Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why real "communities" will indeed form.

There is a lot of pessimism about the potential success of "designed" community, or "eco-village" or that sort of thing. I don't share it. I not only believe that such communities will be built, I believe they will become inevitable. it is certainly happening in my neighborhood, and clearly happening among the Oar Club people in a manner unprecedented. Here's why.

Many believe that community spirit or a value of cooperation can only exist under very regimented strictures. Many believe that American people are too "individualistic" to operate under such control. Really? I think American "individuality" is a myth, and in most cases the "paraphernalia" of individuality is pretty generic, and is a response to the amazingly regimented manner in which our society works. You are defined by your job, and nothing else, and in the corporate world especially you are really just a brick in the wall. The "wall" itself is the greatest impediment to going it alone, as it's increasingly more difficult and litigious to make a living without participating in the corporate system. American society is very regimented--you can be only Republican or Democrat, and you must believe in a chain of ideals attached to each or your political power is utterly disenfranchised. You have to move in lockstep with the party line or you're not part of the group. Even in progressive groups it is very much the case. If you embrace ecological values but don't smoke pot you will find yourself often a pariah.

The biggest problem isn't individuality, it is simple greed. It has become a central cultural value to simply get for yourself whatever you can. Going against the community good for personal gain is wholly acceptable. In fact, even in marriages it's encouraged, at least for women, that no compromises need be, or should be, made in one's personal life--for the value of the marriage. You can have whatever you want, you deserve it. While I'm sure that was nice for some, necessity may be a bugger for this lifestyle very soon.

Human beings work together naturally, and enjoy it if the playing field is fair, and the team is pulling together for a common goal. This is all it takes--it doesn't require a hardcore ideology. Many people feel that being part of a sports team, or military experience, or part of a crew of a ship, or whatever, to be very valuable and rewarding experiences. We naturally long for this sort of experience. The obstacle is that one selfish interest screws up the works. But if you consider that a football team of 60 or so ego driven guys can pull together in very fine examples of cooperation, where "selfishness" is utterly intolerable, and the common goal of winning games is equally rewarding to all players--it only proves that it works.

So today communities aren't going to be a value, they are going to be a necessity. It isn't going to be a matter of feeling that you should pull for your neighbor, it's going to be a matter of knowing
that you must, as this will be the last and only remaining, however doubtful, adhesive keeping basic civility together. Once people understand that the reality is that being a good member of a group is highly in one's own self interest, suddenly things will change, and they likely will change rapidly. I really do believe that scarcity may well make mutual value and character a binding source of humanistic ideals potentially stronger than race, heritage, or sex, or even family. Am I saying there is only going to be cooperation in this Utopian future? No, rather there will be a lot of competition to be the best, most valued, and most respected member of a given society.

All it takes is for status within a community to be dependent on one's character and value to the community rather than one's bankroll. . .once the pretty girls chase after the guy with a good heart and skillful hands rather than the guy with a rich daddy and a new car. . .the world will change for the better in an instant.

This change is clearly happening right now.


Ed Hoban said...

Jay, one problem you don't address, probably because you don't face it yourself, is the fact that very few people own their homes outright. After all of the wealth has beeen extracted and unemployment is rampant, property will be forclosed upon. Obtaining the physical property on which to found community will be the problem. There may prove to be armed resistance to forclosure, but whether it would work or not is unknown.

jaywfitz said...

Hi Ed,

The reason I don't address it is very simple--I assume that everyone understands that is near impossible to life a life of self-reliance while you are a slave to the bank. This is why Seasteading is a good option for people of modest means, as the buy in cost of the lifestyle is pretty minimal. As well, it is possible to find property that isn't completely overpriced, so that ownership is indeed possible, but one must search for it.

The simple life simply involves living within your means.

Ed Hoban said...

Jay, there's the world the way it is, and the world the way you wish it were. And the world the way it is, I would suggest if you polled your readers, is that most of us are slaves to the bank.

You can wish in one hand and shit in the other, and see which one fills up first

jaywfitz said...

I understand that, but will also point out that my first home I owned outright cost me 6500 bucks, and it was my willingness to live aboard that little boat for the better part of a decade, and scrimp and save, that has allowed me to do now what I do. Others do the same.

At this point in my area one could buy a cabin on three acres for 60000 bucks or less. This is hardly Whatcom County.

So, maybe the wishing comes in with the thinking that you can achieve simplicity without sacrifice.

You do know one in three homeowners in the US DO own their house outright, don't you?

3brainer said...

And for those who do own their land and home outright, they have to be willing to share it with others. Hoarding and greed may be met with violence if it comes to it. So people with the means should consider tenent farming, forming cooperatives, and other paradigms.
Collectives can pool their resources in creative ways. Soon having money but no skills will no longer come with power. When dollars are of little value, a strong back, good mind, or skill, trade or talent will be of value again.

And Jay is right, if you are a slave to the bank you'll have to get free of that first thing.

BTW this girl has always gone for the guy (or gal) with the skillful hands and open heart. Uh-Huh!

Kimber said...

Taking one's ego and desire for power or credit out of the mix is extremely important in building community.

Thomas Armstrong said...

I'd intended to comment here but ended up commenting via post on 70.8%. I refer you there.