Monday, May 17, 2010

The Compound

What started over a year ago as a joke between close friends has now turned into into something that we're all committed to see through to fruition. "The Compound" as we so lovingly refer to it as, has become a lifeline that many of us hold up as the light at the end of the tunnel as we wade through college, jobs and the mind numbing existence that is life in modern America today. In an effort to better prepare for our future life many of us have been looking in to the communal living experiments that have taken place over the past 50 years in order to learn from their successes and failures. The main objective of communal living since the 1960s has been to repersonalize a society, making person to person relations the core of existence to promote greater intimacy and fuller human development. By rejecting the established order on which capitalism rests, competitiveness and production is replaced by unity and cooperative work. In communes people pool their resources and work together instead of against one another because an emphasis is no longer placed on competing for material goods, but instead on friendship and family.When people find out our communal plans they tend to attack it with their preconceptions of what a commune would represent. More often then not images such as drugs and free love associated with the 1960s are visualized. Many people assume that we are Lenin-style Communists, cult members or free-love druggies. In actuality, communes have existed since history has been recorded. For example, the Puritans who settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony may have been one of the first utopian communities in the United States. In the late 1960s more than 2,000 communes were formed in the US.
Communal life idealizes social unity and maintains that humanness exists only in intimate and collective life. The commune that we envision would be referred to as a "service" or "intentional" commune in which people pool resources and agree to live a certain way with a motivating philosophy. The primary tenant of a commune is anti-materialism, not having any more than is needed in order for there to be enough to go around the world. It is our belief that it is wrong that some people own 5 million dollar houses while others don't have enough to eat. We are each committed to vegetarian and veganism because we recognize that there would be more food to go around the world and far less environmental degradation if people ate green instead of livestock. More importantly we reject speciesism and recognize that we are all Earthlings, humans and animals alike, sharing the same planet and struggles of life side by side. We believe that neither one has the right to harm the other for their own purposes, especially when the killing of animals is not only entirely unnecessary but harmful to all.When communes first became popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s it was due to a rejection of capitalism and a desire to return to the basics.It was groups of people who believed in sharing and dividing everything on the basis of one's needs. People started communes in rual areas, seeking a return to the land that they had been alienated from. Through agriculture, communes became more self-sufficient, not having to rely on outside income as much. The growing of food gave a feeling of accomplishment, a connection with each other and with the land. In this way people found a sense of unity with one another and the land. Industrialization boomed after World War II causing the economy to flourish. Many of the young people who grew up during this prosperous time expressed feelings of estrangement, isolation, impersonalization. While their parents were focused on material accumulation after having grown up during the Great Depression, young people felt there was something missing in their lives, a void that needed to be filled. Advances in technology which produced both the atomic bomb and television, made people feel detached from their environment, they felt that they were not in control of it, too far removed from it, and beyond understanding it. Even when it came to food, people felt detached from it or alienated from the process which produced it.It was also because of television coverage of the Vietnam War that people for the first time were actually able to view the consequences of warfare. The My Lai Massacre, for example, vividly showed American troops slaughtering an entire village -men, women and children. There were reports of American soldiers raping women and displaying other barbaric behavior. The print media allowed young people to communicate to other young people. Several underground periodicals devoted specifically to the "get back to the land" ideal were important to the development of the rural commune movement. Along with the prosperity resulting from post World War II, there grew an emphasis on education. Young people had more leisure, education, and security than any previous generation, providing them with the opportunity to question the established order and reflect on alternative options.
Probably the single most potent contributor to the communal movement was the political disruption and what was viewed as hypocrisy of the system during the 1960s. Although the majority of the American people were against the Vietnam war, it still dragged on. Many felt it was hypocritical to claim to be a democratic nation when our President continued a policy that was not supported by the people. Because of Watergate President Nixon had to resign from office and the assassination of those with new ideals such as President John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King shocked the country and resulted in many viewing the actions as reflecting a moral deterioration of the United States. Furthermore, the violent break up of political protest resulting in the killing of four students at Kent State University, the deaths of two black students in Jackson, and the assassination of the of Black Panthers leadership, further lead to the disillusionment of young people.
It was the combination of industrialization, technological advancement, prosperity and materialism, political disillusionment, and moral decay that brought people from all around the United States together to flee to rural utopian communes in attempt to escape the Establishment and take control of their own physical, cultural and spiritual environment. In our day and age with technology advancing at a mind spinning rate, it is increasing the potential for further alienation of people from the land and from other people as well. As a result of technological advancement, our economy has moved toward corporate production so much that the small family operated business is becoming a scarcity today. For example, with every new K-mart, Walmart, Shopko, and Target the small town feeling is becoming less personalized. Another example would be the disappearing small farmer due to competition with agribusiness.
We believe that when people are removed from their means to make a living and forced to work as a commodity for a big corporation, the mechanical and impersonal conditions result in alienation, personal dissatisfaction, and a loss of dignity and sense of purpose and with the turn toward Republicanism we see harsher conditions for the working class and a widening the gap between the "have's" and "have not's" and with this widening gap even more crime and social problems will befall the U.S. We believe that communal life is about justice, sincerity, honesty, humanity, and peace. Communes teach us to rethink the status quo, question authority, and stand up for what is right. It is here that we wish to raise our children and live in peace with each other and the land which gives us life.

"You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks...

"You fasten all the triggers
For others to fire
Then you sit back and watch
While the death count gets higher

"You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud...

"I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul."

~Bob Dylan~

Suggested readings

Mary Kay Blakely, Living On The Land
Richard Fairfield, The Modern Utopian
Geaorge Fitzgerald, Communes: Their Goals, Hopes, and Problems
Rosabeth Kanter, Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective
Edward Morgan, The 60s Experience: Hard Lessons about Modern America
Betsy Streisand, Creating An Instant Extended Family
Rachel Meunier, The Farm: Communal Living in the Late 60's and early '70's


Kat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meg said...

I LOVE that magazine, it helped me bunches last summer when I was living in the woods...

Brittany said...

I love you guys.

jodi said...

You might appreciate this book--it has writings from communards and underground journalists from the 70s, chronicling their experiences as they lived them. Much to learn from here...