It is said "humans can only process data when they see it as relevant" and that the human attention span is very short indeed (seconds even); so in the interest of brevity, click here for the gist of what we have to say. I will add, quickly, that while we believe what we are proposing IS, truly, in all our individual, best self interest.....without an equal interest in everyone else's individual best self interest as well as living in such a way that truly makes a difference regarding the future of humankind.....what we have to say will likely not be seen as "relevant".
Too, what is becoming apparent about this negative knee jerk reaction to any suggestion involving "communal living", is that this "reaction" is anything but, what it appears to be; in fact, it is the exact opposite. What do I mean? There is a HUGE communal component to our existing culture (any culture really) in the form of it's agreements and expectations, and to the fact that we are an interdependent species. So, it ISN'T the communal aspect per se we are suggesting that is viewed so negatively,….it is leaving the personal advantages or familiarity of the existing (communal) one!
So, as much as people squawk about "change" and gripe about the "system", most are not seriously interested in the welfare of anyone but themselves and have little interest in leaving the present and comfortable system (read, present COMMUNAL) advantages (as petty as they may be) that just about all have available to one degree or another. Some are great advantages, but they continue right down to unpleasant, meaningless or unnecessary (but paying) jobs, food stamps or even dumpster's full of food.
It isn't the "system" or any outside force that is making our lives miserable and destroying the planet, rather, it is our exclusive single (simple?) minded pursuit of our own self interest. NOTE: You will never hear us say here self interest and individual freedom aren't terribly important, but when self interest trumps all other concerns, we have exactly what we have, a mess and a nightmare that is on track to hell….sometimes fast and other times slow. This, of course, has been going on for a very long time. Up till now, it's (just) been war after war, a trashed environment, and wasted lives. But now with the advent of nuclear technology, the mass burning of fossil fuels and overpopulation we are facing crisis and tragedy beyond anything previously experienced or imagined. Yet, in the end, this too, is of little concern to human beings who are exclusively focused on their own immediate concerns and desires. Given our potential and the sacrifices and hardships endured by our predecessors to get us to this point…….this situation is absolutely tragic….even shameful. There is still time to redeem ourselves, but not much.
You who are reading these words are on the left side of the political spectrum or call yourselves independents; as are we. You (as we, too) are aware of the potential severity of global warming, the peak oil situation, the looming economic crisis and the long history of political and military shenanigans and disasters the U.S. has been involved in for a very longtime; as expressed by the likes of Norm Chomsky, Howard Zinn, John Perkins and recently by Oliver Stone. And regarding us as individual citizens, you are, as are we, quite aware of the level of dysfunction, ill health and unhappiness in our country….clearly expressed in any number of statistics; and by social critics like Chris Hedges, Eric Fromm, Morris Berman or James Howard Kunstler.
The question, perhaps, comes down to this: are we to believe progressive liberals like Tom Hartman, Amy Goodmam and Michele Moore that there is a political solution to all this and that simply, say, transitioning to a socialist nation state, passing campaign finance reform, and ending corporatocracy will fix all? Even if we are to believe somewhat socialist Europe is a beacon of light (which it doesn't necessarily appear to be or at least wholly so), are we to realistically expect that Americans (who fiercely cling to their notions of individual property/resource possession as a form of self expression, necessity and investment….. with the often, subsequent, individual opportunity for exploitation, either natural or human, no matter how small or large the earned or unearned gain) will suddenly embrace some sort of mass communal view of things…….this seems extremely unlikely anytime soon…..at least as we say, without some highly desirable alternative example or model to replace what is the now and known modus operandi.
If some of the issues like global warming, peak oil and nuclear annihilation weren't so serious, perhaps we could go on (ignoring temporarily, the also substantial individual suffering) and just take a wait and see approach. But we are guessing most of you, as do we, see the need to NOT WAIT for the worst to happen, but rather be proactive and address NOT ONLY what (might) be, but also what IS ailing us substantially now. But, do what?
Though you may not resonate with our answer whole heartedly, you may well see the sense of it, many do actually. These "many" say, though, and you may too, "THEY" will never go for it. But you must understand we are NOT advocating for a mass, entire societal consensus/conversion to (humanistic communitarian socialist) values or action all at once or by force or coercion of any sort. What we ARE saying is that any movement in this direction CAN ONLY happen if it is ROOTED in local consensual/democratic practice and adopted voluntarily.
This is exactly why this CAN WORK. Precisely because millions do not have to be convinced or forced. If fact, no one has to be convinced or forced, because there are already (thousands) who understand how this would work and (hundreds) who already want to live this way NOW.
And yes, we believe this could be a mass solution, however far fetched this might seem. Yet, given the realities, what choice do we have; if not exactly as we are putting this forth, at least the primary principles of it which are: cooperation and sharing, a large degree of self sufficiency/reliance and simpler living; as well as a few simple ethics. Certainly a great many people are speaking similarly these days. We are just taking it to what we believe is its logical conclusion; its most practical and best expression. This is not a desperate, temporary survival strategy; we believe this, or something like this, is the way we should have been living all along. And if we had, the tragic history of mankind could have been rewritten and we never would have gotten ourselves into this terrible fix, now, in the first place.
But the only way this will appeal to the the "millions" and everyone, is if some people start doing it now and create the kind of example/model that PEOPLE COULD SIMPLY NOT RESIST DOING THEMSELVES….and this means, of course, doing it differently and better.
Make living on a "commune" something everybody is going to want to do?!! Are we mad?!
It's so sad, really. Look at where most live and work; as in the population densities and the substantial agreements and expectations most of us make, many of them life long; often extremely restrictive and regarding work, often unpleasant, unloved or unenjoyable. Look beyond the front most people put on about their lives (marriages and families included) and how we collectively/secretly deceive ourselves and each other regarding where and how our sustenance comes into being. We are not denigrating nor diminishing the importance of ourselves as individuals, nor the importance of our individual autonomy in any way; but clearly we are an interdependent species. To pretend otherwise is to invite mayhem both individually and collectively. We say, let’s embrace it, positively, joyfully, freely and creatively and in so doing make this reality the best it possibly can be. Also, one can pretend that self expression and freedom are no more highly expressed than in property ownership, but this is simply false, even juvenile, immature, provincial, small minded “blood and soil” type consciousness and in the end it causes enormous sorrow and tragedy. Evidence? All the evidence in the world will not convince one who does not wish to see this. It is glaringly staring us in the face behind all the glitter and the gold, it is hidden behind the “front” we put up to the world and hidden behind the “front” the world puts up to us…..a “front” that hides enormous pain, sorrow and falseness.
Faced now, as we clearly are, with the real possibility of extinguishing our species, we believe the only answer is to live the way we should have been all along. What other "answer" could possibly be the right one, except (or something like) the cooperation and sharing of which we speak.
NOTE: Maybe it is possible to do this….just simply saying we’re going to “cooperate and share”; but we can only conceive of it working well with a few basic and unifying ethics and simple, yet clear and meaningful goals to serve as guides for effective democracy.
We believe we would (all or at least those who wish to) be far better off in every way, living in large (at least 150 people), mostly self sufficient cooperative communities. We are saying housing should be community owned and that because of the huge advantages of growing, producing and preparing our food cooperatively, we see little point in avoiding the word commune. Yes, the prejudice against communal living is large, yet we believe this can be done in a much different way than before imagined by limiting the amount of labor to a maximum of 4 hours a day with the incentive to reduce that further if possible and also allowing for "free enterprise", differences in "wealth" and preserving the full autonomy and freedom of the individual. In truth, living in this proposed "community-commune" would differ little from a college campus or your average town, village, suburban or condo association except that instead of relying on money and far away resources, basic needs would be met though a small amount of (equally valued) labor and shared basic resources (natural, community and social) right there in the community. Surely, the many advantages and benefits (individual, social, and ecological) must be seen in this. We believe we will have more individual freedom and choice, not less; and a much higher quality of life in the ways that matter.
The proceeding is the "goal". The “ethics” we would choose and believe are critical for its success would be no usury, pacifism, steady state population and whole and organic foods.
NOTE: We are just two people here, we can't possibly imagine all the ways this "cooperation and sharing" could manifest itself. On the other hand, it would be disingenuous NOT to say at least one way we think it could work and in a way WE would like and be willing to live ourselves; a starting point perhaps. That is what this website and proposal is all about. We believe this could be a highly desirable "example" that many would want to emulate. There is no “sustainable” solution that isn’t also socially ethical AND which delivers high benefit to ourselves as individuals. back to top
If it is (so the answer) why hasn't it-
isn't it being done successfully?
I think an analogy of a flower is applicable here. A flower is beautiful but delicate. The social and spiritual consciousness involved in cooperating and sharing is similarly delicate and beautiful. When either are crushed, unnourished, they wither and die. To get either back, the soil must be prepared, the seed planted and then nurtured.
Because the communal consciousness is so long gone (the more direct form) almost every attempt to recreate it, we believe, manifests not as community or the communal paradigm, but rather the kind of dynamics that are best described as the family paradigm. We would say the family fits into the community or the communal, but the communal doesn't fit into a family style paradigm. We might be sentimental about "family", but it is, either way, way too ambiguous, personal, exploitive, subtly manipulative or hierarchal to fit into a community or communal paradigm which must be clearly defined, non-personal in a way, consensual and democratic.
And, when we state: there are no examples that can provide the motivation/inspiration to copy, we mean one's that are NOT religious based and NOT communist/strictly egalitarian. We are not suggesting either. We believe, in the social structure we’re speaking about, individual freedom and autonomy can not only be preserved, but nurtured to its fullest potential. And the surety of having one's basic needs met (in a time efficient way) would go a long way to enabling this, as would a rich social and resource base close at hand.
How will it come into being?
Having been at this for quite some time it is pretty clear there is probably only one way this is going to happen. It has to be set up, pretty much completely so that the 150 to 300 people proposed can just go there and start (living this way) basically. Now, to be clear, we are not talking about continually underwriting it. No, we just mean the housing, some basic utilities, tools and resources have to be in place. This would probably cost around 3 million dollars total, which would include the land. The community would have to become totally self reliant within a very short period in order to prove itself and the concept.
I've written some about why this necessity (to set it up) and I'm sure I'll write more. Perhaps it's obvious, our social organization IS our challenge; as are our choice of ethics. The scholars, activists, scientists and great thinkers I respect most all say humanity is in grave danger of doing itself in. It isn't as simple as right and wrong, positive and negative, it's much more complex and subtle.
But in the end Americans don't want to change and the rest of the world wants to live as Americans. People who see another way, must lead the way, otherwise we're really headed for trouble.
Time for Progressives to Grow Up
by Frances Moore Lappé,
We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to
party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens
have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge
global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to
survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward
them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions
through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive
to yield to directives from on high.
The "left" has consistently and tragically failed to create any substantive, lasting and successful alternative to the "status quo." Always criticizing and analyzing with great eloquence, but in the end, rather than create examples of a new social and economic alternative……a different way of living altogether, the "left" remains fragmented in a million weak, individual splinters gripping endlessly about the way things are and changing nothing, fundamentally. How can we, when all our (lack of unified social power and potential) is handed over to the (unified social power and might) of organized religion, government, the military, and industry; all the while (the left is) bickering amongst ourselves and criticizing each other.
And now the latest (left) ineffectual ideas or buzzwords like "green economy", "local economy", consensus, "sustainability" and ("eco village" based primarily on money and property)…….all, like the New Deal, not to challenge and change the extremely dysfunctional and destructive system of property/money/trade based capitalism, but rather (even if accidentally, incidentally or subconsciously) to preserve it. This happens probably because while there is great intellectual prowess, there is not a great deal of honesty regarding one's own life.....such as personal vulnerability, sorrow, escape, and how one is actually getting on or getting by.
This required "unity" is NEVER EVER GOING TO BE ACHIEVED unless relatively SMALL, but substantially LARGE....COOPERATIVE SOCIAL GROUPS... lead the way. This required "unity" will never win a mass democratic vote…..it must be consensual…..which means it must start at the bottom and work its way up.
This required "unity" must be voluntary, not forced because this required "unity" involves ethics and goals THAT MUST BE LIVED TOGETHER WITH OTHERS.
(which, as mere intellectual expressions, agreements or words.......are totally without meaning or consequence)
Only by sharing these ethics and achieving these goals with others, TOGETHER, do they become a reality.
But this is now an impossibility, or seems so.....UNLESS…..those with the substantial resources and power help set up model communities where this can happen.
Most citizens today have neither the financial resources or understanding (mind set) required. A different way of living has to be SHOWN to work before the "power" of consensual unity can come into being and takes over on its own initiative….in other words, before mass adoption.
This required unity IS generally popular, though.... no usury, no war, limiting population and eating whole and organic food.... as well as the idea of adequate shelter and food at a reasonable cost in labor for all...... but there is absolutely no unity about how to achieve this......nor will there ever be unless some step up to the plate and help in the creation of some modest, yet sizeable cooperative, communitarian communities to show how to do it…..to lead the way.
At least we're offering up here something way beyond simple agreement. The liberal notion of individual action, individual consciousness and attitude and the conservative notion of individual family, responsibility and morals (while both of these perspectives offer tidbits of truth) as substantive motors of change (by themselves) we would say is false. The kind of fundamental change necessary (for a variety of reasons) will only happen if those changes are held and practiced (together) by substantial numbers of people. We would suggest a starting point of at least 150 to 300 people.
No individual or individual family ever has been or ever will be islands of total self sufficiency. These entities have always been and will always be... dependent on and part of a social whole which is humanity, whether locally or globally.
We're offering up true collaboration, personal relationship and actual physical community-eventually. Obviously, this isn't something we can do on our own, unless we win the lottery; and even then we'd be asking 150 to 300 people to cooperate and share in true leaderless democracy.
Yes, we're asking for help here. After many years of talking to people about this and observing what others are doing, accomplishing, and not. It is pretty evident that the only way this is going to get started is if it gets jump started. The community needs to be set up so people can just go there and start taking care of themselves.
It should be done as the most important social experiment ever undertaken or as an act of ultimate social activism for peace, health, economic justice and environmental sustainability.
It needs at least the land, free and clear.... as in a land trust of some sort. But the best and surest, would be to set it up completely. I have and will more, address why this would be better. And it would probably cost only a few million dollars. Nothing could be more important, nor more cost effective in addressing humanities most pressing problems.
We're not going to pretend we are perfect or without flaws. Neither do we believe that some sort of expectations of perfection is realistic for the people who would populate this communitarian community. What should be expected, though, is that it be conceived in such a way that it can still work and work well despite people's present imperfections. And, that it provides the fertile ground for people to become and be their best on their own terms and at their own pace.
We will hope you who are taking in this this idea, can see beyond who is presenting it. Not that we are unimportant, but rather that the idea itself is what is most important. Does it bear merit? Is it worth trying? While we think it would be a great way to live, we hope mostly that it will at least be tried, and soon; regardless if we get to do it, live this way ourselves. Frankly, we don't see any other options for humanity at this point, except, to live as we should have been living all along.