an Intentional Community meeting-place in Colorado
Well, clearly I haven’t been able to articulate the argument to support my instinctive belief that model intentional communities (MICs), to be effective, need to be polyamorous. I’ve read all your comments, and thank you for them. I remain convinced of the benefits of polyamorism to the social health of a community, but what’s more important is that we start identifying and creating MICs that work, both for the benefit of our present civilization and for possible use by the generations that will grow up after civilization’s fall. So I’m not going to say any more about polyamorism*, at least not for a while.
I have been delighted at how many of my readers, and those I have spoken to about it face-to-face and in Second Life, agree that it would be more fruitful to create MICs, better working models of how to live, than to try to fight to reform the existing political, economic, social and educational systems. Just to reiterate, those MICs will need to agree on both essential capacities and operating principles for their members. My first crack at as possible list of each:
Natural Capacities: deep capacity for love, passion for the community’s shared purpose/intention, trust, emotional strength, sensitivity/openness/perceptiveness, good instincts, self-sufficiency, honesty, intelligence/critical thinking ability, curiosity, imagination, creativity, responsibility, expressiveness, flexibility, and tolerance.
Responsible and Sustainable Operating Principles: stop at one child per woman, practice radical simplicity, pledge to buy local, leave the Earth as you found it, practice bioregionalism & permaculture, cooperate & collaborate, practice consensus democracy, value everyone’s time equally, pay attention to nature, be self-sufficient, incur no debts, be generous, organic and responsible, and understand and use the power of relationships.
Each MIC will of course have to develop its own list, but as I work to create MICs both in Second Life and, later, in Real Life, these are the ones I would propose to start with. The idea would be to have an association, an alliance, of MICs, helping each other out with lessons learned, success stories, etc. Each MIC would be a circle within a circle, the larger circle being Gaia, the community of all-life-on-Earth.
In fact, I’m beginning to think of Natural Enterprises, the concept I outline in my book to be published in the Spring, as a specialized type of MIC. Natural Enterprises also require the above natural capacities and responsible, sustainable operating principles.
MICs are, by their socio-ecological nature, inherently complex networks. Dave Snowden suggests that, because the evolution of such networks is unpredictable, they cannot be planned or directed. What can be done, however, is influence their “initial conditions” — using attractors and barriers to ‘steer’ behaviour in ways favourable to obtaining and retaining members with the necessary capacities and who share the beliefs underlying the operating principles. That means the membership has to be self-selected and ‘discriminatory’ — diverse yet picky. This is a tough balancing act. The Natural Enterprises I know that ‘work’ the best have an almost ideal makeup of people — respectful, loving partners whose business capacities (‘Gifts’) are mutually exclusive and collectively sufficient to achieve the enterprise’s shared Purpose. Usually, I confess, the selection of members has been serendipitous and fortunate, rather than deliberate. Nevertheless, it’s the people in a Natural Enterprise who make or break it.
Same thing applies to MICs of people who want to live together. You want diversity, because MICs only work when their members are so interesting and lovable that they cohere — the members want to spend as much time with each other as possible, learning, loving, discovering, collaborating, innovating, making it work. This is so unlike modern disconnected neighbourhoods who are usually only physically together out of convenience. Because they lack cohesion, they acquiesce to the imposition of top-down, indifferent, modern hierarchical political and economic and social and educational systems on them, and ultimately, because their neighbourhood is incapable of self-sufficiency, become dependent on these hierarchical, irresponsible, unsustainable systems.
To be self-sufficient, responsible and sustainable, the MIC needs to have everything (the capacities, the space, the time, and the resources) to be independent. While I don’t know of any modern examples of this, my pioneer ancestors in the early 1800s were, of necessity (they were completely isolated), completely self-sufficient. Seventeen families (about 150 people in total) including Joshua Pollard’s family moved into 8000 acres in the lower Peel region of Canada together — no electricity, no communications — and thrived together as an intentional community. They lived in harmony with another IC — the Mississagua Indians — who sold the land away from the rivers to these new settlers. The two ICs lived completely different lifestyles, but both were self-sufficient, responsible and sustainable, and extremely comfortable, joyful communities (my ancestors, I’m told, loved to dance and sing, and opened the region’s first school and a subsistence tavern). Other than their large families, they adhered to the above principles and, from what I can piece together, had the above natural capacities. They were ultimately undone by overpopulation and, as their community became interconnected with other Ontario communities over the ensuing century, by a switch from self-sufficient permaculture to commercial monoculture, which proved disastrous when the economic recessions of the 1880s and 1890s hit and trade virtually ceased.
Modern ICs have had to try to work under modern constraints — a shortage of land, horrific overpopulation everywhere, depleted soils, an utterly interdependent, fragile, technology-dependent and resource-constrained economy, and the loss of knowledge of how to live self-sufficiently. Because most of them have not been very ‘discriminatory’ in their membership, and many have lacked commitment, capacity and/or principles, most have stayed small or disappeared, and have not had responsibility or sustainability as principles, so they are not useful models (if you know first-hand of any modern MICs that I could profile here, please let me know). Some of these constraints (shortage of land, depleted soils) will be hard for any MIC to overcome, but most require nothing more than re-learning what has been forgotten, and applyingsome sustainable, responsible modern knowledge and technologies.
And then just learning from trying, from experimentation, from collaboration, from innovation, what works and what doesn’t.
And just being a model.
Time to get started.
* I will be responding directly but briefly to comments on my Dec. 19, 20 and 24 articles soon, in the comments threads.
Category: Creating Intentional Community
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Dying of Despair
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What is Exponential Decay
Collapse: Slowly Then Suddenly
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Making Sense of Who We Are
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Post Collapse with Michael Dowd (video)
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
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A Future Without Us
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Complexity and Collapse
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If We Had a Better Story...
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
A Short History of Progress
The Boiling Frog
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CoVid-19: Go for Zero
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A Better Way to Work
Ask Yourself This
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May I Ask a Question?
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
Learning From Nature
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
Republicans Slide Into Fascism
All the Things I Was Wrong About
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How Change Happens
What's the Best Possible Outcome?
The Perpetual Growth Machine
We Make Zero
How Long We've Been Around (graphic)
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
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Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
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Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
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The Illusion of the Separate Self, and Free Will:
Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark
Healing From Ourselves
The Entanglement Hypothesis
Nothing Needs to Happen
Nothing to Say About This
What I Wanted to Believe
A Continuous Reassemblage of Meaning
No Choice But to Misbehave
What's Apparently Happening
A Different Kind of Animal
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
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A Canadian Sorry (Satire)
Under No Illusions (Short Story)
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Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
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The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
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