Growing Closer

by the Senior Archdruid


Communitarianism

When we talk about intentional community, a certain amount of confusion about what it all means and what it's all about comes into play. The OMS pledge states: "From each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her need,” and further, “The good of the many outweighs the good of the few.” These two ideas are essential to community. But what exactly is meant by “Intentional Community”?

In the Western city, suburb, or semi-rural area community is mostly accidental. You don't meet your neighbors until you or they move in and there is no guarantee they will share any of your interests other than that particular geographic location. This can be alienating to people who march to the beat of a different drummer. That's where intentional community comes in.

For many people, the idea of an intentional community (or IC) doesn't ring a bell even though it has been in practice for thousands of years. In essence, an intentional community is a group of people coming together in a place they create to live in some particular way. The variety of intentional communities is nearly infinite: some are religious, some are not; politics run the gamut; they are large and small, rural and urban, ecologically minded and materialistic. They include monasteries, communes, anarchic squatter houses, cooperative housing, co-housing, kibbutzim, Christian activist communities, Shaker communities, and many other kinds of groups. In a very large sense, our military bases and ships are intentional communities (though not "egalitarian"). Making generalizations about intentional communities is about as accurate as making generalizations about people.

Historical IC's in the United States include the Amana Colonies (survived today in the appliance company they built), the Oneida Community (survived today by Oneida Silverware), New Harmony, and the Hutterite communities (an offshoot of the Mennonites and Amish - still going strong today in Canada and New England). More modern communities include The Farm, Twin Oaks (inspired by B.F. Skinner's novel, "Walden Two") and many, many others. The ICF website includes listings of over 600 communities, and they estimate there are several thousand throughout N. America. In other words, this is not a new idea. Monasteries are probably the oldest known continuously existing IC's, but keep in mind that early tribal communities (like the ancient Celtic villages) were communal as well. The most successful of all are the Israeli Kibbutzim, which still account for the greatest share of Israel's agricultural economy.

One of the few things that can be said about most ICs across the board is that they are built on a stronger sense of community than is common in a conventional setting. People know each other better, work and/or play together, and in most cases share some values, goals, or beliefs. There are real advantages to living in a place of this kind for people who are open to being an integral part of their communities.

Most IC's make a living by running some kind of business. The same principles apply to labor relations in IC's as apply to labor relations in any business. You can get "fired," that is, kicked out of a community for not working, or for just being lazy.

Labor is usually divided in a community equitably. Our vision of Dryad’s Realm was that of a community engaged in the "hospitality" industry, and the following skill sets would be needed: management, housekeeping, maintenance, security, paramedic, guest services, kitchen, grounds keeping and gardening. As a service for our guests, we will also have a massage / Reiki therapist, reader/advisor and a recreational coordinator on hand. Also, for everyone's benefit, a librarian and network engineer (we envisioned a fully wired community). ALL these would be treated equally and receive the same benefits: housing, meals, access to vehicles, access to all community owned facilities (pool, hot tubs, weight room, etc.,), health insurance (including dental, eye and alternative medicine), etc., and a small stipend per person. Working hours / days would be kept to the absolute minimum (something like 6 hours per day, 4 days per week - variable depending on guest load (like if we are hosts for a big convention, we might all have to work a 40 hour week for that) (at Harbin they allow people attending conventions to do a "work for lodging barter", This takes some of the stress off the regular community members).

If someone gets to "slacking" well, we'll just have to toss 'em (some kind of equitable system would set up where people will submit to a "trial" and be judged by a jury of the whole community). Some communities require that candidates joining have a savings account - that each candidate controls and never touches - of, say, $3k to $5k, for just such an occurrence, so they'll have some means of reintegrating into the regular economy. If residents are considered "employees" they may also be eligible for Unemployment Compensation.

In our vision, DR was to be a corporation whose shares are owned by it's residents and maybe by the dues paying members of the OMS. The exact nature of that corporation was never really decided upon.

When I did a Google search for resources for this essay, I ran into 15,100 references for the words "Intentional community" and 188,000 references for the word "kibbutz." Following is a list of websites that have even more general information on communitarianism, including some sites operated by actual working IC's:

Intentional Communities Web Site

Twin Oaks Intentional Community

What is an Intentional Community?

Heathcote -- an Intentional Community

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage - Sustainable intentional community living

Intentional Community Development Group, LLC

Intentional Community - Alternative, Microcosm, or Oxymoron? by Tim McDevitt

Intentional Community

The Intenders Video A Guide for intentional community making

Heartstone Intentional Community Santa Fe, New Mexico

SmallCommunity

Leaving the central coast to move into an intentional community

The Well at Willen - an intentional community in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England

Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center

Harbin hot springs retreat and workshop center

Namaste, and May the FOREST be with you.

Ellis S. Arseneau /|\
Senior Archdruid of the Reformed Druids of Gaia
Patriarch and co-founder of the Order of the Mithril Star, RDNA/RDG