There is a popular illusion, that living in community is running away from the problems of the “real world”. I completely get this. Rural intentional communities in particular can build insular cultures which view “the mainstream” as oddly out of touch with reality.
But for every person in community who skips out on activism and wide world awareness, there is someone else in the community who starts going to protests, or helping to get out the vote, or working in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, or organizing a workshop or public presentation.
The question, in my mind, is, “How do we show the Occupy movement why and how the communities movement is relevant to the big-vision political change that is being sought– with increasing visibility– around the world?”
And the answer to this is that we are already working on a wealth distribution model which is fair, rather than market or crime driven. This feels like a core Occupy belief. In fact, we are experts in sharing things. And while it often feels frustrating, we are progressive thinking pioneers with lively internal communication and decision making systems.
There are some good articles on the robust collective clothes sharing system we have here at Twin Oaks written by Ethan and myself, so I won’t focus on that here. But what I do want to mention is the idea of robust vs brittle agreements that surround sharing.
Part of what we do in community is build agreements which last. This is especially important with sharing, because the most common fault in the mainstream efforts to share things is creating what I call brittle agreements. In brittle agreements, there is a high chance that if something unexpected happened, the sharing relationship between the parties would be damaged or permanently broken. Foresight and negotiations about unexpected events make sharing more robust, and of course owning things in common is a huge step towards avoiding these types of problems.
But should you really think of stepping away from the sexy revolutionary Occupy movement and shipping off to some community? Not necessarily. It might be that the community that is right for you already exists in the place you are at and you can continue this critical work on Occupy 2.0 that you are already doing. It might be that part of what you want to be doing is forming a new community which supports activists in their work.
I believe that there is a need for the global Occupy movement and the international communities movement to see their similar goals, reach towards each other, and work together.
One brilliant place to do this will be this year’s Communities Conference at Twin Oaks Community over Labor Day weekend, where we are inviting Occupy representatives to talk about what they are up to and where we might go together.