Questions about Rural Communes

This is yet again the next in a series that I’ve posting here on questions that have gone up on the Commune Life Facebook page. Here’s the first question we reposted and the second and the third and the fourth and  the fifth and the sixth and, finally, the seventh

Towards the end of January, I (Raven) posted this question asking what people thought about rural communes:

It got a lot of folks looking at it and had eleven comments. The first three were people speaking from their experience:

Then came the quick, often one word answers–although Clint Brown wrote a second comment to clarify:

Finally, Zamin K Danty wrote a longer, deeper response, and Boone Wheeler made one final point:

Questions about Rural Communes

Social Technology

by Raven East Brook 

The FEC 2018 Assembly was difficult and contentious. There were accusations of racism, sexual misconduct, and transphobia. People denounced one another and the conference site had to be moved because of problems involving one of the communities. It was obvious that we needed to do something different. 

Several of the folks involved decided to have a conference this year before the Assembly. The initial idea was that we would look at things like dealing with racism, how to do mediation, and other useful things. The organizers decided to call it the Social Technology Conference. It would be held in December at Twin Oaks. Here’s my report on what happened. 

The actual conference focused primarily on dealing with racism and white supremacy with an emphasis on building connections and looking at how trauma makes doing all this difficult. We also had sessions on understanding consent, on how to do facilitation, on using ritual for healing, and on drumming and dancing to get us in our bodies. 

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Rachel, Evi, and Natalie 

Our facilitators for the conference were Natalie, Evi, and Rachel.  They worked closely with the Twin Oaks diversity team of Alexis, Bell, and Hailey. The facilitators began by looking at the stories that block our connection with each other and how our culture disrupts solidarity. We then looked at the role of trauma interfering with empathy. There was information on the biology of trauma, how it pulls us out of our normal “window of tolerance”, sending us into an alarm state that could escalate into the fight or flight response which often led to a state of “freeze” or collapse. 

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We then tried to look at strategies for self-regulation and how to build our capacity for listening and empathy. From there we began looking at white supremacy and how it interfered with our ability to be with each other and how it led to us using microaggressions, small racist behaviors, to defend ourselves. We looked at how we could support each other in changing and how we could make our communities more welcoming to people of color. 

One of the unusual features of the conference was that, for the first time at Twin Oaks, there was People of Color Only space that existed for the time of the conference. Hailey, Bell, and Alexis were available to meet with people of color to look at their concerns. 

Midway through the conference, we had a Liberation Arts Drumming session with Macaco, a Brazilian drummer from Charlottesville, Virginia, followed by us watching a video focused on the story of an African American man’s difficulties with a couple of our communities. We then had a four hour workshop with Amani from Soul Fire Farm, a community in Petersburgh, NY.  She led us in looking at overt and covert white supremacy and how our communities could work to dismantle racism and white supremacy. Both she and the facilitators left us links to many resources. 

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Amani 

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Some Resources 

After this, we did work on building resilience, on looking at how to improve decision-making, as well as having the workshops on facilitation and ritual. The diversity team led a panel on racial justice and changes we could make in our communities. We ended the conference with a report back on next steps we planned to take in our communities, a closing circle, and a group photograph.

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A Group Photo 

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A Group Photo with Enthusiasm 

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Compersia Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

 

Thanks! 

 

Social Technology

Small Percentages

by Raven Cotyledon

I wanted to entitle this post “Communes are Only a Very Small Percentage of Communities, and Communities are Only a Very Small Percentage of the Ways People Live,” but I figured that title was way too long to fit.

High and low rates of interest on the white background

In the nineteen-eighties, I was involved with a radical group and lived in a house with a bunch of folks including a woman also involved with this group. She said that one of the purposes of being so radical was not to expect that everyone would be radical but that we would push the dialogue left, helping moderates become liberal and liberals become progressive.

I do not expect everyone to live in a commune or even some form of community, but I want as many people as possible to know that communes and communities exist. I realize how small a percentage of the population lives in communities, let alone communes, but I think that everyone can learn important things about sharing, in fact radical sharing, from the communes.

Diana Leafe Christian, in her book Finding Community, briefly complains about how well known the communes are, given how small a percentage they make up of the communities movement. She says, “The first reason for this prominence, I think, is because income-sharing communitarians tend to be activists, if not enthusiastic proselytizers, for their radically non-competitive way of life.  For them, having a close-knit and intimate group (in the smaller communes), pooling incomes, taking care of each other financially, and being on a level playing field with fellow members financially is a form of political activism, and they’re proud of it.”
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Well, it’s true. I don’t think communards actually proselytize, but many of us (myself included) see living this way as a challenge to our competitive, capitalist society. I don’t expect everyone to do it but I want it known that it’s possible.  That’s the reason for this blog. That’s the reason that I talk with people, go to events (like the panel on sharing in communities that I was on Thursday, 2/7), and help start things like the meetup group in Manhattan on Communes and Communities that I am a co-organizer for.

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In a time when life in this society is only becoming more stressful, when inequality is increasing, and when people are feeling more and more isolated, our tiny number of communities, point to a different way.  And while I doubt we will ever include a large or even medium percentage of the population, I certainly want to grow our movement. I see us as the seed for something bigger. And I hope that this blog helps water that seed.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft
  • Aaron Michels
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Laurel Baez
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Sasha Daucus
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

Small Percentages