Skip to main content

For quite some time I've been asking myself the question, "Why did the bright promise of the 60s turn out so terribly wrong?" Why was the back-to-the-land movement such a failure?  As one of the few back-to-the-landers who stayed on the land, I’ve read several books on the subject to satisfy my curiosity. A couple of my favorites are Arthur Kopecky's New Buffalo: Journal of a Taos Commune, and its sequel, Leaving New Buffalo Commune, in which he ends up getting kicked out of the commune by an insurgent faction within the community. It’s a sad tale, or it makes me sad at any rate.  So much idealism, so much bright promise, so easily swept aside by the culture of exploitation that has been destroying the biosphere since long before we were born.  We thought we had a better way.  Some of us actually thought we could change things, or at least create a “counterculture,” a little nugget of sanity separate from the mainstream.  Some of us invested our lives into this project.  We really, really tried.  It’s hard to imagine, from today’s complacent perspective, how hard some people worked to create a genuine alternative to the madness.  But it was like trying to stop a bulldozer with a b-b.  We were unable to conjure up a new culture when as children we had been programmed to do the exact opposite.

The sustainability "movement" has remained at entry level for the past 40+ years, while the condition of the planet has deteriorated at an ever-increasing rate. The whole "living in harmony with the Earth," back-to-the-land movement of the 60s and 70s never really caught on, not in a meaningful way. There are several reasons for this:

* Too much hard work. Post-World War 2 white people traditionally shunned physical labor, except in a symbolic sense, such as mowing the lawn or working out at the gym.  In this regard, back-to-the-land seemed like a step backward to many people.

* Not enough money. Most people prefer having a "real job" with a regular paycheck with benefits.  Such jobs used to be so plentiful that grubbing in the dirt seemed ridiculous in comparison.

* Too much isolation. The countryside might be beautiful, but you're surrounded by teabaggin' rednecks, and there's not enough entertainment and “culture.”  

* Lack of social support. Working for an organization, you're part of the hive. The hive gives your life meaning and purpose, sort of.  You have your place, you know your role, and you get paid for it.  Isolated on the land, people tended to feel cast adrift as soon as the drugs wore off.

There were no doubt other factors at work, but those four cover a lot of ground.  I'd say that most people who went back to the land lasted anywhere between 2 months and 2 years, with 6 months being typical.  Life on the land simply proved too difficult for most of the people who tried it.  There were too many hassles, and not enough rewards.

Additionally, the peace-and-love crowd drew predators and parasites, who found the peace-and-lovies easy pickings.  There were some remarkably low-tone “hippies” prowling around back then.  Parasites were more interested in “something for nothing” and were fairly harmless, but predators could really do some damage.  That’s what ultimately happened to New Buffalo.

New Buffalo commune, located near Taos, New Mexico, started in 1967, when a rich kid bought some land free and clear, bought thousands of adobe bricks to build a compound they called the “Pueblo,” and bought basic farming equipment such as a tractor.  Then he -- as they used to say -- split.  By the time Kopecky showed up in 1971, the commune had undergone a complete turnover in membership, the taxes weren't being paid, the tractor had been sold.  The commune was -- as they used to say -- totally untogether.  Kopecky and a few of his friends stuck around, and over a period of several years gradually bootstrapped the commune to a state of serious productivity.  The flame of idealism burned bright and hard for them, despite the setbacks and occasional drug-induced mayhem.  As time went on they built irrigation ditches so they could irrigate their gardens, pastures, and fields of wheat and alfalfa.  They bought goats and cows and started selling milk in Taos.  They bought a tractor, other farm equipment, and a refrigerated truck to deliver their milk. They paid off their back taxes.  They built greenhouses and solar collectors to help heat their pueblo during the harsh, high-altitude winters of northern New Mexico.  

They were young, strong, and worked amazingly hard, but they never had enough money.  What money they brought in was used to buy food, equipment and other necessities, and repairing their vehicles which were always breaking down.  Gradually, they managed to accumulate dairy equipment and a small herd of dairy cattle.  They developed a loyal clientele for their milk in Taos.  In addition, they started producing serious quantities of vegetables, wheat, and hay.  They wanted to start a new culture, living on the land, living in harmony with the Earth and each other.  Kopecky obviously provided a lot of the focus and idealism that made all this possible.

One fact that stands out about New Buffalo is how hard they worked. They were working fools (at least, the ones who worked). They never had a consistent membership, except for Kopecky (from 1971-79) and a handful of others. His books are in journal form, written day-to-day, not overviews written after the fact. Kopecky, like all of us, didn't really know what was happening at the time. (I like to say, "You never know what's happening till afterwards." Which is to say, you need time to consolidate the data, analyze the information, and draw some conclusions. In the moment, we're all just winging it.)

New Buffalo always attracted parasites – people who came to hang out, get high, and eat free food.  But it was the predators who destroyed it.  There were only a handful of them, but that was all it took.  The predators had lived at New Buffalo in the past, and deeply resented Kopecky, whom they considered to be on a power trip.  He was everything they weren’t.  The downfall of New Buffalo is like something out of Ayn Rand – pathetic losers bringing down the brightest of lights.  The predators used their unearned power to cast out Kopecky and, in the process, destroy the commune.

The trouble with unearned power is, a newcomer or any unqualified person can move into a situation and be considered on equal footing with somebody who actually knows what’s happening.  The oldtimer has earned his power through on-the-job experience, whereas the newcomer has much less to offer at the beginning.  Yet, in hippiedom they were considered equal.  The hippies had a free-and-easy attitude about power.  They were trying to create a non-hierarchical paradigm in which power is shared, not imposed from the top of the hierarchy.  Unfortunately this proved to be a perfect setup for predators, who could move right in and seize as much power as they were capable of, very quickly.  With hierarchical power, it would be more difficult for a newcomer to do this.

As it turned out, Kopecky didn’t have any power beyond the force of his personality, coupled with his vision and his vast amount of experience.  It wasn’t “his” commune, after all.  Ultimately, the predators made life so miserable for him (such as, taking pot shots at him while he worked in the fields) that he and his girlfriend finally left, bitter and discouraged.  This was in 1979, after 8 years of gradual progress.  New Buffalo was on the verge of getting a grant to build a solar-powered, Grade A dairy barn, so that they could finally sell certified milk.  The decline of New Buffalo was inevitable after Kopecky left:  the cattle, dairy equipment, tractor, and anything not tied down were sold, the taxes were no longer paid, and ultimately what was left of New Buffalo reverted back to the rich guy who made it possible in the first place.  

                 NEW BUFFALO COMMUNE * REST IN PEACE * 1967-1985

In addition to being a focused and methodical hard worker, Kopecky was almost delusional in his idealism.  He reminds me of my own experience.  After I moved to this piece of land along the Rio Grande in 1973, after three years of homesteading in the Ozarks, I always assumed that “something” was going to happen.  (It never did.)  By the early 80s it was obvious even to me that the whole back-to-the-land thing was devolving, not evolving.  But it wasn’t until the early 90s that I finally realized that Ecotopia was never going to happen.  Quite the contrary, actually.  How about calling our brave new world Antitopia?  That’s the world we’re living in now, and we’ve seen nothing yet.  Things are already becoming very interesting, very quickly, and soon even the unaware will be forced to take notice.

Americans have always believed in “freedom,” which translates, mostly, into freedom to travel, and freedom to shop.  The hippies refined and distilled this concept into what could be called “Perfect Freedom,” or “freedom without obligations.” The thing about hippies and communards:  they were free spirits.  Free spirits come and go like the wind, as the whim of the moment moves them.  They will never be tied down, which is to say, they can never be depended on.  Thus:  Joe is a critically important member of the milking team.  Those cows have got to be milked twice a day.  The commune really needs him to milk those cows.  But Joe decides, on a whim, to leave the commune, or take a long vacation.  Bye-bye, Joe!  Too bad, milking team!  Stuff like that happened all the time at New Buffalo.  People came and, for the most part, quickly left.  It was impossible to get any continuity.

Kopecky kept asking, "Where are all the quality people who will surely be drawn to our quality scene?" He always hoped to create a superior vibe that would encourage people to stay, but he never got more than a handful or two that could really be counted on.  New Buffalo never had any trouble attracting parasites and losers. But hardworking, consistent people you could depend on? Pretty rare, and they seldom stayed for long. Looking back, the dynamics are obvious: the more intelligent and ambitious ones quickly said "This sucks!" and went back to school so they could make something of themselves.

Contrasted against the easygoing hippie ethic was the mainstream paradigm of selfishness, which still rules:  Get a good education, get a good job, and make lots of money, all for the benefit of #1.  This is far and away the path of least resistance, so it’s not surprising that this is the paradigm that dominated.  Even though this paradigm is now breaking down, the damage has been done. Americans embraced the illusion  of “no limits” rather than the reality of a finite planet. The sustainable path was not taken when it needed to be.  Critical decades were lost, never to be recovered. Now, we are like flies trapped in amber, hoping that somehow our positive words and thoughts will save us.  Virtually our every act contributes to the destruction of our planet in some way.  And as the Arctic melts, the forests disappear, and the oceans die, we already know how Antitopia is going to turn out.

Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 10:35 PM PT: UPDATE:  What a trip, this is my first diary that's lasted more than 5 minutes.  Thanks for all your comments; it's been very stimulating.  I'm brain-fried now but in a good way.  Looks like I'll have to write my diary about Christianity next.  Should be this month sometime.

Originally posted to soarbird on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 12:32 PM PST.

Also republished by New Mexico Kossaks and Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  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:
              Larsstephens

              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:
              Larsstephens

              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:
                  flowerfarmer

                  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:
                      flowerfarmer

                      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...

            Cheers.

      •  "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:
          Larsstephens

          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:
            soarbird

            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:
          Larsstephens

          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.

  •  I don't think it failed, it morphed (32+ / 0-)

    I don't think the back to the land notion failed, I think it morphed and picked up interest a somewhat different population.  While New Buffalo is a sort of local legend, and a couple of the people who worked there are still working the land in Taos, local food production is much, much greater than it ever was in the 1960's.

    If you were to come to Taos today, you would find a pretty vital culture of local agriculture.   Some are full time farmers, CSA's. but the considerable majority are gardeners, manage small animal operations, or provide services (irrigation, farm labor, equipment operators).  The primary strategy is not complete sustainability, or single income farming.  Rather, there is a large community that "also farms."   These range from real truck farms to "life style gardens" meant not to make money but to provide a higher quality, healthier food.  These people don't belong to a commune but group-buy in bulk, share resources, and show-up to help one another.

    Some examples.  A local teacher who farms alfalfa, a local merchant whose garden, orchard and  animals provide a large percentage of the family food.  If you go to the Taos Farmers Market any summer Saturday you will find any number of part-time farmers, and a small transient army of younger people WOOFing.  There's a "Mobile Matanza" that makes it possible for small scale meat production, and a town-managed production kitchen that makes production of things like healthy, energy bars and packaged foods possible.

    Think expense reduction,  lifestyle pleasure, and ncome supplementation.

    •  Inspiring! (8+ / 0-)

      The Santa Fe - Taos corridor has always been famous for cultural innovation.  I'm glad to hear that your enclave of relative sanity is alive and well.  My wife and I were inspired when we visited Dixon and discovered, in that tiny town, a food co-op, a community library, and if memory serves, a community radio station.  Now to spread this around by a factor of a billion or so...

      •  Southern VT and SE NH (8+ / 0-)

        I'm no farmer. But plenty of people around here are. Some have been since showing up for communes round about 1970. Others are younger small farmers come since. And some of course have been on family farms for literally centuries. There's even a Japanese expat with an experimental rice paddy that's doing just fine in this climate.

        Our kid went to a wonderful kindergarten run by some of the old communards. They've also got a fine bakery, and of course chickens and crops. Another still-extant commune has fallow land, but a productive mix of poets, a lawyer, and who not, mostly the same people for 40 years. And then there's the commune of religious hippies who are homophobic and racist, but nonetheless are decent farmers even if my family's not about to buy from their sort.

        Problem with some of the 70s movement was the idea maybe of doing a Maoist thing, back before it was realized that the Chinese model was a murderous fraud. It's really not so strange that what never existed couldn't be replicated here. Thank the Goddesses.

  •  this is a thought-provoking diary, (9+ / 0-)

    thank you for taking the time and effort to put it together.  For me, what makes it especially moving is your perspective of experience and not just opinion or outside observation.

    It's difficult for me to find a reasonable response to much of what you say.  Other than to point out that what we are able to see is always, always limited by our individuality and our personal life story.  That is to say, or perhaps suggest, that there may be other conclusions or lessons or even possibilities in your story.

    Now, we are like flies trapped in amber, hoping that somehow our positive words and thoughts will save us.  Virtually our every act contributes to the destruction of our planet in some way.  And as the Arctic melts, the forests disappear, and the oceans die, we already know how Antitopia is going to turn out.
    There are arguements that can be made along the lines that positive words and arguements are maybe all that we ever had to "save" us...along with selflessness and hard work and the myriad of virtues that reside within the human capacity for good.

    We are facing the dire consequences of societal dysfunction.  But our lives still count for something.  You made choices that most of us, myself included, would have never made or even seen as possibilities.

    You should give yourself more credit, it seems to me.  

    "For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best." V. Frankl

    by Wonton Tom on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 04:22:49 PM PST

    •  Thanks! (9+ / 0-)

      I appreciate your thoughtful comment.  I am reminded of the fable of the blind men and the elephant, where each blind man experienced something different.  With this essay I gave it my best shot, in my blind way.  Others might see things differently.

      I hope that everybody who hasn't seen it goes to the archives and reads FishOutofWater's diary from last night dealing with the catastrophic exponential growth in CO2 emissions.  The prognosis is grim and rapidly getting worse.

      But despite it all, life remains what it always has been -- magic made manifest.  At least I learned that much from my 40+ years on the land.  (Not that you have to live on the land to learn that lesson.)  The coming chaos will be an excellent opportunity to practice compassion, that's for sure.  And I take great comfort in the fact that, when you come right down to it, reality is utterly incomprehensible, and that Spirit is always there.  

  •  Your observations sound nearly... (15+ / 0-)

    ...identical to what has been described as happening to the Occupy groups last year: utopian idealism crashing upon the rocks of the darker side of human nature.

    Still, I am glad that both the commune movement and Occupy occurred, and hope in the future there will be more attempts at a "responsible communitarianism."  The world desperately needs alternatives, and we can all learn something from each failure that might make future efforts succeed.

    "It's never too late to have a happy childhood."

    by wonkydonkey on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 05:19:57 PM PST

    •  Evidently (8+ / 0-)

      we will never get over our hard-wired glitches like selfishness and personality conflicts.  I like to say, "To be human is to fuck up."  So let's be as easy on ourselves and each other as we're capable of.  

      I really think we are being called upon at this time to dredge up whatever element of compassion we're capable of, because we're sure going to need it.  Any experiments to push the envelope of social alternatives will be very beneficial to us, even if they seem to fail.

      Trying and failing really sucks, but how else are we supposed to grow?  If we were already perfect, there'd be no need for a learning curve.  But fortunately, we are given infinite opportunites for trial and error.

    •  So why don't we? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, Creosote, raines

      Learn from failure, that is?  Why do we keep just throwing up our hands and inventing punk rock instead?  

      I guess Utopian movements expect to succeed quickly, and when that doesn't happen everybody freaks out and figures they've "failed", and they give up.  That seems to have happened to some extent in the '60s, but the energy generated carried all through the '70s until the long, two-pronged reaction against the '60s took hold (to where even Occupy takes pains to position itself against the '60s).  I was always a proponent of bringing the '60s home, so to speak, and had a hard time understanding the narrative of "co-optation".  But that's what it's like when you're a little kid in the '70s.

      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 09:56:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  One thing I've learned (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens

        from reading these comments is that there's a considerable aftermath from the 60s still simmering out there.  Things have morphed and convoluted.  Even the people who "failed" came out of it changed.  I'm finding a lot to ponder and be open-minded about here.  I think we continually have the capability of surprising ourselves. So I think that, yeah, at least some of us are learning from failure and flinging ourselves, again and again, onto the great windshield of life.

  •  I lived just north of New Buffalo in San Cristobal (21+ / 0-)

    We moved there in 1969 and I was fourteen. I knew the guy who bought the land and visited the commune many times over the years. There was another commune on the east side of the highway called Morning Star. Another to the north named The Lama Foundation.

    There were a lot of experimental lifestyles being tried out by people searching for a better way to live more humanely, more lovingly. Lots of experiments fail but you still learn from your failures. People did learn about predators and parasites. Those who wanted to take without giving or earning. If more people had gone through a learning process like that then the 1% might not have been able to pull all the shit they have. Inflated self-worth would have been harder to sell to so many.

    After Sandy and the effort Occupy has put in there I still have hope. There are some sane and humane people who value community. There are always failures on the road to success. I salute all those who try.

    •  Amen! (5+ / 0-)

      Many of us are idealistic by nature and don't do cynicism well.  For decades now, spiritual-types have been talking about the "change in consciousness" that is coming, an evolutionary leap, a mass enlightenment experience if you will.  Many of us have been plugging away in that direction our whole lives, and it will be fascinating to see what transpires -- enlightenment, annihilation, or both?  Or neither?  Or something that reveals the limited nature of our thinking? We definitely live in interesting times.

  •  I think it's natural (0+ / 0-)

    ...to want to lead an easier life. It's not an indoctrination. I'd say the various methods to do that are nurture means to the nature end.

  •  I expect to see a return, of sorts, to a type of (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    soarbird, oslyn7, raines, Creosote, manyamile

    communal living as we former (?) hippies of the 60s move into our retirement years. I expect it will be more urban and less hard work, due to our declining physical ability and the physical requirement to be close to our physicians. It will be born in large part of financial necessity, but the desire to avoid social isolation will also play a role. I'm even optimistic enough to imagine that it will include some fun, at least most of the time.

    “Social Security has nothing to do with balancing a budget or erasing or lowering the deficit.” -- Ronald Reagan, 1984 debate with Walter Mondale

    by RJDixon74135 on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 07:48:27 PM PST

  •  We might know each other, if you are living along (4+ / 0-)

    the Rio near Embudo, or upstream.  I got up into that country in 1971 myself, although I now live on the other side of the mountain, south of Las Vegas on the Pecos.  I stayed at New Buffalo one night when it was too late to try to get over the mountain that night,   many years ago.  The hills are still full of "back-to-the-landers"  but few of them are doing it strictly communally although most of them participate in their local communities.  I don't consider the "movement"  to have "failed".  New Buffalo,  famous as it has become, hardly qualifies as a microcosm of the "movement".

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 07:55:01 PM PST

  •  "America lost its last chance to save its soul... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    soarbird, Creosote

    - in the 1960's." So says one of the characters in Rafi Zabor's novel (about a talking, philosophical alto-sax-playing bear) The Bear Comes Home.

    Not sure if I agree or disagree, but it's a line I can't forget.

    Hey righties: Haah-ha!

    by Miscweant on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 07:56:32 PM PST

    •  Good point. (8+ / 0-)

      It was a unique time:  America was bursting with post-war optimism, the labor unions were still powerful, the middle class was the most prosperous it has ever been.  (Meaning there was relatively easy money to be had by dropouts and other social experimenters.)

      Hunter Thompson eloquently described the rise and fall of the counterculture in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

      Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run… but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.…

      History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

      My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket… booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change)... but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that…

      There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda.… You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.…

      And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.…

      So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

      •  Unions? (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Yamara, Creosote, Odysseus, soarbird

        Well, that relationship obviously foundered on the rock of the Vietnam War, which IIRC the AFL-CIO supported.  I'm sure that left a bad taste in many mouths when it came to organized labor.  Maybe both sides have learned since then--I hope so.

        As for the "high-water mark", I'm reminded of a quote I once read from Jean-Paul Sartre to the effect that every movement "fails"--that is, it doesn't reach its stated objective--but each one, with enough perseverance and wisdom, eventually makes a bit of  forward progress.  You just have to keep pushin' on, as Kevin Cronin sang.

        Ultimately, ISTM a back-to-the-land movement isn't really necessary for sustainability.  There is some level of fossil-fuel energy that can be sustainably burned, for example; we need to find that level (350 parts of CO2 per million, IIRC) and make sure we get (and stay) below it.  Most solutions will make new problems, but, that's life, isn't it?  If the new problems are preferable to the old ones, that's progress.

        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 10:06:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I just saw the film Radio Unnameable (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      llywrch, RWood, soarbird, Larsstephens

      tonight, about WBAI, the listener-sponsored radio station in New York in the wild days when FM was new and musicians like Arlo Guthrie might stop in to the studio to play "Alice's Restaurant" before it was recorded - among many other musicians and activists.

      It centers on the work of Bob Fass there, and includes a great deal of contemporary (1960s) photography, some video, lots of audio from then, much of it taken or gathered by Fass. For some very critical years he had a show that began at midnight with an open mike and music of all kinds. People came by the studio, the phone lines were always open, and people used the show as a way of finding out what was happening in the immediate moment.

      This too fell apart in the late 1960s, partly in response to the same sort of police violance we saw with OWS, partly for similar internal reasons, and it took a long time to begin to reestablish any sense of a living center and direction foreward.

      Fass, today, says he feels that the events emerging from the antiwar movement and continuing on, in elements structured much like Occupy, to establish the women's movement and equality for blacks, among much else, seem in retrospect to have anticipated so much we have seen in the last fifty years.

      Then, these elements looked, and felt, like fractures; these days I have the sense that the urgency of our situation, and the maturing of once fractional elements into strong component parts, means something has been learned, digested, and made useful again.

      Provided we have time.

      In those days, living in the East 80s in a sixth-floor walkup, I often thought about "going to the country" and I knew a few people who did. Raymond Mungo wrote a book called Total Loss Farm about his experiences in Vermont. Ultimately I felt it would not make sense to go if I could not return.

      Today, the words Cormac McCarthy puts in the mouth of one of his characters - "You have to get off the road" - often cross my mind.

      Meanwhile, thank you, soarbird, for this strong and eloquently written picture of where we are now.

    •  It's a very powerful line. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      soarbird, Larsstephens

      I don't think it's true in the sense that America now has no more chances to save its soul, but it does beautifully capture a genuine emotional reaction that a lot of people share.

  •  I tried. I lasted 2 years. (7+ / 0-)

    I didn't really realize how much of a "city girl" I was until I tried back-to-the-landing in 1999 (pre Y2K disaster). I tried, but I am embarrassed to think of what a fool I must have made of myself to the real country folk. They've surely seen a lot of people just like me come and go. Ah well, I had to try, and it was worth it.

    The best psychiatrist in the world can't compete with a puppy licking your face.

    by AmyVVV on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 09:19:30 PM PST

  •  human nature is the enemy; always has been (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, soarbird

    The bad guys - rich and poor, smart and stupid - are channeling our lowest and darkest impulses.  They want to go back to being animals.  The rich and powerful have the luxury of indulging in their base nature - they have armies of lesser beasts to assist and protect them - so they lead the way to hell; most of the rest of us don't have any other option but to follow.

    We're fighting against everything that's been hardwired into us, not just by nature, but by thousands of years of fucked-up so-called "civilization" which has been little more than a ritual elaboration of degraded primates posturing and fighting for status.

    Projects like communes fail when they have to choose between the present and the future.  What they want to be in the brave new world is at odds with what they have to be in the here and now.  How can a handful of dreamers desperate to aim higher than money keep themselves afloat in a capitalist society with its own brutal and muck-wallowing logic?

    To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

    by Visceral on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 09:42:47 PM PST

    •  Great observations. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      We are up against powerful nihilists, for whom reality has no intrinsic value.  Their philosophy can be summed up in three words:  "Me.  Want.  Now."  The id run amok.

      Our philosophy, in contrast, is:  "Existence is its own reward."

  •  I've invited Art to this diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    soarbird, Larsstephens

    He lives in Northern CA, I'll see if he's up for participating in the conversation.

  •  Communes don't work very well. Period. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llywrch, Odysseus, soarbird, Larsstephens

    The only successful communal enterprise I've ever seen is the Koinonia Farm in Americus, Ga. It was founded by a Baptist pacifist in the 1940s and still exists. In the 1960s (when I visted) they were under pressure from the local KKK. They had to give up a profitable chicken farming business because of local boycotts. They got into growing pecans aa their main cash crop, although they also raised cattle and grain. (BTW, that was where Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity, got his start.)
      What makes Koinonia successful, IMHO: A common set of principles - In this case liberal Christianity. And people live in families in their own homes. The community does have common meals. And they have a mail order business and a fund raising operation.
       Agriculture is serious, hard work and it ties you down. What might work is an intentional community in which many resources are shared and which engaes in several interesting small busineses, with farming or gardening as one of them.
       

    •  Very interesting. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      Religious communities tend to do better, also communities with a strong leader, or a strong organizational structure.  The "anything goes" hippie version was fueled, in large part, by the feel-good effects of dope... which of course always wear off.

      Agriculture can be brutal hard work.  Doing the value-added trip on an existing agricultural product can work very well.  East Wind Community in the Missouri Ozarks has been producing a line of nut butters for many years.  

  •  What about The Farm? (5+ / 0-)

    You know, the one in Tennessee?  They're still going strong!

    Check out their website.  Somewhere on this site is a lovely photo diary documenting the history of The Farm, how it evolved, devolved and revolved, but I can't find it by searching.

    I would encourage you to look into permaculture.  When I went to find The Farm's website, I see on the front page that they are incorporating permaculture principles into what they are doing there.

    Permies.com is a site devoted to permaculture run by Paul Wheaton, who is scheming for his own anti-commune.  I'm guessing he's had his own run-ins with predators in communitarian groups, so he loudly states that he plans to be a (benevolent) dictator on his new farm.

    Universal Health Care - it's coming, but not soon enough!

    by DrFood on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 06:01:20 AM PST

  •  Take 5 minutes to watch this, and cheer up (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RWood, soarbird, Larsstephens

    (Well, it helps me cheer up.  Check out the before and after images of the Loess Plateau.)

    Hope In A Changing Climate

    If we could put some resources into restoring degraded landscapes we can make real and significant change in our planet.  Also, check out "Greening the Desert."

    9 minute version here

    Universal Health Care - it's coming, but not soon enough!

    by DrFood on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 06:17:37 AM PST

  •  Great great dairy - thanks for this (5+ / 0-)

    I hardly know what to say - I lived on a community for 7 years in the 70's.  We built our own houses, ran sheep and cows, started a pre-school for our kids, learned how to garden, grow food, keep chickens, without electricity, phones, parental support. It was one of the best things I have ever done. It made me feel capable and emotionally strong. It was at times chaotic and unstructured.

    We 'evolved' to a point where we recognized that we needed what we called 'X' - whereby the penalty for not paying our $15 a month dues would fall down on the recalculant member but, being true peace loving hippies, we could go no further than to name the 'X' but not define it. In the end, I think that is what drove me (along with other personal issues) out. If there are no consequences, chaos happens.

    There is an accurate comment above, in our retirement, we moved to where we could have our lifestyle garden -raising our own food, living a slow life. The experiences of my 20's and 30's reset my whole American middle class life - I am proud to say for the better!! I think that is success.

    Keep constant watch on your mind. - Dalai Lama

    by redstella on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 06:25:00 AM PST

  •  thanks for diary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    soarbird, Larsstephens

    i was also part of that movement, maybe a bit younger and in a different part of the country. this diary brings up such a complex burl of thoughts and feelings about the topic i can't begin to express or relate them in this post.
    let's just say a lot of things went wrong, inside and out, the entire spectrum of human order and disorder followed us...
     but it was an attempt to change .

  •  economic climate of the early 1970s (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DrFood, eataTREE, RWood, soarbird, Larsstephens

    spun a lot of kids into the counterculture.

    high unemployment.
    no jobs
    disillusionment with the status quo.
    end of vietnam war
    drugs
    'generation gap' family battles and expulsion
    cheap housing in small towns and rural areas
    rock and roll
    earth day and the rise f environmental awareness
    influence of alternative  lifestyle and customs
    a belief in the power of the youth movement

    ideas of what killed it

    more  and more drugs
    immature personalities, egos, power and control,
    naivete
    hard work, little money
    extreme political  and personal agendas
    difficult to sustain as people aged
    by the 80s, it just wasn't cool, and for most young people
              cool matters
    co-opting  by the mainstream (remember when major
              grocery stores started trying to look more like     co-ops and carry health food and bulk food in bins?)
    most rich kids didn't enjoy playing poor for very long
    some hardworking sensible folks kept at it.

     the 80s were flat but saw resurgence in the 90s. these kids were more savy, more market conscious.

    however, seeds were planted, seedlings tended. As with any era , any deed, it has become part of our story .

    •  You nailed it. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      Something is definitely percolating these days.  I think it depends on if techno-culture breaks down slowly enough that we can adapt to the changes.  There's not much you can do with sudden chaos except react.  Right now the stranglehold seems pretty complete but anybody with any awareness can see what's coming down.

  •  i do think that those who perservered, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DrFood, soarbird, Larsstephens

    who combined know how, hands on experience, solid practices, have really contributed to solving problems and providing alternatives to challenges we face today.
    the  funky solar  and methane generators, caring for ecosystems,economics, social aspects, on and on
    .. many people stuck with it, but many more went back to school, went back to 'the establishment'  and tried to improve things there.

    and we are the better for it.

  •  There's The Farm (Tennessee) & Svanholm in Denmark (4+ / 0-)

    http://www.thefarm.org/
    http://www.svanholm.dk/...

    There were a few groups of people who did make it work.

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

    by lotlizard on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 09:15:05 AM PST

  •  Thank You - N/T (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    soarbird, Larsstephens

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 09:26:42 AM PST

  •  In the day... (5+ / 0-)

    I was in a short-lived urban commune and lasted there less than half a year.  The main problem was that I was a single mother with three daughters and had hoped for more organization and something like an extended family, where we all pitched in and actually lived the way the members said they wanted to.  What we had in common was our leftist politics; what we didn't have in common was just about everything else.  If I hadn't tried to live with these people, I would have liked all of them, and I don't particularly blame any of them either.  It was more like a marriage that fell apart because we got on each other's nerves and spent a lot of time irritated because of one thing or another.

    A short time after I moved to my my own apartment with my kids, I joined a far left political group referred to as a collective, and that was highly organized and did accomplish a few things. Eventually it fell apart as well, for reasons not very different from those of the short-lived commune.  People with shared general beliefs can differ passionately on all the details and on the specifics of how to reach goals and how to live and relate to others.  In short, members couldn't get along very well.  There were power struggles and changes in membership and finally, no group.  In this case, there had been marriages within the group, including my own, and every one of them also ended after the group did.

    Maybe you have had a lot of experiences with families that always function well or with roommates or groups that never have serious conflicts, but I have not.  It is just not that easy for people to get along with each other, and without the incentive of a loving relationship, or keeping a job, or being simply stuck with the family we have, we tend to give up and move along to the next thing when we have problems with relationships. So we see a lot of serial monogamy and multiple marriages. For many people, their best relationship has been with a dog or cat; it's impossible to say if the pets have shared that evaluation.

    •  I keep thinking (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      soarbird, Larsstephens

      of the various convention committees (for science-fiction conventions) that I've been on.  We're all volunteers; none of us are getting anything out of this except that we all passionately want the convention to happen and without us all working on it, it won't happen.

      Usually everybody on the committee is a friend, or at least a distantly friendly acquaintance.  We have a shared goal and a lot of shared background.

      My general feeling about them all tends to be "I love you all, and if I had to live with you we would all go insane within days."

      •  Very true (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens

        and very well stated.  (I'm replying to both Barbara and Batya here.)  We just can't get along, can we?  At least, not for long.  Even a good marriage can be challenging sometimes, or often.

        Given this reality, I have long wondered about "intentional neighborhood."  Could be urban or rural, but the participants would live close enough together so they wouldn't have to burn fossil fuels to have a social life.  People could intereact whenever the spirit moves -- frequently or infrequently depending on the chemistry.

        The way things are now, my best friends live far away, and my neighbors, I can't stand for the most part.  I would like to move my friends closer, and my neighbors to maybe Timbuktu or wherever.

        •  The internet is pretty good for that. :) (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens

          Although yeah, it would be really nice to live closer to a lot of the people I love.

          At least one of my very close friends doesn't ever want to live in New York, though, and I don't want to leave here ... so we're stuck with only ever seeing each other for visits.

  •  This passage reminded me of Wikipedia (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    soarbird, Larsstephens
    The trouble with unearned power is, a newcomer or any unqualified person can move into a situation and be considered on equal footing with somebody who actually knows what’s happening.  The oldtimer has earned his power through on-the-job experience, whereas the newcomer has much less to offer at the beginning.  Yet, in hippiedom they were considered equal.  The hippies had a free-and-easy attitude about power.  They were trying to create a non-hierarchical paradigm in which power is shared, not imposed from the top of the hierarchy.  Unfortunately this proved to be a perfect setup for predators, who could move right in and seize as much power as they were capable of, very quickly.  With hierarchical power, it would be more difficult for a newcomer to do this.
    Yeah, some of you might gripe about the "Wiki-Nazis" who revert edits automatically, but having been on the other side, I've seen how this "unearned power" frustrates & burns out dedicated people, especially the ones you want to keep.

    Someone spends serious time researching & writing an article -- & a good, useful Wikipedia article is roughly the equivalent of a college-level term paper -- which means that person has some emotional attachment to it. While not everyone is adult enough to accept changes to an article (it is a learned quality, & sometimes good contributors can't learn it), the fact anyone can edit an article -- even for stupid & indefensible reasons -- causes frustration & offense. The rule "anyone can edit Wikipedia" frustrates all but the most clever in attempting to defend quality content. (And if one is clever, one can make money from knowledge instead of sharing it on Wikipedia.) When one encounters enough bad or controversial edits & the personalities attached,  either one burns out, or becomes the monster they one is fighting. Neither is a desirable result.

    And the PTB refuse to acknowledge this dynamic exists because their income & prestige depends on selling the myth that Wikipedia's anarchistic/libertarian philosophy works. (I explain Wikipedia has become a useful resource in spite of this myth, not because of it.)

    Soarbird, this sounds like an interesting book with some useful insights to my critique of Wikipedia's dysfunctional nature. I'm putting it on my list of books to read.

    •  Wow. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens, llywrch

      I hadn't really thought about this.  It's an exactly analogous situation.  Assholes fucking up the work of those who really know what they're doing.  I hope you keep on top of this, since I use Wikipedia a lot.  I wish I could do better justice to your comment.  You are on to something major here... preserving the integrity of quality information.

      •  Unfortunately, I'm not that involved (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        soarbird

        Worked at writing articles for almost 10 years -- not as hard as some -- but finally accepted it stopped being fun. I still edit a little, but more to fix typos or formatting than to add useful content. I just can't motivate myself to contributing work I no longer believe will be appreciated by the PTB.

        It didn't help my morale to watch a bunch of people come in from outside & take it over because they saw there was money in running it as like PBS or United Way: big salaries for those at the top, big contributions from corporations & the usual foundations, & an emphasis on image over even acknowledging the contradiction between providing quality content & the promise that "anybody can edit". Not that Jimmy Wales has been involved in Wikipedia much beyond securing his claim ownership so he could bask in the reflected glory.

        I don't have a good answer to that last problem, but at least I admit there is a problem -- as will anyone who actually creates content for Wikipedia (& its sister projects). The PTB would rather that the problem just went away because it is so inconvenient when it comes to seeking that grant money.

        •  I bet if you added them up (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          llywrch

          there are literally millions of problems like this out there.  I think we will be forced into a stance of radical acceptance of the human consition/world condition, which need not imply passivity at all.  Perhaps this is what compassion is all about.

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

    I can (as we used to say :) relate.

    "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

    by high uintas on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 12:00:39 PM PST

  •  Makes me think deeply about "The Little Red Hen" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    soarbird, Larsstephens

    muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

    by veritas curat on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 06:02:53 PM PST

  •  How about a tribes "genetic oneness"? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    soarbird, Larsstephens

    I'm an Indian man and I've thought quite a bit about why my old hippie friends can't stay together long. Some even come among us and try to learn tribal ways and culture but they almost always fail to stick together very long.

    I've come to think that a big reason is that we Indians are all related to each other and that over the miliniums together we've grown together in a genetic oneness. We look alike and believe alike for the most part. I can tell a Navajo from a Sioux just by looking at them but I think it goes deeper than that, we not only look alike, we think alike.

    I don't have a cite but there have been studies that show altruism (which is needed for a tribes survival) is stronger between families and relatives than it is among strangers. Thus the approbation of ones tribal relations means much more to a tribal person than a non-tribal person. This makes everyone eager to conform to tribal mores' so their relatives will think highly of them. Shirkers are looked down on and predators aren't tolerated.

    It takes hundreds of generations for a group to become a well functioning tribe and IMO a big reason they can do it is because of their genetic oneness.
    Just something to think about.

    America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

    by cacamp on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 08:59:46 PM PST

    •  Good point. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens, cacamp

      And deserving of a diary IMO.  

      Way back in my hippie days I figured out that despite all the talk about "community," I was totally on my own.  These days, it seems like what "community" really means is people to have pleasant conversations with, who know you by name.  Which is great, as far as it goes.  Which ain't far, actually.

  •  Dystopia, maybe? Dystopia is the technical term (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, soarbird

    for things like Brave New World and 1984, antitopia would mean "against place" or "instead of place," which is more of an existential question than one of quality.

  •  My problem with most communes I experienced (0+ / 0-)

    Was that it always seemed like the women were all supposed to be "earth mothers" who cooked, cleaned and generally were restricted to "women's work" while the men made the decisions and ran the show.

    I was not that kind of woman, so exited very fast most of the time.

    Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 09:21:15 PM PST

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site