It’s about Relationships

by Raven Glomus

I’m into systems theory, which I see as related to community since I see communities as systems.  One way I introduce systems is by asking the questions: What is the difference between a pile of rocks and the solar system?  What is the difference between a random group of people on an office skyscraper elevator and an intentional community?  The answer is basically about relationships and connections.

The planets in the solar system affect one another by means of gravity–literally pulling on one another.  A couple of the planets were found by astronomers because their gravity was affecting the orbit of another planet.  They are literally in relationship to each other.

Communities are truly all about relationships.  There is no community without relationships.  I will repeat that.  There is no community without relationships.  It’s surprising but many people don’t seem to know that.  You can have lots of lovely buildings, all sorts of eco-friendly technology, and plenty of people, you can design what might seem to be the perfect community, but without working on building and maintaining relationships, there will be no lasting community.

Unfortunately, building and maintaining relationships is hard work.  It takes time and commitment and lots of effort.  There is no easy answer about how to do it, but probably the most important thing that you can do is to commit to staying with the relationships and staying with people.  

Getting lots of support for yourself is also very important.  Find people outside the community that you can talk with about what’s going on.  Thinking with someone outside of the community who will just listen to you, who will help you when you need to have difficult conversations with community members. You don’t need advice, you just need a neutral person to think with.

The next most important skill is being able to listen.  Stephen Covey states it as “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.  Learn all that you can about consensus decision making ( or sociocracy or some other decision making process) and conflict resolution. Finally, don’t be afraid to bring in outside mediators if things get stuck.  

The point isn’t to win all the arguments or make sure that the community goes in one direction or another, the point is to make everyone in the community feel heard and taken care of.  More than anything else in community (and there is a lot else) relationships matter.  If you can keep all the relationships in the community strong and healthy, the community will, most likely, be strong and happy.

I am not saying that you don’t need to worry about finances or the goals of the community or your infrastructure, but I am saying that these are things that the community needs to deal with together, and the better the relationships are in the community, the easier it will be to deal with all the problems that you encounter.

It’s about Relationships

Declaration

On July 4th, Theresa posted her declaration of how communes need to be governed:

I think it was a great little post and it got a lot of views, but only one comment, and that was on the original Declaration of Independence:

I will add that I, Raven, also believe that more voices need to be heard, especially if we want to create communities that really challenge the status quo rather than just being comfortable places for white, middle-class folks to live in.

Declaration

Why are we so white?

During the month of June, when we were publishing a lot of stuff on Facebook about racial justice, Theresa wrote this post on why the communes have trouble keeping members that aren’t white.

There were, as you can see, a lot of comments. Here are some of them.

George Myers asked a question about why some forms of diversity seem to work in the communes, but race seems to be different. This got several responses.

There were a bunch more comments, including a long response from Gil Benmoshe which elicited a long response from Lyra TaChai.

Finally, there was a nuanced discussion between Cara Ziegel, Mary Hall, and Shayn Ephraim looking at beliefs, feelings, embodiment, and trauma in upholding white culture.

Why are we so white?

Structure and Culture

by Raven Glomus

When I was at Ganas, Michael Johnson, of the core group, was fond of saying that “Culture eats structure for breakfast.”  I recently looked the saying up on the net and found that the more popular quote was that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, although I also found quotes of culture eating structure for breakfast and one writer claiming that culture eats strategy for breakfast and structure for lunch.

Regardless of whether it’s breakfast or lunch, I am going to claim that culture eating structure could be seen as an example of cannibalistic matricide.  (Sorry. I am probably stretching the metaphor too far.)  Let me explain.

GPaul once gave a talk on what he had found out from visiting a bunch of communes in Europe.  He talked about one community where they did a very simple version of income sharing, with a literal box of money that people added any money that they made into and just took from whenever they needed something.  He said that a couple of visitors who saw the system at work were impressed at how well it worked and started another community, with a similar box of money.  It was a disaster.  People misused the system left and right.  

When the dust settled on the fragments of what was left of their community, these visitors went back to the first commune, and this time asked more questions, including the history of this community.  It turned out that when the first community started, there were all sorts of rules around using the money box and various accountability procedures.  After many years of this, folks got into the habit of using the box appropriately and paying some attention to who took things out and why, and the rules and procedures fell into use and were abandoned.  In other words, the structures they started with helped create a culture that made those structures unnecessary.

I recently wrote a post on communities as living organisms.  Think of community founders as parents.  While parents can’t determine what their child will do when they grow up, most parents do try to give guidance as they grow up.  Founders can and should create structures that may well become unnecessary later.

Jo Freeman wrote a brilliant essay in the early seventies called “The Tyranny of Structurelessness”.  In it, she points out that if we really want to challenge hierarchy and create horizontal organizations, we need to create the structures to do this, otherwise we fall back on the hierarchical structures we were raised with.  Structures, she says, are absolutely necessary and always exist–even if they are invisible at times.

The takeaway:  If you are creating community, you need to begin by creating the structures to help guide the community in what you see as appropriate directions, since those structures can help create a culture where all that is taken for granted.  When the culture is flourishing, the structures are no longer needed and the culture can eat them for breakfast or lunch or whatever.

Structure and Culture

Communities as Living Organisms

by Raven Glomus

The post we published last Friday, by Katarzyna Gajewska, got me thinking about something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while.  People sometimes talk about communities like they were buildings that could be designed and built and they would remain the way the founders intended forever.

One of the things I’ve often said about Twin Oaks (and sometimes about Ganas, as well) is that no one in their right minds would design a community like Twin Oaks (or Ganas).  That’s because the Twin Oaks that exists now wasn’t designed.  It was planned one way and then it grew, changed, evolved.

A Twin Oaks anniversary picture

My view of communities is that they are living organisms, which grow, and change, and adapt, and often die.  In fact, many communities change in ways that frustrate their founders, often to the point that the founders leave.  Kat Kinkade left Twin Oaks and, in fact, came and went and came and went, and finally came back to die there.  Mildred Gordon also left Ganas, and didn’t come back until she, too, came to die.  Some people here have pointed out that Kevin and Sarah (the founders of East Brook/Glomus) are now gone (although Sarah may be back) and this has allowed us to grow in ways that I don’t think they had anticipated.

This phenomenon is so common that I have heard it called ‘founders syndrome’.  Whether the founder leaves or not, at some point they are faced with a decision, whether to let the community grow in ways they might not have wanted, or to be heavy handed and keep it to the path that they planned.  The thing is, you can control a community like that, but you will probably kill it in the process.

Looking at the six characteristics of living things, the cells of a community are the people.  As there are no animals or plants that do not have cells, there are no communities without people.  Communities certainly use and need energy–things happen in community only when people have the energy to do them and communities die without energy.  Communities don’t grow in isolation–they are forced to adapt to their surroundings.  And they certainly react to changes. They also grow and develop–as I have been saying.  

Finally, not all communities reproduce–the same way that not all people reproduce.  But communities certainly sometimes reproduce–Twin Oaks, for example, begat East Wind and Acorn.  East Wind begat Oran Mor.  And Twin Oaks and Acorn begat Living Energy Farm, Mimosa, and Cambia.

When you think of communities as living organisms, you realize the futility of trying to design and control a community.  You don’t build a community, you help birth it and you help it grow.

Communities as Living Organisms

Individual vs Group: A Dance

by Raven Glomus

There are lots of different ways to view community. Here is a Facebook post where I looked at it as a dance:

After the comment fest on the last post I wrote, I only received three comments on this one–but they were long and thoughtful comments.

Craig Green is someone that I had a bunch of conversations about community with a while back, some of which took place by email. He took this opportunity to remind me of them:

Individual vs Group: A Dance

Communes and Tribal Society

by Raven Glomus

Communal living is important.

It’s what this blog is all about and it is how, I believe, we are meant to live. At the same time, many people find communal living hard and new communities fail at a rapid rate.

On Facebook I started exploring this paradox over several posts. In this one I decided to look at why, if we are tribal animals, communal living doesn’t come naturally.

Yes, I got thirty-one responses (actually, a few of the responses were mine, responding to other comments). Here are a lot of them, beginning with a quick response from Nyle Alantin, followed by a two part comment from Lucy Perry, which elicited a much longer comment from Allen Butcher.

Then there was a back and forth between Zamin Danty and me:

Then Katya Slepoy stepped in, eliciting reponses from Theresa, me, Allen, Rejoice, and Dina Ciccarone.

Then Allen wrote an extremely long comment that got a response from Delaney Calyx which elicited two more comments from Allen:

Finally, another commenter, Mary Hall stepped in and started a back and forth with me and Allen.

Communes and Tribal Society

Community and Techie Fallacy

by Katarzyna Gajewska

Have you met him already? It is usually a man, an engineer or other type of techie, who has understood it all. He has seen through and does not want to submit to the systemic absurdity anymore. He has started to think about how to get out of it. He has read. He has figured out that the current production system does not make sense. Now he is thinking what he can do about it. He may have joined groups interested in these topics or created his own group. The next natural step would be to create a community.

If you want to create an alternative to the current dysfunctional system, you need to understand the fallacy that brought us here, which affects our mindset. The major problem is that economy has been designed by a handful of detached individuals rather than co-created by all affected. Those who have worked as programmers or engineers may bring this policy into their alternative project. Design will not build a community, neither a well written plan or a website with fancy videos. Only people can build a community and this is where the difficulty begins and most stories end.

Developing technology requires highly advanced skills. It takes time and specialization. All these hours spent on honing this expertise may appear as a hard work in comparison to hanging out with people and being in relationships. This long quest may lead to a conclusion that what one needs is the right architecture.

It is worth observing the seduction of technology. It flatters with measurable results and the feeling of achievement. There is something exciting about sketching a model and implementing it. Simplicity feels comfortable.

Have you ever wondered why it hardly ever works? In reality, there is a difference between building a software and building a community. There are some aspects that you need to define in advance like a code. However, your code’s most important element is the space and time for collective processing. Design without a process is garbage hardly usable by anyone except for the one who prepares it and has good time fantasizing and keeping his mind occupied. A collective process may result in a design that exceeds the limits of an isolated mind. Just to give you a an idea, Kommune Niederkaufungen spent years on preparation. The entire project took off because a group of friends met regularly and started dreaming together. If you do not want to waste your time on waiting for a community to develop organically, then consider the comfort of computer work.

No matter how great technological solutions will not sustain any community. Without good vibes, any infrastructure will stay hollow. What is the point of optimization and improvement if you are surrounded by people you do not like to be with in the first place?

There is no such thing as a community without communicating. Learning hard science may create an expectation that a feedback or argument should be logical. For someone who thinks he knows it all because he studied a lot, something that falls outside of his expertise may appear as illogical. There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. You can acquire knowledge by reading and learning. Wisdom requires going out there into the discomforts and risking being hurt.

A community needs a marriage of knowledge and wisdom. However, our society skewed towards recognizing knowledge rather than wisdom may have thwarted your ability to see them as equal partners. There are some things about community that cannot be formulated as scientific proof. If you have been socialized in scientific way of thinking, you need to be particularly careful to be able to hear the wisdom. It is so easy to dismiss something which is outside of our comfort zone.

In my book “Imagine a Sane Society,” I point to the fact that feminine values and logic are marginalized by our society. When I say feminine, I do not mean gender. It goes beyond biology. Usually techies are more in their masculine essence. Therefore, they need to be careful to be able to hear and even ask the feminine to talk.

The moment when polarities are coming together feels exciting. This is why we keep falling in love, agonizing over breakups, and daydreaming about a stranger. Why not fully embrace the fact that we need each other. And even if we don’t, things are simply more interesting when spiced up by the differences.

It may sound debilitating at first to see that all these hours spent on developing your skills will not suffice to create a community or an alternative production system. However, this is not a wasted time. The fact that something prompted you in the past to invest in this knowledge is the gift that you were meant to give to the world. But it can be given in the best way if it is embedded in a community and human relations., which is an opportunity to step into a life much richer than you designed at the outset. Your design will not spell magic on people but there is a magic in seeing your limits and seeing others. This enables your knowledge to become a gift. A community can rescue it from your lopsidedness.

Help to push Katarzyna’s work to the masses. The entire book will be available for free (digital text + audio) once we collect enough money for production. Donate here!

Listen to an excerpt from this book HERE!

For updates on her publications: Katarzyna Gajewska – Independent Scholar

Her recent publications:

On crowdfunding with Cambia community to complete a feminine utopia and boycotting Amazon

Robot as a Teacher: The Perils of Digitalized Progress in Education

Of Viruses and the Limits of Masculine (Dys)topias

The Cultural Preparation for Crisis

Naming the Alternatives

So you want to leave it all and create a community?

Community and Techie Fallacy

Communists in a Capitalist Society

by Raven

I have thought about this and mentioned it to people, but I consider Twin Oaks a communist community that has learned very well about how to succeed in a capitalist culture. I decided to make a Facebook post about it.

I got a bunch of interesting responses to this, starting with Rejoice sharing some of the comments East Wind got to a video about them.

.A few other people threw in their takes on this.

Then, Lavender Alex Bernosky shared their response, pointing out the danger of trying to “police” behavior in the communes.

I had to respond to this because I felt it opened up another avenue for the ‘dance’.

Finally, Zamin Danty added yet another take on the ‘dance’.

Communists in a Capitalist Society