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View Diary: Slouching Our Way to Antitopia -- Musings on New Buffalo Commune and the Counterculture (116 comments)

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  •  communes don't work because of simple human (10+ / 0-)

    Nature. It is that simple. Humans by nature are lazy and selfish, societies where everyone shares don't work in larger settings. Small tribes it can work for but not on a large scale. The entire scope of human history has been about making things easier not harder so going backwards is never appealing. The reason that the love and peace ideals failed is because they clash with reality. When you love and trust everyone you're bound to get abused in some form or other.

    •  Eh, what now? You contradict yourself (35+ / 0-)

      You claim tribes can cooperate, but not larger social units. A commune is not larger society, it is essentially a "tribe." So, can "tribes" cooperate" or not?

      You claim history has been about making things easier. I beg to differ. Individuals in hunter gatherer societies work 4-6 hours a day at most. History has been about making things safer, more consistent, and more secure, not easier.

      You also seem to believe that humanity has one, clear cut, written in stone "nature" and this nature can't be changed. Again, I beg to differ. If human nature were completely as you describe it, we never could have gotten to where we are today.

      I've seen an interesting theory that states we have two basic natures, or social archetypes: the society of feast, and the society of famine. Feast society is cooperative and egalitarian. Famine society is competitive and hierarchical. For most of our species time on this planet, we have operated in feast mode.

      However, we developed agriculture, a surplus of resources, and organization. Then, as it always does, climate change hit us. It was called the 5.9 kilo-year event Only this time, we didn't simply move on. We could, and did, engage in mass warfare, for the first time.

      Before this time, no mass graves. No fortified cities. No swords or weapons meant only to kill humans. After, we had all that. Why? A whole generation of PTSD parents raising a whole generation of children brain-damaged by famine. That locked famine mode into our collective psyche.

      The result is the world as we know it today, full of people who say we only have one true human nature.

      I can also tell you, from having studied more than just this one example, from having been born on a commune, and from living communally at various points in my life, what makes communes succeed or fail.

      Rules make communes work. Written down and enforced, they help ensure longevity. Breaking the rules MUST lead to meaningful consequences for the rule breakers, up to and including expulsion for serious offenses. Without rules, the leaches win. With them, the commune has a fighting chance. Sounds like this particular commune eschewed written rules, much to their detriment.

      •  I'd give you 1000 rec's if I could (9+ / 0-)
        Rules make communes work. Written down and enforced, they help ensure longevity. Breaking the rules MUST lead to meaningful consequences for the rule breakers, up to and including expulsion for serious offenses.
        Until all humans being have embodied and fully settled into their inherent wisdom this is the way the game works. It also works in an oral tradition culture because the Elders don't take any guff from upstarts. Period.

        "Political ends as sad remains will die." - YES 'And You and I' ; -8.88, -9.54

        by US Blues on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 06:47:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  ^^^ This exactly (8+ / 0-)
        Rules make communes work. Written down and enforced, they help ensure longevity. Breaking the rules MUST lead to meaningful consequences for the rule breakers, up to and including expulsion for serious offenses. Without rules, the leaches win. With them, the commune has a fighting chance. Sounds like this particular commune eschewed written rules, much to their detriment.
        All of the communal efforts i knew were run like a lifestyle instead of as a business. You don't make enough money to survive if all actions runs counter to that goal.

        I am still idealistic to believe that successful communal farms are very possible, with a more realistic attitude concerning living conditions and a much more serious business plan.

        And lots of strong backs and biceps.

        •  Ecovillages seem to be more popular these days. (19+ / 0-)

          Individuals control their own homes and garden plots.  People don't have to live in each others' laps like in the hippie commune days, but they live close enough together to conveniently interact whenever the spirit moves or whenever it's advantageous to do so (harvest, etc.).  A lot of rules are necessary, and endless meetings are common.  It's not for everybody.  Dancing Rabbit in Iowa has been an outstanding example of this format.

          One problem with the hippie communes was the diversity of backgrounds and expectations that the members brought in.  In a truly tribal culture, all the members grow up together and share a very similar worldview.  Members of a tribe are locked into a web of mutual obligations, which would probably seem extremely confining to most individualistic Americans.

          •  Interesting what you say about "diversity". (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            eataTREE, cynndara, soarbird

            And a little disconcerting, too.  Could that be used to undercut the by-now-traditional liberal devotion to "diversity" and "multiculturalism"?   Would we need to organize ourselves into a multitude of tiny, but distinct "tribes" in order to make this work?

            The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

            by Panurge on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 09:45:18 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  We need to provide a human sized (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              soarbird, Larsstephens

              structure for stability.  It used to be a town or city. Now it is no longer dependent on physical proximity. I suspect the smartphone is the first Gutenberg moment because it makes secrets impossible and  horizontal and visually based communications dominate the printed word.

              Hippies were the 60s version of the 1920s, when communication became mass and there was an American cultural renaissance.
              Now we take the next step.  Diversity and multiculturalism are being integrated into normal social culture at a rapid rate. Once we lose the far right Xtians, we can re-join the rest of the world. Can't be the leader anymore, but we can have a seat at the table.  At the kid's table.

              This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom.” ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

              by nolagrl on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 08:59:31 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Nothing wrong with diversity. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Just another factor to add into the equation.

          •  The downsides to Ecovillages (7+ / 0-)

            is that it takes alot of $$$ to buy in- and there are rules similar to the restrictions of neighborhood associations.

            The current back-to-the-landers are much more versed in ag science than we were in the 60's.
            With assistance from MOFGA and NOFA, and similar organic farming co-operatives across the country, there is a proven path.
            And with on-line opportunities such as Local Harvest for sale of goods, it is a brand new universe out there for the determined farmer.

            •  My comment to flowerfarmer (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              disappeared!  Damn technology.  Will try to get back to it but it's already midnight.

              •  Weird! (0+ / 0-)

                Trolls in the machine.

                •  I will not let mere trolls defeat me! (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  So here goes, straight from the memory bank:

                  I would be the guy who lives on 5 acres near the ecovillage.  I would visit my friends in the ecovillage and participate in festivals and other events.  But I would control my own piece of land.  Fewer rules that way.

                  Back then we had lots of good info:  publications like Organic Gardening and Farming, Mother Earth News, Whole Earth Catalog.  And books like Malabar Farm.  Of course the movement is much more mature now and many more info-sharing opportunities exist... both live action and internet.

                  ... or something like that.  Take THAT, trolls!

                  •  I started subscribing to (0+ / 0-)

                    Mother Earth News in the early 70's and most of the others as well.
                    I like your idea of proximity but separate from the politics.

                    I have tried to put together a shared living-on-the-land group- separate living quarters- yurts/cabins/teepees/whatever, with a shared commitment to farming the land.
                    My focus is perennial fruit, which brings a higher income than most veggies.

                    Right now, i am just looking for a small piece of land on the south side of a mountain. I am sure it will be just for me and a few rescue dogs. That's ok too.

                    Wish i had kept all of my copies of Whole Earth Catalog- they are worth some good $$$ on ebay.

                    •  This thread just goes on forever. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      Where are you planning to locate?

                      I was very much into the concept of perennial fruit/nut production -- trees, shrubs, vines -- in the early-mid 90s,  Invested thousands in nursery stock, lots of exotic stuff.  My expectation was, that since this is a riparian zone, the plants would be sub-irrigated once their roots hit groundwater.  This proved true to a certain extent, but my main problems have been late frosts in my frost pocket, plus all kinds of wildlife taking full advantage of the cafeteria I created for them.  Javelinas eating pecans yesterday.  Not surprisingly, apples have been the standout.  Also grapes if I build cages (very expensive) to keep out birds and raccoons.

                      Ah WEC -- the biggest jolt my young intellect had ever gotten up to that point...

                      •  Ah, yes , javelinas (0+ / 0-)

                        I lived on an old dude ranch property in the Tucson mountains and had to contend with these smelly beasts.

                        Good fencing and my dog alerting their arrival solved the problem, mostly, but they would break thru occasionally and eat all of my strawberries- there was always a rattlesnake in there but he didn't offer much protection to my crop.

                        I had a property in southern NH- planted an orchard of antique apples and pears.
                        Golden Russet, Baldwin, Roxbury Russet, Ashmead's Kernal- love the winter apples.
                        Pears- Summercrisp, Seckel- did extremely well.
                        The plums were a failure and the deer/bear ate the peaches on the small trees the day before i was set to harvest.

                        The goldmine, for me, was berries- raspberries and blackberries. The best tasting varieties are too fragile to ship and they garner top dollar at the farmer's market.

                        I haven't owned land for 6 years and i yearn for my next plot of dirt.
                        I love the climate and the beauty of these foothills south of the White Mountains in NH and best of all, there are no javelinas. Just bear, deer and porcupines.

                        Apricots and other stone fruits seem to do really well in the desert- the best peaches i ever tasted were from a small pick-your-own nursery north of Tucson in Catalina.

                        Bill Mollison and his permaculture solutions are never far from my thoughts when looking fat a piece of land.

                        •  Forgot to mention.. (0+ / 0-)

                          One of the best ways to keep hooved beasts out of the garden is to lay 4' chicken wire fencing flat on the ground around your plot.

                          Ungulates freak out and won't step on it- don't know if this would work for the javelinas, tho, but it is worth a try.

                          It worked in my orchard but never tried it in the desert.

                          •  Thanks for the tip. (0+ / 0-)

                            The javelinas aren't doing much damage, just eating fallen pecans, but I might have to take measures if they start rooting around and screwing up my drip lines.

                            How about that, I lived in Tucson for 5 months in 71-72.  My last astronomy job, in fact my last job.  Convinced me that I was a homesteader for life.  Sealed my commitment for the tough times to come.  I love Tucson's winter climate but the city is much too big for my taste.

                            Have you heard of North American Fruit Explorers?  THE group for antique and oddball fruits.  I started out with a bunch of antique apples in addition to more standard varieties, and have gradually culled out the ones that, not surprisingly, don't like such a hot climate.  My best variety turned out to be Red Winesap from Stark Bros -- reliable bearer, high quality fruit, healthy tree.

                            Stone fruits are a loss here.  If the late frosts don't get them, the birds quickly destroy the fruit right before they get ripe.  It's amazing that I can grow apples in such a wildlife wonderland as this.

                            I love NM but I suspect we are in for a mega-drought like the one in the 1300s (as I recall) that destroyed the Chaco culture.  I find the Taos scene inspiring but they have a fragile source of water.  NH might be a good bet.  I just read that all the melting ice will dump so much fresh water into the Atlantic that the Gulf Stream might be greatly reduced, thus creating, at least for a while, a relatively cool and moist climate in the Northeast.

                            You've got the "lifestyle" in your blood.  My best wishes to you in your quest for the ultimate piece of land.  It's out there somewhere.

          •  hat tip on your Dancing Rabbit example... (3+ / 0-)

            ...and hat tip to Dancing Rabbit folk...


      •  "Rules" might also be called "structure". (11+ / 0-)

        An organizing principle.  The religious communes come to mind as successful within an organizing principle.  The communes held together with shared ideology also worked  and those with a charismatic leader,  such as Stephen Gaskins.

        Others evolved in their own ways.  The point is,  I don't think the whole communal "back-to-the-land" "movement can be described or written off based on anecodotal evidence from one example.  A lot of folks tried a lot of different things along the way,  and some of us are in one way or the other still "on the land".

        And what is "success" anyway, in this context?  Simple longevity?  Or is it enough that those who participated in those social experiments learned things far beyond common experience and have, some of us enrichened our lives and our communities with this knowledge.

        don't always believe what you think

        by claude on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 07:39:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The only success that matters (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          is our ability to save the biosphere.  If we lose our only life support system, all of our local successes matter not one whit.

          •  Important, yes, but not the only success. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            If the human populations 'crash' due to
            any number of different extinction level
            environmental catastrophes, it will also
            hopefully leave some survivors. That
            such efforts as you denote may become
            the sole depositories of human culture,
            not to mention DNA, might be considered
            a success that fundamentally matters.
            At least to their future progeny.

            Yes, there are geological and
            anthropological records of such.

            I know there are still many examples
            of co operative communities existent,
            but their long term history of failures
            must represent some deeper traits
            in our collective humanity that are not
            so easily parsed by shallow readings
            of fairly recent cultural phenomena.

            I do think you hit on one. A common
            cause for decline of various utopian
            experiments is the leaving or passing
            of its primary founders. This suggests
            that some sort of order or hierarchy is
            necessary for communities of any sort.

            It may also explain why the successful
            'separate societies' of any meaningful
            longevity all appear to be faith or religion
            based. Even they, ironically, are not immune
            to the forces that cause mass extinctions.

            Thanks for all of your efforts.

            •  Good points. (0+ / 0-)

              I appreciate the "lifeboat" function of cooperative communities.

              Given that a runaway greenhouse effect seems inevitable at this point, I would include complete human extinction as a possible option.  In which case it would seem obvious that our large-brain mutation didn't work out too well for us or the planet.  But time will tell, and it shouldn't take too long for the trajectory to become clear.

              In the meantime, I enjoy communicating like this.  There's an infinite amount to talk about.  Utilize that large-brain mutation in a creative way.

      •  Rules had a bad rep back then. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Creosote, cynndara, llywrch, RWood, soarbird

        Some people even had a problem with new, better rules.  But in the wake of all that, people just went back to the old rules or played at throwing them all out (while actually going back to the old rules themselves).  Maybe what we need is a better way of coming up with rules.

        The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

        by Panurge on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 10:08:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  One thing about "easier". (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        raines, cynndara, soarbird

        Maybe not all of history has been about that, but it does seem that at least all of living memory has, in fact, been about "easier".  After all, the point being made here is that going back to the land is too hard for most folks, who could have easier lives if they wanted them.  So it's been about "easier" long enough to make the difference today.  Just sayin'.

        The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

        by Panurge on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 11:10:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The longest living communes are extended families (5+ / 0-)

        American Indian tribes made this lifestyle work, mainly because the groups they lived in were extended families. People grew up recognizing their responsibilities to their relatives. And they were also more tolerant of individuals' quirks because they were family. Capitalism and our cult of the individualist removes these ties and responsibilities (Ayn Rand's philosophy is a logical outcome). It also leaves us more vulnerable to other forces acting in the culture.

        •  BINGO! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          soarbird, Larsstephens

          And remember that pre-WWII, people mostly lived in multi-generational situations, on farms, in homes, towns and city tenements. It was the national norm.  It actually is the 'traditional' life RWNJs long for.
          Post WWII the suburbs sprang up - isolating us in military style barracks in cloned enclaves.  Hippies and communes were one reaction to the stifling conformity of the continued application of a military organizing principle by their parents.

          Lacking the undiluted experience of military bureaucracy and too young to have the nuclear threat ingrained in them, Yuppies re-embraced it as they became parents, and attempted to maintain a hierarchical social structure without a common experience of military rules and protocols .

          Instead, they fixated on religion and controlling sex as their organizing principle.

          Their children don't see physical appearance or traits as the primary determinant of compatibility. They communicate through avatars and self selected imagery.

          Meds kicking in. G'Night

          This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom.” ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

          by nolagrl on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 09:21:06 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  See comment near the very bottom (0+ / 0-)

          by cacamp.  Says much the same thing.  I totally agree with you BTW.

      •  ok let me be more specific (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        soarbird, Larsstephens

        4-6 hours a day farming, hunting or gathering is in most people's mind harder than working in an office for 8 hours a day and stopping at the store and buying exactly what you want to eat,when  you want it.

        When I mentioned  small groups I meant tribal or family units. Also to say there were no wars or bad things in hunter gatherer societies is disingenuous. Native American tribes had wars for instance. They were smaller scale because of smaller population density but to state that all was harmonious and peaceful is to be blind.

        Any time you get two groups of people competing for resources more than likely violence will occur talk to anthropologists or archaeologists. Humans have killed each other from the beginning of time. This is why large scale communes fail and the ideals of the 60s failed. If humans were going to evolve beyond violence we would have by now.

        •  A realistic assessment. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          We are the descendants of the apes with the brain mutation (larger brains) that gave them the competitive advantage to kill off the apes with smaller brains.  (Gorillas and chimpanzees have such small brains, they have never been a threat to us.)

          Like they say, civilization is only skin deep.  Scratch beneath the surface, and, well... we already know what's beneath the surface.

        •  Better, but still... (0+ / 0-)

          Hunter gatherers are not farmers. Farming IS hard! Sure, some people "farm" for fun, but a LOT more people like to hunt and hike than farm. And much of the reason working in, say, an office or even a factory is more "fun" is the security it provides.

          I was talking about "feast" based cultures who happen to be hunter gatherers, not all hunter gatherer societies. The 5.9ky Event messed up all societies near it, and the ripples of warlike behavior spread from there. That fact is kind of the key to the theory, as it is the most testable (and tested) part.

          And even prior to the event, there had been other events like it that turned cultures briefly famine based. But war was different, and Native Americans provide a decent example. Counting coup, for instance. All you had to do to "win" was whack a guy from the other tribe with a stick. He probably didn't die, just got crippled, while you got the girls. More of an extreme sport than war.

          The point of this "Saharasia" theory, and it is just a theory, is that, through most of our history, we lived with both local abundance and scarcity, neither pure abundance nor pure scarcity. In this sort of environment, cooperation works better than competition, and social creatures evolved to take advantage of this fact. How else do you explain the evolution of social cooperators?

          •  Yes people cooperate (0+ / 0-)

            within the respected bounds of my tribe survives, that tribe over there we kill if they try to take our supplies.

            We can go round and round through all the various ideas of cooperative societies but simple facts, the more people there are, the less resources there are and the more likely they are to kill for it.

            The only reason we aren't currently killing each other in large numbers is infrastructure so the masses are sated because they can eat, sleep and have a home.

            Take any number of people and put them in a small area with limited resources, see how long they will stay civilized.

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