This article is a response to a member of the arts and labor group of Occupy Wall Street, Nicole Demby’s excellent article titled, “The Fight Against Capitalism” printed in AdBusters, February 15, 2012.
Throughout recorded history, and even before that, people lived in communities/tribes and had as many things in common as they could, because tribal living simply made life easier for everyone involved. It was a protection against more hostile enemy tribes as well as the 1% of their day (and there has always been a 1%, since the establishment of using some sort of capital as a means of acquiring goods and services).
The 1% have always come against communal living and people having as many things in common as they could, because people become less of consumers and do not have to interact as much with the ruling or corporate entities, past or present.
Throughout history, the establishment or bourgeoisie, as well as the controlling 1%, have always persecuted people who tried to live outside the system. They have even sent armies to destroy these villages and committed terrible atrocities towards anyone who tried to live an alternative lifestyle to what the 1% dictated. The English did this with the Scottish and Irish as well as many other peoples they colonized in other lands. Now, in the United States of America, the 1% misrepresent the alternative leaders and use the “C” word (cult) to label people who walk out of the system to form intentional communities.
Because these alternative leaders, for hundreds of years, have been persecuted, misrepresented, and even murdered, many communities began to adopt consensus rule so that these leaders would not have to meet the fate that alternative leaders would meet by leading new societies away from the system. Consensus may work in the beginning of a movement, but it would never work for long when you have over a certain amount of people trying to live and survive together, which involves the growing of one’s own food, housing, transportation, communications, and—in today’s society—Internet and technology.
The more people who join the intentional community (and more people are needed whenever food is grown because farming takes a lot of work and labor, as does the processing of this food and the distribution of it to the people), the more complex the challenges in maintaining that community. Families have children and the children need raised, and many decisions have to be made in the raising of children and their schooling. This takes leadership, because consensus can never solve the problems that develop as a community begins to grow past a dozen or so people. Decisions have to be made quickly, and consensus cannot come to conclusions quick enough.
Through the natural process of civilization growing, leaders have always risen to places of responsibility simply because they are needed, because final decisions have to be made in a sometimes immediate timetable. The communities who had strong leaders throughout history have survived the longest and became more powerful villages, and these villages and their leaders have developed into what was known as chiefs and elders, and eventually mayors, when people got more away from communal living and lived in individual housing. In every civilization that prospered there has been some form of eldership.
The kibbutzes served their revolution and the establishment of a new country, Israel, in two ways in the late 1940s. They provided necessary housing where people can live less expensively and provided a communal atmosphere to share things in common. The biggest thing that they provided was a sense of unity and purpose. In this country, the Mormons (under tremendous persecution) as well as the Bruderhof communities survived and prospered because they had all things in common and lived outside the mainstream.
In a more profound sense, all of these groups created a divine new order. “Divine” because they were living the principles that many legitimate spiritual leaders have taught, including Jesus in the first century. The first disciples of Jesus had all things in common and ate together. This is divine. It has nothing to do with being religious. It does have to do with being spiritual and really loving your neighbor as yourself and sharing what you have. In the present old order, the 1% control pretty much everything, and people have to buy it or they will not get it.
In many third-world (developing) countries, where many people could not survive under the dictatorships and abusive governments, they had to leave the system and form alternative communities to survive. This was done in Chiapas, Mexico, in Nicaragua, in Guatemala, in San Salvador, and it is done now in many African and satellite countries of the once-Soviet empire. This is what U.S. citizens have to do in the Occupy movement, and what Egyptians have to do, and what Syrians have to do, and Yemenis have to do, and what Greeks have to do.
The system that serves the 1% itself is falling down, and only the rich will survive. And those who were once-middle class who still have money in the banks will survive for a while, until their money runs out. Only by the 99% leaving the system and forming subcultures will the 1% really be affected, because they have the might, the military, and can buy the power. The system is too corrupt to change it from within.
Alternative communities today need to become free and self-sustaining from the system. But getting off the grid is not an easy thing to do, for the 1% want people to stay on the grid. That is why solar power and other forms of alternative energy are so expensive. That is why alternative building materials are almost nonexistent, because the system wants to keep you in square boxes and build with all the corporate-controlled materials—wood, steel, plaster, and so on—to keep the people subjugated to the system.
Architects find out that it is very hard to build their dreams of beauty and sustainability in this system. They can draw the plans and have the vision, but the reality of building it is prevented by the control of the 1% in the building trades and codes. Well-known architect Paolo Solari with his Arcosanti in Cordes Junction, Arizona has taken many decades to build by donations and with the help of other architects and students who believed in the vision and worked for nothing. But still Arcosanti is a long way from being complete.
Much work still needs to be done in Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage, in Tumacácori, Arizona in Santa Cruz County—with 100+ men, women, and children from around the world—that had to move from Yavapai County because of the county restrictions and encroaching gated, expensive developments hostile to agrarian, alternative living. Many counties in the United States have codes that are anathema to true community and green building. So counties must be found with more expansive building codes and progressive thinking. Some intentional communities have even had to leave the United States for other countries to totally realize the vision of self-sufficiency and green building.
With the high cost of gasoline today, community carpooling is not only the wisest way to go but will soon be the only way to go, for few people can afford the rising cost of gasoline. And so these communities can buy passenger vans and transport twenty people to one place instead of two to four people in a car. Most Americans drive with only one in a car. On some of our highways there is a separate lane to the far left for those cars to use that have two or more people riding in them. Usually traveling in that lane is much faster because it is much less crowded. Perhaps we should make this lane available for cars with three or four people. That would be even more sustainably sane and economically wiser and would force people to be even more economically- and environmentally-minded when driving.
In the intentional community at Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage, vehicles are not individually stewarded, and people share the same cars, rather than just one person having a car. Vehicles are available when the need to use one comes up. The community itself pays for upkeep of the vehicles and supplies the fuel. The ideal would be to use electric cars, when they are perfected for long distance driving in rural areas.
Also in the community, all income goes to the community, which in turn supplies all personal needs—clothing and so on—even dental care (which most insurance policies and the government do not supply to the people). Housing is owned by the community, and all houses are built within the community property. The children are privately schooled, and many of the teachers have many years of teaching experience as certified instructors. The idea is that people can walk to each other’s homes and to make the environment as sacred as possible, at one with the earth.
There are many different modes of operandi within different intentional communities, but basically the general principles are similar: people sharing and having more things in common than the average U.S. citizen. What are called “communities” in some U.S. cities, particularly modern condominium timeshares, are not the intentional communities I have been referring to. People do not share in these communities. They may share a common swimming pool, clubhouse, and Laundromat, but that is about it. They own their own condos and have to buy their own food and pay for their water, just like everyone else does in the established American system. No money, then no food, no electricity, no water.
If you are not a vegetarian or vegan, the raising of animals is a must for any alternative community, and so enough land has to be acquired to raise animals—cows for eating and milking, goats for milking and eating, chickens for eating and their eggs, and so on. At Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage we also are starting fish hatcheries.
It takes a lot to feed 100 or more people, and any intentional community with this number of people must be near a good water source and have their own wells with good aquifers. And so investigation must be done before any land is bought, to be sure that there is an adequate water source and that the water is good.
Running a community of 50–100 people or more takes a lot of administration. People need to be appointed to lead in different areas of functions. Consensus will not work when you need to supply the food and material needs for this many people. Strong and wise leadership is the only thing that has worked in the history of communities throughout the planet. A good leader will seek the counsel of others and draw his or her conclusions from the consensus or majority of their opinions.
Because of industrialization, the majority of humankind moved from rural areas to living in densely-populated, urban areas, thus people got away from the land and sharing common things. They now buy what they need in mega-stores that are corporate-owned chains like Wal-Mart that supply most of what people need, even food. But what you cannot get in these corporate giants is a true sense of neighborhood because the small, independently-owned local neighborhood businesses hardly exist anymore. Many Americans have forgotten what a true neighborhood is.
In hospitals, too many unnecessary C-sections for convenience have taken the place of natural, vaginal births and a knowledgeable midwife. Powdered milk and other formulas have taken the place of less expensive and healthier breastfeeding.
So getting back to the land has to happen first in the consciousness, not just in the physical aspect of it. In a true neighborhood, you know your neighbors. You know them by their first names. You may not see them every day, but you may see them once or twice a week, whereas in suburban America you may not see those who live in close proximity for months or even years. Some people have lived beside someone for years and have never known their first names.
True neighbors care about each other. They make sacrifices for each other. They play together. They share with each other. They pass down their clothes to the children of other families. They eat together, maybe not every night, but in communities single people definitely like to have that camaraderie of eating together. In alternative communities the elderly are taken care of, not put in old-age homes and separated from the rest of society. The sick are cared for by the healthy in communities and not left alone and lonely. The sick know that they are cared for. When you are sick in American suburbs, you are pretty much on your own except for your immediate family, who often are too busy themselves to give you the kind of care you need (or they might not even live in the same house, neighborhood, city, or state).
Young married couples have a better chance of making it in their marriage in intentional communities, because their expenses are down to almost nothing. And they have the concern of and help in child-raising and marriage counseling by their elders that people who live in suburban or urban America do not have.
True intentional communities in America today have the best chance of breaking the yoke of capitalism. Although certain things still need to be bought in the system, the more people who join the community with right motives and purpose, the less money needed because the people bring with them their talents to contribute for the common good. And the more people who work together for a common purpose, the more that can be created for the community as a whole and the less the need to purchase anything outside of the community, therefore eventually ending capitalism (as it is today) within that society.
The consultants of Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage are available for your consultation in agriculture (the process of growing and supplying food), sustainability and permaculture (learning how to live off the grid and more economically), green building (by our staff of Earth Harmony Builders), and administrative advice (how to organize and run intentional communities based upon leadership and the tribal understanding of eldership). E-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (520) 603-9932.