The Pokey Finger of God

meditations on religion and culture

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January 26th, 2021 · No Comments · Uncategorized

My fundamental attraction to intentional community was the idea that everyone — young and old, healthy and infirm — would all be taken care of because people take care of each other in a community. A large enough community can provide enough food and shelter, companionship and teaching, for all of its members and have a surplus.

But communities are difficult to start and challenging to maintain, especially when they fail to maintain three particular features within their community: (1) shared ideology, (2) universal education, and (3) economic viability. If any of these things are missing, a community tends to fail. While these are present, communities tend to persist.

Ideology should be the singular filter potential residents are judged upon, as only those who are willing to embrace and support the community ideology will carry it through difficult times. While I might personally prefer that all communities adopt an egalitarian, socialist ideology, it turns out that the nature of the ideology is irrelevant in the context of the persistence of community. A community must have one, however, or it tends to flounder, directionless in internal strife.

Egalitarian ideologies are better in the long run for the health and economic status of the membership. Open-source, democratically representative systems encourage and support growth. Ideologies that welcome outsiders will grow faster than those that don’t. Ideologies that provide for adaptation persist longer than those that don’t.

A community must continually educate its members, young and old, in order to remain viable. Learning and passing along skills is the way in which the life of the community tapestry is woven. But most importantly, it is the way ideology is maintained and controlled. Each member must be reminded frequently the promises the community makes to them and the promises they make to the community.

Also, a literate, numerate population can do more and do better than an uneducated population. Folks coming into the community also need a way to safely and quickly learn the rules and ideology of the community.

The thing that attracts most people to intentional communities is the promise of economic security, especially into old age. This isn’t really feasible unless the community itself has economic viability. This means that the community, on the whole, must product something in quantities that can bring funds to the community, with which the community can purchase all the resources and goods it cannot provide for itself.

One way to provide a framework for such viability is to have coordination between communities to provide a particular resource in exchange for access to other community resources. This could allow for a much broader range of production, even coordinated production that took parts made from different communities and combined them into other products in other communities. Each community could eventually be rebuilt with community lumber and hardware, community pipes and wires, community electronics and semiconductors; and fed by community agriculture and ranching. Once a critical mass has been achieved, the community of communities may be self-supporting and present a real threat to the capitalist establishment.

Historically, the capitalist establishment has responded quickly and violently to any threats that have come its way. Anyone who is serious about establishing successful intentional communities should be paranoid about capitalists and the wide range of violence, both official and not, that could any day rain down. Remember Waco. Remember Black Wall Street. Remove all organizational activities from public view and encrypt all transmissions. But also, preserve good relationships with local elected officials and other local communities. Run community members for school board and county constable offices. Buy from local farmers and producers.

If there’s just one successful community, the feds will come down and burn it down. If there’s two successful communities working together, the feds will burn one and the state will burn the other. But if there’s a network of communities, all producing things the government buys, there’s a better chance that everyone will go along to get along. The goal is to reach this position before aggravating too many local officials or setting off capitalist paranoia.