Thursday, September 30, 2010

Real Models 1:Twin Oaks

The Transition Initiative and all the Green Wizardry stuff I talked about in my last post (Dissensus in Action, 9/27/10), are directions and responses to things like peak oil, climate change, rampant consumerism, and various social ills. Most of the ideas for social change that I've written about fit into this category: we could or should do this or that.

A another way of looking at things is to create models of what a different world would look like. Some examples of this are the various utopian visions that are out there. (For more on fictional utopias see my posts on Why read Utopian Fiction?, 7/12/08, and An Annotated Utopia, 7/14/08. For a bit on some historical utopias, see Utopian Communities and New Religious Groups, 1/25/09.) There are lots of visions of how things could be but real life examples are harder to come by.

As far as I'm concerned, one example of how things might function in a very different way can be drawn from the various communities in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. (For more on the FEC, see my post on Egalitarian Communities, 10/22/08.) For this post I want to focus on Twin Oaks, a community in Virginia and FEC member that was founded in 1967.

For those who make fun of the ephemeral nature of most of the hippie communes of the sixties, Twin Oaks has been around for 43 years now and is going strong. Kat Kinkade, one of the founders of Twin Oaks, chronicles the beginning of the community in her book, A Walden Two Experiment. (Yes, the inspiration for Twin Oaks was BF Skinner's fictional utopia.) In a chapter on 'The First Two Years...', she gives a month by month recitation of the events involved in establishing Twin Oaks. By her account there were several points where they almost didn't make it.

Kat Kinkade's second book on Twin Oaks, Is It Utopia Yet?, is a good overview of how Twin Oaks operates (although it's a bit dated now, since it was published in 1994). I've been to Twin Oaks a couple of times, and know other people who have as well, and it's a fascinating place. I strongly suggest that anyone interested in creating alternatives to this society read these books, not because I think we should duplicate Twin Oaks (it has become so idiosyncratic that it would be hard to duplicate) but because the process and community evolution is laid out so clearly, warts and all. Creating this type of situation isn't easy, and Kat Kinkade made that clear in the books. But reading these books inspires me because if they could do it, others could do it. And, as I said, Twin Oaks is still growing and evolving. (Unfortunately, Kat Kinkade, who was in on the founding, not only of Twin Oaks, but of the FEC, and FEC member communities, East Wind and Acorn, died in 2008.) Twin Oaks and the various other FEC member communities provide real models of how we could be doing things. None of them are utopia, but all of them are real.

Quote of the Day: "Obviously Twin Oaks isn't Paradise. ... Ordinary mortals can't create Paradise. We can, however, strive for Utopia. Never mind that we haven't quite got there yet. We're working on it." - Kat Kinkade

No comments: