We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein
For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Audre Lorde
The world has changed so much since I was 20. I am not only speaking about the internet and gay marriage, which are good things, but rather how it seems harder to find your way socially and economically. The road to economic security far more bumpy. Alienation is rampant. Workplaces are often dehumanizing and many people hate their jobs. There are many causes of this breakdown in our culture, environmental degradation, wealth inequality, a weakened labor movement, unbridled capitalism, systemic systems of oppression, government cutback of social services, unsustainable and consumer driven lifestyles. My generation (I graduated high school in 1981) did not do enough to build communal spirit and tackle key problems. We gave greed and materialism a pass.
I was lucky enough to be part of a generation that had access to higher education that was affordable. Unlike many of today’s graduates, I did not graduate from college in huge debt. I could choose meaningful work even if it did not pay well. I could travel and choose to live alternatively. Currently, student debt is crippling and thus limits choices after graduation. From the get go, you have to make money to pay off your school debt. This is the beginning of the golden handcuffs that force people to work for money rather than to have meaningful occupations.
I am not surprised when I meet people in their 20’s (which I do quite frequently since I have a 24 year old daughter) that they are frustrated with their lack of prospects and are often not sure what to do with their lives. Given my generation’s failure to usher in a world with better prospects, I hesitate to give advice. Nonetheless, this is what I think: Pursue paths that teach you how to think and live differently. If you can learn one thing, it would be how to radically share resources. This solves many problems including alienation and economic instability. Millennials are already choosing to live communally out of necessity.
Egalitarian income sharing communities are models for radical sharing and living in non-hierarchical ways that offer a way of life that gets us away from competition and the scarcity mentality and instead offers a way to learn skills that build cooperative culture.
No one really knows how life will change as the planet heats up, but we do know that we cannot and will not be living in the same unsustainable way we live now. At the very least, we can predict that we will be living with scarcer resources and less mobility. People will have to work together and share more. In the future it will be helpful for people to know how to grow their own food and conserve water People simply cannot be so wasteful. Conservation and community building will be the key to your happiness. It will be important to learn to live simply and by that I mean learning to be happy with what you have and getting out of the more is better mentality. Learning to find joy in connecting with others, sitting around having good conversations and working side by side will be the best way forward.
What are the tools for building this way of life? This is a complicated question that is explored in Maikwe Ludwig’s upcoming book “Together Resilient” (soon to be released).
College is no longer the only way forward. I am not even sure it is the best way forward. (A comical perspective on this assumption.) Sadly our education system with its emphasis on test scores and competition does not emphasize cooperative culture skills.or the skills needed for a post climate-change world. Many people leave college having never really learned the skills required for building community the heart of which is cultivating a sense of interdependence and problem solving. I am not saying everyone should abandon college aspirations, but I do want to offer another way for those who can’t afford or are not drawn to academia. The life lessons one learns when building and living in community are lessons that are transportable and don’t leave you in a mountain of debt. For more information on income sharing egalitarian communities check out the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.
Aurora DeMarco lives and works as a member of Ganas, an intentional community in New York City. She is also looking to join an FEC community down in Louisa Virginia. She is 54 years old and a mother of two daughters.
The 67th annual (previously biannual) Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC) assembly was hosted by East Wind this year. In 1977, the very first FEC Assembly was held on East Wind’s land and forty years later both institutions stand as a testament to the durability of income-sharing and communal living. In mid March FEC delegates and people interested to visit East Wind traveled from Twin Oaks, Acorn, Sandhill, The Midden, and Sapling communities to review the state of the communes and plan for the upcoming year. Communities that wish to become full members of the FEC (known as ‘Communities in Dialogue’) that were in attendance included Stillwater Sanctuary/Possibility Alliance (La Plata, MO), Oran Mor (Wasola, MO), The Mothership (Portland, OR), Rainforest Lab (Forks, WA), Cambia (Louisa County, VA), Le Manoir (Quebec, Canada), and Ionia (Kasilof, Alaska). The Assembly consisted of five days of meetings, land tours, and social gatherings in the evenings. A number of topics were discussed, ranging from financial goals and better ways to support Communities in Dialogue to mediation workshops and how best to communicate the benefits of income-sharing.
The Assembly agenda flowed smoothly and a lot of ground was covered. The budget required a lot less time to finalize than last year and everyone was grateful for it. A new addition to the budget is ‘mini-grants’ which is a program that allows any member of a FEC community or Community in Dialogue to make a requests for small amounts of money ($50-$300) to make travel, education, and outreach opportunities become reality. The existing budget for full member scholarships was also approved and Joston of East Wind is receiving the first $500 grant for the budget year for an intensive permaculture training he will be attending next month right here in the Missouri Ozarks.
The FEC’s annual budget is paid for by member dues equal to 1% of net income for each full member community. In addition to access to the FEC funds for promoting the ideals income-sharing community, inclusion in the FEC also allows communities to become members of PEACH which is the catastrophic health insurance fund for East Wind and its sister communities.
The Assembly isn’t all meetings, of course. A tour of Oran Mor and a land walk at East Wind were some highlights of this year’s Assembly. Oran Mor is a Community in Dialogue that is about forty minutes from East Wind. They value living a low consumption life style and avoiding the use of fossil fuels. Last year, when East Wind ended its goat program the remaining goats were gifted to Oran Mor and they are healthy and happy. This year, in return, Oran Mor gifted East Wind with some of their ducks. Thanks Oran Mor!
This year the FEC accepted Compersia as a full member community. Compersia is an urban commune based outside of Washington DC. Steve, Compersia’s ever energetic and upbeat delegate, is excited to participate in outreach by getting people interested in income-sharing and communal living. He emphasized the fact that people with careers in an urban setting can mutually benefit from income-sharing and that communes don’t have to manifest in the form of ‘back to the land’ rural arrangements such as East Wind and Twin Oaks. Also during the assembly, Davi of The Mothership finalized a purchase of a neighboring house in Portland. They are interested in expanding and having the infrastructure for population growth. Urban and rural communes unite!
The Assembly was a great time to meet new people and strengthen the bonds between the FEC communities. Everyone can agree that East Wind was a generous host. Thank you to all the East Winders who served up delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners each day and made all our visitors feel welcome! As usual, the quality and abundance of food found in East Wind’s meals amazes everyone who visits. And of course, upon departure copious amounts of nut butters were distributed to be enjoyed by all of our sister communities. All in all, hundreds of pounds of almond, cashew, peanut, and sesame seed butter left East Wind’s warehouse to be consumed by our fellow communards across the continent. East Wind is grateful to be able to share such bounty. The next FEC Assembly will be held in Virginia on Acorn‘s land. Looking forward to it!
Post written by Sumner
Photos taken by Rejoice (thanks Rejoice!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Polyamory Principals: Transcending Jealousy and Crafting Compersion
- Intentional Community as the solution to Climate Disruption
- Community Communication: Clearnesses and Transparency Tools
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.
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.
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 disruption protests, while Steve of Compersia (only hand seen in picture) appreciates a good pun.
Residents and guests of the Keep, a cooperative house in Washington, DC, make signs in preparation for the Women’s March on Washington.
Steve of Compersia and Caroline formerly of Twin Oaks march in the Women’s March. Also Bryan Cahall of the http://extraordinaryrenditionband.com band marching to draw attention to Prison Liberation. Compersia hosted 3 from the band and it was delightful!
Residents, guests, and friends of the Keep, a cooperative house in DC, tell stories over food during a bunch following the Women’s March.
Residents, guests, and friends of the Keep join in a large post-protest Sunday brunch.
James of Point A NYC takes in the crowd at the Festival of Resistance Against Trump
A gaggle of Twin Oakers rest and eat dinner at Compersia after the Women’s March
More of Twin Oakers resting and eating dinner at Compersia after the Women’s March
One more photo of Twin Oakers at Compersia
Twin Oakers and Compersians participate in a blockade at the inauguration in solidarity with communities threatened by Trump and his administration.
Compersia and friends let loose after the inspiring Women’s March on Washington.
Kathryn of Compersia protests at Trump’s inauguration in solidarity with communities threatened by his administration.