The Peaceful Vegan Revolution (written 2004)
By Charles Walker
SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL,
THE GROWING SHIFT
TOWARDS INTENTIONAL COMMUNITIES
Not long ago, in evolutionary terms, we all lived in tribes, apart from the occasional hermit, mad person, or outcast. It was the safest way to live, and the best bet for survival on all levels. Nobody even considered being out on their own, because it would just have been considered plain dangerous and lonely.
Some people, in what are in most cases wrongly described as developing countries, are still living quite happily in tribes, and are in many ways far happier and more fulfilled than their more ‘civilised’ cousins in ‘developed’ countries.
I think it would be very hard to quantify, if put to analysis, whether a member of the high energy Kau Tribe in northern Kenya, so beautifully portrayed by Leni Rosenthal in her photographic masterpiece, 'The People Of Kau', or the charming bushmen and women of the Kalahari, immortalized in the wonderful film 'The Gods Must be Crazy', are more or less fulfilled than the average inhabitant of a western city. Is the constant drone of traffic and the near epidemic level of obesity and stress, along with the asthma and cancer causing poisonous air, really preferable to dancing wildly around the camp fire, beneath the majesty of a billion stars seen clearly in the unpolluted African sky? I don’t think so.
I would say that the average American, or Parisian, or Londoner enjoys a far lower quality of life than their tribal counterparts, who still live a traditional dynamic lifestyle in some unspoilt corner of the globe, as yet undiscovered by the voracious backpacker tribes fanning out from the west.
That said, it is obvious that education and development has brought great advantages in health and prosperity to many, and the average age of death in many westernized countries is now around 80 years, as in Australia and New Zealand, joint second to Japan, which tops the list at 83. This longevity may have something to do with the Japanese traditional diet, which is 90% rice, vegetables and fruit, and roughly 10% fish and other seafood. Sadly this includes a fair amount of endangered whales, and the beautiful blue fin tuna. Dolphins have been somewhat luckier, even in Japan, because yuppies, wishing to sound compassionate, have added these ‘higher beings’ to their list of protected species. Hopefully they will soon realize that all species are equally miraculous and have an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Since most tribes people don’t often live past 50 years, its fair to say that the developed countries must be doing something right, and that a higher degree of comfort and hygiene is probably a good thing overall.
It seems to me that both ends of the development spectrum have a great deal to teach each other about quality of life, and maybe it is about time to adopt Gautama the Buddha’s approach, and follow ‘The middle way’.
THE NATURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS
The nature of human consciousness is to evolve, as with all species, and we cannot go back into the animal realms once we have a human body. Evolution cannot stagnate so we will always explore new ways of living and not content ourselves with dwelling in caves.
This is obviously a good thing, although the occasional retreat in a real cave for a few days or weeks would benefit almost everyone, if they could but spare the time. Even an hour or two in a sensory perception float tank would give enormous benefit to the average city dweller bombarded with stimulus. These days, people can even rent a high-tech cave by the hour!
Gaia may yet have to bomb us back to the Stone Age to start again if we do much more damage to her delicate skin, but perhaps we will hear her pleas for sensitivity before that has to happen. The future is in the hands of those who have been lucky enough to see outside the collective dream of materialism. .
THE MIDDLE WAY OUT
You need a lot of guts and clarity, over a sustained period of time to jump off the stultifying treadmill of the modern tax machine. But it can be done, and it will save you a lot of sweat and tears in the long run.
Over the last 30 to 50 years thousands of people have been experimenting with alternative ways of living other than the nuclear family.
Their motives have been as diverse as the people themselves, and there have been an enormous variety of small urban and rural groups getting together to try to cooperate in bringing their dreams of a better life to fruition.
In fairness, many have tried and most have failed. Their own territorial and possessive natures have often worked against their success. But the biggest hurdle anyone trying to form a community independent from the much trumpeted ‘wider community’ has to face is the paralyzing opposition from the agents of the status quo, namely the federal and local governments and backward looking councils, who cannot allow society to develop unless it is under their complete control. Combined with these difficult hurdles, is the opposition from financial bodies, such as banks and building societies, who will not lend money to what they see as flaky groups of idle dreamers who may subvert the private property system which keeps them in their ivory towers. You can hardly blame them but on balance it is better to avoid the financial institutions altogether if possible, because they can be very ruthless and dishonest, leading people up the path with their tempting low interest loans which slowly double and then triple when enough punters have been signed up to them.
Out of every hundred attempts at community living only perhaps five have lasted more than one generation, before their guiding principals have disappeared in the fog of ego-clashing, exploitation, and exhaustion of the founding members trying to maintain their dream.
Many hundreds of land-based communities around the world have survived however, and continue to gain strength and offer a sustainable alternative to the nuclear family. Most people, however, still shelter in it, protected behind its walls and garden fences in the average semi-detached home in the average street, in an average town anywhere in the western world, where to be honest, most of the inhabitants are dying of boredom,stress,and loneliness.
There is an old Chinese story which illustrates how this situation comes about, and how the people trapped in it manage to survive, without taking to the streets and massacring their rulers like the Russians, Chinese, and French did during their famous revolutions.
Just pop a frog in a saucepan of cold water. The frog will sit quietly enjoying the coolness and avoiding detection. Now slowly turn up the heat under the saucepan and allow the temperature to very gradually increase. Because the process is very slow the frog fails to realize its life is in danger and therefore does not jump out to save itself. In this way the frog is slowly boiled to death. But please,obviously,don't actually try this experiment!
The above story illustrates very well why so many people grow old in the prison of the modern city, unaware that they will, in many cases, be boiled to death by it through stress-related heart attacks, and pollution-triggered lung cancer.
The overloading of the senses in the modern noisy city is like a constantly barking dog or crying baby pressing the anxiety button in your mind. If you are stuck in the middle of it you cannot think clearly enough to plan your escape, and this is why the almost universal yearning for a holiday retreat cottage in the unspoilt countryside exists. But for the vast majority of people it remains just that, and unfulfilled yearning. But not for much longer! as we shall see.
This overloading of the senses is the strategy of the Ruling Elite to keep its workforce immobilized and unable to establish any alternative. It is a modern day version of the pre-industrial strategy of Divide and Rule. Keep them just tired enough so they can still work and pay taxes, but cannot muster enough energy to change the system by organizing and fighting for their freedom.
Fortunately however, existence occasionally throws in a few visionaries and mystics who manage to inspire a large enough group to break out and form a viable alternative.
Jesus gave one of the earliest examples of this when he inspired his original disciples to throw down their nets and become ‘Fishers of Men’.
All very male-dominated admittedly, but that was the only possibility at the time, which was a macho period of history in the extreme, as Jesus found out very soon to his cost. ‘What a way to spend Easter!’ some might say about the crucifixion, but the Aquarian Gospel of St Thomas offers an intriguing alternative outcome to the tale.
The story goes that in fact Jesus did not actually die on the cross, because medically speaking that usually took up to 48 hours, and he was taken down by nightfall of the same day, when all the spectators had become bored and gone to bed. By this time he had very sensibly realized that God was not going to pull the rabbit of salvation out of the hat, and his wisest move was to get the hell out of there before the blood thirsty Pharisees twigged what was going on. The legend continues that he kept a low profile for a few weeks and then travelled with the camel merchants for the two thousand miles between Palestine and Northern India. Here he arrived with the Chosen Few and continued to teach his philosophy of Love and Peace in more friendly surroundings.
The town of Pahalagahm, which means the Place of the Good Shepherd, grew up around this spiritual community, and to this day the grave of the Good Shepherd is looked after by a little band of believers. Jesus reputedly died of natural causes at the grand old age of one hundred and three. But who knows, it was a very long time ago and we cannot believe everything we see and hear. Some deluded Buddhists still believe that Buddha was born standing up with a big smile on his face, took three steps forward and chanted ‘Om Shanti !'.But most of us take such Indian and Christian stories with, a pinch of salt these days, now that we have outgrown the limitations of superstition.
Still, the promise of a peaceful co-existence in a beautiful setting, with its psychological origins in the Garden of Eden, still inspires brave people to try again. They have to, before their unfulfilling lives drain away their capacity to get out of what many see as a way of life which is not only killing them and their children, but is also threatening the very future of civilized life on earth.
It is a very good thing that the Utopians among us will never give up until their dreams of freedom are fulfilled. They are the only allies Gaia currently has in her quest to turn her unruly offspring in a more sensitive and creative direction. John Lennon's affirmation,"You may say i'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one", is now coming true as millions more people become protectors of the Earth every year. No other job is more important.
ESCAPING THE MASS PSYCHOLOGY
Very few people ever manage to break away from the mass psychology of the collective mind.
Rich people do not work 40-60 hours per week, 5 or 6 days per week, unless they really want to, and the work they do would be unrecognizable as work to a manual labourer, who really earns his or her money, and usually gets burned out by the age of 45. Poor people usually work painfully long hours just to keep a roof over their family’s head and food in their mouths. They have to, because if they fail to pay the rent or mortgage on time they will very soon find themselves and their children on the street. And if they fail to comply with court orders requiring them to vacate their home because of debt, the police very soon turn up on the doorstep to enforce the wishes of the court. If the police or bailiffs meet resistance, the army is always available as a final backup to protect the myth that it is moral and acceptable for one man or company to own a dozen or even a thousand homes, while another man is unable to own one. Remember that one woman’s rent can be another woman’s poverty.
Obviously there are enough homes to go around, otherwise there would be millions of people living on the street, as in India. It’s just that the lazy landlords have the support of the government because most of the ruling classes are supported by property investments of one kind or another.
Even in Britain, the government of Margaret Thatcher managed to force its wishes on the people through the threat of massive fines when 12 million households refused to pay the infamous Poll Tax. If those twelve million households had marched on parliament and shouted ‘Fuck this, Maggie Out’ it would have all been over in a couple of hours. But like good sheep they sat around and swore at their T.V. sets instead, because they did not want the phantom policeman in their minds to bash them over the head and throw them in jail.
Sadly even when the right wing government was replaced by ‘New’ Labour, the Poll Tax was retained and dressed up under the more user – friendly name of Community Charge. The yuppie Labour governments we are now seeing around the world are just a slightly less blatant version of The aristocracy and they are even more efficient at swiping your money off you when you are not looking. What we really need to see is a real Community Charge (peaceful and non violent of course) up to the doors of Parliament house or the White House and say:" enough is enough! We want our homes and land back and we are not going to play this game any more until we get them.”
FOLLOW WHAT YOUR HEART TELLS YOU
Fortunately, however, if you really want to live simply and out of the clutches of the wage-slave society, it can be done. But you will have to work on it for quite a while, and look in all the right places.
Findhorn, in Scotland, is a great example of how an INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY can survive for decades if it has a strong enough seed idea and vision. Against all odds, the determination and inspiration of Findhorn’s founders, Eileen and Peter Caddy, has seen the community grow from a handful of rented caravans on a desolate council caravan site in the colder end of Britain, to a thriving group of several hundred healers and alternatives. Collectively and individually they own dozens of businesses, including a 200 room Hotel in the nearby town of Forres, where guests can stay if they are participating in the wide range of therapeutic training groups offered there, or they just want to experience community life and enjoy its benefits.
Over the thirty years since its inception, Findhorn has inspired many other groups to form land-based communities around the world as well as giving thousands of individuals a life changing experience of interdependence and collective wealth.
On a much smaller scale than Findhorn, but still very influential in its region, is the Tui Community in Golden Bay, in the gorgeous south island of New Zealand, or Aotearoa, as the indigenous Maoris call it, 'the land of the long white cloud'.
There are perhaps one hundred or more groups of people who have attempted to form and maintain alternative communities in New Zealand over the last 30 years or so. Most of them have become little more than ‘green suburbs’, where people just share the land out of convenience and because it was cheap to buy in the first place. But mostly they have lost their original urge to cooperate because they have no common vision spurring them on and inspiring them to support each other through thick and thin.
But still, the land and the environment nearly always benefit anyway, because alternative people generally love planting trees, and fortunately are very rarely organized or greedy enough to carry on farming livestock on the land, so it soon reverts to scrub and will eventually become native forest again.
A successful community is like a successful marriage. By far the most important ingredient is Love. Out of Love comes caring and commitment. And out of caring and commitment comes abundance.
This is the reason why communities like Tui have survived and flourished. Fortunately, it also has the great advantage of being in one of the most beautiful parts of Golden Bay, right on the beach and at the beginning of the breathtaking Abel Tasman walking track. But the main reason is the heart energy of the people who live there, who are mainly non-violent vegetarians who make a point of eating together and meeting several times a week. The only sad irony about Tui is that it is currently bordered by an enormous dairy farm, whose barbed wire fences prevent Tui from expanding in response to the ever present demand from visitors to be able to stay and join the community!.
There are some places on the Earth which are often called 'power spots' by the New Age movement. Golden Bay in the south island and Coromandel Peninsular in the north of New Zealand, and the rainbow region of New South Wales in Australia, which is centred around the now world famous centre of perpetual indulgence, Byron Bay, are classic examples of this phenomenon. There are many such power spots in North and South America, such as Sedona in Arizona and of course California as a whole, particularly Santa Cruz and Laguna Beach.
There are more healers and New Age pioneers and dreamers per square metre in Byron Bay than anywhere else on earth, and when the massage practitioners, nutritionists, and aura balancers run out of customers they just practice on each other in an endless carnival of exotic therapy groups and trainings. In spite of a hefty dose of esoteric bullshit thrown in along with a good sprinkling of charismatic hypnotics pretending to be enlightened, the future is well and truly being worked out in Byron Bay, like a giant non-violent battle between good and evil. The good is very well supported by the New Age army trying to bring about an environmentally-friendly and sensitive new way of life, and the evil side is, as usual, represented by the property investing yuppies who always move in to exploit the magnetic attraction created by the artistic and visionary presence of the more conscious alternative pioneers. The yuppie invasion effectively gate-crashes the Aquarian party and forces up the price of land and housing, eventually pushing out the very people who brought the whole energy phenomenon about in the first place.
In Byron Bay you will even find property developers disguised as hippies, who just happen to own several houses, rented out at developer rates to their New Age brothers and sisters. There are multi-millionaires sporting Hindu or Tibetan beads and hemp kaftans who own entire communities, who have convinced themselves that they are helping to give birth to a new humanity, but they have long since forgotten what their gurus and meditation teachers taught them, which was to have compassion for all beings and to create collective wealth for each other rather than exploit each other as rent slaves or overworked, otherwise homeless woofers. Now many of them have reverted to eating their fellow animal beings just like their parents did, and they will certainly evict their ‘brothers and sisters’ at the drop of a hat if they cannot pay the extortionate rents.
One persons prosperity is another persons poverty, and plain old greed has mutated into ‘Prosperity Consciousness’.
In spite of all this, the utopians are still the majority of voters in the Byron community of around ten thousand, and they have recently elected the world’s first female green mayor, which is a great step in the right direction. The only thing they need to be careful of is that the Greens do not become the new fascists, where the environment becomes more important than social justice, the rights of the individual, and equal right of all to have access to the land for food and housing.
THE GATHERING OF THE TRIBES
In the early 1970’s a series of revolutionary festivals happened all over the world, triggered of by the biggest of them all, Woodstock, in upstate New York, the largest peaceful gathering of people in the history of the western world, rivalling the Kumbha Mela, a spiritual gathering of up to 10 million naked Fakirs and assorted devotees which gathers in India every 12 years.
In Australia it was the Aquarius festival in northern New South Wales, and in New Zealand it was Nambassa, in the coromandel area of the north. All these festivals were glorious gatherings of dreamers determined to leave behind the work ethic drummed into them by their conservative parents, who understandably never wanted to see a ration book or any kind of poverty again.
For two or three weeks these new psychedelic tribes partied and wallowed in the mud to the heavy strains of Hendrix and Led Zeppelin inspired rock music, interspaced with Marihuana, L.S.D., and other mind-bending drugs. Luckily for their health and mental wellbeing most of them grew out of their destructive drug habits,but at least the drugs opened their minds initially to new ways of thinking.
A strange thing happened to those brave pioneers who had temporarily escaped from the rat race and caught the dominant paradigm by surprise. They caught a glimpse of a better way of life, and when the drugs wore off and the music stopped, they found to their delight and surprise, that this had not just been a holiday, and very few of them wanted to leave their new- found paradise in the countryside. After the Aquarius festival so many people wanted to keep the dream alive that a call went out to buy the very land the festival had been held on, and by a sort of karmic coincidence the dairy farmer who owned the land was desperate to sell all 3000 acres of it, which is why he had been willing to allow a bunch of dubious drug-crazed hippies anywhere near him in the first place, he badly needed the money to keep going.
Before long the entire nearby country town of Nimbin was taken over by hippy dreamers, filling the vacuum of the dairy industry crash which had left most of the shops and houses empty and almost worthless. Those same dreamers continue to this day to buy up and regenerate the whole region and give birth to their particular version of the Aquarian Age.
The Aquarian Revolution is not going to stop, and the ruling elite in Australia and New Zealand at least continue to give more and more ground. Within 20 years most of the old control freaks will be either senile or dead and unable to block the dreams of the new thinkers any more. We can only pray in the meantime that this psychological evolution is fast enough in environmental terms.
Shortly after the Aquarius festival, the New South Wales Labour government realized they were not going to be able to stop the greenies taking over worn out cow paddocks and regenerating them into their own little Shangri Las, so they did the sensible thing and recognized the new communities as a valid and valuable way of life. The legislation which came out of this,known as the Multiple Occupancy laws,forced the local councils to approve such developments. This just goes to show that once the livestock have been largely removed from the land it becomes free again for people and wildlife to enjoy.
Obviously, laws which enable poor people to own their own homes and land, should be the absolute priority of any government. This is because they reduce the financial burdens of rents and mortgages on the most vulnerable sector of society, which in turn reduces the enormous stress on individuals today, the major cause of relationship break-ups over money, and parents not having enough time or energy to nourish and inspire their children.
In truth, the taxman is the primary cause of relationship breakdown in modern society, even though the tax offices maintain that people are so uncaring of their less fortunate neighbours and relatives that the government is much more capable of looking after everyone in every way, which is why it needs to wring every last dollar out of the workers wage packets, one way or another.
The government does not create the peoples wealth as it would have us think, and neither does it produce anything solid which is used by its people. As it exists in most western 'democracies' today it is simply the biggest and most successful business corporation on the block, and is maintained by its citizens through fear of attack both from within and without. There is of course some justification for these fears, given the persisting belligerence and empire building ambitions of some of the younger control bodies such as America and communist China, which is fast shaping up to be the most successful capitalist empire of all time.
WHAT YOU EAT WILL MAKE YOU FREE
The proliferation of land-based communities in Australia in particular-there are literally thousands of such groups now-proves beyond doubt that if we withdraw our support from the livestock farmers we will get our land back, not only locally, but nationally, and most importantly globally, which will have the necessary healing effect on ozone damage, because it will cause the reforestation of millions of hectares of land which is now part of the worldwide green desert landscape. These millions of hectares will automatically revert to forest without having to be planted by humans at enormous cost in time and labour. The wind and the birds will do it, because they are the friendly agents of nature, who knows best how to recover herself after she has had all her skin shaved by humans.
The answer lies in the kitchen, and if you want to know the potential for violence in a prospective partner just look into the contents of their fridge. The more animal products are in there, the more careful you should be!
Perhaps the biggest and most successful surviving community of recent times, is ‘The Farm’ in Summertown, Tennessee, which is now home to hundreds of vegetarians farming 3000 acres. The Farm, immortalized by the entertaining book ‘Hey Beatnik’, was started by Stephen and Anna May Gaskin in the late 1970’s. Stephen was a revolutionary professor at Harvard University, along with Richard Halpert- now known as Ram Dass- and Timothy Leary, famous for his popularization of mind-altering drugs,which some say caused his premature death and was a good example of the dangers of artificial aids to expanding consciousness. Meditation takes a little longer but is much more effective in the end.
All three professors were happily subverting the academic system in their own ways and agitating for the end of the Vietnam war, when they were asked to leave Harvard before too many of their students dropped out. Steve Gaskin chose to inspire a Peace Convoy of several hundred buses and assorted gypsy wagons to travel around America spreading the hippy vision of peace, love, and harmony, and eventually realized that the best way to achieve that was to stop moving around and materialize the dream in the form of an Intentional Community. The sanctuary born out of that vision has been very successful, apart from Stephen’s outrageous imprisonment for 6 years by the American Police State because some of the community’s members were caught growing marihuana, a mortal sin in the eyes of alcohol-soaked American politicians, many of whom also happen to be shareholders in billion dollar multinational who produce ‘legal’ drugs and narcotic, addictive tranquilisers such as valium and prozac, which are far more dangerous and liable to cause
The American police state also successfully managed to destroy the biggest and boldest alternative community of the late 20th Century centred around the meditation teacher Osho. Osho and his friends took over an ecologically disastrous 64,000 acre cattle farm in Oregon, and turned it into a miracle of regeneration covered in new forest and vegetable and fruit growing areas. Unfortunately the right-wing Christians in Oregon became jealous of the commune’s success and forced Osho to eventually leave the country altogether, whereby he returned to India and ironically became more successful than ever.
So be careful where and when you want to start something new in a spiritually immature or aggressive environment. You could end up wasting a lot of energy fighting with the kind of dinosaurs who have died out in many other parts of the world, such as Australia, New Zealand, and perhaps Costa Rica. But if you still want to join the fast growing and exciting back–to-the-land movement it may help to read the Communities Directory, which lists hundreds of communities worldwide, and also offers much useful advice on how to start your own community.
SUCK IT AND SEE
I would offer a very strong word of warning, however, to anyone thinking of running blindly and idealistically into the community dream. Never commit yourself materially or legally, and most importantly financially, to any group or philosophy until you have had a good hard look at it in as down to Earth way as possible. Spend as much time as you can on the land, living with the people you are considering sharing your life with, give yourself or your family at least six months to discover if your vision and energy are in synchronicity with the group.
You cannot get to know the true nature of a community from a few brief visits, however good you think your intuition is. Remember that you will be effectively marrying yourself and your partner or offspring to this unknown group of pioneers, who may well not know themselves what they are doing or what their motivations really are.
Communities and similar new tribal groupings will only be a truly healing alternative to mainstream society if they contain a more positive level of loving kindness in them than is in the society we are all trying to escape from, where you cannot walk the streets at night without feeling frightened, particularly if you are a female or older person, which is no way to spend your precious life.
So how do you know if people have a loving and caring nature, which will protect and nourish you and the other members of your group? It may sound a bit inflexible, but in my experience you cannot mix vegetarians and Meat eaters together in a land-based community and expect harmony and equality. IT WON’T HAPPEN! However idealistic and tolerant members like to think they are, they will fall out and start fighting over the use of the common land, because the meat eaters will inevitably want to surround the vegetarians with barbed wire so as to control and breed the animals they want to eat.
A well known Indian mystic made the following statement:
"With self-remembering you cannot eat meat-impossible! Because once you remember suddenly you will see that the same flame,the same fire is burning everywhere. Then how can you kill for eating ? How can you be so violent just for the sake of a meal. It becomes simply impossible."
Nothing upsets vegetarians and vegans more than belligerent carnivores constantly arguing that organic meat is good for you and spiritually O.K., as long as you “kill it with awareness”. They conveniently ignore the damage this does to the groundwater, rivers and streams on the land, which the adults and kids may wish to swim in or drink out of. The unfortunate truth is that people who are still capable of killing for a meal will try to kill you as well in a thousand subtle ways, albeit psychically and emotionally, and you will end up in their mental fridge if you try to get in the way of their bloodlust. Human bloodlust is equally as strong as sexual obsession, and it will resort to extremely devious ways to batter any opposition into silence through fear in the intimate close proximity of village life, just like people have always done in traditional village life.
This is why ‘The shit always rises to the top’ in society’s normal villages, towns and cities, and we find ourselves being exploited by the members of society most concerned with power and control.
What better indicator can there be that people are interested in power and control than that they imprison their fellow animal beings, keep them in constant fear of pain and death, kidnap and kill their children, and steal their mother’s milk.
Remember particularly that the innocent and trusting idealism of many New Age communards has led them to adopt the principal of consensus as a way of deciding what to do and what to avoid. This simply means that no one can do anything unless everyone is happy about it! This is all very well in theory but hopelessly out of touch in reality. What 'consensus' really amounts to, is group paralysis by the minority. In effect, if any one or two of the group decide their own egos are not getting enough attention, or one of their own pet projects are not getting enough support, all they have to do is say NO! , the favourite word of the crippled three year old child stuck in an adult body.
This is one of the many ways politics creeps into Utopia, and degenerates into a power play, hardly less primitive than the one the communards have left behind, and in many cases far worse.
It is equally true, however, that a straight democratic voting system is just another invitation to damaging political incursion into community life. This is because it means that 51% of a community can go ahead and spend shared resources or instigate projects which 49% of their neighbours are strongly against. This may be the best system we can hope for in our wider society, but it is a recipe for disaster in a small and intimate alternative society.
My own experience of human power trading in alternative communities over 30 years, is that a voting ratio of 70% for and 30% against is a fair balance. This means that more than 3 out of 10 members have to disagree with something to block it so that it can be discussed further or stopped. This is a fairly large section of any collective consciousness and should be listened to and respected as a protective voice of reason. If a particular issue is important enough to almost three quarters of the people it will resurface later when it may be mature enough to gain the necessary 71% approval ratio.
From the other perspective, if 7 out of 10 members of a community think something is right, the other 3 members should probably support it, even if they think it is a little crazy. The time for their own crazy projects will come. For myself, I often supported ideas and projects I have considered crazy, and even worked on them, because I wanted to support the creative urges of a friend, and see them happy.
Perhaps most importantly, when new members with valuable new energy come, and want to join the group, and old members wish to leave, and perhaps sell them a house and other hard won assets, they need to be able to move on without experiencing years of delay and frustration. This will inevitably happen, when just 20% of a community are the kind of people, who find it hard to accept anything or anyone new in their lives. These people will tend to vote against almost every new member in case that person may end up being antagonistic to them during decision making or just in everyday life within the small area of land around the village site. Many people simply transfer their childhood ‘no’ they used to manipulate their parents to their new family, the community. Others will not vote for anyone they feel they cannot control.
So, if you are contemplating joining or starting a new community, please for your own sake and everybody else’s, make sure it is an INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY , rather than an ACCIDENTAL one, populated by a random group, who may simply want a cheap plot of land to set up their tipi, get out of the rent trap , and start breeding pigs or dogs at the end of your sacred garden. So take your time and save yourself many years of heartache and wasted energy.
You can safeguard yourself by drawing up a Community Constitution, which clearly lays down the ground rules and beliefs of the group, as well as their financial and other responsibilities.
(1) Is it based on a specific philosophy or religious outlook, such as Buddhist, Christian, or Hindu, etc.
(2) Is it based on practical or environmental principals, eg, permaculture, Steiner guidelines, or whatever.
(3) Is it based on vegetarian or vegan principles of Compassion for all Beings. Naturally, if you are a being looking for love and kindness around you, this is the best type of community to look for.
(4) Is it a meditation retreat or sanctuary based on the teachings of a particular guide, which you will be expected to remain loyal to, or is it a non-denominational spiritual group such as Findhorn, which embraces all kinds of spiritual beliefs and practices. This may be a good thing, but can conversely water down the quality of the experience members may be looking for.
(5) Most importantly of all, make sure that the Constitution you are agreeing to is a legally binding set of guiding principles which has been signed by the other members, to prove that they genuinely agree to abide by those principals.
(6) Is the community family-based or not. Does it welcome children, or is it clearly only for adults, who have come to a clear understanding of their philosophy and are not likely to change their priorities or beliefs. Remember, that children will not necessarily want to follow their parents’ beliefs and may vigorously rebel against them, causing much heartache and acrimony in the community. Be particularly careful about this, or you may end up becoming a surrogate parent against your will, when all you wanted was a quiet and simple life, without parental responsibilities.
If you don’t find out as clearly as possible who you are getting involved with, you only have yourself to blame if you end up being controlled and suppressed by a group of people you have very little in common with.
Built on the right foundation, community living can be much richer and more fulfilling than the nuclear family. But as with any marriage, spiritual or otherwise, it is bound to fail, if there is not a high degree of honesty and clarity right from the start.
If individual members sign a Constitution they can be legally bound to leave the community if they flagrantly and repeatedly break the rules, or ignore the Understandings on the basis of “Well , I’ve changed and evolved beyond those limitations, therefore you all have to change too or shut up and accept it”. This commitment makes prospective ‘sharers’ far less likely to pretend that they agree with the basis of the community because subconsciously or blatantly they just want to get hold of a nice piece of valuable real estate without paying the market price for it.
However dishonest or violent a community member may be, the others cannot get rid of them if there is not a legal contract, and just one or two rotten apples can ruin a whole barrel.
The principal of Intentional Community has been going strong in India for at least two thousand years. There they are known as Ashrams or Sanghas, and have traditionally grown up around the presence of a charismatic leader, wise or deluded, who may be male or female.
Buddha’s intentional community was fully mobile and had no solid buildings, since it consisted of around 10,000 followers or ‘Bodhisattvas’, who wandered around with him as he spread his message of love and compassion through meditation over large areas of India.
In the West Ashrams are also nothing new, although there they are called monasteries and convents, and have proliferated all over Europe since the end of the Roman occupation around 400 A.D.
In Polynesia, Islanders have lived in highly sophisticated Maraes for at least 1000 years, and continue to do so in New Zealand in large numbers.
Throughout history people generally escaped from smaller tribal groupings when they felt ready to be independent of the often repressive power of the local chiefs or warlords. Tribes amalgamated into little kingdoms, as in the British Isles, which once had up to a dozen Kings in England alone, apart from Scotland and Ireland.
Eventually the most cunning or ruthless egomaniacs, managed to subdue all their neighbours and nations were born, which painfully and tragically led to the ruthless Roman, Hapsburg, and British Empires. Later, of course, the Americans realized that it was a lot easier to control an international economic Empire, largely without the bother of having to occupy the whole world with costly armies, although they do occasionally resort to brute force if all else fails. Nowadays the weapon of choice is the bribe, which is a much more energy efficient way of keeping your pet leaders in line globally.
Hopefully, psychopathy and greed which leads to Empire building will soon have worked itself out of the collective mind of the world’s most dangerous power groups and there will be no more global struggles over resources, but rather a mutual trust and sharing which will make us all prosperous and secure.
One thing is for sure. However much we would prefer to hide behind our lace curtains and mow our picket- fenced lawns to announce our territorial claims over our little corner of the world, we have to start communicating with our neighbours, and even cooperate and live alongside them. It is sheer insanity to spend billions of valuable dollars to discover life on other planets, if we cannot even discover the beauty of the people who live next door. We are already in space, floating around on what may be the most wonderful place in the whole universe, so why waste time trying to get somewhere we already are.
The massive duplication and depletion of the earth’s resources caused by millions of nuclear families keeping warm or cool in separate little houses, watching 2 or 3 separate TV’s, and driving 2 or 3 polluting vehicle to separate workplaces we mostly don’t want to be for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week has been cruel, obsolete, and unsustainable for at least 25 years, just as the perverted Communist dream was unsustainable in the Soviet Union for 70 years , and led to the violent deaths of 20 million people.
Fortunately, we are learning faster and faster from our mistakes, and we now have the wonderful journey and adventure ahead of us of learning to love each other enough to create abundance and prosperity for everyone everywhere.
Given time, and an infinite ecosystem, it would happen inevitably within the next 50 – 100 years. But we have not got the luxury of kicking back and watching the Leela of human consciousness evolve in it’s own good time. We have to push the river a little bit now, while we still have one to swim in, and the rare Amazon River pink dolphins to swim with us in it, along with many other threatened species.
You may be surprised how many of your friends, many of whom you have not yet met, may be yearning for a better life, where they can rediscover the wonders of nature and touch the Earth again. Why not start today, by looking for them in places where your intuition leads you, or just simply advertising in suitable magazines,or on the internet. Then when you have found them you can start pooling your resources and start looking for some fertile land at least 20 metres above sea level, with a clean water supply. There is not much time left to delay your dreams, even if you have no money right now. Just start and trust the integrity of your heart, and you will find that the collective will of humanity is stronger and kinder than you could believe.