Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Egalitarian Communities

Living simply, equally, communally, and sustainably isn't just a nice ideal--there are people doing it. I mentioned the Amish in my last post but there are more modern groups that live even closer to this ideal.

I want to single out the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. These are six intentional communities based on the principles of: Holding land, labor, income, and other resources in common; Assuming responsibility for the needs of their members; Practicing non-violence; Using a form of decision making in which members have an equal opportunity to participate; Actively working to establish the equality of all people; Acting to conserve natural resources for present and future generations while striving to continually improve ecological awareness and practice; and Creating processes for group communication and participation and while providing an environment which supports people's development.

Obviously these communities practice cooperation and communal living. In fact, they are some of the more communal communities, sharing work, income, and resources.

They are also egalitarian, as reflected in the name. As they put it, they work "to establish the equality of all people". There are no gurus or set leaders--instead they rotate leadership. Even Twin Oaks, which has a Planner-Manager system, is hardly hierarchical. As Kat Kinkade explained, in her book Is It Utopia Yet?, "On the surface our system looks like a hierarchy, workers reporting to Managers and Managers to Planners. In practice the system is largely non-hierarchical. Nobody 'reports' to anybody.... The theory behind the design of our management system is that it is desirable to spread authority as broadly as possible. We tend to attract people who distrust hierarchies and want to cooperate with, rather than report to, other Community members.
"Furthermore, we're all 'workers', and at least three quarters of us are managers in addition." It's not exactly what Bruce Kokopeli and George Lakey had in mind in "Leadership for Change" (see my post of 10/2/08), but it is shared leadership.

As for sustainability, their principle on conserving "natural resources for present and future generations" is clear enough. In addition, several of the communities describe themselves as 'eco-villages'.

Simple living is not so explicit (except in the Emma Goldman Finishing School which lists 'simplicity' as one of their principles) but no one in any of these communities is getting rich. (There is a cartoon in Is It Utopia Yet where a character gets their allowance and says "You know, this is probably one of the few places left in the country where 'another day, another dollar' isn't just a saying.") Because they live communally, FEC members can live simply.

You can learn more about the Federation of Egalitarian Communities from their website. Kat Kinkade's books, Is It Utopia Yet? and the earlier A Walden Two Experiment are good sources to learn more about Twin Oaks--sort of the flagship FEC community. For those who think this kind of thing would never work, Twin Oaks has been around for forty-one years and it's going strong. Another triumph for SECS.

Next, a different way of looking at things.

Quote of the day: "A new way of living is not only possible, it is happening now!" - from the FEC website
Word (or phrase) of the day: Green Roofs
Hero(es) of the day: Mary McLeod Bethune


SoapBoxTech said...

Phew, thanks! I just spent about 6 hours at the FEC site and especially at Twin Oaks and Dancing Rabbit.

I love what they are all doing tho it is a bit disconcerting to see such the sincere worries about lack of "fresh blood". This is especially so given that most of them seem to be in the temperate US and here I am trying to create an intentional community in NW Alberta Canada.


Anyway, onward and upward...

MoonRaven said...

Thanks for your comment. As someone who has tried to build intentional community in New England (and I'm still trying), I can tell you that it's not easy anywhere. Still, I often wonder why the bulk of FEC communities are in Virginia and Missouri...

Of course there is the Emma Goldman Finishing School in Seattle, which isn't that far away from you--although they are very much an urban community. I also noticed that there is a group that's trying to form an FEC influenced ecovillage outside of Gimli, Manitoba. Yes, I'm aware that's two provinces away from you, but it's a lot closer than Missouri or Virginia. You might want to contact them to see what they are up to.

Much luck to you in your efforts.