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"Modesty is inefficient"

If we believe we are here to do something, if in fact we have the daunting task of turning around a system which appears destine not only to degrade, demoralize and dehumanize us, but to destroy the ecosystem in the process. We don't have time for outdated social customs. You need to tell me what you can do, what you are good at, how you can contribute to helping to make these changes. And i in turn need to tell you the same.

Anything less endangers us. Anything less leaves one of us wondering why the other is not being clear, "Are you unaware of your gifts? Are you unsure of them ? Am i wrong in estimating you ability?"

So following are some of my ideas, dreams and plans* - immodestly presented. Tell me yours.

* in fact this is what all the pages of this website are about.


University of Hawaii, April 26, 1990

George Bush, Sadam Hussein and Momar Kaddafy are all stranded on a desert island - who would survive? We would, a bit of Anarchist humor.

When people here the word anarchy, the vision which jumps to mind is chaos. WHen someone says they are an anarchist, you picture a scruffy person, dressed in black, with a maniacal grin on their face, holding a bomb [Mess up hair, grin and pull mock bomb out of bag].

I'm going to try to shatter some of these illusions.

The word anarchy comes fromt he greek "w/o authority"

Anarchists generally believe that governments are fundamentally coercive organizations, drawing there power from violence and that man made laws are a restriction of freedom and therefore both governments and laws should be abolished. Or if you want to look at it in a more affirmative sense, Anarchists seek to:

1) Maximize freedom 2) Minimize coercion

You are probably thinking "Laudable goals, but impossible to obtain without some type of hierarchy to maintain order."

Let me share with you the expereince which first convinced me that there were non-hierarchical solutions to problems.

We were choosing teams for an ultimate frisbee game, someone said "Find someone of approximately your ability and pair up with them." after about half a minute we were in pairs "now everyone on the left is on one team and everyone ont he right is on the other". Now normally, captains are selected choices are alternated, w/ ego invested first picks and embarrasing last pick and the whole operation takes much longer. Why do we stick with this hierarchical system, which takes responsibility away from the individual, when it is inferior in so many ways - because it is what we know, what we are taught.

Now you are thinking "Nice trick, but life is not a frisbee game, what about more complex social organizations"

If the structure or "topology", if you will, of the hierarchy is a pyramid. Then what is the large scale model for anarchist organizations? Why it is the buzz word of the 80's - networks.

I've been involved in three different types of network each sheads a bit of light on how anarchists structure things.

First is collective businesses. Workers make the decisions. Frequently, they will choose to give authority to a manager or project leader. But these are fundamentally different from normal corporate managers, they serve a specific project or until the group replaces them, the workers give them the power to lead and volunter to follow their instructions. Most collectives use a consensus decision model, borrowed from the feminists, in which probelms are worked on until everyone agrees on the solution - this is a very different than a voting model. Typically business collectives don't grow to be huge, but in my experience they are much nicer places to work.

Secondly are collective houses. I want to focus on a single aspect of a collective house i lived in called Paradox to illustrate a point. Big houses w/ a lot of people (10 in this case) perpetually have problems keeping the place clean. At paradox we developed a system where post-it notes with cleaning tasks were placed on a big calendar on the date they were last done. When you felt like doing housework, you went to the calander, found what had not been done in a while, did that task and moved the post-it. Nowhere in this process is your name listed next to your fine work, it is a self policing system. The group having taken responsibility, when things slipped, as they always do occassionaly, someone would bring it up in a housemeeting and people would generally admit to not having done enuf - this worked better than rigid job wheels in my experience.

THe third and last type of network is the political collective. These are important because they deal witht eh problems of bringing large groups of people together, frequently in short periods to solve specific problems. An affinity group structure is used, usually friends who make decisions using consensus. Often specific tasks are handled by an affinity group, media outreach, writing a handbook, transportation coordination, first aid, food preparation, etc. But the "spokesperson council" will make a decision for the entire group using consensus. Your thinking "It can't work for a group over a hundred", I've seen it work for several thousand. Not easy but doable.

And you end up with a better quality of decisions.

Now you are thinking "Okay, maybe this stuff works in special cases, but no government, means no police, no military - civilization will collapse!"

My contention is that these institutions do more to foster collapse than prevent it. Consider the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima after the Japanese petitioned for conditional surrender. Consider that 90% of the 2 million killed in Vietnam were civilians. COnsider the Reagan-Bush escapades in Libya, Granada, Nicaragua and Panama. Or if you find these uncompelling, consdier the Orwellian double think of nuclear weapons "Build more of these world destroying devices and the world will be safer" Sounds like civilization is quite sick to me.

"But we need the police!" you call. I want to do a survey, how many people in this room have been robbed in the last 20 years [about 80% raise hands] and how many of these crimes were solved witht he criminal caught and punished [about 5% raise hands]. So what is the solution here, more police? No, the solution is to change the way society looks at property.

THe point is that government is a responsibility dodge, we put it there to deal witht he things we don't want to deal with, and once in place it does things we don't want it to do. Now you are thinking "Utopist, this guy is dreaming of places which can't exist".

I want tell you about a place called Twin Oaks, it is an intentional community of 70 adults and about a dozen kids in rural Virgina - they don't bill themselves as anarchists, but rather they use words like egalitarian, feminist and "embracing diversity" it amounts to the same thing. It is directly democratic (rather than a representative one), workers control everything (similar to the collective business i mentioned before), they don't use money internally (tho they generate over a million dollars in exports a year), they contract with each other to work the smae number of hours a week (writing software is worth the same as doing the dishes or childcare), they have some personal property but almost anything large is owned collectively. From the large list of possible jobs they are free to choose the which ones they like and when they will do them. ANd guess what, no crime. Probably $10 million in physical plant, equipment, and tools and no locks inthe whole place. Fourteen cars and trucks witht he keys in them and only one has been stolen in the last 20 years - doing a lot better than this audience. "Well, they must be very restrictive about who they let in." you are thinking. Nope, it's basically an open admission policy.

Now maybe you are thinking "I'm not quite sure what to make of all this stuff, but i don't think these anarchist ideas will ever affect my life."

I contend that everyone in this room has been effected by a relatively recent anarchist revolution, the sexual revolution. Not long ago, the church, state and nuclear family had incredible power over our sexual relationships. "Living in sin" was not a joke, adultery was a serious punishable crime. People said "this is fundamentally my choice" and whole scale rejected the external authority. The laws stayed onthe books, people just ignored them and they became uninforced and uninforcable. THey decided to form a network of lovers, if you will, mostly quite small, but the hierarchy lost it's control over this issue.

So next time someone tells you they are an anarhist, don't think about bombs, think about freedom [throw mock bomb to Rez in the audience]

I hope i have shattered some illusions.

[Total time 5 minutes 30 seconds]



Letter to america:

Dearest friends:
Near the beginning of the brilliant 1950s film, A Thousand Clowns, Jason Robarts explains to his young nephew Max that he has not looked for work on this day because it is his own personal holiday:

    "You have to make your own holidays, giving everyday its own name - because otherwise you end up on the stuck in traffic going to work not knowing if it is Thursday or Tuesday and it does not even matter if it is Thursday or Tuesday."

i always liked this idea, but never seemed to have time to make or name my own holidays. Instead, i have adopted the proud tradition of computer programmers (and lifestyle terrorists) around the world - i steal them.

i will celibrate "New Years" three times in these few months - Halloween, "western" and Chinesse. So on this train from Berlin to Prague returning from the middle of these 3 celibrations, here are my pondering on the division of time between past projects and progress and future facts and fantasies. Trying to reach across the big pond to my many comrades in the untied snakes - with this reflective and highly immodest holiday greeting.

It has been a full year. We started with the failed campaign to create a national referendum to close early the nuclear power plant (NPP) in Slovenjia (part of former Yugoslavia). A clever politician got the needed signatures from other parliamentarians to create a binding national referendum on closure within 10 years of the Krsko NPP. But then Westinghouse took advantage of this same politicians foolish move of leaving the ruling political party to set up his own trying to take credit for the referendum with him. Westinghouse convinced 10 of the ruling parties parliamentarians to illegally withdrawl their signatures, which collapsed the governmental referendum. And when this same politician then tried to gather 40,000 signatures for the campaign, we got dragged into a huge frustrating campaign. Tragically, polls indicated if we could get the signatures we would win the referendum. But the bizarre multi-step registartaion laws in Slovenija made the task nearly impossible - despite film festivals, raves, TV appearances, several articles in print, our first campaign webpage and numerous inspired actions.

Adam, Ben and i camped out in our office in Ljubljana for several months, working hard but also enjoying charms of the richest country of the former communist states. [And according to one UN study, the best educated country in the world.] i appreciated that in this small country the president still mows his own lawn. We freqented the Matelkova squat which in 1990 had been the scene of a 100,000 person demonstration (in a country of only 2 million) forcing the Yugoslav army out and taking over the barracks as public space. We also spent a bunch of time "geeking" at the Kud cyber cafe (my first).

The Krsko campaign over lapped the Chernobyl 10th Anniversary (C +10) campaign, which was also less than a dream come true. The problem was that we were unable to realize the plans of our initial big Kiev mtg, where we brainstormed some excellent ideas, but lacked the commitment and funds to make most of them happen.

What did happen, was scores of national based actions, lots of propaganda production (including our anti-nuclear fingerbook in 10 languages), music (including the Chernobyl No More CD that Ben and i sparked, with 16 Punk Bands and spoken word by Noam Chomsky, Jello Biafra and Amory Lovins in an amazingly eclectic mix) and a very large conference.

i dont like conferences as a rule, but i must confess this one was enjoyable. Some 250 of the most interesting and most experienced anti-nuclear analysts and activists from across Europe and around the world converged on Kiev the week before the April 26 disaster anniversary. Some vital new alliances were formed and the Ukraine was added to my list of countries where i have spent time in jail. This time for preventing the entrance of technocrats to the unapologenic Ukranian Ministry of Atomic Energy.

This day in the Kiev prison gave me some more time with my most unusual new ally - Vladimir Sliviak (our previous longest conversation was in jail together in Berlin, after locking our heads to the bottom of buses taking US Oil and Car industry executives to the UN Climate Conference). It takes a very special kind of person to do direct action in Russia, especially if one is daring enuf to start this kind of work before the revolution. But when you meet Lucifer (as he jokingly calls himself), you begin to understand why someone might do it - and as you get to know him better, you begin to see why for some people there is no other choice. Tall, thin, long wavy hair and eyes like Rasputant, this seemingly meloncolic Russian has several claims to fame, but results are the ones most people understand. And for him and his Russian anti-nuclear comrades, 1996 was a very good year.

Kaliningrad is physically disconnected from the rest of Mother Russia, resting between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea. Yellow Cake (unfinished NPP fuel) shipped from St Petersburg to the west must come thru Kaliningrad for permissions and provisions. Vladimirs group, EcoDefense!, wanted to block on shipment going to the US - but the military city nature of Kaliningrad made a Greenpeace Navy style blockade impossible. Instead they blockaded the administration building making it impossible for the boat to get permission to land. After several days of waiting and over a million dollars of costs the boat returned to St Petersburg and suit was brought against EcoDefense! for their actions. But EcoDefense! not only won the suit, it also went on to push legislation which will block all radioactive transport thru Russia's only cold water port.

But direct action is not the only tool. EcoDefense! has also helped convinced the local authorities in Rostov (Russia) to halt construction of a nuclear power plant until there is a binding public regional referendum. And a similar referendum at Kostroma in Russia, just stopped the contruction of a nuclear power plant, with 89% of the populace voting against the plant and 60% of the eligable voters participating - without a turn out of over 50% it would not have been binding. (What did Clinton get again ?). Karen and the fine folx from Greenpeace International can take significant credit for this first democraticly halted reactor in the east.

i made friends with a philanthropist. It is an unusually alliance between someone who works at having as little as possible, and someone who takes responsibility for controling great wealth. But clearly Hermann and i have messages for each other. Thru him i learned the first principals of radical forestry: "do as little as possible" which is how he manages his 16,000 acre estate outside of Koln. Unfortunately, it is not enuf to stop with first principals and the second principals (which deal with reducing the damage already done by humans) requires him to employ 60 wise forest people fulltime. Thru my eyes, he has been able to see places to put small but strategic amounts of money to push to anti-nuclear effort forward. Hermann, with the force of his personality (and not his money) made the Kiev C+10 conference happen, while i tried to organize the int'l campaign - he was more succssful than i.

The big success of the year was the blockade and trespass action at Temelin. Many of you have seen the article which i wrote for POZOR (Warning) magazine. It chronicals the fireworks we launched from a top the cooling towers, maps of the plant we managed to steal from their poorly secured buildings and the drama of 300 people dedicated to stopping the beast. But for those of you who did not read it, i will clip my favorite part fo the story.

    "There were comic moments as well, particularly when the PR officer of Temelin tried to use our symbols against us. Standing in front our many banners and the trash blockade we had built in front of the main gate, Mr. Novak calmly explained to the TV Nova audience that the protesters were not affecting the operation of the plant, that everything was under control, and that the security of the plant was in no way violated.

    Then, in a priceless piece of good luck, three of our trespassers who had jumped the fence appeared on the other side of the main gate running full speed with plant security in hot pursuit. The TV camera moves away from the confident PR man and onto the sprinting intruders. Two jump through the fence, but the last is grabbed by a security guard and stopped two meters inside the plant. With the TV cameras still running, the last escaped trespasser, turned around went back thru the gate onto the plant, pulls the security guards' hands off of his captured comrade, pushes the guard to the side. And they both rush through the gate to freedom. The 70 blockaders break into wild applause and shouting and the TV camera returns to the plant PR person whose confidence is shattered. Everything is not under control."

The Temelin action was a watershed. The press moved distintly away from the official position, DUHA (the group i work with in the Czech Republic) decided to make Temelin the top priority campaign for the next year and even the Financial Times put our action on the front page. The spirit of the camp was incredible.

After Temelin was Mochovce. The Slovak NPP where we are fighting even harder opponents, but have made great progress (having already knocked out some of the worlds largest banks, utilities and nuclear contractors). Unfortunately, the Slovak government has followed the lead of the British in passing a highly repressive "Criminal Justice" Bill, designed to crush opposition to unpopular policies by outlawing critical expression and press. The diference is that the secret police in Slovakia are so powerful that they can kidnap the Presidents son, drug him, throw him over the Austrian border and never get punished. [The president is a political enemy of the Prime Minister, who controls the secret police.] When witnesses were to testify against the government in this kidnapping, they seemed to die in mysterious car explosions.

The action camp near the Mochovce plant focused on the "positive action" called the Clean Energy Brigades (CEB). These are groups of volunteers working in individual houses installing energy efficiency materials to demonstrate that efficiency really is an alternative to nuclear. We have done CEB for a number of years in the Czech Republic, but this is the first time we have done it in Slovakia. The direct action of the summer was to block the nuclear utilities headquarters in Bratislava. This was a surprisingly successful action from the press angle as well, with over 10 articles appearing on it the next day (even in the sports newspaper). This action employed the SET team (Sustainable Europe Tour), who brought music, theatre and circus acts to political topics around the continent. My guess for the reason the normally aggressive utility negotiated a settlement with the blockaders is that they were not quite sure how they were going to arrest the people on stilts who were blockading without getting someone (possibly the police) hurt.

One of the other projects we started in 96 was the enabling legislation for nationally binding referendums in the Czech Republic. The post revolutionary Czech constitution guarentees the right for referendums, but the details of how to make this happen have never been fixed. When the moment is right, we hope to use the referendum as the final tools to kill the Temelin project.

The final summer event was my last Ecotopia. Organized by my magical wife and her partner JanH, Ecotopia Czech Republic was a chaotic, comic and cosmic affair. I was asked to facilitate (is that the right word?) the marriage of 21 people and a dog - that is all of them together at once. While this event created a bit of controversy and head shaking, it also sparked a number of significant relationships between people who had not previously known each other well. i was honored to be asked to be part of it. But it is my last Ecotopia, in part because i take up too much space, several people were critical of my role in meetings where i seemed to be shadow facilitating, in their eyes. It is also a good time to move on, the thing i most enjoyed contributing are now being well done by others. In part of our always interesting connection, LU has wonderfully replaced me in giving the workshop on jealousy and open relationships. i will miss Ecotopia (the next one is in Scotland), but after 7 i can retire quite content.

[i returned to Am*dam for the end of the summer and lived briefly with the lovely Stephanie who was manically organizing the Hunger Gathering in Rome. This was the counter event to the UN official Food Summit and employed a wonderful very low cost, high shock value action technique. At the final press conference of the official event our folx (who amazingly are still able to get press accreidation) infiltrated and three women stripped naked to reveal slogans written on them while others held banners. We are probably lucky we did not give aging Fidel Castro, who was attending, a heart attack. The pictures are rightious.]

We wrestled with giants at the end of the the year. We organized a boycott of Siemens for their work on Mochovce and i was responsible for the international work. It was quite fun actually and lots of people did actions, press work and in the end over 600 groups from 70 countries signed the call for Siemens to withdrawl. i met twice with the directors of Siemens, who were strikingly uninformed. But what was amazing was the amount of control Siemens has over the media. Our work was virtually invisible in Austria, exactly because Siemens is such a large advertiser - reporters would tell us that they were not coming ot our press events because they knew the editor would kill the story. Still we managed to have fun with it. 400 activists landed on the "SiemensCity" doorstep in Berlin the day before New Years. And Anti Siemens Santas were part of the month long boycott motif. i even wore a Santa costum hitching across Germany. The first person who stopped said "look i am a woman driving alone - normally i never pick up hitchhikers, but am i going to be able to sleep tonight if i leave Santa by the side of the road freezing, 3 days before Christmas?". I made it in record time.

1996 had its serious tragedies as well. Anissa was raped in Germany and this put her (and our relationship) thru incredible strain. I grew in this painful process - and especially learning about making conscious choices to heal yourself. Anissa read lots of feminist stuff, she did her rituals, found her safe places, we both cried our eyes red. Part of healing for her was to becoming more wise, she radicalized more - ultimately deciding not to go to the trail (they caught him, convicted twice before of rape), because it is simply the wrong way to deal with the problem. In the end, we unraveled a bit, Anissa left for a community in Spain, did not like it and is now in London with her gentle lover James, strengthening. I miss her spark.

It was a year of important beginings. We started an anti-nuclear university called FAIRE (Free and Applied Internships in Renewables and Efficiency). We have selected the first nine students (from Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Georgia (the one without Atlanta)). Who are now learning English at a quick rate. We will also do campaign training, media and fundraising work wiht them and then will spend 3 to 6 months in the west at a group actively working on nuclear in their region. I taught three classes last week (the first week of the FAIRE courses) - Fundraising, WWW and places they might intern (Greenpeace, the Oko Institut, NIRS, the Institute for Risk Research, etc). Because they are just starting the language work, my rants were translated into both Russian and Hungarian. As i write this, Lucifer has them hanging from trees by ropes in Budapest, learning technical climbing for actions. A sweet high class problem we have - deciding what is important to teach.

The other new born is PIANO (for the Prague International Anti-Nuclear Office). Krist@, emily, Sarah, Stevie, Katka and Nadia - six wild women from as many countries working to make the Temelin blockade of 1997 an irresistable event. It is very intentionally an all womens office, because that is an important part of what is missing here in the movement. Slightly problematically, the idea came from a boy, this boy. i hustled the money (with some help from Hermann) and selected the "players" (as they are often called) most of whom had not met each other before. At the initial party one observer described it as the largest blind date in history. And to be honest the project has had a bit of trouble landing. But it has gravity on its side. There are some great women coming to the office (to add to the amazing ones already there), they all are inspired by the idea of an all womens office and they are already well into creating the better party - a key to the revolution. PIANO is building on the power of last years Temelin actions but focusing internationally. And this year by July 6th, just about everyone is convinced they will have created something irresistable. You will likely be able to watch it on CNN or MTV, but you will regret not being there - i promise.

i added another title to my absurdly fractured job. Lead Nuclear Campaigner for Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) network. It sounds more grand than it is, but i was quite pleased to be offered the position at the FOEI annual general meeting in Leeds, UK. It was the first and possibly the last AGM i will attend (they tend to require airplanes to get to - next two are in Uraguay and Australia). But i had a blast and with my Czech comrades, we lobbied up quite a storm, pushing the entire 57 nation network to take more radical stands on a number of issues. The job also reconnected me to Chernobyl.

Looming huge is the Chernobyl replacement power scandel. Using your tax money (if you come from just about anywhere) the EU + G-7 are planning on finishing two dangerous and totally unneeded Russian reactors in the Ukraine to replace the two operating ones at Chernobyl. We have a good chance at this one, and the story is breaking right now actually. I will spare you the details, but if banks and bureaucrats try to push ahead (ignoring the results of their own expert studies which advise agains the project) then after Temelin and Mochovce this summer it will be on to the Ukraine in August for more fun.

On the non-nuclear propaganda front, the Consensus fingerbook made it into German, Polish and Hungarian. The Open Relationship Fingerbook made it into Czech and German and has a web presense (www.t0.or.at/~C+10/fpp.html). There are rumors of Esperato, Dutch and French translations, which i will believe when i see. Ben and Erikk made the graphics better and sharper, we printed lots of them and distributed them to the amny folx who asked for them. Loosing money hand over fist.

Some people have daughters and ex-wives. In my odd way i seem to have ended up with a wife and an ex-daughter. There is no provision in Czech law for the husband not to be that father of a child when s/he is born. So in one of the more comic court appearances of my life, JanH sued me and Adela for possession of his child. It was all a very friendly affair, except i stumbled badly thru translation when i was not sure why the judge was asking the last time i had slept with Adela (i feared she might be trying to prove ours was a real marriage). The ensuing confusion of answers and wild looks caused the court recorder (who apparetly spoke english better than the judge) to loose her ability to keep track of the proceedings because she was laughing so hard. Perhaps it is better there is no official record. Adela is now off to Belgrade, to watch the most likely next revolution, and i am on a train in the wrong direction - damn.

The other more interesting family configuration in my life is that i have been asked to be the biological father for a child i will not be responsible for. An old lover of mine (we are still negotiating, so she shall remain nameless for now) and her partner (who is sterile) very much want to have a child. He (also a friend of mine) was actually first to suggest me as the biological father - i was flattered to be asked and then struck by the miriad of questions it posses. The advice of most of my lovers and intimates is to do it and i am leaning that way. Interesting times.

Crossing the Atlantic. After this summers actions, Hawina (formerly Helmi) and i will take a (hopefully sail) boat to the untied snakes. It is envisioned to be a longish visit (since it is so hard to get there). Stops include my favorite intentional community Twin Oakes (Virginia), Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Seattle of course. Hawina will spend time in Texas, with her lover Joe. After about 9 months of the "home of the free" we plan to return to mama Europa, but "retiring" for me is not totally out of the question.

Dangerous Ideas Department: Rabbit was once fond of saying about computers that they were "A force so powerful they could only be used for good or evil". The same thing is true, only much more, so for the World Wide Web. Inspired by some of the literature, the idea which is roaming thru my head is to create temporary buying clubs facilitated by the Web. The Website organizers would negotiate with the vendors and get group discounts for bulk purchases. People could add there name to a list which was growing in size to meet the number required for the discount. When the list was long enuf the bulk purchase would be made and the list would start again. The Website organizers (read "some of us") would go on and act in the benefit of the buyer - creating and advocacy . Moving power away from corporations.

There are a number of political aspects wrapped up in the idea [Which is tentatively called OPTEC for Open Public Trust and Equity Corporation]. The first being that this Web base business give back to the community (via some independent charity) funds equal to half of its profits (or perhaps half of its commissions, which would be higher). The idea is corporations (and this would be incorporated) need to change their relationship between taking from the community and giving to it - this is a somewhat rough solution, but it seems the right order of magnitude.

The second is transparency. There is no reason why the entire accounting for the the company can not be displayed on the Web as well. One of the principal problems with corporations is the way they hide money and make covert decisions. Besides the accounting, the decisions of the organization and their rationale would be posted daily. Plus there would be facilities to promote politically superior production processes, boycott those folx we do not like, some kind of electronic democracy running the evolution of the whole thing. More interesting than watching the tube.

i am excited by another project which is just starting, a set of revolutionary tales which i am crafting with Alyson (the gifted English teacher for the FAIRE project). Tentatively called "Fairytales, Fables and Myths" it will be a fingerbook of radical inspirational short stories, designed for kids age 18 and above. If we do it right it should be a tear jerking, side slapping, money loosing, best seller. Watch for it in fine propaganda outlets near you (a better chance is to drop me a card in 6 months).

i made a New Years resolution to come up with a good idea each day (on average). But an idea is nothing if you do not try to turn it into action, so this gets rolled in as well. One thing i quickly learned is that good ideas often take more than a day to mature to the point where they should be acted on, but generally i am happy with this self impossed creative pressure. So far it has resulted in the changing of countries where some people work and live, hiring our first spy, additional radical virtual schemes (like a Web based artificially intelligent bartering system and the on-line Gaya University (of Sustainability)), risk sharing agreements around fundraising between projects and some intreging new intimacies.

So, this is perhaps too long and still incomplete, but it gives you some sense as to what i am doing instead of regreting not having made it to business school.

Dream Wild Dreams,

Paxus on the border
20 Icy 97
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
c/o Hnuti DUHA
Jakubske nam 7
60200 Brno, Czech Republic

for more information about the:

  •     July 1997 Temelin and Mochovce actions contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  •     Chernobyl Tenth Anniversary CD contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  •     FAIRE anti-nuclear university contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  •     Ecotopia 97 in Scotland contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  •     Buyers Club and vitual schemes contact me or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  •     Nuclear campaigns in Russia contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  •     int'l Siemens boycott http://www.t0.or.at/~global2000/stop-siemens
  •     Chernobyl + 10 campaign http://www.t0.or.at/~C+10
  •     Consensus, Open Relationship or anti-nuclear fingerbooks contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The use of lower case america is to distinguish the Untied Snakes from North America. It is virtually impossible to get people to stop saying "america" when they only mean the US part of the North American continent, but at least by decapitalizing it, there can be a visual distinction in written form.

cool


The End of War?

[from the Feb 98 issue issue of 7th Generation] It was moments after New Years and someone asked "So what is good about 1998 so far?" After a number of champagne-inspired humorous answers an intriguing reply came, "There are no major wars raging". After some additional talking, it was discovered that this was the third consecutive New Years day for which this was true, preceded by over 60 years of major wars. No one would believe that the world has given up on war, but for more than statistical reasons, hopeful arguments can be made. But first the statistics:

Largest conflicts sorted by year of ending

War or Countries  Years  Estimated Casualties  Est. Refuges
 WWII 39-45 40 to 60 million 21,000,000*
Stalin Purges (USSR) 36-53 20 million
Chinese Revolution 49-65 20 million
 Vietnam-US 63-73 2 million 12,000,000
Cambodia 69-79 2 million 2,000,000
Indonesia-East Timor 78-88 200,000
Iraq-Iran 80-88 1 million 1,000,000
Afganistan/Soviet 79-89 2 million 6,000,000
Gulf War 89-90 300,000 1,400,000
 Rwandan Civil War 94 500,000 2,800,000
 Bosnia-Serbia-Croatia 91-95 265,000 670,000

* European Refugees only

This list is not complete, it covers only the largest conflicts in the last 60 years, defined as those with the most deaths. [As of last New Years the Stockholm Institute for Peace (?) listed 50 conflicts world wide, about half of them were in some form of cease fire or peace treaty, all but a handful had few total casualties than 50,000] Nor are all of these conflicts complete, fighting continues in Rwanda (tho on a much smaller scale) and East Timor. There is still the threat of conflict in Iraq. But viewed this way, there is clearly a trend towards decreasing causalities. While a longer time frame could be drawn, this one is relevant because it frames the lives of the vast majority of the people alive today - this is our memory of war.

Is it possible that war between states is ending? Many people say "No, humans have always had war and they always will". I find these arguments especially uncompelling. Until relatively recently, human societies have always had slaves, we don't do this anymore. Colonialism existed for centuries and it has now virtually died out. Wars long history is no proof it will continue to exist. Perhaps most compelling is what has grown to replacement war in many cases - non-violent revolution. The history is impressive:

Non-violent revolutions

Country year populations affected

 

 Country Year Size of Population affected
 India* 1920-47 340 million
 Most of Eastern Europe 1989-90 85 million
South Africa 1990-94 41 million
Second Russian Revolution 1991 150 million
Philippines 1992 61 million
Bulgaria 1997 8 million

* includes what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh

Unlike the long history of more bloody war, this type of political change is a relatively new event historically - i am not aware of any non-violent revolutions of this scale taking place before the Indian Revolution. So if the purpose of war is to change governments unacceptable to the populace, there is a new, far less lethal solution which has changed the lives of almost 800 million people in the last 60 years.

There are other factors slowing our drift towards war. Europe has been the host of more wars than perhaps any other continent. And while it is little remembered for this, the European was formed after WWII with one of its two key founding principals being avoiding of war. In this the has been strikingly successful. The prospects for war in EU region of Europe are lower than anytime in perhaps 2000 years. As the economies become more linked, and especially as power becomes more centralized in Brussels, the prospects drop further. Should we rush to join the EU to reduce the chances of war? Hardly, the "peace dividend" as it is sometimes called in the post cold-war era, is available to most nations without giving up control of their economies and domestic policies. Switzerland and Norway have both refused to join the EU and they are extremely unlikely to be attacked militarily anytime soon.

The Gulf War is the new model for a successful major power war. It was blessed by the UN Security Council (US, UK, Russia, China and France). It was short (44 days of combat). It was low casualty from the allies perspective (about 150 troops from the multinational forces were killed, tho far more have since due to psychological problems leading to suicide, uranium weapons used in battle and injections given to protect troops from gas attacks). Few wars will satisfy these constraints and the constraints will limit the damage. The US could not continuing its attack inside of Iraq after Kuwait had been liberate, because of the UN. The mandate was to maintain old borders. Even tho many of these borders are arbitrary, they are becoming more "sticky" world wide, decreasing the chances of successful invasion of a neighboring state.

The break up of Yugoslavia's the other kind of large scale conflict. No country or pan-national organization (NATO, the EU, the UN) was willing to step into this conflict for almost 6 years. This was in part because the risk of failure was felt to be too high, fearing another prolonged Vietnam or Afghanistan type conflict. Another component was the lack of resource wealth of the region, were a similar situation occurring in Saudi Arabia, external intervention would certainly have been quicker. Ultimately, NATO did use the superior military hardware of the US and partitioned the country, somewhat similarly to the manor in which Germany was split after WWII. Thus any political or military leader considering aggression must consider the strong chance that outside parties with superior force will intervene and reduce their benefits of war. These multinational peace keeping forces are the fastest growing and the largest part of the UNs current operations. While they are often mismanaged, they tend to defuse tensions and are another major brake to war. At the same time, military spending world wide is slowly starting to decrease, with the most dangerous weapons systems, nuclear weapons, being cut the most drastically.

But these geopolitical forces are less important than the transformation which has taken hold of our societies since WWII. Virtually every democracy promotes tolerance of different races and ethnic groups.
While far right parties should not be underestimated, in part because of the terrible costs of these policies, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that they will be able to control governments (at least in Europe and North America) and take them into these kinds of large scale wars.

Soccer Moms for Peace? Women play a central role in moving our societies away from militarism. In 4 of the G-7 states (US, Canada, UK and France), in the most recent elections, women have been the significant majority of the electorate which has forced out conservative pro-military governments in favor of more liberal ones. Women are less willing to sacrifice a countries children for its "national security interests". This kind of mentality is also moving thru both government and corporations as women slowly gain greater power in these institutions.

There is still much work to do. The plans to expand NATO into eastern Europe are a tremendous misallotation of resources, offering virtually no additional security. And as militarism fades, we need to be sure it is not replaced with economic globalization, with its social and environmentally destabilizing effects.

We should however celebrate another new year without a major war. And take advantage that this historic opportunity is creating to build a new society which is both more fair and peaceful.


Backstay

[July 1989, 300 miles E of Rarotonga, South Pacific}

 

"ALL HANDS ON DECK!" and your heart stops, but your feet move, out of the bunk, into the nearest shorts, across the wet floor, thru the fallen dishes and up the main hatch. Immediately your drenched, but it's fresh not salt, a squall, a bad one. Your pitifully underdressed, but it's not a fashion show, no time to change - a strictly come-as-you-are crisis.

"DECK LIGHTS!" But the wind is so strong the words have to be repeated to complete their ten foot journey. After some fumbling below, the powerful mast mounted lights blare on. You force your eyes to adjust and there's the problem. The backstay has snapped. This piece of 3/8" braided stainless steel cable is writhing on the deck like an angry hydra, nipping at your bare feet.

"DROP THE MAIN!" Heeling severely, water is racing over the leeward deck, if another stay breaks we could be demasted - potentially life threatening. Justin moves forward to release the halyard, a two handed job.

"WAVE!", but the warning is too late, Justin is hit from behind and slides on his back, across the deck towards the raging sea. Sputtering and flailing in the water, ultimately he grabs the life lines. If he were to go over the side now it would take five minutes to drop the main and turn the boat around. We'd travel almost a mile in that time and with these deafening winds and high seas a mile is forever. We'd never find him. He's not wearing a safety harness, no one is, it's not part of tonights dress code. Doc's big hand is reaching towards Justin's feet, but he's too slow.

"WAVE!" but before it hits, Justin vaults over a winch and lands beside you at the mast. "I'm okay, let's get this fucker down." he shouts thru the gale. You can see blood mixing with rain on his shoulder. Al takes over at the halyard with Doc's hand firmly on Al's shoulder while he works.

"COMING DOWN!" The halyard is released, but the main does not drop. Instead, it presses against the spreaders, held up by the same 40 knot winds propelling us.

"LUFF UP!" Martin, captain at the wheel, begins to turn the boat into the wind. The sail comes alive, a drunk flying carpet, batting off anyone who tries to hold it. Everyone tries to pounce on it. Cursing the nylon burns against your hands, you can barely see in the downpour. Eventually, the sail surrenders and is tied down.

Everyone strips and throws their drenched clothes into the companion way. Drying off below the jokes are that everyone needed a shower anyway and "We can't loose Justin til he's done the dishes". Justin's arm is examined, a handful of smallish cuts and what will be a bad bruise, but there's no ice so we all just retire to our berths. In ten minutes the rain stops, but your heart and the boat are still racing. In twenty minutes, your asleep, exhausted, but there's no question - it wasn't a dream.


Terrorists and Friends
{San Francisco summer 85}


 "... well i guess we couldn't do much worse than Reagan and his clan." I had only recently began discussing politics with my generally liberal Democrat parents.

 "You know I'm actually beginning to like George Schultz" my mother offered, her view changed later with Iran-Contra.

 "Mom! Do you know what Schultz is proposing to do with 'terrorists'?" I was trying to control myself, but not doing very well.

 "No" she said in a tone designed to slow me down.

 "He wants pre-emptive strikes against them."

 There was a noticeable pause and she replied, "You, know I'm not sure that's such a bad idea."

 "Mom, he's talking about killing my friends" still trying to control my voice.

 "Oh, that would be terrible", but she sounded more confused than convinced. We never got into the details. I didn't get a chance to explain that some friends had found out thru the Freedom of Information Act that their non-violent political group had been classified as "domestic terrorists" by the FBI. I didn't explain i believed that "pre-emptive strikes" on anyone meant guilt until proven innocent, or possibly guilty until dead. I fear she hung up the phone that day thinking i hung out with people who bombed airplanes.

 A year later in a marathon discussion in the with my father at the San Francisco Hyatt Regency.

 I told him i would probably be voluntarily arrested at a demonstration in the future. This upset him significantly, he felt it was pointless, dangerous and potentially damaging to my career. We talked a lot about the US involvement in the contra war against Nicaragua.

 At one point he got angry, "By associating with these people who wish to overthrow our government you align yourself with terrorists killing people!" he justly proclaimed.

 "By not challenging our governments mercenary attacks in Nicaragua you are aligning yourself with the murder of innocent civilians." He's a bright man, he could see my point, even though he did not agree.

 "Do you really consider yourself a terrorist?" Calm now, his question was genuinely curious. "It's a trick question, Dad, King George considered the revolutionary Washington a terrorist, because he refused to fight by the 'rules' of war. There are probably folks in Japan who considered Einstein who developed & Truman who dropped the Bomb terrorists, if you can define what it is for me i will tell you if i am one." I rambled.

 Instead he asked, "Well then, what do you consider yourself?"

 "Generally, just a radical, on a good day an organizer or a revolutionary. Some one unsatisfied enough with the status quo to make a stink about it and someone concerned enough with the future to propose an alternative agenda and work on its experiments."

 "What kind of experiments?" In many ways his unconditional love for me shown thru the entire exchange.

From here we drifted off into a more comfortable, but still stressed conversation on collective businesses, multiple relationships and intentional communities.


 

i currently live in an interesting place. It is a place where people live together cooperatively, we share things and we basically trust each other. It is a kind of place which the media likes to claim is impossible. i promise it is not.

 

My first day

 

i woke up to the sun shining fairly high in the window
i have not gotten a clock for my room
i have mixed feelings about acquiring one
but i have nothing schedule for this morning

 

Tycho mailed me a color xerox picture
of my head D-locked to the bottom of a bus at a Berlin action
i stuck it up on my wall along with a poem
she wrote about the real Heisenburg principals
and i wonder a bit when i will be a full-time activist again

 

i threw my wallet into a sticky drawer in my dresser
we don't use money here
my left pocket felt empty

 

going thru bags and boxes for other pictures to decorate my new room
(last night, i removed the puppy pictures on my wall -
the previous resident was 6)
i found a key ring with a few keys
i threw that in the sticky drawer
another antique - no locks here

 

i thought i would weave hammocks for my first work
since we do a lot of that here
the shop was empty
most people had taken the jigs outside to work in the sun
but i wanted to listen to an old Bruce Cockburn CD
from the large hammock shop library
so i slipped one of the many headphones
and did almost an hours work
shuffling my feet to "lovers in a dangerous time"

 

i e-mailed for the rest of my first official morning as a member
not creditable, of course
E. Europe & New England nuke stuff, fundraising, love letters, the usual

 

i grabbed one of the many "free bikes" and pedal to lunch
(basically the Am*dam white bike idea, only here it continues)
there is fresh lettuce and strawberries from our garden
(i had forgotten that strawberries actually do taste like something)
i choose the cuscus with broccoli and black beans
grab a glass of milk from our happy cows
i leave the bread and tofu (both of which we make) behind

 

Hawina and i sit in the sun at one of the half dozen picnic tables and eat
we are surrounded by perhaps two dozen dinners - ages 1 to 70
Sassafras, one of our youngest members,
crawls up onto the table and seems vaguely interested in my strawberries
she is so young, i think it is the color more than the taste which beckons

 

i play hackisack for a couple of minutes before i split
i have gotten much better since being here
still in the low tier compared to most folx who play here
but respectable enuf for me to feel okay
jumping into the games which spark up
perhaps every other sunny day

 

i walk down to the courtyard,
because my bike with a basket has disappeared
and while there are others, i have bunch of papers to carry

 

and there are none with baskets

 

Deborah is teaching me labor assigning
a complex, elegant and archaic art
which manages to take the requests of almost 100 people
the needs of all of the various business and households
and fuse them together in a nearly all volunteer system
we schedule community meetings and milk moves,
the popular garden shifts and dreaded dishwashing
there are requisitions for hot tub dates and pagan sing alongs,
the team constructing the new warehouse
pillow shop, rope production, sawmill, elderly care
sewage treatment plant monitoring, school bus drivers,
road cleans, health team mtgs, building maintenance, cooking,
recycling, visitor orientations and dozens of other activities

 

after 4 hours and a dozen notes we are finished
(tho Deborah worked it for a dozen before i showed up)
of the perhaps 300 assignments
only one "serf" shift is unfilled
(this is a kitchen or house cleaning)
almost all volunteer - i am amazed

 

then i spend an hour teaching Deborah
how to use a spreadsheet
also creditable
it does not matter that the motivating reason she wants to learn
is so that she can sort songs and performers
for the small library of songbooks
which live in the compost café
our smokers lounge and live music hot spot

 

we are in the café when Kana shows up with pizza
our cheese, our tomato sauce, crust from scratch
and our former happy cows are ground up on top of it
my vegetarianism is waning here

 

Kana is a wild old man with a gray streaked father christmas beard
he spent some time in a monastery
i would not be surprised if they threw him out for laughing too much
now he is one of our regular cooks
makes beautiful walking sticks, which Deborah and i sold at a fair
and plays a mean guitar and sings with a gravelly voice
never thought i would appreciate country music

 

He has come down in one of the 3 or 4 golf carts we have
for people who have trouble walking the long distances around here
while he is delivering the pizza and chatting
Calypso (one of our few dogs)
eats most of his rice pudding which was in the golf cart
there is some chiding and laughing

 

At dinner small wooden signs mark the pizzas
"No dairy", "No Onions", "Meat" and more
i sit at the regular Thursday polyamory discussion
(what i used to call "open relationships")
the group has been over a dozen people
but dinner did not get promoted this time
so just four of us chat
about the forming regional poly network
and whether it will work on the issues and support
or if it will be more for sparking new romances
Melissa brings up group intimate agreements
as she was part of at another community in NYC
just as the conversation gets interesting
we have to break up

 

i have a 7 PM movement support meeting
and i don't want to be late
a video about the School of the Americas (SOA) is shown
(the newest residence has a nice video hall,
where there are movies and some taped tv shows
show three nights a week -
there remains no "live" tv anywhere on the community
one of the handful of prohibitions
which has lasted 30 years)
the short video is compelling
and several communards were arrested at SOA last year
there are plans to go again in November
and to continue lobby work for the upcoming house vote

 

we spend most of the meeting talking about
which projects we will support with our few thousand dollar budget
which is divided between supporting members activism
and giving money to existing groups
(tho the tax resistance protest we are involved with
gives about $10,000 mostly from Twin Oaks resistors to non-profit groups
but it is separate from movement support).
we cut several requests slightly
but fund most of what was requested,
likely creating a cash pinch later in the year
Marione will do prison trainings for women,
Stevik does tax resistance and gay support stuff,
Ione will meet a conservative rep and bark about SOA
Hawina is interested in the hunger group RESULTS
Nexus wants to go to a conference on communities and space travel
i will drag nuclear issues onto the agenda
we talk about restarting the letter lobby
i mention the success with stopping the FDA's
proposed "organic food" standard
200,000 letters of protest - some from here
we finish with a quick evaluation

 

because i am a new member
i can get 2 hours credit for movement support
in the future this will be volunteer time
the movement support creditable hours
are generally dedicated to activities more direct than meetings

 

i walk thru the darkness back down to the courtyard
for my date with Alex
she is organizing one of the communities conferences
which is just about to start
we talk about using one of the expert outside facilitators
from the communities meeting
to run a Twin Oaks meeting we are having on business planning
she fires off an e-mail and packs up her work

 

we walk up to her room and decide to lay on her roof
looking at the stars we talk about idealism in the community
i want to take over her job as recruitment manager
and she has some concern about targeting young people
to bring our population back up
(we are down about 15 people from last year)
but most of our chat is more personal
we discuss the rumors
which have started
because we are skipping around together holding hands
but she is tired
so we crawl back into her window

 

and i realize i have forgotten my Tupelo "serf" shift
so i head back to my residence and clean the house till midnight
with the stereo blasting Ani
i try to decide if these crumpled crayon drawings
are trash or precious child masterpieces
[mostly my art patron side won this tussle]
(one of the reasons i choose live at Tupelo is because it has no "quiet hours")

 

it has been a long day
but i am very satisfied
it ain't paradise
but there are some similarities

 

Paxus at Twin Oaks Community
14 Bisons in Burma 98

 

Another state of the culture
11 Falling Leaves 98

 

There are other cultures than the one Dianne caught in her fine words. i was swept up in a wave of one last night. It is framed by the reading of Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" - which concluded in the slightly over crowded hot tub, standing in a soggy circle arms around each other.

 

"It is time to explain myself - let us stand up."

 

i shun the encyclopedic approach, favoring in its place an antidotal one, thus hugging but a corner of our many cultures. Never one to apologize, i am clear of the limits.

 

"I know it will in its turn prove sufficient and cannot fail"

 

Ours is a culture of small transgressions. Ironically, McCune must yell several times and the rowdy tubbers to be quiet - in part because those still soaking do not hear him, for he has insulated the place so well.

 

"Voices of interminable generations … of thieves and dwarfs"

 

Mario not recognizing McCune's voice calls back for identification.

 

"Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude."

 

Ours is a culture of chance encounters and instant microfests. The poets club migrates to Tupe for the infamous midnight quesadilla. The night air lies about the season as our wet hair appreciates the warm fluke. We wander off the road - experienced guides Andy, Catch, River - navigate the trees for our small bundles of sojourners.

 

"i am the mate and companion of the people all just as immortal and fathomless as myself."

 

We arrive in waves at Tupe. Hilke and Todd chatting in the living room are pulled into our melee.

 

"This is the city and i am one of the citizens."

 

Andy flicks a chair shop rope scrap and magically ties two knots in it - we demand a repeat performance. Dennis V. spins an egg, stops it momentarily, and we watch it restart from its internal momentum. Turns out Delilah's servants cut Samson's hair. A dollar bill is burned so we can examine the fireproof ink in the ash.

 

"Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things."

 

But the parlor tricks of these rural rats fade into the metaphysical ramblings of these same philosopher-kings [sic]. Pete discounts the thesis that Whitman embraced Buddhism reminding us of his more western admissions ["I accept reality and dare not question it. Materialism first and last imbuing"]. i query the nature of the title of a following poem "I sing the Body Electric" and Mario informs me it need not be explained for everyone else understands it.

 

The clock tries to tire us, but none wishes to let go. The fluke weather kicks up a sprinkle.

 

"Logic and sermons never convince, the damp of the night drives deeper into my soul"

 

Hair is discussed and while we confess the performance was extraordinary, it is the aftershocks of that night which feel closer to the weightless bulk of our culture. The cross-generational dance after the show, with teens and pensioners boogying to the contrasting tunes of the Stone and Liz Phair. And the not so private party in my room with Mortimur lingering like a ghost. Not quite random foot rubs amidst the rumpled props. Gigi initiates a flower fight and the tiny space becomes a flurry of petals and giggling. Here is our culture - thick but invisible.

 

"The atmosphere is not perfume, it has not taste of distillation, it is odorless"

 

Ours is a culture of pocket dramas
of screaming in the products office
of charged chats in the child dining room
of crying at the care group meeting
of dozens of honest mistakes
of the heart felt gossip of this hyper village.

 

"Vivas to those who have failed
and their numberless unknown heroes
equal to the greatest heroes known."

 

My mind drifts to Halloween and another hot tub in the back yard of some unknown millionaire. The house is larger than Kaweah, yet only three people live there and them only part time. It is nearly dawn. i splash and ponder my unstarted project on sharing and gifting in this opulent setting.

 

"This day i am jetting the stuff of far more arrogant republics."

 

Ours is a culture of isolation. We make the cover of the Post magazine, but we are oblivious to the stories on page 1 of the newspaper. Dissatisfied with what is we create our own. From the economics, to the language, from relations to rituals.

 

"I do not dispute you priests, all time, the world over, my faith is the greatest and the least of all faiths. Enclosing worship ancient and modern and all between ancient and modern."

 

… a culture of humility.

 

"The scent of these armpits aroma finer than prayer."

 

But the clock ultimately triumphs. Morning tofu shifts and other obligations beckon some to bed.

 

"I understand the large hearts of heroes."

 

Dennis V. helps me surf in the aftermath of our collective cultural concoction. i steal Devon's bed (giving mine to Dennis). Having chatted with her boyfriend earlier in the evening, i know she was off to C'ville and she would not mind.
It is a culture of sharing.

 

… and it is a culture of hope.
Tom is right, the commune itself is movement support enuf -
almost.

 

"i know perfectly well my own egotism, know my omnivorous lines and must not write any less"

 

Where i live

 

[first part of a two part series on sustainability and community]

 

Environmentalists seem to talk endlessly about sustainability. On one hand it makes sense, using natural resources sparingly so they can replenish themselves is wise practice. But is anyone doing this, or is it all just talk?

 

While it is far from Utopia, the community where i now live comes closer to actually doing something about sustainability than anyplace i have ever been. It starts with the practical stuff. We live on a farm, we grow well over half of our own food, all organic polycultures with relatively little heavy machine use. One of my great sadness' living in Brno was seeing the ever increasing amount of EU produced food arriving at the farmers market, covered with pesticides, having traveled often thousands of kilometers from giant monoculture fields. One of the on-going debates in the community is about vegetarianism, we have cows and will soon have chickens which are used for milk and eggs, but are also eaten. Brushing aside the ethical issue of treatment of animals, my original reason for not eating meat was that the whole world could not live as i did. But done as it is here, my carnivorous desires are gnawing at my objections.

 

The great success of the western marketing culture has been convincing people that greed is good and that everyone should own all of the things that they use. This is the road to ecocide. For me it is definitional that people in communities share things. There are personal possessions at Twin Oaks, but the vast majority of what we have is collectively owned and maintained. One of my favorite parts is "Community Cloths" where large racks of garments are available for people to take from, wear as long as they like and return to the collective laundry, where they get returned to the racks clean and fixed if necessary. People have private cloths if they like, but many people choose this simpler shared approach.

 

We have cars here - 15 for the 75 adults in the community. This ownership ratio is at least 1/3 of the US national average and while i have not gathered the data for exact calculations, my guess is we travel less than one tenth the number of miles in cars than our typical Yankee counterpart. International readers must remember that this is a rural US setting, the nearest bus stop is 40 km away, the nearest train is 60 km.

 

Beyond these practical things there are cultural choices that are hopeful. There is a very high consciousness around recycling and reuse of things, with the supporting infrastructure for it. The community works hard towards being egalitarian, meaning no individual has more rights or access to wealth than others living here. This is achieved in part by having a moneyless internal economy, where everyone agrees to work the same number of hours for the community in exchange for which the community covers all of its members needs, from health insurance to completing taxes (an often complex task in the US), from building maintenance to social events.

 

The other half of egalitarianism is avoiding hierarchical as much as possible. The industries are structured so workers are basically responsible for their own schedules. One of the advantages and occasional problems of Twin Oaks is that you can not really force people to do anything - but largely everything gets done by people volunteering to do it. If anything is going to take us down the road to sustainability, it is people choosing to do the things they know need to be done, rather than being commanded or forced to do things.

 

The next column in this series will be on how Twin Oaks connects to the outside world - from our industires to our activism.

 

 

Where i live

 

[second in a 2 part]

 

A student wrote us recently and asked "Is Twin Oaks a Utopia?" Everyone's reply was the same "No. Certainly no", but it is not our objective here either. In some ways, our little village of 100 people is similar to many in he world, there is a robust gossip network and there is a strong sense of separation of where we live and the "outside" world.

 

In fact, it was the distance from the rest of the world which blocked me from living here for a dozen years. I felt the community was too focused on itself and i wanted to do activism and organizing work - this is city stuff mostly. There is a movement support budget with several thousand dollars and many hundreds of labor hours in i, but it would not be possible (or fair) for me alone to consume all of these hours and even if i did it would not really approach what i had been doing in the Czech Republic and Eastern Europe. So i have made a trade off, i spend more time building our warehouse, than doing activism, tho i still do over a dozen hours a week. This is the trade off many people have to make "earning incomes versus working on there dreams and ideals". I should say Twin Oaks is unusually supportive of people trying to continue this kind of work - besides the movement support budgets which i can draw from and the regular positive feedback one gets from most of the community for this kind of work - it is also the case that almost all our income work is pretty flexible in terms of self scheduling.

 

Our principle "export" is hammocks. We weave them, cut and drill the stretchers for them, package them, ship them and sell them in numerous ways. So it is possible, if i desire to go weave hammocks for several hours in the middle of the night. While the original hammocks we made were from rope made of petroleum products - we have expanded our line to include recycled materials and cotton hammocks. We also make hanging chairs, tofu and soy products, index books, wind rope and have a number of specialty arts and crafts products. We will probably start and Internet Service Company in the next 6 months and we are hosting east European anti-nuclear activists for training programs as well.

 

But we also spend perhaps half of our total internal hours on more internal activities - we have a large organic garden, a dairy barn which makes milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt and meat. We maintain our own vehicles, operate our own sewage treatment plant, build our own building, raise 15 kids, cook and clean collectively, put on social and cultural events and on and on.

 

But it is not utopia - not even close. But it is a conscious effort to build community - to develop and institutionalize a value set which is not principally money driven. To start from a place of trusting people and in absence of compelling proof otherwise to stay in that place [i am currently quite sick. A friend from outside of the community "What is the sick leave policy?", i replied "There is no limit to how much sick time you can take and you decide for yourself", often our policies sound so obvious and reasonable - tho not always certainly.]

 

We have no police or any real justice system - our most severe punishment is we ask people to leave (this happens perhaps once per year). Sometimes we ask people to go to counciling. I have been to 50 countries on 5 continents and the US is one of my least favorite places (with Panama and Singapore). But this island, this comfortable village seems a place separate unto itself. And for a while at least i am happy to call it home.

 

The Other American Dream

 

- Twin Oaks was different from other communes -- it flourished. And now, members can tote up the losses along the way

 

By Tamara Jones

 

Washington Post Sunday Magazine - Sunday, November 15, 1998; Page W12

 

Twin Oaks reply to Washington Post Article

 

To get there, follow the winding road past shadowed woods and sunlit fields, past the tiny church with its tall steeple, past the eerie old mill and listless river, until finally you come upon the sign that taunts: "If you lived at Twin Oaks, you'd be home now." Venture through the gate, down the dirt driveway to the white clapboard farmhouse, which is precisely where the path ends and the journey began.

 

Kat Kinkade remembers being so excited that first day that she couldn't decide where to start, so she grabbed an old broom and began sweeping the chicken house, making a compost pile of the filth. At 36, she was a bored secretary banking not just her future but her entire identity on a slim novel she had read in night school. Seven other people, including Kat's new husband and her teenage daughter, moved with her that day to rural Louisa County, Virginia, where they had leased a modest farm. The year was 1967, and as Vietnam exploded and racial violence bloodied streets across America, this small, misbegotten group of dropouts, visionaries, drifters and seekers began working on an exquisitely detailed plan to change the world.

 

Twin Oaks was one of thousands of communes to sprout across a restive America in the '60s and '70s, emblems of hope and hubris. Most would disappear unnoticed. Twin Oaks was different,

 

though. Against all odds, it managed to flourish, growing from eight people to nearly 100, becoming not merely self-sustaining but successful, a land trust sprawling across 450 efficiently managed acres to form what is surely one of the last bastions of pure communism in the modern world. From each according to ability, to each according to need. No one goes hungry or cold. Everyone is employed. The children are joyful. Competition, materialism and wastefulness are rare. Violence is forbidden; ambition quelled. Admirable goals have been achieved, and it would be easy to assume that happiness prevails. But reality is always more complex.

 

Which is why Twin Oaks, in its plump and improbable middle age, now finds itself searching so fervently for all the dreams that got lost, somehow, on the way to Utopia.

 

Kat is seething. A new family has moved to Twin Oaks, and an exception was made to let them join in the first place, since their three little boys upset the commune's stipulated child-adult ratio of 1:5. The family had assured the membership committee that they could manage with just three bedrooms. Somehow, a fourth room got tagged on, though, and now there is a petition to give the newcomers a fifth bedroom. "On an emotional level, I object to a small child having his own room," Kat bristles, adding, "I have lived in cramped quarters for years. I rather like them." Someone is trying to pull a fast one, she suspects. Her aquamarine eyes flash at the betrayal. But she won't be going to battle over this one. Kat has been the target of such resentment too many times herself -- still is sometimes, even now, at 67. She is weary. She has spent her lifetime longing for approval.

 

The bedroom debate is the best controversy brewing at Twin Oaks for the moment, though it is nowhere near as contentious as the video debate, or as whiny as the perennial tofu crisis. And nothing, of course, can compare to the 18-year debate over whether to dig a swimming hole.

 

The commune Kat helped start that June afternoon 31 years ago is what some members describe as a hypervillage today, with an annual income of more than $500,000, mostly from the sale of high-quality rope hammocks that will end up in the back yards of the Range Rover yuppies Twin Oaks holds in polite contempt. The original farmhouse now serves as a front office, and seven other residences are tucked in the woods like a rustic fraternity row. Bathrooms are public and unisex. A dairy barn looks out over subsistence crops that include asparagus, potatoes, corn and concord grapes. Steam tables in the central dining hall accommodate both vegans and meat-eaters with bountiful lunches and dinners that run the gamut from ratatouille and tarragon chicken to sinfully chocolate cake and trays of roasted chestnuts. The 17 communal cars and vans are christened with names like Swamp Thing, and rusty bicycles are lined up in racks across the property for communal use. There is a waiting list for dogs and cats. The antidepressant Saint Johnswort grows in the herb garden.

 

The original blueprint for Twin Oaks came straight from the pages of Harvard psychologist B.F. Skinner's utopian fantasy, Walden Two, which imagines a bloodless, self-contained society of 1,000 people solving life's daily problems through behavioral engineering. Children are conditioned to overcome temptation by wearing lollipops dipped in powdered sugar around their necks; if there is evidence they have licked the candy before permission is given, they are denied the treat. More dry, windy conversation than page-turning plot, the 1948 novel was nonetheless described as "sinister" and "dangerous" by the philosophy professor who put it on the reading list when Kat Kinkade took his evening extension course.

 

"I read Walden Two throughout one day, breaking only to get up and pace the floor and shout, 'This is what I want!' " she recalls now. Kat promptly wrote to the famous author, begging to know whether there was a real Walden Two to join. She received no reply. Then a friend pointed out a small classified ad in Saturday Review: A Washington, D.C., cabdriver named Wayne was interested in launching a Walden Two community and was seeking like-minded pioneers. Kat immediately responded, and soon moved to the District with her daughter to join Wayne's group house. It wasn't what Kat had envisioned. Wayne began pressuring her to "put my body up for communal use," arguing that it was no different than sharing income and possessions. "It is typical of me that I thought about the argument for a long time before I eventually concluded that there was somehow a difference," Kat notes wryly, "and it was typical of Wayne that sex was the only thing he wanted to share." She ended up marrying another boarder in the group house, and they eventually found a fellow Walden Two enthusiast who provided seed money to lease a small tobacco farm about 35 miles southeast of Charlottesville.

 

A few days after the eight founders settled in, the well at Twin Oaks ran dry, and Kat for the first time felt pangs of fear about this grand experiment. She learned that "wells recover by themselves, but we had to change our habits. Bathing in the river was not a huge sacrifice." Her panic had barely subsided when exasperation took its place. In an egalitarian gesture of nonsexism, one of the men volunteered to make dinner, but his perfectionist fussing over the consistency of the tomato sauce meant three separate trips to town for ingredients. Unlike many of the other members, most of them middle-class refugees, Kat had grown up in poverty and had a more realistic grasp of economics. She soon assumed management of the commune's finances.

 

Those early years were full of hardship and dissension, as well as triumphs and joy. That first winter, two cows starved to death in their frozen pasture because their naive new owners assumed they could forage. Freeloading hippies began to turn up. Personality clashes made living cooperatively a constant challenge; one wife rejected the principle of simple living from the outset by moving her matching bedroom suite into the space she and her husband shared in the barn's hayloft. People squabbled about the Walden Two system of self-governance, which imagined decisions placed in the hands of a few competent planners. Though the neighbors and townsfolk would always perceive Twin Oaks as "that hippie farm," the commune in truth was somewhat out of step with its radical generation. As the anti-establishment movement flourished on the outside, one faction at Twin Oaks demanded that the community become more politically active; another rebelled against the ideological pressure by having nightly readings of Winnie-the-Pooh. The hammock shop set up on the front porch failed to earn enough to support them all, and most members were forced to get real jobs. Kat found herself back in an office. Her daughter, Josie, not quite 15, ran off to California with the tomato-sauce artiste. Her husband, she says, "just left. I don't know where he went."

 

Still, more people kept arriving, bringing with them new skills and infusions of energy. But fewer and fewer of them had faith in the Walden Two model, and there was growing sentiment that a handful of people -- Kat in particular -- exerted too much authority. Eventually, outside facilitators were hired to mediate the inevitable power struggle, and the hierarchy was replaced by a more democratic government, with rotating planners and managers who are guided by the opinions and desires of the general population. Everyone has a voice and a vote. Twin Oaks stopped calling itself a Walden Two community seven years after it began. Kat was disappointed, but there were even more painful lessons yet ahead.

 

She chafes, even now, under the bureaucracy she herself helped create, the heavy machinery that keeps this customized mini-society running. Under the Twin Oaks labor system, Kat still must work 30 hours a week to earn her keep, compared with the 45.5 hours required of adults under 50. Kat chooses clerical tasks, mostly, and disregards the mandate that all members take a turn in the kitchen once a week. She is too frail, she says, to lug the heavy trays of dishes or stand on her feet for so long. "What are they going to do?" she asks in mock dismay. "Throw me out?"

 

Her bedroom is a cozy refuge in a building constructed with aging members in mind -- a single-story residence called Neshoba, with doorways wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, and bathrooms equipped with elegantly handcrafted grab-bars from the commune's woodworking shop. The shelves in Kat's room are lined with books, music and her vast collection of decorative eggs, with marble shells cool and unbreakable. A small keyboard stands propped against one wall, so Kat can compose her cantatas, and a microwave that caused too much trouble a few years back is stashed beneath her bed. Her beloved black cat, Pharaoh, slinks in and out through a flap cut in the window, and guests are invited to sit in a recliner so ancient and loose-jointed that it threatens to topple over backward at the slightest touch. Kat tools around the commune's hilly terrain in an electric golf cart, and even though it is a luxury afforded any elderly or impaired member, it remains the source of whispered scorn. Kat doesn't dwell on this, and wishes that she could instead have a car of her own, which is strictly forbidden. A Camry, that's what she would have.

 

Evening is falling, and Kat leans back against the pillows on her quilted bed, remembering. Through the woods, an otherworldly sound can be heard, a distant keening that Kat recognizes as the baying of hounds from a neighboring farm. The sights, the sounds, the smells of this place are ingrained in her, as much a part of her being as her unnervingly direct gaze and sly sense of humor. She left Twin Oaks once, "with a man, but he wasn't mine," and she started a new commune that also frustrated and disappointed her. She ventured into the outside world for a while, then surprised herself by coming back. Of the original founders, she is the only one left here. Not long ago, another one attempted to return, but he had high cholesterol and smoked. He refused to alter his diet or give up cigarettes, so the membership committee rejected him.

 

His heart was just too weak, they decided, and his will too strong.

 

The hopefuls are trickling into the guest cottage called Aurora. Anyone seeking to join Twin Oaks must first live here for three weeks as a visitor, a test run for both sides. If they decide to apply, they must submit to an exhaustive interview session followed by a membership vote. After years of being at peak capacity, Twin Oaks is now trying to recover from an exodus that left a dozen vacancies, many of them from longtime members. The current population hovers near 100. In the commune's fledgling years, the average member was 23 years old with two years of college, and left in less than a year. Now the average Twin Oaker is 42, has a college degree and stays for eight years. The commune is overwhelmingly white, with roughly the same number of men and women. Some 600 people have joined Twin Oaks since its inception, yet there are no second-generation members. As one recruiter puts it, "Communards do not breed communards."

 

There are half a dozen prospects in this latest batch. There is breezy Theresa, who works with disabled kids back home in Buffalo and jokes about the "web of lies" she told her family about where she would be these three weeks. More subdued is Marci from Salt Lake City, who is unhappy with her life right now but doesn't know if this is going to be the answer. Jenna, who works at a nursing school, bustles in from Cleveland carrying an electric fan and hangers full of crisply pressed clothes. Antonina, a librarian from Annandale with dark red hair trailing to her waist, is worrying about the two cats she left in the care of her elderly father. A couple of Canadian lesbians arrive late after getting lost for hours in West Virginia.

 

At dinner, two handlers named Paxus and Melissa (no one at Twin Oaks uses surnames) gather the visitors around a picnic table for orientation. Melissa briskly reads from a fat red binder, outlining some of the commune's "norms" and customs. Wait until 7 p.m. to take seconds at dinner. Wash your hands before going to the steam tables. Don't hang out with Twin Oaks kids unsupervised, "because we don't know you." Don't take a communal bike to ride downhill if you didn't bring one uphill.

 

Jenna keeps interrupting to exclaim that she's "just fascinated" by everything.

 

The visitors are asked to introduce themselves and explain what brought them to this place. Antonina talks about road rage on the Beltway and how "there is a lot of violence masked as ambition in the world." Theresa is "tired of being part of the problem instead of the solution." Marci doesn't say much at all, except that she is searching. Jenna is yearning for "good, healthy, close relationships" to relieve her sense of isolation.

 

A ripple of anxiety surfaces with the disclosure that there is no communal coffee. There used to be, but the commercial coffeemaker was repossessed when hammock sales dropped and Twin Oaks could no longer afford the supplier's gourmet beans.

 

"You don't have coffee here?" This revelation rattles Theresa far more than the one yet to come about not expecting privacy while using the bathroom.

 

"So you guys don't make coffee?" Antonina presses. She has been working two part-time jobs lately, as a bibliographer at the library and then as a night delivery person for Takeout Taxi, trying to pay off medical bills from an uninsured hospital stay. It would be virtually impossible to do that if limited to the commune's $2-a-day cash allowance should she move here. Antonina doesn't burden anyone with this explanation for now. The handlers tell them that extras, such as coffee and chocolate, can be purchased with personal funds; a designated errand runner makes twice daily trips into town.

 

They move on. Nudity is okay at the swimming pond, in the residences and anywhere after 9 p.m., but not within view of the neighbors or passersby. Twin Oaks discourages the use of negative words, which is why there are "norms" instead of rules, and why "bad" has been banned in favor of "not okay." It is "not okay" to criticize or gossip. There are free movies three nights a week in the big-screen video room, and tapes of TV programs, too, with "Ally McBeal" in great demand. There is also an ever-changing roster of groups gathering to dance, meditate, juggle, discuss literature, stage corny musicals, play serious Scrabble, watch meteor showers, analyze relationships or do whatever else catches their fancy. There was even a group that repaired to the root cellar to scream on a regular basis, but that disbanded years ago.

 

Paxus takes over. They shouldn't try to absorb too much too soon, he counsels. "You have just changed region, culture and climate, and there is reasonable expectation that you'll get unhealthy." The commune's health team can dispense over-the-counter medications, toiletries, first aid and homeopathic remedies. Jenna wants to know if she can get some Chap Stick. Paxus isn't sure. Probably.

 

He notes that sex is discouraged between members and visitors because of the power imbalance, and because joining a lover should not be the main reason to then apply for membership. "We're also aware that we don't control this, so we want to encourage you to have safe sex," he adds. Birth control is free for all members, and the commune also pays for voluntary sterilization and abortions.

 

On and on it goes, and after Paxus has finally finished and once again welcomed them, Theresa smiles wickedly and waits just the right beat.

 

"Wait till you find out that I'm an ax murderer," she says sweetly.

 

"We have a program for that," Paxus replies.

 

Keenan Dakota, former Keebler elf, business major, Sears junior manager and son of a CIA agent, wakes up early most mornings courtesy of his 2-year-old son, Rowan. They have a ritual when the weather is warm and the earth still generous, walking down to the commune gardens, where father and son forage for breakfast. They fill their mouths with golden raspberries and Asian pears that drip juice down the toddler's chin. Keenan is 39, and has lived here for 16 years now. He revels in his fatherhood, and his weekly work schedule typically includes hours of child care -- skinny-dipping in the pond with Rowan and his 5-year-old brother, Arlo, reading storybooks, going to the dairy to visit a new calf. Keenan and Kristen got married last April in the little white church down the road. They baked their own wedding cake and invited a few close friends for a pizzeria reception. As is the case with most private parties at Twin Oaks, uninvited guests showed up and were graciously accommodated. The same thing happened while Kristen was giving birth at home.

 

Keenan fell in love with Kristen when she was pregnant with Arlo and married to Ted. They were all friends. Kristen is a wholesome Minnesota farm girl, with long auburn hair that swings across her back in a thick braid, and a smattering of freckles across her fair skin. When she mentioned wanting to get some exercise during her pregnancy, Keenan offered to forgo his morning jogs and take her for walks, instead. "That was a big mistake on Ted's part," Keenan now allows. Keenan and Kristen grew close over long conversations as they strolled the forest paths. Kristen and Ted tried to make their marriage work for a while after the baby was born, but ended up divorcing. There was some anger and hurt, of course, but the three adults all remained at Twin Oaks and have blended their lives so seamlessly around the children they love that when Keenan starts researching plans to launch his own utopian community in Ecuador, it is a given that Ted will be a part of it. Words like "custody" and "visitation" are alien to Arlo. Kristen thinks that money -- or, more specifically, the lack of it -- is what makes her patchwork family work.

 

"Kids here have parents who are not financially stressed," she says. "That's an enormous relief. When I think of my parents, their biggest worry was money. That's what they fought about." Kristen has lived here for nearly eight of her 34 years, and when she and Keenan use their two weeks' vacation to visit her folks in Kansas or his in Herndon, they overdose on the pleasures they have consciously sacrificed to live what they consider a better and more responsible life: "We sit around on the couch and watch TV and eat junk food." Communards privately speculate that some semi-reclusive members, though, have not been off the farm in years.

 

This fall, some Twin Oaks kids have signed up to play in a local soccer league. Arlo dons his little shinguards and clambers into the van to go to practice. Just the thought of this makes Kristen roll her eyes and shake her head in disbelief: "I'm a soccer mom!"

 

Parenthood has always been a delicate negotiation at Twin Oaks, and some families complain that their young children are at best merely tolerated rather than nurtured by the community as a whole. Under the Walden Two plan, children were supposed to be communally raised, and a building was erected solely for that purpose. There was even a brief experiment with Skinner's "air cribs," which resembled infant terrariums with their glass display windows that could be raised and lowered for access to the child. Round-the-clock nannies trained in behavioral engineering were supposed to be charged with their upbringing. Twin Oaks would have its own school, because, as Kat told a reporter rather airily in an early television documentary, "we want to make sure our children aren't messed up."

 

When Kat's daughter, Josie, gave birth, the baby was sent to the nursery to live and placed in the air crib. Josie, who was barely 20 at the time, would later say she had the baby "for the community." When the baby was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, devoted caretakers provided hours of physical therapy each day, and when Josie decided to follow a lover to Ohio, she left her daughter behind for a year. Kat now says her greatest regret is not having been more maternal toward Josie. Josie denies that this was true, yet echoes the same lament about her own daughter.

 

But from a child's-eye view, Twin Oaks is perhaps utopia -- an eternal summer camp without many of the fears and pressures of the outside world. That's how Devon, who is 16, sees the lifetime she has spent at Twin Oaks. No other children, and few adults, have lived here longer. She dropped out of public high school in her freshman year, dabbled in classes at a community college, and is focusing full time now on her fledgling musical career as a "rocky punky folky" singer and guitarist. She spent the summer traveling alone around Canada, performing at festivals and on street corners. The day she was packing to leave, her parents hovered over her anxiously, "all three of them." There is Gordon, her father, and Ira, his longtime girlfriend, and Logan, her mother. Logan also has a girlfriend. Devon is coltish and small, with her half-platinum, half-brown hair twisted into Pippi Longstocking pigtails; she looks much younger than she is. Her philosophy of life has nothing to do with model societies or utopian proposals. "Silliness is what keeps it going," she asserts.

 

Other musicians at Twin Oaks coach and encourage Devon, and even line up gigs for her at coffeehouses in Charlottesville. She can't see herself just weaving hammocks or working in Twin Oaks' small tofu-making business, and she has no plans to formally join the commune when she turns 18. But she is certain that she will return someday "when I'm done with my music career." Her reasons are simple and sound. "I feel safe here," she says. "If I have kids, I would want to raise them here."

 

Not long ago, Devon got into serious trouble after befriending a wild 18-year-old newcomer who kept a pet rat and Christmas tinsel in her towering hairdo. They went to visit a nearby sister commune, Acorn, and then it got late and everyone was asleep, so they borrowed an Acorn van to drive home, even though no one had a license. Devon ended up wrecking it on a dark, gravel road. The whole sorry chapter embarrasses and shames Devon now. She had to pay $500 in damages to Acorn, "but I didn't mind the money. It was the trust I lost." She was surprised by how many adults at Twin Oaks told her they felt let down that she hadn't called them, even in the middle of the night, because they would have come for her. But the same intimacy that so touches her can also smother. "So many people knew me when I was 12, but I'm not 12 anymore," Devon complains. "I like so many people acting like my parents, but it can also be [expletive] annoying."

 

Twin Oaks' attempts to duplicate the Walden Two child-care scheme failed miserably as the more committed and experienced caretakers left the commune and individual parents sought more control over their own offspring. Parents now raise their own children, respecting the general values and norms of the community. There is an official policy specifying when and how squirt guns can be used, and a philosophy of nonviolence that makes spanking taboo. Twin Oaks runs an innovative computer reading program in the local schools, and also invites outside kids to attend its summer camp. But the original children's building at Twin Oaks is now little more than a glorified storage shed, and the private commune school has closed its doors. Despite the sea change, the most important decision of all is still not a parent's alone to make: Any member wishing to conceive or adopt a child must first apply for permission.

 

Rowan was an accident, and Kristen could feel the community's disapproval and even hostility. When she was seven months along, she was evicted from her comfortable room in an adults-only residence and forced to move to less desirable quarters. On the bulletin boards in the dining hall where commune members post information and opinions on clipboards and 3x5 cards, someone declared that "pregnancy in this day and age is obscene." Kristen was devastated. It was signed by a friend. He insisted he hadn't meant her; two other women had announced "accidental" pregnancies in quick succession after Kristen. Kristen sought out her critics and cleared the air.

 

Once the baby arrived, the mood shifted dramatically. More-experienced mothers coached Kristen in nursing, and she never had to cook or wash dirty diapers. Under the commune's labor system, she was "paid" just to be with her newborn. When she was ready to do other work as well, there were plenty of jobs on the farm that accommodated an infant in tow. The fact that members make their own schedules meant she could -- and still does -- easily adjust hers to fit the children's.

 

Keenan finds it maddening that "people with families and careers are systemically discriminated against" when new members are chosen. Outside work is generally forbidden, except under special circumstances, such as when a member is earning vacation money. Families are discouraged by the lack of structured day-care or educational programs, as well as the quota limiting the number of children in the community to around 15. And while the environmental and pacifist ideals of Twin Oaks at times attract deeply passionate and committed people, recruiters like Keenan find that most who express interest fall into a far different category.

 

"This is not a standard lifestyle choice," Keenan allows. "The sort of people who tend to move here move a lot. They've not made deep emotional connections because of that . . . Someone said the visitors' program selects between loners, losers and drifters." Sooner or later, he is confident, the true loners feel crowded, the losers feel overworked and the drifters drift away. At the same time, the core of competent and capable members continues to erode. Leaving seems contagious, and the departures happen in waves. The reasons vary -- broken romances, families wanting a place of their own, disenchantment with the inevitable discovery that a commune is not one big, happy family holding hands and singing "Kumbaya" around a bonfire in the woods.

 

On a recent afternoon when two longtime members and their baby are leaving for a smaller consciousness-raising commune in Oregon, only a handful of Twin Oakers come by to see them off. The hugs are long and teary, and Keenan kneels on the ground to tie his departing friend's shoe, tenderly chiding her: "Who dresses you?" As the commune's red station wagon heads for the airport with their scant belongings in the back, someone else laughs sadly. "Let's go see if they left anything good in the refrigerator."

 

In the residence called Tupelo, a new family is moving in.

 

At the age of 36, with two cars, a house in the Cleveland suburbs, a decent income and three young children, Dave and Beth Lloyd decided that they wanted to "live more lightly on the earth" and get off the consumer treadmill. So they quit working, sold virtually everything they owned, and blew their savings to spend a year camping across the country and then loafing all winter on a beach in Costa Rica. This is the grand finale of their midlife crisis.

 

"People couldn't believe it, man," Dave is recounting with a satisfied grin. "They were ready to have us locked up and put on Thorazine." Beth had been interested in communities for a long time, and Dave caved in after attending a conference on alternative lifestyles. "Let's do it," he announced. Beth was already home-schooling their three boys, ages 6, 9 and 13. Dave was losing interest in his nursing career. After visiting Twin Oaks twice, they applied for membership.

 

"It just occurred to me to give up all the hassles -- money, car insurance, bouncing checks, going to the bank, traffic tickets, late fees at the library." Dave is fixing a bedtime snack for his youngest son, Maechyl, in the kitchen at Tupelo. Some other Tupelo residents wander in, and Maechyl excitedly wiggles his first loose tooth for them. His parents worry that Maechyl feels a little lost and clingy. On the other hand, Eecayo, their oldest boy, is blossoming. A curiously self-contained boy, Cayo loves to work, helping Dave make his famous homemade pizza on the dinner shift and happily washing and putting away hundreds of dishes when his mother pulls kitchen duty. When he was briefly enrolled in public school, Cayo was labeled autistic and learning-disabled, and funneled into special education, which seemed to exacerbate behavior problems. Here, he is admired for his sweetness and good manners, and his parents hope that Cayo will learn carpentry and other vocational skills from patient teachers.

 

The middle Lloyd boy, 9-year-old Cameron, faced an identity crisis his very first day at Twin Oaks. The dairy manager was already called Cameron. Twin Oaks can only have one of everybody; Cameron Lloyd would have to change his name. He rechristened himself Calvin, but his parents still aren't used to it. Cameron is sharing a room with Cayo, even though there is an empty one in the wing where the Lloyds live. The three-member planning committee declined to give it to the Lloyds, wary of one family taking up so much space. A petition went up appealing the denial of the fifth bedroom, and the Lloyds have 10 days to muster 51 percent of the eligible voters to sign. The Lloyds themselves are not openly pushing for it ("This is ridiculous," Dave privately says). It is Keenan and Kristen who are spearheading this campaign, fueled by the conviction that, once again, families are getting short shrift.

 

Keenan and Dave go running together each morning, and Keenan was instrumental in recruiting the Lloyds to join Twin Oaks. He was careful not to paint a perfect picture. Speaking from painful experience and long observation, the Dakotas warned the Lloyds that couples who come to Twin Oaks together rarely stay together. Beth and Dave are confident, though. They met at a Grateful Dead concert and have been married for 10 years. It is her second time. They talked about trying to keep their family unit intact without being consumed by the larger community. But the borders of privacy and intimacy shift and blur in a subculture that shuns possessiveness. One afternoon, while Dave is in the kitchen cooking, a young woman in a halter top comes up behind him and hugs him tight around the middle. Dave chooses to treat the embrace as a joke, and responds with the same goofy bear roar he makes when playing with his boys. The woman laughs and backs off.

 

Each adult at Twin Oaks gets a private bedroom. Beth's has intricately carved furniture. She paints her walls a shade of green that her visiting mother later pronounces ghastly. Beth thinks it feels like a treehouse, her own leafy hideaway. "I can have my own room, be my own person again," she says. Dave can't wait to fix up his adjacent room just the way he wants, too.

 

A few weeks after settling in, the Lloyds are relaxing after dinner one evening on the scratchy sofas in one of Tupelo's living rooms. Beth is saying how she hopes this new life will be forever, that her children will grow up inspired "to do good stuff in the world, go build more communities." She feels confident that they have made the right choice.

 

"Oh, yeah. I know that leaving the lifestyle I was in was something I needed to do," she says. "I'm still not exactly sure what I want in community. At times, when I'm having a really bad day and my kids are scattered around, I feel empty-nest syndrome."

 

Cameron says he is getting used to being Calvin. "Calvin is more up and about than Cameron and likes doing more weird stuff than Cameron," he declares, "because Cameron lived on a street in the middle of nowhere. Now I'm in the middle of somewhere."

 

When his mother is asked if there's anything she misses about Cleveland or the life she has forsaken, nothing immediately springs to her mind, and it is Cameron who answers for her.

 

"Your home?" he pipes up softly.

 

People come here with secrets. Kat remembers Delancey as a sensuous and beautiful creature, desired by the men and envied by the women. Keenan saw something more desperate. "She wore a lot of peekaboo-type clothes," he remembers. Because they belonged to the same self-awareness group, he had heard Delancey tell of terrible sexual abuse suffered during her childhood.

 

Delancey had disclosed her past during the lengthy membership interview, but Keenan thinks she may have hidden the darkest details. People are either accepted at their word or not here. Delancey was.

 

Sometimes sadness seemed to creep over Delancey like a fog, and she would disappear, burrowing in bed for days. The commune's health team assigned her a care group. They brought her meals, woke her up for work and made sure she got to her appointments with an outside therapist. They also spent countless wrenching hours talking to her, listening to her. For a while, the fog would lift, only to descend again. Delancey spoke obsessively about death.

 

Fearing that Delancey was a danger to herself, the care group scouted out private psychiatric hospitals and selected one that didn't feel like an institution or prison. Twin Oaks would pay for her treatment. Sending her home to her family "was not an option," Keenan recalls. They were her family now. When Delancey returned to Twin Oaks, she seemed much better.

 

One time after Delancey had refused to emerge from her bedroom for two weeks, and the care group had put her on 24-hour suicide watch, they found her frantically stuffing clothes into a bag. She was going to Boston to visit a friend. Her caretakers were alarmed. Delancey had always promised them she wouldn't kill herself on Twin Oaks property. Stay here, they implored. No, she insisted, this will cheer me up. Let one of us go with you, they begged. Delancey refused. She would be fine, they should stop worrying. Five people went with her to the train station, stopping along the way to dally over lunch, and then ice cream cones, until finally they ran out of delaying tactics. At the ticket window, Keenan slipped into line behind her. He followed Delancey onto the train.

 

What are you doing?

 

I'm going with you.

 

Back and forth they argued, until Delancey hopped off the train. Keenan followed. Delancey quickly jumped back on. Keenan scrambled aboard again. The conductor told them to make up their minds. Delancey stepped off. Keenan did, too. She pretended to walk away, then suddenly wheeled and bolted again for the train, Keenan in pursuit. They got on; she got off. This time Keenan waited until the train was starting to move and he was certain he had won. Delancey was safe. They all went home.

 

Ashamed of her illness, Delancey kept trying to conceal it from the commune as a whole. She seldom claimed sick leave, instead struggling to fulfill her weekly labor quota. She rarely managed, Keenan recalls, and the hours she owed kept amassing. Those who didn't know she was ill saw her as unreliable, and the impression she left was of hammocks half-woven and kitchen shifts left short-handed. In commune parlance, she fell into "the labor hole," and was placed on probation. When she was unable to exert the effort needed to make up all the lost hours, the system did what it was designed to do, and Delancey was expelled from Twin Oaks. The decision was immediately appealed, and a petition to reinstate her went up on the bulletin board. When the 10-day deadline was up, the signatures were counted. She was one short.

 

They found her body that day in a commune truck filled with carbon monoxide from the running engine. She had driven it to a distant edge of the property across the road from the main compound. Her friends believe she was trying to keep her promise.

 

Five years have passed, but the community never really recovered from Delancey's death, both Kat and Keenan agree. There had been other deaths, even suicides, at Twin Oaks, but this was different. They had had a plan. It was supposed to save her. The strength of many was supposed to be enough to support the frailty of one.

 

People who hadn't realized how troubled Delancey was, who might have signed the petition if they had only known, blamed the care group for being too secretive. The caretakers were also chastised for not ensuring adequate backup in case of a crisis during their summer vacations. Others argued that Twin Oaks was not intended to be a therapeutic community and never should have accepted Delancey in the first place. The community provided outside counseling for anyone who wanted help coping with the tragedy. There was a bitter meeting over whether labor credits should be granted for time spent in grief therapy. Most of the care group, as well as several others, ended up leaving Twin Oaks for good. Commune policy was changed so expulsion is no longer automatic when someone falls too deeply into the hole.

 

Keenan still feels the melancholy beneath the carefree surface of Twin Oaks, even among those who never knew Delancey. It's not about her death, ultimately, but about a loss even more devastating.

 

"Some people think this place is supposed to be Utopia," says Keenan, "and if it's not here, then where else?"

 

Where do you begin to save the world when you can't salvage just one soul?

 

Why not here. There are people who are certain that Twin Oaks has come close, and could come closer still, if only it had the passion to match its principles, the focus to go with its vision. The notion of Utopia has seduced mankind since banishment from the Garden of Eden. The word itself comes from Sir Thomas More's Utopia, written in 1516. The Catholic martyr envisioned an island populated by a content and virtuous society. Everyone went to bed at 8 p.m. Education was free and continued throughout life. Adulterers were sent to prison for the first offense and put to death for a second. Utopia was happily self-contained.

 

Contentment is not what Paxus seeks, not from this commune, not for it. There is something more exciting, more fulfilling, beyond full bellies and agreeable work. Paxus, ne Earl Schuyler Flansburgh III, is the Ivy League offspring of a successful Boston architect and his wife, a general's daughter. He is a self-described revolutionary whose letter applying for membership to Twin Oaks contained this warning: If you like the way things are, then you might want me to stay away.

 

He was invited to join last spring. Since then, he has thrown himself into efforts to recruit younger members, secure the commune's economic base and prod its social conscience. He holds degrees from Cornell in industrial engineering and economics, and notes casually that his younger brother is a rock star. Pax himself resembles a counterculture teen idol, with his chiseled features and neo-hippie hair, though he is 41. Pax is an advocate of open relationships and an active member of the commune's polyamorous group. Philosophically, Kat herself admires the ideal of love without possessiveness or jealousy. Practically, she knows that it is an impossible feat for most humans. When a beautiful, earnest young friend named Alex starts falling for Pax, Kat cannot help herself. Don't, she cautions her. He will never be yours. Alex takes the chance, and even attends the polyamorous group's meetings in an effort to conquer her pangs of jealousy. When Pax and another lover ask Alex if they can borrow her bedroom for a nap one afternoon, Alex agrees, later telling girlfriends over herbal tea that she is proud to have reached "a more spacious place." But her heart is not really in this, she later confides, her customary guard down. "I'm not polyamorous," she says with a rueful laugh. "I'm polyconvenient. I want to be with Pax."

 

Pax's resume is an alternative adventure story: ocean engineer in Hawaii, smuggler of Tibetan monks across the Himalayas, software entrepreneur. He has hitchhiked across the Pacific on sailboats and run anti-nuclear campaigns for Friends of the Earth. To avoid deportation from the Czech Republic during an important anti-nuclear campaign, he married a Czech woman. She is described on his resume as a "political activist and retired bank robber," but they seldom see each other. He has an uncanny knack for being in the middle of political turmoil: Panama, Nicaragua, Eastern Europe. He refers to his own country as "the untied snakes" and also eschews capitalization of the pronoun "i." He can offer thesis-quality arguments for both practices.

 

"I'm convinced community is the answer," Pax is fond of saying, "I'm just not sure what the question is." He thinks of Utopia as "an illusory place." Pax is just back at Twin Oaks from an anti-nuclear action in Vermont, where he earned labor credits for getting himself arrested. He is now busy trying to drum up new hammock customers for Twin Oaks, which is facing a crisis because its biggest contract -- with Pier One Imports -- has been dramatically reduced. The commune's more ardent environmentalists secretly welcome this setback, since the plastic rope is non-biodegradable and the hammock stands are made from old-growth wood. Pax and two fellow commune business managers go to the casual furniture trade show in Chicago and line up promises of new orders. Twin Oaks must diversify, Pax is convinced. Banking on a single fat contract is too risky. It's time to change -- go on the Internet, put out a sexier catalogue, hire some sales reps.

 

And why settle for hammocks? Pax wonders. He peppers the current planners with proposals for change, solutions to problems. When a neighboring farm's baying dogs keep communards awake at night, Pax devises the perfect pacifist response: Twin Oaks will offer to build the neighbor a deluxe dog house on the other side of his property. Pax convinces the planners to earmark $1,000 for this project. Everyone will be happy.

 

Except the neighbor says no.

 

Pax would also like to see Twin Oaks become more active politically. Although Twin Oaks subscribes to various magazines and newspapers, and has Internet access, current events often elude or bore members. When a visitor passed through two weeks after the Chernobyl disaster with dark warnings of nuclear winter, Keenan had to interrupt. "What's Chernobyl?" he asked. Pax himself considers the Clinton impeachment scandal ridiculous and still rails against the Reagan administration.

 

Pax does not expect his grand plans to make him popular, and he will evaluate his impact on Twin Oaks in six months or maybe nine, and move on if he hasn't influenced it in a positive way. He's not going to squander his passion.

 

"My political mentors said if you don't make any enemies, you're not doing anything important," he says.

 

"My mother says if you do what you love, you don't grow old."

 

The visitors are awakened at 1 in the morning. The dairy manager raps on their bedroom doors. "It's happening!" They hurry to the barn, and watch in wonder as a cow gives birth.

 

"It was extraordinary," Antonina recalls. "We all had our flashlights trained on the birth sac, and there was this luminescent glow. You could see her dainty little hooves inside." They all grabbed towels and helped dry off the shivering calf, rubbing her down for an hour. Antonina was the first to feed her. She finally got back to bed at 3, then awoke stiff and sore, as if she had slept in a freezer. She reported for morning kitchen duty, but by her afternoon shift at food processing, she could feel her eyelids growing heavier. "You're really tired," the supervisor told her. "You should just go sleep." It still amazes Antonina that this was an option.

 

Adjusting to life on a commune has ups and downs so predictable that they are listed in a visitors' guidebook called "Not Utopia Yet." Antonina runs the full gamut -- elation, confusion, disappointment, anticipation -- during her stay. She is 41 and has been thinking about coming to Twin Oaks for two years. She can't remember how she first heard of it, "maybe hanging out at Food for Thought in Dupont Circle." Antonina never got the art degree she intended, but went back to school and graduated in anthropology, settling later for jobs but no career. She is not ambitious or competitive by nature, and considers the commune a way to lead a life of integrity. By her second week, though, she has grown weepy, surprised by her own emotion. No one seems to notice her, no one is congratulating her for this noble choice she is about to make. She misses her cats.

 

"I want to feel close to something now!" she cries. "I want my cats now!" Her face is pink. She suffers from lupus and is supposed to stay out of the sun. If she joins Twin Oaks, her cats will have to go on the waiting list. She stops brushing her long hair, just to see what it's like not to.

 

In the pond one day, Antonina is floating naked. Suddenly she finds herself swimming laps back and forth. She stops, stunned. She has always eschewed exercise, hating the pressure to look a certain way, to fit a certain image. But here she feels no one judging her by her size. She swims some more, feeling her heart beat faster, stronger, her anger dissolving.

 

The day she leaves, Antonina is fearful about driving again after three carless weeks. She has had nightmares about getting killed on the Beltway. She finds herself wishing people would give her big hugs goodbye, but that doesn't happen. She longs for a sense of "community and connectiveness, and I have faith I'll find them here eventually." She made eye contact a few times here with Kat Kinkade, "and she gave me the most beautiful smile in return. She's someone who has done extraordinary things in her life. I respect her so much."

 

During the membership committee interview, someone cautioned Antonina:

 

"You realize it can be very stressful living here . . ."

 

She was quick to answer.

 

"Yeah, but believe me, it's very stressful out there, too."

 

Kat stopped caring, she says, a long time ago.

 

"I think I'm the only one left who remembers it was an experiment," she says now.

 

She considers it a failure.

 

"I don't think egalitarian communities are a good idea, and this one is too close to suit me," she declares. "There are people here for life who mean it." She is not one of them. What are her options? She is nearing 70, with no pension or savings, no Social Security, no health insurance. There is Josie, her daughter, who lives down the road from Twin Oaks in a trailer with her lover and several dogs. Josie is a doctor, and could take care of her mother, but neither of them is ready for that. Josie tells Kat she would be bored if she left Twin Oaks.

 

"I'm trapped," Kat says.

 

She has written two books about Twin Oaks, and her signature is on more policy in the commune's six-inch-thick binder than anyone else's. She agitated for new buildings, new members and satellite communities when the more popular sentiment was to maintain the status quo, settle back, just enjoy the easy life. Kat has served two 18-month rotations on the planning committee, the commune's equivalent of a board of directors. When she was rejected for another turn, the wound was deep and personal. Those who come to Twin Oaks expecting to find in Kat a matriarch or symbol are disappointed. She scarcely involves herself in community life these days. She is more likely to fix her own meals or take something from the steam tables back to her room than linger in the dining hall. She devotes most of her energy, time and resources to a different endeavor now -- a form of harmony called shape-note singing. She belongs to the choir in the tiny church down the road, and raises her pure voice in song to a deity she does not believe in.

 

Kat spent a lonely childhood intensely believing and unbelieving in God, each conviction complete, never hovering on doubt. Her childhood was not a happy one, Kat recalls; she and her younger sister were sexually molested by their stepfather, and when Kat reported the abuse, the family disintegrated.

 

With Walden Two, Kat thought she had something to believe in again, belong to at last. But the undercurrent of sadness always courses through this community, she finds. "It's this disappointment of oh, life isn't what I thought it would be. Is a romance less than they hoped, is intimacy less than they assumed, is the community itself less united in its goals and desires?"

 

Imprisoned by her own idealism, Kat has no answers.

 

What she longed for most in her own life, she reveals, is a father. "A father who was strict and had firm rules and expected a certain behavior from me but loved me."

 

And yes, she is not a fool, of course that is the same expectation she had of this place, the same yearning she hoped to satisfy that day she grabbed a broom and began sweeping. She purses her lips tightly.

 

"It never did love me," she says of her own cherished Utopia. "It respected me and it feared me, but it never loved me."

 

The membership committee has accepted Antonina. The day they called her with the news, Antonina lopped nine inches off her hair and began looking for a new home for her cats; she hopes to pay off her bills and move in by spring. The petition for a fifth bedroom for the Lloyds failed by a few votes. Paxus is thinking about starting an anti-nuclear community of his own with a lover in Eastern Europe, while Keenan and Kristen are drafting plans to launch their ideal commune in Ecuador next year. There's an opening on Twin Oaks' planning committee, and everyone is stunned when Kat announces that she is thinking about applying. Privately, she says she always meant to try just one more time to make it work. The season is changing and the dining hall smells of cinnamon and apples baking in the oven. The honey gold light of autumn pours through the trees.

 

To get there, it is best to follow someone who knows the way. Keenan trudges up the hill behind the pond with Rowan riding on his shoulders and Arlo running barefoot ahead. They duck beneath the humming electric cow fence and cross a wide clearing, until they reach a heavy wooden gate, and behind it, at the very edge of Twin Oaks' property, the cemetery. Arlo scampers excitedly from marker to marker, asking Keenan: Who's this, who's here?

 

Her grave is sheltered by oak trees and birches. The headstone is the color of faded roses, with prancing wood sprites etched on either side. There is the name she gave herself -- Delancey Fionn Fields -- and beneath it, the name on her death certificate: Dawn Faith Spinney. Beneath the dates of her birth and death, June 16, 1968, and July 23, 1993, is the epitaph:

 

"She loved."

 

Who's this? Who's here?

 

No one you knew.

 

Keenan lingers, until the children grow restless. Hungry, they start the journey home.

 

Tamara Jones is a staff writer for the Magazine.@

 

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

 

Twin Oaks reply to Washington Post Article

 

To The Editor:

 

We were quite pleased to read Tamara Jones' article about Twin Oaks (The Other American Dream, Nov. 15 Sunday Magazine). With any article of this length and complexity there are certain to be a number of mistakes, some of which we would like to correct. Twin Oaks does not bar people from doing work outside of the community. Many members do "outside work" either in place of their hourly quota for the community, or to earn extra money to be spent on vacations. It is also not true that Kat Kinkade (or any member for that matter) is without health insurance. Our catastrophic insurance for members' needs is through pooled funds with other communities. For the rest, the community simply pays as needed. Nor is Kat (who has been approved as a full planner) "breaking the rules" when she does not do a kitchen clean up shift, which is generally required of the membership - she and several other members have health exemptions from this job.

We believe Twin Oaks is a workable alternative to the "American Dream". What could have been more emphasized is that in our daily life - work and play - we live out our dream of non-violence, cooperation and egalitarianism. Other advantages of this particular lifestyle include our flexible work schedules, home schooling of most of our children and our organic garden which provides most of our vegetables. Twin Oaks is not for everyone and it is certainly not utopia, but with virtually no crime, no fear of walking alone at night for women, no bills, no commuting and no unemployment - it is a legitimate option for people who dislike these things. Oh yes, and the coffee is flowing again in the hammock shop.

Paxus Calta & Alexandra McGee
Recruiting Managers, Twin Oaks Community

PS Twin Oaks gives tours most Saturdays and has a regular 3 week visitor program for persons interested in joining. The community has a strict no drop in policy. 540-894-5126

 

 

Katell and Vladimir Marriage at the Temelin Blockade
6 Redder 97

 

Today i am honored to join together in marriage 2 extraordinary people

One old Comrade

Here is a small part of their story Vladimir comes from the cold Russian Empire. Katell was born and raised in France, but has escaped to Denmark. They have both been fighting nukes for years one in the east, the other in the west

They met for the first time two weeks ago. In a beautiful Castle in Budmerice Slovakia. Vladimir was explaining to me how he had again trouble with the border police who had pulled him from his train and sent him many miles and many hours in the wrong direction. i suggested he marry a west European and it would solve this problem

Katell was sitting beside me and said "i will marry you" i think it was the first words she ever spoke to Vladimir. They have been falling in love ever since.

Everyone loves the idea of this marriage (except Katells mother) We all know that east and west must join forces to stop nuclear power And it is especially important to stop the Russians and the French So this marriage has significant symbolic value

In the last two weeks they have developed the following wedding vows for each other:

Do you, Vladimir, promise to tell Katell your entire life story as a revolutionary in Russia with all it triumphs and failures ? [Response from Vladimir: Ah oui] And do you Katell, promise to testify before the European Parliament, when Vladimir is arrested by the Russian secret police and demand his immediate release wearing this wonderful wedding dress [Response from Katell: Da]

And do both of you, Vladimir and Katell promise to joyfully fight nuclear power with all your force until every reactor on the continent is shut down. [Both: Da, ah Oui]

i now pronounce you Lucifer and Mermaid

and wish you a very pleasant honymoon at the gates of the Temelin Nuclear Power plant.

One new friend


Hitching, Zen and Death
 
This is a e-msg to a friend in SF who lost a friend in a car crash, she referred to a msg i sent earlier (before the accident) in which i said i wanted people to go out and celebrate for me (rather than mourn me) if i died. She said if i told her to party now she would scream.

 

Dearest Barbara:

i vaguely remember your car, if you want me to make sense out of the rules regarding the states relationship with these omnicidal devices i think i failed in getting my msgs about politics and ecology across very well.

your friend died - maybe you should scream. And then look at why - is it because they were ripped off (did not get a chance to live out that potential they had...) or is it because you were ripped off (did not get a chance to touch again, create a shared magic again).

And then step back - how would they like to be remembered, would they wish you a great sadness on their behalf? Maybe, but i doubt it. I think this is partially our conditioning - knowing nothing about death, we assume it is worse than life and so we mourn for them and feel sorry for ourselves.

Why do terrible things happen to good people? Well the easy answer is that there is no cause and effect - that inconveniently, there is no justice in the cosmos and thus good christians die in the same hotel fire as skinhead fascists. But i don't actually believe this - i don't think there are coincidences any more, i have felt this for along time in romances - that people come to me for a reason, tho often i am unable to decode it. But i have started taking a more Zen attitude about life in general.

I was hitching yesterday from Zagreb trying to make it to at least Vienna, where i have a new lover (Iska) and several friends. Maybe i could catch a train and only be a few hours late to my all day mtg in Praha.

I got a ride and it left me on the edge of this beautiful village where i hitched for a long time, because there was only a little traffic. I looked at the hill and realized that maybe i was not supposed to leave until i appreciated the hill - and if no one picked me up, was this town supposed to be where i lived for the rest of my life? This seemed a bit crazy, but then the whole act of putting yourself on the hitching road is a leap of faith "i know almost nothing of these people, yet i will depend on them to take me where i want to go". But then the Zen stuff curls around another corner - what if your purpose for being on the road is to affect the drivers - possibly even affect drivers who are not picking you up?

Two young women pass - i smile, they smile back weakly and drive on. I don't think about it. 5 minutes later they come back, having turned around to pick me up. I hop in, we talk, i start hustling ideas - stories actually, talk about Tibet and slip in some radical tendencies, talk about hitching and Zen, see if they nibble. They are very interested - i go to their parent’s house, we have a snack, they take me to a bar we have a drink (juice) - i tell them stories they smile, laugh and giggle - ask some good questions, they leave me "in a good place for rides".

They know nothing of hitching (like most drivers). It is an awful place, after an hour i start the long walk away, because no one picks me up - Vienna is looking far away, i am still in Slovenija (former Yugoslavia). Clearly, the purpose has been for me to take them somewhere, apparently at the expensive of me getting somewhere i thought it was important for me to go.

I end up having to walk onto the highway. It is a long straight stretch and the cars can see me for over a km - but they are driving fast - another half hour goes by, the sun will set in a few hours and i am still hundreds of km from Vienna (forget Praha). An old Slovenijan man and his wife pick me up, we talk of the craziness of the war - they in broken english, they take me to the end of the toll road, point out a van with Austrian plates - i jump out run across the street and stick out my thumb, the van driver smiles and picks me up they have only vaguely heard of the nuclear power plant we stopped which was threatening their country (our region) - after some talking i decide to get out at the border, which turns out normally to be one of the better places to hitch from.

It is 7:30 PM the sun will set in an hour - it starts to rain, hitching in the dark is nearly impossible for a guy. Who ever takes me next is likely my last ride of the evening. A car stops - "i'm going to Graz" it is about 100 km, i let it go. The sun sinks more, i sing in the rain and the cars lined up in the other direction, awaiting the border control, look at me like i am out of my mind - i sing louder and jump around to confirm their suspicions. Another car stops, going to Liebzig - worse than Graz, i send them away. I start reading the license plates so i won't thumb for people who are only going near by (you can tell by the letters). Yet this in itself is risky, the perfect ride could be simply have the wrong plates and just be going somewhere other than they live. I decide that i will take care of the drivers anyway, so they don't stop without need. The sun continues down, shining from beneath the rain cloud which is still sprinkling me.

More cars stop (wrong plates or unidentifiable plates) i send them away - maybe half a dozen in total. It is after 8:00, i'm gambling. Car pulls over "Wo fahren Sie?" i ask. "Wien dann Pragg" comes the response "And do you speak English?" "Better than some, worse than others" he smiles. I hop in and spend a delightful 6 hours talking to an Croatian existential writer on spirituality, windmills, the inability to translate poetry, the war, the west - everything. A character, i sleep and after a few hours of night driving he leaves me in the center of Praha 3 hours before my mtg. No coincidences.

i don't know why your friend died, maybe it was to teach you to let go. Maybe it was to remind you to live your life now more fully - maybe it had little or nothing to do with you at all. But i suggest you ponder the meaning, for it is more useful than this luxury of sorrow. Lots of people die, this does not take away anything for the significance to you of loosing this one good person, but you will live to see many pass.

If it feels like madness or injustice - then reflect on your relationship with sanity and fairness, what should you do to make the world more these ways? This is probably little better than telling you to go party (tho if i die i would be hurt if you did not - who wants to be remembered with tears?).

Well that is enuf late nite existential ranting

Paxus in Praha at one minute to midnight 8/6/95