Tuesday, November 29, 2011

There's a Place

by Neil Gillespie
The Justice Network

This post was inspired by Valerie, Anne, DreamsAmelia and others who commented on Karen’s post "The Nightmare Before Christmas".

Each of you expressed a fundamental theme of human existence, the need for shelter and community. Is it better to rent or buy a home? Is real neighborliness in person with your actual neighbors the bedrock of society, or can an online "community" suffice? And how does all this fit into the larger world or work and family?

There is another way: You can have it all, in an intentional community. The following is inspired by many people and ideas too numerous to mention here, so I’ll begin with one person, Scott Nearing. "If I am rich and you are poor," Nearing wrote, "both of us are corrupted by inequality."

Scott Nearing was a radical professor at the Wharton School. According to a University of Pennsylvania publication, he was "shocked in 1915 when he was the only assistant professor with a favorable recommendation from the faculty not to be rehired. His outspoken views against child labor and other progressive causes had run afoul of Penn’s trustees, who thought he was a dangerous influence on his many followers. Nearing won litigation concerning his dismissal, giving a significant victory to academic freedom - one step toward the creation of the tenure system."(Scott Nearing is profiled further on my website.)
"By 1917 Nearing was fired from the University of Toledo as an administrator and professor due to his opposition to America’s World War I involvement. In March 1918 he was indicted, but later exonerated by the federal government via the Espionage Act for his antiwar writing. In the 1920s he joined the Communist party until he was expelled from that organization for being too radically independent.
Nearing later  espoused a simple lifestyle of abstaining from products and economic practices that he believed hurt society. Among his 50 books was the classic Living the Good Life, co-authored with his wife Helen in 1954 and republished in 1970, inspiring the countercultural movement of the time. Nearing died in 1983 shortly after his 100th birthday."

Scott Nearing

Fast forward to 2011. The politics, economy and technology of today may provide the foundation for a new rendition of the intentional community, sometimes called a commune. Think of the possibilities of a physical community, somewhere in the wide-open spaces of America, combined with the interconnectedness of the Internet. A place run by people, not the corporations.
A place where we build our sustainable homes by hand, without debt, in the tradition of the Amish barn raising...
A place where we grow our own organic food, raise animals and fish, to nourish our body and soul...
A place where we manufacture quality products, made in America, by people, not corporations. Real jobs, with humane benefits and working conditions...
A place where we can operate e-commerce business online, with clients worldwide... 
A place where we govern ourselves without the corrupting influence of corporate money... 
A place with our own bank, banking system, and local currency... 
A place where we establish our own courts, where judges are not lawyers, and the practice of law and the delivery of legal service is open to the free market...
A place where we decide who serves on our police force and how they should behave, a place that may have a chief like OWS supporter Ray Lewis, a retired Philadelphia police captain...
A place where we build and run our own hospitals, daycare, nursing homes and hospice...
A place where we build and run our own primary schools and university, an affordable university where the emphasis is on learning and sustainable living, in contrast to the current debt-based college education with its emphasis on sports and consumer consumption...
A place where animals are respected and incorporated into our lives, as companions, or workers mowing our lawn (grazing), public service (dogs) or transportation (horses, camels) 
A place with sustainable public transportation, electric cars, horses, or camels...
A place with a sustainable public utility that produces green power and clean water...
A place where people of all faiths, races, ethnic groups, and orientations are welcome...
A place that values creative thinking... 
This is just the beginning. Feel free to add your own ideas. Add to it the best of liberal, conservative, libertarian, progressive, radical, eastern and western thought, and others not mentioned. Barack Obama may have betrayed the dream, but we don’t have to...

For further reading: Two classics by Helen & Scott Nearing: "Living the Good Life" and "Leaving the Good Life" are available in a one-volume paperback called "The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living". (Schocken Books, Jan. 1990)



Anne Lavoie said...

Co-ops come to mind. Co-operatives, where we are all co-owners. I like that idea.

Where I live our credit unions and electric utility are co-ops. We could have co-op stores, newspapers, radio stations, and everything else. That's not just possible but very doable. A parallel economy of our own - I'd vote for that. Thanks for the inspiration, Neil. I need to make a point of reading up on the co-op movement.

DreamsAmelia said...

Neil, I love your post and its idealism. My life has been a case-study in the realities of cooperative and non-cooperative set-ups that tended to traverse extremes. You describe the happy medium I'd like to find...

For 12 straight years I lived in Co-ops and organic farms in Madison, WI; Viroqua, WI; Plymouth, VT; near Chapel Hill, NC; Warfordburg, MD; and Loudoun County, VA. They were all full of idealistic people--some had solid careers in things like medicine and computer science. Others were complete pot-heads, possibly living on the proverbial trust fund, or medicaid. And the main problem with co-operative chores/living was there was no effective police when things didn't get done. So the people the most upset about them not being done would do them. And this led to a high degree of grime, which was pungently organic, indeed. And that was acceptable and interesting to me in my 20s.

But I was angered that I was so ultra-industrious, you could say competitive, because I could not excise the competition that had been bred in me, having been born and raised in the pressure cooker of Washington, D.C.-- yet natural decency, grace and fairness did not impel everyone to pull their fair share of weight--in fact, some people displayed zero guilt at being lazy slobs, if you want to say there is a grain of truth in some conservative criticism.

Thus I fled to the staid suburbs that cost a fortune and have no obvious, ugly poverty, but do have the ugly misfortune of very shallow, consumeristic and generally callous definitions of community. Not to mention WAAAY too many chemicals being dumped on the grass, which make me spiritually ill to the point of physical illness. Organized religion kind of depresses me, but I take solace there from time to time out of sheer desperation for something "deeper." I feel like we squander the infrastructure we have with suburban isolationism--but the communal situation can become a headache quickly because the ideal society you describe gives way to our darker side of not wanting to work hard and play fair. Sometimes we want to be lazy and take more than we deserve, but luckily life is so harsh few are allowed to do so, except the 0.001%.

The vision you describe requires a lot of skill, talent and infrastructure already in place---and a lot of seed money of a lot of people highly invested in the same vision--

I recently read _The Farm_ --a book about all the hippies who tried to make a go of it in TN--a vestige of the community remains--but the problems seemed all too familiar to my own life experience....
So I guess it makes me grateful for the blogs and suburban life for now....but I think after my parents are gone and my daughter is grown I might be game for anything, even the dubious and improbable, if it would be a rebuttal to the dominant paradigm....

Anne Lavoie said...


It's the old 20/80 rule. 20% of the people do 80% of the work. I've seen it in all kinds of organizations, from clubs to the workplace. Heck, you can't even get people to pick up after themselves in the break rooms at work - just look in the microwave. Ick. I like the sign that reads 'Your Mother Doesn't Work Here. Pick Up After Yourself'

I do like the idea of co-op businesses where the customers are the owners, but living arrangements are another matter entirely. Personally I could not stand to live in a commune. I like close but separate. Kind of like a weekends-only marriage with the next door neighbor.

Will said...

Great post, Neil.

It reminded me of the October 2010 talk by our very own highly esteemed member of "the extreme left," Chris "take to the hills" Hedges.* Here it is in all its prescient pre-Occupy entirety, along with the equally compelling Q&A period afterwards.

If anyone is pressed for time, you can start at 38:40 for the 7-minute "resistance is local" portion of his remarks:




*Quoted material taken from the August 15, 2011 comment by Marie Burns here at Sardonicky in Jay's "In Praise of Name-Calling" thread.

Valerie said...

Neil, I loved your list of things this type of culture could provide. It sounds so wonderful.

But I suppose the reality of some people working industriously while others ride freely on the work of others, as described by DreamsAmeila , would be a problem that would have to be addressed. I have had more than one friend who has gone to live on a Kibbutz and have said it was a mixed bag.

I would be happy with something even marginally close to it. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have the choice of shopping at a co-op not only for food but also for items like clothing for my daughter and gardening tools. I would love to give my business to ethical, small businesses which buy from other ethical, small businesses. I would love to have a police force that is responsible to the community. I am very interested in these small municipalities that Naomi Klein was referring to in her comments on the Democracy Now panel. Maybe there is some hope!

I have this WONDERFUL organic grocery store where I buy my food. It is smaller than a 7/11 but I find I don't want for much. If the price on something goes up, Anna, the owner says the farmer now has bigger electricity bills related to production and has to charge more. We all say, "OK, we understand." Other times, the farmer has a bumper crop and the price for organic cherries is only a dollar more than in the grocery store. Or Anna will get a deal on some discontinued item and pass the savings on to us. She only orders so much organic meat and when it is gone, it is gone. Some weeks I buy chicken other weeks I buy beef or lamb, whatever is available. We all understand that ordering is a tricky job and if we REALLY wanted a roast that week, we should have gotten ourselves to the store on Wednesday when the meat arrives. We are happy for Anna (the owner) to make a profit and a living and we know that if Anna is to stay in business, she has to make enough of a living to make it worth her while. I feel like I am part of something good and pure when I shop at Anna’s. Several times my husband has said that it is too expensive to eat organic meat and other organic foodstuffs, but I just can’t stay away. It is that community thing again.

Anne Lavoie said...


As I requested them to do, the city issued an official correction in today's newspaper clarifying that applicants need only be city residents and are not required to own property.

Considering I mailed my letter to them on Monday, that was quick! They even referenced that an alert reader rightly pointed out their error. One small victory for Democracy and the Constitution!

James F Traynor said...

Oh my! Another Utopia, Shining City on a Hill, etc.. Talk about the Tooth Fairy. I prefer keeping my feet on the ground. We don't need these golden dreams of golden realms. They just get in the way of handling the real problems of the real world. And these problems can be addressed within existing political frameworks. The Scandinavians seem to have managed to at least get a handle on things.

And time's awastin'! I understand, according to Democracy Now! that there is an attachment to the Pentagon budget that allows the military to arrest and detain, without limit, anyone, citizen or not, anywhere within the world, including the U.S.. It also overturns the executive order banning torture. It was introduced by Senator Levin, D, Michigan, and McCain, R, Arizona.

That proposed commune better have an army to defend itself from Special Forces.

Neil said...

Thanks all for your comments. When the Nearings embarked on their adventure in 1932, which they call ‘rural homesteading’, they were middle-age and not wealthy. They were industrious, certainly counterculture, but not commune-stereotype hippies. The Nearings moved from a small apartment in New York City to a farm in Vermont, and years later to a farm in Harborside, Maine.

Your comments about free-loaders are well taken. My use of the word ‘commune’ was misleading. I’m with Anne, I could not stand to live in a traditional commune either. Rural homesteading may be a better term, and this post was meant to be a block from which many could carve and hone into something workable. DreamsAmelia in particular had some great insights. One way around the need for a lot of seed money and infrastructure might be homesteading opportunities available today in places of declining population, or so-called ghost towns. By definition, an intentional community is what you design it to be.

In addition, there may be government money available. This is just information, not an endorsement, but take the case of Republican Kristi Noem, the US Representative for South Dakota's At-large district and new Tea Party Princess. Noem’s family farm received over $3 million dollars in subsidies. From Wikipedia: "The property has also received $3,058,152 in USDA farm subsidies from 1995 through 2009. Over the years, Noem added a hunting lodge and restaurant to the property, and all of her siblings have moved back to assist in expanding the businesses." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristi_Noem

FYI, I already live in a type of intentional community, a 55+ retirement community called Oak Run. This model could be tweaked into something more palatable. There are about 3,000 homes here, a gated suburban community with communal recreation facilities, swimming pools, a restaurant, a golf course, a community center, and so forth. We have local governance in the form of a homeowners association. We have our own security, which is augmented by residents who patrol in community owned cars. We have a wastewater treatment plant and other infrastructure. Many people here use electric golf carts to get around. The local supermarket has separate parking for golf carts. And in response to James F Traynor, we have a shooting sports club that meets once a month. If the special forces attack, we are ready. The shooting sports club is one of over 50 clubs, including a theater company, dance group, sports groups, music groups, computer club, dog club, photography club, investing club, singles club, travel club, etc.

So I apologize for using the term ‘commune’. I’m sure the people here in Oak Run would not consider this a ‘commune’ but in many ways, it is. Here’s the website http://www.oakrunflorida.com/ Most of the homes here are one or two bedroom and very affordable. This community could be replicated almost anywhere. Just add an organic farm, a couple of manufacturing plants nearby for work, an office complex for e-commerce and white collar jobs, and some service businesses like car repair. Residents could work from home too. I run my website from my home. Round it out with a school and medical facilities.

The first step toward an intentional community may be to create a website, to provide information and float ideas, and get comments from people like you.

Neil said...


Thanks Will for the link to Chris Hedges. He is a genius. His opening comment about the shift from a print based culture to an image based culture blew me away, especially the part where he blames this shift for electing Barack Obama. I see a similar problem in law, which is a complex print subculture used by governments and corporations to control a population that is becoming less print literate. Talk about a disaster! For example, an ordinary person could read the 34 page Glass–Steagall banking act of 1934, but who can read the 3,000 page reform bill described by Gretchen Morgenson in her Times story? May 29, 2010, 3,000 Pages of Financial Reform, but Still Not Enough http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/30/business/30gret.html

I plan to put the Chris Hedges video on my website. Thanks again.

Valerie said...


Don't be such a killjoy! If you had been at Zuccotti Park on those first days you would have said, "What are you wasting your time here for? Americans aren't interested in what you are saying? You don't have a leader, you don't have demands! No one is going to take you seriously!" And look what happened. Dream big, I say! And maybe a little of that dream will become a reality.

So quit being such a pooh-pah! (As my daughter would say.)

But your point on looking at the Scandinavian models of government is a good one, particularly Norway. Right now Australia is "enjoying" a mining boom in which multi-national corporations are stripping the earth of minerals at a sickening rate and paying pennies on the dollar for the privilege. The state governments, which own ALL mineral rights are in collusion with these corporations and an article I just read compares the Australian government with the wise management of oil resources by the Norwegian government. In Norway, the government thinks in terms of long term sustainability of both the oil and their economy. Any extra money from oil the government takes in goes into a rainy day fund. So while Europe is wallowing in fiscal chaos, Norway is doing just fine! Here is the link on the Australian article if you are interested http://sydney.edu.au/alumni/sam/november2011/luck-is-a-fortune.shtml

@Will, once again. Thank you for the wonderful links!

@DreamsAmelia, You mentioned that sometimes you attended church just for the sense of community. Despite the fact that many liberals paint all spiritual/religious people with the same brush, there are some very enlightened religious communities out there. I attended both a church in Tacoma, Washington and in Wellington, New Zealand with some of the kindest, most sincere, most politically active people I have ever known. They had a genuine thirst for social justice and were tolerant and inclusive. I hated to miss church because the sermons inspired me to be a better person and to work with others to make our city better. I haven’t been able to find a community like that in Australia and I really miss the fellowship. So you are not alone. One of the things I loved most about my church in New Zealand was that there was a group of Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Christians who met regularly to pray and discuss each others’ perspectives on current political issues of the day. We discovered, as compassionate people of faith, that we had far more in common with each other than we did with the fundamentalists of our own particular religions.

And we are not alone. Both Chris Hedges and Bill Moyers, two of my favourite men and political activists have undergraduate degrees in Divinity. So we are not all a bunch of narrow minded, authoritarian types afraid to question ourselves and our faith. I say we ALL should have tolerance and respect for one another's beliefs or lack of them. It is like being a vegetarian - a personal choice.

Valerie said...

I posted my last comment before I read Neil's reply to our responses.

Now that you describe it that way, Neil, is sounds like it might be something doable. I know there are entire communities in Germany and the Netherlands that don't allow cars. All the children attend the local school and I would assume there are shops and an entire infrastructure built around people who don't use cars. I find the whole idea intriguing.

Valerie said...

A non sequitur - I just read a really nice comment in the NYT from a commenter about Elizabeth Warren. Thought I would share it with all my fellow Liz lovers!

It is from Purpledot in Boston

In the past two weeks, one mark of the Massachusetts Senate Campaign is very, very telling.

Framingham is a town west of Boston, known as the largest "town," in our state. It is a blend of moderate affluence and economic diversity. It's politics are centrist to conservative. When a meeting notice soliciting volunteers for Warren's campaign was circulated for a weeknight at the local school gym, over 700 citizens showed up. 700. There were not enough chairs and "standing room" would be generous. And, not one of these volunteers is being paid. The volunteer response took your breath away. It still does.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Neil’s celebration of the Nearings leads me to reminisce and hope along with others in this commentary.

In our advanced society, if you’re somewhere in the middle of the income spread, you will have to go to extremes to practice a life of moderation. Likewise, you will be forced into a life of excess if you want to pass unnoticed in normal society. It’s tough going in either direction: escaping with the extremes or keeping up with the normals.

The measures communes adopt to live simply are regarded as extreme from the point of view of the dominant class, who live easy with luxuries deemed necessities. For more insight on this point, thumb through the big ads in “The New Yorker” or “Vanity Fair.” There you see what normal is according to the dominant class – a level of excess often aspired to uncritically by the less-affluent majority. Not all propaganda is political.

We who are born into plenty might look up from our toys at some point to find ourselves at a crossroads, perhaps after an unsparing documentary revealing the everyday routine in Africa or Appalachia. Too often we forget those images before we reach for the cheque book or the phone book. Or, as followers of Ayn Rand, we intentionally follow the road called “So What.” Let Capricious Fortuna, aided and abetted by the Fortune 500, have her bloody way.

As Chris Hedges says in the talk linked by Will, the days of shared plenty are over. Corporations don’t share, and Wall Street has cornered essential commodities worldwide, is holding them back and thus turning plenty into less and less for greater profit. In the US, commodity deserts are spreading in communities that no longer have a supermarket or a decent restaurant.

Hedges blames the liberals. The old liberal class, which fought for a bigger piece of the pie – at least once in a while, has been replaced by a toothless liberal class led by hypocrites routinely collaborating with the elitists. Today’s liberals are complicit in stealing from the poor, the near poor and the middle class.

Transition periods are great for communes. The hermits of the Third Century who escaped societal decay for the deserts of Egypt and Syria, the “Rule” of St Benedict that was written for cenobitic communities around 510, and the waves of monastic reform around 800 and 1100 -- all occurred during periods of sharp transition. They had easy access to marginal lands, where they drained the swamps and after years of hard labor established exemplars of self-sufficiency. In recent times, there was Gandhi. Lanza del Vasto in France was a disciple of Gandhi. Del Vasto founded communities in France and elsewhere that are still going. During the Algerian War his community led demonstrations and participated in direct actions that helped turn opinion and put an end to the war.

Do we live in another transition time? We have reason to fear transitions; but there’s a chance society will save itself through the establishment of many local communal restarts of necessity, with or without religion at the core. Neil’s post, then, is more than an exercise in nostalgia.

At some point the world will stop buying US bonds to fund its debt. Then the Treasury will print lots of money. Then, without a job, with paper money worthless, with too little food, you had better get in touch with a commune that has learned how to live off the land.

Communes are subversive. They resist. Their existence is living criticism directed at the dominant society. OWS is about resistance. The mini-communes OWS sets up in parks are subversive. That’s why the authorities must tear them down. And that’s why they must be raised again and again in the cities and in the mountains by people firm in their rejection of excess and just plain interested in mere survival.

Ormond Otvos said...

Ken Kesey wrote some lovely essays about the proposed joys of communal cooperative living, until he actually set up one. He then wrote some equally frank commentary about the realities, mentioned above.

The Founders of the United States wrote the Articles of Confederation in the blissful idealism of recent soldiers against authority, and didn't include enforcement in the rules, so all the states did as they pleased. The Constitution is a much less idealistic document.

I'm past seventy now, and I'm living in a share cooperative, Atchison Village, google it. It's as far as I'm willing to go anymore, since I now know better.

Learn from your elders. You have to have ways for the community to enforce the rules that the members have agreed to, and you must have exile, internal and/or external, to deal with the ones who back out of the contract.

That's what jails are, internal exile, for those who fail the contract. We allow them to emigrate, but strangely enough, those who don't like this country's rules, or ways of changing them, often aren't welcomed by other countries.

That's called evolution, adapting or dying out. It's something the utopian writers never want to think about. They just say "There must be a way..." as if saying it made it so.

It doesn't. The country we have is a good one, if the citizens inform themselves and then act intelligently. Right now, voting for socialist candidates would be the intelligent choice, but Obama could use the support. He doesn't do everything you want but who ever does?

Neil said...

Thanks for more great comments. As for a new rendition of the intentional community, the model of the retirement community makes sense as a stating point. In addition to what I already posted, here are a few more things about my community.

The Oak Run community http://www.oakrunflorida.com/ has a cable TV station and channel. Currently it is underutilized, mostly running meeting times for various clubs. But imagine a community of activists with their own cable TV channel, and what they could do. Imagine a nightly OWS program, without commercial interruption, for several hours.

The Oak Run community publishes a monthly news letter, this month’s edition is 20 pages, provided free to all 3,000 homes and 7,000 residents. A much larger community nearby publishes a daily newspaper, free to all its residents. Imagine what the newspaper would look like if published by a community of activists...

Imaging a community of 7,000 activists, with clubs beyond bingo and checkers, things like a recycle club, a political action club, OWS club, anti-corporate welfare club, international affairs club, homeless club, animal rights club...

And for DreamsAmelia, who wrote "Organized religion kind of depresses me, but I take solace there from time to time out of sheer desperation for something "deeper.". Imagine a community with a multi-denominational spiritual center, where each week a service is conducted by a different minister, priest, nun, rabbi, monk, or imam? Or divinity school grads like Chris Hedges and Cornel West? Or disciples of Carl Jung, Freud and others? Or a Native American shaman or healer? This spiritual center could conduct marriages of all kinds, even the "weekends-only marriage with the next door neighbor" that Anne mentioned.

As for financing this community, we design and build our own efficient homes, in the manner of the Amish barn raising, or Habitat for Humanity. No McMansions!

Our organic farm gets USDA farm subsidies, just like US Rep. Kristi Noem’s family farm...

And our multi-denominational spiritual center is a religion under the IRS tax code...

Of course, our school is a tax-exempt charity, like our hospital, daycare, nursing home, and hospice...

a work in progress...

Neil said...

@Jay - Ottawa

Thanks Jay for your comments. I found ‘The Good Life’ in a college bookstore in the mid-1990s, but only recently learned about the early life of Scott Nearing. Here is a link to The Good Life Center at Forest Farm http://www.goodlife.org/ located at the last home of Helen and Scott Nearing in Harborside, Maine, a sort of Nearing museum.

In 1917 Nearing wrote ‘The Great Madness’ that blamed US involvement in WWI on J.P. Morgan bank and other corporate interests. Sound familiar? Here are some links

Information Clearing House, News You Won’t Find on CNN http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article5153.htm

Scott Nearing's 1917 review of the ominous events from 1914 to 1917 that enabled the private interests of large corporations ("plutocracy") to propel the U.S. into World War I for their material profit, thereby permanently degrading and perverting U.S. democracy for the 20th century.

The Good Life Center Book Shop

"From this basis Scott Nearing begins his scathing analysis of how the business class, represented by J.P. Morgan and company, gained control of the inner workings of the United States government and were thus able to meld nationalist patriotism into a military preparedness which finally leads to an open declaration of war.

Scott Nearing biographical sketch prepared by Ryan Eroh

Neil said...

Intentional Community, suggestions for better living

1. Each homestead is encouraged to plant a victory garden, sufficient to feed the homeowners, and allow a portion for charity. This garden is in addition to the community organic farm. Homeowners are encouraged to experiment and propagate new strains of food plants and fruit trees, and conserve seeds for the community seed bank. Link to seedbank on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seedbank

2. Each homestead is encouraged to maintain a small flock of chickens, sufficient to provide meat and eggs to the homeowners, and allow a portion for charity. Link to McMurray Hatchery

3. Each homestead is encouraged to maintain a goat (or similar animal), to provide milk, companionship, fertilizer, and lawn mowing services.

4. Gasoline-powered lawnmowers, weed-whackers, and leaf-blowers are prohibited.

DreamsAmelia said...

Whew--what great follow up comments I had missed till now...
Jay, your idea of transition periods as being great for communes rings so true. And every organic farmer I met in this country all said they were there for that inevitable time, even if it didn't occur in their lifetimes.

Amen, amen, world without end, to a place, any place, without "Gasoline-powered lawnmowers, weed-whackers, and leaf-blowers."
Just that simple resolution alone would improve life here--I say we all need to get out and rake our own leaves, meet our own neighbors, and stop using underpaid day laborers with this heinous equipment.

Yes, Norwegian/Scandinavian countries were the model that first leapt to mind when I read this wonderful piece....thanks for all the follow up comments, Neil...

Neil said...

@ Ormond Otvos

Thanks for the point to Atchison Village, Richmond, CA, it has a page on Wikipedia too.

Atchison Village was constructed by the government to house WWII defense workers and their families. Now it is a co-op where the share certificates cannot be liened. This differs from Oak Run where the homes are in fee simple title subject to the development rules. Otherwise many aspects are similar, such as the reserves to maintain shared infrastructure, entrance gates, recreation, etc. Wikipedia reports "It's a great chance to "age in place." Handicap ramps are allowed, and a majority of units are single story. The auditorium and public restroom is handicap accessible." That, of course, is the sole purpose of the Oak Run community, for 55+ retirement.

The crime rate in Atchison Village is low, and Wikipedia reports "there is a very active citizenry, some of whom have lived in the village for over fifty years and an excellent Crime Watch and citizen patrol in the evenings." We have the same kind of citizen patrol in Oak Run.

Atchison Village is governed by an eleven member board of directors, elected at large from the membership, reports Wikipedia. In Oak Run we have a HOA board elected from the residents, plus involvement of the developer, which is disapproved by many and currently being litigated.

So places like Atchison Village and Oak Run are intentional communities that serve their residents better than the larger community. In my view these places can serve as a template for a modern 2011 rendition of the intentional community. What I have in mind is a political model, in contrast to converted defense worker housing, or 55+ senior living. At least with these working templates one does not have to reinvent the wheel.

I envision numerous political communities throughout the country. As Jay - Ottawa noted, "Communes are subversive. They resist. Their existence is living criticism directed at the dominant society." And to that I add, what better way to carry on OWS?

Again, from Jay - Ottawa: "OWS is about resistance. The mini-communes OWS sets up in parks are subversive. That’s why the authorities must tear them down. And that’s why they must be raised again and again in the cities and in the mountains by people firm in their rejection of excess and just plain interested in mere survival."

Perhaps the next step is a website to formulate this concept future. Any suggestions for a domain name?

Neil said...


Thanks for your comments.

While watching a Rick Steves travel-Europe program the other day, I was reminded that all those old monasteries and castles are actually intentional communities. One that I visited many years ago, Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France, is described by Wikipedia as "a rocky tidal island and a commune" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_Saint-Michel That lead to another Wikipedia page, Communes of France http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communes_of_France

In "How the Irish saved Western Civilization" author Thomas Cahill described how Irish monks and scribes maintain the record of Western civilization by copying manuscripts of Greek and Latin writers, both pagan and Christian, while libraries and learning on the European continent was being overrun by barbarians. http://www.randomhouse.com/features/cahill/irish.html

Seems to me that in this time of economic collapse and intellectual dishonesty, there is a place for intentional communities in America, to serve a role similar to the monasteries and castles of Europe, to save civilization from Corporatism, which is the new fascism promoted by much of the left and the right, including Pres. Obama. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism

kellie kerri said...

I also believe that coops makes a lot of sense here. I also love how Anne has said that you could have many different types of coops like radio stations, stores, etc. Interesting stuff.

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