adrienne maree brown’s book Emergent Strategy. She lists the six elements of her strategy and the final one is Creating More Possibilities, which she subtitles “how we move toward life”.
Creating new possibilities, I believe, is probably the most important work that we need to be doing right now. Not just building communes, but creating cooperative structures of all kinds (businesses, alternative institutions that support people, educational experiences, etc) and networking them–so there is more cooperation between these institutions as well as within them–and supporting those structures so that they are more likely to succeed.
And, more importantly, supporting not just alternative institutions created by white middle-class folks, but institutions created by working people and, especially, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) led and created institutions. Racism and white supremacy are real things but, again, we can’t just try to get rid of them. We need to replace them with leadership from People of Color and real attention to their needs–not what we think that their needs are but what they say their needs are. We need to support them in developing the alternatives that they need.
If we want a truly egalitarian society, we need to support organizations and methods that change the dynamics which keep people in oppressed situations. I have written several Facebook posts talking about ways to do that which I hope to reprint here.
Saying that we need to create more possibilities is saying that we need to build abundance. Abundance is attractive and, when it is successful, it can create a positive cycle that can bring more energy to create more possibilities. And with enough possibilities, we can create the alternatives to replace all the oppressive systems. It’s just going to take a lot of work, especially at the start, when everything is stacked against us.
It was a strange spring and summer has been no less.
Grey days, April snow, May frost…and lest we forget, there’s a global pandemic going on.
But even under clouds and quarantine, life at Cambia continues much the same as ever. A nice benefit of creating a self-sustaining community-based infrastructure–the more you are able to rely on yourself, the less the outside world can shake you (self, in this case, is the extended communal self of Cambia). We are quarantined, but we have enough space and systems in place that life feels rich and varied.
Speaking of relying on self–Cambia has gone solar! We have long made use of passive solar systems, but the arrival of brilliant intern Charlotte and her extensive electronic knowledge has enabled Cambia to create a very functional system with twelve solar panels set up in the field next door. This setup provides enough energy for almost all of Cambia during the day and hopefully, with new battery storage we just obtained, we won’t need any grid power at all. We have great fun plugging our devices into the inverter and proudly announcing everything from “solar hair straighteners” to “solar chainsaws”. Gil has been busy tracking our usage and production of energy. In an effort to combat the “duck curve” (the high demand of solar energy in the morning and evening), we are testing various lifestyle changes and technologies to better sync our power usage with its availability.
Another word about Charlotte: This is no ordinary intern. In her day job programs autonomous race cars as part of her academic career. She is taking a bit of the break of the rat race (which has yet to become autonomous) and is sharing her knowledge and her passion towards our technology goals and still getting course credit! Sadly, she will someday go back to the academic race track, but not without establishing an internship connection with her university, UNC Chapel Hill, and furthering Rustling Roots as an education and an internship center. Her stay here has been incredibly mutually enriching, not to mention a bit of a culture shock for both parties…
An ongoing conversation that’s happening at Cambia, is how to find a harmonious balance between nature and technology. In stark contrast to the way large corporations sacrifice the environment for efficiency, we are exploring sensors and automated systems to make life more graceful and less impactful. Charlotte created a device that rings a bell when the well pump turns on, making us more aware of our water usage. Now we can notice leaks or bursts, irrigation that’s left on as well as estimate the water depth and therefore pumping efficiency to optimize timing of water usage.
Charlotte has also been doing research on how to implement an IOT sensor system to gather information around Cambia for a more comfortable and management of our experimental technology. As it stands, our level of experimental technology is now a far cry from any notion of the “simple life”, and is more of a human-machine interface laboratory, where gauges, alarms, and LCD displays blend in with dry medicinal herbs and quacking of ducks.
We are documenting our experimentation and designs through blog posts and youtube videos. We’ll be adding these to the website with the hopes that others can learn from our successes (and failures).
The solar shower has gotten an upgrade too we found used evacuated tubes on Craigslist and a free water heating tank from the nearby plumbing store–on sunny days, we now have more hot water than we know what to do with and even on chilly mornings we can bask and bathe in comfort without carbon.
Over at Bruce Academy, Avni and Anthony are happily playing with fractions and orders of magnitude, pondering the origins of the universe, listening to stories of pirates and conquistadors, and running around with cries of “fair Helena!” “good Lysander!” as they make their way through Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. Maybe the biggest success of our homeschool is how often one or both of them express gratitude towards it as a highlight of their day–hooray for Bruce the teacher, hooray for the ability to learn in a personalized, idyllic setting.
We are grateful too, in these times of shut-downedness, to have work opportunities to keep the Cambia economy alive and healthy. At Acorn, we have just succeeded in taking down a large, tired greenhouse–now we work on putting it up again, further down the field. Here, Gil and Ella combined their unique and creative minds to create systems that work well and get the job done–like building a 15-foot tripod of trees and belaying the wire frames down as a team. When Jason is not building a deck at Cherry Hill, he and Charlotte tackle Acorn’s robot, troubleshooting the finicky seed-packing machine and sorting the seeds as orders come flying in (hooray for the abundance of work of Acorn–both that it means we are able to play a part and work together with them, and also that it means more people than ever are starting their own little gardens). A wonderful benefit to this job is that we get to take home the robot’s mistakes–meaning twenty packets worth of sunflowers will soon be bursting forth all up and down the field next door.
Speaking of the field next door–we have been planting hundreds of tomatoes and pepper plants with Mimosa, and there are other plantings to come. Stay tuned for the summer edition, where we happily harvest, preserve, and eat the best food money can’t buy. As for now, there are still foods from the wild that make it into our meals–plantains, chickweed, wild onions and thinned turnip greens make for good salads and cooked greens, and our exploding catnip, peppermint, and lemon balm are being dried and stocking our tea shelves.
Charlotte and Nomi gathered inspiration and unused clothes and items to create the Cambia Free Shop, a place where lonely clothes seek happy homes. Now whenever long-term members or short-term guests are in want or need, they will be able to sift through creative clothing, colorful fabrics and knitted scarves–hopefully finding that which their heart most desires, or at least having a good time exploring opportunities (Who will take on the Indiana Jones hat? The jar of dead bugs? The handcuffs?)
And once our members are creatively clad, should there not be a space where they can make creations themselves? Hickory, once two bedrooms, then an apartment for baby chickens and mealworms, is now a workshop. All of Cambia’s tools have made their way inside a luxurious wooden shed with the high ceilings and skylights–a place filled to the brim with creative and cozy potential. There are hopes of further development to this workspace, too–Nomi builds a kiln on the south side of hickory, with possible plans to build a glass house around it and open it up to Hickory, so that it can be solar/kiln-heated in the winter.
Did you catch the baby chicken reference? Cambia welcomes fourteen new members–four ducks and ten chicks (pakeeksters, in Cambia vernacular). They came as helpless squirming babies in early April, and are now boldly walking the lawns, uncontainable, wild and free. Thankfully, our cat friends Schmutz and Turtle have little to no interest in them. There is joy to be found in watching a gang of ducks waddle as a team, making laps around the house and mowing the lawn as they go. We can only aspire to their level of cohesiveness.
So there you have it–a small picture into the current life of Cambia. The scene here is extensive, the work is never-ending. And yet you can still find Cambians, more than every once in a while, sitting together in the clover, idly creating little pieces of beauty, lying with our heads in each other’s laps and our hands draping over purring cats, murmuring or laughing in conversation as dusk falls around us and the first stars come out…
It was mid-May and by then the extent of the pandemic was apparent. Having had success in writing my post on the difficulties with starting communes, I thought I would try to write something that would attract folks. I thought about my guilt in being in such a perfect situation for this difficult time and wrote about it. It reached 685 people (more than I had ever gotten before) and got 24 comments, so I guess it “touched a nerve” as they say. Here’s what I wrote:
Here are the comments. I can’t really put them in chronological order because Facebook keeps moving the order around, but I will try to put them in an order that I think makes sense. I will start with some comments that I answered:
And one that the writer answered themself:
Then there was a back and forth between Audrey Bochantin and Cicada Musselman:
And James Buchanan’s questions about starting a community, with several folks answering:
And Aurora DeMarco’s comment on conflict as a deterrent:
This is a detailed post that I wrote about the commonalities between being poly and living in a commune. It got a lot of responses.
Twenty-one comments and I found all of them interesting. Here they are, with some annotations from me thrown in. It starts with a back and forth between Zamin K Danty and Cara Ziegel, with Theresa and Rejoice jumping in:
Then, a bunch of comments from various folks about various aspects and connections between communes and poly (including Gil from Cambia):
Then Christina Anderson wrote a comment that I felt compelled to respond to:
Finally, a couple more comments, including a lengthy one from Rejoice: